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November 29, 2014 / 7 Kislev, 5775
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Readers Respond to “The Tyranny of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers Of Girls In Shidduchim”

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In our March 16 issue we featured The Tyranny of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers Of Girls In Shidduchim, in which the author described a “Meet and Greet” for young women in a certain age and mindset (looking for young men who are sitting and learning) and mothers of the young men they could potentially date. The article received a tremendous amount of comments on our website and via e-mail. Below are some of the responses.

Thankfully, I declined an invite for my daughter to attend the meet and greet. Since I was not present at the scene you describe I will take your word for it and assume the girls appeared as you described them (even though the girls I see at work, shopping, simchas etc. always appear very well groomed and very presentable). What I find most objectionable with your article, with this new shidduch initiative, as well as with other shidduch initiatives, is that whether the girls appeared up to your standards of beauty or not, the undertone is that boys are to be considered superstars simply for being breathing males and girls should feel like they have been struck with stardust if a boy’s mother bats an eyelash of acknowledgment at the girl’s existence. Why is it that only the girls have to present themselves? At this shidduch meet and greet did anyone describe and present the available boys, whose mothers were present, so that the girls should be able to determine if they would be interested in dating their sons? Of course not, because the assumption is that if one of the mothers chooses one of the girls to date her son, she will immediately jump at the chance of getting a date, any date!

Perhaps it’s this assumption that a girl should be thrilled just to have a date that is adding fuel to the “shidduch crisis.” Maybe it is time for us to respect our girls and appreciate them for what they have to offer. Just because boys have a pile of resumes to sift through and girls wait for the phone to ring, does not mean the girls want to spend their time dating boys who would not be an appropriate spouse. It is just as disheartening to date without a fruitful outcome, as it is to have no dates. And that is true for boys, as well as girls!

And let’s talk about the boys a bit: I have had boys appear for a date in a less than well groomed appearance, show up late without even offering an excuse for their tardiness, and present with such attitude that I wished I could send them packing without my daughter having to suffer through a few hours trying to converse with them. I mention this, not because I wish to offer a tit-for-tat put down of the boys as you did for the girls but, because I sincerely believe many mothers, by orchestrating their son’s entire life and by fawning over their boys, have made their sons into timid wimps that the girls are not interested in dating.

So here’s a suggestion for all those people who are really trying so hard to match up boys and girls for marriage. How about instead of the mothers meeting and interviewing the girls, we institute a “Tu B’Av Project” where the boys and girls would meet, with supervision, and present themselves to each other, without anyone else, mothers or otherwise, deciding for them who they may find appealing. It seems to have been the practice in the times of the Gemara, it might just work for us too!
Rochel Pomerantz
Via e-mail

* * * * *

You put your own caveat in the beginning that you expected a bit a “flack” for the advice that would be offered. I want to endorse you for your wonderful articulation of what might be a problem for a certain number of young people. I pray that those who need to hear/read/do will be motivated to take the positive steps you enumerate.

I wish I would see in print the extension of one of the issues you speak of — taking care of ourselves, in general — weight, neat clothing, pretty sheitels (no snoods in public ever!) — and most of all, as we age, always “putting our best faces forward” with properly and tastefully applied makeup. I’m seen too many women “of a certain age” who don’t/can’t/ bother with this very important aspect of our femininity, and yes, our yiddishkeit as well, since this is the face we present to the world, as religious women. We are always being judged by our appearance, wherever we go. Sadly, I think many women who don’t make any effort to beautify themselves, really believe this is a manifestation of humility and modesty, and therefore it’s even an admirable religious aspect to be “natural.”

What women don’t realize is how much better they will feel, and how people will react to them with so many more smiles, when the face presented to the world is one of beauty and self-caring.
Miriam Mann
via e-mail

* * * * *

This article is horrible. As a 27 year old member of what you seem to describe as the privileged gender, male, I can tell you that most guys don’t appreciate the efforts put into make up, nose jobs, etc. Quite honestly, most single men I know, myself included, couldn’t care less about whether a girl put make up on, the size of her nose, or any of these other meaningless things. While anyone going on a date, man or woman, should make an effort to look presentable, this author typifies the attitude that perpetuates the shidduch crisis: “Only a supermodel is worthy of my amazing son.” In quoting the story of Megillat Esther, the author seems to forget the most important part: Achashveirosh chose Esther, not the other girls, despite all their efforts. The author would probably have said that Esther was unworthy of her son because she didn’t put in all that effort to beautify herself. Shame on the author and best of luck to all the women out there who understand that dating someone who will only be interested in you if you put on make up isn’t worth your time. “Sheker hachein v’hevel hayofi. Isha yirat Hashem he tithalal.”
Chayim Goldberg,
on-line comment

