Moderated by Jennifer Mann, LCSW of the Navidaters
This question may sound weird, but I don’t know who else to ask.
I am 21 years old. My friend is the same age as me. Recently, she has been complaining to me that she never gets any second dates from guys. My friend is a great person – she is kind, fun, and smart. She will make a great wife. I believe I know why she is not getting a second date: she has very bad teeth and the first time someone sees her and she smiles, they generally are taken aback. After a while, though, you don’t notice her terrible orthodontia.
Here’s my question: I feel bad that she’s not getting second dates, and I know that it’s probably from that. How do I get the message to her to get her to do something about it? I really don’t want to tell her myself. It would really hurt her feelings.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
You are right not to tell your friend yourself to fix her teeth since you think she will feel hurt. People are very sensitive about personal appearance.
If you and your friend are close, you may get to it indirectly. At some point, when you talk about dating in general and rehash what advisors such as seminary teachers have told you about the topic of dating, you can bring up something I have mentioned in this space several times.
Instead of focusing on one’s “list” and what the other person brings to a potential relationship, focusing on what one can offer someone else is a very healthy way of approaching the search for a spouse.
This is a process that involves looking at oneself and asking, who am I? What are my strengths? What qualities can I offer someone else? And then one proceeds to the next series of questions. What type of person can use my strengths? What kind of person will value what I have to offer? This, obviously, involves looking in the mirror both figuratively and literally. Serious self-assessment involves maturity and self-knowledge, which come with time. Hopefully, daters reach that point and can be objective about all their qualities.
I would like to turn the question around for a moment for our readership to think about. Do women ever turn guys down due to aesthetics and/or bad teeth? Have you ever heard of a woman nixing her date due to poor dental hygiene? As a shadchan, I get this type of feedback; it happens all the time. Recently,
a woman gave a “no” to a guy because the topic of their morning routines came up. The guy confided that he only brushes his teeth at night, because “I don’t eat anything in the meantime. Why brush in the morning? It’s a waste of time.”This was enough to make the woman run the other way. It happens to be this man has nice white, straight teeth but the thought of going out on another date with a man who does not brush in the morning was enough to end it. Many times, bad dental hygiene comes with side effects such as bad breath, which might be exacerbating the problem.
As you have articulated, it is possible that bad dental hygiene can hinder the progress of relationships. This applies to both men and women. If your friend is perfectly happy despite her negative shidduch experience, I would say, do not mention it. If she is not bothered by it, why are you? However, if your friend confides in you, and is depressed about shidduchim, that is a different story. If it is negatively impacting her life, your case for saying something gets stronger. When she is asking you for advice, you can honestly tell her how incredible she is. Elaborate on your opinion: there is nothing about her character which would hinder someone from giving her a second date. What can possibly be the problem? You can then, however, ease into the dental topic. You can gently suggest that she may want to see a dentist for poor orthodontics. Frame it in a way that conveys the message: “Who knows? Could it be just a physical thing that could easily be fixed?”
This is a delicate topic that must be handled sensitively largely based on the closeness of your relationship. Use your intuition to guide you to the route you wish to take.
Hatzlacha to both of you on your dating journeys!
Dr. Jeffrey Galler
I have a multi-level reaction to your letter.
Sometimes, a direct approach is best. If she’s a good friend, she’ll appreciate your cosmetic feedback. Next time your friend mentions the “second date” problem, you can tell her that:
- In studies that analyze what a person notices when meeting someone for the very first time, a person’s smile always ranks high on the list. (Others are eyes, hair, attire, and body language.)
- Today, highly esthetic, Clear Aligner Orthodontics is relatively easy, virtually unnoticeable, affordable, and involves very little discomfort.
- Crooked, unattractive teeth often make oral hygiene difficult and can cause bad breath.
If you nevertheless worry that it might impair your friendship if you tell your friend that she should fix her unattractive smile, you can try an indirect approach:
- You can try the old, “My cousin in Wisconsin just had her teeth straightened with Invisalign, and wow, she looks terrific!”
- Or, put the shadchan to work. Call her shadchan and suggest that she, without mentioning your own name, recommends esthetic dentistry to your friend. Let her discuss how some young men might be turned off by an unattractive smile.
- Or, you can ask a computer savvy co-conspirator to send an anonymous text to your friend, with a link to the very informative website, www.Invisalign.com. Also, include a link to the American Academy of Clear Aligners (www.aacaligners.com), where the “Locate Our Members” tab will help her find local dentists who are experts in the field.
