Guest Post by Deena Sasoon
Here is what you need to know about me. I’m female, frum, and single. I am probably older than most girls still in the parsha. I would tell you my age if I thought that it mattered. Suffice it to say, according to women like Yitta Halberstam, I should probably just put myself in a nursing home already. If only she had written her article Purim And The Tyranny Of Beauty: A Plea to Mothers of Girls in Shidduchim 5 years ago, perhaps I would have already managed to trick someone into being my husband. How selfish of her.
I exercise regularly (ran a half marathon), I eat healthy food. I moisturize my skin, have regular doctor appointments, and wear make up occasionally. I dress nicely and take great pride in my appearance, because it is important. We all know it is a mitzvah to take care of ourselves. I even use a Crest White Strip every now and then. I also have freckles on my nose, which is larger than most. My left foot is bigger than my right. My hair tends to get frizzy if I don’t blow dry it. Thank G-d I am also respectful, kind, compassionate, and giving, to name a few character traits.
I have dated many men, met many shadchanim, and been to many singles events. According to Ms. Halberstam’s theory, being single at the age that I am, I must obviously have a hook nose spotted with warts, and be a morbidly obese hunchback. However, I am happy to report none of those descriptors suit me. I refuse to believe that the “problem” (huge quotes) lies solely within me and my outward appearance. Partly because of the facts: 9/10 times it was me who decided not to pursue the relationship (a whole other article). And partly because my parents have taught me better. Self esteem is apparently not something that Ms. Halberstam grew up with, and for that I am terribly sorry.
Dear Ms. Halberstam,
I respect you as a fellow Jew. I have never heard your name before, and probably would not recognize you if I passed you on the street. I feel an obligation to express my feelings regarding the recent article you had published. This is not a personal attack, rather a supportive response for all of the singles girls out there.
I find the fist few sentences to your article the most intriguing.
“if the appeal below helps even one girl in shidduchim, it would be worth all the fury and outrage”
Fury and outrage you have received. You sound sincere, however abhorrently misguided. Forget about someone you think you may have helped, what about all of the girls that you may have hurt? Now I don’t mean feelings….let’s look beyond that. And I don’t mean myself either. Baruch Hashem, I have been blessed in many ways. I would like to speak on behalf of ALL the young, impressionable, fragile girls in the parsha who have had the misfortune of reading your article. Who asked you for your unsolicited, unprofessional, and dangerous advice?
While I quite strongly disagree with the overall message of your article, there are points with which we agree upon. For example, you wrote “…the experiences of boys in shidduchim-in contradistinction to their female counterparts-is vastly different”. Isn’t that the truth! Ever wonder why? Anyone in the shidduch parsha, related to someone in the shidduch parsha, or just plain religious knows that the playing field is unequal. Way more girls than guys, yes, but more importantly, the average dating girl is more educated, refined, respectful, and ATTRACTIVE then their male counterparts. Perhaps that’s because there are more girls than guys and I guess one can view it as a competition of sorts….but all the more reason to celebrate each female’s unique character traits and middos. You write:
“even the most temimasdika ben torah is looking for a wife whom he finds attractive”
but fail to end the sentence correctly. The most temimasdika ben torah has a VERY different idea of what is attractive, than you do (thank G-d).
I can’t help but make the comparison to the currently popular “Hunger Games” phenamona where the characters are forced to fight to the death simply because some crazy woman decided so. Ms. Halberstam, is this your version called the “Shidduch Games: Lose Yourself to Find a Man”? If guys have tens and hundreds of shidduch resumes falling all over them, it is for no other reason than there are less of them. Not because the vast majority of guys have something in particular that hundreds of girls want. When your typical guy shteiging away in yeshiva gets 10 resumes a day, the spirit of the matches begins to lose their meaning and one may forget that these girls are actually PEOPLE. If Chaim Schwatrz can have any girl he wants, of course he’s gonna want one with a perfect nose (which I happily do not have). Guys have been given the option and are encouraged by people like you to be superficial, when there are myriads of girls who have settled for greasy payos. Dating is difficult within the confines of this absurd “system”, and what I describe is only the tip of the iceberg. We should support each other, not make one another more insecure as you do, and perpetuate a vicious cycle. We need to change the “system”. i.e., we need to change how people like you, Ms. Halberstam think, go back to appreciating ben adam l’chavero as the most important, and pass that heritage to our sons.