* * * * *

The boys never get a choice about half the girls that are suggested because the MOTHER didn’t think she was pretty enough, thin enough…smart enough…mothers need to remember that what THEY think is pretty may not be what their son thinks is pretty. I was a size 14-16 when I went out with my husband. I had been told my shadchanim that I shouldn’t expect many dates, because lets face it, I am not a skinny. But 5 weeks after meeting my husband we were engaged, and today, 9 years and 3 babies later, I am unfortunately a bit larger, at a size 16-18 and my husband thinks I’m prettier than the day he met me, and loves my curves!!!! His mother couldn’t care less, whatever he liked was fine. They didn’t ask what size I was or what color tablecloth we used. Mothers need to lower their standards and give some “imperfect” girls a chance, not suggest to their mothers that they get gastric bypass and nose jobs.
Shira Leah Wildman,
on-line comment

* * * * *

Why title this article “The Tyranny of Beauty,” and then go on to advocate to mothers to work to perpetuate it? As a young woman seeking my bashert who does NOT fit the “ideal” shidduch mold, I naturally take steps to put my best face (and body, and mind) forward when going out on dates. But anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am quite cynical about the amount of artifice that has to go into preparing for dates. First impressions are important, and by all means make efforts to improve them, but nose jobs, Botox and weight-loss surgery? How have we gotten to the point where people think these are reasonable steps and justifiable expenses in pursuit of a husband? Too many lines have been crossed. Everyone talks the talk – that truly happy marriages are not based on looks, but the frum community, as a whole, needs to start walking the walk as well.
Tzivia Berow
On-line comment

* * * * *

Clearly this is the mother of a guy — no one who watches a girl they care about getting ready for a date, or worrying about the affect of their appearance on their chances would seriously think that this is some sort of news. If anything, I’ve seen some potentially “great guys” whose mothers should wake up to the fact that it’s the 21st century and figure out where the anti-acne creams are in the drugstore, or teach them how to match their pants, shirt and tie. Attraction goes both ways. Instead, girls are told to focus on their physical externals, and guys are told to focus on their religious externals (learning every day vs. good middot, for example). And since we live in this society, we should just go along with it instead of trying to make it better. The tyranny of conformity, maybe.
Ora Z Novick
On-line comment

* * * * *

Everyone wants to marry someone attractive, I myself am guilty of this. What is not mentioned is that my friends and I do not find the same women attractive. So by changing one’s face, one G-d intended to attract a certain guy, you may now attract the wrong guy. Yes, she might get married sooner, but is he the right guy? Also if every woman got plastic surgery, the standards of beauty would go up – just like economic inflation. It must also be said that guys suffer too. It is hard for me to get shidduchim because I’m working while perusing a masters instead of wearing a black hat and sitting in yeshiva, therefore I am not considered frum enough for many girls. These problems stem from the poor direction of our parents, rabbis and the social pressure that we must get married before we are old and 21. Here is a solution: let your children mature before you push them to get married, that way they will be able to make real decisions about what they want – not what you want for them.
Cin Cy
On line comment

* * * * *

Stop giving the author such a hard time. I think we can all agree the system stinks. It’s unfair and it objectifies women. The author agrees! But she’s also being practical. And while she may be going overboard in making certain recommendations, she’s certainly right in stating the obvious, albeit politically incorrect, fact: looks matter. While we might like to think of ourselves, or our friends as the exception to the rule, guys generally care about looks, even if only on a subconscious level. The author is not pushing for the further objectification of women, but rather recognizing the reality that they are. That isn’t a morally courageous stance, but given the heat she’s received in these comments, it certainly took some kind of courage.
Raffi Holzer
On line comment

