Yes, this really happened this week. A divorced man in his 50s told me he needs to marry someone 10 years younger because older women are less attractive. I told him to look in the mirror. (No offense to any men reading this, but most guys in their 50s do not have the same “chein” they had when they were younger. Less hair, more wrinkles, more pouchy…I’ll be nice and stop here.) Then he tells me, he wants a significantly younger woman even if that means he will have to have another child. He sounds like he’s should be nominated for Dad of the Year award.

He naively thought, when he called me, that I would do what some matchmakers do: send him dozens of photos of pretty, young women and set him up with the one he likes best. In my world, we don’t call that a shadchan. That profession has another title, that starts and ends with P, is a four letter word, and has an I-M in the middle. I told him to go fly a kite.

It takes a lot for me not be willing to help someone in shidduchim. For the singles I don’t have ideas for, I spend time davening that Hashem should send them a match soon, using special tefillos I received from a very holy Rosh Yeshiva about six or seven years ago.

I know that matchmakers are under-unappreciated and mis-understood by singles. Singles get frustrated if we call you with a match too infrequently, but we’ve made dozens of phone calls on your behalf and haven’t told you about all the rejections we’ve gotten for you – for stupid reasons. Or we’re holding back from sending you the real crazies. Or we’re just overwhelmed by the quantity of people who need shidduchim, and we spend a lot of time thinking of ideas, combing through files, and not relying on computer algorithms to send you the wrong ideas.

I’m happy when I make a shidduch, but at the same time I’m sad that I am not making more. You know when matchmakers made more shidduchim? When singles weren’t delegated to a piece of paper that said what their parents did for employment and where their siblings went to school, but were actually humans with hashkafos and personalities that we described over the phone, set up, and married them off. When people trusted matchmakers and agreed to meet without demanding photos. Especially for older singles who want to do a phone call before a date, you seriously can’t have a 30 minute phone call without a photo? And honestly, if you both live within 1-2 hours driving time, meet in person and skip the phone call or zoom.

So here’s my solution: Matchmakers need to arrange more dates without photos and require singles doing zoom dates to have the video component turned off. Get to know each other for the person, not the face. Singles that don’t want to follow these rules should find their own matches.

Some people complain that I don’t think looks are important and that’s why I oppose the idea of photos exchanged before people agree to a date. Quite the contrary. Halachically, people cannot marry each other without physical attraction. My own home has been used before for chassidim who were having a 30-minute date before the arranged marriage would be announced, so they could see if they were attracted to each other.

But attraction needs to happen at the right time. Which, I believe – supported by leading Rabbis and by scientific research about how the brain responds to physical appearance – should start after a third date.

Ironically, the men who are most picky about looks usually age and age and age…and never find someone pretty enough. Psychology would find the underlying insecurities or other psychological issues in the male that make him focus so much on externals, while some assert that men in a very religious environment may be using “lack of attraction” as an excuse to reject dates in an attempt to hide uncertainties about sexual gender.

Here’s something new I learned this week, from Rav Avigdor Miller who explained that the Gemara says that when the mann fell in the midbar, so did cosmetics, to enable the women to beautify themselves. And Ezra Hasofer made a takanah that a cosmetics salesperson (or “peddler” in those days) should come to the towns weekly so women could have what they need to be beautiful, without having to pay overinflated prices by local shopkeepers. If Hashem himself, with the mann, and Ezra Hasofer, one of the greatest Jewish leaders, are busying themselves with cosmetics, then obviously women have a responsibility to make themselves appealing to men.

But all in moderation. Men who are used to watching beautiful women on television or in movies, many of whom use unnatural enhancements or surgery, are often not going to be satisfied with the inner beauty that emanates when two people develop an emotional connection. Until a man and woman start to open up and be vulnerable, you miss out on a lot of the inner beauty that adds to the external appeal. Superficial beauty is not enough – that goes away pretty quickly (scientific research claims by 18 months). Which is why most Torah leaders say attraction and chemistry grow after marriage, because it is then – over time and not too quickly, that people become more emotionally intimate with each other.

Based on scientific research on this issue, and my 25 years of experience as a successful shadchan and dating advisor, I believe that looks should not even be a consideration until a third date. And let me give you one piece of advice. Not attracted to her or him? Don’t throw a shidduch suggestion away so easily. By a third date, if the looks haven’t enticed you, change the atmosphere. Go for a walk on a moonlit beach or other romantic setting and see if it changes anything – even slightly. You don’t have to suddenly find your date super-attractive, but there should be a slight improvement in the attraction in a more romantic setting. If not, then discuss it with a dating advisor – it may be time to walk away. But only after a third date.

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