Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just the Way You Are

There’s a song which I admit I only know because it was at the end of the movie Shrek, (back from when I watched movies) that goes, “Don't go changing, to try and please me, You never let me down before…I love you just the way you are.” The song was composed by Billy Joel, and yes, I had to look that up cause I had no clue, so I apologize if any of you are Billy Joel fans and you can now shake your heads at me disapprovingly. Anyway, I was thinking about the words to this song when I was thinking about how a number of my friends and people who I know go on diets and start to lose weight before they started dating. Some of the friends were very overweight, but other friends were not really overweight, they just were not skinny. They never tried to lose weight, but just as they entered shidduchim they decided it was time to start.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, most people find overweight people to be less attractive, and guys will pick girls who are skinnier over those who are heavier. So why not do what you can to increase your chances of getting a shidduch? On the other hand, isn’t it supposed to be like the song says- “I love you just the way you are”? Should a person change themselves for someone else? This side of the argument has two aspects. Firstly, isn’t it wrong to change yourself for someone else and shouldn’t they love you just the way you are? Beauty is the eye of the beholder, and some people are attracted to those who are a little heavy- I can name plenty of overweight people who are married and were overweight their entire lives, even on their wedding day- both guys and girls.

Secondly, the bottom line is that many people who lose weight often gain it back. So I feel like that’s almost “tricking” the guy in some sense. Now they are skinny so the guy falls in love with them, but after the wedding they’ll probably go back to being overweight, and it's too late, the guy already married them, so he's "stuck" with them. I guess the thought process is that after you know a person and love them for who they are, then if they change physically you see past that and still remember how beautiful they were when you met them, so if they are overweight now you’ll still be attracted to them, because your love is so strong. But when you first meet you need that attraction in order to develop the relationship, so looks matter more.

I think the general view of people who lose weight before they start dating is that it’s a good thing. But what about other changes for the sake of getting married? Where is the line between what’s Ok to change for getting married and what changes need to come from you and be about your personal decision to change regardless of whether it will help you get married or not?

For example: Let’s say a guy decides to start going to minyan every day or starts learning every day so that when people ask him if he is Kovea Itim or if he goes to Minyan he can say yes? Let’s say a girl decides to start dressing more Tzniusdic to attract a certain type of guy? Let’s say a guy is completely not shomer negiah but decides to become shomer for dating? I know I would not want to date a guy like that! Let’s say someone quits smoking or stops watching TV?

I think that if any of those things have been a goal on your list of things that you’d like to accomplish, then perhaps using dating as a chance to be the person you want to be or as an incentive to improve yourself in the areas you wanted to change before, then that might be acceptable. If you always wanted to lose weight, and trying to look good for dates is the extra push you needed, then great! But if you never wanted to give up those things, if you’re only doing it to impress people, then it’s not real, and you’re just going to go back to your real self later, so don’t be fake. Because in the end you’ll be resentful that you have to maintain a certain lifestyle that you never really wanted.

Another thing to think about is the line “I love you just the way you are.” When I first heard the line, although it sounded beautiful, I was also thinking that if a guy ever said that to me I would say, “But what if I change? Does that mean you won’t love me anymore?” Does “I love you just the way you are” mean I love you only the way you are? People change. I look back at who I was a few years ago and I was such a different person then. There is always a part of you that stays the same, but how couples have to realize the fact that who they are when they get married is not going to be the same in 50 years, or maybe even in 5 years. In some ways it’s more beautiful to say, “I love you just the way you are, but my love is unconditional and I’ll love you even if you change.”

I remember when it was towards the end of my year in Israel, and I had changed as a person in ways that I never even considered. I had expected to grow religiously, and I did, but my personality changed, too, and I wasn’t expecting that. I remember a phone conversation with my parents where I expressed my worry that maybe they wouldn’t like the new me. I still remember them telling me that they love to watch me change and they are always happy with each new person I become.

