This check-listing has been perfected over the years.
Now many men automatically fill in requests for 19-year-old women, even if the men themselves are 30, and size 2 for preferred dress size, even if the men themselves are less than “fit.” Most men, of course, have no idea about women’s dress sizes; nevertheless, most young men do have mothers and said mothers can help their sons weed out the undesirables.
To explain: The core idea behind shidduch dating is that since men and women in the yeshivish world do not meet or socialize in any informal way, they require some assistance in meeting potential partners when they decide that they want to get married.
In some cases people are set up by friends or family who know of a suitable member of the opposite sex, but the number of possibilities offered in this pool of potential mates is rather slim.
When a shadchan (or anyone else for that matter) asks a man what it is he is looking for in a potential mate, the man will inevitably begin to make a check-list.
It is true that attraction is extraordinarily tied to looks, perhaps even more so for men than women.What is true is that a person’s looks can be objectively quantified with some sort of “attractiveness quotient.” What attracts people to each other is often hard to discern; even for the couple themselves it may be mostly subconscious.There are physical characteristics; there is body language; there is rapport; there are personality traits.A person’s conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg and a person’s subconscious is little understood – even by him- or herself.By attempting to select dates for a man based on a checklist of criteria provided by him, the shidduch system the man to quantify the unquantifiable.Hence, many people use a shadchan or shadchanit (matchmaker) to get dates.Here is the rub: How does one explain to one’s shadchan what it is one is looking for?Speaking as an outsider who has never shidduch dated, I will offer my tentative thoughts.I believe that the problem lies not in frum-women’s looks or in frum-men’s shallowness, but in the system of shidduch dating itself and the yeshivish world’s approach to interaction between the sexes.Some checklists have even become “sophisticated” enough to include the potential bride’s dress size – a sort of insurance policy for the future.This commoditization is very disturbing and the practical question of what to do about it inspired Halberstam’s controversial piece.