Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Wedding Bell Blues" (New Jewish Week Column Online)

From "Wedding Bell Blues," my newest column now online:

Weddings are magic. The details have come together according to plan. Two people have found each other and decided to spend their lives together, no matter what fate brings them. The bride looks like a queen; plus, she has special powers.

On her wedding day, the Jewish bride has the “Bridas Touch” — a temporary condition in which, particularly under the wedding canopy, her marital fortune is contagious. While she’s under the canopy accepting a ring from her betrothed, she gives single women her regular jewelry to wear, for added luck. The remainder of wine from her glass is also imbued with special powers and distributed to single wedding guests; this “segulah” wine is a Red Bull energy drink for the uncoupled, increasing the inherent bashertiness of the imbiber.

The bridal wizardry begins even before the ceremony. When the mothers of the bride and groom break a plate before the ceremony, signifying that a kinyan, or transaction, has taken place, the shards are given to single women for good luck. At my brother’s wedding, I reached into my purse during the reception, and promptly sliced my finger open on such a lucky shard. Luckily, a handsome doctor with a great sense of humor came to my rescue, cleaning the wound with vanilla vodka and suturing it using frayed napkin strands. After cocktails and dancing, we hid from the crowd under the Viennese Table and he told me he loved me — that table of delicious pastries serving as chuppah to our love. (Or if you prefer the truth to literary license: The finger-slicing was followed by a band-aid, and a hora, during which some other dancer impaled her four-inch heel in the center of my big toe.)

For more, click the link above.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Being Single is a Draw

I always said that you could find a magazine quote to support any position...and if anyone doubted your methods or the opinion's validity, you could always say, "Oh, it's true, I read it in a magazine," because even if you hadn't, it was probable that you could have. Nowadays, it's all about the internet, of course, with new magazines and webwire services launching daily, and with a steady stream of surveys that prove pretty much anything. Well, you'll be happy to know that being single has its pros and cons. For instance, depressed people who walk down the aisle experience alleviation of their depression. Unless, of course, they marry the wrong person and experience a post-wedding life of conflict and unhappiness. As the article says, "People who were happy before getting married and end up in a marriage plagued by distance or conflict -- qualities associated with a depressed spouse -- might be better off single." (Ya think?) But, married people, on average, are fatter [typos from the original survey, which calls into question its veracity...].
One reason could be that married people have more relaxed attitudes in terms of body image, whereas singles may view themselves as part of the "marriage market" and will go to greater lengths to say fit, says Robyn McGee author of Hungry for More: A Keeping it Real Guide for Black Women on Weight and Body Image.
But single people die sooner:
A study by the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Los Angeles professors found that out of 67,000 Americans, those who never married tended to die earlier than those who were divorced, separated or widowed.
And on the other hand, being married is no guarantee for longevity... married women who hold back on expressing their feelings also die younger than women who express their emotions:
Women who reported usually or always keeping their feelings to themselves when in conflict with their husbands, known as self-silencing, had more than four times the risk of dying from any cause compared to women who always show their feelings, the researchers said.
And of course, there's the old joke. Married people live about as long as single people; it just feels like it's longer. But I know these are all true. Don't believe me? I read it in an online magazine. Or five.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

This Just In: Some Men Still Jerks

Over at the Jewish Journal's singles column, we learn--once again--that online dating can be emotionally perilous...even during the correspondence portion of the experience. After finding a profile that looked interesting, intrepid dater Diane Saltzberg zipped over an email, asking the potential mensch what he meant by wanting to hear from women who were "fit." I know...those of you who have been there and have a few extra pounds on you (and really, so many of us do) are saying, "Girlfriend, why'd you do that? We all know that men who put 'fit' in their profile mean that they want someone skinny! You shoulda just skipped him!" Well, we couldn't get to her in time, but the dude--who she dubbed "Mr. Sensitive" for reasons that will become clear and involve heavy sarcasm--responded in a way she'll never forget.

"Your profile is extremely well-written, as is your note. You are clearly very, very bright, as am I. That's why I can't understand why you'd be in such absolute denial of a clear reality. You didn't fill in your weight in your profile because you're not happy with it. If you were, it would be there and you wouldn't be writing all that senseless crap about Jane Mansfield, with whom you have absolutely nothing in common.

Look in the mirror, see the same thing anyone can see in your photos: You are soft, untoned, out-of-shape and, yes, fat. Then, either fix it or accept it, but don't try to make believe you're not. And certainly don't try to convince others you aren't because it makes you seem absolutely crazy. Now go do the right thing."

I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. His e-mail was breathtaking in its cruelty.

