Slim Pickings

Just had a girlfriend bending my ear about the ridiculousness of the shidduch business. She said all the shadchanim (matchmakers) really want to know is the size of the girl – slim, average or forget-about-it. Is she pretty? Does she dress well? They don’t even bother asking about her middot, her character or personality traits. Is that not important anymore?

Are there no larger girls needing to get married? Are they to be forgotten about because they cannot squeeze into less than a 14? There are not so many girls who stay size 2 after they have kids you know!! No one asks if the boy is fat, or skinny or has pimples.

Why so much emphasis on size??

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  1. Jess says:

    Not only do they ask about the size of the girl, but the girl’s mother. They want to know what she’ll look like after bearing all those kids!
    We’ve talked about this before, the crazy shidduch questions. And that’s a good point, what about the boy’s size? And in all these questions nothing is asked about personality, quality of character, intelligence, integrity, etc.
    But I have a little rant of my own, and sorry to co-opt your blog, but I was just reading an article, that while women have decided to have children later, their ovaries haven’t caught up yet. DECIDED?!?!?!?! Do you think I DECIDED not to have children yet while my ovaries shrivel up?!?!?!
    Sorry about that, just needed to get that off my chest.

  2. I remember trying to set up two people. She wasn’t interested because of something she didn’t like physically about him. I tried to set her up with someone else but this time HE wasn’t interested because of something HE didn’t like physically about her. (He wanted a full-figured woman!)

    Everyone tells me that the boys have their pick. The women don’t. Is that any different than the way it works in “the real world”?

    I remember having all these silly requirements: must be over 6′. Oh wait, I think that was it as far as requirements. Sure, I HOPED he liked reading. I HOPED he like writing. I HOPED he liked movies. I HOPED he was good to me and didn’t cheat or lie to me.

    I ended up marrying someone under 6′ but who was everything I had just “hoped” for. Sure, I wish he spoke Spanish, I wish he was as extroverted as me…but I’m glad that I looked past my list and was able to see that the person in front of me was the person I was “meant to be” with.

    • Mark says:

      Aliza, so first she didn’t like he. Then, he didn’t like she. And so on. Hey, I have a great idea! Why not put them all in a room and have them decide who likes who and avoid all of this back and forth that only wastes a ot of time and effort?

      Oh yeah, that would be too normal a way to meet a spouse. Oh well.

      • musicluver says:

        Yeah, well I hate to tell you Mark, it’s mainly a problem with superficiality. People are too influenced from all of this Hollywood garbage that’s out there. Some of these “she didn’t like he. Then, he didn’t like she.” people need to get with the program…

        • Mark says:

          it’s mainly a problem with superficiality

          I know, believe me, I know!

          But don’t blame it on Hollywood, because it is rampant even in societies that never watch movies or TV.

          • musicluver says:

            Yeah, but I believe that’s where it all started. There’s also plenty of billboards to go around too that give this message..

  3. rgoldstand says:

    The more I hear about traditional shidduchim (thru a “professional” shadchanit as opposed to friends, acquaintanced /or web sites), the more I realize that, as bad as the shidduch world seems to me now, and as much as I would love to find my beshert, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to approach one of those creatures… I understand the need for physical attraction between a couple and I know everyone has a different “comfort level” for weight/height, but what you (and others) have described sounds absolutely nauseating…

    • Jess says:

      I hear ya! Though sometimes I feel like I just wish someone would find that someone and say, “here, is your husband.” I can’t deal with dating. It is probably one of the worst ordeals one could go through. The first date (UGH). The deciding about the second date (BLARGH) the “beginning” of a relationship, which always seems to crash and burn. And then it’s back to square one. Someone, please take me out of my misery!

  4. Marla says:

    It’s a societal problem. After the war, skinny girls were passed over because people thought they wer sickly and couldn’t have children. Back then, being ‘zoftig’ was a plus.
    Either way, it’s wrong to judge people based only on physical attributes or financial status…that’s unfortunately another BIG question for girl’s parents before a shidduch is approved…

  5. Mark says:

    This is categorically untrue!

    They also ask what her father does and how much money he has to support them.
    :-(

    PS: I think the whole shidduch system is disgusting and as far as I can tell, it is nothing at all like what I can envision Hashem wanting us to do in order to find an appropriate spouse.

