Thursday, December 30, 2004


This one,, is for people with a passion for adventure and outdoor sports. Personally, I'm waiting for


You all know I complain a lot about JDate. It almost seems that I wouldn't be a single woman if I didn't. But it's not peer pressure, or the desire to get along with my singleton peers, that drives my dissatisfaction. It's because of a basic fact about JDate. They're in it for the money, and don't care about customer service. In any other business scenario, this would spell disaster. But they've got the brand working for them. Even if the most frequent online incidence of the word "JDate" is inevitably followed by someone's account of how horrible their experience is, brandwise, they're the preeminent Jewish dating service, referenced on The West Wing, relentlessly in Jewtopia, and in any other number of pop culture contexts. Despite the dissatisfaction of many members, who keep quitting and rejoining because they think they have no choice, the number of "members online" seems to keep growing. Many have speculated about this, and I think the reason is clear. Even if you quit a thousand times over, your profile remains active. It is sent to people in "Your Matches" emails even if you quit JDate, met someone elsewhere, married and have a few kids. If you have not specifically requested the removal of your profile, as far as JDate is concerned, you're still available. Now, many of us have suspected that, despite their poorly named Customer Care Department, no one over there seems to care about us, the multitude of customers who enable JDate to exist. Feeling ignored is something we all experience. But now, my correspondence with them proves it. First, that initial letter I sent them (and their completely unacceptable response). Then, there was another letter, that I wrote as a member of the press who was thinking about giving them some publicity, that received an auto-response. Never, never send a member of the press an auto-response. (And I didn't even go to business school.) And now, there's this--my newest letter, followed by their response. I'm uncharacteristically terse because they limit me to 150 words (as if I could sum up what's wrong with them in 150 words, without using the word fackockta): 12/28/2004 From: Esther's Profile Name Reason: General question or suggestion There's no one option why I'm canceling: JDate is frustrating and ineffective. Your computer-generated customer service responses are inadequate. You delete words from people's profiles that changes the meaning and sound of their original essays. You should focus on customer service, on actually responding to people's queries. If this message gets an auto-response like all the other ones, I'm showing all my friends how you "value" your customers. Ok, can't say I didn't warn them. Here's their response to my concerns, and my comments in brackets. From: JD Comments Sent: Wednesday, December 29, 2004 3:44 Subject: Re: General question or suggestion Dear Member, To change how often you receive "Your Matches" emails and other informational communications from us, go to Member Services and click "Off-site email alerts and settings." There, you will see a list of options to choose from. [Um, guys? I know how to do this. I'm NOT an idiot. That's not what I asked.] If you would like to stop the automatic renewal of your Premium Membership, go to "Cancel Your Premium Membership" in Member Services. This will stop any future billing yet allow you to enjoy all subscriber benefits through the remainder of your paid term. Your profile will also stay on the website for free for as long as you wish. * [I've already done this, Brainiacs. Then a screen popped up asking me why I'm quitting, and none of the reasons quite fit. That's why I'm contacting you. And by the way, I'm gone as of January 23.] If you want to remove your profile and stop getting email from us, just login and go to "Remove Your Profile" in Member Services. [Of course, you know I can't do that. If I'm Jewish and single, I have to stay out there. And part of being out there, unfortunately, is having a JDate profile. This sucks, man.] We hope that you have been enjoying the website and meeting some wonderful people. [Um, I'm gonna go with no, I haven't. What I have found out is that on the whole, Jewish men either come on too strong, or they're total wusses. Or maybe they're just not that into me. And while we're at it, I'd like to note my resentment of one of the "reasons for quitting" that you list: "I'm giving up on finding a soulmate." Why would you do that? It's like "Ok, leave if you want to, but know that if you give up, you'll be alone forever." You suck, JDate. There, I said it.] Customer -- the best place on the Internet to meet quality singles and find your perfect match [Umm, no--it obviously isn't.] Let's recap what I asked for, and how many of my complaints they addressed. And let's see which of my readers can discern the intricate mathematical pattern:
  • JDate is frustrating and ineffective. This is where they should have said, I'm sorry that you're finding our system frustrating, but here's who to call, or what to do...NOT ADDRESSED
  • Your computer-generated customer service responses are inadequate. NOT ADDRESSED
  • You delete words from people's profiles that changes the meaning and sound of their original essays. COMPLETELY NOT ADDRESSED
  • You should focus on customer service, on actually responding to people's queries. HMM. NOT ADDRESSED
  • If this message gets an auto-response like all the other ones, I'm showing all my friends how you "value" your customers. ADDRESSED, BUT BY ME, IN THIS POST.
I swear my blood pressure just jumped. Maybe I'll do some nice, calming work to even out my keel. If anyone has horrid tales, or better yet, good experiences about JDate's response to customers to relate, let me know. I'm hoping that their responses to me constitute a response anomaly. But somehow, realistically, I don't think it is... *On the previous "An Answer" post, an Anonymous reader wrote: I wrote Jdate and asked them to inform those women [who wrote to me] that I cannot retrieve their messages or respond, but it doesn't look like they will do so. In a sense, they are damaging my reputation and in a way hardly consistent with traditional Jewish values. Morever, since I can't log on, I can't even delete my profile so that it doesn't continue to happen in the future. If they lock me out because I no longer subscribe that's fine, but then they should also remove my profile, rather than keep my face and profile up and count me as one of their available-to-meet members.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


If you're a liberal, who's lonely and wookin' pa nub in all the wong paces, you'll be thrilled to learn about this merger between two online dating services that are hoping you and a saucy Canadian number will make a merger of your own. The newly announced merger between the District-based, and its Canadian counterpart,, is designed to achieve "politically motivated matrimony" between "hot, sexy liberals" on both sides of the border and counter "four more years of cowboy conservatism" under Mr. Bush, MarryAnAmerican says on its Web site. According to the article, MarryAnAmerican says that it wants Americans in Canada to engage in "politically motivated matrimony". ActForLove has partnerships with influential groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NARAL, and the Environmental Defense Fund--the article reports that although initial fees for the service are $25 for up to 25 contacts, singles who follow the ACLU's recommendation to fight the USA Patriot Act can get free credits with the dating service. I know most of you just come here for your singles-related news or hoping that I'll yell about a JDate experience, but I really think you've got to read this whole article. It's written in such a tone that you almost believe it's a joke. An example: MarryAnAmerican says, "While we don't necessarily advocate marrying strangers on the Internet, we're not opposed to the idea either, if the stranger is progressive and really hot." Because that's all anyone's really looking for.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


One December, in a city by a river, there was a tower with twinkly lights. Amidst the sparkle, a humble humor, a human romance brought further illumination to a City of Lights. On a cold night, you can't beat the romance of an engagement in Paris. As Ari said in her congratulatory comment, Deb and Alex "bring hope to the desert." Here's a prayer: to more hope, less desert. (And more dessert, if I get a third wish. But if only two wishes, then more hope and less desert.)


Anyone not get an adequate deluge of "He's Just Not That Into You" this week? Good news! Here's my latest column, "Just Not That Into" This Book... Enjoy, and comment away!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Got a degree? Then wants you to join their site: started with one goal in mind: to be the best meeting place for educated singles online. At, we believe education is one of the key ingredients of compatibility, and for some, the most important. Interests and lifestyles are greatly influenced by a person’s educational background, and we honor the hard work you’ve put in to better yourself. We’ve built an entire site around your achievements, because we believe you shouldn’t have to worry about the tedious process of seeking a match; your time should be spent considering the list of prospects that will lead you to a more fulfilling life. By the way, Degreedate's acceptable degrees include an Associate's Degree and a Bachelor's Degree. First two thousand people to register get free lifetime memberships!!

Sunday, December 19, 2004


In this story about, a man says that he was attracted to the woman he eventually married because "despite her gender and her hairless chin, the beauty with the faraway look reminded him of Rabbi Shnuer Zalman, the bearded founder of the Chabad Lubavich group. She 'was almost the exact feminine version,' he recalled. 'She was gazing off into space with this holy smile.' We can file this one under "There's a lid for every pot." So glad these two kids found each other.


In this week's issue of the Forward, comedian Catie Lazarus (and I wonder if that's a stage name) shares with you "her JDate Profile." Clearly, it's for laughs. I'm not really sure I understand all of the jokes in the earlier part of the piece, but if you wait for her self-description, you should get an out-loud laugh or two. On the whole, a resonant piece.


The dating phenom known as "He's Just Not That Into You" is finally engendering backlash: "This is killing me," says attorney George Cahill, 28, of the phenomenon surrounding the red-hot title, "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys." Cahill recently went to dinner with a woman he had been dating for a few months and told her that due to a hectic work schedule, he wasn't looking for a serious relationship. "But I know that she's read the book, so I felt like a huge liar," he said. "Except that it's true! I am really busy at work!" I've got a column on this coming soon to a paper near you, but my two-sentence summary is here: Don't follow a mantra, people. Follow your hearts.

