When Men Are Idiots

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.

  • By the way, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching this video of Dustin Hoffman talking about his experience playing a woman in the movie Tootsie. It’s what inspired this post, and I think all guys need to watch it.

    http://youtu.be/xPAat-T1uhE

  • Leila Cook

    Another excellent article.

    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. – See more at:
    http://popchassid.com/when-men-are-idiots/#sthash.TekagrxC.dpuf

  • Amanda Rokhel Scheerer

    This is an amazing piece. LOVE IT. Sharing it. And timely title for my life today, lol.

  • Chava

    I agree that men need to move beyond evaluating potential partners solely on looks. That’s true for many women too. This piece is an interesting counterpiece to your essay requesting more modesty from women. What it basically says is that you’ll objectify and judge us based on our appearances no matter how modestly we’re dressed.

    • “What it basically says is that you’ll objectify and judge us based on our appearances no matter how modestly we’re dressed.”

      Only if we’re being idiots.

      • Chava

        So you concur then, that the earlier request for modesty-for-the-menfolks-sake was an idiotic request?

        • No. If you read that carefully, it doesn’t contradict this piece.

          1. I believe that the problem men are having with expecting a certain level of attraction is because of an UNNATURAL mindset that has been reenforced by the culture and by media, as I described in this post.

          2. The reaction men have to a woman showing a certain amount of skin is completely natural, and how they deal with it is what matters, which is what the modesty post was about.

  • anonymous

    What I really like about this post is that it removes the double standard. Women often become frustrated knowing that a man is allowed to say no to a second date in the absence of attraction, while she is urged to continue seeing guys (as long as she’s not repulsed), being told that attraction may develop. Not that I believe men and women must always be held to the same standards- granted, we ARE different- but I think in this case, getting men to be more open-minded would be really valuable.

    • Agreed. Truth is, though, I don’t really think this is about equality or even open-mindedness. To me, it’s about just being normal, natural. I really think what’s going on is a skewed way of thinking, and all we need to do is just reconnect back to who we are as men to really reach this “open-minded” state.

    • Shakirah Hill

      I completely agree with you. This removes the double standard. Women are always told to let their idea of the attractive male go, while men are encouraged to find the total package which includes a woman who is smoking hot.

      Can I also say, I think that for the most part most people are extremely attractive in their own right. It’s just connecting with someone who appreciates your unique beauty/attractiveness.

      Great article.

  • Yehoishophot Oliver

    1. I disagree with the assertion that the expectation of women to appear in a certain way is the sole fault of men. You have an enormous, widely popular genre of “beauty” and fashion magazines created by women for women.

    2. Also, I sense a certain reverse discrimination and willingness to bash men underlying your article. Something tells me that in the current pro-feminist culture you wouldn’t dream of entitling an article “Why women are …,” no matter how valid your points might be. Even a woman would not dream of doing such a thing. You might want to ask yourself why you bent over backwards to ask women ever so politely, apologetically, and non-judgmentally (none of which detracted at all from them getting hostile, of course) to dress tznius a few days ago, but an appeal to men is expressed in such harsh terms. I guess men’s sensitivities don’t matter.

    3. If popular culture portrays women as objects, and this affects men’s perception of women (which I of course agree with), then men who feel that way aren’t being “idiots”, they are simply the products of their corrupt culture. So the conclusion from this shouldn’t be “man are bad”, but “men should stay away from secular culture, it’s bad for them; they should learn more Torah to wash out their brains. They should guard their eyes from seeing immodest images.” So it’s not enough to say “let go of your idea of attraction,” because as long as they are exposing themselves to this bombardment, this is the way that they will think and feel; not because they’re “idiots,” but because they’re polluting their minds and hearts.

    4. When one goes on a shidduch, a certain amount of attraction is necessary on both sides. However, I agree totally that secular conceptions of beauty corrupt one’s approach to meeting a G-d-fearing girl with the goal of setting up a G-d-fearing home, and that they must be discarded before one goes on a shidduch.

    5. By the way, I think the recent trend to include pictures on a “shidduch resume” is really foolish.

    • MJ

      No

  • Bentzy

    Well put, Elad. You’re no idiot :).