    • Jess says:

      As vile as it is, it does seem to be working. I see all these young couples all over the place. As I said, I would love for someone to just hand me a guy and say “here’s your husband,” so I can put an end to this hell they call the “dating game”

      • Lady Lock and Load says:

        Jess, I met my husband when I had just about HAD IT with dating…and then eight dates later, we were engaged!
        They say it’s the darkest right before sunrise, no? May you meet your sunshine very soon, don’t give up! :)

  6. I agree there are more important things than looks and size, like middos and personality. That said as a single guy, I have a hard time with this. I don’t want to be completely shallow and specify a dress size that the girl has to fit into. On the other hand I know from experience that if I go out with girls who are a little bigger (I’m not even talking about fat) I will not be attracted to them. How can I get that point across to a shaddchan without coming off as shallow?

    • Chanief says:

      Just out of curiosity, what size do you consider a little bigger? Do you feel that your expectations are realistic? What do you think is going to happen to that skinny girl you marry once she bears a child or two for you? You’re concerned about appearing shallow and quite frankly, the way you worded it does come across that way.

      • Z! says:

        Bored Jewish Guy- you must give people a chance. You wouldn’t want a girl to pass you over just because your looks. Marriage is about a SOUL connection- not a physical one. Attraction can form in many different ways and just wanting to jump someone does not a happy marriage make.

        • First of all there was only one time I turned down a second date because of looks and the girl was the spitting image of my first cousin. I’m not as picky as I probably sound, I’ve never specified to a shaddchan in any way what size I want the girl to be. However I do know that I am not attracted to girls that are bigger than me, even if it’s not fat. Physical attraction is extremely important in a marriage, it’s crazy to say otherwise. It could be that it takes more than one look to feel that attraction but it does have to be there, only a girl would tell you otherwise. Also girls do pass over guys b/c of their looks and even b/c of smaller things like their shoes or glasses. Almost every guy I know has been dumped more times after one date than the other way around. I’m not saying guys are perfect but there’s way too much being blamed on them, not enough on the girls.

          • Z! says:

            I will agree. I have seen it with my own eyes- both sides (boys and girls) are unrealistic. We are so wrapped up with packaging and a brand name- we forget that good ta’am (taste) blows the rest of the packaging out of the water.

            BJG- I really do think that when your bashert comes along you will be blown out of the water. and everything that you thought was so “important” will go right out the window.
            I hope that when she does come along, you report back to us.

          • Thanks, I can tell you from experience that the more I like a girl, the less important her looks become. There still has to be the initial attraction though.

          • Jess says:

            There’s more to attraction than physicality. Sure, it’s important to find your mate physically attractive, but I’ve found that what really makes me attracted to someone is the whole package. His intelligence, the way he makes me laugh…. without those things, he could look like an Adonis and it’ll do nothing for me. I can find someone attractive and good looking, sure, but I won’t really be completely attracted to them without all those other qualities, and sometimes, if a guy isn’t the most handsome of guys, if he exhibits those other qualities that turn me on, it won’t take me long to fall for him.

  7. Chanief says:

    I think the problem here lies in the warped image that society views as the pretty or socially acceptable female form. It pervades every segment of society and unfortunately drives girls to eating disorders. Not everyone was made to be a size 2 or 4, and I understand a man not wanting a girl who is heavy to the point of being unhealthy. There has to be some healthy, acceptable medium.

    However, the double standard of the girl having to fit some unrealistic ideal but the guy being allowed to just be himself is disturbing.

  8. I don’t know anything about girls sizes so let’s say there are four types of girls, skinny, average, big boned and heavyset. Average is fine with me, I don’t need a supermodel or toothpick. I have dated a few big boned girls and I was not attracted to them. You can call that shallow if you want, I don’t believe it’s shallow at all. IMO, it’s normal for guys to be attracted to certain body types, not everyone likes the same things in a girl. IMo, shallow is when the most important thing to you is looks and you’re willing to overlook the things that should be more important if the girl is stunning (I’m not).

    The argument about what the girl will look like in the future is silly, you don’t know what they’ll look like. Skinny girls may get fat and fat girls may get skinny. The bottom line is that you have to be attracted to them now, that’s called common sense, not shallow.

    • Z! says:

      “IMo, shallow is when the most important thing to you is looks and you’re willing to overlook the things that should be more important if the girl is stunning (I’m not).”

      No, instead you are passing them over for what they are NOT- stunning. You are overlooking the middos if the girl is not your “ideal”. Weight can go up and weight can go down. A kind person, respectful good person will remain that.

      That being said- I know that eventually you will get your bashert. Either you will remain naive about love and perhaps be miserable and “get what you deserve” in a mate, or you will grow up and realize the important things in life.

      • Thanks though I think you missed the point, I’m not passing over anyone b/c they’re not stunning. I only ask that they be in the category of girls that I’m attracted to, which is not going to change. Attraction is not some thing that guys make up, it’s part of the way Hashem made us. To ignore that and marry someone you’re not attracted to is wrong (I’ve even been told by a rav that it’s against halacha), I know someone who did and they got divorced less than a month after the wedding.

