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?