NYC Taxi Driver Tells It Straight

Why do aidel maidels need to be so tznius? The mashal is often given to a precious diamond, which is kept hidden away in a safe, not exposed where anyone can see or steal it.

In the opening anecdote of Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt’s latest article, a NYC taxi driver explains the problem with this comparison:

 

We usually don’t take a car,” the yeshiva boy says to the driver, an older Irish man with a hearty laugh and a dapper straw hat. “But the lady was inappropriately attired (he winks at his date), in her heels I mean, so we had to — “

The yeshiva boy’s date cuts him off and leans forward to the driver, deciding to turn her frustrations into a joke: “Sir, he doesn’t really care about the heels. It’s my actual choice of attire that he finds inappropriate. My skirts are too short, it makes him nervous, he won’t even call me by my name, you know how religious boys are…”

The driver turns the corner. “That’s the problem with religion, it’s sexist,” he says, looking at her in his mirror. “I know because my parents were religious Catholics. It’s all a bunch of sexist garbage.”

The boy and girl laugh nervously over the profanity, and the girl says slowly, “Well, I don’t think religion itself is sexist, it’s just that chauvinists still exist…” She casts the boy a look.

The boy turns back to the driver: “But don’t you agree, sir, that if you have the most precious diamond in the world, you keep it wrapped up? You don’t take it to the streets to show the entire world?”

The girl gasps silently — she is taken backwards in time, back to the apologetics they taught in 7th grade, again and again, bas melech, kol kvoda pnima, a princess’s honor is all inside, a divine jewel to be kept hidden…

But before she can respond, the driver presses the brakes. He turns around and faces the yeshiva boy, and says slowly, his voice shaking with rage: “Listen to me, boy. This is not an object you’re talking about. This is a living, breathing human being.”

 

What he is saying is: when you lock someone away like a diamond, you are treating them like property, not a person.

This is how objectification works:  By preventing other humans from meeting your “diamond,” you prevent other humans from acknowledging their humanity. The other humans only know about them from descriptions. This, essentially, turns them into objects defined by their description.

Not making sense? I’ll be less abstract:

If men learn about women strictly from a photo proffered by a shadchan, then they will accept and reject women based on the simplest algorithm: appearances. Which objectifies women. So, by keeping women hidden from men, you objectify them. You do not protect them.

I can’t believe I blogged about shidduchim for seven years and never realized this.

But there you go: that is the root problem. The reason why shidduch dating is so offensive.

There’s another, similar, point to be made about sexualization. Arguably, there is nothing overtly (or possibly even covertly) sexual about a woman’s knees. However, if a gentleman glances at your knees, blushes, looks away, and refuses to look at you anymore, then your knees have just been sexualized. And you have just been turned into an object. A sexual object. Something that can’t be looked at without creating sexual thoughts, because everything about you — and especially your knobbly knees — are sexual.

In the opening story, the boy (and yes, he’s a boy not a man or even a guy) decided that Avital’s skirt was too short to be seen in public. He begins making decisions for her about how she ought to appear in public, on the theory that she’s not a person, she’s a diamond. Bam! Objectified! Sexualized!

So you see why Avital was a little upset.

By the way, I’m awed by her presence of mind and her guts in telling that smug bochur how it is. She’s my new rebbe. I’m a total fan. Go read her article.

Also, thank you NYC for having awesome taxicab drivers.

 

 

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Single Due to Demographic Genetics

Back in my younger days, I once came across a dating profile where the guy put “slim” first on his list of “looking for.” It was also underlined. I immediately threw it out. In the high-minded idealism of youth I disdained such blatant shallowness, such unabashed superficiality, such emphasis on the thin cosmetic veneer of our physical interface with the world.

Also, I was fairly certain I wasn’t pretty enough for someone like that.

Back in said youth, it was rare to come across a profile where physical traits were mentioned, let alone emphasized. Yes, we all know why people ask for pictures. And sure, I heard about guys who added an addendum for the shadchan detailing their preferences. Oh the Shabbos afternoons, comforting the girls who accidentally saw the “for the shadchan only” entry on a SYAS profile! “He wants a buxom wife, only he didn’t say it quite so nicely,” or “He requested ‘plump and proud.’ Seriously?! I’m not proud—I’m on a diet!”  But none of these were purposely stated to the female party herself.

Recently, as I date older and older guys, I’ve noticed a shift. Now I get profiles where “Looking for” begins with the usual “Kind, caring, sweet, nurturing” but then moves on to “petite blond with blue eyes, who I can carry across the threshold of our first apartment. Giggling a must.”

