By Baila Sebrow

Question

Dating is not going well for me. I thought it would go well because everything else in my life is, and I’m not a weird guy like some of the others out there. I don’t drink, I’ve always stayed away from drugs, I don’t smoke — you get the picture. I also have a profession, I come from a good family, blah, blah, blah.

People are setting me up with girls who are either too religious or not religious enough. And by not religious enough, I mean they dress in such a way that I’m embarrassed to be seen with them. And these girls were supposedly frum.

Why do girls look different in person than on their profiles that the shadchanim send me? I’m not making this up. The pictures show a skinny girl, and when I show up to her house, she is chubby. What’s up with that? I want a skinny, pretty girl. Any hair color is fine, but I have a thing against redheads. I know that some are cute, but it’s not my thing. Is that such a big thing to ask for?

And the whole hashkafah thing is ridiculous. I know girls who went to certain frummy seminaries, and they are a joke when it comes to being frum. I also know girls who are modern, wear pants and all, and they are so spiritual. I’m not getting set up with girls who are a good fit for me. The whole thing is messed up, so what ideas do you have for me to get married?

Response

I am not sure I have ideas for you to get married, as I don’t know you. However, I can offer you some of my thoughts that might make the process a bit smoother and perhaps even debunk one or two of your myths that may be hindering you. I am most concerned about your attitude towards dating, and it is my hope that you are making a positive impression on those who assist you as well as the girls you date.

Why aren’t you being introduced to girls who are compatible with you, at least from a personal dress-code perspective? I can understand that no shadchan can ever guarantee that two people who are being introduced to one another will have mutual chemistry, but when you specify that you are seeking a modestly dressed girl, that should leave no room for compromise or debate.

How do you dress? Are you dressed in a conservative manner, or do you have a more edgy type of style? If you are a conservative dresser and you keep being introduced to girls you are ashamed to be seen with, then you need to switch shadchan gears and retain someone who will offer you compatible matches, at least from the clothing perspective.

You might need to insist that anyone who introduces you to a girl should have had the opportunity to meet her prior to sending her your way. Oftentimes, the shadchan has no clue what either party looks like, and he or she is totally dependent on the photo provided. This is how shadchanus is practiced in many circumstances. Chances are that the people who are setting you up on dates have never personally met you or any of the girls in question. They go by the bios and pictures, and they hope for the best. But, as I said before, that is something you can change. The problem is that you might need to change your attitude, too!

When people provide a picture for shidduch purposes, they choose a photo that is most attractive. It might be from a simcha or other event where the girl had her hair and makeup done professionally. The girl will look her best in that particular photo. In real life, no one walks around looking like that on a daily basis. Even if a girl puts in the effort to look her best on a date, unless she goes through the same extremes as she does for a special occasion, she will look different in person. If you ever had the opportunity to view candid shots of supermodels on a regular day, you would be surprised to see that many are quite average looking without their team of beauty experts working on them. You need to accept that if you want to get married!

You will also need to accept that even if a girl appears to your liking physically, there is a possibility that her looks may change after years of marriage, for any number of reasons. Then what will you do? I will not preach to you that you should only look at the inner core and not the outside. Attraction is important. You need to feel attracted to the person you are marrying. But if you have a fixed idea of what a girl is supposed to look like in order for you to marry her, you are setting yourself up for trouble.

“Skinny, pretty, no redheads.” You’re in for a rude awakening. You might meet a girl who is blonde or brunette only to discover after marriage that she has red hair. Do you know why? Because her hairdresser is good at keeping secrets! Young fellow, you need to reevaluate your priorities where it relates to finding a wife.

I will also be fair and admit that there are people who deliberately mislead others by attaching an old photo to their résumé or one that has been rigorously Photoshopped. That is an injustice to the one who feels like he or she was tricked into a date with the person. That is just plain wrong. You can avoid such a problem by not looking at photographs beforehand (best choice!), or you can specify that you prefer an updated photo that is less than a year old.

Finally, I want focus on the hashkafah portion of your letter. Descriptions of hashkafah have gotten out of hand. Not only are there categories, but there are also sub-categories, and even sub-sub-categories to explain the subcategory, which in essence explains nothing! Singles have no clue which group they belong to. From the little amount you are sharing with me about yourself, and based on those you are being introduced to, it sounds as though you are being categorized as Modern Orthodox machmir or Modern Orthodox liberal.

Human beings are unique. That’s why two people, even close family members, each have their own set of fingerprints. And when it comes to hashkafah the same notion applies. That said, this is where it gets tricky. People look at the background of a person — school, family, etc. — and make the determination that this is the kind of spouse they need to marry. This method also goes so far as looking at personality traits. Whenever I network on behalf of a single man or woman, the question of whether or not the person is outgoing comes up. If I say that the person is outgoing, some people automatically feel that such a person cannot marry a quiet, introverted person even if they say that they get along with that type of personality. It is almost as though people assume that in a shidduch, one has to be a clone of the other. Meanwhile, we all know that there are many happy marriages where one spouse is different from the other.

And with regard to how frum or not one is, there are people who present the image of being modern or more to the right, yet that is not who they are on the inside. Or, it’s possible to have a mix of varied hashkafos in one. And that’s another reason why I believe you are experiencing so many challenges.

Where do you go from here? For starters, as I mentioned, you need to reevaluate your priorities. To reiterate, I am not suggesting that you date anyone you aren’t attracted to. Pictures aside, you need to understand that people can fluctuate in their appearance. Don’t you know people who may look good one day, and the next day they don’t look as good? Perhaps they didn’t sleep well the night before, or the outfit they were wearing did not flatter them. But when your focus is not on the girl herself, but rather on how skinny she is or the color of her hair, it will only stand as a major impediment to your objective of finding a wife.

If you cannot come to terms with how you feel, you are probably better off meeting someone on your own, in person, rather than relying on someone else’s opinion or a picture. Rarely does someone look the same in a picture as in real life, and rarely can people accurately explain on paper where they stand in frumkeit. And that applies for better or for worse.

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com.

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