Friday, July 28, 2006

So Much Sadness

In addition to my ongoing concern about the situation in Israel, a situation that looks like it may further involve some of my friends and relatives, I've been struck by the number of sad stories in the press, many of them about single people struggling in their lives. The other day, I saw this story (hat tip to Canonist). And before I knew it, I got a phone call, talked to a reporter, and voila...a friend got a call from another friend who told him I was "on the cover of the Sun." My friend didn't even grab a copy--and certainly didn't read the story--before calling me to congratulate me on my fame and imminent fortune. Having not read the article, or even having been aware of what the context was, he seemed confused when my response was not "Yippee," but "oh." My heart fell. To be sure, a writer wants to be acknowledged for her work. But to be clear, there is no fame and fortune to be gained from such a story...only a prevailing sense of sadness and the tragedy of the circumstances. May Sarah's family know comfort after this senseless tragedy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Do the Right Thing...It's Just Business"

As a freelancer, I do a lot of business with different clients. Usually we contract for a certain rate (only in rare cases does that actually involve a real contract), I do the work and they (eventually) pay. Ideal would be immediate payment on delivery of the product, which is submitted by a certain deadline adhered to by both parties. But realistically, there's often a delay on the return. And sometimes, an initial client meeting clarifies that there's no chemistry between us and we go our separate ways. That's business. With that as preamble, allow me to introduce the following situation (already well-covered in the blogosphere during my Middle East assignment, most notably here, in a post cited by the ever topical Steve Silver). A man and a woman meet on JDate (or any other online site). They trade an email or two, talk once or twice and decide to go out. They go to an expensive dinner (his choice); when the bill comes she offers to pay half, and he tells her he'll take care of it. They both go to their respective homes; when he calls her a few days later, she doesn't call him back. And that's where it all goes to hell. He gets it in his head that she owes him her half of the dinner bill and that he aims to collect it. He sends her emails and leaves her a series of voice mail messages to that effect, first appealing to her to "do the right thing"--since dating is equal to business in his world, her agreeing to accept his offer of dinner payment was her unspoken acceptance that there would be a future date--and ultimately threatening legal action against her at her place of business. The guy has a strong confident voice, and conveys that he's used to doing business. Even while threatening, he seems socially able, if annoying--as if he's reporting on traffic conditions or conveying information about an apartment she might be interested in, telling her that "the ball's totally in her court" and that she should "do the right thing." Soon the voice mails and emails are all over the internet, including his name and hers, and being discussed all over the blogosphere. But it's fifty bucks. Let me repeat that. Fifty bucks. While fifty bucks is nothing that's ever been spent on me for a first date, and perhaps it shouldn't be, it's still not a major amount of money for anyone with an actual job. For him, I doubt it's about the money. It's a control issue; it's a rejection issue; and it's the principle of the thing--he wanted to go out with her, and she didn't, therefore he feels that she owes him. But that doesn't mean she owes him money, whether it's fifty or two hundred and fifty bucks. But this situation raises questions about what's right from a point of etiquette, from a point of technical legality, and from a point of menschlikhkeit (behaving like a mensch). There's no way to know if "let's split it" means "let's split it," or "let's never do this again." I understand the pain of not being called back. And, although not proudly, I will admit to not having called guys back even if I said I would; when a guy asks if he can call again, it's harder to say "I don't think so" than it is to say "sure." Is agreeing to go on a date a business transaction? If so, is there any standard contract, terms to which both parties have implicitly agreed even though no one signed anything? How does one dissolve a partnership that was never started? And what are our obligations to the men and women we date?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Last Nights

Last nights have always been difficult. One tends to get caught up in the details of departure, and within those details are layers of doubt and lingering regret--over the undone or underdone, over the potential for intrinsic change, and for the vanishing moments of the now in the stark awareness that the present becomes past in the instant it happens. Being here has been everything and nothing I'd anticipated. The anxieties were mostly unfounded, and the experience overwhelmingly positive. Friendships were forged and realizations discovered. To an extent, I feel younger--as if some sort of vital essence were recaptured and, to my great surprise, reinvigorates me. I'm infused. And now, because it's a last night of this, a genus of freedom that I've lived through the last few weeks, I fear its imminent pastness, the moment at which this becomes that thing that once was; and puzzle at the fact that the life I left behind is again my future. More characters will be typed, but only after departure.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sign Me Up, Scotty...

Already find yourself dating Klingons or Vulcans or singles who seem like they're from space, the final frontier? Skip the formalities and sign up for TrekPassions, the online dating site for science fiction fans. And yes, they've already added a "Browncoat" Group. If you don't know what that is, this probably isn't the site for you. According to the report in the CBS news site:
Trek Passions received a boost back in March, when, on his late-night talk show, Conan O'Brien quipped: "The fans say the dating website is going great and any month now they hope a girl will join." It's not quite as bad as that. Although Passions Network President Michael Carter says they don't track such things, an informal count suggests more than a quarter of the 2,550 users are women. [...] In many ways the site attracts about what you'd expect. One person interviewed for this story left the endearingly rambling voice mail of a man not entirely comfortable with women. And some profiles seem to be written in another language: "A TOS-TNG-DS9 Fan Looking For par'Machi."
As someone who just told a story on Shabbat afternoon about how Return of the Jedi helped me get an SAT question right, I'm so glad I didn't understand that.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Request from a Reader

I just got this email from a reader, and he asked some questions that I thought would best be served by JDA's other readers, so feel free to respond in the comments section and I'll then forward the URL link of the post-plus-comments to him...thanks, and wishing you all a wonderful weekend!
I have only recently come into contact with your column and blog(s) and was merely looking for some kind of direction to take being that my Jdate experiences were too hard to handle, in my opinion. I placed my cancellation with Jdate today, after 7 months of lead-ons and 'just be friends' speeches. I thought that a faith-based/ethnic-based/spiritual-based dating web site would produce at least some meaningful contacts...but sadly, every person that I encountered blamed everything on "chemistry" and used it as an excuse to have no further contact. I certainly understand why people do not want to be brutally honest about certain things....but it really does hurt all the same when rejection occurs. I do not know if you have any contacts with people who have experienced this type of frustration....but if you know of some place, online forum, or venue that similar people use to speak about these issues, could you please help me?

Miles Away, In More Ways Than One

I write this from Jerusalem, after having been away for almost three weeks, and with two more to go. I can't guarantee that I'm making any sense in this post, or that it's concretely related to dating. But it is about relationships, altered consciousness, and the intensely frightening and intensely sought state of change. Miles away--rather, thousands of miles away--you hope for some sort of perspective in absentia, for clarity to emerge as you unimmerse yourself from the dailyness of you and revisit the decisions and emotions that you've experienced in the past. You hope for it. Sometimes, especially in Holy Cities, you pray for it. And eventually and to an extent, it comes, at odd moments when you're unprepared for it, or can't experience it viscerally, or can't write it down. But clarity brings responsibility. Running away isn't an option, and words spill forth on their own, leaving you behind. The things you are and the things you do must be the same. But if sentences seem disjointed as they emerge, is the march really toward clarity or toward something else? The wonderings are as wanderings, meandering in and out of meaning until clarity has engendered a new confusion. More topical posts to come...