Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Single Gal's Survival Guide disappointment: 1) Cry. It's all right to cry. Crying takes the sad out of you. OK, so it doesn't. But it still beats holding it in for years and having it surface during an NBC re-airing of Titanic. 2) Phone a friend. Important to have someone there to counter the self-deprecation and negativity that you'll undoubtedly hurl at yourself. Also important to make sure that you're not alone when you... 3) Find glass, add ice, pour Jack Daniels into glass. Consider adding Diet Coke, but you only have caffeinated and you don't want your elixir to keep you up all night. 4) Turn off all instant messengers and screen your phonecalls. Make outgoing calls to female friends only; male friends who are married are okay to call too. But do not call or otherwise communicate with single male "friends." You don't want to drink-and-dial (or imbibe-and-IM) when you're in this state of mind. This way, madness lies. 5) Go to bed earlyish, and realize that you haven't been to sleep before midnight in months. Resolve to get more sleep in the future, even as you know you're swearing oaths to yourself that you'll never keep. As you fall asleep, listen to music that contains a soothing rhythm, soaring passion, and a subtle melancholy. 6) Wake to find yourself in possession of two empty boxes of tissues, two puffy eyes and one big headache, which you decide to address by the name of Mr. Daniels. Promise yourself that yesterday's frustration will fuel today's workout, and load up the MP3 player with blisteringly popalicious Top 40 tunes mixed with old school heavy metal. 7) Go through the motions, even as you realize that there's still lots to work out, and that only time, if anything, will remove the splinters of pain and disappointment from the soft undersides of your feet. You know that every step will hurt until it doesn't. Buy insoles. Cover nascent blisters with band-aids. But do everything in your power to keep walking.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ari's Thoughts

My girl Ari, who was the first to cross over from my blog-life into a three-dimensional plane, is a true original. Sassy, smart and irreverent, she is devoted to her friends, and just like the rest of us, thinking too much. Go on over. Say hi. And tell her how great she is.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

She Says Yes...

In case anyone was concerned for Seth Menachem, who proposed to his girlfriend in a Singles column, he's written another column in which he reveals that she accepted the proposal. Mazal tov to the happy couple.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Dear Dating Diary: Today I Was "Reclassified"

I struggle with labels, really I do. I’ve long said that everyone these days seems eager to slap a new and inventive label (Hippiedox, Conservadox, Flexidox) on themselves in order to describe their uniquely complex and nuanced relationship with Judaism ( e.g., “I go to an Orthodox shul, but go to the gym Shabbat afternoon, and will take the subway because, like a Shabbat elevator, it stops at every station anyway”). As a result, no label really means anything anymore. So, during my brief period on Frumster, I aligned myself with the most newly founded and most liberal category or label: “Traditional and Growing.” I chose this label because not choosing a label was not an option, and because this seemed like the most moderate, the most liberal, the most (if not exactly) resemblant of my observance. All the other labels included terms that I would never use to describe myself: yeshivish, black hat, ba’al teshuvah, etc) Because the people contacting me were never people I could see myself with religiously (and because none of them seemed to possess anything resembling a sense of humor), I deactivated my Frumster profile last month, but today, got this message from their customer support team informing me that I’d been reclassified.”
For more, read the post and its 85 comments at Jewlicious. The site's undergoing renovations, but the content's all there...

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fear Factor: The Non-Date

If you haven't been there, you're lucky. I have been on non-dates more times than I can count. Now that I think about it, most of my dates (and all of my best dates) have been non-dates. It always starts off as fun, promising, with a palpable potential, that by date's end (or "non-date's non-end" as the case may be) you're emotionally shredded by your confusion, self-doubt and by the messages that you're perceiving as mixed, but which in fact may not be clear, but which you are certainly resisting absorbing. It's like an episode of SNL's "It's Pat," where you're trying to figure out what that person is, and how they fit into your understanding of your life, and everytime you get a (romantically or) sexually charged clue, the person counters it with a term of neutrality. So why not just ask? Just summon up some courage from a nether dimension where courage abounds as a natural resource, and spit out the words into the air? Because courage is in short supply, and we're petrified. And we have good reason to be scared. Most declarations of romantic intent are met with a less than enthusiastic reception, and whatever friendship was beginning to take root usually ceases to grow; it's like our expression of honesty and yearning was death to fertile soil, the emotional equivalent of sowing the earth with salt, so that nothing will ever again grow there. Or, as Ken puts it:
So, instead of making a fool of yourself, you go on a series of these nondates and with each passing one get progressively crazier, act increasingly weirder--you fret, you hope, you worry, you moon, you envy and, yes, you even pine--until finally you just snap and say "HOLY SHIT I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE. YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY AND I THINK I LOVE YOU." And when that happens? Well, there's a very, very slim chance that the other person will say, "Oh my god. Me too!" But the smart money goes on the other response: He or she shouts "Hey, look over there! It's Steve Perry from Journey!" and then, the minute you turn your head, runs away, never to be seen from again.
Or, in the case of living in a densely packed community like the Upper West Side, you will continue to see that person everywhere. At every social event, at ever synagogue you visit, at every Shabbat dinner everywhere. Frankly, you're going to see them anyway, so there's no point in accelerating the misery by making them uncomfortable too. Better to pull away slightly, for the sake of your own sanity. Besides:
If you find yourself on the third or fourth hang-out, nondate or whatever, chances are you are dating this person only in your own mind. If the other person were as into you as you are into him or her, you'd already be holding hands on the subway, playing tonsil hockey in the park and generally making a nuisance of yourself in public.
And you, being a smart person, have realized that you are doing none of these things. Even if the other person makes you feel like no one else, even if there's a connection there you haven't felt with anyone in years, even if you have a strange conviction that this person is someone who was meant for you, you stay quiet. You wait for the signal, the one sign that will translate into a romantic green light. Sometimes you see glimmers of this everywhere...hints that the feelings run deep on both sides. But nine times out of ten, that's called denial. The signal you're waiting for will never come. You learn that marinating in your own misery is preferable to cutting yourself open and plucking out your heart to offer it to a non-receptive audience. You continue your pining and mooning, and everything else, but treat it as a process of grief. All you can hope for is that after your denial and anger, eventually acceptance will come. In the interim, you paint on your smile, hope it fools everyone else, and try to beat back the sadness. [Inspired, obviously, by Ken's post.]

