Interviewed by Rebecca Klempner
Gila Manolson is the author of five books, including The Magic Touch and Choosing to Love, and a widely-known lecturer on the topics of modesty, dating, relationships, and love. A resident of Jerusalem, Mrs. Manolson will be visiting Los Angeles this week. Before she caught her flight to the U.S., I had a chance to ask her several questions about her areas of expertise.
1. How did you come to teach about relationships, shomer negiah, and tzniut? I understand that you were newly married and quite young at the time you began to teach about these subjects.
I came to teach about relationships, shomer negiah, and tzniut because I felt that, as a ba’alat teshuva, I had a perspective that many FFBs may not have had. I didn’t see anyone presenting these topics the way I would and that frustrated me tremendously. I felt my approach could be beneficial across the board, to both BTs and FFBs.
2. What advice do you have for women who teach Torah or hashkafa, or who are interested in teaching Torah or hashkafa?
Don’t parrot, don’t be apologetic, think independently, and be honest. It’s more valuable to have a role model of someone who admits her struggles but is still loyal to Torah than someone who has no struggles.
3. One of your best-known books, Outside/Inside, is on the topic of tzniut. This is an area of strain between some parents and their daughters, and between some students and their teachers. What advice would you give the adults in these situations?
Don’t comment too much on details of dress, like by saying, “Shouldn’t your neckline be higher?” Stick primarily to comments about general spiritual image: “I think a guy can notice you have a cute figure without you having to wear a tight shirt, and that would make it easier for him to relate to you on a deeper level.” And keep things positive. The overall message should be, “You’re too much of a quality girl for a cheap look.” And realize that no matter what you say, it still may not work!
4. If you could give a woman any piece of advice – about life, love, or marriage – what would it be?
Be joyful, confident, and authentic. Those are also the traits that keep a woman looking beautiful as she ages.
5. If you could give a man any piece of advice – again, about life, love, or marriage, what would it be?
Look for the kind of real, compelling beauty in women that is a potent mixture of her appearance and her character and personality. If you’re not immediately attracted, give a woman a chance to grow on you. The kind of relationship that will develop with a woman who becomes attractive to you is likely to be deeper and more enduring than a relationship in which the attraction is instantaneous.
6. Many people are now marrying later in life, by choice or by circumstance. What advice do you have for an older single?
Be happy and productive. There’s too much to fill your life with to spend your time being sad about not having yet found your soul mate (as much as I sympathize). Also, people are attracted to happy, fulfilled people. On the other hand, don’t let your independence cause you to give off “I don’t need anybody” vibes. Be as whole as you can be as a single, but leave an empty space in your life for someone to fill.