To the Shadchan:
I’m a regular Baltimore girl. I live at home with my parents and work as a professional. I’m considered pretty and accomplished, and have everything going for me. At 25, I’ve been dating for five years and am finding at least one aspect of it very stressful.
I keep hearing from shadchanim, my mother, and people in general that I should be going to shul and to other events and gatherings so that people will “see you and remember that you need a shidduch.” I’m constantly told that I have to look my best at all times – including makeup and perfect hair – whenever I leave the house.
If I could run out in a jean skirt and Uggs, I would look forward to going out. But the idea that I’m on show all the time takes the pleasure out of it. I’m emotionally exhausted by having to put on an act.
I have a friend who dresses casually and doesn’t worry about it. She even postponed a date once, telling the shadchan that she was “going kayaking”! We are in the same boat (kayak?!), but she is obviously having a better time than I am.
I hate this artificial putting my life on hold in order to project a certain impression. The stress of never being able to be myself is really getting to me. At the same time, I am a little worried that the people who are telling me this might be right. After all, they are more experienced than I am. Is it true that all boys want girls who dress to the nines? Where do I draw the line between what I want to do and what people tell me is good for me?
The Shadchan Answers:
There are many young men and women who feel the same way as you. The problem is that the whole dating scene is artificial. Many of the qualities that make for a good date do not make for a good mate. Such things as the perfect makeup and hair all change once you are married, particularly if you wear a sheitel.
I very much empathize with your feeling that the picture you must project is not the real you. You want to look your best, of course, and it is true that one never knows who is watching, but it is not natural to be “on display” the entire week. And while I agree that “being seen” is an important hishtadlus for one in the dating scene, I am concerned about your mental and physical well-being if you do not have a moment to relax from this stress. Are you uptight and on guard, never letting people see the real you? If so, your efforts at dressing up will not work to your benefit anyway.
In fact, the personality you project is just as important as merely being out there. My suggestion is that you attend shul and other events to the best of your ability. However, there is no need to “dress to the nines.” I am sure that, being a professional, you have a certain look about you and dress appropriately for your position. What’s wrong with that?
I think your friend has the right idea in terms of having fun. This is the time in your life where you can enjoy spontaneous activities without being concerned every minute about “how you look and how you project.” Of course, you should be “put together” at all times, even when you are dressed casually. However, I believe that your friend’s postponing a date in order to “go kayaking” is not the right approach for someone who is actively looking to get married. If your goal is to find your bashert, that should take priority. Go on the date, and find another day to go kayaking. It will still be available!
A person has the right to be him or her self – and should – because eventually the two have to get to know each other and see if their values and personalities are compatible. It is a disservice to the young man you are to marry if he is not seeing the real you but rather the girl his mother is looking for. Bottom line, I would tell you to dress appropriately and attractively but not elaborately every day. When your bashert ultimately comes, you can be wearing a robe for all that it matters to him.
In the past, there was never this emphasis on looks. One of the first things a boy asks nowadays is whether or not the girl is pretty and how thin she is. As I have said many times before, this is not what is important in a marriage. Looks fade and weight fluctuates, but middos tovos are part of you forever, and the values you share will make the marriage.
You seem like a very smart, educated young lady who knows what she wants. The people advising you may think they are telling you what is best for you, but you are the one that ultimately knows what you want and how you feel. Just be yourself. I am sure the Ribono Shel Olam will guide you in the right way and that your bashert will appear very soon. You may even be wearing a jean skirt and Uggs when you meet him! Hatzlacha rabba!