As a guy in my late twenties, I feel that I have enough experience in shidduch dating to voice an annoying concern that many guys talk about. When I get ready for a date, I go through the trouble of showering, shaving, and putting on a fine suit. I even splash on some nice cologne for extra measure.
I wish I could say that girls take the same pains in the process of getting ready for a date. I have taken out girls who, sadly, I was ashamed to be seen with. These girls looked like they just rolled out of bed and didn’t even bother to run a comb through their tangled hair. Please forgive me for sounding crude, but a girl I recently took out on a date had not even brushed her teeth.
Even the girls who do dress up for a date all look like they are going to a funeral. What’s with the all black outfits girls in the shidduch scene are wearing today? If it’s because they want to look slim, believe me, guys can tell if they are slim or not.
The shadchanim tell me that I should look at the person, not at what she is wearing. I’m not seeking to marry a fashion model, but why can’t a frum girl be tzeniyus and feminine at the same time?
The Panelists Respond
I must confess that when I read the beginning of your letter, I was initially taken aback and thought that this is the writing of a shallow person. However, after thoroughly reading your thoughts, I fully validate your feelings, as I understand where your frustration is coming from.
Cleanliness being next to godliness is not just a mindless expression. It defines who the person is and the respect they have for themselves. There is no excuse for uncombed hair or non-brushed teeth. Lack of taking care of basic personal hygiene is symptomatic of a much more serious problem, and you have every right to not take such a girl out on a second date.
My focus, therefore, is your disconcertion with regard to a girl’s choice of dress-style. You find it distasteful when girls dress in a more casual style and wear black on dates. The origin of this fad goes back to the clichéd term “shidduch crisis,” and there are two reasons for what you are describing.
Although there are other colors and patterns that make the wearer appear slim, the accepted theory is that black will visually create the slimmest effect, which is one of the reasons why black is the most popular choice in women’s clothing, particularly in New York areas.
With the higher percentage of single girls vs. single boys, many girls in the shidduch parashah are under the assumption that they have to be the prettiest, richest, smartest, and skinniest to get their foot in and attain that first date. And if they exhibit all those qualities, then they hopefully will get that second date—one step closer to marriage. That said, their belief, esteem, and comfort level tells them to wear black on dates.
The other aspect of their choices in dressing casually is that they are afraid of trying too hard to impress a guy. Many girls have told me that they deliberately choose not to wear a “Shabbos-looking outfit” on a date for fear that the guy will think she is desperate. So, they instead dress down, wear sensible shoes, and limit their makeup. Unfortunately, their choice in dressing this way has the opposite effect of the positive results they had hoped for.
This is not the first time shadchanim have heard of such complaints. Nowadays it seems to be happening with more frequency. I have had discussions with the mothers of shidduch clients about this issue. Interestingly, the mothers tend to be on the same page as you. They try to convince their daughters that they will make a better impression by dressing up and applying makeup.
A smart woman knows that modesty and femininity can be intertwined. She does not need to compromise on either one. By the same token, you should not allow anyone to attempt to persuade you to compromise, either. As you go through the process of making yourself presentable and attractive for a date, you have every right to expect a girl to likewise demonstrate similar courtesy.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com.
You’re right. It’s inexcusable for a girl to appear for a date—especially a first one—in a totally unkempt, non-groomed fashion. It reflects a lack of seriousness about the whole enterprise and, possibly, a personal failing as well. And by the way, the same holds true for a boy. As a boy, you can be excused for not knowing what some other boys are doing. But chances are that the syndrome you complain of is not unique to girls. Why would it be?
That said, you would be mistaken to come away feeling entirely vindicated. There is enough blame in this to go around to you too. Here’s why. You are the one who has asked her out for a date. It behooves you to do your due diligence beforehand and ascertain some of the more salient characteristics of the young lady you are contemplating asking out. You should have found out enough about her not to have been surprised or shocked by her manner or appearance when the time to meet arrived.
If it was a relative or acquaintance of yours who set up the date, that person should have known enough about you not to suggest someone so out of kilter. On the other hand, if it was someone not personally close to you, such as a professional or unprofessional shadchan, then two things: The onus falls on you to make this person understand what you are all about and what kind of shidduch prospect is appropriate for you. Maybe some people are, by nature, informal and expect the girl they meet for the first time to exhibit gross informality too. But that’s not you! And second, your acceptance of this person’s suggestion shouldn’t be automatic. You should listen carefully to how this person portrays her; and if there is any doubt in your mind as to the reasonableness of the suggestion, you should suspend commitment till you have checked her out on your own as best you can.
There is one other thing it occurs to me to mention: the lead-in telephone chat. Before meeting a girl, you will have talked with her telephonically. Be sure that you convey the impression that you are interested in meeting her in a serious vein, one that really qualifies as a “date.”
Yehuda Koppler has written articles for various publications and is actively involved in shidduchim. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In each installment of the Five Towns Jewish Times Dating Forum, a question pertaining to contemporary dating issues will be addressed by our diverse and experienced forum panelists. Questions and comments can be submitted to email@example.com.