15th of Av Take 2, or 3 types of girls
The daughter of Israel go out and dance in the vineyards. Anyone who lacked a wife went there. . . . Our rabbis learned: The beautiful ones among them would say: "Raise your eyes to beauty, for a wife is only for beauty." The girls who had yichus [well established, reputable families] would say, "Raise your eyes to family, for a wife is only for children." The ugly ones among them would say, "Take what you take for the sake of Heaven, and adorn us in gold jewelry."This version sounds a lot less pious than the one in the Mishna. The girls here are not quoting verses from TaNaCh to make their sales pitch. Instead, they are essentially putting their best assets forward. The ones who have beauty flaunt it here and capitalize on it in this marriage market. They would not be singing "sheker hacheyn vehevel hayofi," but the opposite as it suits their purposes in being selected as a wife. The ones with good family seem to not be the same as the beautiful ones, so they are not talking about genes that lead to good looks in children but genes and environment that lead to other positive traits for children.
The most amazing is that the girls who have the least to offer -- the ones termed outright ugly in the description -- declare that they too have a right to marry, and the men should be motivated by the sake of Heaven (I imagine they meant the mitzvah) to marry. Furthermore, they place the onus of attractions on their husbands-to-be with the assurance that the right jewelry and clothes (as Rashi, I believe, says) would work wonders on their looks. It's like Lady Bracknell's assurance that a French maid can have such effect on a woman that even her own husband won't know her (See The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde).
So it would seem that even way back then, there were valuations and possible A lists for shidduchim. And beauty gets first mention. One major difference between then and now, though, is that there is no monetary incentive here. The girls can only offer beauty or family connection -- not wealth. You may also have noticed that other possible advantages like intelligence or even skill in household management, as are attributed to the woman of Eishes Chayil who speaks with "chachma"and makes sure all the household needs are met while acquiring fields and engaging in trade. But, and this is a major difference, even the girls who are not only B but possible C list as far as shidduch rankings may go do not see themselves as rejects. The problem lies not in them but in the vision of the prospective husband. Instead of looking for what he could acquire that builds his status from a wife, he should look at what he could do for her. It's a very audacious turnaround. You go, girl!
Related posts: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/08/15th-of-av.html