Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Make An Ugly Woman Your Wife

Jimmy Soul had a number one hit on the Billboard charts in 1963 singing the advice "if you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, make an ugly woman your wife." After the last woman who I was madly attracted to turned out to be more than a little psychotic, Mr. Soul's words sound quite sagacious. The reality, however, is that I don't know anyone who specifically sets out to find a spouse they find unattractive, and I question how happy it might actually make them. I know many, though, who take the extreme opposite route, placing a premium on attractiveness. If a woman is not a size 2 and supermodel gorgeous, many guys will not even give them the time of day. And it is not just the guys. I have met plenty of women who will settle for nothing less than the chiseled, broad-shouldered, over six foot man of their dreams who is rich to boot!

While I am not holding out for a supermodel, I also have fallen prey to placing importance on beauty - and I am troubled by it. I wonder how many great women I have turned down after a date or two - or even before getting to that stage - because I did not find them pretty. Yes, I have also ended things because a woman was not warm, or because she was rude or materialistic, but those are personality traits. I know that beauty fades, it is not constant, and it is purely external, having nothing to do with a person's intrinsic worth.

Yes, attraction has to be there, and attraction for me is not just based on physical attributes, and no, I am not seriously advocating marrying someone one is not attracted to, but it bothers me how great a role the physical plays in my thoughts. Why does it have to be this way? Is it strictly western society's influence? Have we been conditioned to expect everyone to look like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt? Do Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt even really look like the images of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt that we are presented with? When more of marriage is about who's going to get the milk at the grocery store than satiating lust, why is physical beauty so high on the list of essential traits in a spouse for so many of us?

Perhaps it needs to be the initial draw, because genuine love based on giving and mutual respect only develops later, after being there for each other and working together to build something - a relationship, a home, a life together. And just practically, for desire to be there, and to look at each other day in day out, there must be attraction. But how much is enough? What do we hold out for? How do we measure?

I can't quantify it personally, except to say I know it is more important to marry someone who will be a good spouse and a good parent to your children together, and who shares similar values in life. I would rather have those things and marry someone who I am somewhat attracted to than to not have them and be with someone I am madly attracted to - and yet, attraction does have to be there. I do not care about impressing my guy friends. I do not care if everyone else thinks my wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. What I do want, though, is to be able to tell my wife I think she is beautiful and mean it - because she deserves that.

For those of you who are married, what was the one trait that figured most prominently in drawing you to your spouse? How important was the attractiveness factor before marriage and now after marriage? And for those of you who are single, to what degree have physical attributes played a role in your dating choices and in what you are looking for in a spouse? I very curiously await your thoughts...

35 comments:

'laizer said...

When I first started dating in this world, I didn't give attraction any weight at all. I told myself it's superficial, and shouldn't be factored in.

What I found, after a good long time in the game, is that it's not so simple. If I'm attracted to a woman, I have a flow of energy to draw from. If I'm not, everything's a chore, and pretty soon the store of energy just dries up.

I no longer believe that it's superficial, either. There's a wisdom that I have that functions on a subconscious level. With both men and women, in all sorts of situations, I'll get a vibe from them. I'm learning to trust that vibe.

All that being said - I've definitely been in relationships where the attraction was there, but we couldn't make it work for other reasons. It's by no means the only factor, but it can't be factored out.

Interesting to note that in the halacha (the Rambam at least) the only obligation involved in choosing a mate is that you see them, and they 'find grace in your eyes.'

God gave us these eyes, these vibes, and the gift of these attractions and this energy flows. I'm not looking to deny them.

Pragmatician said...

I believe attractiveness is an important factor, but physical beauty is quickly forgotten if the package includes a difficult person, whereas a less attractive person who makes efforts to look good, can appear like a model when one gets to know her pleasant and warm personality.
I know that some people put a lot of accent on the physical appearance but female beauty used as a weapon can be very ugly!

MC Aryeh said...

