Thursday, March 30, 2006

Blog Night is Tonight...

The JCC of Manhattan presents Blog Night @ the Lit Cafe Thursday, March 30--8pm Admission is free...the JCC is at 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Esther's Rent Fund

You'll notice at the right that I've added a PayPal Donation, I'm not begging, and yes, participation over here at JDaters Anonymous is still 100 percent free and open to all. But in case any of you are high-powered career types with money to burn and would like to throw some Benjamins (or Washingtons) over here to support a struggling writer with a killer rent, I'm providing the option. Thanks for your support...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Desperately Seeking Sperm-Donors

Saturday morning, I read "Looking for Mr. Good Sperm," Jennifer Egan's NY Times Magazine cover story about women in their thirties who have made it their priorities to have babies on their own, with the help of sperm donors.
One day last October, Karyn, a 39-year-old executive, pulled her online dating profile off JDate and, two sites she had been using, along with an endless series of leads, tips and blind dates arranged by friends and colleagues, to search for a man she wanted to marry and raise a family with. At long last, after something like 100 dates in the past 10 years and several serious relationships, she had found the man she refers to, tongue only slightly in cheek, as "the one." It all began last summer, when she broke off a relationship with a younger man who wasn't ready for children and got serious about the idea of conceiving on her own. She gathered information about fertility doctors and sperm banks. "Then a childhood friend of mine was over," she told me. "I pulled up the Web site of the only sperm bank that I know of that has adult photos. There happened to be one Jewish person. I pulled up the photo, and I looked at my friend, and I looked at his picture, and I said, 'Oh, my God.' I can't say love at first sight, because, you know. But he was the one."
One cute Jewish person, and she's sold. Well, to an extent, I can't blame her, especially after 100 dates, which isn't a number I've reached. So I guess people who are not in sperm donor clinics shouldn't throw vials. And while a certain part of me shouted out a supportive "you go, girl!" to the women who aren't waiting for the men to get their acts together or emerge from whatever rocks they're hiding under, another part of me was appalled at what I perceive to be in part, the creation of a child to substitute for the warmth of a lover or life companion, as well as the reduction of any sexual relationships that the mothers may participate in to a mere flesh-on-flesh encounter, with no strings and absent of any meaning or potential for future. Some of the women, while certain that they want their own children, are also in "relationships" with men who don't want children at all, and there seems to be an understanding that although the relationship between the two consenting adults will go on after the baby's born, said child will have no relationship with his or her mother's sexual partner. Not only can't I imagine how this will work parenting-wise, I wonder if it's going to be a lot more work to try to keep those parts of her life separate. But here's the case that really interested me.
Q., a 43-year-old health-care manager who attended a yeshiva from kindergarten through high school (she asked that I use only one of her initials), first sought out a Jewish donor. "Everybody either had glasses, they're balding or their grandmother was diabetic and had heart disease— typical Jewish population," she told me. Her solution: a 6-foot-2 Catholic, German stock on both sides, with curly blond hair and blue eyes. "He really was the typical Aryan perfect human being," she said, laughing. "He was a bodybuilder. He played the guitar and the drums, and he sang. He was captain of the rugby team in college. When I had the in vitro process done, the embryologist said: 'This is some of the best sperm I've ever seen. It just about jumped out of the test tubes."' Q.'s golden-curled, blue-eyed daughter has just turned 2.
For a moment, let's put aside the fact that she found the entire Jewish population wanting and opted for a Catholic, a "typical Aryan perfect human being," as she put it. And let's not discuss the psychological reasons for choosing to engineer your child with stock from the perceived perfect population (and whether or not such a decision is, in its own way, eugenics albeit an extremely different sort than that practiced by Nazi doctors). Let us instead focus on her demographic profile...she attended yeshiva through high school. So did I. What happened to her between 18 and her current 43 in order to persuade her that this was the only way to move ahead with her life? And how did she overcome community disapproval? Is she even part of a community? And did that inclusion or exclusion influence her decisions? What kind of support structure does she have, both financially and familially to be able to support a child on her own? And the question I found myself asking as I read the article, theoretically and educationally, this woman and I share a background--if I get to the point where if biologically the choices are procreate or give up the chance for motherhood, would my choices be any different? I obviously don't know. But what became clear to me as I read was that I'm way luckier with the support structures in my life than she seems to be with hers.
[...]Q. developed severe hypertension during her pregnancy and had to be hospitalized several times. Her symptoms lingered even after her daughter was born, and she became preoccupied with what would happen to the baby girl if she were to die. Her brother and a sister are selfish, she says, and her mother is elderly. Last fall, she went to the Donor Sibling Registry and got a shock: the Aryan bodybuilder with the leaping sperm has fathered 21 children (and counting — he is still an active donor), including four sets of twins. These children are all 3 and under, and their families — four lesbian couples, three heterosexual couples and six single mothers — have formed their own Listserv, where photographs of the children (all blond, with a strong familial resemblance) are posted, and daily e-mail messages are exchanged about birthdays, toilet training and the like. They are planning a group vacation in 2007. "I was elated," Q. told me. "To quote the granny on 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' I wanted her to have kin. Now here's kin that look like her; that're in her same age range. I even thought that if I get to know somebody really well from this group, maybe I would pick one of these other mothers, if they would be interested, to be designated as a guardian for my daughter."
Her mother is elderly. And her brother and sister are "selfish," she says. I don't know what that means, other than that apparently they don't support her. So if something--God forbid--happens to her, it looks likely that she'll be designating one of the other mothers--of children who happen to share the same genetic material but who may have nothing else in common, especially if her Jewish heritage is important--to be the guardian for her child. I'm not here to judge the choices of others. I'm not in their biological or situational shoes, and until I am, I can't tell you how tight said shoes are. But as the author of a book about children who survived the Holocaust because they were hidden--often with non-Jewish families, with the most Aryan-looking among them standing the strongest chance at survival--I can't help but feel somewhat unsettled, on a Jewish collective unconscious level. I've said it before, even with parents and siblings who I think would be willing to help, I don't think I could do it alone. And I don't think I'd expect the help, or be brazen enough to ask them for it. And as a freelance writer, I don't think I'd ever have the income to do it. And of course, a substantial part of me isn't willing to give up the dream of having it all--the companionship, the compatibility, and the conception--with the right guy at my side.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