    • Chanief says:

      I agree with you that you need to have an initial attraction. I’m just trying to point out that ruling girls out because they are “big boned” without meeting them or getting to know them at all, is shallow.

      I know what I am talking about. I always went for thin, blonde men when I was young and single. That was my “type.” Lo and behold a friend set me up with a darker, bigger guy (he wasn’t fat, he was muscly which I swore I was NOT attracted to.) We were married within a year and yes, I was incredibly attracted to him. A large part of the attraction was due to his personality but it manifested itself as a physical attraction because I was so into who he was. If I had ruled him out because he wasn’t my “type” I would have missed out big time!

      And fwiw, I agree that girls who turn down a guy for shallow reasons are just as bad. I am just urging you to look past the surface and get to know someone before discounting them outright, you might be doing yourself a huge favor (or maybe just a “big boned” one ;) )

  9. Z! says:

    I know of someone, whom I respect greatly, marrying a girl that he was attracted to, but she was totally different from his “ideal”. She was not at all his physical ‘type’. What he saw was far more important- her neshamah. She challenged him to be a better person. They have made a beautiful home together for many many years. I truly have no doubt, that if one is open to it, they can see a person’s neshamah and fall in love with them- no matter what they should “look like” .
    It reminds me of another story- This same man’s daughter went out on a shidduch and upon her return gushed about how “cute” her date was. Her mother thought otherwise, but her father wisely told his wife to keep that to herself. If the girl was happy- and it was a good shidduch otherwise, there was no need to meddle. Although the boy was not the mother’s taste, he suited her daughter perfectly.

  10. Lion of Zion says:

    Bored Jewish Guy:

    “Thanks, I can tell you from experience that the more I like a girl, the less important her looks become. There still has to be the initial attraction though.”

    this statement defines what i consider to be wrong with the shidduch system

    CHANIEF:

    “What do you think is going to happen to that skinny girl you marry once she bears a child or two for you?”

    that’s why it’s more important to look at how the girl’s mother looks than how the girl herself looks. a boy has to ask himself if he can see himself with this girl’s mother. it’s a window into the future.
    (i’m not recommending this, but if people are that hung up on looks . . .)

    • “this statement defines what i consider to be wrong with the shidduch system”

      Care to explain that? If anything the shidduch system is less based on looks than any other dating system. I rarely even see a picture before I go on a date. Or are you saying looks should be more important?

    • Chanief says:

      LOL about looking at her mother. This may be shocking news but sometimes a girl can take after her FATHER! (Crazy!! I know!!) I love my mother dearly, but if my husband had checked her out before deciding to date me, we would never have gotten married, I may have her face but I don’t have her body and we’ll just leave it at that ;)

  11. Duvii says:

    The Shadchan’s job is to put people together whom they think will want to get married. If that is what the boy says, then said Shadchan needs to get the information.

    The facts on the ground are kind of simple.

    There are more girls than boys in the Non-Chasidic circles, therefore the Boys call the shots.

    In the Chasidic circles, there are more boys than girls, the girls are calling the shots.

    Bottom line, no one should have to wake up next to someone they find physically unattractive, it is not conducive to healthy relationship.

    • I agree with you about a shaddchan doing what their asked to do and not pushing their own preferred singles. I wrote a post about it Here which is relevant to this whole discussion.

      I don’t think it’s smart for guys to think that they have the advantage and can “call the shots”, IMO, it leads to rude behavior.

  12. NO! says:

    “Why so much emphasis on size??”

    In case you did not notice, the whole shidduch system, from start to end, just looks on “externalities”.

    Starting with family (how much money? are the parents divorced?), colour of kippah men wear, would you wear the payes tucked up or hanging down, etc….

    Looking on from the outside, the whole system seems quite screwed.

    Looking for Yiches is not different than looking for size.

    Eliminating the fat girls is no different from sorting out Gerim or BTs or anybody who had a sibling go otd.

    • I disagree, I never ask about money, family problems, dress, yichus or anything like that. Your comparison of eliminating fat girls to gerim, BTs and siblings going OTD is ridiculous. Being fat (actually fat, not just big boned) is a bad thing even if not necessarily their fault. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to go out with someone who is fat.

      Sorry to monopolize the comments but it’s something I feel strongly about.

      • Lady Lock and Load says:

        I was once dating this guy and he dumped me. Told the shadchan I was not skinny enough for him. I wonder if he found the skinny toothpick of his dreams and she maintained that after a couple of kinderlach.
        I hope these guys who want to marry skinny girls stay away from my beautiful daughters, because they don’t deserve them.

