Sunday, March 25, 2012

On Beauty

There is quite a to-do raging over the Halberstam article in the Jewish Press suggesting that girls who "don't make the grade" beauty-wise seriously consider having plastic surgery so that they can get married. Trust me, there will be more postings on the underlying problem with this, but first I'd like to throw out a few items to think about.

Beauty is not, repeat NOT, something that has one pat, never changing definition. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and there are dozens of factors that may influence how that beholder defines beauty.

You cannot get everyone to agree about the beauty of inanimate objects, things like a piece of furniture, or a piece of clothing. You can't get them to agree about the beauty of an art object, a painting, a piece of music. You can't get them to agree about the beauty of things in the natural world. And we expect that there will be 100% agreement among men about what constitutes beauty in a woman they are meeting with the object of marriage in mind? Not possible.

So, any solution to our "shidduch crisis" that hinges on creating a standardized image of beauty through plastic surgery is doomed to failure. There is no standardized image of beauty that all will agree on. If we are going to throw money out on medical intervention, perhaps it should go towards psychologists and psychiatrists for the shidduch-hunting males and their mothers, to cure them of their skewed and unrealistic espectations and world views. That, at least, would be getting at the root of the shidduch problem.

Definitely more to come.


Kira said...

Agree that what beauty is depends on each person and trying to meet some artificial standard is ridiculous. All 3 of my boys wanted a beautiful girl in addition to her having all the good midos possible. Yes, each of them believes that the girl they married is the height of beauty, and all three of my very much loved daughters in law look completely different one from the other. They are all different builds, different heights, different hair color and length and texture, different eye color, and have different facial and body features. And my boys are right--they are all beautiful to us and to a lot of other people also, by our definitions of beauty.

I read that JP article and I just don't get how what the author suggested could be considered as desirable for us. Surgery as the answer to shidduchim?!!! We don't have enough problems and then someone introduces something like this.

JS said...

Here's the problem: when you don't have a chance to really get to know someone, you judge that person on a completely superficial basis. Think about walking down the street, people watching in the park, or these "rating" websites that used to be popular like hotornot - you make a split second decision on whether or not someone is attractive or not. And, when we do that, our judgments are based on very stereotypical views of what is and isn't attractive. A woman with an hourglass figure, a man who is tall and broad shouldered.

In addition to the stereotypical attitude, small imperfections get magnified and over-emphasized. A small mole literally is viewed as a mountain, a small pimple is a giant zit, a few extra pounds is an obesity problem, a person a bit shorter than average is a midget.

But, all of this is because of snap judgments based on not knowing the person. This is the problem of shidduchim - the inability to get to know someone and the unnaturalness and pressure associated with dating for marriage and making split second decisions so you don't waste time on a bad match.

I like to compare it to you love your grandmother so much and gratefully hug and kiss her - you overlook her hair is thinned out, she has some facial hair, she's missing a few teeth, her clothes may be a bit shabby, she has thick glasses and still doesn't see well, she drools a bit, and she can't hear unless you yell at her. But, you love her with all your heart because of all she means to you. Yet, if another woman with all the same issues sat next to you on the bus you may feel uncomfortable being next to such a person and you certainly wouldn't want to give her a kiss.

A person is truly attractive because of who they are and what they mean to us. You can't get that type of true attractive from shidduch dating - it's simply impossible under the circumstances.

So, you're stuck with this: nose jobs and liposuction for all.

Abba's Rantings said...


"when you don't have a chance to really get to know someone, you judge that person on a completely superficial basis"

and when prospective shidduchim all basically presented the same generic way (the right schools, good middos, good families, good references, etc.), what else is left to distinguish one girl from another besides looks?

JS said...

What bothers me most about this whole thing is that the focus is entirely on the women looking good for the men. I'd be slightly less peeved if the article had also spoken about how men don't dress well, don't exercise, overeat, don't care enough about hygiene, etc. But, in this culture, you can be a slob of a man and as long as you're a good "learner" this somehow entitles you to marry a rich model.

Not to go overboard, but have you seen these men? Have you seen the middle-aged men? If anyone needs a makeover and liposuction it's these men. Many are just one bowl of chulent away from a heart attack and they're wearing the remainder of the last bowl on their formerly white shirts. They wear cheap suits and shoes, their sole exercise is from vigorous shukkling.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

This was the first I'd heard of that Halberstam article. I wish I hadn't heard of it at all. I'm only on Page 2 and I feel a strong urge to smash something. I would post about it but I can't even imagine what I could say.