Dating 101 – Not OK Cupid


I spent the weekend at home. I was dealing with jet lag and fighting off a cold that was trying very hard to derail me. I drank a lot of tea with honey, soaked in the tub a few times, and basically just rested. When I got an email from OK Cupid on Saturday afternoon letting me know someone was interested in me, I logged in thinking a good man might make me feel better.

That was the only mistake I made all weekend. These are the actual pictures of the man who got in touch with me. They have not been altered in any way, other than to delete his face. Yes, you got that right, they are posted online, for all to see, with his face clearly showing. This man is not shy or embarrassed by who he is or what he is looking for. Good for him I guess that he is so comfortable in his own skin, but surely there is a fetish dating site for him to be searching on.

Needless to say, after one week on OK Cupid, I was done.  Dating is a nightmare under the best of circumstances, and this was almost too much for me to handle. Maybe it was because I was tired, or perhaps because I was sick, but I wanted to scream and think I actually may have. I got up today at 4:00 am and the first thing I did was delete my OK Cupid account. Why didn’t I delete it immediately upon hearing from this man? Because my head exploded and I lost the use of my hands for a short time. That and I threw my phone on the floor and was too tired to go get it.

Dear Lord. I am 51 years old, cute, funny, successful, independent, kind, loving, supportive, open to love, and a great woman, yet this is what is available to me to date in Los Angeles? I will remain hopeful, because that is who I am as a human being, but to say this man did not crush my spirit a little would be a lie. In an attempt to shake it off and embrace the midlife crisis I am currently going through, I chopped off all my hair. A bit rash I suppose, but it’s just hair and it will grow back. At the end of the day I will be fine, because I am always fine. When it comes to my dating life however, today it is a bit of a struggle to keep the faith.

Dating 101: Fingers Crossed


I have been quietly dating a lovely man for a few months. He is a wonderful father, grandfather, and son. He is kind, smart, funny, generous, gentle, and respectful. He treats me with a tenderness I have never experienced in a relationship before. He extends the same respect to my son, which I appreciate and admire very much. We have a wonderful time together and I feel nervous, but content.

We don’t have a lot of things in common, and are politically on opposite sides of just about everything, but he allows me to have my opinion. He also allows me to spend a lot of time trying to change his opinion. He is open to change and growth and knowledge. I adore this man am quite certain that if I can get out of my own way, we will be important to each other in a lot of different ways.

I have had a series of complicated and difficult relationships, and while my relationship with George is complicated in some ways and difficult in others, it is also easy, calm, nurturing, and fun. We laugh at many things, including each other, and I feel blessed to have stumbled upon this man. He is unlike anyone I thought I would ever date, but has all the qualities I was looking for in a man.

It is new, exciting, comfortable, and connected. I don’t know where we will end up, but being on this road with him has brought me happiness. I have been writing about my dates and relationships for years, always being clear that I only date Jews and Democrats. I am now dating a man who is not a Democrat or a Jew, and I am counting my blessings.

Time will tell what we become to each other, but we are both happy and hopeful. It is strange to be dating a man who is not Jewish, but I am working through it. It is frustrating to date a man who is not a Democrat, but he is working through it. It is unusual to be dating a man who takes such good care of me, so I am crossing my fingers and keeping the faith.

Meant2Be: Why we both cried over his first love


When I first met my husband, we were both in our 40s and full of stories of the lost and found loves that preceded finding each other. I was mostly the one with the found loves; his were mostly the lost. When he told me the woeful tales of the women who hadn’t noticed him, who didn’t want him, who ditched or disappointed him, I told him he needed a new PR department. From my perspective, he was wickedly smart, handsome, had a gap-toothed smile that telegraphed how incredibly genuine and sweet he was. And come on, he was a successful doctor.  

Eventually, the sad stories stopped. Only one remained, the one about Peggy Buckley, the Irish Catholic girl he met in college who was the single exception to his roll call of disastrous romantic life. Theirs was a mighty attraction and they would have married but the pope said ‘no.’ So did the rabbi, Peggy’s parents and my husband’s parents. 

I, too, had my share of romantic woes. I’d loved and lost, loved and won, loved and checkmated but the good news was he and I … oh, never mind!

Eleven years ago, we’d been married for a decade, and my husband popped into the kitchen and said brightly (a little too brightly), ‘Today is Peggy’s birthday!’ ”

 “Why don’t you find her?” I said, thinking that talking to Peggy again might give him some closure. Thus he dutifully contacted her college alumna association and placed a call to her in Boston. 