        • Duvii says:

          I wonder at what size you would turn down a guy. 250 lbs? 350? Is it 400?***

          The fact of the matter is that there is a point where size is unattractive. At what point can a guy turn down a Shidduch because of size? is it 12? 16? 2x? 3x?

          ***HSM that’s about 182 Kilos in Canada. The 35% discount for US exchange is no longer in effect:-)

  13. Lion of Zion says:

    BORED JEWISH GUY:

    “Care to explain that?”

    ok.
    i don’t blame those who participate in the shidduch world for obsessing about looks.
    a boy and a girl are set up on a date. because of the formalities of shidduch dating, there really isn’t that much to differnitate between all the girls (i’m just using girls for the example). they all have good midos, went to good schools, seminary in israel, have good yichus, are teachers, programmers or some type of therapist, etc.
    anything that might make the girl even a tiny bit interesting (i.e., different) is frowned upon, so all the girls are presented pretty generically.
    so the only way left to differentiate between them is base physical appearances.

    and from the guy’s perspective, the truth is that first impressions are often the most important ones. so when you go out on a blind date with a girl you don’t really know anything about (because of the generic shidduch resumes), your first impression is 100% based on looks. if a negative impression is made, there isn’t that much that will come out on the date to overcome on this.

    in this regard i think non-shidduch dating is superior (not saying its perfect and that every couple is successful). it lets you stam meet girls and have the opportunity casually learn about them and appreciate them for who they are and see their selling points without being encumbered by the physical first impression.

    • I agree about the girls all being made to sound the same, I have a hard time with that. I don’t agree about first impressions being only about looks, unless the girl/guy is particularly good looking or ugly most people put more weight into the conversation and personality of their date then their looks.

      A bunch of frum bloggers took up a challenge that I made to write about their thoughts on first dates in the shidduch system. Almost all of them claimed to care more about personality and conversation than looks. Badforshidduchim has a post linking to all of these is you’re interested you can find it Here

  14. Yonit says:

    So ya’ll would rather we pick up guys in the bars like back in college? Where a guy would see a girl he thought was cute based on her physical appearance and would approach her giving her the opportunity based primarily on his looks and the cleverness of his pickup line to return the interest.

    If I met someone at a club meeting we knew we shared that common interest to build from. A guy who goes to a shadchan would also have some assumed shared interests, goals , etc. I don’t see how it’s so much different except that I know I appreciated going through a shadchan for it’s anti-stalking benefits. The bouncer at the bars don’t do that ;) hehe

  15. Lion of Zion says:

    YONIT:

    there is a wide range of ways for guys and girls to meet that fall between the two extremes of shadchanus and bar hookups.

    • Yonit says:

      I also mentioned finding guys who had similar things in common, that’s what I meant when I said club meetings.

      Basically I think people always judge other people superficially, at least at first whether it’s secular or shadchan dating. It’s just that those using shadchanus are saying it out loud.

  16. Mike S says:

    I think this is problematic; I am far more attracted physically to my wife after 30 years of marriage than I was when we married. Not that I wasn’t attracted when we first married, but as we have grown closer over the years, the attraction has increased to the point where as far as I am concerned she is the most beautiful woman ever. I retain enough sense to realize that most men would say something more along the lines of “she’s a decent looking 50 year old.” But even physical attraction is more about the person than the body.

  17. RubyV says:

    Personally, I think the entire system is broken. It should come as no surprise that people are unhealthily focused on size in a system that often comes across as a meat market – demeaning to both men and women. Size is tangible and quantifiable, personality is not.

    I’ll save my feminist rants on size for later. :)

  18. tesyaa says:

    About checking out the mother’s size: I agree that the girl can take after her father’s side. I also know of cases where the mother is a diet/excercise fanatic and keeps her weight down despite having genes that tend to make her heavyset. The daughters are not always so disciplined and definitely don’t look like the mothers – they look like the heavyset relatives.

    • Lion of Zion says:

      looking at the mother (or father) is not the best way to predict what a girl will look like in the future, but for those concerned about such things looking at the parents is better than going into it completely blind.
      (again, not seriously advocating that this be done)

  19. HaSafran says:

    Doesn’t every pimply, overweight, near-sighted slob of a yeshiva bochur deserve a size 2 wife? Because he’s such a catch – at least, that’s what his mother tells him.