  • Chaya Kurtz

    When I was fat and had a problem with my hair and acne all over my face, I would have loved this post. I still have no fashion sense, but I gotta say that for me, I could not marry someone I was not attracted to. I married someone who I thought was good-looking. Is my husband Channing Tatum/Alec Baldwin/some other Hollywood male ideal? No. But he is nice looking and well groomed. To some extent, looks do matter. You have to look at this person for the rest of your life. I said no fat guys when I was dating, and I married a thin guy. I am grateful to be married to someone who does not like to sit around eating chicken wings and smoking pot. Looks are typically part of a whole package. Yes, Hollywood and Vogue magazine and GQ are taking the ideal too far, but it is fair to expect a spouse to be pleasant looking and well groomed. If you hate the fact that your spouse has no chin, he or she will never grow a defined chin, and you’re going to hate looking at it for the rest of your life.

    • These are all very good points, but I don’t think they contradict the article. Here’s the line that I think is key to all this: “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.”

      I think what you’re describing is very basic, simple needs that were important to you. And, if you look at your wording, everything is about what you did NOT want. And they’re not crazy or anything, just what you needed to be happy.

      My point isn’t that we shouldn’t have “standards” but that men’s standards have gone beyond wildly skewed. And rather than just worrying about not being unattracted, there are certain unnatural expectations they come into the process with. There’s a difference between not wanting someone who is overweight and demanding a supermodel. A very big difference. That’s what this is about.

      • Chaya Kurtz

        Straight up, when people have long unrealistic laundry lists of requirements for shidduchim, it is a sign that they don’t want to get married. It is a defense mechanism against marriage. Realistic: Employed, no criminal history, decent person, nice looking and well groomed. Unrealistic: I am a 40 year old overweight man who is a BT, and I will only marry a 23 year old FFB who looks like a model.

        • I could see that being the case for some, but I don’t think you could make that a blanket statement. IMO, from the men I’ve discussed it with, and the people who seem to be having issues with this, they aren’t even aware that they’re doing anything weird. It’s become normal to have these expectations.

          • Chaya Kurtz

            Huh. Interesting. I still think it is a sign of not wanting to get married quite yet. Or a sign of not being ready to actually love and accept someone in the way that spouses love and accept each other. Basically it is self-centeredness and immaturity.

          • Agreed. Thus, “idiots”. 🙂

          • Chaya Kurtz

            Haha I get your point. I just like to be more specific when I point out other people’s faults.

  • Leah

    This idea is so beautifully expressed in your writing and so so true.

  • Tuvia

    My secular friends married all kinds of women. Some were more physically striking than others. All were women of great quality – both Jew and gentile.

    What I notice about my frum friends (BT and FFB both) is a tendency to overvalue women’s looks. How can you expect otherwise? They don’t really get to know women as friends, don’t get to make love with different women, experience difference women, have relationships that are meaningful with different women.

    My secular buddies are kind of cream of the crop types – handsome, ivy league, great character traits – they knew a lot about themselves and about what they wanted in a girl before they settled down. Physically striking was clearly not the top of the list for the most part.

    One other thing: I don’t think (as some commenters here suggest) that men are not ready to marry, or women are not ready to marry, and that is what causes the problem. I’ve noticed that Jewish men may find themselves very interested in non-Jewish women, or frequently Asian women. I’ve noticed that Jewish women think a lot of non-Jewish guys are more attractive, and even have better personalities they “click” with more easily.

    What they are really not so fond of are fellow Jews. That is the shidduch crisis in a nutshell. They don’t want to marry a fellow Jew – someone by the way they have an unusually close genetic relationship with (which may account for the reluctance on an unconscious level – just a theory) – but they feel internally conflicted about marrying out.

    I think if it was easy and accepted to convert people to Judaism, you would see a much easier time for young Jews to get married. There would be far more “intermarriage,” but if it was very acceptable to convert the spouse and not considered a big deal – and an unacceptable path to happy marriage – it would help solve the shidduch crisis in a big way.

    Tuvia

  • Noaj

    I think that the comment of Tuvia is a great explanation and not a simple clasification as “idiots” is. The only thing in these empty times that most of these guys can understand is looks. I didnt like his converting solution. He made the same simplification but in hisvsolution. Also, even i respect the writter a lot is difficult to accept so easyly the idiot clasification after being an idiot. He really never will know how to chose not like an idiot when he was an idiot

    • Anon

      I really think men and women need to communicate better on this topic. It is truly great to find a discussion where men, even if a few are talking trash, are trying to analyse themselves. The sad truth is most men [the ‘idiot’ ones I suppose], when the subject is even broached, would merely get defensive. I guess that fades with maturity. Certainly in my experience anyway. My boyfriend was a ‘trophy girlfriend’ chaser for years. Then he met me. He says I am the most beautiful woman he has dated, but I hide my looks, don’t wear makeup, cover my skin etc (not for religious reasons, just for self respect) and genuinely don’t believe I can possibly be more attractive than ALL of his exes. Certainly not by modern standards as one of them was a corset toting dancer who fitted right in at a burlesque club… very conventionally attractive. So I suspect his eyes have matured… he sees me as a whole, not just my skin. That is when you know your man is a fine wine type (will get better with age) rather than a cheap lager type (is only going to give you a bellyache) I guess. If only more women were as lucky as me. And I think that is precisely what the writer of this post would like to see. Good on him. You are part of the solution, not the problem.