'laizer - Thank you for your thoughtful, articulate response. I know that struggle of wanting not to put any emphasis on attraction yet recognizing that it is essential. It is wise to trust our vibes, instincts and guts. In essence, I guess I believe we are attracted to who we are meant to be attracted to on a deeper level - and it may just manifest itself physically. It's a message that shouldn't and can't be ignored, because it is indicative of larger things. It's different than simple lust. I do feel guilty about it, though...

Prag - Agreed, I have met beautiful women who become less attractive as they speak, and I have met somewhat attractive women who become more beautiful as the beauty of who they are is revealed. If there is not an initial attraction, however, I have never been successful at inculcating one later, no matter how amazing the personality. I think it goes back to the vibe that 'laizer mentioned...

Zoe Strickman said...

I am fully with you on this post. -Zoe

A Simple Jew said...

I would be lying if I did not say attractiveness was a factor for me. However it was not the ONLY factor. Most important is finding someone who brings out your best qualities. (i.e. My wife is a million times kinder than I am.)

Mirty said...

My husband tells me I'm beautiful, but I'm quite sure he sees me as beautiful because he loves me. The mistake is in thinking that first you find beauty and then you fall in love. The love will come first and that person will shine with beauty for you.

My husband and I connected, at our first meeting, on many levels. We are both warm, kind, honest, sensual people. The attraction we experienced was instantaneous, but had nothing to do with objective standards of physical beauty.

(As we are both middle-aged and slightly pudgy, I suspect neither of us qualify as beauty contestants. But we do have good smiles.)

A Simple Jew said...

MCAryeh: No, you certainly did not imply that. It looks like you have your head screwed on correctly :)

MC Aryeh said...

Zoe - Thanks for your comment.

ASJ - I agree with you, I hope I did not imply that I thought attraction was the most important factor. It is one of a number of essential factors - along with warmth, kindness, a strong set of shared values, ability to laugh with each other, etc.

Mirty - Thanks for your comments and for being the first woman to offer a perspective here. I think I am guilty of using beauty and attraction interchaneably in this post, when they are not the same.

I have no doubt that your husband does see you as beautiful because he loves you - now. But when he first met you, if there were not some physical attraction, would the love have developed? The first impression is always visual. So, I agree with you that recognizing real beauty in another comes after love, but before love there must be attraction (which again I apologize for using interchangeably with beauty).

I am not looking for someone who is necessarily objectively beautiful. I don't even agree with much of what society deems beautiful - I may have been the only guy in college who did not think Cindy Crawford was gorgeous! Subjectively attractive is all I could ask for. As long as you and your husband are attractive to each other, that is all that matters. And a good smile goes a long way..

Jack's Shack said...

Chemistry- there is that special connection and that is what takes you over the edge and into the abyss.

Without it relationships don't last.The hard part is that you can't really define it all that well, you just know that it exists.

Attraction is a funny thing.

Eshet Chayil said...

Intellectual stimulation plays a much bigger part for me than physical attraction. I'm not married, and not dating yet, but I say if a man can't intellectually stimulate me, he has no business trying to stimulate me at all.

Stacey said...

I would caution you against marrying someone who seems perfect (as a wife, mother) yet for whom there is only "somewhat" of a chemistry. To be honest, I have found that if chemistry doesn't exist in the early stages then it sure doesn't materialize later.

This is not to say the person needs to look like a model. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It is definitely very possible to find someone who is both (shares your values and to whom you are very physically attracted). I would hold out for that person. And they always seem to enter one's life when it is least expected.

Shoshana said...

I'm not married, so obviously I haven't quite figured out the formula yet. But I have to say that, for me, personality makes such an incredible difference in attraction.

Someone who from a distance is beautiful to behold, but upon actually getting to them reveals a negative, rude or unpleasant character becomes infinitely less attractive in my eyes.

And the reverse has been true as well - I have come across people in my life who initially I didn't think I would ever be attraced to, but as I got to know them and their inner beauty came out, it really enhanced their outer beauty, and it no longer seemed an issue.

I have many friends, both male and female, who I encourage to take some time before making a decision based on attraction with that person.

