A few months ago Chananya Weissman posted on his website about an article that he saw in the Jewish Press's Im Yirtzeh column. The writer was a kollel boy who had gone out on three dates with a "Bais Yacov type" girl. All was fine and well until, on the fourth date, he made a fatal error.
He told his date that she looked nice.
Now, neither Chananya and I were present when this dreadful act occured, so I can't relate exactly how he said it. My guess, however, is that he didn't start howling like a wolf and have his eyes grow to the size of saucers and bulge out as in a Tex Avery cartoon. My guess is that he didn't start drooling over her in public. My guess is that he didn't say something along the lines of "Hey hot mama, you're one fine lookin' dish." What probably happened is that he politely, respectfully thought that his date put a lot of effort into looking nice for him and wanted to acknowledge it and compliment her. He probably said something to the effect of "you look very nice tonight."
Wrong move. Apparently, with this girl, a compliment is the kiss of death. Things quickly became awkward. The date was cut short and the girl immediately telephoned the shadchan and said that it was over. His compliment showed that he was "just a guy," whereas she thought he was something else.
When I first read his posting, I thought it was strange, but, okay... you have some people with strange ideas in every group. So she doesn't want to be complimented. How many like her can there be?
Well, apparently, there is another. This week's Letters to the Editor in the Yated had a letter from a boy in yeshiva who started going out with a girl. Here are some excerpts from the letter (any typos/misspellings are mine):
The first three dates were amazing. The conversation flowed beautifully and I felt that we were both enjoying it. There were more than 10 hours of enjoyable time spent together. After every date, I was getting more excited. The sahdchan even asked you afer every date if you ahd any hesitations and you said there were none.
Then came the fourth date.
It definitely had a more serious tone than the first three, but that is normal. Then you told the shadchan that it's over. No reasons, no explanations, nothing.
I was devastated.
I sat for hours trying to figure out where I messed up. I was shocked and couldn't figure it out. The shadchan finally got one sentence out of you: "It was too personal."
Then it hit me. Towards the end of the date, after discussing hashkafah and feeling that we were on the same page, I complimented your looks. You thought/think that I'm a sick, one-track-minded pervert.
OK, so that's two people who think that way. Lest you think that that's it, there is apparently a third person who holds this opinion... the guy himself!
You see, however, I don't either believe that it's 100% tzniyusdik to give a personal compliment until after marriage.
So, why did I do it?
Because a famous shadchan recently told me that, if things are going well on a fourth date, I should find something to compliment the girl on. I put aside my own feelings on the matter because I figured that the shadchan had more experience than I do. I was wrong. I made a mistake. I admit it. I should have followed my own feelings and not followed the professional advice.
My guess is that once three people have a certain opinion, probably more do as well. So, now we've come to the point where if you dare to compliment your date on how nice she looks, if you even think to acknowledge and appreciate the effort that she puts into looking nice, if you have even a single thought as to her physical appearence, you must be a "sick, one-track-minded pervert."
At this point, I'm beginning to wonder what the point of shidduch dating is anymore. After all, everyone is expected to follow a script. Don't do this before the second date. Don't say that before the third date. Wear this. Don't wear that. The only acceptable places to go are a lounge, airport or other similarly boring place. Anything that uniquely shows you to be an individual is to be discouraged. In short, if you don't follow the script, you're toast.
So, what does that leave? Why even date? Well, I suppose that one way in which you are unique is in your appearance. Unless you have an identical twin, no one really looks like you. So, even if you have to follow a script and act like everyone else, at least you can be distinguished by your appearance. This includes your physical appearance and your "presentation" (i.e. how you dress, how groomed you are, etc.). But if we're now to not even notice the physical appearance of our dates, then what reason is there to even engage in the activity anymore? Why not just go back to completely arranged marriages and be done with it? Have the parents arrange the marriage, let them meet for a few minutes so that they can see that each "taka has a nose" and that's it. If we've reduced the dating activity to one of actors following a script so that you can't get an indication of the real personality of the person you're dating (to the point where if you minorly deviate from the script then you're out) and where you're not even supposed to notice the appearance of the date, then what is the whole point?