  • Nirel

    There is one key element, one critical piece to this concept of “attraction” that is a bit ‘off’ and it must be said. Men are visual creatures, much more so than women – it has been proven many times that if a man is not attracted to a woman, it wont work, we are spiritual creatures- YES. but our soul is encased within a face and body.

    OF COURSE a man should look past superficial -high standards of beauty when picking a mate. But what is beauty, really!? …men aren’t complete idiots!(well not most of them) They see a difference between the women they interact with everyday and the photo-shopped women in magazines, ads etc… I mean come
    on, they know that their mothers and sisters and women at synagogue and at the supermarket dont look like Bar Rafaeli…

    Attraction matters. (im not talking about that soul opening, post marriage ” I love who you are inside so naturally you become more beautiful outside) kind of attraction… Im talking , ‘wow i think she’s pretty’…sort of attraction.

    I knew a religious guy who almost word for word repeated and stressed the concepts outlined in this article…that what matters is whats inside…
    he dated, got married, and about a month later the marriage was not doing so well. He later talked to the rav and he said “Rav we get along so well, but Im not physically attracted to her. The rav said then ‘why the heck did you marry her’ he said because everyone told me if we have common goals and get along, the attraction will follow.” with MEN its much harder for this to happen.
    In order for a woman to become MORE beautiful, she has to be beautiful TO YOU in the first place.
    In the end….
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Yes?, but you have to be attracted to that beauty …otherwise you do an injustice to both of you.You must have emuna and know there is someone for everyone, and there is someone out there who will find you beautiful both physically and mentally (and spiritually and etc….) and vice versa.

    • MJ

      Women are visual too. We just don’t have the gaze default so no one cares.

  • anony

    I agree and disagree. But it will be more honest of me to focus on what motivated me to comment. There is a way in which men are “programmed” to be attracted to a certain kind of woman; the payoff being social status in all of its subtle hues and shades. But these men are boring, and while they’re common, I want to ignore this bunch.
    There are a fraction of men out there who see the real beauty of women, but this beauty is nevertheless ultimately linked to her physical attractiveness. A man can never fall in (true) love with the inner life of a woman because the inner life of women goes something like this: 1. I’m always hungry/I only want pleasure, 2. look how good I can be/everyone obey me, 3. I’ll borrow other people’s power/I’ll make others dependent on me so they won’t abandon me, in that order, with the third sphere dependent on the second, and the second on the first. Because the inner life of a woman (in my and a few others opinion) is like this, it stands to reason that unless a man is inexperienced with women, all attraction is based primarily on the physical (and his sexual impulses), and on the “super-physical” (by virtue of his physical attraction, the degree to which he shares his mental state (psychological fusion) with his wife/lover so as to compensate for her (perceived) inadequacies. A man who fuses with his wife does not truly love his wife (since the fusion is motivated by the belief that she is inadequate as she is). (I must make a note here for the sake of accuracy, that fusion can be motivated by his own inadequacy, internalized inadequacy based on subtle “castrations” during the relationship, or abuse on the part of his lover; in short, there are many paths to fusion…). That leaves the man who recognizes that his attraction to his lover is physical, but nevertheless appreciates the simplicity of this attraction, never pitying her or “looking down on her”, but accepting her for what she is, and respecting the areas where she differs along with her freedom to be different.

    • anony

      I just reread this and thought I should make another note. Psychological fusion is often viewed as an “ideal” since it marks how close you are. It at times even goes by the name emotional intimacy, but this is incorrect. If you’ve ever had a best friend, then you realize you can love someone without fusing with them. In my view, it’s impossible to love someone and be fused with them at the same time.

    • Anon

      ‘the inner life of women goes something like this: 1. I’m always hungry/I only want pleasure, 2. look how good I can be/everyone obey me, 3. I’ll borrow other people’s power/I’ll make others dependent on me so they won’t abandon me’
      I don’t know where you meet these women but wow…. start socializing in different places and spheres.

  • RC

    Going to have to disagree, and I think the Menahal at my yeshiva who is well known for his marriage series tapes might disagree as well. He once said that a man will think a woman is an A – attractive or very attractive, a B – attractive, but not that attractive, or a C – he doesn’t find her attractive. His next sentence: “If she is a C, forget about her!”