“So, did talking to Peggy help?” I asked after the hour they spoke. 

“Yes!” He was jazzed. 

I didn’t say, “Maybe now you can concentrate on how much you love me?”

A few weeks later, he was asked to fly to Boston on a business trip. He made a reservation for two at the best restaurant in Boston. 

He called later and told me he sat at the bar and spotted a beautiful young woman with short, dark hair who looked exactly like Peggy. It was only after awhile in this dreamy state that a middle-aged woman tapped him briskly on the shoulder and said, “Hey! Didn’t you see me walking back and forth?” 

He finally got to talk to Peggy about those days of confusion and longing. He asked if she ever came to enjoy sex. If she thought about him, and all the questions we’d like to ask our old flames who’ve left skid marks on our souls. 

After dinner, they took a walk. Peggy had married a Jewish man, after all. Apparently, she was over my husband and also over the pope.

At last, mystery had a face and the face had wrinkles, 30 extra pounds and unbecoming shoes. Five more years passed. Cut to Thanksgiving 2012. 

We were hanging around the house. My husband had never learned to use Facebook, so I showed him how to search for friends. Naturally, he looked up Peggy Buckley. 

A screen appeared with a year-old article about her from The Boston Globe. My husband stared ahead in stony silence. It took me a minute to understand why: We were reading Peggy’s obituary. It spoke of her extraordinarily loving heart and her service to her community. She clearly was a terrific woman. Now, that beautiful, if unwilling girl, was gone. 

But in an instant, she became newly alive to my husband. The mourning began. He was crying. He talked to a therapist. He emailed old friends. He retold the Peggy stories and included some I’d never heard. When he said, ‘This is ridiculous, she wasn’t in my life. Why am I so upset?” I told him the truth: She’d always be in his life; she was an important figure to him. It moved me to see the depth of heart he was capable of. 

But then, I realized I wasn’t doing very well myself. What could the loss possibly be to me? I couldn’t concentrate, became withdrawn, then I, too, began to weep. That really made no sense. Peggy was his youth, his frustration, his football games. Peggy was his story.

I realized that in a life littered with despicable prom dates, disinterested coeds and haughty nurses, Peggy was the first person who truly got him, got his humor, his shyness, his slightly offbeat ways. I was grateful to her for loving him.

Meanwhile, he was walking around the house singing, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain” … specifically the line that goes: “But I always thought that I’d see you, baby, one more time again … ”

Finally, it came to me; on a soul level, Peggy was a kind of sister to me. She made a lonely college kid happy; she centered him, helped make him real in his skin. I was bereft because I’d lost a “sister wife” who I’d never have the chance to meet. This was my loss, my Peggy Buckley story. We two were the women who saw the magic in this person who needed our love and who loved us both. 

Thank you, dear Peggy. Rest in peace. 


Barbara Bottner is the author of more than 45 books for children (some she illustrated), has had short stories published in national magazines and articles appear in the LA Weekly and Miami Herald, and has written for television.

This column is part of our new series, Meant2Be, stories of love and relationships. Do you have a story about dating, marriage, singlehood or any important relationship in your life? Email us at meant2be@jewishjournal.com.

My Single Peeps: Barbara H.


Barbara, 36, grew up in Boca Raton — interestingly, in one of the only areas of Boca with very few Jews. “We were one of 10 Jewish kids in my elementary school. We were on the countryside of Boca — the west-west-westside.

“I went to theater camp when I was 14, which kind of saved my life, because I was made fun of a lot as a kid. Just in middle school — 11 to 14. When kids started to become mean girls, I didn’t understand how to be cool. I kind of look like I’m cool, but I’m naïve and honest and a terrible liar. I didn’t understand it. I still don’t understand it. I don’t get cruelty. So when I was 14, I went to this theater camp in Massachusetts, and everyone was dorky there, and everyone was super talented, and all of a sudden I was, like, I’m beautiful and funny. I came back and was popular. I was the lead in plays, and I won the beauty pageant at school.”

At 23, she was living in New York, auditioning for every show in town, and finally booked a traveling musical. When she got back, she realized she had nothing to show for it. “I had to find a new temp job, keep auditioning and find a new apartment. I hated it, and I was only 24. I started thinking maybe this wasn’t the right career choice, and I prayed really hard to God that day, crying my eyes out. I got a phone call like a half hour after I finished praying inviting me to a Shabbat dinner. I had never been to an Upper West Side anything. It was really cool and swanky, and there were cute guys there, and I had never dated a Jewish guy before.” It changed her life. She studied. She kept kosher. She kept Shabbat. She quit acting. A rabbi told her that if she took on certain things, she’d be married by 30. She listened. “I went on 100 match-made dates in 10 years. Some of them were nightmares, some of them were fun.” It didn’t work. She went back to performing. She doesn’t fit in the Orthodox box anymore. “I’m a growing Jew. I don’t necessarily feel in my life I need to follow it perfectly. I can do my best to grow as much as I can organically. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself.” 