Actually, the last profile I got skipped the “kind, caring, sweet, nurturing” and went straight to “pretty, well-dressed, outgoing, shorter than me.”

Far from offensive, I find these profiles to be a relief. Usually I give anyone who sounds reasonable a fair shot. But thanks to these profiles, I now know that I don’t have a fair shot. We can debate how sweet I am, but factually I am not blond, not petite, not outgoing, and I have never in my life giggled.

So I quickly return an email to the would-be matchmaker explaining that while I am shorter than the  5’6” gentleman, I haven’t got a single pair of dress shoes with heels less than 2” high. Thanks for thinking of me, but I guess not this time.

People will protest that I’m aiding and abetting in a  typical older-single tactic: eliminating options rather than being open  to them. “If everything else is right, he won’t mind that you have bouncy hair instead of swingy hair.” After all, everyone’s hair looks the same after the wedding anyway. You can get a blond sheitel, blue contacts, wear ballet flats, and learn to giggle. If everything else is right.

First off, it’s unlikely that everything else will be right. And you’ll never be given a chance to find out if you don’t pass the Looks Test.

And let’s not downgrade the importance of that test!

Maybe the guy really has issues with brunettes. They just look so much smarter and more bookish than blonds. Have you ever seen a blond librarian? And what color is the hair of all the evil women in the movies? Hm? Dark, maybe?  And let’s not start with redheads. Oy vey. Since when is red a Jewish hair color? It’s downright prust. And it smacks of intermarriage. Where do you think Dovid Hamelech got his hair color from? I bet you it wasn’t the Jewish side of the family.

Maybe curly hair horrifies him. Why can’t it just go straight? Pick a direction and go with it! None of this zigging and zagging like a target dodging potshots. There’s something inherently dishonest about curly hair. Have you ever seen a truly aidel maidel with kinky locks? Do you know what“kinky” is a synonym for? Q.E.D.

Brown eyes are boring. Grey are depressing. Green are weird. And hazel eyes? What the heck are hazel eyes anyway? That’s just another way of saying you’ve never been decisive about your eye color. If you can’t decide something as simple as that, how are you ever going to choose a baby name?  Stick with blue: it’s heavenly. It’s pure. It’s good and right and true. And you get a little dizzy gazing into blue eyes. That’s a good thing.

Or maybe none of the above apply. Maybe these guys just aren’t attracted to anyone they can’t keep in the china cabinet. It’s a handicap, and you should pity them not judge them. You think they want to be single? It’s not easy being so limited!

Anyhow, the way I figure it, if a guy puts that requirement in black and white on his profile, he wants the girl to see it and he wants her to self-eliminate. He’s being kind, saving everyone a lot of wasted time and money getting together, having a pleasant time, and then racking their brains to come up with a plausible reason to break up so they can get back to blissfully date-free Sundays.

Or maybe I’m just looking for ways to eliminate options rather than be open to them.  Am I getting to be one of those older singles?  Maybe, under “Looking for” on my profile I should put “Six-foot tall, broad-shouldered man with commanding but gentle personality, a uniform, and a secret second job as a spy.” It will help drive away the riffraff. And then I can enjoy those blissful, date-free Sundays.

Open Letter

Dear Girlfriends,

You put up with a lot of criticism when dating. Even if you staunchly stand against nose jobs, it can’t help but get to you: all that disapprobation of how you dress, how you look, how you do your hair and carry yourself. What you say on a first date and what you shouldn’t have said. Some say you’re not modest enough. Some say you’re too modest—you’re not in high school anymore. Some say be yourself; some say don’t lay it on too thick at first. Whatever you do is somehow wrong, and that’s the reason you’re still single.

Well, I think you’re great. I love how your funny texts make me stifle a laugh at work. I love how those thought-provoking articles you send me lead to month-long email conversations. I love how we can spend Shabbos afternoon flopped on the couch discussing everything from the social effects of microfinance to the use of taupe in eyeshadow. I love how you’re up for everything, from winter camping and art museums to sledding and Nerf skirmishes and splashing through puddles in thunderstorms. And I love how you bustle in to look after me (or our other friends) when we need a little tender loving care.

You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re kind and considerate. You’re adventurous, thoughtful, and completely unique.  (Your grandmother agrees with me about this, by the way.) I’m proud to count you as my friends.

Don’t let those other people get to you. They don’t know you well enough, and they’re too shallow themselves to delve beyond your surface. Those guys who complained about your hair, your makeup? Too busy keeping artificial scores to experience real life. The one who ditched you because he worried you weren’t pretty enough to show his friends? He’s the one who should be self-conscious, not you. (Your grandmother agrees with this too.)