From the Simple Street Meet to an Audience With the Dating Hermit

Walking up Broadway last night, I ran into a friend of mine. She was with a friend of hers, and after my friend L. introduced me to her friend L. (I swear, they're both Ls) as "the world-famous singles columnist Esther Kustanowitz" (immediately proven untrue by her friend saying, "I never heard of you"), we struck up a conversation about dating. And just like always, I had no answers to her questions, which didn't stop me from talking for about 20 minutes. But still, I had no direct answers, because I'm not sure there are any. Her main question: "Why aren't people meeting each other?" Now, there's no real way to answer this. Firstly, because there's no way to prove that people aren't meeting each other in general. It's too general a question: somewhere, people are meeting and even marrying. I know this because I get the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times and because I keep getting wedding invitations in the mail. But the question could be: "Why aren't people meeting on the Upper West Side?" "Why can't I meet anyone?" or "Where do I go to meet someone?" It could even be "Will I ever meet anyone?" or "What the hell is he/she thinking?" or "Why am I always confined to the Friend Zone?" And I don't have the answers to any of these questions, because, for f*ck's sake, I'm still writing this blog and my column. Are there questions about dating that actually have objective answers? Or is anyone claiming to have "the answer" (this means you, Rules ladies and He's Just Not That Into You) a liar by definition? Isn't it all subjective? And even in any objective study of dating and relationship patterns, aren't we all just asking "Why is it taking me so long to find love and when will it finally happen?" What do you guys think? Say you've climbed to the top of a mountain in the Andes, where lives a dating hermit with all the answers to any questions we might want to ask about the courtship process...and say you're allowed two questions...what do you ask? And what kind of answers would you expect?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Jury Still Out on Online Dating...

Three publications. Three headlines. Stay tuned for the kicker... Online Daters Report Mostly Positive Connections (USA TODAY) Online Dating Common, But Safety a Concern (i-Newswire) Most Americans Think Online Dating is Dangerous (Linux Electrons) ...the aforementioned kicker? All three articles are based on the same new Pew Internet study about online dating. Which, just for the record, is titled: "Americans who are seeking romance use the internet to help them in their search, but there is still widespread concern about the safety of online dating." (Snappy title. Take a hint from Fiona Apple, and title the study "Americans Who Are...") Which makes me think that "news about the online dating industry" is a lot more like tofu than we thought, picking up the flavor of whatever spices it's cooked with, but independently and on a molecular/flavoral level, inherently pareve. But like I said, this no longer affects me. I'm done. Again. For now.

Mars & Venus Go To Shul: Jewish Dating Blogcarnival's Second Date

Sometimes the second date takes a while to happen. It shouldn't, if both parties are into each other. But busy schedules being what they are, sometimes, even if you really like each other, the second meeting takes longer than it should. And now, presenting the "Second Date" of Mars & Venus Go to Shul: the Jewish Dating Blogcarnival: Even though the two of them hail from different definitions of connection to Jewish life, Hilary and Annabel Lee both deal with dates for whom lack of religious observance may cause a problem. Nice Jewish Girl compares her life to a doughnut. Writersbloc suffers a pre-Valentine's Day loss, issues a wish list to the one that hurt her and learns to cope amidst marrying friends. SweetRose is a little shocked to find someone who makes keen observations about her in a relatively short time and muses on transparency. Passionate Life has formed a connection with a woman who's going through the conversion process, and decides to terminate correspondence with her, only to be resumed once she's become a member of the Tribe. The Trials and Tribulations of Me and My Rack (that's right) announces that Mr. Wonderful "has turned out to be anything but..." and Mission2Moscow ponders the Functional Value of Heartache. JeruGuru notes correctly that due to skimpy costumes and flowing alcohol, Purim's an excellent excuse to meet some eligible singles... and JDater relays a story about a spunky, fed-up female friend of his who gave an inappropriate questioner something to think about... Ben Baruch, Shabot6000's Aba, attended a Frumster focus group...and reminds this blogmistress that it might be time to revisit the whole classification issue... Maybe we should all just become acquainted with the true meaning of March 9: Get Over It Day (as reported by Annabel Lee)... Ladies and gentlemen, you've been wonderful dates. Maybe next time, we'll Blogcarnival back at your place? Be in touch and we'll work out the details...Next deadline is March 30...

