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 jdatersanonymous@gmail.com.

18 comments:

VJ said...

Fine as it goes, but you know the original 'hermit' works so much better than Guru for so many reasons. Just a thought. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

I think someone eluded to this earlier, but feminism has become a problem for us ladies (and I count myself a feminist) In my grandma's generation, girls got married after high school and became housewives. If you were 25 and single, you were destined to nanny/librarian status. Love was irrelevant. You became of age and you got married to the best guy to come around. Few women had careers; those who worked did out of financial necessity (or were spinsters). Without marraige you were a social pariah. No sex for you.

My mom's generation, many women went to college, others went off to work after high school, did that for a few years (teaching, secretary, nurse etc) until it came time in your early-mid twenties to meet a man and become a housewife. Some women had careers, but few and far in between. Remaining single by 30 relegated you to spinster status. Therefore, women chose, again not out of love, but out of "time to get married, he seems like a good enough provider, done deal". Those that didnt get married were socially doomed. Little sex for you.

The 1970s came and feminisim roared its lovely/ugly head, and it became accepted for women to go to college and start careers. Grad school classes are over 50% female. Reaching 30 and remaining single did not a spinster make. It is now easy to have a fulfilling rich life and be 30 and single. Women have careers, many single (and divorced) friends, and do not feel the social need to get married like our moms and grandmas. We fulfill our sexual and emotional needs without marriage.

So we wait for the perfect guy. Anything that makes me say "ew" is a pass. Because, I would rather go out with my many single friends than be with him. Because I would rather focus on my career than be with him. I'd rather sleep around with cuter guys, than be with him. So we say no thank you, move on and remain single.

So while our older sisters burned their bras, we are burning our chances...

Esther Kustanowitz said...

VJ, of course hermit is better. But one can only voice one's disapproval of the editorial choice and then it's out of one's hands.

Anonymous, I don't know that it's feminism that's "to blame" for the predicament of "us ladies"--that we have more opportunities now is a blessing, more chances to individuate and become more of who we are before we become someone else's something or someone.

And for all the talk of unrealistic ideas of perfection or pickiness, I still don't think it's a bad thing to say no to something that makes you say "ew." Just make sure the "ew" is a solid one, instead of a momentary flicker based on a superficial criterion.

People have different ideas about what "attractive" is, but after some of the couples I've seen in my life, I really believe that there really is a lid for every pot. But it's not wrong to want to be attracted to the person you're going to spend your life with.

Anonymous said...

Esther ... these are very very wise words that you have written. I fully agree with almost everything that you have said. Many of us rationalize various actions/reactions, but much of the time ... we are almost sabotaging ourselves. I have said before that dating is a numbers game and is like being in a war. You have to get right back up and throw yourself back into it.

Drawing the line is somewhat difficult. But it's easier than you might think and many are not very good at it. If meeting someone is truly important to you ... you should make it a priority. Yes ... we have jobs and we're busy ... and we can't be obsessed with it. But you simply HAVE to make it a priority. And you also have to have an open mind ... which many of us it seems just don't want to have.

I see a core group of the very same women on jdate month after month, year after year. These are attractive ... sometimes beautiful and desirable women in their 30s and 40s still single. Some of them even say "I'm not going to settle". Well ... that is not opening up your mind. You know what? I'm sorry to say it, but wakeup ... most people who are married and who are living what we single people see as the ideal life ... have settled or compromised in some way. To deny that is simply being ignorant. Not saying you have to date/marry some jerk who you find completely undesirable. But opening up your mind to consider someone who you might not have considered a few years back because he/she is shorter/taller than you prefer ... or makes less money than you prefer ... or who doesn't look like Tom Cruise or Eva Longoria. Opening up your mind to consider someone like this for a date or two doesn't commit you to anything. Any you just might like that person. Otherwise, you just screen phone calls and move on (of course, that's the easiest way). Too many people need an attitude adjustment or to reset their expectations.

I also agree with Anonymous' comments, although I also agree with you that I'm not sure feminism is to blame. And I do think there is a fair share of men that behave the same way. The simple answer is to stop yourself, and maybe ask yourself if it's worth it to keep sleeping around with the "cute" guys if you think you might be letting some good ones go by.

