Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Being a reference

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. A friend who I have known for years called me to tell me that she had put me down as a reference for a possible shidduch and that I should expect a call from someone. I received the call later that day and the person asked me questions about my friend.

This reminded me about a discussion I once had about references. Some say that you should only put down married people/ married friends as references, and that it’s not a good idea to put down single friends as references. The reasoning, as I understand it, is that single friends are also in shidduchim and therefore might succumb to jealousy and be tempted to give a more negative report.

When I heard the explanation I was outraged that someone would even think that a person’s close friend might do something of that nature. What kind of a friend is so bitter about the possibility that their friend might get married before they do, that they would speak negatively about their friend to prevent them from getting married? Who would be jealous of their friend that much?

I admit that as time went on began to have some small amount of insight into this, as I unfortunately experienced a slight tinge of jealously upon hearing of someone getting engaged. But I still remain horrified by the logic that jealousy would drive someone so far.

Now that I have actually had the experience of being a reference for someone, I have a basis to say that the logic that “maybe she will be jealous and say something falsely negative” is completely outrageous.

When this person called me up to ask about my friend, I was beyond excited to share what an amazing person and friend this girl is. All I could feel was happiness at the prospect of her finding the person she is meant to be with. If anything, the biggest nisayon might have been focusing on remaining honest and not building her up too much, but I think I gave as accurate a description as I could. After I hung up the phone, the only thought in my head was, “Wow! I hope it works out! If it does then I will be zoche to helping one of my friends, which would be so amazing!”

There must be another explanation for why some don’t put single friends as references. After all, isn't someone who knows you really well a better choice to be a reference than someone who is only an aquaintance but happens to be married?


  1. Maybe it has to do with the awkwardness of the guy calling other single girls. Having done this a few times myself (when I gave my usual research people a break), it was both strange and exciting - for the same reason. Basically, those conversations with the really enthusiastic, gushing friends of the girl I was researching were so free of any awkward stilted conversation that usually accompanies a typical first phone call or even first date. Nothing was on the line in terms of a potential relationship between those friends of my suggested date and I, so the freedom to be casual and friendly was quite interesting. Though I will admit that I have later gone out with references I spoke to - but only after the girl I actually dated broke up with me and suggested her friend who I just so happened to have coincidentally spoken to.

    So the gist is: that type of free, open conversation can be a bit intoxicating, especially when you need to keep your mind focused on that potential other that you haven't even had contact with. Not that the system is bad - and I certainly agree with your point about the ridiculousness of tripping up potential suitors because of jealousy - but there could me a mixed message or misrouted attention given to people who are supposed to be neutral third parties.

    Married friends, on the other hand - have the freedom to talk all they want, and presumably being rock-solid in their loyalty to their husbands - have less cause for concern on either end of the equation (her or the guy caller) since both are aware of where they stand and any potential for something more is totally out of the question.

  2. Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. That makes a lot more sense. It's great that you went out with a girl who you spoke to as a reference, even if it was a coincidence. I guess in certain circles they consider it a problem for a single guy and single girl to be talking, for the reason you mention.

  3. I, personally, hate to give out my single friends as references, not merely because I never know what to say beyond, "She's great, smart, fabbo, marry her."

    I feel, as my friends are also single, that if, let's say, nothing's doing for a girl, and someone calls up, you don't know the number, you think finally something's happening - only, it's not for you. It's for your friend. And while, of course, this girl has nothing but good feelings and wishes for her friend, it may hurt.

    What I don't understand is when I give references who are fully adult people (and married), and the requester insists on a single friend reference. Of course my friend is going to say nice thing about me. What sort of information do they hope do get from a single friend that a married friend couldn't provide them with? Then I know this date is never going to happen.

  4. Bookworm- In terms of the single girl being hurt, I don't think her feelings will (or should, anyway) stop her from giving a great report for her friend. And if you're worried about your friend being hurt, then make sure to find a friend who is less sensitive and will be OK with getting a call about her friend even though she's waiting for something to happen with her.

    I never heard of someone specifically requesting single friends. I'm not sure why that would be.

    In terms of knowing what to say about a friend- that's why they ask specific questions. It's easier to answer, "does she want someone who learns or works" than a general "tell me about her."

  5. Shevet Mussar, Chapter 11, Paragraph 8:
    It is human nature to be jealous of the good that others possess, and jealousy causes hate.

    Shevet Mussar, Chapter 16, paragraph 67:
    Do not speak about love of children in the presence of people who have no children of their own, and certainly do not play with babies in front of them.

    Shevet Mussar, Chapter 19, paragraph 14:
    The Holy One Blessed Be He does not settle His Presence on Israel except when they are united with one mind and without jealousy.

    CHRONOLOGY: written by Rabbi Eliyahu ben Avraham Shlomoh HaKohen Itamari of Izmir (Turkey) who was born 1650 and died in 1729
    To receive quick quotes from Jewish Torah books, go to:


  6. Mr. Cohen- I'm not saying that people don't get jealous- of course they do, but I don't think people will let their jealousy overcome them to the point where they say negative things about their friend.

  7. One of the quotes also were not to arouse jealousy in others if it could be avoided - aka tact.


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