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Singles Writer Proposes in Column

I don't know what to think about this. Seth Menachem, at the end of his singles column about commitment and finding the right girl, proposed to his girlfriend Carrie. The hopeless romantic in me is weeping tears of joy for the happy couple. And the cynical single in me is calling the whole thing too cheesy for words. To sum up, this proposal is either: a) the sweetest thing ever b) vomitatious Of course, wishing the happy couple all the best.

Romance, Religion, Kidnapping and Craigslist

Sometimes, I find myself wishing that I was born into a more religious community, where dating would be different, and I thought, easier. A community where there is less emphasis on romantic choice, and therefore more likelihood that I would be in a different stage of adulthood by now, raising my children in perfect faith within a community that shared my values, even if I never had the chance to challenge them through emotional inquiry. But being super-religious isn't all fun and games in the romance department. This story has already been circulating for a few days, but I felt the need to have it here too as part of this week's romance roundup.

The wayward son of a powerful rabbinic family kidnaps and violently abuses his teenage sister's would-be suitor to prevent an affair that violates the family's strict religious codes. The real-life tale culminated in the arrest earlier this week of the wife, daughter and son of Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, and two alleged Bedouin accomplices. The family members were suspected in the abduction and assault of a 17-year-old, ultra-Orthodox youth because they reportedly objected to his relationship with the rabbi's 18-year-old daughter, Ayala, whom he met in an Internet chat room.

"In our society, as long as people are not married ... no contact between a girl and a boy is acceptable," [another of the family's sons who was not involved in the abduction] said.

That's in Israel. But here in America, on the internet juggernaut that is the Craigslist M4W board, we have seen posts from religious people seeking sexual liaisons with people outside their community and outside their marriages. Now (hat tip: Dov Bear), a prophet of old seems to have emerged, and has taken on Craigslist as his personal shonda (source of embarrassment) to be eradicated through the time-honored technique of tokhakhah (rebuke for the purpose that the miscreant should repent). Here's an excerpt (spellings preserved, translations mine):

Aishes ish [relations with another man's wife] causes mamzeirim [bastards] in klal yisoel [klal yisroel: the Jewish people]. Cheating on one's wife is also ASUR [forbidden]! Imagine what you are doing to your children - to your families! Giluy Arayos [forbidden sexual relations] is yahareg v'al ya'avor [a sin you are commanded to die for rather than commit]! Arayos is one of the three cardinal sins - on par with muder and idolatry. This is the downfall of our society. Even if they are strictly amongst single people, it is terrible. Even if the ads are not real, they are still a terrible chilul [desecration of God's name]. Even if you think nobody knows, it is still terrible. Even if you think nobody will ever find out, besides for you being wrong, it is still terrible.

You know I'm more moderate than the people who posted both the ads and this rebuke to the people who are looking for these liaisons. But I think that what they point to is the power of the Internet to reflect things about ourselves, and even in our most religious communities, that we wouldn't cop to in real life. Married people looking for no-strings sexual relationships with other people should be working on their marriages; maybe the two people were never suited for each other anyway and only got married because of parental/communal/social pressure. ("I can't believe I'm 20, and haven't met my bashert yet!") Maybe they grew up thinking that boys were liars and girls were stupid. Or maybe the kids in question weren't fully-cooked individuals and shouldn't have committed to a relationship with someone else that was supposed to be forever while half-baked. Whether or not there's rebuke involved, the mere presence of these ads and the story about the kidnapping illustrates that life isn't always greener on the other side of the religious spectrum, and that a more restrictive and isolated lifestyle isn't always to be envied. Relationships are hard, and when it comes down to it, maybe the success of the relationship is really up to the two individuals who are trying to make it work.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