Certainly Esther ... as you say "it's not wrong to want to be attracted to the person you're going to spend your life with". But attraction sometimes can build. How else do ugly couples end up together? Should there be some initial attraction on some level? Absolutely. Does it have to be Tom Cruise? No. Maybe you say to yourself ... that guy doesn't look anything like the cute guys I've been dating ... but he's still attractive ... let me give him a chance for a date or two ... maybe he's really funny ... funny + reasonably attractive can equal falling in love. As you say "Just make sure the 'ew' is a solid one, instead of a momentary flicker based on a superficial criterion."

Blogger S.

VJ said...

Completely off topic, but I really think that putting a hurt on your editors to support your POV is a valuable exercise. Just a thought! Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

VJ said...

You know what? This is might be fairly interesting from Anon (if he wasn't a guy):

"So we wait for the perfect guy. Anything that makes me say "ew" is a pass. Because, I would rather go out with my many single friends than be with him. Because I would rather focus on my career than be with him. I'd rather sleep around with cuter guys, than be with him. So we say no thank you, move on and remain single."

It's this type of thinking that's prossibly responsible for a goodly portion of the non marital & teenage pregnancies in the US, both of which are dramatically increasing decade by decade. All the really 'cute' guys in the neighborhood have the 6 kids by the 4 moms, not including his 2 GF's 'on the side'.

But let's face the ugly truth here, shall we, and not deal in idle speculation. Sometime after the age of 35 your body goes to seed. It begins a slow degeneration and aging process. Sometimes this cliff of aging is gentle, sometimes it's rough, fast and more or less a straight drop to the bottom of the canyon of life. (Yes, think Wiley E. Coyote here!)


You can perhaps maintain your 'attractiveness' by ever increasingly heroic efforts, but you'll never again be a supple, as nimble or as easily manipulated as when you were younger. You're more cynical, and this comes with worldly experience. The 40 year old self is vastly different than the 30 year old self, if for nothing else than for your lived experiences, the hurts, ailments and accrued injuries. At a certain point you'll have several spots on your body that someone could rightly turn up their nose and say 'Eww!' over. That's life. It's called natural aging. Exceptionally few people escape the ravages of this force for very long. No one escapes entirely.

Feminism is only tangentially related to this 'phenomenon' of increasing age at first marriage, it obviously has something to do with increasing involvement labor force participation and in higer education, but also internalized concepts of beauty, and the rising expectations the media have created for this 'perfect consumer product' of a mate. But at it's base, economic pressures play a much more significant role in why women are working more today than they have perhaps at any time in our history. Certainly in our history as a fully industrialized economy.


So perhaps 'EWWW!' may explain a lot. We are not pretty to the younger set as we age. It becomes much more difficult to conceive a child together. Still, remaining single does not preclude a long and happily productive life. No does it preclude being a mother or a father, really.


But there are several components to building a successful partnership in marriage, should this be the path that you seek. One is finding your bashert, and succeeding in convincing them and you that you truly indeed belong together. Another step is a commitment to marriage. To seeing it out, to seeing it work, and to being with each other wholly in mind, body & spirit.

So I'll let you in on a not so obscure secret guys. There's not a day (sometimes not an hour) that goes by in most married households, sometimes going on decades, where someone in the home does not rightly exclaim 'EWWW!' over something disastrous, disgusting or some sick twisted combination of both never before dreamed of. That's married life, with kids. Someday, if we're truly fortunate, we'll all get to experience more fully these natural pains & pleasures of life. Just like every prior generation before us. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

"Jewish women love gay guys. Besides that fact that gay guys are incredibly sensitive and attentive, dress great, and wear cologne, do Jewish woman relish the challenge that THEY will be the one to turn him straight? If I act gay, will I stand a better chance with Jewish women? Just curious."

Hmmm. Not sure what being Jewish has to do with this. Women in general seem to "like" gay guys. But obviously, not to the point where they will have romantic relationships with them. And from what I've learned, they tend to enter in romantic relationships with guys who don't demonstrate these kinds of qualities. Sensitive? Attentive? I wouldn't put these into my jdate profile if someone paid me for it. Why do I hear constantly that women prefer men who are decisive? Why do I see that women seem to end up with men who aren't all that attentive? It almost seems as though even if you are a "nice guy", you have to repress those qualities and call upon your "dark side" in order for most women to consider dating you.