We've all asked this question before...who does such a thing? Who fancies himself so impervious to criticism, so above and beyond reproach, that he feels entitled to make someone else feel like crap, when a simple "Thanks for your interest, but I don't think we'd make a good match" might make a frustratingly generic, but merciful and menschy response? Or, as the writer puts it..." Why be gratuitously mean?"

Why indeed. It's the $64,000 question. She's willing to give JDate another chance--some of the rest of us have had it. But I would urge those of you who are out there and might be "inspired" to share your noble opinions, in the name of "tough love" or whatever in a similar mode to the above, please, opt for the generic, menschier response. Believe us, it makes you a better person.

The whole article is here, complete with her email address at the end--feel free to send her a note of support and commiseration...

"Coming Attractions" (new JW column is online)

Greetings columnizers. My newest Jewish Week singles column, "Coming Attractions," is now available online. Coming Attractions by Esther D. Kustanowitz New York Jewish Week, First Person Singular August 18, 2006

When my friends and I moved to New York City after college, theater and high culture were out of our price range. But at the movies, we found affordable, air-conditioned entertainment. Popcorn was always extra (in terms of both coins and calories), but a secret bonus was included in the price of admission: Before the film started, we were treated to numerous movie trailers, designed to entice us into future movie ticket purchases and to create buzz for upcoming film releases. We’d predict how many trailers we’d get, and be delighted when we got more than expected. Based on how good each preview was, we’d make our decisions right there — “no way!” “totally!” and “maybe on DVD.”

In the dating world, several mechanisms operate as trailers, setting us up with overly vast expectations or none at all, and causing us to make instant judgments about the people we meet as romantic potentials. If we’re looking, we’re often “treated” to previews of the main attraction before we even determine whether the featured presentation holds any attraction at all. The movie judgment mechanism is activated. Bearing little information, we discard potential dates before we ever meet them, or elevate our expectations to such a level that no man or woman alive can ever hope to reach them.

To read the rest of this article, visit this page at

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Online Dating So Easy a Monkey Could Do It!!

According to the AP, orangutans (don't call them monkeys! I mean, except for clever headlines...) will be using the internet to find mates. Zookeepers are planning to hook up single orangutans from the Netherlands with others from Indonesia. (Those meddling zookeepers, always trying to marry off the singles...) Sources (and by "sources" I mean "there are no sources, so wait for the joke to hit you") say that the single orangutans' parents insist that their kids don't need the internet to find a mate, and are shocked that scientists are plotting the dating and mating of their offspring to orangutans from another country. First of all, we all know how hard it is to have long-distance relationships:
[A spokeswoman for the Apenheul ape park in the central Dutch city of Apeldoorn] said the chance of two orangutans actually mating as a result of the online interaction was small due to the problem of transporting them between the Netherlands and Indonesia. "But I wouldn't rule it out completely," she told The Associated Press.
And if you add the cultural differences and the language barrier, it makes for some awkward family moments: she wants a traditional Dutch ceremony, and he wants to raise the kids Indonesian. For more hot international orangutan action, click over to this article that tells you all about how single orangutans will meet and mate using the same internet that you use for your, er, Amazon shopping.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"The Love Computer"

Last week, mid-heatwave, I saw a couple--visibly sweating into their clothing, causing darkening patches to puddle on their backs, chests and under their arms--who insisted on not just holding hands, but occasionally walking with his arm around her know, the kind of people who never want to be apart, even if it's 100 degrees out.

"You've found that special someone, and you never want to be apart..." I know that SNL's "Love Toilet" was a fake product. Really. But I really have a feeling that this new trend of "Couple-Surfing" is an outgrowth of that kind of disgustingly-crazy-in-love couple, for whom PDA still means "public displays of affection."

While I'm all for couples communicating--whatever method they decide to use--I feel like this trend introduces a third party and may not facilitate communication; in some cases, the intervening layer of technology may lead to misunderstandings...

In any case, thank Wired's blog for this list of the interesting things couples said about how they view the internet, including:"An infomaniac is better off with another infomaniac who understands and partakes of their addiction, rather than mixing the tender electrovert with a more organically-centered human," and "There is something poetic in an e-mail correspondence, even if you see the other person every day. The e-mail personalities can be somehow different."

I've long mourned the loss of the love letter tradition--will our emails of LOL and ROTFLs someday serve the same romantic and nostalgic function as the lovingly inscribed, handwritten declarations of feelings immortalized by couples separated by life and war and parental or social impediments? Perhaps this trend of couples communicating with each other online might serve as a romance renaissance of sorts?

One thing's certain...if the article/list reveals any essential truth, it is this statement:

"I think my lover would prefer it if I wasn't checking blogs at 2 in the morning in my underwear."

