I reread the Halberstam article about whether marriageable girls wear enough makeup, after reading a claim that it was satire. The parts about the greatness of her son including the Ph.D. he is aspiring to, and Ollie’s hair straightening salon, were indeed over the top. Her hyper-sensitivity about the girls she interviews easily qualifies as satire.
This line alone could win a prize: “‘Let’s see…she had a nose job….gastric bypass …botox injections….her teeth were capped…..and she wears violet-blue contact lenses…There’s practically nothing about her that’s real!’ she laughed. ‘But…guess what? She’s getting married next month!’”
But so many sections were clearly dead serious, and as satire she failed to make her point.
I have spoken to boys in shidduchim until I was blue in my face about “inner beauty” and “real values” and their own shallowness in seeking good looks in prospective partners. I have begged them to give the girls a chance – just one date.
Believe me, I have been doing this since I was 18, and I have, b”h, made several shidduchim that resulted in marriages. I also worked as a volunteer matchmaker for Saw You At Sinai. But during all my interactions with these men, I saw over and over again (and it broke my heart) that appearance counts with them, some less, some more. So as I much as I dislike – in fact abhor – men’s emphasis on outer surfaces, I feel we all have to face the harsh reality and try to accommodate it.
This was my message, and once again I apologize if I caused you pain when all I was actually trying to do was alleviate unnecessary suffering.
I don’t think she has done anything here to calm the rage that her article provoked. I’m glad to hear that in her personal life she has tried to convince men to de-emphasize looks, but in this very public forum she seems to have given up the battle altogether. She also doesn’t address the very serious question of whether her “helpful” attitude contributes to eating disorders and other mental health problems in the Orthodox community.
I see the bigger issue as the burden that Halberstam places on the young women themselves. Does Halberstam believe that if the young women will look better, the young men will get married younger? Even if true, the same number of eligible “learners” will become available each year. Gussying up might increase each woman’s individual chances, but always at the expense of someone else. Her advice simply raises the beauty standards of the community, increases competition, and uses up limited economic resources.
Over the years readers have doubted stories that have come out about modest behavior because they sounded so ridiculous, like the Bruria Keren cult, with face covering and removing heels from shoes so they wouldn’t make noise. But sadly, they have often turned out to be ever so true.
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