Or am I just taking Simcha's post too seriously?

Blogger S.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

Blogger S., you're taking Simcha too seriously/literally. He knows acting gay's not the answer. I think most of his responses are supposed to be jokes, as I doubt the existence of Kehillat Ahavat Kesef (which, FYI, translates to "Congregation Lovers of Money").

Anonymous said...

I think the anon post is correct with its basic rationale - people remain single longer... because they can. Because its not socially unacceptable to be single. Indeed, most people in Manhattan under 40 are single. You dont see that in the very orthodox world, for example, because it isnt socially acceptable. Plain and simple.

Those attarctive women and men on Jdate remain on Jdate because they can. They likely get hundreds of messages and likely do not thirst for a date.

Now obviously the option to remain single isnt the reason they remain single. Few opt to remain single at 30+. They, too, complain. So why do they remain single if they dont want to, and there are so many available singles out there? Not because they are "choosy" or "picky" or "havent found the right one". Fact is that we remain single because of various commitment/intimacy/fear/self-esteem issues. They are not available emotionally. Thats a no brainer. Plenty of therpaists make a buck in this town. But those issues arent new to this generation. Our parents and grandparents etc all had those issues (and passed them on, no doubt). But, they werent seeing therapists on wed. nights. They were married and having kids. Because it was socially unacceptable to be single. There was no place in the community for them.

I guess the simple answer is for everyone to become Satmer. Noone is single in that community. But I just dread those heavy black coats.... ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Esther! I guess I'm am going to have to start reaching deeper for the humorous side of things and not take things so seriously. I do love to laugh and like to inject humor into situations whenever I can. Sorry if I misinterpreted this.

Ricardo said...

I have become so frustrated with this that I've given up. I'm sick of trying to break through a force field that seems to surround women when I go out. I don't even want to marry per say, just date even. But things come off as very heavy handed. Especially since now that I'm just into my 30's the women I meet seem to say how "serious" they are about a relationship but it's really just this scary time table that they have set for themselves to be married and have kids and so on. This has me running for the hills and I'm sure it's the same for other men in my shoes.

ptwelve said...

Ricardo, in your 30s it will be tough to find a woman who wants to date for the sake of dating (whatever that means). People date to find someone they like enough so they need not date anymore.
You yourself might even want to stop dating (whatever that means) if you found someone you liked enough to stick with. Not that it's easy. Just a thought.

Tamara said...

Hey Esther, I have been out of touch blog wise and wanted you to know I send my hellos and am still reading :)

Hope you're well.

Tam--

Ricardo said...

ptwelve, you got that right. Looks like I'm done for.

PepGiraffe said...

VJ, Why do you think that teen pregnancy is on the rise? According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), "pregnancy rates among adolescents have steadily declined in the past decade." (Even though they are still higher than any other developed country.) This isn't a one year steep drop that may just be a valley - this is a trend of going down every single year for ten years.

Let's not make the situation worse than it is.

VJ said...

Pep, Not to put a fine point on it, but teenage pregnancy rates for the last few years have leveled off and are now no longer declining. This is precisely due to the concerted and continuous political and social attack on contraception seen in the Bush era. It really matters who you elect to start the world wars and keep the country safe & all. If you don't believe in the benefits of modern science, and indeed are waging a constant war on scientific knowledge, this has definite consequences too. Telling girls & boys to 'just say no' and NOTHING else has it's definte consequences.


You can't deny history, reality and technology and not have it come back to bite you in the end. So the decades long improvements in the overall quite miserable non marital teenage birth rate has been essentially halted by the know nothing political scientific commissars of the Bush regime.

Lysenkoism lives, and it now has a White House address. You can't imagine how much this will hurt us and our R&D for decades to come. We'll all be the poorer for it.


But again, the line above in the previous post was not meant to be a serious analysis, and I think it may be misinterpreted. That's the state of the science as I understand it presently. There was a NYT story on this in the past 10 days too. Cheers, 'VJ'

dianne_lone said...
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MTC said...
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