Barbara’s 5-foot-7 and likes her men tall and lanky: “I’d like to have children. I definitely want to marry someone Jewish. I’d like to have Shabbat dinner, and I’d like to have a kosher home. I’d like to have a meaningful relationship — someone I can cry with, watch movies with, pillow talk to 3 a.m., raise amazing children together and build a beautiful Jewish home. They don’t need to be shomer Shabbat or kosher to go out with me — I don’t keep it perfectly. I’m allergic to yelling and screaming and fighting. Arguments are OK, but not fighting and screaming. The biggest turn-on for me [is] if someone can make me laugh. I’ve never done a drug, and I’m pretty proud of that.” Her three most important adjectives in describing what she wants in a man are funny, kind and responsible. 

“They don’t have to have a million dollars, but growing toward something they care about. And they pay their bills. 

“I’ve heard I’m a lot of fun to be with, and I make people laugh. I’m a cheap date. I like to go to Upright Citizens Brigade shows. I’m really happy with frozen yogurt or a picnic in the park. I think if someone just takes the time to get to know me, I’m an open book.”


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and two kids. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps by clicking on this column at jewishjournal.com.

 

Nice Jewish goys


On a recent Friday night, a group of 20-something foodies gathered to celebrate Shabbat. Well, maybe not 'celebrate' in the traditional sense of prayers and candles, but a Sabbath meal all the same. In the back of a thrift store in downtown Manhattan, two long wooden tables had been erected for a family-style eating experience among the displays of distressed jeans and vintage belts.

Several times a week, the store is turned from a Soho boutique into City Grit, a 'culinary salon' founded in 2011 by Sarah Simmons, an emerging chef recently named one of “America's Greatest New Cooks” by Food & Wine magazine. Ms. Simmons was standing in front of a comfortably packed room, explaining the genesis of her 'Southern Shabbat' dinner, which we'd soon be tucking into.

“Tonight is really special for me, which is funny, considering that I'm a Presbyterian from North Carolina,” she told the assembled, who had each paid $55 to attend the dinner (pricey wine assortment not included). “But I've been going over to friends' houses for years for Shabbat, and hopefully soon I'll become an honorary Jew myself.”

“Though I'll have to wait till my grandmother dies,” she added ruefully. “And I don't want that to happen anytime soon.” Ms. Simmons' take on the classic Sabbath meal featured a buttermilk-dressed salad, a thick chickpea stew–or “hummus soup,” as Ms. Simmons put it–that included rice grits and kofta meatballs, a barbecued main course from the newly opened BrisketTown and a dessert of chocolate mousse over mini-latkes. “I always loved dunking Wendy's fries into Frosties,” Ms. Simmons offered by way of explanation.

Was it traditional? Well, no. Was it kosher? Well, it was kosher-ish, and no one was complaining. “When Shabbat is offered to you, it's hard to say no,” said Stephanie Feder, a series producer at ITV Studios. Also in attendance were a New York Post features reporter and a relocated Australian couple who had scoured the Internet to find an inclusive Shabbat meal in the city.

“We try to go to Shabbat dinner every week,” said Jordana Shell, a social media consultant who had run the online division of a fashion magazine back in Australia. Her husband, Adam Shell, works in finance. “It's a good excuse not to cook at home,” she said.

“It's not like there are a lot of Jewish people in Australia,” Mr. Shell grinned.

Shiksa Simmons's concept of a culinary Shabbat–more of a meal than a Sabbath–was something she picked up from the Young Manhattanite Shabbat. So was mine.

The first time I ever heard of lobster kugel was at the home of Andrew Krucoff, web content director of 92Y and founder of New York's most brutal media Tumblr gang, Young Manhattanite (YM). It was 2011, and I was in awe of the individuals who would come over to Mr. Krucoff's cramped Lower East Side apartment and linger in the 7-by-3-foot kitchen. On any given weekend, you could find Sloane Crosley (who did, in fact, bring cake–a flourless chocolate one, to be precise), various Gawker alums and performance artist Nate Hill, infamous for dressing like a dolphin on the subway and offering free lap rides, as well as for putting up posters in Williamsburg for a “crack” delivery service. (The crack was candy, but people seemed to love the novelty of ordering it anyway.)