Friday, December 17, 2004


This, you gotta see. Of course, is responsible for the list, so consider the source... 1. Love trumps money. Apparently, women are less materialistic than ever!! Go us! 2. Seniors click with online dating. As anyone who's seen my "Members who have viewed your photo" folder can attest. 3. Farewell Sex and the City. Or, as Carrie said: "The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous." 4. Ladies first. Women are "more comfortable than ever at making the first move" in online dating. Um, that's because if we don't make the effort, we never hear from the boys. 5. Politics and dating. People began dating along party lines. Not that it helped. 6. The same-sex marriage debate ignites across the country. (This item has not increased romance in my own life, I'm just saying.) 7. War in Iraq. Huh? War is romantic? Um, no. But includes it anyway, noting the increase in internet activity to stay in touch with loved ones... 8. Online dating goes mainstream. 30 to 40 million people log on to internet dating sites each month. Although this is supposed to make me feel better, I find the numbers a little frustrating. That's a pretty good pool, and I seem to have forgotten my swimsuit. 9. HJNTIY. According to the list, this "empowers women to set the bar higher in a relationship or move on..." But I think it gives non-committal men with poor communications skills another excuse. I guess I'll found out for sure, now that I've got the book from someone extremely generous. 10. Single dads are sexy. So saith the Match. According to them, "Seventy-four percent of the single women on indicated that they are open to dating someone with children. " Their proof? Kevin Hill. Still, good news for certain aforementioned generous people. What? No entry for "Esther D. Kustanowitz founds JDaters Anonymous" or "Jewish Week Singles Column Breaks Subscription Records"? I was robbed, I tell ya...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


The difference between JDate and Frumster. Discuss amongst yourselves...


Last weekend, Chayyei Sarah (J.A.’s single soul sister in Jerusalem) went to a singles weekend in Tiberias, Israel. It was an experience like no other, in which Our Heroine suffered untold singles-related slings and arrows, ducking social ineptitude and poorly-planned program elements like machine-gun fire. She survived—as heroines often do—heroically, living to blog (and blog and blog) another day (and another day and another day). As she relived the weekend for her readers, she understood that she needed support, and has asked for it:

The Shabbaton was . . . emotionally a lot . . . and while writing about it is helping me to "process," the interaction with other people out there helps a lot too. Even if you don't think you have something profound to say, please say something, even if it's just "nice post" or "this gave me something to think about" or "you have a typo." Writing about the Shabbaton is dredging up a lot of the feelings of isolation, and your feedback helps me to not feel like I'm blogging in a vacuum. As she reflected on the “Lost Weekend” (my title, not hers) she recalled the incidents in the order that they transpired. But because of the way blogs work, the newest posts are first, leading to disjointed reading. Her enterprising editor friend is pleased to present for your reading this chronological account of CS’s weekend, chapter by renamed chapter. Click to the link below each chapter title and make sure to share your comments with her, as well as with me. Feel her pain, for it is also ours. Chapter One: In which Our Heroine senses a mild disturbance in the Force Chapter Two: In which Our Heroine measures up the competition Chapter Three: In which Our Heroine discovers which Harry Potter character she would be Chapter Four: In which Our Heroine’s Friend has her chanukkiyah (Chanukah menorah) highjacked Chapter Five: In which Our Heroine resents an announcement Chapter Six: In which Our Heroine begins to feel depressed and tired Chapter Seven: In which dinner is served and people are rude Chapter Eight: In which Our Heroine has had enough and is still trapped for Shabbat Aside: In which Our Heroine bravely explores the subject of physical appearance and the subjectivity of attraction Chapter Eight: In which Our Heroine breathes again, which is a good thing, because she’s already named the previous chapter “Chapter 8” Chapter Nine: In which Our Heroine is flattered and confused by a man’s attention Chapter Ten: In which our Heroine meets Voldemort—oops, I mean Hairbun Chapter Eleven: In which Our Heroine does not declare bankruptcy and instead meets a Smug Unmarried American

Chapter Twelve: In which Our Heroine does battle with a donut interloper Chapter Thirteen: In which Our Heroine gets stuck in a conversational loop

Chapter Fourteen: In which Our Heroine stabs it with her steely knives, but she just can't kill the beast

Chapter Fifteen: In which Our Heroine seeks a prayer before eating Chapter Sixteen: in which Our Heroine depends upon the kindness of strangers

Chapter Seventeen: In which Our Heroine does some learning Chapter Eighteen: In which Our Heroine walks in Tiberias and through history Chapter Nineteen: In which lunch is served Chapter Twenty: In which Our Heroine receives an intriguing offer Chapter Twenty-One: In which Our Heroine wishes she knew more Sephardi customs Chapter Twenty-Two: In which a Cohen atones and Our Heroine prays for a soulmate Chapter Twenty-Two and a half: In which Our Plucky Heroine pitches her Azzam Azzam story and encounters journalistic snags but remains optimistic Chapter Twenty-Two Again: In which Our Heroine loses count of the chapters again but summarizes her experience with a valuable lesson Shabbaton Chronicles—Revolutions: In which Our Heroine reflects on her experience and makes some decisions THE END [???]

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Or at least that's what this site should be called. But instead, it's called Veiled Conceit. Their motto? A glimpse into that haven of superficial, pretentious, pseudo-aristocratic vanity: The NY Times' Wedding & Celebration Announcements Best post I've seen is this one, extrapolating an imagined Jdate-originating email correspondence between two people whose wedding was announced in the Sunday Times. Satire, irony, snark--come and get 'em. (Thanks to Bloghead for turning me on to this...)

Monday, December 13, 2004


And in today's installment of "Who are these guys and where do they come from?": In addition to the phenomenon noted by H in which everyone wants to be her friend, and on the heels of Chayyei Sarah's recap of the Singles Shabbaton from Hell (begin at this link and read up--she separates the posts by vignette), which is serialized over at least 13 parts, last I counted, we have this entry, from WritersBloc. She was ambushed with a blind date while at a party, and wackiness ensued (rendered in appalling green to indicate the single girl's queasiness when on a date with the wrong guy): The conversation veers to religion and my recent attempts at keeping kosher. “I’m just doing it to see how easy or hard it is. I’d like to try,” I explain. “Do you believe in God?” “I do. Why?” “Well, because I don’t.” “Believe in God?” “Right. You can’t prove to me that God exists. So since there’s no proof, I don’t believe in him.” “But you can’t disprove that he exists either.” “That’s not the point.” “Oh.” [beat] “Prove to me that God exists!” “What?” “Prove. To. Me. God’s existence. You believe in him, so prove to me he exists.” “You can’t prove faith,” I try “You just can’t. Faith is rooted deep inside. Your whole body just knows. It’s not about rational justifications. Faith is not rational.” “Well, I’m a very rational person so everything needs proof for me. For example, I just read two books by this Dutchman who proves that life was planted on Earth by aliens.” “Aliens? And he proves it?” “He does. After you read his two books, there will be no doubt in your mind that aliens planted life here.” ”I see.” ”You should check those books out.” ”I should.” And there is more. But I'll leave it to you to discover. And I leave you with this personal account: Esther's conversation with Blind Date Guy number 3,048, circa 1994: BDG: So what did you study in school? EDK: English. BDG: So, now you speak English. EDK: Um, yeah. But I also studied literature--fiction and poetry. I'm a writer. BDG: Oh. I always thought poetry was stupid. EDK: Well it's not. BDG: Well, I don't understand it, and I'm smart. I am a lawyer after all. EDK: I guess some people just don't get it. That's an understatement.


In this week's Jewish Journal, L.A. writer Jill Franklin calls for people to be sensitive to the private lives of both singles and new marrieds. But what she's really doing is calling for people to mind their own business and not impose their timelines on other people. Finally, a platform that makes sense; too bad it's fundamentally unimplementable in the Jewish community, where the culture seems to be centered on the invasion of privacy. An example from my youth: when my brothers and I got kvetchy (in those pre-blog days), my mother always used to tell us "Al Tanoodge." The Al is the negative imperative, "don't" which appears in the Ten Commandments in front of prohibitions against things like murder and adultery; tanoodge was my mother's own Hebraic/Decalogual construction of the nonexistent verb "to noodge"--the grammatical formulation indicated that it was not up for discussion: this was the Eleventh Commandment. But did we stop? No, we noodged--it's what kids do. When we became adults, we made efforts to resist this legacy of imposing your expectations on other people. As young adults in our twenties and thirties, I think my brothers and I are doing a great job of resisting the genetic predisposition. But I fully expect that when we move on to parenthood, the resistance will break down, and we'll succumb. As I've been single the longest, I fully expect to have the strongest resistance, but one day, I hope to have the opportunity to noodge my own daughter to get married. I know it will be because I want to see her happy, but I also know she won't see it that way. In the meantime, whether you're single or married, read Jill's article. And if you feel the primal urge, resist. Al Tanoodge. *To clear up any confusion, Al Tanoodge is not a town in Iraq. Just read on.


