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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim


I know I’m going to be crucified, but if the appeal I make below helps even one girl in shidduchim, then it will be worth all the fury and outrage that shall inevitably descend upon my soon-to-be beleaguered head.

The other night, I was invited to a fascinating new shidduch initiative. Endorsed by leading rabbonim and spearheaded by a few righteous women valiantly trying to transcend the spiraling “shidduch crisis” in some small but meaningful way, the concept was to bring mothers of eligible young men together with young women looking for shidduchim (members of both groups were pre-screened and issued personal and discreet invitations by the organizers) in both a balabatish setting and a dignified way.

Everybody knows that the experiences of boys in shidduchim–in contradistinction to their female counterparts–is vastly different. This is the harsh truth: The mothers of “good boys” are bombarded with shidduch suggestions on a daily basis – a veritable barrage of resumes either flooding their fax machines or pouring out of their e-mail inboxes– while those with similarly “top” daughters sit with pinched faces anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. The disparity is bare, bold-faced and veritably heartbreaking: In the shidduchparsha,” boys are constantly being courted and pursued, while the best girls’ resumes barely elicit a modicum of interest.

As a friend recently told me: “When my nephew was 19 and started shidduchim, he went out with 19-year-old girls. When he turned 20, he still went out with 19-year-old girls. He kept getting older, but the shidduchim that he was “redt” continued to be 19-year-old girls. Now he is 24 and baruch Hashem just got engaged –to a 19-year old girl.” Sadly, women do not have this same recourse.

To rectify this inequity, a few concerned mothers brain stormed together and concluded that “shidduch resumes” (which never even existed as a concept when I was dating 35 years ago) fail to accurately capture the essence of the person being “summed up” and often–especially in the case of the girls– get lost in the shuffle. One organizer told me: “The boys’ mothers barely give the girls’ resumes a passing glance–they are so overwhelmed by the sheer numbers coming their way–and it becomes a daunting task to sift through them. And the resumes themselves are severely limiting. Can you really get a genuine sense of who the girl is from the resume? What does it tell you about her personality, her character, her intellect, her neshoma? It is demeaning to reduce a girl to a few sentences.”

The rationale underlying the new shidduch initiative was this: If eligible girls would be given personal and meaningful “face time” with prospective mother-in-laws, they would be able to present their qualities far more efficaciously than a cold and lifeless curriculum vitae.

Now for my full disclosure: I am the mother (baruch Hashem) of a great boy. He is continuously sought out, “in perpetual demand” (kinehora). I should be grateful that in shidduchim, he “wields the upper hand.” But as a woman who identifies with and feels great compassion for the throngs of girls in a parallel universe who are not being chased, I feel a little sad each time the fax machine cranks out yet another resume for my son. I know full well that there are fantastic girls out there who are his equals–perhaps even his superiors–who are NOT receiving comparable treatment. They are neither being hounded nor pursued half as vigorously as he, and they are denied the latitude of choices that he receives every day. I ache for their mothers who repeatedly call the shadchanim who never call back, but are visibly more responsive if you are the mother of a boy. Inwardly, I rail against the unfairness of it all (although the shadchanim are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, whatsoever; it is the system that is at fault– not they—the stark realities of supply and demand). Thinking of the mothers who do not have the privilege to wade through as many resumes as me, I try consciously not to revel in the continuous stream that cascade over my desk. I know how fortunate my son is, and I feel for those who aren’t.

So, when one of the extraordinary women who organized this event invited me to participate, I was actually reluctant to attend. Quite simply, there was no need. But because I like and respect this woman so much, and wanted to validate her efforts, I RSVP’d “Yes.”

“How are you going to work this?” I asked. “How are you going to ensure that all the girls get equal time? Are they not going to feel degraded? Is this process not going to end up even more demeaning than a resume?”

The organizer assured me that there would be facilitators on site who would introduce each girl to every mother. The facilitator would escort the mother to the tables where the girls sat, and be hyper-vigilant that no girl gets bypassed. I wondered how many girls would feel comfortable with this arrangement and actually show up, but as I said before, I wanted to support my acquaintance’s endeavor with my physical presence, so I went.

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851 Responses to “Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim”

  1. Adriane Tick Meyers says:

    Dan Freundel I really agree with you. Which is why I spouted such a long comment below in response to those agreeing with the article's logos.