    Having never gone to a shadchan (but, unfortunately, having seen one at work – KosherAcademic lived with one when she first moved to the frum community in Chicago and we were dating), I don’t quite “get it”. I understand that it’s useful for a certain community – yeshiva boys who are learning full-time and therefore, don’t have the time to personally find the person with whom they will spend the rest of their lives…*snicker*….but the majority of this lady’s clientele were older singles, the majority of whom were older and single for obvious reasons. And these winners put exactly these kinds of demands on her.

    Mr. or Ms. Right, oftentimes, is not who you ALWAYS pictured him/her to be; if you don’t open yourself up to seeing/dating people who don’t fit every single one of your pithy criteria, you may never find them. HSM, I know you’ve said you never expected to be with an “older” man, and yet, you are now, and you are wonderfully happy. I know I NEVER expected to find my bashert where I found her, but I’m glad I did.

    • RubyV says:

      This:

      “Doesn’t every pimply, overweight, near-sighted slob of a yeshiva bochur deserve a size 2 wife? Because he’s such a catch – at least, that’s what his mother tells him.”

      made me lol. Thank you.

    • HSaboMilner says:

      HaSafran – you totally crack me up!

      Seriously, though, I would like to know how many happily married people would say that their spouse, at the time of meeting, met every single one of their criteria on their list.

      • I don’t know anyone that would say they married exactly the type of person they expected, I also don’t know any happily married men that would admit to not having been attracted to their wife when they first met.

        • RubyV says:

          My husband does – he is nearly a decade older. When we first met his opinion of me was that I was far too young to be attractive (I was 18). We got together about 8 years after we met, when I was in my mid twenties.

    • Without a shaddchan how is someone like me, a working guy from a fairly yeshivish background (i.e never hung out with girls), supposed to find a wife? I’m certainly not going to rely on my parents to find one for me.

      • RubyV says:

        Go out. Meet people. Talk to them. Honestly, you are more likely to meet someone if you aren’t “on the hunt”. Just socializing without expectations.

        • The type of girls I’m looking for would probably not socialize with guys outside of dating situations.

          • RubyV says:

            I was thinking more of weddings? Museums? Shul events? Dinners at friend’s homes?

          • HSaboMilner says:

            Fraternization with the opposite sex at these things is strictly forbidden. Might lead to mixed dancing…

          • RubyV says:

            Oh no! Not the mixed dancing! (tongue in cheek)

            Most of my frum girlfriends have met people out and about, while at college, etc. They never seem to lack for social activities and such. Oh well.

          • Most of my friends are more yeshivish than me, I’m not really yeshivish or modern, I’m somewhere in between. It’s not likely that I would meet any girls at the weddings I go to or friends houses and my shul doesn’t really have any events. Also after 25 years of not talking to girls (aside from dating) it would be really hard to just walk up to a girl and start talking, especially given the high likelihood that she will think it’s inappropriate behavior on my part. I know it’s ridiculous, but that’s the way it is and I don’t think I can change the entire system by myself.

  20. Z! says:

    Hasafran- Aw- C’mon! I have quite a few nephews (and a couple of nieces) in ‘the parsha’, and they really take care of themselves- I mean- they can AFFORD to! (tongue in cheek)
    Their parents foot the bills for everything while they are ‘learning’ (going to school) AND many of them have some type of job as well.

    The girls often save up what they earn to help support themselves in the first years of marriage.

    most of these kids are not shlubbs, they are just stuck in a system that unless you fit the perfect criteria (ie for a boy- great learner, decent looking, good family name, no broken homes, no genetic defects, parents willing to help support in some way) or the girl (rich parents willing to support the newlyweds with concrete numbers to back them up, a size 2, beautiful inside and out, not too smart, not stupid either) Then you will be looking for a shidduch for a long, long time…

    Also, I might add that many of the boys are not ready to give up this foot loose and fancy free lifestyle of “learning” they have adopted. They use the learning as an excuse to not have to go out and work. These guys aren’t serious about their learning and abuse their poor wives and parents.

  21. Z! says:

    And HSM- all I can say is that although there are times when my hubby can drive me nutso- he is the PERFECT match for me.

    • HSaboMilner says:

      but before you met him you had a “list” of the ideal boy for you, was he everything on that list? did he miss a couple of the list items?

      don’t get me wrong, I love R, he is so sweet and I see how well he treats you and how you guys love each other – but just curious about how he measured up on your list.

      • RubyV says:

        There are things that my SO doesn’t have that were on “the list”. For example, I love to dance (trained in mambo/salsa), but my hubs has two left feet. He doesn’t speak Spanish (but is learning).

        Me, I hate the water but SO sails. I don’t swim. I wasn’t Jewish when we first met.

        We are crazy about each other; after 8 years it is still fun and exciting.