All of that is not why you’re single. Ignore it like the static it is. One day, a guy won’t ditch you after a second date. One day, a guy will take the time to get to know you like I know you, and appreciate you like I appreciate you. Then you’ll realize how wrong all those other people were. And you’ll giggle at his texts, send him your favorite articles, and shoot him with your Nerf gun when he comes home at night. (For the eyeshadow debate you can’t replace us.)

Because, though often repeated, it’s also true: you aren’t married because you just haven’t found the right guy yet. Somewhere, out there, is a guy as smart, funny, thoughtful, and deep as you are. And you’ll find him, eventually, because you deserve to.

I know this is true. Even your grandmother says so.

With love, your friend,

Bad4

Oh Why Not: More Nose Job Links

I am posting these links because I think they have started an intriguing conversation on how much pretty is enough? How much is too much? When do we blame the girls for being ugly?  When do we blame the guys for being shallow? When do we blame the system that produced both cases? When do we turn the tables and let girls start demanding rich men or best bochurim? What is an okay cosmetic surgery to have? What isn’t?

Let me know if I’m missing anything good.

I like this one because the guys making the demands are usually not candidates for the leading role in a blockbuster. I have heard guys complaining about a girl’s hairstyle (“I don’t like those pouf thingies,” or “It wasn’t done nicely enough”), clothing (“Tell her not to wear all black”), and makeup (“She wasn’t wearing enough”) when they themselves were bald, wearing the same boring suit to each date, and had impressive equators. Hey, women may not be as visual as men, but we’re not blind.

  • Rabbi Fink says our young people are too insulated to know how to look pretty or to look for anything else in a spouse, and says he nose how to fix things: a little inter-gender mingling. There’s something to be said for this. Shidduch dates are artificial and rarely give anyone a chance to shine. IRL, it’s often surprising who you get along with and to what degree. This would explain otherwise implausible non-Jewish marriages. We never get a shot at it.
  • Rabbi Farber points out that forcing guys to describe their ideal girl beforehand, we force men to create ridiculous checklists that in turn lead to the sort of situation described in the article. I think he’s agreeing with Rabbi Fink.
  • Rabbi Abromowitz of the OU writes a lengthy drosha that I only skimmed because there were too many parenthetic citations, but this caught my eye:

But how would it fly if she were advised that her son could attract far more beautiful girls if he gave up his studies and focused all his efforts on making as much money as possible?

Yay! Permission for girls to be shallow! The pretty ones, anyway. Oh wait, was that not his point?

Rabbi Boteach suggests that instead of making prettier women, we should make men more mature. I think it’s telling that the indignant male respondents tend to be over the age of 35. So, maybe we should let them become old men before agreeing to date them? I was  however, a little disturbed by his description of femininity:

They’re supposed to be influenced by its values and judge a woman’s beauty not just by her hourglass shape but by her incisive opinions, graciousness of character, and spiritual glow. It’s the feminine which draws the masculine, and the feminine is something subtle, noble and refined. It is vulgarized when it becomes entirely about the physical form and rapidly loses its appeal.

Wait, wait. Now I have to be subtle, noble, and refined? I have a better chance with the nose job. How do I get in touch with that Floridian doctor dude?

Thursday Link: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Nose Jobs

I don’t  want to fan flames that don’t need help, but I really liked parts of this response article by Rabbi Boteach (HT to the Kansas Rabbi again):

…perhaps the young women felt relieved that they were actually going to meet creatures with greater depth than some shallow guy. In attending a shidduch event where they would meet Moms, rather than immature men, perhaps they felt relieved that they could actually be themselves. Maybe, just this once, they would be looked on as a man’s equal, someone who is judged by how much she has developed her intelligence and emotions, rather than bust size, cheek bones, and leg length.Alas, it was not to be. Even the women, even the mothers, have had their ideals corrupted. And if these are the values with which orthodox Jewish mothers are today raising their sons, then it’s no surprise why their sons are so shallow, immature, and lost.

Two-in-One Package

If my defense of the Jewish nose did not impress you, and you have decided to trim your tooter, you can now get it done over vacation for merely the price of a plane ticket.

A Floridian plastic surgeon is offering his rhinoplasty services pro-bono to eligible singles who would really benefit from a rebuilt rhinos. Take a week off for some fun in the sun, come back with a new nose. What could be a better deal?