E-Dating Bubble Springs a Leak From Sunday's New York Times: While most women interviewed complained that too many men just "window shop" online and are unwilling to consider any but the prettiest faces, Zev Guttman, 28, a mortgage banker in Monsey, N.Y., said it was men who are at a disadvantage online: it is still typically the man who has to make the first move, and it is still the woman who gets to pick and choose. As a result, he said, he either had to lie — about, say, the fact that he is divorced — or face an empty mailbox every day. "If I write that I'm divorced, I don't have a chance of hooking up," he said. "If I write that I'm single, they're not interested because they think I lied to them" once they discover the truth. "I'm just going to go back to matchmaking, or friends," he said. JDaters Anonymous readers, weigh in: Would you rule out dating someone who is divorced? If you dated someone who said that s/he had never been married and then revealed that s/he was divorced, would you break up with him/her because s/he lied? Do you think men are more superficial than women (i.e., likely to reject a woman based solely on her looks)?

Sunday, December 12, 2004


So yes, that includes everyone. Run, don't walk, to see Chayyei Sarah's accounts of the singles weekend she went to over Shabbat. She discusses (in no fewer than eight parts, and there may be additional installments) step-by-step the misery of how she felt on this weekend, and brings up some difficult issues about the subjectivity of beauty and attraction. Feel her pain, and then tell her it's all going to be all right. It has to be. She's a wonderful, intelligent, attractive Jewish woman who's putting herself out there on a regular basis. If there's any justice, it will be all right. She'll find someone who will have been worth the wait. And they'll live happily ever after. If you know any frum, cool guys in Jerusalem, send them Chayyei Sarah's way, please. CS, JDaters Anonymous supports you.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Of course, I have to lead with octopus love. If you'd like to meet someone but don't know how or where, the internet can help: At inked a matchmaking deal with EHarmony. Forgive my cynicism, but if you ask me, this is like MTV partnering with the Smithsonian. Friendster is for people with an attention span of three seconds; and the EHarmony questionnaire is full of questions no one can understand and takes over an hour to fill out. Sounds perfect, right? This week, the Virtual Wingman hit Yahoo News (but if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know no one will give her a chance. Oprah’s Wednesday show (a repeat) featured the author of “He’s Just Not that Into You,” and made me determined to never waste time over boys who can’t get their acts together. Jewsweek reviews two books about sex and dating: She Comes First, and Single Jewish Female: Neither book presents a unified theory for Jewish sex. She Comes First isn't a Jewish book, but for what it is -- a guide to oral sex -- it's the better for it. SJF is unabashedly Jewish, but for all Furman's borscht-belt jokery, she makes it clear that a Jewish girl wants to marry a Jewish guy because she wants to send Jewish kids to Hebrew School -- not because she's looking for the kind of fiery action that only comes from a shared history of desert-wandering. Tis the season to be depressed and lonely? Not according to these two items from the internet: Here’s yet another Singles Season Survival Guide to avoid the purported loneliness of the Christmas season: And non-religious Jewish singles can meet their mates at “The Ball”. And finally, in Australia, a study reveals that it’s healthier to be married, and that “singles had higher levels of psychological disturbance and alcohol consumption”: I think that ties in with the lonely season article above. (We're trying, goshdarnit! Don't add pressure! Leave us the freak alone!) Wishing you all a happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Forget the copepods in tap water, wigs made in India, ordination of women or gays, or whether a person’s political slant is a little more “blue” or “red.” These days, no matter what your denomination, there’s always someone who will find your practice unacceptable. On the singles circuit, religious deal-breakers abound: from taking the elevator to your Shabbat dinner on the 24th floor to observing prohibitions against women singing in public, it often seems that there are more reasons to be combative than there are to be compatible. My newest Jewish Week singles article is online for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Monday, December 06, 2004


The Bangor Daily News' Jessica Bloch share her experience being single for the holidays, and how to decrease the loneliness that often accompanies the season. (I personally blame New Year's Eve, which she doesn't specifically address, but I guess there's still time for that.)


The Rocky Mountain News provides this feature on how to survive the loneliness of the holiday season. (See, it's a theme today.) One of the people they interview is Rachel Greenwald, the author of Find a Husband After 35 - Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. Those of you who have been paying close attention will remember her name and this title from my recap of the Washington 14 Conference in March. Although her advice isn't awful, I can't imagine following her suggestion: She advises singles to make lunch or coffee dates with six friends and ask for a gift: a blind date with someone they know. Call me crazy, but I'm not convinced that blind dates are a present. They're awkward, and seldom as fun as, say, TiVo, or health insurance. Plus, there's the whole tricky wrapping element. But despite my skepticism, I'm open. As the famous saying goes, "Never look a gift date in the mouth. Unless you're a dentist. Because then it's your job."

Saturday, December 04, 2004


If only The Jewish Week had printed the column I submitted this week, I could have looked like a trend-setting prophet. It was all about how people label themselves as Jews, especially within the online dating context, pointing out that some JDaters who opt to describe themselves as "Unaffiliated" are actually not even Jewish to begin with. But of course, my column was bumped due to advertising space needs and this small-town paper called the New York Times beat me to it. (Not to quibble over who's climbing on whose bandwagon here, but...) Apparently, those Jew-seeking daters are hoping to find a stereotypically nice Jewish girl or boy...and doing quite well for themselves. Don't we all wish we could say the same? The column should appear next week, when it will appear that I'm basing my article on the one that appeared in tomorrow's Times. You, gentle readers, will know the truth. (And thanks to the person who gave me the Anonymous tip on the article.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004


I do a lot of complaining about what men put in their JDate profiles. I'm harsh sometimes, but I don't name names, which I hope creates a learning experience for these poor gents. Equal time to the guys, now. Here's Todd with his list of 16 weird photo things women do in their JDate profiles. He points out how some of these items are indicators of red flags, like having no picture. I have to do this stuff too. But Todd knows that.

Monday, November 29, 2004


File this under "forewarned is forearmed." The article quotes the president of an organization called WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse): "We see up to 50 victims of online harassment/stalking each week," Jayne Hitchcock, president of WHOA states. "Some of these have had the unfortunate experience of meeting someone online, whether via an online dating service, chat room or personal ad, and have had a negative experience. So far, these victims (both men and women) have not had their lives taken as a result, or been physically abused, and we were able to stop the online harassment before it escalated to such a point. Putting a disclaimer on a Web site stating whether or not they provide a marital and/or criminal background check is a very simple solution and much easier than requiring every online dating service to do these checks. This then leaves a man or woman the option of joining that service, knowing what they can expect. And it could save their life." The call to action was issued by TRUE, "the only online relationship service that actively seeks to further protect the safety of its communicating members by conducting extensive criminal background screenings. "

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


According to Harrow Times: Britain has the highest numbers of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies in Europe, while Harrow has some of the highest in London. I did not know that. Britain? Really? Too much Coupling, I guess. (As if there could be too much of such a great show..."Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...") Amid this climate of promiscuity and teen sex, the BBC have commissioned a new documentary series, to be set in Harrow, encouraging youngsters to "try abstinence". First of all, they're calling it a documentary, but I'm thinking it's more like a reality show. Like "Amish in the City," but it's really "Abstinent in England." I wonder what the slogan for abstinence will be. "Relax: Don't Do It" seems very inappropriate, considering the original thematic of that Frankie Goes To Hollywood song. The series will follow a group of 15-18-year-olds to see if they can go five months without sex. Dubbed Romance Academy, the unusual show will urge the teens to practise celibacy and encourage them try old fashioned dating rituals. Let's set aside the fact that there are apparently 15-18 year-olds who are sex addicts. I don't think we had those in my high school. How does one practice celibacy? Very carefully. If you practice Judaism, you engage in Jewish rituals and customs. What are the customs of celibacy? Is abstention from an act an act itself? Old-fashioned rituals may include going to airports and hotel lobbies on your dates and attending singles dances where a wall of plants separates the men from the women. Or so I've heard.


