Monday, October 31, 2005

"Appalling Male Behavior, Aisle 2..."

Oy vey. Not to overwhelmingly harp on appalling male dating behavior, but I felt the need to share this from Chayyei Sarah, writing from Jerusalem. The nutshell? They connected. She felt great. And then he went loony tunes. (That's my synopsis, not hers. Visit and see for yourself.) And if you feel the urge to leave her a message of hope and encouragement, I'm quite certain that would be a mitzvah.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Random Dating Thought of the Day

Boy, Kissing Jessica Stein is a great movie. Great comic script, deft performances by the newcomers and by Tovah Feldshuh alike, even with an actually positive and authentic portrayal of Jewish life. Makes temporary lesbianism (and/or Scott Cohen/Josh Meyers/Max Medina; and/or writing a great new independent comedy film) look like a really good idea. I'm just saying. Let's "let it marinate."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

In The Air

In the air, I wonder if love is who you think about during agitated turbulence, as the skies remind you that there but for the grace of tons of steel somehow defying gravity go you. I wonder if love is in the quiet moments afterwards, the serenity of a near-perfect quiet punctuated only by a persistent, engine-hum that vibrates into your seat, which, you remember hearing, may also function as a floatation device. I wonder because I have no idea. I wonder, because up here, there’s only wonder and wondering, because none of this--soaring on wings of hope and metal--should be possible. And in that, it seems just like love. Or so I’ve heard. These clouds up here look like every cliché ever assigned, but most of all like marshmallow fluff, sickeningly sweet and endlessly, irresistibly inviting. I look to them to re-effervesce my flattened optimism and enable me to believe that someday, there will be an end to this scenario, that it will not endlessly repeat forever the way it always has repeated until now and until now. Until then, I’m stuck within my circular circumstance, immobile in the unreciprocated and in awe of my infallible ability to misinterpret the words and cues of others is what is dooming me to loneliness. I’m trapped with no egress, like in a plane, a serf in a pilot’s kingdom, doomed to suffer the rest of the journey as a captive witness to the proceedings, bobbing on the wind and whim of weather, or deity, or captain, my captain.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Week in (Jewish) Dating

OK, I'm trying again: Part 2: The Week in Jewish Dating.... In Losing My Religion: The Dating Game, Groin’s Grab (bear with the name....he's an Aussie, and I'm sure it means something different Down Under...) ponders the high cost of JDate:
The cost of subscribing to JDate is nearly double that of subscribing to a general, non-Jewish singles website. Even though both sites are owned by the same company, with the same look, feel, technology and presumably, set up cost.
Why? I think it’s because, as I've said before, kosher meat is more expensive [FX: snare drum]. But GG has another theory: "I believe that this represents the desperation amongst singles in the Jewish community to find their significant other," he says. After much discussion of the whys and hows that Jewish dating in Sydney is lacking, he comes to a conclusion:

I reiterate that the greatest threat to the survival and continuity of the Jewish community is the anti-social behaviour of young, single Jews. In fact, it defies logic that Jewish youth are so pre-occupied with fighting this anti-social behaviour with the intention of propogating it for generations to come.

So, to fix the problems facing my people, I've decided to throw a party. A massive party. An appeal. I'm going to call it the Jewish Sex Appeal. Keynote speaker Ron Jeremy. The largest game of Spin the Bottle in Jewish community history. A room full of closets that potential couples can be locked in, until magic happens. It will break down the walls of inhibition for good. Sex to save the religion. Now, there's a concept we can all get into.