Submit your blog article to this edition of “mars & venus go to shul”! Use our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Dumenco Opines: People Read Blogs Because...

Ever since I started blogging, I became a lightning rod for questions about the emergent technology: isn't a blog the same as a website? could anyone start a blog? and why would they want to? Now, media expert Simon Dumenco announces the answer to that last question: people read blogs because they want to get laid:
In this week's Media Guy column for Advertising Age magazine, Dumenco contends that knowledge of the hippest, hottest blogs can increase hook-up opportunities and boost sexual attractiveness. He maintains some people are using niche blogs such as and to gain pop cultural insights that make them more socially desirable and ultimately more likely to get lucky.
Picture it, Los Angeles, sometime last month. I'm sitting at a Coffee Bean with Nina Litvak, the co-writer of the new movie When Do We Eat (billed as the first Passover comedy, review coming soon...). A man at the next table, clearly also a writer, starts schmoozing with us..."are you guys comedy writers?" Nina explains that she's just co-written a comedy, and I say something along the lines of "I have a column in NY, and generally do a lot of writing, and a great deal of that is comedic." He looks at me, pauses, and says, "You're a blogger, aren't you." He said it just like that, no question mark at the end, just a period. He knew. And that was when I decided to dress a little nicer for the rest of my trip, and always put on some semblance of makeup, even if I was just going to the Coffee Bean. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if I looked like Cameron Diaz, no one would have assumed that I was a blogger. But in my jaunty cap, a sweatshirt, no makeup and jeans, and I was instantly identifiable. Which brings me to my point: blogs, and by extension, bloggers, are not perceived as sexy. As I've said before, after standing in a line of bloggers waiting for admittance to a screening of Serenity, "we are not a pretty people." Additionally, I believe that my blogs--particularly this one--have actually cost me dates. True, anyone who wants to know the real me will by definition need to understand and tolerate the blogginess of me. But there are those men who are easily scared by a woman who has a forum online and an audience of hundreds in which she can discuss any manner of dating-related customs, behaviors and miscellany. Never you mind if she doesn't actually discuss her own dates, relationships and specific personal behaviors the way some of her peers do. That the potential, the readership, is there, is enough. Couple that with my singles column in the Jewish Week, and it's a daunting media machine to come to terms with before a first date. So, although I hadn't ever intended it that way, acceptance of my blogs has become a prerequisite for dating, the way other people feel about having a guy get them a glass of water or opening a car door and waiting until they go inside. If anything, for me, involvement in blogging is impeding the lucky-ness that Dumenco seems to indicate that blogfollowers hope to get... Looks like I'm going to have to kiss a lot of blogs before I find my prince. No offense to the rest of the blogtribe, but I'm hoping that people don't always look at me and say, "You're a blogger, aren't you..."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Once a Quitter...

...always a quitter. That's right. Queen Esther's Royal Budget no longer allows for products with such a low return on investment, so she's opting out until her finances improve. Or until her optimism that she can meet someone great in real life plummet sufficiently. Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blog Night: Help Me Choose...(Part Deux)

Greetings, loyal (and new) readers... I'm pleased to announce that I'm scheduled to do a reading at the JCC's Lit Cafe Blog Night, co-featuring Stephanie Klein. And I've been asked to read some of the highlights from my blog (er, blogs). So now's the time for all good blogreaders to come to the aid of their--um, me. Over at My Urban Kvetch, I've taken the liberty of compiling links to a few posts that I'm considering reading. I'm doing the same for JDaters Anonymous so that you guys can see what I'm considering in terms of material. Feel free to vote, or nominate your own favorites...and come by to this FREE event on March 30th to hang out with Stephanie and me as we blogjourney before a live, wine-soaked audience. Back at Nothing The Vanishing In the Air Refraction Got others?? Share your favorite posts here...

Monday, March 06, 2006

Marching With the Penguins

Marching With the Penguins (JW-March 4,2006)

Every year, penguins embark on a long, dangerous journey. Their destination is the locus of all penguin life, the area from which they all originated, their homeland in the Antarctic. Although they are birds, they do not fly, and although they make their home underwater, they do not swim. They walk. One foot in front of the other, trudging on into a horizon that’s all ice, snow and instinct. The impetus for movement is biological and perhaps also emotional. Despite the frozen clime, they’re on a regenerative mission of life: the search for a mate. In other words, it’s kind of like a national Jewish singles event — think of the United Jewish Communities young leadership conference, or a JDate-sponsored trip to Israel, with all the marriageable Jews sporting permanent formal wear.

For the rest of the article, click here.