  2. Naamah Adelman says:

    woah! I have never been a fan of this whole "shidduch crisis" thing or "resumes"…what are we applying for a job?? Its pathetic. I honestly couldnt even bring myself to finish this article. This woman is pathetic….so full of her son…like so many other mothers of boys. No one will ever be good enough for their children anyways…whats the point? And her whole rant on the makeup…(I stopped reading in middle of that…) these people act all religious…talking about their learning sons…and girls who want learning boys….so why is it that the outside is more important than the inside?? I am a strong believer in attraction being important…but its the inside that counts!!! When a person has inner beauty and u take the time to know them, they automatically become beautiful outside. There have been plenty of occasions where I have met people and at first glance did not think they were pretty at all, but once I got to know them and see how amazing they are inside, they just became beautiful on the outside as well. ERRR This article is very frustrating to read!

  3. Ita Benjamin says:

    Jon Burg You had the real shidduch thing – matchmaking as it was meant to be. People who actually know the individuals involved and thought you two were compatible brought you together. Too often now, shadchanus is the low-tech version of match.com for the Yeshiva world, unfortunately.

  4. I see plenty of non made up girls getting married as well. Everyone has a right to theyr preferences.Just like girls have a right to theyrs. ( only a guy with a degree , etc.)

  5. Rachel Mdtc says:

    Chava Barr – I agree with you. In my opinion, it's not a question of wearing makeup versus non wearing makeup. It's about finding somebody who will accept you regardless.

  6. Naamah Adelman says:

    and people like this woman is the reason that this so called "shidduch crisis" even exists!!!!

  7. Naamah Adelman says:

    and people like this woman are the reason that this so called "shidduch crisis" even exists!!!!

  8. Ashley Jacob that is a far cry from this article. infinitely far.

  9. Tammy Paul says:

    L'via Weisinger That's the real issue here – it's not the men who are the problem, it's their mothers! That's part of the problem with the whole idea of mothers dealign with shidduchim for their sons. I'm certain that if the sons were the ones doing the choosing rather than the mothers, the girls getting married would not necessarily be the same ones as when the mothers are choosing.

  10. every girl wants to look pretty, clearly these girls think they look nice without makeup on.

  11. Elisa Bloch says:

    Yonatan Silver I'm not talking about the article anymore I'm talking about everyone's reactions to the article. Many people seem to be appalled at the idea that the general idea this woman is trying to convey is that we should take the time and effort to make ourselves look nice, no matter how long that may take you. I am not advocating for surgery (as I already said, I think that part of the article is way overboard) but I am advocating for making a good presentation of yourself. I'm not into designer brands, I don't get manicure's every week, but when I leave my apartment I brush my hair, put on a nice outfit, and yes, a smidgen of makeup. Just as I believe boys shouldn't be wearing ratty t-shirts and they should make an attempt to look well kept and clean. It goes both ways.

  12. Sara Ross Kutliroff says:

    No fury, no anger, just pity. This lady has issues, clearly unresolved from her own beauty insecurities. She'll get her comeupance when her son marries a beauty on the outside and an ugly on the inside.

  13. Azi Graber says:

    luv2clown99 firslty, my comment had little to do with the surgery aspect of this essay. see my second and third paragraph, it was about the event and the system that has led to "require" said event.

    I have no problem with anyone getting any surgery they want, if a nose job wull help make a women feel better about her self then she should get it done. wanting cosmetic surgery isnt always about being in a bad state of mind, some people want to improve their appearance, and thats great. the essay writer here took it to a different lever telling others what they should or shouldnt do. that is gross and insulting and demeaning.

    listen, you arent sitting in a yeshiva now with little impressionable and naive boys who will believe your lies about the outside world. there are 700,000,000 people in this country, most with families, and jobs, and hobbies, and good times and bad, and just life. there are single pople with jobs and frriends and family and hobbies, etc you cannot trick people by painting a sad life outside, it just isnt true.

    sex isnt my answer, being apart of this planet and living your life naturally and finding ones partner naturally is what my answer would be to these girls.

  14. Yosef Scott That is true, she needs to be attractive to her spouse. But to her mother-in-law?
    You can have a situation where the boys mother thinks she is beautiful, and the boy thinks otherwise, and vice-versa. The whole point of the meeting, the author writes, is to find out more about the girls character, since a resume "reduces the girl ti a few sentences" which is demeaning.
    Much more so, a meeting with a mother should be purely about character, since the boy, and only the boy will judge if he is attracted to her.

