Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Overweight Shidduch Maidel

By Mimi Hecht

"Your destiny is not decided by your daintiness….
...and soul mates are not just for skinny people.”

Dear Mimi,
have been shidduch-dating for years now, and have yet to find my soul mate. People tell me that I am a great catch and that any guy would be lucky to have me. But why am I still single? Is it because I am overweight? I feel frustrated with the way matchmakers represent me and wish the shidduch-system would allow someone to first see me for who I am. The entire saga makes me feel depressed. I feel if I was a size two, I would get many more suggestions. Perhaps you can address this in your next column?
Thank you,
An Overweight Shidduch Maidel

Dear Overweight Shidduch Maidel,

While the use of intermediaries to find our mates is a successful method that goes a long way in protecting people’s feelings and narrowing in on the most fitting suitors, nothing is flawless. Your frustration puts a spotlight on one of the perils of the shidduch system, namely its inadequacy in representing and advocating for those that have everything to offer but may not be best represented by descriptions on a sheet of paper. Of all the complaints people have about dating,

the plight of the overweight Orthodox woman is probably the most legitimate and heart-wrenching.

The overweight marriageable-age girl enters the dating phase excited and hopeful, but quickly realizes that - in a world of facts and pictures that speak only one word – she is not considered to be “a great catch.” The matchmaker easily lets her know this by only setting her up with overweight men, misleading others about her physique (usually more hurtful than helpful), and even making diet suggestions as an answer to her single status (true story!). I’ve even heard of heartbreaking accounts where a date is almost set up but, when the boy is somehow alerted to the reality of the girl’s figure, everything is called off.

This is not entirely an issue with the shidduch-system itself, but with the minds that maneuver its terrain. To say the least, too many men today are looking for women that resemble skinny models (this an entire article on its own!). But what makes it worse in the case of the shidduch-dating male is that he has an unfair (and in the end, self-defeating) advantage in that he’s able to pick and choose and dismiss women as if he were in an ice-cream shop. When all the raw facts about a girl are brought to the table prior to any live meeting, the girl’s figure will often be a question. Most women with less-than-prime figures could charm someone in real life were they merely afforded the luxury of showcasing their personality prior to receiving the facts…and figures.  But the often cold nature of shidduch-dating offers no such chance. As a result, there are many women who feel insecure, victimized and, worst of all, hopeless. 

What, then, is the overweight shidduch maidel to do? How does she navigate a system she believes in, but at the same time seems not to work to her benefit?

To the shidduch-age girl that may be overweight, slightly plump or just larger than a size two, I have this to say: as depressed, frustrated and pessimistic as you may feel in your “shidduch world” travels, you have a responsibility to love and protect yourself. Don’t succumb to scrutiny of your body by becoming self-loathing. Don’t fall victim to this notion that overweight people can’t get married. Yes, some guys won't look further when the shadchan describes you as "thick," “curvy” or - a personal favorite – “womanly.” But, as simplistic as this may sound, those men aren’t your husband.

Assuming you’re doing your best to be healthy and presentable, you have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be downtrodden about. Yes, if you were a size two, you probably would attract more suggestions. But the amount of suggestions actually says little about the likelihood of you marrying! I know petite-figured girls who get bountiful suggestions but have been dating for years, while some fuller-figured women got few suggestions but, well, one was their match! Have some faith. Your destiny is not decided by your daintiness….and soul mates are not just for skinny people.

If you are a voluptuous girl looking for your husband, know this: While the shadchan would like to describe you simply as having “a pretty face,” your beauty is beyond that. The next time you’re feeling cynical about your marriage prospects, remind yourself three things: 1) The size of your waist will never define how good of “a catch” you are, 2) confidence and joy are any girl's most attractive assets and 3) sooner than you think, the husband already decided for you will be lucky and proud to call you his own.

6 LadyMama voices:

chava said... [Reply to comment]

Loose the weight, everyone would be happier. there will be more energy to chase after kids, husband would be proud, you would show the rest of the world a beutiful Jewish woman. I speak from eperience. good luck!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

My experience might be of interest here.

When the girl who turned out to be my basherte was suggested to me (and incidentally, the shadchan was a mutual friend rather than a "professional"), I don't recall whether there was any mention of her figure. When we first met, I was indeed taken aback: I wasn't necessarily expecting a size 0 or 2, but she was somewhere around 16-18.

It took me a couple of days to think it over. The shadchan pointed out that he, at first, had a similar issue with his own wife's body type (in that case the problem was vertical height - or lack thereof - rather than weight). However, he eventually came to realize that other factors are far more important; at the time they were, B"H, happily married for three years (and since then, over another decade has passed).

I, too, came to realize that there was much to like about this young lady, that our values and goals were compatible, and that her size would not prevent me from being physically attracted to her. All of that turned out to be absolutely correct.

So I guess the lessons to take from all this might be:

1. Of the various options mentioned in the article, "misleading others about her physique" might not be such a bad idea after all. Do what you can to get the couple to meet, and this way they can see whether there's something there!

2. There needs to be more education directed towards the guys, to make them realize that size isn't everything. (And in fact, it unfortunately is often the case that the thinner girls tend to be more stuck-up!) Ideally this would be done one-on-one, by the shadchan or someone else that the boy trusts.

3. It is also true that a girl who is overweight can do a lot to make herself as presentable as possible, even if for whatever reason she's unable to lose much of the weight. Good clothes, makeup, good posture, etc., go a long way.

Dassi said... [Reply to comment]

to chava: how insensitive can you be? as if external beauty is the only acceptable kind. you should be embarrassed that you would even THINK such an opinion, let alone voice it!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I have to agree with Chava to some degree. It is so wonderful to start a marriage feeling confidant and healthy. Plus pregnancy is hard enough as it is and weight can really put a strain on your back, feet and marriage. While I do believe girls of every shape and size deserve the best Shidduch, at this stage of the (dating)game you really want to put your best slimmest foot forward. It IS easier for naturally thin girls, but we all work on ourselves in so many areas! If she feels this is what is holding her back then can it really hurt? Why is this different than bleaching teeth, dyeing hair, taking acne medication, wearing only heels etc. Women have been suffering for years for the sake of beauty. Men are visual human beings and this is how to reel one in;)
Ultimately good middos will keep him happy but when you're young this is one of the more important things to men. Can't fight city hall..

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

i just had baby two months ago and certainly am not the size i was at my wedding, which wasn't quite over weight but definitely bigger than a size two. but from the beginning, my husband thought i was beautiful the way i am and still tells me so all the time. i know i am blessed to have such a thoughtful (and self esteem boosting) husband, but i think that who ever your beshert is should and WILL love you no matter what you look like-you are attractive to HIM and that's the only person whose opinion matters. anyway, if you lose weight and then gain it all back-after a baby, because of stress, lack of time etc....then what? so he'll stop loving you? please. our bodies change. that life. its okay to have some self doubt sometimes, but don't make yourself crazy. you are beautiful. and even skinny girls have flaws. trust me. priorities people.

Bracha said... [Reply to comment]

Alot of time weight depicts a certain life style and when a shidduch comes up boys show a concern on this issue. (I am not refering to weight connected to having a baby or health issues). I believe that boys have a right to know the size of the girl just like a girl would be quite shocked if she went out with a boy and he was extremely overweight, or very short and did not know. I know a girl who went out with a boy and he was very short...under five foot, she was uncomfortable the entire date! There is a difference between chunky, curvy, and overweight as quoted in the artice. However, I agree with Mimi that weight will not stop a shidduch from happening and it will take the right boy for the right girl.