So: What do you think? What changes are OK to make solely for the sake of dating and which things are not? When is it OK to change for someone else? How do you reconcile the idea of loving someone for who they are with the idea of loving someone no matter who they become?

20 comments:

  1. wow! this is a great topic!
    i think that if someone is making this change because you always wanted to and dating is simply the catalyst to doing it, then great we all need some sort of push to do things that are hard for us. But if someone is doing it because of the name then thats as bad as going to a seminary or yeshiva for the "name."its dishonest to yourself and to the potential spouse..
    in terms of the second part, when people marry they have to go in not expecting them to change, knowing that you are going to have to live with his imperfections, cant marry them expecting that it will go away. But with that in mind, you have to bear in mind that as we grow we change.
    that is one of the good things of getting married early, you have the ability to grow together as opposed to marrying older when people have become independent and set in their own ways which makes it harder to reconcile with another person.

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  2. Hmmmmm. This is a very thorny issue.

    My sister was always naturally slim. Then she got married . . . now, not so much. I always feel guilty that my brother-in-law was sold a lemon.

    With the knowledge out there that being overweight is unhealthy, it should be admirable if someone obese starts making steps to improve. But if they view it as a temporary means to snag a guy, well, yeah, that doesn't feel right. I've always had to watch myself and I love clothing; my motivation to stay slim is based on Hungarian upbringing, nothing to do with potential spouses.

    I know you are a romantic, but we have to redefine "love" here. When two people initially meet, I doubt what exists is true, mind-altering, time-outlasting love. It's two people who get along VERY well. After a number of years together, the companionship elevates to something deeper, more profound.

    That feeling, I think, cannot be undone by a few pounds.

    Your changes in seminary were presumably not superficial, like weight or clothing; they were hashkafic in nature. If people are making temporary changes for the sake of marriage, that reflects the current mindset. People talk of their bashert, but feel they have to fool everyone because their current self isn't good enough. Meaning - it all goes back to insecurity and insuffcient bitachon.

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  3. Great topic!

    I think a lot of people make changes before shidduchim because dating requires us to think of the future and do some major introspection. What type of husband do I want? And what type of wife would my husband want?
    And then, of course, people try and fit the mold of what their dream spouse would want.

    The highest level of taking upon mitzvot is doing them simply because HaKadosh Baruch Hu told us to do so.
    However, not everyone is on that level nor can they be expected to be. So, for others, community pressure and marriage is enough to motivate them.
    I can't even tell you how many guys have said "I'll wake up for minyan when I'm married...because my wife will be my alarm clock." And from what I've seen, it's often true...men tend to become more religious when married. (There're exceptions, obviously.)

    Anyway, my point is, the motivation to change religiously for marriage can be sincere or insincere. It depends on the individual.

    Lookwise, I don't think there's anything wrong with putting your best foot forward. People get contacts, nicer clothing, start working out (ahem, men.)

    Do so many people really lose such a drastic amount of weight before shidduchim?
    It seems like the average is 5-10 lbs. That's not drastic at all. I haven't seen too many severely overweight or obese people lose 20+ lbs for shidduchim.

    But anyway, as long as the person is doing their best to look good and isn't severely unhealthy, there's no reason that their shidduch would be deterred just because of looks.
    I refuse to believe that my zivug is someone who will only like me how I am now and never if I'm 20 lbs fatter.

    Okay, I know this is a long post, but one more thing, lol.
    I was once suggested a guy and spoke to him on the phone beforehand. He told me that he wants someone very religious and also extremely good looking.
    Him: "what can I do, I like very pretty girls..."
    Me: "oh, so basically you want Sara Imeinu and a supermodel all in one package?"
    Guy: yes...basically.
    Me: You're not for me, then. (I forgot the exact word usage...this was a while ago.)

    Someone like that should either change his shallow mindset or marry someone as shallow as himself.