Speaking of sex, or the lack thereof, it’s time we checked in with Nice Jewish Girl, who is still very much living up to her name, despite the fact that she's actually been kissed now...Many of her readers are thrilled for her. Others call her a sinner. Read about the controversy her decision to part (at least partially/temporarily) with shomer negiah ways here. Nice Jewish Girl and I have something in common: we were both the targets of much ire by a blogger named "Not Godol Hador," who wrote some opinionated thoughts about our postings. Ever our hero, P-Life was so upset on our behalf that he decided to embrace anger in the new year. (We're touched, really.) Chayyei Sarah also reacted to Godol's post:
Of course, Godol may simply argue that I'm not, in fact, too picky, I'm just one of those people who "have emotional problems and need some serious therapy." Because that would explain why I'm still single, given that everyone who does manage to fall in love and develop a stable relationship and get married is, by definition, perfectly emotionally healthy and doesn't need therapy at all. They give you a marriage license only if you are completely free of hang-ups. It couldn't possibly be that I'm simply unlucky, or the victim of other people's pickiness, or that I have an unusual set of qualities that makes me hard to match up, or that there is some wider social problem going on that I would happily escape if I could. If I didn't have "emotional problems" before, I probably do now. You would too, after hundreds (if not thousands), of dates.
But maybe her karma is changing, since she subsequently had a good experience at a singles event. (Here's hoping...) Let it not be said that JDaters Anonymous is all about fluff or dating-related complaints. We're also about learning stuff. Here's part one of rabbinical student Drew Kaplan’s treatise on Jewish dating and his more text-oriented approach to Pornography for women in the Jewish Tradition. Over in La-La Land, Hilary gets a Jdate email from someone who is either a Nigerian prince or the manolo (or the rahulio). And Annabel Lee’s trying to figure out if her new guy is worth the different kinds of crazy he’s making her… In Esther news...since hoped-for potentials have, er, vanished, I’m trying JMatch. Let’s see if it makes any kind of difference… so far, I’ve been contacted by one guy (with a nearly empty profile) whose contact I nicely declined, but who keeps after me, sending his phone number (which, btw, I never asked for) and begging me to call. Meantime, I have twenty new emails over at JDate...I'm thinking about rejoining for a month to test the newly redesigned site. What do y'all think? Should I pay my $30 to "the man" for a month of access to chat rooms and emails? In my columns, I'm committing to the concept of change, and to guilt-tripping. Coming soon, First Person Singular takes its readers inside a Jewish singles event...stay tuned for more excitement in next week's installment of the Weeeeeek....innnnnn....Daaaaaatinnnnnng...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Vanishing

Recent events have led me to compile this list of reasons why a man, after an overwhelmingly positive interaction (be it platonic or romantic), might suddenly disappear, vanishing into the ether... I'm sure that there's a list for women, too, but frankly, I'm a little more concerned with why the men vanish so. Feel free to add your own....

Reasons Why Men Disappear

  • Has become Unabomber and now lives in unwired cabin in Montana
  • Afraid social intercourse with women will harm his macho stud rep
  • Hit by “the bus”
  • Lying dead in a ditch somewhere
  • Has had partial stroke affecting only ability to communicate via phone or email
  • Computer crash has rendered them him to electronically communicate
  • School/work schedule so overwhelming that calling and writing are not options
  • Witness protection program has given him a new identity and firm instructions not to contact anyone from his “previous life”
  • Wrongly imprisoned in bizarre beer pong-related incidents in Thailand
  • Have entered monastery in which any contact with evil females is prohibited
  • Have signed nondisclosure agreements with self; if found in violation, will have to sue himself
  • Have shacked up with iPod Nano and declared intent to marry
  • Went on road trip with buddy a month ago, refused to ask for directions, and the two remain lost somewhere between here and Tijuana
  • Undercover at Neverland ranch
  • Kidnapped by Hef’s three girlfriends and taken to the Playboy mansion for month of post Yom Kippur debauchery
  • In a 12 step program and stuck at step 1
  • Reading a really good book he can’t put down
  • Lost somewhere in Target or Home Depot
  • Have been bricked up behind a wall in someone’s basement
  • Was bit by lycanthrope and can not resurface until the full moon is gone
  • Was on Oceanic Flight 815
  • Just found out he was an agent for SD-6 and is now being debriefed by a special ops unit of the CIA
  • He's just not that into you

Friday, October 21, 2005


Ladies and gentlemen, if any of you have profiles on JDate, you may want to review them. In addition to the inevitable deletion of several paragraphs of my essays, which I suppose I was expecting with the site redesign, it appears that all profiles have been reset to default to "I do not plan on having any children." As if Jewish continuity didn't have enough problems... So if you do plan on having children, and you have a JDate profile, take another look at it to make sure it still reflects "the you" that you want reflected. And as always, if you'd like a profile rewrite, go to and tell them that Esther sent you...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Help Me, Dear Readers: Column Topics Wanted

So, dear readers? What topics would you like to see covered by my First Person Singular column in the coming months? Plus, feel free to contact me if you've got opinions or experience on any of the following topics. Your opinions can be kept anonymous, if you wish: *When we're on vacation, who are we? are we a purer version of ourselves, or are we an artificial construct of ourselves? Do we go on vacation hoping for romance or relaxation, and which way works better toward forming relationships? Are Jewish singles trips more or less conducive to finding a compatible soulmate, or are they just about vacation relaxation and expanding the social circles of overlap? *Long-distance relationships (also, how far would you go to find love, either metaphorically or geographically) *Pre-marital sex in the Modern Orthodox community *Where is fancy bred: in the heart, or in the head? Do we fall in love independent of our intellect, or do we decide to fall in love and create our own self-fulfilling prophecies?