Yeah, we're pretty sure you're right about that.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shocking Quiz Development

Taking the "Which Sex and the City vixen are YOU most like" quiz over a year after the series is over... and the results are...shockingly...
You Are Most Like Miranda!
While you've had your fair share of romance, men don't come first Guys are a distant third to your friends and career. And this independence *is* attractive to some men, in measured doses. Remember that if you imagine the best outcome, it might just happen. Romantic prediction: Someone from your past is waiting to reconnect... But you'll have to think of him differently, if you want things to work.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Coping with the Question

(Here's my latest singles column...I wrote this column before finding out about last week's Upper West Side tragedy, so any thematic similarity between Hamlet's ponderings and those of someone who's clinically depressed are strictly coincidental, and not intended as a commentary on the tragedy; still, I felt I had to address it in some way (and that's what paragraphs 4 & 5 are about. I hope that the community comforts Sarah's family and provides support for them and for all singles and marrieds in the future. EDK)

Coping with the Question by Esther D. Kustanowitz (First Person Singular, NY Jewish Week, August 4, 2006)

“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” Hamlet pondered, torturing himself with an existential query. As singles, we too grapple with an essential question: “Why are you still single?”

Pose the question, even theoretically, and hordes will respond: you’re too picky, fat, short, ugly or boring; you’re not putting yourself out there; you have issues; you’re spiritually or morally bankrupt; you fear intimacy and commitment; you’re waiting for impossible perfection; or you’re so “whiny,” you should “just freakin’ wed anyone already.” (That last one? Courtesy of an anonymous blogger, complaining about my June column.)

While self-examination is already a single person’s occupational hazard, asking such a question repeatedly takes an emotional toll. When we’re alone, the question echoes, engendering a burgeoning paranoia that the purgatory may well be eternal, and because of some unrevealed and essentially unforgivable hubris. Men blame women, women blame men, everyone blames their parents and their community, and themselves.

I had already completed this column when I got the news that a 25-year-old Upper West Sider, known by most as a happy young woman, had ended her life. Over the last week or so, there has been much discussion of who or what to blame for her death: named suspects include the community pressure to marry, a recent breakup, and clinical depression.

And although the community is not necessarily — as others have intimated — responsible for clinical depression, it may well have been one of many factors creating stress and hopelessness in the young woman’s life. I can only hope that the community will respond appropriately — helping her family to mourn and find comfort, and creating programs to better ensure that people of all ages feel supported and valued, socially, religiously and emotionally.

But the question “Why are you still single?” or alternately, “Why aren’t you married yet?” is yet another form of community pressure and expressed expectations. When a single responds with “I guess I just haven’t found the right person yet,” the yenta-in-residence leans in, sometimes touching your arm, shoulder or leg to indicate just how sympathetic they are, and “consoles” you: “Don’t worry, we’ll find you someone. God willing, it should be soon too by you. Maybe you should try meeting some new people?” Oh. Like we hadn’t thought of that before.

When it comes to the question, everyone — especially those who aren’t single — thinks he or she has the answer. Those Rules ladies thought they knew (“never accept a Saturday night date if he calls Thursday”). Those people who told us that our potentials were “just not that into us” thought they knew, too. Shmuley Boteach thinks he knows; in a article from June, Boteach told one mother that the reason her 29-year-old daughter was (oh, the horror!) still single was because she had friends. Ask her to sever ties with her friends for a few weeks, Boteach advised — after experiencing true loneliness, she’d be ready to accept a partner into her life.

Evan Marc Katz,’s “online dating guru,” who I interviewed in one of my first columns, employs an irreverent, humorous approach to the infernal, eternal question in his new book, “Why You’re Still Single: What Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not to Get Mad.” Katz and his co-author, Linda Holmes, present perspectives rather than answers, and the resultant honesty is refreshing. Against a backdrop of pop culture and humor, the duo delves into the depths of dating do’s and don’t’s, acting as the friends you really need — the funny ones who aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings if it will mean helping you out.

Struggling with one major question or many smaller ones, we understand that friends cannot take the place of our bashert. But neither should the pursuit of a significant other take the place of our already-significant friendships, the ones that provide love and support in a dating environment that — as we suffer the slings and arrows of our outrageous fortunes — can often feel like a friendless void.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is defined by his solitude; the Melancholy Dane cannot trust the people who surround him, not even his family. Most of us are luckier than Hamlet. Perhaps if he’d kept company with friends other than Ophelia, or if he’d experienced the proper support from his community, his existential dilemmas might have seemed a little less weighty.

Esther D. Kustanowitz took too many Shakespeare classes in college. You can reach her at