But I guess when I am really honest, there have been those few people I have come across that I found beautiful from the outset and upon getting to know them it just grew from there. And those are the strongest connections.

It's a complicated formula. I wish it was as easy as calculus to decode - that I can do!

torontopearl said...

When I first met my husband (I got an introduction and a handshake)he was dating an acquaintance of mine. I saw him and thought "He's cute. He's the kind of guy I like. I'd like to bring him home to my parents." A year later I was lucky enough to do just that.

Yes, he had the type of look I'd always liked in a guy, but more than that, I was attracted to his smile, which reflected his friendliness and his humor. Those things still matter to me because they all encase his beautiful soul and likable personality. But yes, I still deem him cute-looking.

(I was flattered when after we'd begun dating for a short while, he revealed that he'd noticed me in shul before and thought that I, too, was kinda cute.)

Elster said...

Good post. What one finds in their future spouse initially versus what nme eventually finds. I guess it's probably different for everyone but let's face it. Looks count. I'm not talking supermodel looks, I just mean that the person you are looking at must be at least not ugly to you.

Excellent point by Mirty. When you love someone they become infintely more beautiful to you. But the first time you seem them you cannot go eww.

Remeber the torah tells us specifically that the emaos were beautiful. So if it wasn't too shallow for Avraham, it's not to shallow for McAryeh.

But generally, while I believe in love at first sight in theory, in practice it's more difficult. Therefore, what you want initially is to not be repulsed, and to find the person in some ways easy to be with. Eveything else kinda grows with time.

If course, this isnt helpful but its all i got.

Tziporah said...

I believe that all it takes is the awareness (that you have) that there's more to dating than physical appearance. Of course you are probably be attracted to someone who most other people would consider to be physically beautiful. Having awareness means that you don't limit your search to that kind of person.

I am plain-of-face. However, when I compare myself to someone who is physically beautiful and judge myself to be not only plain (which is ok) but inferior (don't have to go there) I think of men I have known who did not have handsome faces, yet were incredibly sexy. Then I remember that the inside stuff, such as self-image, matters a lot in how other people see us.

MC Aryeh said...

ASJ - Whew! Was worried there for a moment. Thanks for the support!

Jack - Thanks for the wise words, Jack. I am curious, though: Are chemistry and attraction the same thing? Can you have chemistry with someone you are not particularly attracted to? Don't friends also have chenmistry?

Eshet Chayil - Very interesting. I have heard other women say similar things, but never guys. Maybe one of the fundamental differences? I think - in general - women are more forgiving (or levelheaded)when it comes to looks...

Stacey - I let out a sigh of relief reading your comment. Thanks so much for the encouragement. What you say makes the most sense to me. My only fear is in setting limits - how long to hold out? how much to hold out for?

Shoshana - "But I guess when I am really honest, there have been those few people I have come across that I found beautiful from the outset and upon getting to know them it just grew from there. And those are the strongest connections." I guess that is the ideal for all of us. I have also had the experience of finding someone attractive and then as I get to know them, they become less so. However, it has never worked in reverse for me. If as I get to know someone, I see what a truly good and beautiful person they are inside, if the initial attraction isn't there, it just doesn't develop. Not sure if that is just me - but I have heard the same from other guys, so could also be a guy thing. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am a little in awe of anyone who can do calculus. Are you sure you are an INFP?

Pearl - What you describe has to be the best kind of attraction. And how sweet that you thought "this is a guy I'd liek to bring home to my parents"!

Elster - You're wrong. Your comments are actually very helpful. There is a long way from not repulsed to attracted, though. By not repulsed, do you mean the somewhat attracted I referred to in the post? Thanks also for the encouragement. It's rough out there in the dating world!

Tziporah - Excellent point. Self-image plays a large role in how attractive we will be to others. Thanks for commenting, and for your candor.

Elster said...

Well, Mc - let me answer as I can from personal experience. I went out with a few girls who as soon as I saw them I knew I was not interested. None of them were bad looking per say, and I guess repulsed is way too strong a word, but sometimes people just dont look good to you. Sounds weird.

