Monday, January 28, 2008

Changing Shidduch Making--Black is Beautiful and Other Myths

What do you suppose would be the result if, when you walked into Macy's and went to the coat department, all the coats were the same exact style and available in only one color: black? If you really, really liked the style and loved black as a color you would probably be quite happy. If, however, you didn't like the style and/or the color, you would probably be quite unhappy. You would have a limited number of options to follow: 1)you have the time so you could leave the store and hope that another store or stores had a better selection or 2)you could be pressed for time and you would realize that it was cold outside, you needed a coat and you would buy the coat despite the fact that you didn't really like it. If you chose option #2 you might grudgingly admit that the coat did what a coat was supposed to do--keep you warm--but it was never going to "look" the way you want a coat to look. Unhappiness would fester inside every time you wore the coat. But wear it you would.

Now change the scenario a bit. In that great sea of black you suddenly spy one coat in green. Do you grab it? Now, now, honesty here. You might think about buying the coat, you might even lust after that coat, you might dream of that coat, but if you are like the vast majority of people, you'd leave the coat on the rack. If Macy's, with its long history of selling coats, is selling virtually only black coats in one style, there must be something the store knows that we need to take heed of. And if Macy's and Bloomingdales and Lord and Taylor are all selling the same style coat only in black,then that settles it: we are sure that only that coat can be worn.

Of course, there is always going to be the person who sees the green coat and buys it despite what the stores are pushing. And she may or may not be happy with all the attention she gets when she wears it. And that attention may or may not all be positive. And she may or may not finally cave in and get that black coat anyway. And in the privacy of her own mind she may still think of herself as a "green coat" person, despite what she is actually wearing. Unfortunately, she will still look like a "black coat" person.

Fortunately, Macy's sells coats in a variety of styles and colors, although not too large a variety; if they gave you too many choices for this year what could they peddle to you next year? Unfortunately, in many ways some people in Klal Yisroel act as if a multitude of styles and colors is an unfortunate thing. This part of Klal acts like the one coat--one style Macy's described above. Whoa betide the person who opts for the green coat, whether male or female.

I am NOT talking about the dictates of actual halacha here. Where halacha says "you must" then we must--this is not black coat-ism. I am talking about trying to standardize personality and actions (those not covered by actual halacha) and thoughts. Either we fit the mold or we are relegated to the green coat fringes of society. Even though inside we may chafe at the restrictions, who among us wants to be the first to say "I've had enough!"?

Yeshivot and seminaries pride themselves on having a "recognizable product." "You can always tell a ____________girl/boy" they say, and with some justification. And this is a good thing just why?

Beyond our all being human beings and followers of halacha, we are all individuals with unique combinations of thoughts and actions that make us who we are. Even siblings raised in the same home are not clones of each other. For a community or a group to try and squelch this uniqueness, to try and shove us all into the same mold, is unnatural. Where commonality is a rationally proven benefit to survival, then go for it. Where it is not, banish it, refuse to buckle down to it, expose it for the sham it is.

When it comes to shidduch making, what possible, real, definable benefit is there to Klal Yisroel in "standardizing" our children, so that one is pretty much interchangeable for another, in action and in thought? Again, I am not talking about halachic dictates but societal dictates.

The shidduchim I have made have mostly been of the "green coat" variety, or at least the black coat had obvious green buttons with green embroidery on the pockets, or the coat was accessorized with a green scarf and green gloves. Maybe it is a matter of "like calling to like." I admit freely that I am not a "black coat" person, except where actual physical danger dictates I have to be. And yes, sometimes I am not a "green coat" person either--sometimes I wear blue, or red, or purple or yellow or any of the shades in between. My husband certainly could never confuse who I was with any other girl that he dated. And 35+ years later he still can't.

If we want shidduch redding to be saner and more effective, then we need to get out of the black coat mentality and encourage the individualism that is unique to each one of us. Read Chumash if you don't believe me. Read the instructions that were given to Eliezer by Avraham. Clearly Avraham, in choosing a shidduch for Yitzchak, was looking for a "green coat" in a sea of black.


Scraps said...

V'imru, amein!

B"H I had teachers and mentors who emphasized that we should be thinking individuals, not just sheep in the herd.

the apple said...

I wear a green coat. Someone once told me I was "brave" for doing so.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

At a Bar Mitzvah not so long ago two men were explaining everything that was going on to me and I didn't get why at first. Then I realized. I was wearing a navy blazer, grey slacks and a blue shirt. Forget my knit kipoh. I guess I didn't look like I would know what was going on to these blacksuit/whiteshirt people. Sad comment on how we look at people today. How you look is how you think?

Bas~Melech said...

Wow, you're really having a field day with the consumerism analogies! Keep them coming, they're great.

Anonymous said...

I happen to like how black looks on me but I b'dafka did not buy a black shabbos coat so nobody could look at me and think they know who I am without really knowing me at all. Funny but the coat is a dark green and I've actually had people ask if I like the coat or did I get stuck buying it.