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  4. Aminspiration- thank you! I hear your point about getting married early before people are set in their ways, but that has its own set of problems. I know plenty of people who were very different hashkafically a few years ago- the type of person they were looking to marry would have been different. If they got married when they were young and then changed, but their spouse had not, then they would be in different places and that’s hard, too.

    Bookworm- you’re right. The feeling that two people feel when they first meet each other cannot be called love. True love of course does not change if a person gains a few pounds or otherwise changes physically. But there are different levels of love, and I think that couples experience some small level of love before marriage, even if it’s not real, true, deep, meaningful love.

    Sefardi Gal- I like your point about shidduchim causing us to be reflective, that is quite true, and definitely sounds like a good reason to change. I know one or two people who have lost over 50 pounds around the time of shidduchim. If you asked them, I’m sure they would not say that shidduchim is the reason they lost the weight, but then why didn’t they lose it a year or two before that?

    “I refuse to believe that my zivug is someone who will only like me how I am now and never if I'm 20 lbs fatter.”- I agree!!!

    I think I’m missing something in you the story you mentioned. What’s the problem with a guy wanting a girl who is religious and beautiful? Sara Imenu was beautiful and many girls who are very religious are very beautiful. Everyone would like to marry someone who is physically attractive, no?

    The good news is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are guys who my friends thought were extremely attractive and I thought were not at all, and there are guys who I thought were attractive, but they claim were ugly. It’s the same with guys. Though there are some girls who 99% of the male population (and female population) find attractive, most girls are beautiful to one guy, but not so beautiful to the next.

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  5. SternGrad - 50 lbs...whoa! I guess most people who want to lose weight are looking for "inspiration" or "a push" and dating is usually that silent pushing criticizer.

    "I think I’m missing something in you the story you mentioned. What’s the problem with a guy wanting a girl who is religious and beautiful?"
    There's nothing wrong with wanting an attractive spouse. I want a tall, dark, and handsome (in my opinion) guy, BUT I would never say that to a guy over the phone.
    What I found problematic about this guy:
    1) He didn't just want someone attractive. He wanted a frum super model.
    2) He openly admitted it on the FIRST phone conversation, without ever even meeting me. That reflected on what his priorities were/are. For all he knew, I could be hideous. His comment was the supreme example of insensitivity and shallowness.
    3) Sheker hachein v'hevel hayofi. The ikkar is not the supermodel; the ikkar is the Sara Imeinu part. Was Sara Imeinu beautiful solely because of her looks, or because of her neshama?
    It's not clear from the pshat or mefarshim, but the way I see it: the closer one is to G-d, the more they have a special glow and aura about them, which gives them "chen" (charm), and eventually, beauty.

    I was telling my friend just a few days ago: don't kid yourself. Any guy whose MAIN priority is appearance and attraction will eventually stop loving you because that's the prime example of "conditional love" which will fade, unless "ahava she'eina tluya b'davar."

    "The good news is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
    Very true. Interestingly enough, some people don't like to date those 99% objectively attractive people because they feel like the guy or gal is too good looking for them.
    I also wouldn't want someone who just about everyone finds attractive.

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  6. SternGrad the guy who says outright he wants a gorgeous girl means he wants someone who hits that 99%.

    In yeshiva, my husband was a few years below a fellow like that - the only rationale I could imagine for it was to outweigh his genes in the opposite direction. For the 10+ years we knew him he was still single; we since made aliyah.

    Once someone told me he has a "thing" for redheads and for California girls, of which I'm both. It wasn't going to last anyway, but that turned it sour really fast.

    I think shadchanim try to help these guys out who for whatever reason claim they "need" a knockout. But once the guy shows signs of poor midot, general deception in dating, or some other "internal" shortcoming - he's finished. And it usually goes that way.

    But on the other side, we also knew a fellow who said he completely didn't care what she looked like. A real baal chessed and learned and liked by everyone, and he married a normal, nice girl. But there was something wrong with his level of commitment to marriage (a kind of modern Ben Zoma you could imagine - he just couldn't modify his lifestyle of mitzvos to include a wife with any personal needs) and soon after they got divorced.