The whole YM Shabbat scene was as treif as can be, and not just in the kugel sense. Non-Jews frequently outnumbered the Jews, or at least the practicing ones–though you could always count on at least one person to remember the blessing over the wine, if not the theme of his bar mitzvah. One time, I proudly slaved for 20 whole minutes on matzo ball soup mix, only to have it served with a pepperoni pizza that had just been delivered. A Coke cake–the kind that comes from a can, not a Colombian cartel–stands out as a particularly delicious example of the flagrant disregard for tradition, both cultural and culinary.

“I was purposely putting out nonkosher food like shrimp cocktail,” said Mr. Krucoff, who began having “YM Seders” in 2006. “But I wouldn't say I was trying to have Shabbat ironically. The parties wouldn't have been fun if [The Forward cartoonist] Eli Valley hadn't been there, doing the hamotzi [blessing over the challah] and reading and interpreting the d'var Torah [Torah portion] of the week.”

Of course, what counted as a d'var Torah had a very loose definition; in one notable instance, BlackBook senior editor Tyler Coates just read aloud the climatic scene from Sophie's Choice. One night there was no food, and everyone just sat in a circle and took turns reading their favorite portions from the erotica collection Coming and Crying.

“We weren't that religiously observant, but we liked the idea of this self-created religious ritual,” said Mr. Valley. “For me, it's about carving out a space of personal ownership with friends. It's a way of connecting to each other but not abiding by any of the rituals that we don't consider necessarily holy, in and of themselves.”

But if YM Shabbat was on the fringe edge of hipster sacrilege–enough to warrant a small piece in The New York Times and a much longer piece on The Awl–it was reflecting a larger movement in millennial culture. After two decades of Wall Street-like ambition, in which having your BlackBerry on-hand during family meals and working through the weekend was en vogue, the events of the early 21st century hit urbanites where it hurt.

We weren't, as Tom Wolfe put it, “Masters of the Universe.” The world would keep revolving if we took it easy on a Friday night or, hell, the whole weekend. There was the 'slow' movement in food and lifestyle (the latter adopted by Arianna Huffington and promoted on her 24/7 newsicle website, which always seemed a little suspect). Self-help gurus like Timothy Ferriss urged us to work less and take short cuts. It doesn't take a leap of logic to figure out why the idea of Shabbat–literally, a day of rest–would be appealing, no matter what your religion.

All of which isn't to say that traditionalism has flown out the window, or that every Sabbath dinner is some freaky free-for-all. Take Zachary Thacher. A 39-year-old with his own digital ad agency, Mr. Thacher has spent every Friday for the past 11 years holding his own form of Shabbat dinner in a “traditionalist egalitarian” community he created on Manhattan's Lower East Side, called Kol haKfar.

“It does matter to me that it's all in Hebrew, that people are actually following the traditions,” he said. “But it's equally important to be progressive. We have women leading the service, and we have had a long-time member of the minyan who is African-American and converted to Judaism. And we've had other women of color as participants. so we're very open to any kind of people, as long as they are open to learning and being serious.”

At first blush, Messrs. Thacher and Krucoff may seem to exist on separate ends of the theological spectrum, yet they are both examples of how the rules of Sabbath can become flexible when adapting to modern times. Yes, even in the Orthodox community. If you don't regularly attend temple, for instance, you can just log on to Shabbat.com, a sort of Airbnb for Jewish dinners. And while inviting total strangers into your home might seem unnatural to New Yorkers–who tend to avert their eyes in the elevator to avoid knowing their neighbors–one member who contacted me over the phone claimed that the honor system works. “You can leave reviews for people, and to join the site you need to have some Jewish references,” said the man, who only wished to be identified as a 'practicing Orthodox' individual.

“We open our home to everyone, gay or straight, man or woman,” he said, noting, however, that the people would have to be either Jewish or seriously interested in Judaism. Not that he would pass judgment on someone else's version of Shabbat.

“There's a whole Jewish universe, and one of the nice things about Shabbat.com is that it's open to everybody,” he stressed. “We don't have someone at the door checking ID.”

When asked what kind of people usually sign up to attend, rather than host, meals, our source made Shabbat sound like JDate. “Oh, it's usually young, single people,” he said. “And you sound like a nice, young Jewish girl” he trailed off.

And there it was, as brazen as the gefilte fish matzo tacos that once sat as a centerpiece at a YM Shabbat: the implied question that every young person will find herself being asked on a Friday night, no matter what her religious beliefs happen to be.