Speaking of shidduch resumes, in your article you quoted one of the organizers of the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law mixer (which again deserves its own article….what a ghastly thought for a guy and girl to actually meet and make their own decisions) as saying:
“can you really get a sense of who the girl is from a 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.”
I wish you (and the woman who said this) had really understood those words and taken them to heart. Ms. Halberstam, I need to correct you, for you seem to think that the way to really get to know a girl’s personality, character, and intellect is in the OR of your local plastic surgeon. I myself can think of nothing more demeaning than reducing a girl to the sum of her physical parts, and suggesting plastic surgery.
The term “shidduch crisis” is thrown around and used so often I am surprised it hasn’t yet found its way onto urbandictionary.com. Yes, today there are many more single people over the age of 21 than there were when my parent’s, your generation, Ms. Halberstam were growing up. Maybe that’s because boys and girls were not as segregated. Who knows, and to discuss that point would be a digression from my current objective. I can’t help but think that the “shidduch crisis” is perpetuated by people who view suitable marriage partners in terms of “is she pretty? Can she support my learning son while she works full time and raises the family?” or “my son’s kallah is so beautiful she has the perfect figure”….and not a hopefully lifelong supportive and healthy union between two complementary personalities and neshomos. I see the shidduch crisis not only as many single people, but the staggering divorce rate among frum couples, let alone unhappily married ones due to the circumstances in which they met. I see the shidduch crisis as parents, individuals, and shadchanim who view a shidduch as a way to keep up with the Jones’s and not two people uniting to build a home and raise children together.
If the “deal breaker question” as you put it is “is she pretty”, the way I see it there are two options for how the marriage can turn out.
Option A: Unless you’re Cindy Crawford, for 99.9% of the population looks inevitably fade be it with age or childbearing. If a husband married a woman for her looks, all heck is going to break lose once that’s gone, and the marriage is doomed.
Option B: Said trophy wife will feel incredible pressure to maintain her looks and spend her years obsessively looking in the mirror, getting Botox, lip injections, and plastic surgery to try and make her insatiable husband happy. She will begin to resent him, and he will begin to resent her for the mounting bills.
Well, seems like there is only one option after all.
Call me crazy, but I want my husband to find me attractive from the moment I wake up in the morning, with bed head hair, creases on my face, and the old T-shirt I wear to sleep, because he fell in love with ME. Not what I wear or the make up on my face.
If there can be something more disturbing than the message of your article, it is how you used our rich and holy heritage as proof for your argument.
“Whether we like it or not, appearances do count (I completely agree). And no Yom Tov demonstrates that reality more than Purim”
Seriously? Is THAT the message of the holiday? Is THAT why we fast on Taanis Esther? Because she was pretty? What ever happened to Queen Esther having green skin? Perhaps she should have used some sort of bleach to lighten it….oh wait, she saved the Jews anyway. You bring an example of a society’s emphasis on beauty in how “Vashti incurred Ahachshverosh’s wrath because he wished to parade her beauty and she refused (bad skin day)”, WHAT?? Since when is Achashverosh the role model? You continue: “The women of the kingdom who vied for the Queen’s throne were given twelve months to prepare for the beauty pageant”…again, not sure why you are using an idolatrous nation that wanted us DEAD as examples. Achashverosh was a wicked man who only saw the superficiality of women, probably taught to him by his mother…
Another unfortunate is the story of the Satmar Rebbie zt”l that you mention. While I had not yet heard that story myself, I think it is noble of a great sage to provide money for a woman who was left completely edentulous after the ravages of war. I’m really not sure how you make the leap to use that as proof to support your faulty argument. SURVIVING A CONCENTRATION CAMP and left toothless vs. a young healthy girl who was born with a small bump in her nose or a slight overbite. My money still goes for the dentures.
I hate to say this Ms. Halberstam, but the real korban of your article is your son. My bracha to you both is that you find a girl that can look past what you believe in and see your son for the individual he hopefully is. I am glad that you were able to find peace and happiness with the physical changes and surgeries that you underwent. That could not have been an easy process. But please don’t push your experiences or agendas on others.
I myself would never misrepresent the good deeds of a gadol as proof for such fodder. Instead I bring the words of the heligah Beyonc’e (who has some pretty thick thighs but a millionaire, wife of a millionaire and mother of a baby none the less) as advice for all the dating guys out there: Ignore all the insanity. If you meet a great girl, and it’s her imperfections that you love the most “PUT A RING ON IT”.
Woah oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh Woah oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Find out more about the shidduch crisis at 4torah.com