Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you about the “shidduch crisis.” I have to say that my friends and I, all attractive single Orthodox single women, believe that the fault for this situation lies with the men.
Dr. Respler, I know it’s a generalization, but they are so into looks. No matter where they stand in their religious observance, it seems that the girls need to provide a picture and look amazing just to get a date. The first question often asked is, “How does the girl look?” No one seems to care about middot – even though most will say that they do. You wrote about this recently and noted, “Men are visual people.”
Do they give the girls a chance if they are not attractive enough, even if they have other characteristics that the man is looking for? My friends and I think they don’t. Many women are struggling to just get a date. And if a girl is slightly overweight, she is finished in the shidduch world. Who says an overweight girl can’t be a great wife?
Thank you for your question. I am so sorry for the pain that you are going through.
Let me begin by saying that we all know many women who are not necessarily gorgeous and yet they are married. So, we can’t generalize all men.
Having said that, it is true that the middah of tznius in its many manifestations is something we as a society have to work on. We have become so blasé about girl’s pictures being given out with a resume.
In terms of looking our best, I have had singles tell me that they refuse to get dressed up or put on make-up for a date. If a guy is their bashert he will accept them, they say. While I do agree that looks are not the most important ingredient in a marriage, attraction definitely plays a role. Therefore, it is important for each party to make his or her hishtadlus before going out. For women this may mean putting on make-up, fixing up their hair, dressing well, etc. For men this means showering, looking attractive and neat for the date, dressing well, etc. In general when singles are in the parsha it is not a bad idea for them to make the extra hishtadlus to try to look more presentable always – and not only when they go out on a date.
There are two sides to every situation and I think that the shidduch crisis is difficult to sum up in a column, where both sides play a role. I am involved with many shadchanim and they all agree that there are difficult women and difficult men, some of whom seem to say no to every shidduch. This may reflect a psychological problem in the person and professional help should be sought.
Readers, if you or someone you know seems to have a dating issue, it is helpful to see a professional as soon as possible. A competent therapist can help process what’s keeping things from moving forward in just a few sessions. Being blocked in dating does not necessarily mean there is a deep-rooted problem; it is possible that there is some fear or other minor issue that can be easily worked through. It is smart to go for help when you are young; I often meet older singles who regret decisions they made in shidduchim because they didn’t have the right guidance.
Both sides in this issue should resolve to work on things. Men can try to give more women a chance. Remember, many people do not photograph well. A two-dimensional image doesn’t give the proper depth to the girl’s beauty and chein, which can come through on a date. Women can work on being less hung up on a guys looks, his career his job, or educational background or lack thereof. In order to help the shidduch crisis, we all need to make a conscious effort to be more open minded and amenable to shidduchim that may not be perfect on paper but may be perfect in real life.
I wish we could all get rid of the pictures, as it is way out of hand. I am just not sure how. I wish you and your friends hatzlacha.