Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Crazy Shidduch Questions and "Image-itis"

I've heard so many of these over the years that I don't even know which to believe and what not. "Does the family use dishes or plastic for Shabbos lunch?" "Does the father wear a white shirt on Sundays?" "Does the mom wear a dress or robe for bentching licht?" Why do so many otherwise intelligent people ask such silly questions? Does their mind suddenly go blank when they're on the phone with the shadchan?

As you probably figured out from the title, I believe that the source for many of the more inane shidduch questions is all about the oft-discussed, ever-rampant mental disease called "image-itis." Image-itis is when people are overly obsessed with image and how they'll appear in the public eye that they forget the more important issues at hand. Like when people are worried about whether their potential mechutan wears a white shirt on Sunday, they obviously are concerned with the image that will be presented if their kids gets married. What shirt the father wears has no bearing upon the potential chasan/kallah. But some people would rather have a son-in-law who's a jerk and whose dad wears white shirts, over a guy who's a tzaddik, but his dad does the heinous sin of wearing a striped shirt on Sunday.

In my community, I've often found that many times it's not the boy and girl getting married; it's the families. To certain people, marriage is about how compatible the mechutanim are, and they don't give a damn whether the boy and girl are good for each other. People talk about how there are shalom-bayis problems are more prevalent nowadays; Jewish Observer had a whole report about it a few years ago. And this ridiculous over-focus on the machatonim certainly hasn't helped the cause.

Some of the commentors were discussing whether the kids should be asked questions or the parents. I believe that the parents playing a huge role in the shidduch process also goes back to the image factor. After all, many of the questions center around the parents anyway, so you may as well ask them instead of the kids and hear it all straight from the dog's mouth. I'll admit that there's some value to asking about the parents; since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, we can learn something about the kids by learning about the parents. But logically, most of the questions should be about the kid, because he's the one getting married! Oftentimes however, this is not the case.

The shidduch situation is unique in that it forces people to openly discuss what's important to them. And it's done in a pretty discreet way. If you went over to one of these people and asked them, "what are the most important things in your life?" they would probably say Torah, mitzvos, etc. But when they start asking questions about their prospective mechutanim, that's when the truth comes out! Ironically, these questions tell us a lot more about the asker than the one being asked about. So the symptoms of image-itis are all too apparent in many of the questions that are asked.

The solution for crazy shidduch questions? Defeat image-itis, and the silly questions will just disappear.


Blogger Michelle said...

I couldn't agree more. There are so many ridiculous questions that the parents usually ask, and the boy has no freakin' clue, and couldn't care less. Why does the guy give a darn if they use a plastic tablecloth on Shabbos? All he notices is the spices in the cholent.
Another thing that's very prevalent is making girls dress to kill once they turn 18. "Oh, you're 18, so no more ponytails, no more denim skirts...from now on, you have to dress like the Touro japs!" Um, no offense, but if a guy doesn't like me because I wear denim, I probably don't want him either.

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