We’re so vain. It’s a simple fact of human nature that’s inextricably tied into self-image. Or as Hillel’s wife might have said, “If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us? Especially if we have circles under our eyes?”
This article in Haaretz takes an interesting look at the Ye’elat Chen beauty salon, which has been operating for 24 years in Jerusalem, not far from Mea Shearim and Kikar Shabbat:
The side entrance on the main street is suited to women who want to steal in without being seen. Behind the simple door a surprise awaits. A pleasant and aesthetic space divided into cubicles. Several rooms have a secret exit to the salon’s backyard. They are meant for the wives of leading Hasidic rabbis, women from extremist Hasidic sects, along with several female MKs who have heard about [the owner] Larrie. In other words, all those who have to maintain their privacy.
Eshet Chayil, the poem about women of valor and what their attributes are, states “sheker hachen, v’hevel hayofi” — charm is a lie, and beauty is vanity/meaningless–but clearly today’s premium on the external appearance still affects people who are religious.
Sima Salzburg, who researched the attitude toward beauty in the extremist Toldot Aharon Hasidic community in Jerusalem, as part of her doctoral thesis at the Hebrew University, discovered that one’s external appearance is of great significance even among the most extreme.
She says that cosmetic treatments are common mainly for young women. “An 18-year-old girl who is about to about to be introduced to a potential match doesn’t have the time to impress her partner or his mother with her qualities, and therefore her external appearance is more important than anything else,” she says. “The meeting with the designated partner is very short: from one meeting in the Hasidic sects to several meetings in more open communities.”
Salzburg found that young married women in Toldot Aharon use makeup under the noses of the “supervisors,” older women who are in charge of the behavior of the younger women. “They use neutral colors,” she says.
I wish there were going to be a companion story about the steps Haredi men are taking to be considered a good shidduch or feel attractive to their wives, but I guess that’s too much to hope for, right?