I suspect that this will be a recurring series, much like H's new feature, "JDate Email of the Day." Which was upgraded from "JDate Email of the Week." Which was upgraded from "JDate Email of the Month." There's just so much material there... In the past month or so on JDate, I have noticed some trends in profile contents that I'd like to share. Maybe you can help corroborate my observations, explain them, expound upon them or otherwise proffer an opinion. This is the first in this series. "I'm a very laid-back guy" /"I'm very easy-going" I don't know what it is, but all of a sudden, all guys seem to have the term "laid-back" as self-descriptors in the first sentence of their profiles. I'm not saying it's good or bad. I'm saying I don't get it. What qualities does the "laid-back" guy possess? That he's "casual" or "easygoing"? Is the opposite "tightly wound" (in which case "laid-back" would be a good thing) or lazy (which would be bad)? Does he mean that nothing rattles him? That his apathy or indifference is boundless? That he never has an opinion about anything? How can anyone be completely "laid-back," in an era where the current cover of New York Magazine exhorts: "TERROR: WHY HAVEN'T WE BEEN HIT AGAIN?" (subtitle: "Reasons to Feel Safe...And Scared") I just keep seeing this phrase, over and over again. And it's always in the intro sentence. That actually grates on me more than anything else about the phrase...that the first thing they want you to know about them is that they're easy-going or laid-back. Which, as we've already covered, I don't find to be all that descriptive. I know. I'm a little nutso when it comes to language. I don't have to date Strunk and White. (Oh, the bad English major references.) Or William Safire, for that matter. I just believe that whoever is out there for me can make a compelling case for himself in writing. I'm even willing to relax about his spelling. But your profile is your opportunity to impress the people in your dating pool--why not take that chance? Use your words, boys.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Of course, if you're a JDaters Anonymous reader, we all discovered her months ago. Here's Gothamist's interview with Blaire Allison, Spinster. (Disclaimer: I maintain that 27 is not a spinster. A girl's gotta believe she's not past her prime just because she's reached an arbitrary age marker...)


[That was sarcasm, people.] Sometimes online dating can be...murrrrder. [Insert evil laugh here.] I know it's not funny. I just don't deal with "downer news" that well. (Yes, 2001 was a difficult year. Actually, which year hasn't been a difficult year?) Internet Romance Ends in Murder for Memphis Woman There are a number of web sites that make it easy for many people to find love on-line. That's apparently what 43 year-old Linda White, who lived in Memphis with her parents, thought she had found. However, less than a year after meeting Craig Musso on-line, and moving to upstate New York, the relationship ended with Linda White's death. "This is an unusual circumstance, this case," says Wayne County, NY Sheriff Richard Pisciotti. Police in New York say White was strangled to death by her new husband. There is no word on Musso's motive. All that is known is that the Internet brought these two people together. White and Musso met face-to-face for the first time in Memphis, after Musso caught a bus to town. That meeting followed an eight-month relationship on-line. The two were married in Memphis almost immediately. Linda White's neighbors say that was her first mistake. "You should get to know that person personally, before you marry them," says Frank Benson. Criminologist Richard Janikowski agrees, but says Craig Musso may be just another predator using a computer to capture his prey. "The Internet is used for all kinds of things, unfortunately," says Janikowski. Unfortunately for Linda White, true love may have been just a trick. Janikowski says it's a lesson for other potentially lovelorn adults. "There are all kinds of predators out there, and adults need to protect themselves, especially women," says Janikowski. I share this because knowledge is power. And we must be vigilant, pay heed to the red flags wherever they are. It's not quite the imperative to "trust no one," but certainly, we need to proceed cautiously. And gentlemen, if you're offended because women seem reluctant to get involved with you for whatever reason, just be patient, and understand where we're coming from. Of course, not every Internet contact is a potential murderer, but we have to not let our desire to connect with someone, and our yearning to have romance sweep us away, blind us to a more basic danger. File this under "For What It's Worth."

Thursday, November 18, 2004


I understand where the editor was going with this title, but it's a little too gimmicky for my taste, plus I think it doesn't exactly work with the issue covered by the article. And, I put in a reference to the "meet-cute," which is a movie term for the device that gets the two leads together in romantic comedies, which was apparently changed to "meet cute people." Not exactly the same, but whatever. That said, I offer my latest Jewish Week singles column. First paragraph is below--to read the article in its entirety, click on the title below. (11/17/2004) The Middos Touch Esther D. Kustanowitz “I’m looking for a girl with good middos,” the yeshiva boys of my youth would say. The teachers beamed, proud that their students were looking for girls with strong values — family, respect, and modesty. Problem is, nine times out of 10, those boys were punning on the Hebrew word middot, which also translates as measurements — as in 36-24-36. They were looking for a woman with curves in all the right places, and none of the wrong ones. Hearing this, the girls experienced a nagging feeling, as clear as writing on a Babylonian wall, that they had been judged and had been found wanting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


If any of you do this, I would love to hear about your experience... I found this on a casting call notice I received from a group called Film in the City. Seeking on-line daters to participate in an independent documentary about the search for love via the internet. Initial on-camera interview will be about internet dating and his/her definition of love and what they are looking for. If the person is amenable, I would be interested in following him/her on a few dates. Cecile Bouchardeau, Producer/Director/Writer, Magic House Productions

Monday, November 15, 2004


Now that's a game show I'd like to see. (Easy, Spike TV. Down boy.) But seriously, folks. Thanks to the folks at Jewlicious for bringing this new hoax to JA's attention. I can't say it enough, people. If it sounds too outrageous (counties hit by Florida hurricanes voted for this divine retribution?) or too good (just forward this email to 100 of your friends and Bill Gates will give you a free computer and a trip to Disney World and a gift certificate to the GAP) to be true, it probably is. Check with your friends at Snopes, and they'll help you out. Just ask My Urban Kvetch...she knows.


Sometimes, on JDate, I like to see "who's online." I designate an age range and off I go, whisked away to a land of (presumably) available, (presumably) Jewish men. Per visit, I view approximately 40 pictures and opening lines, only seldom am I inspired by a smile or a sentence to click to the profile in its entirety. And here's where it gets spooky. With only one or two exceptions, all of the "who's online" profiles I have clicked on for the past three visits have been Geminis. I am also a Gemini. Last week, in a 24-hour period, I "met" via IM two different people whose birthday is the day before mine. Yet, I have never dated a Gemini. What does that mean? Amateur astrologers and non-believers alike welcome to contribute to the discussion.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Divorcing Bridget Jones I'm really at a loss for words. OK, so I'm not at a loss for words exactly. I guess I'm just not really wanting to dignify a Craig's List posting like this one with a diatribe about men's sometimes-piggishly superficial tendencies or a pontification on what women's attributes are prized or lionized in this community. So great to know this guy is available, though. (And FWIW, the original Craig's List post has been removed. Thanks, Craig!) Via Defamer.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Thanks for singing along with me on that one. I do appreciate the harmony. Hello there, and welcome to my article about Sunday's shidduch (match) conference. Were you there? Had you been in the past? Have you ever used a matchmaker? Weigh in with your observations here.

Friday, November 05, 2004


[As usual, the names have been changed to protect the potentially sketchy.] A 35-year-old British guy IMs me, we chat pleasantly for a few minutes. Then, this (my comments bracketed in italics): <BRITISHGUY>: what are your figures? <ME>: what do you mean? [He can't really mean what I think he means, can he?] <BRITISHGUY>: your statistics? [Statistics? You mean "9 out of 10 freelancers starve in their first year on their own"? Is he asking me my salary? He can't really mean what I think he means, can he???] <ME>: i'm still not getting you. <BRITISHGUY>: your waist size, inside leg size etc <ME>: are you for real? [Inside leg size? Just ponder that one for a while. Either he's asking for the circumference of my thigh (!!!) or he wants to know what size the muscles and viscera inside my leg are. In either case, that is literally the first time I've heard that one.] <BRITISHGUY>: why? <ME>: why would you need to know that? <BRITISHGUY>: just interested that's all. <ME>: i don't know how things work in the UK, but the only time that's an acceptable question in the US is if you are a tailor who is making me a suit. <BRITISHGUY>: hypothetically, what eould you do then if a guy you were seeing asked then <ME>: i don't know a single guy (who i would consider dating) who would ask something like that outside of a tailor context. And I don't know any women who even would have carried on this conversation after you asked. [In fact, why am I still here? Insatiable curiosity, I guess...] <BRITISHGUY>: i apologise <BRITISHGUY>: changing the topic--what do you think of bush being elected <ME>: not happy, but have no choice <BRITISHGUY>: yes you do <ME>: what? <BRITISHGUY>: nice chatting with u goodbye Moral of the story: In England, it is okay for a man to ask a woman for the circumference of her thighs and waist, even if that man is NOT a tailor or a beltmaker. However, it is not okay for a woman to express her dissatisfaction with political leadership. What a country!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