      • Z! says:

        My list wasn’t so concrete. I wanted a respectful person, a truly “nice guy”. (His tag name on Frumster was “Mentsch04″) With a stable job, good family and community connections. A bit older than myself. I wanted someone sharp, witty, compasionate. I wasn’t/am not particular about physical traits. I have been attracted to big and small men. For me, it was always a matter of a soul connection.
        What I didn’t count on was that he would be FFB. The baby of 8. That shocked me. He was divorced (no kids), and that there is an 8 year age gap. He davens nusach Sefard and doesn’t eat gebrochts.

  22. Yonit says:

    Hubsters had several things that were on my list, several bonuses that I hadn’t thought of (we both love Elvis) and is missing a few that either I deal with, or seem so much less important than they did back when I was listing :) B”H

    As far as his list is concerned, he’d said absolutely no Americans. Bwuahahaha!

  23. RubyV says:

    One of the interesting things about this whole discussion is the idea of beauty, and how we view the human body. How much of our idea of beauty is cultural? Religious? Biological? How do we form those ideas?

    For example, many would argue that the religious communities don’t absorb media like the secular world does, yet we are having a discussion about expectations regarding atractiveness and marriage potential within those communities – is the Western obsession with unrealistic beauty standards that pervasive?

    Perhaps most importantly, how do we foster healthier body images in a generation of young people entering the market?

    • RubyV,

      Professor Haym Soloveitchik’s renowned essay Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy is best known for his analysis of how Orthodoxy has become more text-oriented and less traditional (behavioral and custom-oriented) than it once was. He says this is mostly due to the physical destruction of the Jewish communities during the Holocaust.

      But another of his important claims in that essay is that the Orthodox have been profoundly influenced by the general mores and norms and beliefs of the non-Jewish world in America. He says that even such apparently trivial things as Orthodox Jews subconsciously syncopating to non-Jewish music are actually extremely significant.

      He says that because of this acculturation, the Orthodox have been fearful, and have become more humra-dik in an effort to salvage their dwindling sense of alienation and distinction from the outside world. That is, they feel a primal need to be different, to be distinguished, to be unlike the non-Jews, whether or not any violation of halakhah is entailed in the acculturation. (There’s no halakhic prohibition to eat kosher versions of non-Jewish food, for example. The halakhic prohibition to imitate gentile customs only applies to customs with idolatrous origins.)

      Frankly, I find this pathetic; my weltanschauung (hashqafa) is a combination of German/British Neo-Orthodoxy and Western-European Sephardi (Britain, Holland, Italy), and the Sephardim were always quite well integrated with their non-Jewish neighbors. Unlike the Ashkenazim, they never felt their identities threatened whenever they were culturally similar to their non-Jewish neighbors, and they didn’t try to compensate by being stricter than the Shulhan Arukh requires. The plain halakhah was enough for them.

      But that’s a different point. My only point here is that Professor Soloveitchik’s essay provides a valuable insight into how and when the Orthodox in America became culturally assimilated into non-Jewish culture. His point about this leading to humrayut is another matter for us to discuss another day.

  24. “Why so much emphasis on size??”

    Because people are schmucks.

    Honestly, I don’t understand it. I mean, sure, I’ll prefer eye-candy the same as the next guy, but in the end of the day, I’d rather have a relationship with what’s inside the woman’s skull than with what’s below her neck. So if she’s a few years older than me, or carries a few extra pounds – nu? What should I care?

    Furthermore, a woman’s personality can make her more physically attractive. Dennis Prager writes, “Even for men it is common to find a woman physically attractive over time. In my late 20s, I directed a summer institute for men and women ages 19-25. After the first two summers, I began to play a game with myself. On the first night of the session, I made a mental note of which women I thought the most attractive and compared that list to one I made after the four weeks. The names on the latter list were rarely on the first-night list.”

    Now, to be honest, Prager’s ranking the attractiveness of his students is a bit uncouth, and I cannot say I approve, but the conclusions he derived seem completely correct to me, whatever one may think of his methods.

    One of my rabbis says one of his students was dating, and looked troubled. My rabbi asked him what was up, and the student replied that everything was going well, “but”. My rabbi asked, “But…?”, and the student, looking embarrassed, continued, “…but she’s not exactly a supermodel.” My rabbi says he was flabbergasted, but that once he had picked his jaw up off the floor, that he responded, “But don’t you see? You cannot marry the most beautiful woman in the world; I already did.”