* * * * *

Whatever happened to children making their own choices? The author is taking all the responsibility and effort out of the sons’ hands, putting it into their mother’s hands. I always thought that Judaism was supposed to leap over and strive for better than the vain idea of beauty. Yet this author brings it to the highest realm of importance. Why? It is certainly important, but important enough that it should be faked? That plastic surgery should be considered? Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder and fear if that beholder is a mother. Where is the onus for the sons? Why are the daughters the only ones coming out, and why are they forced into the awkward situation of meeting the mothers instead of the sons they might date one day? You ask how you could suitably understand a girl in the seconds of the “interview”, well how in the world is she ever supposed to understand your son? Or is that not important? We don’t live in biblical times or pre-modern Middle Eastern civilizations where everything is set up before birth. In fact there are Talmudic restrictions against that type of thing, yet the author seemingly is trying to bring this back. There are better ways to get married than setting up some ridiculous meeting with mothers. Vanity, while important, goes both ways, for the guy and the girl. And no girl should ever have to feel she needs to surgically change anything. As for the author, maybe she should actually listen to the girls.
Avi Bagley
On-line comment

* * * * *

As a woman, I find this article to be honest and refreshing. I don’t find it degrading or shallow, and I think that those of you who will insist, “looks don’t matter” are fooling yourselves. Obviously, men are attracted to women who take care of themselves, and it goes both ways. What girl wants to date a boy who doesn’t put some effort into his physical appearance? It was the decision of these girls (and their parents) to enter the dating world and begin the hunt to find their husbands. That sounds like a pretty serious goal to me, and just like all goals, requires some work and effort on behalf of the young lady. Why shouldn’t she put on a little makeup and some figure flattering clothes? Isn’t sex a vital part of a successful marriage, and therefore sexual attraction a vital part of finding a spouse? Before anyone (man or woman) goes on a date, they shower, shave, pick out their most flattering outfit etc. All the author is saying is: if you want to find a husband, put in a little effort. What is so degrading about that?
Gitzy Lazaros
On-line comment

* * * * *

This is all fact. It’s just the way of the world. People choose their partners initially, based on attraction. If you’re appalled by someone’s physical appearance, well bottom line, you’re NOT going to be giving him or her a second look.

There was a comment made “If they don’t like you at your worst, they don’t deserve you at your best.” I agree with this statement, but does that mean they should see what your worst is at the inception? No, it means after months of getting to know someone and feeling more and more comfortable with him or her, that’s when your so called “worst” can come out. That’s when you whip out the ponytails and then sweatshirts. But I just never understood women who didn’t want to constantly wow people. It doesn’t take much to swipe on some mascara and brush on some blush. I can do it in about 18 seconds.

And fact of the matter is, it’s proven that when you feel you look better on the outside, you feel better on the inside. Don’t just do it for someone else, do it for yourself. Show you have a little self-respect, show yourself you take at least a little pride in the amazing woman you are. Treat yourself to look good. You deserve it. You want to say, this is the way Hashem made us, well Hashem also gave us the brains to create make up and perfume and hair treatments. So use it. Not all the time, but definitely the times where you’re looking for a partner in life.

Be realistic, stop trying to be politically correct. It’s ok to step outside the box sometimes. How many times have we seen in the Torah the mention of beauty and women dolling themselves up with makeup and perfumes and jewelry. Even in terms of men in the Torah, physical appearance is used to describe them. Yosef, supposedly women were scaling the walls to catch a glimpse of him. Esav, supposedly was scary to look at because he was covered in hair and dirty, Dovid saw Batsheva bathing, supposedly she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Rochel, Rivkah, Sora, beauty was always mentioned in referring to them.

As little girls we’re given the bracha by our fathers to be like our eemahos, so let’s do it, let’s be like them, in every aspect…
Amanda Dexter Schuster
On-line comment

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2 Responses to “Readers Respond to “The Tyranny of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers Of Girls In Shidduchim””

  1. The problem with Mrs. Halberstam's article, in my view, is that it takes to another level the sexism within the frum community. Here are women lining up to marry overwhelmingly dweeby guys who don't earn anything, have nothing in common with them thanks to the gender segregation in the frum community and basically nothing to offer them at all besides the promise of Olam Habba. These men and their mothers should be humbled and honored, as unemployed nerds are hardly a hot commodity outside of the frum community. But to ask for beauty? What of any worldy value have these men to offer in return? I find it sexist that the frum community makes such a big deal about the male taava for female beauty in a day and age when most Americans with or without internet are highly ignorant about something so basic as the female orgasm.

  2. Anonymous says:

    In the secular world, there's a TV show called The Bachelor. This represents its.
    religious version. The secular TV show would disgust the religious world but I'd bet they do not see themselves reflected in it in the way they choose suitable partners for their children. It doesn't represent Torah-true values.

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