The former is false labor/contractions, sometimes experienced by pregnant women late in their pregnancies. The latter is apsychological typing system (MBTI-Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), which is the mechanism for the latest entry into the field of online dating, Jewish Types. Aryeh, co-founder of both this site and the extremely helpful JRant, writes: The system helps you identify your MBTI type aswell as the type you are attracted to. The system then matches you with a person that fits your attraction type but also satisfies the requirement they you happen to be also be their attraction type. I personally think that this site can be extremely revolutionary as to how people are matched up. The fact is, that even if you aren't attracted to the person the site sends you, you will nevertheless feel an instant connection and feel comfortable with the other person because not only do you inherently like their type, they inherently like yours! So whether you walk away with a true soulmate or not, you should definitely walk away making some really close friends. There is no cost to join, but if you don't know your type, it could take a half hour or so to determine what type you are, and to which type you are attracted. It took me a while to determine that I'm probably an ENFP (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling Perceiver) attracted to an ESFP (Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling Perceiver). I say probably because I felt some of the choices I was given in order to determine those letters were too close to call. You'll see what I mean when you take the test. If you have feedback for Aryeh, feel free to share it with him. If you have a great experience, share it with J.A.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Mmmmm. J.A. Potpourri smells nice. If you’re not too busy waiting for my new interview with Stacy R. from The Apprentice to appear in the Jewish Week, you might want to check out these sites for dating-related musings, trends and topics: He's Her Lobster... Jack’s Shack does the math for you, and provides you with a topic that, if employed correctly, will drive single women crazy. Personally, I didn’t think you guys needed suggestions of who to drive single women batty. I thought it just came to you naturally. My bad. “Taking one for the team, so your buddy can live a dream…wingmaaaan!” (I do love that Budweiser commercial.) A nod to the PepGiraffe for turning me on to this article from a couple of weeks ago in the NY Times. Apparently, the print version of this article is in that monstrous pile of newspapers and magazines on the floor of my apartment. If you’ve ever thought you’d be good at matching people up in bars, you might want to sign up to be a wingwoman. $30 an hour, you’d go to bars with single men and go “What about her?” If the guy nods yes, you go and chat up the woman, and then transition to the introduction to your client. The article is here and the website is here. Of course, if you prefer your winging to be wirtual—umm, virtual, try the Arriviste Press Virtual Wingman. Bex the Rockstar—A Closet Romantic? I couldn’t believe it either. But my controversial ex-camper’s now backlashing against the Sex and the City approach to New York dating, and has launched a mission to return to those misty, black-and-white days of “highballs and witty discourse.” A Love that Would Look and Sound Like a Movie Blaire Brings an Apple to the Teacher Blaire, of fame, is dating a teacher. They've been together four weeks, which is longer than most of the relationships I've had. So, more power to her. Love Coach JDaters Anonymous reader Janice Bennett, a nationally consulted expert on relationships and the Love Coach for, sends out a regular newsletter with resources, book reviews and announcements of online classes she’s running. Among other things, her site features a blog, and a book review of "He's Just Not That Into You" here. Want more? As we used to say back in the day, tough noogies. Ya gotta wait.

Friday, October 29, 2004


And the word "answer" is in quotes because I'm not sure this response constitutes an answer. JDate responded to my query. Dear Member, All profiles are active until a member decides to remove his or her profile from the site. As a member, you have the option to sort your search preferences by: New Members, Most Active, and Most Popular. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us any time at our toll free number: 1-877-453-3861. You can also reach us at: 1-323-836-3000. Customer Care I posted a longer version of my letter to them yesterday, but then had to send this shorter version to JDate, because they only allow 500 characters of feedback. You sent me, among my matches, a guy WHO HASN'T LOGGED INTO JDATE SINCE NOVEMBER OF 2002. Why send out a profile of a member who is not active? Are all the profiles that were ever put up still floating out there unless their owners specifically delete them? When you claim over 500,000 members, does that include all the people who have ever registered, most of whom may not log in regularly? Even if they do, they may not be paying members and therefore unable to view messages anyway? What do you think, my readers? Is this an acceptable response to the question I sent them?

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I just sent this letter to JDate. Well, an abbreviated form of the letter, anyway. They only allow 500 characters of feedback. So I had to be terser. I hate terse. So here's my "director's cut," with a paragraph of "extra footage." Enjoy... Dear JDate, You sent me matches. Never mind that most of the time these matches are people I already know and who are definitively NOT my matches. I understand that the nature of search engine-generated emails results in a personalized email that's not really personalized. This time, you sent me a terrific guy! Cute, sounded smart from his profile (which is harder to find than it should be), and WHO HASN’T LOGGED INTO JDATE SINCE NOVEMBER OF 2002. Suffice it to say, he’s probably not expecting to hear from me. He could be married with a kid and a half by now. Why send out a profile of a member who is decidedly not active? It's false advertising. Isn't there a certain time (say, two years) after which profiles need to be renewed or lost? Or are all the profiles that were ever put up still floating out there unless their owners specifically delete them? When you claim over 500,000 members, does that include all the people who have ever registered, most of whom may not log in regularly, or even if they do, may not be paying members and therefore unable to view messages anyway?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Me: "Hi, my name is Esther." Everyone else: "Hi, Esther." Me: "And I'm addicted to joining internet dating sites." OK, so I'm not addicted yet, but my rejoining of JDate this weekend (and a hot tip from P-Life) led me to check out Frumster, the "Orthodox" Jewish dating site. I even put up a profile, but so far, the profile I'm most impressed with is mine. It sounds conceited, I know. I didn't think finding an interesting profile that communicates something about a person was that difficult, but apparently I have very high standards. I'm compiling new items for my next list of "internet profile comments that irk me." For instance, someone who describes himself as a "gourmand," when he clearly meant "gourmet." Add to this the regular list of internet dating cliches, like "I love to laugh," and I'm hating this whole process anew. Still, I'm trying to be "out there," and open-minded. Even with the new category ("Traditional and growing"), I suspect most of the people on Frumster are too religious for me. Meantime, on JDate this week, a man who seemed very interesting and interested suddenly suspended his pursuit when he learned I wouldn't meet him for coffee on a Saturday afternoon--he's not even observing "the big holidays" these days, he said. Where's the middle ground?

Monday, October 25, 2004


Well, this isn't exactly "wild" (at least not in the sense that some Googlers may have been hoping), but it does show you how much P-Life's mother cares about his happiness. He recognizes in the post that, even if his approach to life's a little different than his mother's, that his mother's love is wonderful and meaningful, and that he's grateful for her efforts. Aww. It's often hard to integrate our parents into the informational loop when it comes to our dating lives. Especially in the early stages of relationships, where we ourselves are reluctant to get too excited about someone (and thereby incurring the infamous "jinx") we don't want to indicate to our parents that there's a hope only to dash it a few dates, or weeks, later. God knows, it's hard enough to admit it to ourselves. We love our parents, and know their intentions are good. But sometimes their concern for us feels like an added source of pressure that we just don't need. When my parents ask after my social life, I try to let them know that I haven't given up, that I'm putting myself out there, and that my social circles are expanding. It's all I can do, and I have to hope that they'll understand that. I think they do. But that doesn't mean they stop asking...


This is an article from an issue of New York magazine from this summer. It’s the story of a mother who impersonated her daughter on JDate to try to get said daughter dates with nice Jewish boys. The mother’s name is Joyce, and her daughter is 24 years old: Joyce paid $28.50 for a one-month membership and started scoping out potential dates -- "I was looking for a doctor." The only time she felt weird was when someone asked about her interests, and she thought, How would a 24-year-old respond to that? Then she printed out and ranked some promising profiles, and gave them to her daughter, who'd been away on vacation. The response: "She started crying that I ruined her life," says Joyce. "It was over-the-top, scary." Joyce's daughter (who refuses to give any name at all) rolls her big brown eyes and says, "You're lucky I didn't sue you." Have I mentioned that I’m more grateful for my mother every day?