  15. Ita Benjamin says:

    michlalahgirl It's considered no big deal to have your teeth straightened to improve your appearance, which is a painful process that takes months or years, not to mention $$. It's routine to invest in contact lenses when glasses are cheaper and do the job just as well. These were also not around during the time of our matriarchs. Why do you believe that other cosmetic procedures so scarring, or even just plain wrong? I believe our girls Yeshivas really do instill a prejudice against physical beauty in their students.

    And gentlemen- I'm reminded of the old Jewish joke where a man is traveling on a train and is seated across from a lovely lady. The man keeps sneaking looks at the lady, then turning away and sighing mournfully. Another passenger notices this and asks "What are you so sad about? That lady is beautiful!" And the man says "She is indeed! I look at her, then I think of my wife and I can't help sighing…" Have you really evolved that much?

  16. Mir Adler says:

    I just threw up a little in my mouth when I read that.

    Besides for the fact that this article HIGHLIGHTS what is ACTUALLY wrong with the shidduch world, (the mothers of good boys not believing that ANY girl is good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough for their "perfect" sons,) this article only serves to foster more insecurity in the single girls who are already plagued with the doubts about themselves, wondering what is really wrong with them… Do we really need more eating disorders in this world? Or women who will do ANYTHING to defy aging or "enhance" their God-given features?

    I also think that logistically, if every single girl/woman had plastic surgery, you'd be right at the beginning. How is one girl going to stand out in a crowd if they all look like Lisa Rinna or Heidi Montag?

    It's not a solution. It'll just cause more problems in the shidduch world.

  17. this article is disturbing on so so many levels. at its core, the problem i see is the concept of boy's mothers interviewing potential girls for their sons. i think mothers might be the least capable of finding someone their sons would like, and if the girls were not trying to "attract" the mothers w/ makeup, well, duh, i would hope the mothers were not attracted to any of them. its hard to read, but im gonna try to finish it….i coudnt wait til the end of the article, its like nails on a chalkboard to me.

  18. Ms. Halberstam, why do you think it is that only the girls are subjected to this type of scrutiny and not the boys? And why do you perpetuate it in the guise of helping girls? Wouldn't your forum be put to better use educating the community that this type of evaluation of half the Jewish population is wrong and a terrible chillul Hashem and entirely inappropriate?

    Yes, the attractiveness of one partner to the other is important. This goes BOTH WAYS. As does intellectual and hashkafic compatibility. When the MOTHERS of one sex evaluate the members of the other ones with a heavy emphasis on physical appearance, something is very wrong. And you sit there with a patronizing pretense of helping girls by recommending they surgically alter their looks? We should all band together to repeat the message that this lack of honor for the substance of women, the contents of their character, their PEOPLEHOOD, disenfranchises Jewish neshamos with it's superficiality and utter wrongheadedness. I would venture to say that what this article actually promotes is UGLINESS.

  19. Nisa Harris says:

    As with everything in life balance is key. From the description of her childhood the author clearly is someone in need of building herself up through more artificial means and that's fine. We unfortunately live in a horribly superficial society that no one can really get out of while Halo's law just presses that issue further. Personally, I rarely wear makeup, usually only for special ocassions and my husband really prefers me not to wear any. However I do realize that even with my husband a drop of eyeliner or lipgloss can give a new shine when I put it on. Yes everyone should put their best foot forward but noone should judge one way or another in any case. Fact is people are people and they will judge however they see fit BC of their background. So do what u r comfortable with and works for you. If one day u decide to wear makeup and this mother sees you then maybe I'll have a better shot but only BC that's how she works. She needsthat to feel comfortable. But the guy eventually wouldn't care if u did or didn't wear makeup. Rambling hope tis was clear BC I'm writing rushed.

  20. …and the Purim mushel is all wrong. the crux of the purim story is that even though Esther wasnt physically traditionally beautiful she was admired by everyone, and even after fasting for 3 days (davvening and working on her inside neshama and kesher to Hashem) and mustve looked horrible after the 3 days, Achasheirosh approves of her entry. this mother has it all so backwards.

  21. Chaya Gittel says:

    Well said Miriam! It totally sucks that we have to go thru this!

  22. Melissa Danto Rayman says:

    Well said Lisa! I was appalled at this article.

  23. Mir Adler says:

    Chaya Gittel It's crazy. I don't know what else to say.

  24. Michal Katz, thank you for agreeing to ever talk to boys BEFORE some shadchan had to get involved.

  25. i agree that there are major flaws in the shidduch system, but this mother is barking up the wrong tree, and 4 pages worth….what a waste of space and brain power.

  26. i just read the top comments….was it satirical? that would make sense.

  27. Annulla says:

    Perfectly said. Thank you.