(Note to readers: Among the different companies offering Clear Aligner Orthodontics, Invisalign is the most scientific, predictable, and popular, with over 1.5 million cases in 2019. And, in my strong opinion, avoid “Smile Direct Club.”)
Are you sure that the problem is orthodontic? It might be something else.
Urge your friend to call the shadchanim that have set her up and request honest feedback about what is making the boys say “no” after a first date. A good shadchan will understand and give her the proper feedback.
Let’s think about this a bit more deeply. How is it possible that your friend is unaware of her dental problem? It just doesn’t make sense.
Doesn’t she look in the mirror? Don’t you think her parents told her? Don’t you think her dentist recommended esthetic improvements, over the past decade of checkups?
What I am most concerned about is a psychological defense mechanism called “avoidance” that could be playing a role in your friend’s behavior. Sometimes, folks purposely avoid fixing a smile, or eliminating a bad habit, or correcting similar problems that could clearly impact a person’s ability to attract a marriage partner or perform up to their potential at work.
This “avoidance” enables a person to have a handy excuse, or rationale, for effectively avoiding the stress of experiencing failure, or the stress of facing anxiety-provoking, daunting new stages in life. Psychological counseling might be helpful here.
Good luck, and here’s hoping that you and your friend will have much to smile about at each other’s weddings.
(**New Panelist! Sitting in for Rena Friedman** )
The Kallah Teacher
Rebbetzin Lisa Babich/5th Avenue Synagogue
Thank you for asking this question. As we know, the topic of “looks’’ in shidduchim can be a very sensitive one. I want to answer by first explaining the basis of Creation and the world we currently live in by going back to the beginning with Adam and Eve. Before Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge they were completely spiritual beings with little awareness of the physical aspects of life. However, once they sinned, they suddenly became aware of their physicality and covered themselves with fig leaves (Bereishis 3:7). What this is essentially saying is that they were no longer completely spiritual and the awareness of physicality and more materialistic matters became a part of their world and consequently, ours as well.
Before their sin, Adam and Eve only saw each other as souls. They didn’t even notice their bodies. Once they sinned, the two of them suddenly became more aware of their surroundings and the physical world. They were no longer able to view life on a purely spiritual plane.
While we would all love to be completely spiritual beings that simply is not our reality. Your friend is probably a wonderful girl but if her teeth are as noticeably damaged as you describe, people, by nature, will notice it. The question becomes: if and how do you tell her? Perhaps if you approach her kindly in a loving and non-judgmental way she will hear you. In life, it is not as much what we say as it is how we say it. You can tell her that you were thinking about her conundrum in not getting past a first date and you have an idea that may help. You can reassure her how beautiful she is. Make sure to give personal examples of how you enhance your appearance before dates as well. Sympathize with her about how difficult and at times how superficial the dating world can seem.
I know it is not easy to have to tell someone a piece of constructive advice, however, I am sure many of us can think back to a time when someone had to tell us something painful for our benefit. At the moment, it does not feel good but ultimately that advice can be very helpful.
I wish you and your friend much hatzlacha and may you find your matches very soon!
Shidduchim is not an easy parsha but may this be a stepping-stone to lead you to your soulmate and a fulfilling and happy life.
Putting it all together
Thank you for your email. Your question speaks to a true inner conflict many friends face. Do I tell my friend a well-intentioned truth that may hurt her in the short term or damage our friendship?
I think the answer to your question depends on the nature of your friendship. I have friends who tell me like it is, and I appreciate it. Other friendships have a different nature. I can tell how much you care about your friend and want her to find her bashert.
I am concerned that your friend is well aware of her orthodontia and perhaps cannot afford to fix it. As a matter of fact, if it is as bad as you say it is, I’m fairly confident that she has to be aware of the situation. What would the point then be of telling her?
Only you know the nature of your friendship and how your friend might feel if you tell her her teeth are the reason she doesn’t get a second date. I would tread very lightly as sometimes friendships do not recover from comments like this. I don’t feel comfortable encouraging you one way or another because I don’t know if your friend will be able to hear this and if she even has the means to take care of this issue.
Should you decide to say something, be prepared for the possibility of losing her as a friend. Perhaps there is a relative of hers that you can speak to…a mentor, her rebbetzin, etc. Good luck with your decision!
Categorised in: Dating Dialogue