“You're single, right?”


 

This article first appeared in the New York Observer, Jan. 23, 2013.  Reprinted by permission.

My Single Peeps: Denise M.


Denise, 46, shows up at our interview dressed to the nines. The woman is put together — from her perfectly coiffed hair down to her Christian Louboutin shoes. A few years back, I was running around Manhattan with a friend and we met a group of tipsy girls on the street. My friend was trying to get one of the girls to join us for a drink, but her night was ending and she was on her way home. I jumped in: “How can I convince you to stay out with him?” She said, “Get me a pair of those red-bottoms and he can take me home.” It was a joke — but only sort of a joke. Women covet those shoes. And Denise knows how to rock a pair.

Denise looks high maintenance and she carries with her a heavy protective wall. So I assume she’s something she’s not when we start talking. But her wall quickly comes down and I realize my first assumption is wrong. She tells me she gets that a lot. “People who know me say, ‘When I first met you, I thought you’d be the biggest bitch — but you’re not.’ ” I think it’s our own intimidation, though. She’s really nice.

“I’ve spent my whole life in Los Angeles. I was a film major, but I ended up in the beauty industry, and I worked in the salon and on film sets for many years.” Denise was always interested in real estate, and for the last decade she made it her career. But, she tells me, “If I ever won the lottery, I would still do hair.” After a “great ride,” she rode out some tough years in real estate. “But it’s a busy time again. There’s an upswing.”

I ask her what she does for fun. “I love going to the beach. I like to travel. I like going on walks.” She clarifies that statement, as one date took her on a hike where there were rattlesnakes — “I like to walk on a path. I like to have fun, but I’m not a daredevil. I love being around friends. I like cooking. I love going to museums. I definitely have a passion for art — theatrical and fine arts. I come from a family of artists.”

She likes men who are warm, caring and ambitious. “But not neurotic. Because some men who are successful in their businesses are a little neurotic and can’t ever take a break from work — even if you go away or go out for the evening. A big turn-off to me is laziness. I can’t be with a lazy man. I like a man who takes care of himself. I’m into physical fitness, and I don’t want some guy to be lying on the couch drinking beer all day long. That’s just not my thing.”

Her marriage didn’t end well, but, Denise says, “I can always make lemonade out of lemons. It’s honestly the only way I function every day. I want to be loved and adored and respected. I want someone to be kind to my children, who are 5 and 8. I want to give that back. I’m not looking to be selfish. I want to love someone, adore them, cherish them. I want to cook for them, hang out, go for walks, watch movies and open up a bottle of wine. I’m looking for my best friend. Someone to share the rest of my life with. I was brought up by a stepfather who was a survivor from the Holocaust, so if I ended up meeting a man who was half as wonderful to his children as he was to my brother and me, I’d be a lucky lady, and they’d be very lucky children.” 


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

 

My Single Peeps: Shmush S.


How do you grow up one of 12 kids in a house full of people, with a congregational rabbi father who hosts strangers for weekly Shabbat meals at home, and still feel ill-equipped talking to women? You grow up in an ultra-Orthodox house, attend a yeshiva — where you’re taught that touching any woman other than your immediate family is forbidden — and, upon graduation, continue your studies so you can become a rabbi by the age of 21. Shmush, 26, did just that. But he never wanted to work as a rabbi — “It’s just something that our Chabad families do. It’s just another year of learning. I didn’t really want to rely on other people for income.”

“I wish I’d be better at the social cues with girls, but I’m definitely missing a few,” he said. I’ve known Shmush for some time; he’s pretty social. But I can see his blind spot. Still, he’s learning quickly. 

“Being religious used to be a big part of my life, and I’ve kind of taken a break from that. I’m doing what’s right for me now. I don’t feel every person is the same. I think different things work for different people. I like Judaism, but not all of it makes sense for everyone. It’s a time in my life when I’m thinking for myself. For right now, this is good for me.”

Shmush — he goes by his nickname — makes his living as a health-insurance broker specializing in supplemental Medicare coverage. “It’s really exciting. It’s not something I thought would fit with me. At the end of the day, it’s a sales job, and I didn’t think of myself as a sales guy, but I get to talk to old people — I’m good at talking — they’re patient, I’m helping them out, doing a mitzvah, I guess, but at the same time making a living from it. I went somewhere last week, and the people were thanking me. Medicare is basically covering everything, but I’m the expert on which plan is best for them. We make sure we’re doing it kosher and people are happy with their plan.”

