To the Shadchan:
I am a graduate of Bais Yaakov in my third year of shidduchim. Although dates don’t come easily to girls, as we all know, I have had my share. Yet I look around at age 23, still here, and wonder what might be holding me back.
I read a book that has been making the rounds of my friends. It is a secular book about how to “land a husband.” It is all about how to “market” yourself. Its advice on how to act during a date ranges from exactly how to tilt your head to ways of responding to your date’s conversation. I had my doubts about this method, but I wanted to do my best to maximize my chances.
I decided to follow the book’s tips, but I was so nervous that I could hardly concentrate on the guy. I kept thinking, am I walking with the proper posture? Am I saying the right thing on the way to the car? Do I look fascinated while he is talking, even though I find it excruciatingly boring?
I think I have a lot to offer in a marriage, but it looks like getting to that point requires going against my nature. Personality-wise, I am not-too-quiet-not-too-loud, but many boys seem to prefer a girl who is very lively and outgoing.
My questions are, first, what do you think of this method of dating? Does “presentation” have any place in our frum dating? If so, at what point do you let the “real you” come through? Finally, is there any way to highlight whatever inner qualities I might have – like kindness and loyalty – in the very artificial and superficial dating situation?
The Shadchan Answers:
I can see from your question that you are a mature, worldly, and intelligent young woman. You are reading a secular book on dating and are trying to apply these ideas to dating in the frum world. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Perhaps the book has some good ideas. I wonder, however, how much of its advice is outside the realm of both halacha and our Jewish concept of marriage. In our world, “landing a husband” is about middos and shared Torah values. Superficialities like tilting your head the right way should not be the emphasis in Torah shidduchim.
That is not to say that “presentation” – the way you come across to others – is not important. A young woman your age should always look “put together.” Presentation happens when you are in shul, on the job, at the store, or shmoozing with friends – not only when you are out on a date. It is always appropriate to project your best self, and that includes attractive dress, make-up enhancements, if necessary, and of course, a pleasant and dignified manner. These are always in style.
At what point do you let the “real you” come through? It is imperative that you be who you really are from date number one! No pretenses. If the young man is your bashert, if the shidduch is meant to be – then, even if things go wrong, and you were not the most scintillating conversationalist, it will happen.
You worry that you are not lively enough. I, too, often hear boys express a preference for a lively girl. I think that some boys are very shy and not used to dating. They may be a little reticent or worried about conversing with a girl. Requesting a lively girl may just be their way of saying, “Please help me be comfortable with you; make it easy for me to make conversation.” This means that you may, at times, need to take the initiative to keep the conversation going. In other instances, you might want to be more of the listener and really “tune in” to your date. As always, strive for a balance: not too forward and not too quiet. In the end, it does not matter if you are quiet or lively. Both types get married. The most important thing is that you should not pretend that you are someone else. A person needs to be who he or she truly is. You cannot play games, because, eventually, the truth comes out.
I agree that the dating scene can be artificial and superficial. But you know what you are looking for and the type of home you want to build, according to the mesora. Do not allow these secular ideas about dating to cause you so much anxiety that you feel paralyzed. Actually, the best answer to your dilemma is inherent in your question. You yourself see that you are frozen with anxiety when trying to fulfill this book’s “rules.” So continuing in that path is extremely counterproductive. Again, just be yourself, and be comfortable. Selling yourself does not mean you have to change who and what you are. Present yourself honestly and with confidence.
As far as your concern over whether the boy will notice such traits as loyalty, kindness, and bitachon, these traits will emerge as your relationship progresses. The young man will have a chance to see your chein (inner beauty) and middos tovos. All your wonderful attributes will automatically shine and prevail.
I hope I have answered your concerns. (You may also want to consider using a professional dating coach or a mentor to help you deal with your anxieties.) Please do not despair that you are not yet married. Yeshu’os Hashem keherev ayin – Hashem’s help can come as fast as the blink of an eye. You never know when or where your bashert will appear. May this happen for you very soon, and with Hashem’s help, you will build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.