    So if someone is selfless to the extreme in the shidduch scene, it might also be a warning sign.

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  7. Correction: I meant *unlike "ahava she'eina tluya b'davar."
    (not unless)

    I should really start proof-reading my posts :D

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  8. Sefardi Gal- Ok, I understand your story now. Looks should definitely not be the MOST important thing. And I agree with you that he should not have said that to you over the phone especially when he didn't know what you look like, that's just odd. And your definitely right about Sara Imenu- the Ikkar is that she was a tzadekes.

    Shira- I never thought about the flip side- thanks for pointing it out. As much as we don't want the guy to focus only on looks, we do want a guy who finds us attractive- not someone who doesn't care what we look like at all. "Modern Ben Zoma"- I like that. :)

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  9. SternGrad,

    There should certainly be a distinction between physical changes vs. religious/ideological changes.

    Physical changes, in my opinion, are totally okay, because like you said, whatever changes down the line, it is still overwhelmingly likely that your spouse will be still be attracted to you because the love grows as time passes to encompass so much more than physicality. (ex: You probably wouldn't break up with a guy if you knew that in 10 years he would be bald, because you're attracted to him now, and whatever happens in the future, happens.)

    Ideological changes, on the other hand, are slightly more dangerous. I don't want to date a girl that just started wearing skirts cause it's good for her shidduch situation. To clarify, it isn't that I don't believe in "mitoch she lolishma be lishma." I totally do believe in that. I just want someone that's already at the lishma part.

    Tricking me into believing you're already there can be devastating not only from a religious perspective, but it has potential to kill any trust in the relationship, and no trust = no relationship.

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  10. @sephardigal- the ChaZaL is "LeOlam Yaaseh adom shelo lishma...- A person should ALWAYS do things not altruistically..." you should do things for your own reasons and eventually you will come to doing it for the right reasons. But you should remember the LeOlam part.

    As for changing for a spouse/dating. I believe to an extent that a person can give up and control certain impulses but sometimes needs an extra push in that direction. Certain things in my life I am involved in or do, that in the grand scheme of things are inconsequential to how I intend or wish to live but for whatever reason I do them now. Not because of some insidious trait I have, but because they just are. A girl once asked me about listening to NJ music whether I had a reason/heter/something why I do, and I replied because its enjoyable. Would I give it up for a girl who I felt it bothered her, in a second. Without thinking about it. Because its really not important to ME. Or as you said SternGrad, a guy going to minyan. If he cared about her feeling about it and she actually DID feel strongly and not because she is supposed to be makpid on it, he will make the extra effort. Of course this is assuming he is indeed a sensitive individual.

    Physical attributes though can be tricky. If a girl if thin and the husband is attracted to such a physique, her banking on his deeper attraction may not be the most healthy situation, for her as well! Imagine as a woman having a husband who did not find you attractive, who would look (and hopefully only that) at other women? Who is that harmful to?

    On a related note for the gallery: We are all in some sort agreement about changes for ulterior motives being bad, but how about someone (a guy) who strives to be sensitive and caring so that the girl will like him? Is there something so terrible with that, that he likes her enough to be kind to her, to treat her like a princess, to her emotional and physical needs, while he may not be that type of guy naturally?

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  11. I think there are different types of changes and i think most of us are in agreement what healthy changes are. However a question for the gallery: I assume everyone here (and since most are female commentators, i will pose it in the following fashion) Assume you have a guy who isn't the most sensitive individual but when he meets a he likes he becomes a sensitive individual, always striving to keep her happy, providing for her emotional and physical needs. Is there something wrong with such a guy who is changing, who changes, evolves for the sake of the happiness of the spouse? I think not. I think the key difference in the good change and bad change is the one which is based on making yourself into something your not. But to change to become better, because you like the person, because you care for them, I do not find fault with

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  12. hcohen- you bring up a good point- that it's good to distinguish between physical changes and ideological changes. Physical changes aren't who you are, and change anyway with age, so changing them yourself is no big deal. But ideological changes on the other hand are strongly tied to who you are as a person, what you believe and what you stand for.