When he’s not working, he keeps in shape with Krav Maga, and he plays guitar in his band. “My youngest brother, Koby, is the singer. It’s fun for me. And it’s at the same time something else that’s a big part of my life.”

“What do you want in a woman?” I ask. 

“I’m looking for somebody fun. I hate being bored. My No. 1 pet peeve is not doing anything. Somebody who’s not scared to go out on adventures. Obviously smart, sexy, put together. … I guess someone who’s as immature or mature as me — depends on how you look at it. Kind, for sure. Real. L.A.’s cool — I have met girls here. But I feel that people from the East Coast have more authenticity. I also like feminine girls. I’m not really into the tomboy type of girl. 

“I want marriage, [and] I want kids. I’m looking for a meaningful relationship — something that adds meaning and satisfaction to my life. I guess that’s why people get married — companionship and a best friend. I’ve never had someone I was totally into. I know it’s a possibility — some of my friends have that, some don’t — and it looks like their quality of life is just substantially better than my other friends. They say you just need that chemistry. I’ve dated a girl that people have said was perfect for me, and I was totally shocked how there was no connection there at all. Sometimes it’s just being with that person. I’m definitely not an expert.”


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

 

My Single Peeps: Ari K.


I’ve been close with Ari’s sister for years, and the oddest thing about her is that she always has a smile on her face. Married to a self-confessed pain in the ass, four kids at 30, coupled with all the other life crap that bogs everyone down … she still has that smile on her face. And smiles are catching. Like mono, we have no idea how it’s passed from person to person. Just one of those mysteries. 

Ari, 31, is built the same way. Maybe it’s the ocean air from their hometown of Long Beach. He was raised in a Chabad family. “It just never really clicked with me. I believe in God, but I don’t believe that any other man should be dictating how I live my life. Everyone says [the Torah] comes from God, but it was a man who wrote [it]; it was a man who wrote the Gemara, and how does he know how to live better than anyone else? I don’t believe it’s logical. I believe people should be good people. Living an ethical lifestyle, there’s a path to happiness and success — and hopefully heaven, if it does exist.”

I ask him how his family members reacted to him becoming unreligious. “They were very accepting of it. At first, they wanted me to be religious, but they came to realize that it wasn’t making me happy. And, of course, like any parents, they want their kids to be happy, and they realized that wasn’t the path to my happiness.” 

Ari’s bright. He works at Northrop Grumman. “I guess my official job description is program liaison for unmanned systems, which are basically unmanned airplanes. I love what I do. I also head up a lot of projects, like automation of systems, process improvements. … I want to be a material program manager. Basically oversee the acquisitions of all the materials required to build a plane.”

This is when I admit to Ari that my mind clicks off when I hear words such as “liaison” and “acquisition.” I’m typing thoughtlessly and veer him onto a subject I know much better — women.

He tells me he wants “someone who’s athletic, someone who’s thin, [and she] doesn’t have to be tall. I’m looking for someone who’s laid back, kind, caring, successful, business-oriented [and] an active woman.”

Ari rock climbs and works out at the gym daily. “I like a woman who knows what she wants. I’m looking for someone to have a good time with [and] I’m looking for a life partner. I want to have kids at some point in my life — definitely [not] right away. But it’s definitely something I can see doing in the long run.”

He also makes ceramics. I ask him if he’s good. “I’m OK. I haven’t made a masterpiece yet, but one of these days. I do it because I like it. I like the feeling of creating something with [my]  bare hands. I’m very handy.” He manages and owns a couple of investment properties and likes to do the work himself.

“What makes you difficult in a relationship?” I ask. “I think my biggest problem is I don’t like confrontation. I’m a very logical person, and I don’t put much effort into illogical, irrational confrontations. Of course, I do try to work things out, but at a certain point I’m normally the one who walks away.”

“Are you looking for a wife?” I ask. “Listen, I’m not rushing into anything. I’m not getting married just because I don’t want to be alone.” He throws on an infectious smile. “But I definitely want to be married if I find the right girl.” 


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

My Single Peeps: Sari T.


Sari and I were scheduled to meet on Yom Kippur — that is, until I realized what day it was and sent her an e-mail to reschedule. She hadn’t realized, either. You should know this is the kind of Jew you’re getting when you get Sari. You should also know what kind of Jew writes these columns. Although, that being said, Rabbi Jason Weiner of Cedars-Sinai asked me to blow the shofar for the High Holy Days, so he must see something more Jewy in me than I do. And I killed it. Well, not every blow. Somewhere in the 100 blasts it actually sounded like an animal being slaughtered. But maybe that’s a good thing. The congregants suffered … as they should.

