Monday, December 27, 2010

Re: Objectification of Me

I wrote this as a response to Bad4's latest post about providing pictures for shidduchim, and figured it was long enough to be an actual post of its own:

It is very true, as many have noted, that physical attraction is not only necessary for the relationship, but significant enough in many cases to determine whether someone may find the suggested candidate attractive enough to date.

One of the biggest issues is that shadchanim/wanna-be-match-makers are not honest, or not totally honest, in describing a person's physical features. Due to this liability, pictures are requested. Often, as others have noted here, the pictures themselves are not reliable due to the staged nature (extra make up, professional picture, etc) or the flawed aspects of the photograph make the person seem less attractive than they actually are.

As a side point, particularly since this happened to me several times when I was dating: why in the world would ANYONE want to have an unattractive picture of him/herself available for the purpose of evaluation regarding shidduchim? I saw dozens of YUConnects profiles with girls who haphazardly slapped up some cropped, unflattering Facebook picture. I was surprised on more than one occasion that the girl was more attractive than her photo depicted. If you want a date, don't pass around a bad picture of you! Get multiple opinions from people you know and trust to approve the worthiness of a particular picture before it gets out there for general evaluation.

Back on topic: So we're basically stuck with a double sense of falsehood. Descriptions are incomplete or wrong, so we ask for a picture, but asking for a picture is insulting and also often misleading. The option to go in "blind" will often lead to numerous disappointments, as some guys have noted. If the looks are a no-go, then the entire venture is a non-starter. That applies to both guys and girls, and girls need to learn to accept that, especially since they don't necessarily focus on looks from the get go as much as a guys often do.

I think there is a clear difference when someone asks for a picture "stam" versus asking for a picture because you can tell they're stuck up, utterly full of him/herself and looking for a supermodel for a spouse. Nobody should have an exact "look" that they absolutely require, because that's simply impossible. Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to appearances, but often these preferences can be lumped into more general categories that paint a fuzzy picture of what is acceptable, thus letting the details remain more open for the actual dating experience.

As I've said many times before on my own blog and comments here [IE Bad for Shidduchim], everyone needs to have a standard of what they find attractive, per those general guidelines I just mentioned, which can include height, facial features, body shape, etc. The only thing a picture should do, and hopefully do accurately is determine if he/she meets that cut-off line in your mind. A short examination of a picture can accomplish that. The same thing is done on a date as well, but the stakes are higher and a greater degree of scrutiny is absolutely necessary, especially if you are determining if you can accept certain imperfections or unique characteristics (this is part of the more specific aspect I mentioned above). For a picture, if the person is "too fat," "too skinny," too this or that, per your personal tastes then you know right off the bat and don't have to go further.

It is NOT fair to jump on someone's back and say they're being too prejudiced against someone because of a decent picture. True, finer elements of a person's features will only be apparent while seeing them in person, but if someone hands me a picture of a girl who was 400 pounds, and I don't find that attractive, no matter how great the quality of the photo, I would say no because that's not what I want. The same thing goes for ANYTHING (not to stereotype against the obese) that a particular person finds unattractive. I had a professor who told us that he couldn't stand red heads when he was dating - and as such, he didn't marry a red head. True, the possibility exists that he could compromise for a particular person, but that would entail further examination. But telling him he's absolutely wrong for having such a strong gut-reaction (based on who knows what) isn't right. In fact, that particular professor even told us about a red head cousin of his who married a guy from Lakewood, and now she wears a dark sheital, because her husband hates red hair (the professor didn't ask what she did around the house/when her hair was uncovered).

At any rate, everyone needs to be honest and up front about looks and pictures. Why can't we just standardize picture usage (like YUConnects does), with EVERYONE providing decent pictures that accurately portray their looks? If someone turns you down that means A) You aren't their physical type, for whatever reason, so deal with it or B) He/she is a shallow jerk who didn't like how your right nostril looked and you're better off not going out with him/her anyway because he/she is stupid.

May everyone find the person who looks the way they would like their spouse to look - and more importantly - find the person who represents all the good qualities required to be a good spouse.


  1. Absolutely agree. Especially nowadays where shidduchim often involve travel, and expectations for the first date often involve a large investment of time and money. This is such a simple thing to there any basis for attraction? Why wouldn't we determine it beforehand? If other necessary criteria could be established so simply, for example if you could know whether the girl/guy has a certain "must-have" middah before the date, why wouldn't you??

