It was a Friday night, and we were all sitting in the dining hall at the yeshiva.
Most of us had only started our religious journeys toward observant Judaism very recently, and we were still getting used to all the restrictions, all the ideas, all the confusion. Being in Israel made it all the more intense.
And there, up front, was our rabbi. The “rosh yeshiva” as he’s called, kind of like a principal except he taught classes and when he called us into his office we got excited, not scared.
Now he was talking about dating. Not like the fun dating we were used to from back home. He was talking about the kind of dating that leads to marriage. Serious dating. Religious dating.
We were all listening intently, I remember, because it was a topic we all knew little about but were intensely interested in.
“Now, I know you all want to date a woman who looks how you imagine her, I know you have your ideas of what is good looking,” he said, “But, ugh, you need to let that go! Looks shouldn’t be part of the calculation at all.”
I remember this moment pretty vividly because I could acutely feel the air in the room suddenly lose a lot of pressure. For a second, people got tense. You could practically read their minds: “Um… what?”
As much as we all loved our rosh yeshiva, he was known for being a little “old fashioned”, and that moment of tenseness passed by quickly, to be replaced with a low-level sort of snickering. It was clear none of us were going to take his suggestion too seriously.
I like to look back at that time. I like to look back because I realize that while so few of us took that line seriously, our rabbi was really saying something very wise. And we were all just a bunch of idiots.
Yes indeed, I believe that we were all trained from a young age to be these sorts of idiots. Bumbling fools, really.
After I married my wife, I went back to yeshiva again. The same yeshiva.
And I remember, a few of my friends asked me for advice. They wanted to know about dating and marriage and blah blah. It’s something all guys care about when they’re starting this process. The one moment that will really radically change your life forever. When being religious is for keeps. Ain’t no going back after that.
I didn’t pick up on it at the time, but as I look back it’s almost impossible to ignore: the biggest issue guys had was with the looks of the girls they were dating. They found a girl they really liked, but, ugh, they just weren’t attracted to the poor thing! Or this other girl was recommended to them, and she sounded so perfect on paper. She was exactly what they wanted. But, they took a look at the picture, and… oh, geez, really? No, sir, no thank you, not my style. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not ugly, but… I’m just not attracted, you know?
Over and over this happened. Then they’d date their definition of “attractive” girls and would be let down in one way or another.
Since I’ve come back to America, and I’ve seen more men have this issue.
It took me a while to understand it. But now it’s become clear: all those men are idiots.
And I’m sure they’re reading this now, and maybe they’re a little offended, but perhaps it’s time for them to know.
See, there’s something going on in the world. There’s something really unnatural happening with the way most men look at women, and it only gets worse as our generation slogs forward.
Anyone that’s opened a magazine, or walked the streets of New York, or turned on a television, or basically consumed any kind of media at all in this generation has been getting bombarded. Bombarded with images. And lots of those images involve a certain standard of “beautiful” women. Women who are ten feet high, skinny as twigs, with the rest of the body “enhanced” with Photoshop.
Men have been taught to think a certain standard is attractive, and it’s skewing their vision of women. It’s making them think they are attracted only to a certain kind of woman. Generally it’s a woman that fits into a size zero, that could only be created with Photoshop.
And so that’s what they look for. That’s what they expect. Nevermind that most dudes, especically of the Jewish variety, are a bunch of ugly mugs. In their heads, they deserve to be happy!
You can’t blame them too much, though. They’re idiots. Brainwashed in their own way. Trust me, I’m a recovering idiot myself.
But I don’t think it’s just that. I don’t think you can blame it all on the media. There’s something else going on here.
I think the vast majority of men in the world misunderstand the nature of attraction.
Most of the Jewish community, thank G-d, understands the concept that true love happens after marriage. That spouses grow and mature in their love every day. That true love isn’t a passionate day in Paris, it’s giving to each other moment by moment as their love blossoms.
What hasn’t been taught, it seems, both in secular and Jewish society, is that attraction works in much the same way.
Imagine you spend every day with a person you love. Soon, you notice things you never noticed before. You notice the way she laughs when you say a funny joke, the way she kind of hiccups at the end. Or you notice the way her nose looks like a bunny’s nose when she’s upset.
These are the things you won’t notice when you’re dating. The things that only evolve as you get to know each other. And the more you nurture your love, the more you grow together, the more you become attracted to each other.
But it goes even deeper than that. As the person you’re with becomes a part of your life, soon you don’t see just those things: you see something deeper. It’s like you see something no one else can see. Their soul jumping out of their skin.
Now, I get that most of the idiots of the world don’t understand this. They haven’t been taught it and the ones who do teach it seem to get snickered at, no matter how respected they are.
But I think, men, for your own sakes it’s time to let go of your idea of attraction. It hurts you. It forces you to look for love in weird, wacky places. And even worse, it causes you to miss out on women that are totally, incredibly amazing.
And, worst of all, when this happens on a bigger level, it causes women to think they need to live up to these bizarre expectations of physical beauty. Unnatural, uhealthy expectations. It’s sad to observe, especially since it’s so unnecessary.
That’s not to say there shouldn’t be any standard at all, but I propose that it should be about not being unattracted as opposed to being attracted. See the difference?
Remember: you’re going to both get old and ugly one day. Crinkly, wrinkly, old farts. But, amazingly, people at that age still manage to be attracted to each other. Because they see the real beauty in each other.
Maybe it’s time dudes started learning from old, ugly people and stopped being idiots.