The Week in Secular Dating

That's right, I had so many things to cover this week that I've separated them into two categories: The Week in Jewish Dating and the Week in Secular's part one... Part 1: The Week in Secular Dating In case you haven’t seen it yet, First Dates chronicles all of First Date Chick’s first dates from 1998 to the present. Dr. Annie Dennison is an adviser to singles, and her Smart at Love blog is getting a makeover from a group called the Blog Squad. This MSN article tells you how to avoid the “just-friends” trap with a woman. Of course, you still can’t force her to be attracted to you. And if only the advice were actually translateable for women, as well, but still… As usual, Dr. Janice has many topics for discussion on her bulletin boards at the new and improved DoctorLoveCoach site, so check it out, post your opinions, and tell her JDaters Anonymous sent ya! And finally, a shout-out to the Fabulous Blogger Boys, Ken Wheaton and The Anonymous Blogger for being mentioned in the Village Voice this week. Kudos, boys. Part two to come imminently, as soon as I figure out what technical error keeps making Blogger swallow huge sections of that post--actually, much of this post has been devoured as well...must be delicious stuff. Stay tuned!

New Column: "Traveling on the Guilt Trip"

From The Jewish Week, 10/11/05 Traveling On The Guilt Trip Esther D. Kustanowitz - Staff Writer
The most frequent vacation taken by single Jews? The Guilt Trip. We go out to parties and on blind dates because we feel guilty staying home. We have guilt from family and society, guilt for doing what we want and not what we should. We go out with our mother’s best friend-from-college’s son’s friend’s roommate, to help us answer a parental “but are you trying?” with a less guilt-ridden “yes.”
Read more of the article, which proceeds to profile two excellent reads--Shanda, by Neal Karlen, and The Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt, edited by Ruthie Ellenson-- here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

WTF? VH1 Sponsors Jewish Speed Dating?

This is just weird. I mean, I knew about the "Totally Awesomely Jewish" show (I believe my brother was interviewed for it), but VH1 is somehow involved in this upcoming speed dating event:
Wednesday Oct 19 2005 - 7 pm to - 10:45 pm JOIN VH1 AND ACTRESS ANDREA ROSEN AT JEWISH SINGLES SPEED DATING & DINNER PARTY FOR AGES 21-38. Event at Gente Ristorante Italiano Website: 153 East 45th Street (Between Lexington and 3rd Avenue) New York, New York 10017
(Esther cannot afford events like this one. This event, for instance, is $90. Yes, it includes dinner and wine tasting and speed dating, very nice. But I still can't afford it. Plus, it's like right after the conclusion of the first days of Sukkot, and I'm busy.) If you go, let me know how it went...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rumors of My Optimism Are Greatly Overexaggerated

Expect the best, aim high, make your own dreams come true. To an extent, I believed it. I absorbed it and lived it. But the truth is that optimism ruins everything. If you aim low, and good things happen, you're surprised. If you aim high, and miss the mark, you're supposed to make do with "at least I tried." If you meet someone with no expectations and that person is amazing, then you're twice as happy as you would be if you always expected it. However, when you have high expectations, you're almost always bound to be disappointed. I'd like to believe in magic, always look at the bright side of the penny, know in my gut that the next opportunity is right around the corner, if only I could be patient. But everytime I dip a tentative toe into optimism, reality, like a snapping turtle, tries to bite my legs off. And it's like I said earlier, you think I would have learned by now: horse first, then cart. Somehow, it never seems to work the other way round.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hate Children? Good News!

Tired of waiting for your soulmate? Think you would have gotten away with having met her or him already, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids? Well, good news for you! BellaOnline informs us of the founding of
Launched on August 21, 2005, Joe Pazo came up with the idea for Dinklink (derived from the phrase “Double Income No Kids”) five years ago. “I was incredibly frustrated with my own pursuit of a ‘dinklink’ and decided to look around online,” says Joe. “I was amazed to see the dating sites at the time basically ignoring people like me. I mean sure, most offered little check boxes in the profile section to the effect of 'do you want kids?' or 'do you have kids?' Both were typically buried near the bottom. For me, these were two of the most important things.” [...]These issues are especially present in the child free singles scene. “From a dating perspective specifically, the biggest challenge I've seen is the perception that being child-free is some sort of a 'phase' you go through that could be changed by the 'right' person,” says Joe. “But being child-free is a lifelong commitment, and something we don't take lightly.”
A lifelong commitment to being child-free. Ain't the internet great?