    I remember one time at summer camp, during one of the times when the boys’ and girls’ camps met together for a joint activity. I must have been something like 12 or 13 or 14 years old at the time, more or less around bar mitzvah age. I spent most of the evening talking to one of the female counselors (she’d have to have been somewhere around 20 to 25, give or take), because, let’s face it, she had a lot more interesting things to say than a 13 year-old girl, that’s for sure! I recall thinking to myself, at the beginning of the conversation, that was … let’s just say … not very pretty, not at all. But by the end of the conversation, when I left, I suddenly realized that as long as I had been talking to her, I had been too busy to pay attention to her physical attractiveness, and that in any case, now that I had talked to her, as a person, I didn’t notice her lack of physical attractiveness even when my cognition wasn’t preoccupied with speech.

    So why are men so concerned with women’s sizes? Probably because they’re superficial and materialistic, and probably misogynistic to boot. If there’s one thing they haven’t learned properly, it’s the laws of tzniut. (Am I saying that many Haredim haven’t learned the laws of tzniut? Indeed, yes I am.)

    • “Because people are schmucks.”

      It’s completely ridiculous to characterize anyone who cares about size as a “schmuck”. You’re right that looks and size are not as important as what’s in a girls head and it’s great that it doesn’t matter to you if she has a few extra pounds. However there is nothing wrong with someone wanting a girl to be at the very least, physically fit and not what they consider hideous. I don’t think it’s right for people to specify a dress size that the girl should fit into but it’s also not right to say that guys don’t need to be physically attracted to the girl they’re going to marry. I realize that it’s not necessary to feel an immediate physical attraction the first time you see a girl but you should also not be repulsed by their looks. If you want to say that anyone who cares about looks and size is shallow, that’s fine, I would disagree. To say that they are misogynistic schmucks is taking it more than a little too far.

      • Lady Lock and Load says:

        I think it is the mothers of the boys that are concerned about size, wanting their future daughter in law to be a skinny size zero. I think most men are not attracted to extremely thin women…as my husband say “I don’t want to hug a cadavor!”
        Bored Jewish Guy, I wish you mazal in finding your beshairt, someone who’s inside is as beautiful as her outside!

        • My mother must be weird b/c all she cares about in a future daughter in is that her son likes her. I agree that most men don’t like the extremely thin women but they don’t necessarily subscribe to the Sir Mix a Lot theory. I appreciate the kind wishes, I guess I’d better marry a really pretty girl if the inside is going to match the outside ;)

      • Bored Jewish Guy,

        I’m not saying that it’s illegitimate and inexcusable for the man to want her to be physically attractive to him. After all, you cannot be happily to someone whose appearance disturbs you.

        But a few points:

        (1) A person shouldn’t care too much about physical appearance. Some concern is alright, but it should be relatively low on the list of standards. For me, a woman in a size 2 is definitely preferable to a woman in size 20, all other things being equal – I am a guy, after all – but things are not all equal, and it might very well be that the woman in a 20 is my bashert. So all things considered, her physical appearance isn’t very important, in the scheme of things. So I might myself daydream plenty about marrying a pretty woman, but come the day when I actually meet a young woman, I think most of those fantasies will go out the window. I mean, heck, I also daydream about wearing the T-51b power armor from Fallout, but I won’t start planning my life around that fantasy!

        (2) A person should be relatively liberal as far as what constitutes basically attractive. I mean, a large woman might not get me sexually excited like a smaller woman might, but she can still be basically pretty. Just because I wouldn’t expect to see her in a swimsuit magazine doesn’t mean she cannot be basically pretty. As long as the woman’s appearance doesn’t make you gag, that ought to be enough, if you’ll excuse me for being so blunt. If a woman were involved in a burn accident and you couldn’t look at her for more than five seconds without shrieking, I can understand why you’d have difficulty dating her, but as long as she’s pretty enough to look at her in the face and hold a conversation without dying for a chance to look away at something else, isn’t this enough? “Attractive” is a vague term, and one can be as strict or liberal in his interpretation of this; I recommend the liberal one.

        Now then, if the woman is obese because of a sedentary lifestyle or poor eating habits which offend you, then I can understand your not wanting to date her. But it’s not so much her appearance that is the problem, as much as it’s her lifestyle which offends you, and her lifestyle happens to make her appearance physically unattractive in addition.

        Therefore, when you say, “However there is nothing wrong with someone wanting a girl to be at the very least, physically fit and not what they consider hideous. “, I completely agree. When you say he shouldn’t be “repulsed”, I agree completely. When you say that man has a right to expect her to be fit and not out of shape, that’s a concern I’ll consider fair, as I set out above.

        But to ask about her dress size is something wholly else. What should I care what size dress she wears? If I ask for anything, I’ll ask for a photo of her face, so that I can know what she as a person looks like. What’s below her neck isn’t my concern.