    In regard to this size 0 garbage, I think it is women and the fashion industry who perpetuate that because that vast majority of guys I know would much rather marry a full-figured woman. Interestingly enough that same Menahal mentioned times defining tastes. I disagree because certain facial features have always been considered more attractive (although they are based on personal tastes, culture, and ethnicity, facial symmetry has been scientifically proven to be the biggest factor of facial attraction across ethnic groups for both men and women), and while tastes in bodies have changed, it has usually always been what is considered the healthier body in that time that has been considered more attractive (hence larger women being considered more attractive in times when food was scarce and slimmer women being considered more attractive in our times when obesity is common and food is overabundant.)

    Regarding those who say we will all get old and ugly, there are many 50+ year old women in this day and age who look better than teenagers because they took care of their health…and just because they happen to have more attractive facial features. I’ve seen 300+ pound women who were 10s in the face. I can also go to a nursing home and very easily tell you which 90 year old woman was absolutely stunning 70 years ago and which one was never that attractive.

    As far as the whole media/Hollywood argument, I don’t judge a woman’s attractiveness based on some picture or image I see. I see attractive Jewish women every day – at school, at the grocery store, at the dry cleaner, at shul, at a Shabbos table. While I might occasionally see a woman who is more attractive than my wife, I would not want to be married to someone and constantly see women who were more attractive than them.

    I also know men who thought they were above physical attraction and married a woman they weren’t so attracted to. They’re divorced, and will highly advise other men to make sure they marry a woman they are physically attracted to. My Menahal also said in that shiur that a B can become an A, but a man should not marry a woman unless he thinks she is an A. He’s been a shidduch mentor for over 1000 people, so I think he knows what he is talking about.

  • Bob Stride

    You can’t mess with evolution, men are interested in fertile females, attraction isn’t a choice, just as the women who are interested in guys who are basically thugs and criminals.

    • Anon

      Do you actually think that ‘fertile’ and the modern standards of ‘attractive’ are the same thing? Biologically speaking (my science) fertility in the female would have to do with the regularity of her menstrual cycle, the chemical and physical state of her Fallopian tubes, whether or not she carries genetic flaws that could lead to spontaneous miscarriage etc. These factors have little to do with aesthetic appearance, least of all by modern ideals. And if you are referring to breasts… even tiny ones are capable of producing more than enough excellent quality breast milk… like most of Asia. But so can enormous breasts (so long as they are not damaged under their own weight which, believe it or not, does happen). Indeed, if you are attempting to hint at evolutionary psychology and related research… visual signs of fertility would relate to signs of ovulation (commonly swollen lips, but breasts smaller than at any other point of the cycle…) or relate to signs of previous successful childbearing (conversely stretch marks, drooped breasts and belly potentially). Notice that the modern ‘porno’ idea doesn’t even factor in there… Indeed recent research has found that a male’s socioeconomic status is curiously linked to what female he chooses (richer men tend to lean towards slimmer women). There is also a growing body of research into the importance of smell. For example, it has been found that women can actually group men by smell into groups with different immune profiles. Presumably it factors for males too. Not to mention how previous experiences affect your future attractions… So you see, it is a complicated picture, and at an individual level comes down to personal choice, not fertility chasing. And why you think women want a thug is beyond me… I’ve never known a woman who would want a thug over a well spoken, charming, intelligent decent man.

  • ILoveChocolate73

    This article is fantastic because it is so true. You are marrying someone not because of their looks, but because of their personality and who they are, and how you can make both of your lives more enjoyable with each other.
    However, if you are, dare I say, shallow and prioritize beauty over personality and character, then you are fighting a losing battle in finding life-long love

  • The Science Is In! MEN ARE IDIOTS! http://www.menareidiots.net

  • Joy DeBoer

    As a women, this article is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for putting it out there. The pressure we feel to be attractive is crushing. It’s like being in a 24 hour a day beauty contest. We feel the gaze and judgement, both positive and negative, from every man we pass on the street. Neither feels good at all. Perhaps it’s not natural to expect men to completely forgo noticing the physical attractiveness of women, but when society consistently reinforces that it’s the MOST important thing about you, it becomes a form of oppression.

  • Tir

    As a beautiful woman who was born this way, blonde and petite, I married the man who got to know me and loved my kindness and intelligence. Men who loved my beauty were common, but the man who loved me for me, flaws and all, was a keeper. Now I’m still turning heads but the only one I care about is the man who saw me as a person and not just a sex object. I value and love him.