I was redd to a boy and we were given a no. Later, the shadchan gave the boy’s side a picture of me and they gave a yes.
I was very turned off. My résumé wasn’t good enough for them and whatever info they found out wasn’t good enough for them, but now that they saw a picture, suddenly I am good enough to get a yes?
Am I right for feeling turned off? Is it enough of a reason to say no? And should it work out, will it forever be in the back of my mind that they only granted me a yes after seeing a photo of me?
Before responding to your specific questions, I feel compelled to note how strongly I believe that the provision of pictures for the purposes of shidduchim is a practice greatly in need of castigation. Although I have said as much in the past, including in this very forum, it would be worth repeating should it lead to just one person disengaging from this practice.
Not only is it perhaps one of the most woeful practices that many in the frum world have assumed regarding shidduchim, not only is every gadol b’Yisroel I have spoken with against it, and not only is antithetical to the frum ideologies of tznius – those which are pushed to the nth degree in almost every other area of frum yiddishkeit – it is also in many ways both ineffective and counterproductive.
Just a few months ago, a very prominent shadchan from New York shared with me the following anecdote. He had redd a shidduch to a young man, provided a picture – as requested – and was summarily turned down. Some time later, the shadchan was at a chasunah, and he came across this young man again. The fellow proceeded to point out a young woman in the crowd and asked the shadchan if he knew her and would redd the shidduch. To which the shadchan replied, “That is the same young woman whom you turned down after seeing her picture, and now she is engaged.”
Now, one may claim that obviously the shidduch wasn’t meant to be, an easy out any time one misses an opportunity due to poor decision making, but the fact of the matter is that a picture often hardly conveys the subject. A picture cannot capture the essence of the person nor the more meaningful interpersonal aspects of what forges a bond between two people who are dating. Furthermore, do we not all have many pictures of ourselves that we disdain and insist look nothing like us? And yet, when it comes to shidduchim, a parsha difficult enough as it is, so many are willing to dismiss a potential life partner simply after glancing at a picture. For generations, Klal Yisroel managed to perpetuate without shidduch pictures, even at a point when we were spread across the globe; and I imagine we would do just fine now, should the practice be discontinued.
That said, in the here and now, the reality is that making decisions based on a picture is commonplace in shidduchim. The reality also is that there is penchant towards the external in many parts of today’s frum world.
Are you right to feel turned off because your resume wasn’t enough and whatever information was unearthed about you also wasn’t enough – both more substantive forms of making a decision about a shidduch – and now that they saw a picture, all of a sudden a yes was issued? Absolutely you are.
On the other hand, many young women are on the verge of a yes based on their resumes and the research that is done, and then, after a picture is provided, the yes disappears. In the most practical of senses, that is a far worse position to find oneself in; at least, in your case, you have an opportunity lying at your feet, not a silent phone.
On its own, is it enough to say no? In my opinion, it is not. It doesn’t feel great to think that the most appealing aspect of who you are was a picture, but if the shidduch was utterly not shayach, in all probability, they would have said no. Regardless of how captivating your picture was. Additionally, perhaps they were previously misinformed about how you look, and only realized the mistake after seeing the picture. Whatever the case may be, I think it is fair to say that your picture is not the reason they said yes, it was just what tilted the scales from no to yes, all matters considered.
It also important to keep in mind that although you feel certain the picture is what secured the yes, that may not in actuality be the case. While one might feel 100% sure about what is driving someone else’s decisions, it is not really possible to ever know if that is true.
If the shidduch works out, is it likely that because a picture was needed to get you a yes that it will forever linger in your mind and affect your future marriage and your ability to maintain shalom bayis? In my opinion, again, also no. While I cannot claim prescience regarding your future feelings, if the shidduch pans out, I would be almost certain that your feeling of now will have been long forgotten. But more importantly, I don’t think you should wait that long to try and distance yourself from the hurt. If you do say yes to the date, you are best served by moving forward without giving further thought to what led to the yes.
Again, the feelings you have which are turning you off are both justifiable and understandable. However, if you are going to say yes, say it with a mindset that this young man may prove to be your husband, and the distasteful experience that the yes was predicated on must be left behind. M’tzido, he had the right to say no given the information he was provided. Everyone has the right to say no to a shidduch, for good cause or bad, and it is fortunate that he changed his mind – even if it took a picture for him to do so. At this point, you must judge the shidduch based on the merits of the dates themselves and whether or not you feel this young man is the husband you are looking for.
May you have unbridled syata dishmaya as you continue your journey in shidduchim, and may The Yoitzer Olamim bring you your zivug hagon with haste and ease.