Even better, you can see his work showcased in the topical music video by the Groggers – the lead singer has his nose done in exchange for the song. The credits in the video roll between a before and after profile.

HT to the Not-in-Kansas-Anymore Rabbi

Not Something to Sniff At

I suppose I should weigh in on this Jewish Press article that has so many people in a tizzy. (Thanks Mother for alerting me; thanks O and everyone else for producing it.)

The article, in brief, is about a mother of a short-term learner who went to an event for hopeful wives of long-term learners, and was affronted by how little glitz she saw in the room. The aidels were barely wearing makeup, most had not chemically straightened their hair, and none seemed to have a nose job or stomach staple. Really, how did they expect to get married?

She goes on to describe how her life changed once she put her own proboscis under the knife, including her switch from single to married status.

Well, you can imagine the resultant horror among the JP readership. She lopped off her nose? Our European ancestors, in the alte heim, were persecuted for that nose! And she just ditches it because it became inconvenient?  The very idea!

Moreover, that nose she discards so carelessly was once considered quite regal. It was good enough for Caesar. It was good enough for Augustus and Octavius. It was even good enough for Caligula, who had no compunctions about taking a knife—or even a sword—to anything he didn’t like. And he left his nose untouched, thank you very much.

Caligula's Schnozz

Caligula's Sniffer

But it’s the betrayal that bothers me the most. I don’t know how you feel about it, but my nose has been with me since birth, through thick and thin. It’s the first thing to greet me when I gaze into the mirror in the morning. It has always let me know when my mother was baking, so that I could sneak into the kitchen for a sample. It warned me when the water in camp was sulfuric. It keeps tabs on the milk in the fridge, alerts me when the veggies I forgot in the crisper pass over to the other side, and lets me know when someone has made a fresh pot of coffee in the office.

We’ve grown from these experiences together (although not always at matching rates). I consider my nose an old friend. What kind of person is so cavalier about excising such a loyal companion? If this is how easily she lops off a friend who has been at her side (so to speak) for her entire life, imagine how she treats friends of lesser duration when they become inconvenient. I’m so relieved we didn’t go to school together.

Besides, there is more to a nose than its mere physiognomy. How it is treated, presented, and carried, indeed, the very attitude of its bearer toward it, will create the overall effect of the nose much more than its actual topography. A charming, graceful, feminine woman can carry off a beak of less delicacy than herself. The trick is not to walk around with your head hanging in shame, as if your nose is weighing your face down. Carry it with pride! Pride for your heritage, pride for its regal cast, and pride because it’s a part of you—and you’re worth being proud of. However, I will concede, that if a woman is still single at 23 she should probably go to charm school to learn a more demur carriage and delicate bearing.

Cleopatra's Beak

Cleopatra's Beak

Another technique is to remove the focus from your nose entirely by being so lively and flirtatious that nobody can spare the time to focus on your schnozz. There is an ancient Egyptian saying: “She who can flirt with the pros can rock any nose.” It dates back to Cleopatra, who, according to legend, was well endowed in the nasal way. And yet she was a talented seductress, seducing no less than J. Caesar himself, who had no shortage of beautiful women chasing him.

How did she do that? Legend relates that when Caesar came to town, Cleo didn’t wait for an invitation. She had herself rolled into a rug and delivered to Julius as a gift. When he unrolled the rug, out she popped, batting her eyelashes, patting down her hair, and asking to hear in person about how he tamed those Gauls.

I recommend that the self-consciously benosed maidel try something similar for her next date. Instead of shyly sidling nose-first into the dining room where your date is making polite small-talk with your parents, wrap yourself in the living room rug and roll in with a bang! Leap out and announce, “I’m he-ere!” Ask him something flattering and personal. Start the date like this and do you think he’ll even glance at your nose for a second? I sincerely doubt it.

JP's unairbrushed schnozz

JP's unairbrushed schnozz

There is one more non-surgical treatment for an unbeautiful nose. Think of the many famous people who have had unartistic sniffers. Due to rhinophyma, JP Morgan’s nasal organ was a different shape and color every day. Yet he was well beloved by his two wives, four children, and the ever-insolvent US government. And consider one of the more famous big schnozzes of the silver screen: Barbra Streisand. Although her nose was the subject of public criticism, she married twice. From this we can derive a very simple solution to the nosily impaired—one simple step that will have men beating a path to your door: become rich and famous. Because, it is well known, you cannot be both rich and ugly at the same time.

And that is the real way to solve the shidduch crisis.

Beautiful Barb as God Bequeathed Her

Beautiful Barb as God Bequeathed Her