Sunday, October 24, 2004


I sensed it was coming, felt it in my joints like a coming storm. I know JDate's bad for me, but I decided to give him one more chance. I even paid his way back into my life. Why? Because of a tricky little hope that flickers within me, threatening to extinguish itself. Rather than smother the smallness of that entity bigger than an ember and less sturdy than a flame, I decided once more to nurture it, to really give it a go. Even after becoming violently ill after viewing one of the profiles, I decided to give it one more chance. It's an experiment of site and self, and if nothing else, fodder for my creativity. But primarily, I'm hoping for a couple of dates with guys who have a social clue and a sense of humor, and who aren't completely averse to Jewish practice in some form (I know it's JDate, but you'd be surprised). So you see, hope springs eternal. Or for at least another month.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


Overheard at the box office when I was waiting to interview the writer-actors of Jewtopia... "Is this play still going to be funny if you're not Jewish?" I couldn't hear the answer. I assume they said yes. I think it's hard to say absolutely, but I think most New York area people, Jewish or non-, will find humor in this play's words, situations and performances...of course, there were a few people who didn't find anything redeeming about it at all, and the writer-actors addressed that in our interview. Anyway, my new article about Sam and Bryan and their opus Judaicus, is now available online: "Welcome to Jewtopia."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Forget the disappointments you might have had with Saw You at Sinai, JDate, Frumster or any other attempt at online matchmaking. JDaters Anonymous regular Passionate Life has taken on the job of shadchan (matchmaker), and has posted his list of shidduchim (matches) for some of his favorite bloggers. He matches my other blog, My Urban Kvetch, with His Suburban Kvell, a yet-unwritten blog: "Esther meets her match; story to follow in Jdaters Revealed!" P-Life says. Well, maybe. Forgive an SJF's cynicism. I like my City life. I'm hoping for "Our Urban Kvell" instead. My favorite one: P-Life matches my sometimes arch-blognemesis,, with "The place for those so fed up, anyone with a pulse will do!" I think we all hear that. And I'd like to further suggest that for Annabel Lee, we find The Raven. Then she shall be single Nevermore.

Monday, October 18, 2004


I knew it was only a matter of time. And now it's happened. I got an instant message from a JDatenik who literally made me sick. I thought I was going to vomit--that's how bad his picture was. He looked like an axe murderer/pedophile, and his profile was bizarre and creepy. His screen name? Oh, you know my house rules here...I don't name names. Even the bizarre and creepy deserve not to be the targets of slander. One woman's garbage is another's...never mind. But the point is that he had a screen name akin to "Your Meant to Be"...and I had to select "Ignore Your Meant To Be," which seemed so wrong on every level. I read the profile again just to be sure. I was sure. I tried to get my stomach to settle down, but my system couldn't recover from this one. I'm still nauseous. And the kicker? I'm still thinking of rejoining JDate. Why? Because the curiosity is killing me. I have 18 new messages. Given, most of them are probably either a) missed IMs, b) from female friends or c) from the creepy people who have added me to their favorites list and wrote me an email even though my profile tells them I'm not a member and can't read them. But hope remaining the thing with feathers, I may just cough up the dough for another month. Just to see if this abusive relationship's any better the third time around. And if it's not, I'm out of there. Probably.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


From The Jewish Week, October 6, 2004 DANCES WITH TORAHS by Esther D. Kustanowitz After the seriousness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Sukkot’s put-all-the-food-on-a-tray-and-take-it-outside-to-a-hut balancing act, Simchat Torah, with its spirited dancing and unabashed celebration, is a welcome cap to autumn’s Jewish holiday season. On the Upper West Side, where Jewish singles look for each other at every available opportunity, Simchat Torah also is a holiday of hope. Aside from the seemingly endless number of synagogue services, there is an equal, if not greater, number of food-and drink-related opportunities for determined minglers. Indigenous Upper West Siders know that someone’s always having an open house luncheon where there’s so much food that two (or six) more guests don’t make a significant difference, and there’s always a shul kiddush that can slake your thirst for both whiskey- and wit-soaked conversation. Then there are the apartment parties, in high-rises and brownstones and everywhere in between, where three roommates buy equal parts vodka and babka, invite everyone they know, add ice and shake vigorously: the result is a nice, frosty glass of Jewish Geography, straight up with a twist of Torah. Back in the day, West End Avenue was the undisputed apex of the Simchat Torah scene. Hundreds of people from West Side synagogues of all denominations gathered on an officially closed-off stretch of street, organizing joyful jigs with fellow Jews. From the sea of horas, emerged the hordes of the Jewish and single, who formed phalanxes and marched up and down the street, ducking people from their past and looking for people who could become part of their future. Between my yeshiva days and my summers at Camp Ramah, I seemed to know, or be one degree away from knowing, every street-striding member of the tribe. I declared my apartment an official stop for friends and friends-of-friends, inviting them for a sip of schnapps or morsel of cake either before or after their West End Experience. Over the years, hundreds of people have flowed in and out of my apartment. For that one night, the bar was open, and there was food on the table: crudités for the weight-conscious, chocolate chip meringues for the sweet-toothed, and chips for the Corona-drinkers. But post-9/11, things got a little complicated for West End Avenue. In a year when revelry already seemed inappropriate, the prospect of Jews frolicking in the streets also became a substantial security issue. There were murmurings that tenants in buildings along the parade route had also complained about the noise. The dancing and mingling continued, but commemorations were localized and more subdued. Now three years later, the monstrous street-centered celebration has not resumed, and single Jews looking to maximize their exposure to other MOTs will have to wait for May’s Salute to Israel Parade. West End scene or no West End scene, the essence of the holiday retains its resonance. To begin the Torah again for the umpteenth time does not necessarily mean it’s the same old story; a fresh look at the familiar texts provides new opportunities to see ourselves in biblical characters, conversations, situations and relationships. It has been said that the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By making small changes, to our behavior, to the way we speak, to the way we look for friends and lovers, we can help to ward off the insanity that singles sometimes feel is inevitable. An annual commitment to the ongoing process of self-assessment and self-improvement teaches us that we can modify our behavior, and that altered behavior can lead to changed outcomes. As we finish a year’s reading of the Torah, together we proclaim, “chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek.” Strictly speaking, the phrase means “strong, strong, and we will be strengthened.” But I find a looser translation to be more meaningful: “we are strong, let us be strong, and let us strengthen ourselves and each other.” The message is an affirmation, a prayer and an invitation, and reminds us of our recent recommitment to our neighbors and to ourselves. We are strong. We pray that we will remain strong. With the help of our community, our strength will continue. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are about introspection, rooting out our weaknesses and areas for improvement, and committing to meaningful change. But on Simchat Torah, we put our Jewish New Year’s resolutions into effect. Hundreds of people have wandered through my door on Simchat Torah; thus far (unless a CIA-level conspiracy is keeping his identity a secret so that these columns can continue), none of them has been my bashert. But keeping the doors open, both literally and figuratively, signifies a willingness to believe that plumbing the depths of the familiar may yield the strength and deeper meaning we seek. For some of us, open doors might even lead to dancing. With Torahs, of course. Esther D. Kustanowitz, a freelance writer, is a twelve-year veteran of the Upper West Side Simchat Torah experience. She can be reached at


No, I'm not back on JDate yet. But since I have 18 messages from unknown parties, curiosity will probably win over economic pragmatism in the next few days. This post is about a new online dating "game," invented by artist Theo Kisch (madd props to me for resisting puns relating to the similarity between "Kisch" and "Kiss" and "Knish"). His games ($4.95 each) involve between 2 and 10 players (split evenly between the sexes), and basically players talk to players of the opposite sex for 15 minutes about one of 12 paintings on the site. At the end of the game, players trade e-mail addresses with any two singles that piqued their interest. From The Jewish Week: Kisch said the idea is to use the painting to talk to each other, so all the conversation revolves around it. “You learn details that you wouldn’t necessarily learn otherwise,” he said, “ and those details help you to see the other person in a deep way.” This opens up interesting possibilities. Perhaps I could assemble groups of people online to talk about my work, the nuances and annoyances, the good, the bad, and the gorgeous. Or maybe that's too self-indulgent. But if it brings people together... Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm realizing that the JCC of Manhattan already approached me to do a mixer program based on topics of interest to Jewish I'm already in the business of mixing singles and self-promotion...stay tuned for details on that event.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


If you've seen Jewtopia (either in L.A. or in its new run in New York), I need your opinion for an article I'm writing about the show, which I'm seeing tonight. Please send your comments to: Many thanks!

