Here’s what I am:
I’m extremely capable. I’m smart, talented – in short, geshikt. I have a great personality, I’m happy, I have depth, I constantly work on myself, I’m disciplined and balanced and loving and nurturing and healthy. I have a much sought-after job and I truly feel like I’m maximizing my potential. I have savings in the bank, and my parents are in klei kodesh but have enough to support. I come from a wonderful, large family.
I am, I am, I am.
But I’m not skinny.
So go on a diet, right?
I’ve dieted my entire life, literally. Some diets helped more than others, but they’ve all had limited results. I try to do myhishtadlus. I dress well and even wear my weight well, but that doesn’t take away from the obvious. Boruch Hashem, this hasn’t hampered my ability to make valuable friendships in life, to get a job, and so on. But when it comes to shidduchim…I’m nearing my 24th birthday and went out with exactly two boys. I’ve gotten quite a few painful comments over the years. A woman from my community who was going to be attending a shidduch meeting in another city asked my mother to send a picture to “prove” that I lost some weight. “The shadchanim won’t even take a look at someone who is not thin,” she explained.
Dear shadchanim, you did take one look at me, but since that first two-minute meeting, I never heard from any of you again. So I’m just wondering: is it true? Will you really not redd one shidduch for me? Is all my value at the end of the day the twenty pounds I need to lose?
To claim that factors beyond and disparate from one’s techunas hanefesh lack the import to impact their shidduch prospects would be blatantly dishonest, and thus ultimately misleading and unfair. Societal and individual partialities run the gamut from matters related to physical bearing, intellectual capacity, educational and professional achievement, family structure and history, and economic and communal standing, along with virtually any other attribute one could imagine. And throughout generations, that which is deemed most desirable in any one realm is often fluid, as common cultural canons and prominent personal principles inevitably shift and transform.
In this day and age, for better or worse (predominantly worse), and for reasons too lengthy to detail here, there is an indisputable penchant for thinness. It is part and parcel of the overall culture we live in, and we have collectively adopted it as a sterling virtue within frum society – perhaps even more intensely, in certain respects, than the environment surrounding us has. Accordingly, it would be fraudulent to assert that those who do not meet this standard do not sustain some degree of risk for diminished opportunities when it comes to dating.
Nonetheless, in my experience, it is equally false to declare that shadchanim do not take a second glance at anyone who is unable to conform to this rather challenging expectation. In my many conversations with shadchanim, while they do bemoan the regrettable and unjust difficulty of setting up daters who have but passed the threshold of being petite, they never discount such people out-of-hand, and they absolutely do redd shidduchim for these daters. As such, when someone informs a dater or parent that they cannot even make a presentation at a meeting due to a person’s weight, it is often a horribly rude and misguided attempt at encouraging that dater to slim down. It is obviously a terrible strategy, and one that is insulting, painful, and ineffective. But it is also a statement which is untrue at its core. Yes, shadchanim may have fewer ideas for these daters, but they do meet with them, they do discuss them at meetings and when brainstorming with one another, and they do redd shidduchim on their behalf.
It is also critical to be aware and appreciate that a dearth of suggestions for any length of time after a meeting is in no way an accurate indicator of how much time a shadchan has spent thinking about a person. Moreover, it is not at all a reliable barometer for measuring how many phone calls, emails, WhatsApp’s, or text messages a shadchan has transmitted for that person, diligently and devotedly endeavoring to secure them a date. What we see on the outside is merely the end result, whereas the brunt of the work is done behind closed doors. The shadchan’s toil is typically invisible to most of us.
That being the case, if we are going to be issuing indictments, we should be focusing our attention on our community and our many impossible and counterproductive expectations, just as much as on shadchanim, if not more so. Indeed, in this regard, the shadchan is simply an extension of those whom they serve. Can the shadchan be blamed if every time they redd a shidduch for someone, they are turned down over a number printed on the tag of a dress? Is that in any way the shadchan’s fault? Shadchanim are responsible for their behavior, attitude, and the things they say. If a shadchan or community member demeans or discourages a dater, that transgression falls squarely on their shoulders. However, a shadchan’s inability to set up a date is often solely a consequence of families they reach out to refusing to hear about or pursue an idea if the person redd to them tips the scales at a number defined as unacceptable, or in some other way does not appease the family’s prescribed benchmarks or boxes in need of checking.
These realities notwithstanding, I would like to close on a much more positive and uplifting note. To the best of my knowledge, when it comes to who gets married, none of the pressures we create and cultivate have the power to get in the way of anyone walking down the aisle and building a beautiful home and family. Those who satisfy a greater number of our current overarching societal predilections may date more frequently and may have a phone that rings more repeatedly, but those who are not bestowed with these advantages appear to get married with essentially commensurate regularity. The road may be darker and rougher, but nothing gets in the way of Hashem’s determination that a person meet their future spouse.
May the Ribon Kol HaMaasim infuse an overabundance of courage and conviction within all those who seek out their bashert, so that they may accomplish their goals with calm, composure, and confidence.