Photos, Shidduchim, and Finding a Middle Ground
I recently shared an article on my social media feed about the problems involved when Jewish communities demand photos of the single women for the boy and/or his mother to see before he decides whether or not to try. I loved that article back when I first saw it and I love it now and I appreciate that there are those who are calling out the mistakes.
And yes, there are mistakes. Too many women are being reduced to body parts, facial features, and dress sizes for the sake of shidduchim. It used to be that men and women had to actually meet each other and go out on a date. Maybe they weren’t attracted to each other at first sight but they had to meet anyway and give it a chance. Many couples found their attraction after a couple of dates that they wouldn’t have taken if they had seen photos beforehand.
Based on things like this, I began to think that we need to completely stop using photos in the shidduch process. No one deserves to be reduced that way and people need to take a few chances to find their basherts. That was why I loved that article that I shared- it summed up my feelings very well.
However, when I shared it, I got quite a bit of disagreement. But because the disagreement was 1000% respectful, I was able to understand it. Many of the points made were valid and don’t deserve to be dismissed. I think the two most important points were these: First, there has to be some physical attraction. No couple should get married without some physical attraction to each other and they shouldn’t waste their time dating if they haven’t found their attraction after 2-3 dates. Second, good photos can tell you a lot about who the person is as a person. (This is one of the reasons that I’m against the erasing of women’s faces from view in publications- it reduces the woman to an object.)
Based on the above two points and others, I think there’s room for brainstorming and coming up with a middle ground where we can use photos productively in the shidduch process. Here are some ideas:
- BOTH sides should share photos. Attraction isn’t one-sided.
- No posed studio photos. The photos should give a good idea of how the person looks in real life. If you want to hire a professional to take the photos, that’s fine but not necessary. What matters is that the photos are at least reasonably good quality.
- There should be at least three photos shared (thank you to my FB friend Miriam for this one). Only one should have the person in formal clothes. The others should show the person dressed casually. And at least one should show the person doing something that he/she loves to do. My addition: The “doing what you enjoy” photo should not show Jewish rituals. It should show things like painting, cooking, playing basketball, or changing the oil in your car. Photos like these can make great ice-breakers.
- Both sides should be open to meeting on Zoom or Skype (thank you to my real-life friends Andrea and Penina for this one). This can allow them to talk for a short time and get to know a little about each other before they decide whether to schlep out and meet in person.
- Whether casual or formal, everyone should put their best faces forward for photos, Zoom meetings, and actual dates. Casual clothing can be fitted and in good colors that flatter the face. Basic grooming- brushing teeth, washing face, applying lip balm and sunscreen, etc- allows people to look clean and neat. Work with your hair’s natural texture and movement, not against it. A minimum of makeup (where appropriate) will define and show off your features and not look or feel like a mask.
- No matter what, there is no need to ask about clothing sizes. If you wear fitted and flattering clothes for your photos and meetings, then you will look like you’re healthy and you take good care of yourself no matter what size you actually wear. That’s all anyone needs to know in this context.
Dear readers, if you have any ideas, feel free to share. Help find the middle ground so that we can do our due diligence for shidduchim without sacrificing anyone’s dignity in the process.