    Harryer- I agree with you that a person should be willing to give up things that they don't care about all that much for someone else. In terms of changing for the happiness of a spouse- I know that I wouldn't want a guy who isn't so nice to be nice just for me. But in terms of being sensitive, I think that we do this for all of our relationships. When working on being a good child or a good sibling, we often have to be more sensitive or learn certain behaviors to avoid and certain behaviors to pay special attention to do more frequently. I think that's true of all relationships, and so guys and girls should work on themselves to improve their relationship. But that's already once they are in a relationship. What about changes prior to even being in a relationship?

    LVnsm27- thanks.

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  13. SternGrad said:

    "I was also thinking that if a guy ever said that to me I would say, “But what if I change? Does that mean you won’t love me anymore?” Does “I love you just the way you are” mean I love you only the way you are?"

    Charlotte Brontë:

    "If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?'

    'I do indeed, sir.'

    'Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat--your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of recognition for me."

    -- Jane Eyre, Vol. 3 Ch. 27:

    http://texts.crossref-it.info/text/jane-eyre/volume-3-chapter-1--27

    Regarding the beauty of שרה אמנו:

    http://bdld.info/2010/03/24/on-beauty/

    Regarding אהבה שאינה תלויה בדבר, Elizabeth Barrett Browning says it best:

    If thou must love me, let it be for nought
    Except for love's sake only. Do not say,
    "I love her for her smile—her look—her way
    Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
    That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
    A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"—
    For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
    Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
    May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
    Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry:
    A creature might forget to weep, who bore
    Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
    But love me for love's sake, that evermore
    Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

    -- Sonnets From The Portuguese, Sonnet XIV:

    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19429

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  14. "I was also thinking that if a guy ever said that to me I would say, “But what if I change? Does that mean you won’t love me anymore?” Does “I love you just the way you are” mean I love you only the way you are?"

    Charlotte Brontë:

    "If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?'

    'I do indeed, sir.'

    'Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat--your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of recognition for me."

    -- Jane Eyre, Vol. 3 Ch. 27:

    http://texts.crossref-it.info/text/jane-eyre/volume-3-chapter-1--27

    Regarding the beauty of שרה אמנו:

    http://bdld.info/2010/03/24/on-beauty/

    Regarding אהבה שאינה תלויה בדבר, Elizabeth Barrette Browning says it best:

    If thou must love me, let it be for nought
    Except for love's sake only. Do not say,
    "I love her for her smile—her look—her way
    Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
    That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
    A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"—
    For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
    Be changed, or change for thee—and love, so wrought,
    May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
    Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry:
    A creature might forget to weep, who bore
    Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
    But love me for love's sake, that evermore
    Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

    -- Sonnets From The Portuguese, Sonnet XIV:

    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19429

    ReplyDelete
  15. Sorry for the double comment; Google was throwing errors, and it didn't seem to have gone through the first time.

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  16. Yitzhak- great quotes!! Thanks for sharing. I like the line "love me for love's sake." And I liked the Jane Eyre quote- good book.

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  17. Stern Grad wrote,

    "and yes, I had to look that up cause I had no clue, so I apologize if any of you are Billy Joel fans and you can now shake your heads at me disapprovingly."

    I'm shaking my head.

    Sefardi Gal wrote,

    "Lookwise, I don't think there's anything wrong with putting your best foot forward. People get contacts, nicer clothing, start working out (ahem, men.)"

    My question is, how can you tell if a guy is scrawny, thin but not muscular, or thin and muscular, if he is not wearing tight-fitting clothing? (I am not talking about muscle-building, steroid popping, muscular.)

    As for losing weight before dating, this is why it is so important to look at the build of siblings and parents!

    ReplyDelete
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