Here is my response to two letters to the editor, published in the March 14 issue which were critical of my column, The Nose Knows:
Both letters expressed dismay and a feeling of shame at being part of a society that seems very focused on outward appearances.
As a frum woman, I agree with both of you. Unfortunately, though, I live in a very tough, real world in which I don’t always see the best of our community. This has made me very practical and realistic in my attempts to deal with a soaring divorce rate, a serious shidduch crisis and so many other ugly issues that I don’t even want to discuss here.
You ask why some men do not look beyond a woman’s nose or other superficial issues that are not germane to the substance of the woman’s character. Why are so many men seemingly very focused on a woman’s exterior?
This issue is not only prevalent in our community. Men are generally more sensitive to visual cues, while women are more sensitive to auditory cues. In fact, a study on newlyweds – Beyond Initial Attraction: Physical Attractiveness in Newlywed Marriage, by Benjamin Karney, professor of social psychology and co-director of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, found that husbands were more affected by their wives’ attractiveness than wives were by their husbands’. In the study’s sample, men who were married to more attractive wives were able to connect better with them than men who felt that their wives were not as attractive as they were.
I bring the results of this study to demonstrate that although in a frum world we should rise above the gashmius, unfortunately, we still live in a secular world in which we are affected by that gashmius.
As a marital therapist who has helped many singles through the marital process, I always try to help individuals look beyond superficiality and marry people whom they need to be with as opposed to people they want to be with in order to impress others.
Both letter writers felt that the Orthodox community should espouse higher values and not be susceptible to shallowness when it comes to choosing a spouse. I wish that were true, but my experiences indicates that your hopes are not in sync with reality.
Professionally, I always seek da’as Torah and never do anything without guidance from a rav that fits the needs of my clients. Again, idealistically I agree with you, but in order to help my clients reach the maximum level of happiness obtainable, I try my best to be as practical as possible in my practice.
Over the years I have had to be very firm with clients and their parents who are focused on issues like whether a boy wears a black hat or, if he does wear one, whether he always wears it or just sometimes. These concerns truly make me crazy.
There have been many girls whom I’ve helped get married to true bnei Torah who did not wear black hats but who were sincerely frum.
I once asked one of my chassidishe clients what type of shidduch she was seeking. She said that she wanted to marry a boy who wore white socks, which is a level of livush in the chassidishe world. I was speechless by her answer, for while I was focused on the importance of her need to find a shidduch with exemplary middos and overall character traits, she was clearly focused on other issues.
I am not minimizing the importance of one’s livush, which often reflects certain values that a person possesses. But there’s so much more to people than what they wear.