I guess what i mean is that yes, attraction is important, but it doesnt have to do with being good looking. I say that beauty is very subjective. my wife has an unmarried friend who everyone thinks is so gorgeous and they cant figure out why she isnt married. i dont even think shes pretty. So there.

Then again, ive seen people I thought were good looking and peole look at me ike i have 2 heads.

When u see someone YOU know if they "do it" for you or not. If they do, and you love them, they will grow exponentially more beautiful every day.

Sojourner said...

What attracted me first to my wife was her heart (not that I "really saw it" or anything). But what I think attracted my wife to me was my uncanny ability to agree with whatever she said. :)

Shoshana said...

I have heard the same from other guys as well, maybe it is a guy thing, from what I understand they tend to be more visually and physically focused than women (caveat - I know that is a generalization, and I am sure there are exceptions to it).

Pretty positive I'm an INFP. I guess calculus doesn't fit in with being a typical INFP, but I hate being a typical anything, so it fits in with me, I guess. But that's probably part of being an INFP also. Figures.

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I have an original joke that I always forget to do when I perform, so here I am about to share it with the wide world:

Women are interested in chemistry -the problem is that men are interested in biology.

It's a general thing of course. It's about people I've met. A friend of mine. Yeah, that's it a friend...That's all I care to say for the moment.

MC Aryeh said...

Elster - Well-said. I think you hit it exactly. I just wish people who do the setting up would see things that way!

CowboySunsets- Good qaulities to have! Thanks for stopping by...

Shoshana - Of course it is a generalization, but I think it is, indeed, a guy thing. You definitely figure your figuring in an INFP way, calculus or not...

Neil - Your friend wouldn't be of the rabbinic persuasion by any chance, would he?

Jeru Guru said...

Great post!

Guru says: you have to differentiate between lust and love. If lust - physical attraction matters 99.9999%

If love - it all about inner beauty.

Think its time we linked to each other - what do you say?

JG

Jack's Shack said...

Chemistry and attraction- That could be a post in and of itself. To answer your question I would say yes and no.

Good chemistry can create attraction where you might not expect it.

That means that there might be someone that you don't notice. It is not that they are not attractive, but initially they are not so attractive that you stop and notice them.

However the chemistry between you is part of what makes you take a second and a third look. It is part of what makes you shake your head and wonder why you didn't notice all those little things, like the way her eyes sparkle when she smiles, the face she makes when she is concentrating on something etc.

turquoiseblue said...

Chemistry and attraction - seems to me the same thing.

Something that, IMHO, DEFINITELY must be there for a life-long marriage/relationship to really work.

The kind of "chemistry" you have with good friends (the "we so get each other" kind) is NOT (really chemistry I think and surely not) the same "chemistry" that makes your heart melt like your soulmate does...

Like JS (and other comments), I think that someone you might not have felt particularly attracted to previously - might at some fateful moment, or over time, become breath-stoppingly :) attractive...

But obviously, if a date "turns you off" it aint going to get better with time.

So bottom line - give everyone a chance. (Got instant chemistry? then skip the rest of this paragraph.) Passed the first "didn't turn me off" test? Give it another chance yet. Get to know your date. Get to REALLY know her/him. Still feel no special attraction/chemistry? Will not work. Try again.

Real life: Girl meets tall, dark & handsome boy. Likes his kind personality. (That's "the trait".) Gets stuck on a facial feature that irks her. Tries to ignore it. Keeps bugging her. Now is a little hesitant about his "quiet nature". Thought she would rather be attracted to a smooth-talking "cool" type of guy. Hmmm.

Thinks it over. Decides to give it another go. Guy naturally opens up a bit more on second date. Realize they share similar values. His "goodness" is almost palpable. Girl suddenly finds boy VERY ATTRACTIVE - heart-pulsatingly so. Especially that uniquely cute smile she didn't notice before. Forgets about her preconceptions and definitely does not notice that "facial flaw" anymore. There's chemistry - you bet! And it grows each time they interact...

Fast-forward - 10 years married.