  28. AY Lawrence says:

    Chana Perel Benzaquen
    It don't make a diff where I live, I just think it's satirical.
    Unless… unless the author lives where I live…

  29. Eli Goldenberg says:

    Yonatan Silver you say "a little effort yes botox no" what if the girl is much older and hasnt been married we all know the dating world gets smaller and smaller as one gets older (especially girls) so does botox sound so drastic if a girl is in her fourties, fifties or older? of course botox is extreme for the average jewish dater whos 19 but that doesnt mean its always an extreme. and for everyone else here who is talking about the unrealistic expectations placed on girls today, or the problems with the jewish dating world, neither amanda or myself have defended this. neither one of us are in the extreme religious dating world where we go meet the mothers of potential suitors. and like most of you here i think it is absurd. but as for the unrealistic expectations of women-that occurs in both the jewish world and secular. you're arguing with the way of life, not just with this specific article. theres no need to bring in references from the torah because the dating world today is not following rules set up by the torah. the underlying truth, whether we like it or not, is girls are judged by their appearances. these appearances may not and should not mean everything to the right guy but noone can deny that putting in the effort needed is not such a bad thing. you guys are berating amanda but she never said invest in becoming a supermodel by changing every aspect of your body. she is saying that if you need a nose job and you want it, get a nose job, if you need gastric bypass and you want it then get it, and if you need botox and you want it then get it.

  30. Lynn says:

    I very much understand where Yitta, the author of the article, is coming from. I have seen girls whose mothers spend hours calling shadchanim for them, who don’t try at all to look presentable. It is normal for most young women to spend time, money, and effort on their looks. This does not make them non-frum or un-spiritual. This is what most young women do, no matter what religion they are. Girls with limp hair, no make-up, unflattering clothes, and who need better nutrition and exercise, don’t make a good impression on boys or their mothers. We can’t, nor are we expected to, change human nature. Most mothers of boys would not get too far with telling their sons that hair does not matter because it will be covered after the wedding. We mothers of boys can’t sell a girl on our sons by telling them to ignore a weight problem because most women gain weight anyway. We can’t tell them that it is preferable to see them without make-up because women don’t sleep with make-up on. The boy is going to be attracted to what he sees on the date; not what the girl will look like in 10 years.

  31. Don Cantor yes, she should be attractive. To the BOY, NOT TO HIS MOTHER!!!

  32. Except, it is the mother who wants the superemodel for her son, not the son who wants it.
    If a by wants a supermodel, he is shallow.
    If the girl is completely unattractive, then I don't blame the boy for not seeing her, but to the mother? Forgive me, but how does she know what will turn him on?

  33. Daniel Wenger Surgery has risks that braces do not. You are also cutting up your body.

  34. denacohen says:

    And somewhere Upstairs, God is banging his head against the wall.

  35. Surgery come with risks that braces do not. It is also cutting into your body. I think there is a real difference other than what is considered normal by society.

  36. Don Cantor says:

    Chaim Saperstein I agree with you. I was responding to the people who were rejecting physical attractiveness as a factor altogether (the author of the original comment that started this thread as well as the guy who told me I was like Achashverosh). I was addressing a specific point, and not the whole article, as I think I kind of mentioned in my original comment.

  37. Chaya 'Karen' Shochet says:

    Unfortunately, (and I might regret now commenting on a second thread about this,) it does not look like a Purim joke. I was very, very surprised at the direction this article took and that it was published.
    In response to what you said, Akiva, I think it is possible to live in a shidduch society (without as much contact as we have in Modern Orthodoxy) without advocating for plastic surgery.

  38. Azi, due to the circumstances, one of my first dates with my wife was a last-minute thing, she did not have time to put on her makeup. Knowing that throughout our lives I will see her more without makeup than with, (I am married 14 years) I was very happy to see her on a date as I will see her our whole lives.

  39. Stefanie Strauss Small, I can understand someone turning down a match because he/she is not attracted to her/him. But in the peculiar society described in this article, women are turned down because the boy's mother doesn't find her attractive enough for her perfect son.

    How many mothers-in-law truly believe in their heart of heart that their perfect son couldn't possibly have done better?

    (By the way, the writer happens to inadvertently mention here and there that her son gets many resumes; and she lets it slip that he will be receiving a PHD and that the sun shines out of his nostrils.)

    I'm sure that many, if not most, couples get on OK with their in-laws. But imagine a world of rational people where only women who met the approval of the boy's mother could ever get to even meet him.

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