Thursday, May 04, 2006
"Interrogating the Dating Guru" (JW-First Person Singular)
If the title of my latest column in the Jewish Week seems a little familiar to regular readers of this column, it's because it originated as a post here...except here, we met a "dating hermit." Well, my editor wasn't fond of "hermit," so it became a "guru." But the concept is the same, and some of your opinions are represented in this piece, so thanks for the help you didn't know you were giving me. Keep visiting and commenting...your feedback helps JDaters Anonymous maintain its place as a dynamic community. Interrogating the Dating Guru by Esther D. Kustanowitz May 5, 2006 When people find out that I write about the single life, they often ask me dating questions. I try to answer on a case-by-case basis, always with the caveat that they understand I don’t have all the answers. Recently, someone asked me, “Why aren’t people meeting each other?” I thought about this. Was it true? I mean, it felt true. But what of the myriad parties, blind dates and Jewish events? Surely people were meeting, weren’t they? “The opportunity to meet new people is always there, every moment you are out in public,” says Aryeh Goldsmith, founder of free Jewish dating site TwentyFourSix.com. “But people aren’t even trying anymore; you can’t meet people if you don’t even talk to them.” He explains that new people are immediately assessed for relationship potential and written off. “They aren’t given the option of becoming your friend because you don’t want more friends — you’re looking for a significant other. This is basically the act of becoming less and less social.” In effect, the questions may actually be, “Why can’t I meet anyone special?” or “Where do I go to meet someone?” They could be “Will I ever meet anyone?” or “What the hell is he/she thinking?” or “Why am I always confined to the Friend Zone?” And I don’t have any of the answers — if I did, I’d likely skip this Jewish Week gig and go straight to Oprah. On my JDatersAnonymous blog, I asked readers to imagine that they’d climbed to the top of a remote mountain to seek an audience with the Dating Guru — a person who held all the answers to all questions regarding the courtship process. What questions would they ask? One man in his 30s asked how he could “overcome the issues I know I have, and how will I know if I’ve found the right one?” One reader asked if he would be “happier single than waiting around for ‘good ones’ to show up.” Others wanted to know if they’d made a mistake by breaking up with someone who might have been “the one.” One male reader wondered why women don’t give shorter guys a chance; and one female reader asked why men have such difficulty opening up emotionally. One woman just shy of 30 wondered, “If I am as wonderful, beautiful, interesting, funny, intelligent and loving as everyone says I am (and if I know it’s true too) then why don’t I have the relationship I deserve?” A 20-something woman wants to know if she’s wasting her time. “Have I missed my chance or is my bashert still out there? If he’s still out there, I’ll keep trying. But if I know for sure that he’s not, I might take up some new addictions.” The good news is that, on paper, people are meeting. As the New York Times Sunday Styles section or Times Square billboards will tell you, everyone knows someone who met on JDate. Or Match.com. Or at a party. Or through a blind date. But there’s no guarantee that any of those venues will be right for you, and that’s disappointing. Sure, you try to reframe it. You’re waiting for your bashert, the timing hasn’t been right; you declare a moratorium because you’re too busy for relationships, anyway. You try to take the power back from the ether, hoping it will make you feel better. But with every denial, uttered with the best of intentions — emotional self-preservation — you may be taking a step backwards, retreating from the relationship that you want. By convincing yourself that love will find you when you’re not looking for it (another untrue cliché) you stop looking for love. And that may seem like a positive move, but it’s not very goal- or action-oriented. “We all need to identify the things that trap us and do our best to take responsibility,” says dating consultant Evan Marc Katz. “The right person is out there, somewhere, but tends not to magically appear in your living room with a red ribbon on his head. If he does, you should probably call the police.” Perhaps because there’s such a fine line between doing all the right things and not becoming obsessed with something that’s largely out of our control, these festering questions can drive us right up to the edge of that hazy border between love and insanity. But most of us are just asking “Why is this taking so long?” And that, unfortunately, is a question that only the Dating Guru can answer. Too bad gurus, like a good match, are so hard to find. Esther D. Kustanowitz does not aspire to fill the shoes of any active or retiring Dating Gurus. Still, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.