As a kid, I grew up thinking my life would turn out a certain way. At 34, I thought I would be married with three kids, just like my mom and dad. I thought I would have a Jewish husband and we would have couple friends; I’d pick up their kids at soccer practice and they would pick up mine. I’d be teaching at a Jewish day school to help pay for my kids’ tuition there, and my husband would be doing something rewarding, something we would be proud of, but we would live comfortably financially.

And so the day he proposed I viewed it as part of the plan, even though I knew the relationship wouldn’t work out. But there he was, on one knee, with the good looks of Prince Charming and the diamond ring I had described to his mom when she asked me my preferences. I was 26-years-old. Kid one at 29, Kid two at 31 and Kid three at 33. Perfect.

But the relationship didn’t work out. The damage that it inflicted, as well as the baggage I’ve carried with me since, has resulted in my life not turning out the way I envisioned, and definitely not the way my mother envisioned.

As I scour the photographs of my friends on Facebook living the life I always thought that I would live, whom if I run into at the grocery store choose the salad bar over having a conversation with me, I wonder if I’m a failure. When I teach at religious school and notice the parents there are my age, I look at the kids and wonder what mine would have looked like.

It has been argued to me, by my most honest of friends, that I am the lucky one. Husbands get cantankerous, the sex gets tedious, and kids are really, really hard. I have fallen in and out of love five times since my breakup with my ex-fiancé. I’ve felt 10 stomachs worth of butterflies before first kisses and several liters of tears after inevitable breakups. I should be thankful that I still feel love, that I still have my freedom, and the affliction of marriage and children will come one day.

But for my mother, and for me, that answer is unsatisfying. My most recent love said to me, “Your mother has lived her life, you need to live yours.”

However, it’s hard to celebrate a life that does not have a positive precedent or paradigm. Besides the crappy fairy tales, I studied Torah as a kid. There are no single women in the Hebrew Bible who are celebrated (Miriam, maybe? But she doesn’t get much air time). There’s Adam and Eve, Abe and Sara (coincidentally my parents’ names), Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob with Rachel, Leah and the concubines. And the first commandment in the Torah is to procreate. The only thing I’m procreating is a clock that is going tick tock, tick tock.

However, the societal expectation is that I will be happy with what I have—a great condo, a cute car, a wonderful job, good friends, supportive family—because there are people in the world who are much worse off and no one is going to want to marry me if I have a farbisane punim (sour face).

So I live my life, do my thing, and try not to think about marriage too much (and try to get my mother’s mind off of it as well). My punim is not farbisana, and in general, I’m a pleasant person to be around, because why wouldn’t I be?

But I won’t lie and tell you that I’m living the life that I wanted. Yet, maybe what we want isn’t always what we need. Perhaps I don’t need the life I want or my mother wants for me, or the one all my friends seem to have.

“The Plan” is an excerpt from the book, “Living Jewishly,” a collection of personal essays and memoirs from Jewish 20 and 30-somethings from across the country. Sharna Marcus has since gone on to meet her Beshert. The two were married in March and are expecting their first child in February.

  1. All biblical couples mentioned in this piece, are the Fathers & Mothers of our nation. And our faith may claim that we are not a whole until we are married, but we were created single and being married doesn’t gurantee couplehood for life.

    The Almighty has put each and every one of us on this earth, for a reason. We all have purpose, whether married or single. Single people are loving & adored Aunts, Uncles, God Parents. We are Professionals, Philantropists, good & honest citizens. We give back to the community in many important ways, even if we do not procreate. We have created our own respectable place and we should be credited for that, not considered a half of a person, just because we don’t have a ring on it.

    It’s time for the Jewish community to embrace singles as a natural part of it, instead of always wondering what is it that’s wrong with them.

  2. Sharon; I agree with you to a point, except even keeping your weltanschauung intact (as in “g-d has a purpose for us, all of us, each of us”), despite my non-agreement with it, I can say also that there are many Jews who are obviously Jewish, but are not in the lot who want good things, who want to serve g-d and mankind, who are not the forward-marching bastions of traditional values and goodness of heart and intention.

    I wish to add to that there is also such a thing as human judgment, and whether one believes in devine judgment or not, the validity of moral human judgment is also a subject of each person’s own choice to accept it or not. Judgment by and for other humans.

    One can’t avoid legal judgments, and their weights and their ability to reform behaivour. But moral judgment by others, as well as judgment of human worth, judgment of attractiveness, judgment of acceptability or not, all do or don’t have an affect on an individual, depending on his or her level of impressibility, and level of self-respect and self-reliance in emotions normally affected by social reaction by his or her peers.

    This is theory. In practice, the Jewish population, the nation of Israel, is not made up only of the people who are dripping of fairy-tale goodness, uprightness and moral superiority. Charity, compassion, understanding is not in the heart of all Jews. Many a Jew avoids hard work and live on hand-outs or depend on criminal activity to provide for their families and their share of donations to shuls and synagogues. There are spies, traitors and riveting fornicators amongst us, too. Many gay Jews exists, corrupt politicians, embezzling accountants, jewellers with poor workmanship abilities to work even pewter; lazy mothers, bad cooks, people who don’t brush their teeth every day, and people who don’t say their prayers every morning, day, evening and night.

  3. “There are no single women in the Hebrew Bible who are celebrated…”

    Desdemona, Eve (she was not married to Adam); the daughter of Hamman, who gets sacrificed for the purposes of a successful battle; the sexually mature girl who gets stoned to death for premarital sex; the daughter of Pharaoh Simhanh, who gets eaten alive by red ants for stealing a loaf of bread from the altars of Israel; the little well-stocked blonde who is a war bride, a loot of war, and gets sacrificed for the Saracens’ G-d by a communal “ungawa” by the army soldiers, due to her good looks; Barbara, the raven-haired beauty whose every bone gets crushed when the workers by mistake drop a house-sized stone on top of her while building the leaning Tower of Babel. Then there is Julea, the daughter of the space ship captain Krovno, who is ejected from the space capsule somewhere between the planets Saturn and Neptune, to save the ship from sinking. Then there is Medusa, the daughter of Shlamasticus Hochfelder, who gets decapitated by the warriors of Rhohodendros. The list goes on forever.

  4. You have literally described my life exactly. Glad to know there is someone out there feeling the same way.

  5. Oh boo hoo… it worked out so terribly for her in the end.

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