Monday, October 11, 2004


“New York women are way too hard on men,” author Amy Sohn says as we sip coffee at a caffeine stop on Smith Street in Brooklyn. “We’re too picky,” she continues. “As we get older, we begin mocking every guy. Women engage in checklist dating, looking for a man who will line up on every issue, whereas men just want women to be very attractive.” I’ve come “all the way” to an “outer borough” to interview Amy about her new book, My Old Man (available now in bookstores and online). Although the café itself is on a main drag, we both agree that its post-modern décor seems to indicate that after the sun goes down, the java makes way for more sultry and nocturnal beverages. And maybe strippers, which is kind of appropriate, given the title of Amy’s New York magazine column, Naked City. During the course of our discussion, Amy reveals that she’s gotten many letters from men and women about her column in New York and her previous column, Female Trouble, which ran in the New York Press and was the experiential basis for her first novel, Run Catch Kiss. During the dating process, she says, a lot of frustration builds for both men and women; but while men develop resentment toward the women, women, who are equally frustrated romantically, tend to turn that resentment inward and feel sad. Amy Sohn would be one of the first to admit that it is precisely this frustrating dance of dating and sex that has paid her rent ever since Female Trouble. Amy’s current column allows her to continue to plumb the very nature of human sexuality and create a context for the trends that shape the real life of sex in this city. Her first novel was wildly successful, garnering praise from the New York Times, among others. Perhaps because of the pressure that success engenders for first-time novelists, it took Amy three-and-a-half years to write My Old Man. On one level, the book’s about a rabbinical school dropout, Rachel Block, who becomes a bartender in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood and takes a romantic interest in Hank Powell, a misanthropic older filmmaker. The two spar verbally in a rapport that’s somewhere between banter and abuse, between sex and existentialism. (OK, I’ll say it: Sexistentialism.) Their relationship is as complicated and problematic as the one between Rachel and her Judaism. Jewish themes and references pepper the narrative and impact the protagonist’s outer and inner world, reflecting the intensity of her feelings about Judaism. Rachel’s distrust of institutional Judaism comes after an emotional trauma during an intense pastoral counseling session with a patient at Sloan-Kettering, in which she seems to say all the wrong things. Her inability to bring comfort to a man in dire life-and-death straits weighs on her so heavily that she is derailed from her professional rabbinical track and takes a job at a local tavern, where she advises imbibers from behind an oaken bar. One of the guys who walks into her bar invites her to a party, where she meets the curmudgeonly Powell. In my favorite jacket quote, Gary Shteyngart, author of the acclaimed The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, said that in this book, Amy “gets to the bottom of sex at its most appalling and arousing. This smart, funny work is recommended for anyone with a set of genitals and a brain.” And though, presumably, most parents possess both brains and genitals, most children of said parents don’t like to think about that too much. Rachel Block is no different—she doesn’t think of her parents as sexual beings, until she is confronted, most uncomfortably, with the flaws in her parents’ marriage. As that relationship hits the skids, Rachel begins to become more enmeshed with her lover, a relationship that occasionally results in sexual cruelty that both frightens and excites the former rabbinical student. Even the title indicates that as central as Rachel’s involvement in a May-December romance is to the book, the protagonist’s relationship with her parents, especially with her father, is also of considerable importance to both the author and her fictional creation. Although My Old Man isn’t the kind of Jewish literature you’d recommend to your mother or grandmother, The Jewish Book Council has seized on the elements that are inextricably Jewish and at the end of October is sending Amy on a tour of JCCs and Jewish book fairs all over the country (see for details). “I’m very curious to see the demographic of the audience,” she muses. “Because the protagonist takes a negative view of institutional Judaism, I’m curious to see if they’re going to be offended. A few of them have expressed concern about the subject matter of my presentation,” she explains, but notes that she always considers the demographics of her audience when selecting sections for her readings. I ask Amy what it’s like to write such explicit material knowing that her parents will read everything. “It’s a constant struggle,” she admits. “Sometimes I wish it were written in a kind of invisible ink, so everyone could read it except my parents. But you can’t select your audience. And you can’t seek out your parents’ approval in everything and still make your own decisions.” Now that she’s been married for nearly a year to a man she met through a mutual friend (“not a setup,” she clarifies) she’s really making her own decisions. Thrilled with her marriage, she still cautions the single to appreciate the finer points of being unattached. “When you’re single, you take your independence and autonomy for granted.” She also notes that in her mid-twenties, she went through an “extended period of adolescence” in the eyes of her parents. "Many kids who grew up in New York choose to stay near their parents, in a neighborhood they have affection for,” Amy says, explaining that this was the case with her, as well as with her character. “When they’re feeling beaten up by the world, it can be very nurturing to ‘date’ your parents. But then it’s harder to make the separation when you want privacy.” Amy’s scheduled to appear at Book Soup in Los Angeles on October 12, and Books Inc. (Chestnut) in San Francisco on October 13 before beginning her tour of Jewish book fairs. (Locations and times subject to change, so be sure to check Amy’s website for the latest information.) She continues to write her column for New York, and after the promotional tour is over, there are several other projects on her agenda: she’s working on a screenplay and has two books she’d like to option for film. TV, in some form, is also in the plan. (She had previously co-created, written and starred in the animated series Avenue Amy, which was produced by Curious Pictures and aired on Oxygen for two seasons.) At her recent reading at Barnes and Noble Astor Place in Manhattan, Amy proclaimed, "Being a writer is like a fusion of being a rabbi and an actress." And I think she’s right. Writing has a spirituality all its own. Add a healthy sprinkling of dramatic pathos and effective presentation, and you’ve got a pulpit rabbinate of literary sorts. As writer, you educate the human spirit through words, sometimes sparingly, sometimes in abundance, always rendered through emotion and reflecting a resonant truth.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


From Esquire Magazine, via Funnya: These brutally honest personal ads remind me of a combination of Liar, Liar (The Jim Carrey movie that was just playing at the gym) and MAD-TV's brutal and hilarious Lowered Expectations dating service. The mission statement: The singles below are real people with real issues. Some are overweight. Others are crippled by debt. Quite a few live with their parents. But they all have one thing in common: They are available. And they've put themselves out there with the hope of finding someone willing to accept them at face value. So, please, scan their profiles. You may not get exactly what you want, but at least you know exactly what you're getting.


Also through NoBlog (Lyss), I wanted to share the following site, Way Too Personal. With categories like "Just Plain Ick," "Wha Dah Fuh" and "Yawn," there's bound to be something on this site any online dater can relate to. Plus dating advice forums. What I don't see on the site are any responses/reactions/experiences/complaints by men about women's profiles and conduct online. Maybe it's there and I don't see it. But food for thought for all of my male readers. (Yes, all three of you.)


Check out NoBlog for an online dating story that we can all relate to. Why do I approve? Her observations are spot on, and she has changed the relevant names and details to protect the innocent. Or not-so-innocent. But to avoid slander, in any case.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


In the comments section on a previous post, Bronco Buddha asked: If we are all focused on how to "deal with" Singles and the "Singles issue" are we exacerbating the problem? To me, it's a little like large companies who have seminars for executives on "Women in the Workplace" and "Diversity". If you are singling out a specific group, and clarifying that you should treat them with respect and the same way you treat other people that are not part of that group, then by definition, aren't you treating them differently? Is identifying a Singles Crisis and telling people how to act (or not act) on dates making things less natural and more stilted? Well, readers? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


I'm not sure I agree with this assessment, done by the New York Post, but congrats to Hadar for winning the coveted title.

Monday, September 27, 2004


Here's a link to a special supplement that was written and placed by the Orthodox Caucus in last week's issue of The Jewish Week.* I admit, I thought it was going to be "one of those supplements," the ones that are propaganda veiled as a plea for funding. But it's not. It actually accurately portrays many of the issue facing Jewish singles of any level of observance. Of particular interest to me were all the "Anonymous" entries, where "real singles" wrote in about how being single and Orthodox makes them feel. See also Michele Herenstein's piece on going home for the Jewish holidays...she basically describes what will be my situation later this week as I go home for Sukkot (my brothers are both married, also). And Sylvia Barack Fishman's piece on "Dating a Commodity," in which she says that the "widespread habit of evaluating single men and women with an accountant's eye as marital merchandise is both demoralizing and dehumanizing..." There's more. Definitely worth a read. Check it out. And feel free to discuss it here. Or amongst yourselves. No big whoop. *Save your indignation: I'm not in it because I'm not, strictly speaking, Orthodox.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


...that I didn't even have to write. Here's Carin Davis in the Jewish Journal: "Teshuvah for Two." In case you haven't gotten over to My Urban Kvetch for this one yet, you also may want to check out my confessional reading for daters, "Courting Forgiveness." I hope everyone had a meaningful fast, and that this year continues to be one of personal satisfaction, health and happiness.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


I know I've been linking to Chayyei Sarah a lot lately. But what can I say, this Jerusalem babe's got good stuff. Firstly, a correction to the Saw You at Sinai post appears here; if you read my original post on this, please read this update. She makes several important clarifications to her original post, and has asked that those of us who had quoted this post also post a link to the correction. (Check.) Also via Sarah, there's this appalling story. I'm giving you the link not to spread malicious gossip about the person who betrayed the writer, but so that you can all send the heartbroken writer lots of love and encouragement. It's been said that when someone is ill, every visitor takes away one-sixtieth of their sickness. In this case, her affliction is emotional, but I think the more encouragement and love we send her, the easier she'll find the whole process of moving on. So let's use the internet for non-nefarious purposes, to bring our unknown new friend comfort during a difficult time.

