By Baila Sebrow
I’m debating if I should put dating on hold for a few months. With so many days of yom tov coming up, I’m scared that I’ll gain weight from all those meals. I’ve always struggled with my weight. And I noticed that I get dates during the times that I’m at my slimmest.
When I was younger, the first question shadchanim asked my mother was what size dress I wear. As soon as they heard, they said that they don’t have anyone for me. Mothers of boys like to hear that a girl is a size 4—at most. All my friends who got married young were a size 2. It doesn’t matter what kind of face you have; all they care about is how thin you are. I tried so hard to compete, but I will never be thin.
When I got older and started going places to meet guys, I saw for myself that the skinny girls are the ones who get attention. Girls like me are ignored.
I did lose weight over the summer, and I started dating a guy on and off. He lives out of town, and because of his job it’s not so easy to get together too often, but we Skype a lot.
I’m scared that if I gain a few pounds over yom tov, he will dump me. So I figured that I’ll come up with reasons why I can’t go out with him until after all the yamim tovim. Then I will go on a serious crash diet and continue dating him.
My friends agree with me that I should not bother to date when I weigh more, because I will end up getting dumped. They say I should come up with a reason why I can’t date him till after yom tov. What is your opinion?
Reading your honest portrayal of shidduch dating as it relates to appearance makes me want to cry. What you are saying about how some in our frum society rate attractiveness is accurate. I wish I could disagree with you, and even tell you that you are exaggerating, but, sadly, it’s more shameful and ruinous than you depicted.
Yes, there are many mothers who demand to know what size dress the girls being suggested to their sons wear. It does not matter that each body type may look different in a particular dress size. Nor does it matter if the boy in question may be overweight. These women decided that regardless of how their sons look (even if undeniably overweight), they are determined to find the thinnest girls to show off to their friends.
It is of interest to note that the sons may not always be in agreement with their critical-eyed mothers. Oftentimes, these boys have no clue what dress sizes even mean. If they find a girl attractive when they meet her, the dress size is insignificant to them. But the girl has to be able to at least get that foot in the door and get a date with a guy. Unfortunately, many mothers shoot down good suggestions being redd by shadchanim, because the dress size of the girls may be one or two sizes above what they find appealing and what they approve of for their sons.
There are mothers who become self-appointed judges of beauty when their sons begin to date. As bizarre as it may sound, thin is determined by the community one lives in. There are communities that demand a size 2. Others will approve up to a size 6. To a normal person it sounds outlandish. But it is what it is. Why any girl would want such an intrusive mother-in-law to begin with, I don’t know. I can promise you that such ladies do not stop at the weight. They usually interfere in other matters, too. Consider yourself blessed that you did not find yourself stuck in such a situation.
This business of competing for being the thinnest is a very dangerous practice. It brings about poor body image, and it can lead to destructive living patterns, as well as trigger eating disorders. Frum communities have seen their share of the tragic consequences of starving oneself to be thin. It troubles me greatly when you talk about going on a serious crash diet. Whatever that means to you, it does not sound like something any doctor would approve of.
Here is where I will disagree with you. I realize that you are coming from a place where those you know may have been a size 2 when they got married. But if you are willing to check out various social-media sites that list engagements along with pictures of the couples, you will see that to a great extent most of the kallahs are nowhere near the size 2 mark; on the contrary, many are not thin at all. That said, I recommend that you branch out a bit, and perhaps consider widening your social network to include females who come in different sizes.
From what you are saying, you believe that you are not meant to be thin—whether it’s your build or your genes. And you know what? That is perfectly OK. Beauty is not a one-size-fits-all package. There are countless attributes that a guy can be physically attracted to, whether it is body type, particular facial features, or the way one carries herself. You will marry the guy who will choose you for any or all of your positive qualities.
Your immediate dilemma is whether you should place dating on hold until after the yamim tovim so that you can starve yourself for the guy you are dating. If the impression you have of him is that after dating you for a short while, he will decline you if you gain a few pounds, then you have nothing to be concerned about. A guy like that is not for you anyway!
Now let’s talk reality. Humans are visual creatures, and physical attraction is important to both a man and a woman. And when you say that you don’t get dates when you weigh more, you are not imagining it. As a shadchan, I will be the first to admit that a guy is more likely to date a slimmer woman than someone who is heavier, unless he has a personal preference for a fuller-sized woman. But there is another side to the coin here. It’s not always about the weight but about how one takes care of herself. As I said earlier, there are lots of women getting married, and they are far from thin. It happens that when people do not feel good about themselves, they may let other things slide a bit. It could be in the way they dress or the attitude they project.
There are heavy-set women who are incredibly beautiful and they dress no differently than their thinner counterparts. That’s because they feel good about themselves, and it shows in the way they interact with others.
It would be very easy for me to lay blame on men and call them superficial. I would, if all they cared about about is nothing else but marrying a size 2 woman. But if a man seeks to date and marry a healthy woman who takes care of herself to the best of her ability, there is nothing wrong with that.
You like the way you look now. Your confidence is hopefully at a good level. I am not sure why you feel that you need to gain so much weight eating yom tov meals. There are many healthy, low-fat options available so that you can still enjoy eating without gaining the weight you anticipate. It might be a good idea to consult a nutritionist to help guide you.
If you like this guy and feel compatible with him, it would be a huge mistake to put dating him on hold. If you try to concoct some excuse, as per your friends’ suggestions, I can almost guarantee that you will not come off sounding too good.
My advice is for you to continue dating him as you have thus far. If you are communicating regularly and have a good rapport, then you can start opening up to him. When two people are in a relationship, showing a vulnerable side is healthy. Humans are vulnerable beings, and each person benefits from the other discussing personal challenges. Confide in him, and tell him your concerns and your struggles with weight. Pay close attention to his reaction, as that will provide you with significant insight into the type of man he is and if he is someone you wish to have in your life.
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. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to email@example.com.