To the Shadchan:
I’m in yeshiva, recently started in shidduchim, and I have had a few disappointing experiences. A couple of times, when I picked up the girl at her home and saw her for the first time, I immediately knew she was not for me. I was certainly gracious and tried to find common ground with her on the date. Once, I even gave it another chance with a second date. But in my heart, I realized that my first reaction was correct and I would not be able to continue. This happened after a long process of checking her out, taking off time from yeshiva, possible travel, and expenses, such as renting a car.
In my yeshivishe circles, requesting a picture of the girl is frowned upon. I heard that in past generations, as little as 25 years ago, it was not done, ever. My parents also don’t want me to go this route. My father said that in his day, any boy who asked for a photo was considered unworthy of a chashuva shidduch.
But aren’t things different nowadays, when photos are so prevalent on Facebook and many other places? Personally, I am not looking for extraordinary, “model-type” beauty, and I’m not planning to shop around for the most gorgeous girl or use the photos for a beauty contest. I just want to rule out people who are completely unattractive to me. Considering all the time and effort that dating involves, I think that this would be fair. It would also be fair to the girl, who is putting forth a similar level of effort for a relationship that will not materialize. As a practical matter, I think it makes sense.
You are a shadchan with lots of experience, including in the “good old days,” so I am interested in your opinion.
The Shadchan Answers:
Let me say it up front: I am very against this picture “phenomenon.”
Since you refer to the “good old days,” I will describe them to you: No one knew of resumes – not to mention pictures! I do not know where this all started, but as fast as it started, it should stop. Years ago, a name was given to a family. The family called one reference, and that was it! The only question that was important in those days was about family. Did the individual come from a good family? Did he or she have good middos and a good name? If so, the couple started dating. They met each other – and even traveled – “blindly,” because they had no picture and no resume.
Nowadays, I am grilled about every detail. A mother once called me about a shidduch and asked so many questions that I said to her, “If I answer all these questions, what will the young people have to speak about? You do not have to conduct an FBI investigation. Let the individuals have this conversation on their own on the first date.”
Another time, I was asked to send a picture of a girl. It was against my principles, but I thought it was a perfect match and I wanted the shidduch so badly that I forwarded the picture. What a mistake I made! I waited a few days and then called the mother and asked what she thought. She answered, “She is not the look we are looking for.” That did it for me. I never sent a picture again. It also made me wonder how often it is the young man who wants a picture and often it is his mother!
As we all know, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. A girl can be a stunning beauty, yet some people will not appreciate her looks. On the other hand, she can be a girl with very average looks, but to her bashert she is the most beautiful person in the world. Her personality, her tznius, her charm, and her middos outshine everything and declare that she is truly beautiful.
Besides, pictures do not mean anything in the era of Photoshop, because they are often “touched up” by the photographers. You finally meet the girl, and she is a great disappointment. She does not look at all like her picture. So what did the picture prove? Are you better off for having seen it?
If you recall, the rosh yeshivas came out with a kol koreh that the pictures must stop. No one listened. Why is it that they listen to their rebbeim for everything under the sun, but when it comes to the pictures no one listens?
I agree with your parents. You should not be asking for a picture. As far as Facebook is concerned, in my opinion, no frum girl should be advertising herself on the internet. There have been many kol korehs on that issue as well. Few pay attention, though, and just do what they want to do.
As for your assertion about the practicality of exchanging pictures, you are right and you are wrong. True, pictures help you eliminate those people who are not shayich – but, as I always say, how do you know what the Ribono Shel Olam has in store for you? When looks are a major issue, I always suspect that the person is getting married for what others will say. (“Oy, did he get a catch...!”) If you get married for what you are looking for, looks become a small part of the total package. We have all had the experience of seeing a successful shidduch and not being able to figure out what they saw in each other. What the observers are missing is that these two people knew what they needed and found it in the other person, while those on the outside only look superficially.
I hope I have given you a different perspective, and I suggest you continue to look for your zivug – without a picture – and the Ribono Shel Olam will reward you with the right person at the right time. I wish you much hatzlacha.