  2. I completely agree with: "As a side point, particularly since this happened to me several times when I was dating: why in the world would ANYONE want to have an unattractive picture of him/herself available for the purpose of evaluation regarding shidduchim?"

    I don't understand it either! My personal pet peeve is when guys on YUConnects/SYAS have pictures of themselves and they are not smiling. At least smile. Someone just needs to give certain people advice about which pictures to put up.

  3. A SYAS shadchan told me to get a professional picture done and referred me to a service. I priced it: lowest fee $150. Seriously?
    Spend that on a photo that might be superior to what I have already and might make a guy more interested in dating me - a guy who might be the one I marry. That's a whole lot of "mights" for over $150.

  4. Also, I don't think there's a "basis for attraction." So much of what makes a person attractive is only visible in person. I have a friend who said she hates her nose. I never noticed her nose. She has the sort of personality that adds sparkle to any sub-par features. But once she mentioned it: yeah, I could see where her nose might not be the nicest.

    So if a guy sees her picture, the first thing that will jump out at him is her nose. If he goes "yuk" then he's not giving her the chance she deserves, because she's a whole lot more than her nose.

  5. bad4 - that's exactly my point. If A) the guy is such a stickler for details that he can't honestly think, "Ok, so in my eyes her nose is a little off, but that realistically isn't a deal breaker" - which is a very healthy response, even if he doesn't like her nose - why would she want to go out with such a guy in the first place when he's so focused on looks. Or B) A certain physical feature may indeed be more than someone can handle and be a legitimate hang up, like the red hair for my teacher.

    I can speak from personal experience on this. I was suggested someone and sent a picture. The profile was great, very on-target, and the picture was good except for one thing, she had these slightly fleshy jowels on her jawline (basically, from the bottom lip up she was attractive). I figured, like a decent person, "maybe it's just the picture." So I went out with her anyway and had a great time. But I honestly could not get over the little jowel thingies. I gave it 4 dates - 2 weeks of forcing myself to reconsider before each date and give her another chance because she honestly deserved it for the great person that she was.

    But I couldn't get over it, no matter how much mental anguish I put myself through. If you honestly find everything about a person to be perfect but you can't find them physically attractive, for whatever reason - that's a legitimate deal breaker.

    Art of the Date (much maligned as it is) quotes a story where a girl really liked the guy, except for his stick-out ears. She asked him if he would consider pinning them back, and he agreed, and that one quibble, which could have ruined it for her, was gone. They went on to get married and live happily ever after. That isn't to suggest plastic surgery is an answer in every situation, but if everything is absolutely perfect (which for me with the aforementioned girl, it was very good, but not perfect) why not "fix" the hang up? It sounds kind of terrible, but it makes some sense to me.

    It certainly requires a bit more experience and some astute personal reflection to determine what your limits are, but it IS possible to figure these things out from a picture. I wouldn't compare the nose to being extremely obese - I would have given the nose person a chance and not the obese person, because as you said, I might find the overall big-picture aspect of her attractice, whereas for the obese girl it wouldn't matter how many hashkafic or common interest compatibilities we shared.

  6. So personally, one of the main flaws I find with the shidduch system is exactly this point. One spends hours, weeks, months even looking into a person's health records, learning backgroung, job information, middot, etc yet something as basic as attraction is only found out on the first date (often much after all the time and effort is spent). If it were as easy as smacking a picture on one's shidduch resume I'd say great! problem solved! But like you said, it's not that simple. Pictures are often not chosen well and or look nothing like the person being photographed.
    I know this is pretty controversial the following "solution" does provide a good way of knowing whether that basic attraction is there before going through all the motions of checking someone out. Basically, my best friend was being looked into by someone. This someone's mother called me to ask questions about my friend. She confessed to me that her son was of the picky sort when it came to looks so what he did was he actually went to my friend's place of work, took a peak and left. This method obviously doesn't work if the daters live in two different states or countries and yes, it can be misleading if someone's having a bad hair day, and for obvious reasons it can feel very objectifying but really, it was quite effective: he saw her, he liked her, finito! Anyhoo great blog, thanks for all your helpful advice! Keep it up! :)


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