Say Shidduch!

It was one of those urban legends that high school girls gasp and get indignant about early in the a.m. on shabbatons. That your high school graduation picture is your official shidduch picture. That mothers dig up yearbooks to find your face before approving a date, that yeshiva guys spend late afternoons flipping through the “Graduates” section choosing their favorite mug shots, that no men’s dormitory is complete without a stack of yearbooks for dating purposes.

Naturally, we were indignant. We were still naive high school girls, confident that our marriages would be based on something more elevated than appearances. Plus, we found the idea of guys looking at photos of girls a bit obscene.

To a great extent, and for much the same reasons, many of us still do. The idea of having to surpass a minimum threshold of good looks makes us indignant. Beauty is only skin deep, it’s what inside that counts, and how can you judge someone by the color of their eyes? we argue. Ugly people deserve a fair shot, we protest. There are many (fat) guys happily married to overweight girls who they swore they wouldn’t date for weight reasons, we point out. Would you like it if we asked for pictures of you? we demand.

I, personally, don’t care to know what my date looks like beforehand. There’s a pleasant element of surprise in the process without it. Especially if there’s a phone call first – then you build up some preconceived notion based on the voice which is nearly always wrong and just heightens the fun.

But another point is that nobody really looks like their picture. A picture is a frozen moment in time – usually a posed, fake moment frozen under strong lights. When you look at a real person, they’re animated by personality, and after time, your perception of themย  becomes clouded by what you know about them personally. I’ve actually failed to recognize some people in photographs because they’re just not the same when they’re not moving.

Of course, I have a personal bias against the photo thing, because I don’t have a single photograph of me that I like. The quest for the perfect shidduch photo has been ongoing since I threw my high school graduation pictures in the trash. Whenever my critics (read, family and friends) assure me that I look presentable, we snap a few pictures, but they never like the results. Whereas, the one picture that everyone seems to like is one where I don’t actually look like myself – I’m wearing a hand-me-up jacket from my sister, have straightened hair, etc. The fact that people preface their comments on the photo with “Is that you?” kinda clinches it. It’s enough to make a girl lose confidence and enter a convent. Or just refuse to date guys who request a photograph. Hey – if they want to know what I look like, they can just find themselves a yearbook.

23 thoughts on “Say Shidduch!

  1. Suggestion to the girls out there: Next time a guy asks for a picture, demand a picture of him as well. When you receive the picture call the shadchan and say you don’t like his looks and are thus not interested.

  2. If anyone meets me after seeing my high school yearbook picture, they’re in for a shock: My friends had me take off my glasses and straighten my hair for the occasion, which automatically made me look like a different person. Picture day was the proverbial bad hair day, with a hot, fine mist coating the city. My allergies were flaring, tinting my eyes a delicate pink as they swelled to twice their size. Plus, I did my growing late and my face has changed since then. All things considered, the photo still looks pretty nice, if a bit glazed-eyed.

    Anyway, I’m also on a quest for a good “shidduch picture.” For now, I’ve been using a campy one (well, nothing seems to happen during the year that’s worth taking pictures of!) that really looks like me (well, minus the photoshopped zits) even though it doesn’t really fit the shidduchville mold. Sigh — what to do? The fact is, a “shidduch photo” will never look like me — because the real me isn’t dressed up for a date unless I’m on one.

  3. so the first time someone asked me for a picture, i said i was not interested in the boy, becuase i think it is a sick concept and so far from tznius….so now when im asked for apicture, i need clarification – is it for the person who is redding the shidduch, becuase then thats ok. lots of shiduchim come through family freinds of family freinds who heard about me from someone… so the shadchan wants a picture to say “yeah, i saw her shes pretty” if its the boy who wants the picture because he only goes out with a certain type, and wants to make sure i fit the profile before agreeing to a date, i wish him and his ego a very happy life together because im not interested.

    my high school picture is so horrendous, it hurts. our school changes photographers the last minute, from a good one, to a super cheap one… the lights were so strong that i literaly have sweat glistening on my face, my hair is super frizzy (again from the lights) and he used all these stupid poses, that most of them looked like i was praying in church. and my school didnt allow retakes. or touch ups. every pimple (remember, this was highschool) is clearly seen in all its glory… shudder. its terrible.

  4. Argh the idea of shidduch photos are extremely disturbing.
    I was practically the only girl in my grade who ventured to do her OWN make-up and hair.
    Some of my close friends did one another’s hair/make-up. But I did my own, thinking that the $60 I saved by doing my own make-up, and the $20 (or more) I saved on my hair will go well toward ConEd or another more important cause.
    If people don’t like my pic, that’s tough on them. It’s not like I didn’t put any effort into it. I carefully applied more than my usual minimal make-up and spent an extra 10 minutes perfecting my hair, but otherwise, that pic is ALL ME.