His cute smile STILL makes her heart pulsate. His good looks still turn her on. His kindness still makes her heart melt. Just thinking about him...

THOUGH once in a while, when they are really mad at each other, that moment, that facial flaw that irked her back then - becomes the only thing she notices. And for that moment, she wonders if she just brainwashed herself into thinking that she's attracted to him. Another minute goes by, he gives her a conciliatory smile - that killer smile - and she knows she's nuts for that stupid thought just a minute ago.

And so till 120 iyh...

Alternative scenario #1: Girl meets guy. Finds him fairly attractive, but neh, something about his face... NEXT.

This one's Ooooh, hot, smooth-talking, cool dude! INSTANT attraction/chemistry/ELECTRICITY! Love at first sight... will figure out later if similar values... good heart... this is IT!

10 years later... Long over.

Alternative scenario #2: Guy meets nice girl. Goodness and values similar. Both think the other is "nice". Decide to get married, "why not". No electricity, no attraction...

10 years later...

Share the same house, same life situation, but do not connect on a deeper level. Don't feel like soulmates. Guy and/or girl is miserable in marriage and can't understand why. Nice spouse... so why that empty feeling?

THAT'S why you have to follow that gut feeling (along with rational valuation too of course)... and why Hashem actually created us so. HE intended for us to be attracted to our spouses... to feel connected for eternity...

(I am an eternal romantic. Can you tell?)

My (4:00 AM) take.

TB

Shoshana said...

I am not sure what that means, that I figure my figuring in an INFP way. Explain? (Sorry, I know it's completely off topic for this post.)

MC Aryeh said...

JeruGu- When you first start dating someone, It is not love and lust you must distinguish between, but lust vs. attraction. Love comes later.

Jack - Thanks for the clarification. I like the way you define chemistry vs. attraction here. Rings true for me.

Turquoise Blue - I love your comment. Entertaining, sweet, and good advice in there to boot. I know others have asked you before, but would you please start a blog, so we could read such words of yours on a more frequent basis?

Shoshana - I just meant that iconoclasm is very much an INFP trait.

Elster said...

Turq - All three of your future predictions are a little bit off, specifically, in 10 yrs, the guy is now 30 lbs heavier and has half as much hair (present writer excluded, of course).

turquoiseblue said...

Elster, when I wrote "Real Life" I meant it. Even taking into account some of your "corrections"... it is actually an ongoing reality for me...

Although some of the other scenarios ARE based on assumptions, watching others live with their choices/consequences...

McAryeh, thank you for your kind words... but I enjoy reading more than posting... though some blogs touch me to the point that I just "have to" respond with my 2 cents...

Mirty said...

Great comments here. I linked to this post in my blog and added some thoughts there.

Jack's Shack said...

The song at one time was going to be make a Frugal woman your wife but it just didn't have the same ring to it.

MC Aryeh said...

Elster - Not everyone ends up that way! And the ones who do probably never imagined they would...

Turquoise Blue - I understand your position on reading vs. posting. Glad you chose to share your words here, though...

Mirty - Thanks for the link, and for continuing the discussion on your blog...

Jack - No, it really doesn't have the same ring...

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

There is so much to say on this topic, I've been thinking to write a piece on it and email it to you. But I'm busy busy. I have mixed feelings about going on record on this topic, but here are some headlines:

The Torah acknowledges the value of beauty, I think. The idea of a kohein not having a mum (blemish) is explained by some to be based on his being a leader and people needing him to have a certain attractiveness. I once said this at a Shabbos meal and an attractive young woman at the table said that it can't be true, that it's just a chok. Then she stopped talking to me and gave her attention to some studly guy.

The Gemorah in Kiddushin says that a man must see a woman before he marries her, lest he see a "davar megunah" unappealing thing.

There's so much more to say, but I'm starting to feel like that email was a better idea...

MC Aryeh said...

Neil - I would very much like to hear more of what you have to say on the topic, whether here or via e-mail...

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

remind me how to reach you by emailing me at fleischmann@mindspring.com

MissShona said...

"Beauty" is in the eye of the beholder.