"Instant" Gratification

My new singles column, "'Instant' Gratification," is now online.
In the age of the Internet, who writes love letters anymore? The romantic epistolary tradition has gone high-tech; online love is all about the Instant Message (IM) window, with its unique language of shorthand endearments: BRB (be right back), IMHO (in my humble opinion) and the ultimate phrase representing devotion and commitment potential, the coveted LOL (laughing out loud). But at the end of an e-communication, can we trust our memory of what happened? Absent of intonation and physical cues, how do we discern if a sentiment is mutual? And how real is the connection for today’s daters?
Click here to read the article in its entirety. Thanks to all of you who helped out with this article by emailing me or leaving your comments here. This is one of those columns that has your names written all over it... Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I try to be open-minded and respectful, really I do. Occasionally, I slip into an area that's more of a loving lampoon than an angry tirade, which is just part of being single, I think. I especially try to be open-minded to Jewish or religious ways and views which are not my own. (For instance, although I don't choose to share her lifestyle, I linked to Nice Jewish Girl and could appreciate what she had to say. I thought it was incredibly brave for her to explore her heart's desire in the context of her religious commitment. Others disagreed with me on the bravery front, but still...) I'd like to be that person who can get along with Jews (and in fact, non-Jews as well) of all religious stripes. It's all good, and it's all about love. But today, I came across this list on, a website for religious teenagers to discuss various issues. The list (located in the "Long Skirts and 'Platonic' Relationships" forum of the site) is titled "71 Reasons Not to Talk to Boys." And aside from the appalling spelling (and I mean, appalling), I'm a little frightened. I'm not saying this to ridicule the members of the list, God forbid. I just don't understand how advocating a complete separation between the sexes until it's courtship time can be a good thing. Some examples (spelling and punctuation preserved)... 3) You risk getting caught by, and being thrown out of your school Maybe because it's not my community, but I don't understand how talking to a boy leads to expulsion from school. In my yeshiva high school (which admittedly was co-ed), I was reprimanded for cuffing my friend Mark on the shoulder once (a rabbi saw me, and gave me a "you know you're not supposed to touch boys" speech). But I never got the feeling that I was in any danger of expulsion. 6) You WILL NOT stay shomer negiyah [not touching the opposite sex], which is also assur [forbidden]-(a yaharog veal yaavor[a sin so grievous that you should be killed rather than transgress it]) Much discussion follows as to the exact origin of the prohibition against opposite-sex discourse, with some people disagreeing as to the character of the sin as yaharog v'al ya'avor. 7) The guy is 100% talking bad about you to his frineds in one way or another I think this breeds a distrust of all men for all time. How do you go from being paranoid about all boys to trusting one man enough to spend your life with him? And it's not like girls are never mean to other girls. If you can't trust boys and you can't trust girls, who does that leave you with? 9) Every boy is a liar, a pervert, a jerk, and you will eventually find this out OK. I've got no problems with this one. I'm kidding. I would say we can all be liars, perverts and jerks, boys and girls alike. And this one, like number 7, breeds a mistrust of all men that will undoubtedly follow the girls into their adult and married lives. 26) a guy will prob @#$% %** cus of you,, and thats like one of the wosrt averriois [sins], and im sure we get part of it I'm guessing that missing word has something to do with self-love, but to me the concept that girls shouldn't talk to boys because said boys might go home and think of the girls when they, ahem, you know is like saying that we should stop producing peanut butter because some people are allergic to it. OK, so it's not a perfect analogy, but that it falls to girls to prevent adolescent boys from pleasuring themselves? Please. And of course, there's #34, the one that inspired my post here today: YOU CAN NEVER NEVER NEVER TRUST A BOY How many "never"s is that? I'm with Maidel123, who points out: While I agree that there are many negative elements of guys and girls talking for no particular reason it is also important not to paint the opposite gender as evil or anything of that sort. Not just because it's not nice, but because I'm not sure I understand how, for example, a girl would make the change from thinking guys are scum etc. etc. to thinking that THE guy is the one with whom you'll share so many things-a relationship as a couple, builders of a Jewish home, builders of a Jewish while members of the opposite gender may not be APPROPRIATE they are not inherently CH"V [that's an abbreviation for chas v'chalilah, which means God forbid] evil. Much discussion on the boards ensues, from both boys and girls (and I suspect there are some older men and women there too, as the spelling and sentence structure is vastly improved in some of the subsequent responses). If I were still in my yeshiva high school, as constricted as I felt there, I know that this bulletin board/forum would have been way too right-wing for me. I just hope that these girls and boys don't grow up so scared of each other that it creates marriages that are built on foundations of mistrust and fear. (Hat tip for the list, even though he may not like what I've done with it: Seraphic Secret)