Sari’s from Michigan but moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to dance. After busting her knee, she moved to Chicago to go to film school. She then moved back to Los Angeles, where she got her first job assisting Sam Raimi. It was a great experience for her, and it led her to where she is now — a full-time editor and closeted comedian. As she’s telling me about her career, she suddenly stops herself — “This is boring. I’m boring myself.” She laughs and snorts. She refers to my typing and says, “She snorts.” I write it down.

Sari’s got a big personality. Not grating — but big. She’s funny, affable, and I like being with her. “I always want to date a man who’s more of a man than I am, because I’m a guy’s girl, and so I have a lot of guy friends, and I have a lot of girlfriends, but I struggle with the in-between.” I tell her she also struggles with the English language. She laughs and tells me that she doesn’t want me to write down verbatim what she’s saying — “I just want you to write what you take away from this.” 

I love that I’ve known her for 15 minutes and she’s like an old friend I can make fun of. She pokes fun at herself but knows her strengths. She’s a tomboy who swims, snowboards and was a competitive water skier in college. “I grew up on a lake. I can change the oil on a boat. I can change my flat tire.” 

But, at 31, she also knows her weaknesses. “I lack self-confidence. I have a complex with approval. I care way too much what other people think.” 

She also has a problem with follow-through — “Life gets too intimidating, and it’s just easier to do what doesn’t take a lot of effort.”

Sari shows me a picture of what she’s typically attracted to. It’s a picture of a guy on Facebook she doesn’t even know — a friend of a friend. He’s white — nothing offensive, nothing interesting. I don’t get it. She says, “There’s a certain swagger that Irishmen have. I want, like, a cool, swaggery, funny —” I stop her and say, “The Irish aren’t generally known as a funny people. And if they are funny, they don’t have swagger. Conan O’Brien’s funny, but you lose all the swagger.” She says, “No, Conan has swag. Fallon has swag, too. I just want someone to geek out with … but that is athletic.” She cracks up — “This is not going well. I like the idea of dating a Jew, but when I think of a Jew, I think of a nebbishy dork.” I try to sell her on all the cool Jews in the world, but she says, “I just think of the JDate Jews.” She shudders. And she’s right. Forget JDate. That’s why there’s My Single Peeps.


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife two children. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

 

My Single Peeps: Reuven F.


A friend of mine told Reuven to contact me. I was told he was a 31-year-old Orthodox Jew who runs Elite Cuisine, a kosher restaurant, with his family. To be frank, I expected someone a little dorky. But he’s not. Reuven’s more reminiscent of Jax from “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s blond, has a bit of a scruffy beard, and has the confidence of a guy who knows he can beat you in a fight. His daily ride is a 1951 Chevy, but there’s no AC so he pulls up in an old convertible — the kind that takes up half the block. 

He said he was “born and raised here in L.A. The whole Yavneh, YULA circuit, so to speak. My family back in Europe was very religious. Here we just consider ourselves Modern Orthodox. Both my parents are immigrants, so that adds to the mix. My mother’s from Ukraine. My father’s from Slovakia.”

Reuven rides a motorcycle and fixes up old cars with his father. His favorite is a 1972 Grand Prix. “It’s black and loud, and the girls are usually in shock because most Jewish guys don’t drive old cars. It’s different. When I was young I always thought different was good, but as I get older I realize different isn’t necessarily better — it’s just different.”

I’m leading most of the conversation — he’s hard to pry stuff out of, and I tell him so. He says, “I work best off others’ enthusiasm,” and I wonder if he just took a jab at me. But I don’t think he meant it that way. Comically, I realize how hard I’m trying to get him to open up to me. To like me. To laugh at one of my jokes. What the hell is wrong with me, I wonder.

“Are you tough?” I ask. Am I trying to get in a fight? He laughs. That’s right — I get him to laugh. I reword it — “Did you get into a lot of fights growing up?” He says, “Never. Whenever someone bumps into me, they say, ‘Sorry.’ ” He tells me about a smaller friend of his, who when he gets bumped into, “They give him an extra shove.” “That was me!” I exclaim, a little too loudly. It turns out I have Reuven pegged completely wrong. “We’re not the Joneses or the Cohens down the block,” he explains. My dad’s like a European cowboy.” They ride horses and started a kosher beef jerky business — kosherbeefjerky.com. 