Monday, September 20, 2004


Gossip's wrong, right? Especially in the weeks preceding Yom Kippur. But can't we just gossip a little, during the dating process? Isn't it sometimes helpful for us to talk to our friends, and work through our feelings about the endless parade of unsuitable dates? For an analysis of the issues, see my latest Jewish Week singles column, "Talking Trash." As always, I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, September 19, 2004


You've heard me talk about Marry Blaire (who's apparently going to be on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 on Monday 9/20 at 7 pm). Thanks to Petitchou, I've also found Marry Theresa, whose site appears to predate Blaire's by several years. I wish these ladies loads of luck. But every time I see their sites, I'm reminded of how "not me" they are. I'm even having intellectual problems with the online dating modality--I'm certainly not opening myself up to random proposals from men across the United States. I guess that, to a certain extent, my writing on this site and My Urban Kvetch does make me vulnerable to criticism and proposals of both the wanted and unwanted variety. Maybe I'm more comfortable opening up my inner world of writing and thought as opposed to my outer world of photographs and lists of "romantic must-haves." Although I don't think online dating has a stigma in the sense that it used to have, I still think that the JDate format, where someone sees my profile and makes a snap judgement about my dateability based on photo (hopefully also taking into account a few of the words I've penned about myself, as well), is not my ideal. I'm on JDate (even if I'm an unpaid member right now), but I still want to meet someone in the "normal" ways, through friends, in the humor section at Barnes and Noble, at parties, at synagogue services. I want the chemistry between us to be palpably physical, but also deeper and more emotional. I'm still looking for that undefinable something, as opposed to the checklist of options that help JDaters narrow down their search. But that's just me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Thanks for visiting JDaters Anonymous. I'll be taking a Rosh Hashanah break through Saturday night, September 18. See you back here the interim, feel free to peruse past posts, and check out my latest post at My Urban Kvetch. Shanah tovah u'metukah. Wishing you all a happy and sweet new year.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


There are tons of blogs out there. These are a few of my favorites which are penned (keyed?) by women in their twenties and thirties who are looking for love and finding it both humorous and exasperating: Chayyei Sarah Chayyei Sarah reports that she ran into an old college friend who now is one of the shadchans (matchmakers) at Saw You at Sinai: She said "You have to understand, in all of Israel, there are over 300 women signed up for the service [she may have said closer to 400, but I don't remember] and only 30 men."I said "You mean to tell me that in the entire country, there are 30 men signed up, and more than 10 times that number of women?"She said "Yes. And when you factor in that those 30 men are in different age ranges and different hashkafot [religious perspectives/approaches], the chances of any one woman having a man on the site who is remotely for her dims considerably." This reminds me of that quote from Sleepless in Seattle (prepare for pre-9/11 reference to terrorism...apologies if anyone's offended...) where someone notes that it's more likely for a woman over 30 to be killed in a terrorist attack than it is for her to get married. When Meg Ryan and Rosie O'Donnell are discussing it, they decide that it doesn't matter if it is true. Because whether or not it is true, it feels true. 30 men. 300 women. At this rate, Israel could override the Rabbenu Gershom decree outlawing polygamy in Judaism. Boys...not liking your odds in NY? Try Israel. Of course, if you do, that even further decreases the men-to-women ratio for we NYC chicks. As if it doesn't feel low enough already... SuperJux H. lives and loves L.A... from SpeedDatingGuy to JDate, from those guys who are "hit by the bus" (you ladies understand) to major surgery, she blogs all. Gonna meet her soon..can't wait. This Fish This Fish needs a book contract. But don't we all. In a Kingdom By the Sea The lovely and sensitive Annabel Lee shares her thoughts on B#1, B#2 and others, as she navigates the singles jungle. Ari Goes Down Ari hearts Bush. But I read her anyway. I'm all apolitical and stuff. Plus, she's supercool, has a unique approach to single life and doesn't care what you think about her. I admire the heck outta that. E-Date Chronicles A new find: This site asks readers to submit the most absurd profiles that they find in perusing online dating services. I have often pointed out absurd or preposterous elements of people's profiles, but without using their names. I urge you all, that if you decide to submit profiles to this site that you do so without using people's names. I just feel like it's less gossipy... "Many genuine and kind-hearted people have taken to the Internet in recent years to find their soul mate. Even though each E-Dating site employs a unique method for finding a suitable mate, they all share a common weakness namely, people who post preposterous profiles. The mission of the E-Date Chronicles is to use humor in pointing out the absurdity contained in such profiles. Please send us any preposterous profiles you feel to be deserving of the E-Date Chronicle 'treatment'. " Got a sister site to recommend? Recommendations welcome. Endorsements by Esther not guaranteed. :-)

Friday, September 10, 2004


Catch a cab, get a date This article in the Wall Street Journal is about a cabbie named Mr. Ibrahim who asks selected riders if they are single and looking. If they are, he records a short audio interview with them, and sets them up when he meets a rider who he thinks might be a suitable date: Mr. Ibrahim finds that New Yorkers are a tough crowd to please. "All the guys want Britney Spears," says Mr. Ibrahim, "And the girls are very, very picky." Oh, he's not wrong, in either case... The Tall and the Short of It New Yid on the blog The Buddha comments about the height issue. If you've been dating in the Jewish community, you know what I mean. Most Jewish women are looking for a taller man, even if they themselves are more petite women. (I had one friend who was just five feet tall, and often dated men who were 6'3 or 6'4. I maintain that there's no need to date someone more than a foot taller than you.) And a lot of men have a psychological problem dating someone taller. The Buddha wants you to know that he doesn't have this problem. But you know what the real issue is? I think that people focus on height because it's an unchangeable, objective tangible, as opposed to something that's less subjective like personality or sense of humor, or chemistry. You click with someone, and sometimes you can identify why. But the lack of click sometimes needs a scapegoat too. And I think people use height as that kind of patsy, as a way to rule someone out in a way that "doesn't really hurt their feelings," because after all, you can't change your height. Unless you have that Willy Wonka stretching machine that he used on Mike Teevee after he was turned into a Mini-Mike after being sent by television. Also, the fact that height is not objective is the reason that so many women on JDate are upset when guys lie on their profiles about this element. If you're 5'5, and claim 5'9, and we meet you, we're gonna know. Even if you wear lifts on the first date, at some point, those shoes are coming off and then we'll know. Representing yourself as four-to-six inches taller represents a divorcement from reality--we only care if you lie. So, an unsolicited but helpful hint: Be honest about your height at the forefront. I know it's hard, but it's better in the long run.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I've been all over the place for Amy Sohn. Many miles, many trains. Three trains to Brooklyn to interview her last week. Another three today to her reading at the Barnes and Noble on Astor Place. (And that latter three was after a morning spent soaked to the skin after the monsoon that somehow penetrated the near-impregnable subway system.) Her columns--"Female Trouble" and "Naked City"--are a braver, rawer, less Jewy version of my own. The notoriety of her subject matter is something I'm not sure I want for my own, but I certainly don't mind being around it once in a while. Genuinely funny, so much prettier than the sullenness of the book jacket photo would have you believe, Amy is surprisingly down-to-earth. Especially for a sex columnist. And all the miles? It was worth it, if only to hear her say "Being a writer is like a fusion of being a rabbi and an actress." (Hmm. Both careers I've had suggested to me at various points in my life. Why didn't I think of this?) I'll write more about the interview at a later date. For now, check out her new book, My Old Man (which I keep calling "This Old Man") and her column in this week's New York Magazine, about the dates who fade away. Men and women, we've all been guilty of this one. Any other dating sins to confess? Feel free.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


JDaters Anonymous wishes strength and future happiness to two of my dear blog comrades in arms: Annabel Lee (who's way cool for naming her blog after a poem by one of my favorite masters of the macabre: Edgar Allan Poe) has happened upon tough JDate times. Backwards compliments, borderline racism, and just plain insensitivity have shown our Miss Annabel that would-be gentleman callers who routinely use the word "screw" on a first date are not worth her future time. Unless he does call again and asks for her feedback--then I say, fill out a complete post-date survey. I'm happy to help you write one in advance of his call, Annabel. Over in another kingdom, in a far off Holy Land, Chayyei Sarah decides not to wallow in self-pity and appreciates the good things in her life, but that doesn't stop her from wanting more. And so she should. It's hard to see what you have and note that your life is better than so many others. But we will always see our lives for what they could be, the better version we're sure is just steps away. This is a good thing, the way I see it. It keeps us driven toward achievement in different areas. But taking time out to appreciate what we already do have keeps us grounded. So, Sarah, keep the faith. Disappointments happen, but most are not eternal in terms of their impact. I quote the immortal Matthew Wilder: "Ain't nothing gonna break-a my stride/Nobody gonna hold me down/Oh no--I've got to keep on moving." You'll find him. And when you do, we'll all join together in a blogospheric hora. Sisters, we at JDaters Anonymous support you.