I'm doing it again. It should be an easy thing to remember not to do. But every time I'm here, I forget, or subconsciously make a decision to try the old configuration again, even though it never works. Juggling carts and horses in my mind, I've put the wrong one first again. The same is true of eggs and baskets. And birds in hand. My imagination often seems to be its own entity, barely connected to me at all, and certainly having no relationship with logical thought. It sprints away from me toward a future that I see, but that may not be likely. It reads into words and gestures and intonations, parsing them on an impossibly analytical level. And as it happens, I know it's counterproductive. It invests my emotional energy in figments, in fragments of hope reborn, and lodged in the realm of the vaguely possible, but not bloody likely. What I want and what is possible are not always the same thing. But someday, I think, they may not be mutually exclusive either. And in this thought, and in this situation, the cart pulls the horse instead of the other way round.

Kiss Anticipation

Nice Jewish Girl's back, and she who has "never been kissed" is anticipating and fearful of what may be an impending first liplock with her quasi-boyfriend of a month. (Hat tip to Annabel Lee for letting me know.) She's nervous, but she's doing the smart and brave thing: talking with him about it beforehand. That's right, she told him about what she calls her "non-history," and he seems to be reacting to it fairly well:
He has never dealt with a woman before who had never even been kissed. He kept asking me if I am OK with that and I told him no, I hate it, it is very hard, I have the same hormones as everyone else. But also I know that I have made my decisions and that I cannot change the past and that Hashem has reasons for making my life turn out the way it has. I have to believe it is for the best. I accept it because I have no choice. But why I am writing about it is that he keeps saying that the next time he sees me he is going to kiss me, that it is about time I had my first kiss. I am excited but confused. First of all I do not know exactly what he means, you know? He said “oh, what you mean is that you have never gotten the kind of kiss that lasts for 15 minutes.” But he did not then say “well I will have to correct that.” I think he means to kiss me on the cheek or something.That would be nice but it is not really what I am aiming for. What I want is the 15 minute kiss! I want a kiss that makes me have to come up for air!
Of course, since it's a matter of the intersection of human sexuality (and its pervasiveness in contemporary Western culture) with halakhah, there's still considerable guilt, especially before the High Holidays.
I wish I could say that the thought of doing this possibly on my very next date makes me feel guilty about breaking halacha. Especially because it is almost Rosh Hashanah and we are supposed to be atoning for our sins not planning to do new ones. But honestly I do not feel so guilty. I cannot explain why. I know I should say that no matter how old I am I should at least feel guilty about breaking halacha especially at this time of year.
I spend every year parsing the Al Het prayer, in which we enumerate a list of sins so long that we can't possibly have committed all of them (but we can't possibly emerge from reading the litany feeling completely pure and innocent). I don't think kissing itself--or brushing up against someone--is a sin ("v'iadat znut" or "giluy arayot"). But I do recognize the concept of siyag laTorah, the rabbinic practice of "placing a fence" around the rules of the Torah; in other words, forbidding certain activities not because they themselves are morally wrong, but because they lead to other actions or behaviors which halakhah condemns. (See here for a technical halakhic discussion of what Judaism has to say about pre-marital sex--hat tip to Drew for the reference.) Anecdotally, it seems (at least in New York City) that pre-marital sex is Modern Orthodoxy's dirty little secret, in that many people are having it, but no one is talking about it; many people who are unflinchingly careful when it comes to kashrut or Shabbat observance are more cavalier when it comes to physical relationships. Unsurprisingly, there also seems to be a gender imbalance: men are freer to talk about it than women are. I know, I know. The evidence is anecdotal, at best. I don't have names and sources for you to support this claim. And last time I made a comment like this, I got reamed by a few blogs, but I'm still convinced it's true. And if it is, I don't necessarily think it needs to be eradicated, and the sinners expelled to "outside the camp," as it were, but there needs to be an acknowledgment that--for whatever reason, be it an increased influence from outside culture, or the increase in people who have already been in marriages that failed, or the delay in single people finding soul mates--there's been a shift in how today's "traditional" single Jews view issues of dating and sexuality. I'm not advocating rampant casual sex for Orthodox singles, but I don't think it's acceptable for someone like NJG to reach the age of 34 without having experienced some basic human tenderness, and I don't think it's acceptable that her Jewish life and observance has created in her this package of fear, guilt and longing that consumes her, even in anticipation of one long-overdue kiss.