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Website sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Malkiel Goldberger in honor of their precious children
info@shidduchcenter.org | 443.955.9887

Yated Shidduch Forum 5/10/19: Should My Son Get Braces Before He Starts Dating?

Question:

Dear Shadchanim,

My son will be starting shidduchim sometime next year. While we are aware that looks and appearance are second to middos, I would like him to get Invisalign/braces to better enhance his features. Our dentist never felt that he needed braces, and though he has a beautiful smile, and his teeth are all straight, I want to correct some of his open spaces. My son, on the other hand, doesn’t feel that cosmetic dentistry is necessary. Is it a benefit or is it overkill?
Thank you in advance. 

Answer:

With respect to the question that has been presented – taken in its most literal form –  in my experience, it is not at all uncommon for single men or women entering shidduchim to brook some form of oral modification for the sake of their imminent calling. Indeed, it is quite normal for any person, at any stage of life, to have an interest in enhancing their visage. And for many, cosmetic dentistry is a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to do so, and one that has become relatively affordable and accessible in recent years. Thus, ignoring any textural context, I would think it fair to say that investing in Invisalign or braces is a far cry from overindulgence, and conceivably carries a quantifiable degree of value. 

However, it appears to me that the truly salient and germane question here, and the one that I believe is in greater need of attention, is somewhat more personal in nature, and is not contingent on the comparatively categorical concern of whether or not braces-for-dating is a good or bad idea, in its own right. That is, how hard should a parent press this kind of issue when their son or daughter is not particularly interested in the proceedings? And with respect to this question, I would like to offer three points that seem to me to be worthy of c0nsideration.

First and foremost, when someone is perfectly comfortable with their lineaments, there is a thin line between suggestions which come off as earnest advisements for improvement, and those that land as insinuations which are both insulting and demeaning. Moreover, when it is a parent proffering the proposal, it often becomes an exponentially more delicate and complex encounter, as it is generally one’s mother and father who are expected to be most readily relied upon for boosts to self-esteem and to supply healthy validation. Correspondingly, if the submission is sensed as being tendered with any measure of hostility, the dater may begin to experience an unpleasant case of the fantods.  

Second, once a person reaches adulthood, their body is ultimately under their own auspices, and it is up to the one who would be undergoing the procedure to decide whether or not they are inclined to move forward. As such, when all is said and done, if someone declines under all conditions to take a seat in the dentist’s chair, there is not much anyone else can do about it. And if that is how it plays out, the only tangible product of the affair will be an unwinnable battle and two people who are resentful towards one another at a time when they sorely need to be united with each other. 

Third – and I may be going be a bit out-of-bounds with this one – based only on the narrative provided, I am going to hazard a speculation that it is meaningful to you that one continually does their utmost to please those with whom one interacts. To be sure, such is an admirable trait, and can be quite the useful tool in navigating life’s challenges, when employed properly. However, it may not be a characteristic which one’s child shares to an equal extent – which is also absolutely fine. To each their own. Accordingly, your respective opinions on the import of impeccable teeth may not be entirely aligned. 

Consequently, my recommendation would be to engage in a short series of dialogues. Step one would be an honest family conversation wherein both parties have an opening to fully expound on why they feel the way they do regarding this topic, and why it is important to them.  This should be done as lightly as possible, and the goal of the discussion is not for either person to convince the other of the veracity of their claim, or even to achieve any conclusion at all, at that moment. Rather, it is solely meant to get all the cards on the table via affording each person the occasion to state their case, as politely, lucidly, and straightforwardly as possible. Step two would be for the dater to have a separate conversation with a rebbi or mentor, in order to absorb some outside perspective from someone who does not have any proximate biases one way or the other. 

At that juncture, the dater will have gathered positions on the topic from multiple sources, and ought to be given reasonable time and space to mull the matter over. Once this has all taken place, it is the dater who should be making the final determination, and the course of action which they elect to be most suitable for their needs should be fully appreciated, respected, and upheld. 

May the Podeh U’Matzeil swiftly satisfy for us all the brachos of Yaakov Aveinu: Chachlele einiyim miyayin, u’lven sheinayim meichalav.  

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