        But you agree with me regarding asking for her dress size; you agree that this is unacceptable. When I declared these men to be misogynistic, I was talking about a different set of men than you are. I think we’re talking apples and oranges.

        I remember an internet exchange I once saw, where one man criticized the Haredim as being barbaric and uneducated and the like. The other man replied indignantly, “Hey, I’m Haredi!”. The first man clarified that he was speaking about the kinds of Haredim who would be put in herem by their communities for using the internet. Remember, this whole discussion was on an internet discussion board!

        Similarly, I think you and I are talking apples and oranges.

        • Michael: I agree with just about everything you said in the last post, except:
          “as long as she’s pretty enough to look at her in the face and hold a conversation without dying for a chance to look away at something else, isn’t this enough?”

          I think that’s enough of a reason to continue to date her and see if you become more attracted to her. If you don’t become more attracted to her I would say it’s not a good idea to marry her.

          • I agree. I wasn’t say that one should marry her!!! I was simply saying that one shouldn’t reject her outright!

            Obviously, one should only marry someone to whom he is attracted, but there’s a lot more to that than her dress size, and her dress size, in and of itself, shouldn’t be his criterion.

            For a man to refuse to date a woman unless she’s of a certain dress size is simply repugnant and disgusting, not to mention pathetic.

  25. RubyV says:

    “So why are men so concerned with women’s sizes? Probably because they’re superficial and materialistic, and probably misogynistic to boot. If there’s one thing they haven’t learned properly, it’s the laws of tzniut. (Am I saying that many Haredim haven’t learned the laws of tzniut? Indeed, yes I am.)”

    Everyone, a round of applause…

    • RubyV says:

      I”m sure that the following terms are defined differently by everyone:

      “physically fit”

      ” few extra pounds”

      “extremely thin”

      “attractive”

      What about the woman or man who is physically fit, but overweight? Or the “right weight”, but can’t walk a mile without huffing and puffing?

      Does attractive always equal conventionally good looking? I can think of a number of attractive celebs who aren’t classically good looking (Benicio del Toro and the delightfully curvy Amber Benson).

      • Agreed. I’d say that an out-of-shape person is to be disqualified not because of his or her physically attractiveness itself, but rather, due to his or her lifestyle. It’s not the excess weight that makes him or her unattractive, but rather, it’s the lounging around all day doing nothing but eating. I’m being overly simplistic and bombastic in my analysis, but I think my point is clear.

        The practical upshot, then, is that a physically-fit but overweight person will be preferable to an attractive person with an unattractively-unhealthy lifestyle.

        As for your point about “conventionally good looking”: I’ve never heard of Amber Benson, so I cannot comment about her specifically. But to make a general point: check out the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (which I used to avidly “read” before I became a baal teshuva), and you’ll see that the women featured have nothing in common with what Hollywood considers attractive. For an ordinary man, an hourglass figure, with a larger butt and bust, is an asset, most certainly not to her detriment. The people in Hollywood ought to be committed to Arkham.

        I remember that years and years ago, when I read the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, there was a certain “Vida Guerra” who was particularly popular among readers. (The fact that I remember her name off the top of my head ought to tell you something.) According to Wikipedia’s article about her, when FHM magazine featured her, “almost one-third of their mail was from readers demanding more photos of her”. But check her photos, and you’ll see that she has nothing in common with what Hollywood considers attractive. (Just Google “Vida Guerra”, and you’ll see some representative photographs at the top of the page, and you’ll see what I mean.)

        • Long story short: I have no idea what “conventionally good looking” means. Heck, in Mauritania, bigger is better, and many ancient figurines of fertility goddesses depict rather obese women. Human sexuality is shaped so much by nurture rather than nature, that’s it’s rather senseless to talk very decisively or assuredly or definitively about what’s attractive or not.

          (By the way, I interpret the laws of tzniut similarly. I think that most of the laws of tzniut are not absolute, and that they prohibit only what is considered sexually-immodest in that time and place. In other words: if a woman’s hair was once sexually stimulating but is not anymore, then I don’t think women anymore have a requirement to cover their hair. Several prominent Moroccan rabbis, such as Rabbi Yosef Messas and Rabbi Moshe Malka, said precisely this, in fact. I apply this thesis to kol ishah in an article I wrote here.)

          And besides, as I’ve indicated, I don’t think attractiveness is very important anyway. If she’s pretty enough for you to look at her face without screaming, then that’s enough, and you ought to focus on her personality and who she is as a person

          If she’s especially attractive, then hey, icing on the cake. But I’d rather have cake without icing ( = personality and brains), than icing without cake.

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