    I know, i know, that’s why I’m still single, you’ll say.

  5. I don’t need a photograph to assess whether or not all go out on a date with someone. As long as the person setting us up takes into account our respective personalities and lifestyles, as well as general desired physical traits into account when making the shidduch, I’ll pretty much go out with anyone. I ask the person setting me up why s/he thinks the person could be potential match and if I’m not given a good reason, I balk.

  6. Hah. We didn’t even HAVE “school pictures”. My “senior picture” was taken at Sears; my sister did my hair and I did my makeup. Not to mention, I think I have one of only 4 copies of my high school yearbook, so it’s not like any guys are going to see it anyway!

    I have a couple of pictures I can show of myself if requested, but in general, I haven’t been asked. B”H.

  7. Hmmm…

    How do I look in my high school photo?

    Cute, I guess. I was in one of my short hair phases, so that is now out. Besides for being a whole lot cuter now, I guess I look pretty much the same.


  8. I’m not in many pictures of late, so my default is my school composite photo. Oh well, at least its proof that I do, on occassion, wear a suit (though as I recall, I wore a tie, jacket, and cargo shorts (not pictured).

  9. Hi…I’ve just been reading a little of your blog and you sound pretty cool & intelligent. I’m a secular jewish girl by the way,in the south and have rarely come across religious jews. But I’m just wondering….why so worried about being “a spinster” at age 21?

  10. If you’re having trouble getting a good shidduch photo, have you considered going to a professional photographer? It might be worth it, if you care about having a good photo. Then again, you might decide it’s totally not worth the money, or the effort, or you could be against it in principle. I’m not sure what I would do in such a situation.

    Going to public school, pretty much everyone had their senior photo done professionally. As a result, I look way better in my senior photo than I do in real life (then or now). Though 6 years have passed since the photo was taken, so it wouldn’t even be accurate. Back when I was on frumster (before I gave up on it) I had a photo in my profile that was taken by a friend while we were on an archaeological dig. It came out nicely despite the fact that I wasn’t wearing make-up or anything. (I did happen to have earrings on, for some reason. It was just a random picture.) I haven’t found anything as good as that since. Except for maybe a picture of me in my Purim costume, though I was wearing a lot of red (including red wings) and was spinning red wool, so that would not be very tzenua.

  11. what’s next after pictures, making the girl submit a sample of their cooking to be judged by the family to see if she is suitable? Videotaping them baby sit their young ones to see how well a mother she will be? Seriously!

  12. I know a couple (now long married, three children) who were originally set up, the man was shown a picture of the woman, and he declined. A year or so later (I don’t remember the exact length of time), they met at some event, and decided to go out. Only much later did the people who were going to set them up originally tell him that the woman he was marrying was the one he had turned down because of her photograph…

  13. Hey Confused:

    It’s a drop of ironic exaggeration on my part. So much emphasis is put on marrying at this point in a religious Jew’s life, that you can practically feel the expectation. And if you can’t find your match after several years of heavy dating, people assume there’s something wrong, and feel bad for you. 21 is a drop young to be a spinster, but when more 70% of your high school grade is married at that age, you begin to feel an oddity.


  14. Thanks for clearing that up. So dont fretnon, good things sometimes come where you least expect it, & in the meantime, enjoy the carefree-ness life has to offer! ๐Ÿ™‚ -Katie

  15. I was just browsing some jewish site on my break when I stumbled on your blog, reading it really gave me some firsthand perspective on orthodox jewish life. And the entries are pretty cute!

  16. I’ve spent countless hours photoshopping pictures of myself and none of them come even close to what I look like in real life.

    I tell people I’m not photogenic and they never believe me. Then my mom was trying to network a little for me and sent two shadchanim some info about me and picture. I met the first one a month later and she told me that after seeing my picture she wasn’t going to set me up but now that she met me and saw that I’m really pretty she will. The second shadchan who I met with a little while later said “um just for your info it’s not a good idea for you to send pictures. Like you look good in real life but the picture wasnt so flattering.”

    And thats after three hours of photoshopping… Crazy stuff I tell you.

    Of course neither of them ever set me up but that’s another story I guess.

  17. My goal in life is to have a good Jdate photo. Really! It is like my Holy Grail. Alas, no luck yet.

    Right now I am dieting and training in preparation for a charity bike ride. Right before the ride, when I am in peak shape, I am going to give myself a belated birthday present and have my photo taken professionally, with a stylist and everything. My trainer is a model and knows all sorts of people in the field.

    Of course, it will probably look to posed for Jdate. But honestly, I just want a photo of myself that I like. It is stupid–I can look in the mirror, like what I see, and then see a photo of myself and think “damn, I am ugly!”

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