After high school, Reuven “went to Israel for a year for yeshiva — a good Jewish boy. I had a great time.” He graduated from UCLA with a history degree. “I had a few jobs here and there, but nothing that was my speed, and I slowly started working for Elite Cuisine.” It’s hard work — they’re open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., so he doesn’t get much time to go out with friends or to meet women. “I never appreciated Shabbos more than the first [Friday after work]. It’s the first time I said, ‘Thank God it’s Friday. Thank God it’s Shabbos. No phones, nothing … just reset.’ ”

Reuven wants to get married and have kids. “I didn’t think I’d be 31 and single. I’m not that guy looking for a 10. Some guys just want a face. I want someone to talk to — a best friend, you know? I’m looking for someone to excite me, someone to make me smile … now I’m getting corny.” He’s comfortable now — and he keeps talking. “I’m looking for a good person. Sense of humor is a must.” He’s easygoing and wants the same in a woman. “I’m looking for the whole package — family, white picket fence, red door, dog. I have two dogs. I’m a dog person.”


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

 

My Single Peeps: Lynn R.


Lynn has been a widow since 1996 and is doing her best to fall in love again. But she’s finding the world of online dating difficult to navigate. On one date, she told me, “I found out the guy was a bookie.” He was in a bad mood because he had just lost $8,000. “There was one guy on the phone — every time we talked with each other, it was fun and great. Then we got together, and he was way overweight. I mean way overweight — which wasn’t disclosed in the profile. There was absolutely no chemistry — nothing. You can’t let yourself be seduced by the voice, because the pictures they put up aren’t representative of who they really are. That’s online dating.”

Lynn’s originally from Los Angeles. “I grew up in the Valley. I was a Valley Girl before the term was created. The last several years, I’ve been writing screenplays, which doesn’t differentiate me much from the other people out here. But I did have a short film made, and one of my screenplays is in the hands of a London producer who’s trying to find a director for my script. So that’s hopeful. That’s what I spend a lot of time doing.”

“I started out as a secretary, but I hated it. I took a Greyhound bus around the Western states when I was about 22 and wound up in Sun Valley, Idaho, and I thought this could really be fun working here in the winter. So I tried to get a job as a maid, which I would have failed at miserably — my parents had a cleaning girl.

“At the last stop before the bus came, there was a coffee shop, and I heard a piano player next door — and he was so bad that I thought I could do better than that. I used to play as a kid. If she had asked me to audition, I couldn’t have done it. But she didn’t.”

Lynn made a deal that she’d work at another bar they were opening if they would send her the train fare. “I went back to my old piano teacher, and I took three lessons a day and practiced 16 hours a day for two weeks and took my first job.  I got fired a week later.”

But that led to a job at another bar and, soon, a singing and piano career.

[For other Single Peeps, visit jewishjournal.com/my_single_peeps]

Although Lynn, who’s in her early 60s, is officially retired, she puts in two to four hours a day on her writing. “I hate the word retired. You see it on profiles and wonder what they’re doing with their lives. I like being productive, and I like for other people to be productive. If he is retired, at least he wants to do other things, like travel. [I want] a man with a good heart, a good mind and financially stable. I don’t mind dating men who are younger than me. It just depends on the man. He could be older and could be a terrific guy.”

I ask Lynn what she likes to do with her free time. “I like to go to movies, I like to read, and I love to swim. I love to travel. My last major trip was to Africa on a safari. [It was] the most amazing trip of my life, seeing the animals in person. I traveled with a girlfriend. Another favorite place I went to is Bora Bora. I went there with my [late] husband.”

“How’s single life?” I ask. “It’s fine. You know, I certainly adapted to it. But I think life is better when you share it. I do.”


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

The dating game: New website puts parents in charge


A new Jewish online dating site allows parents to search for their children’s bashert.

The site, which was launched Tuesday, allows parents to browse for potential matches for their sons and daughters, including contacting other parents for more information and setting up casual dates.

“Moms have been setting up their children for centuries,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder of TheJMom.com. “TheJMom.com puts parents behind the keyboard and lets them do the clicking and the matching.”

The site was the brainchild of Weisberg and her brother, Brad, who conceived of the site after their mother asked Brad to see his online dating profile and spent hours searching the matchmaking site to find the right woman for him.

The so-called ‘perfect date’


The date was going really well. The conversation was flowing. We were practically finishing each other’s sentences.

“Have you ever been to Azumi Sushi?” I asked.

He smiled, secretly, a half smile.

“What is it?” I asked him.

“I was just about to say that,” he replied.

Not that going to the same sushi restaurant meant that we were soul mates, but we had a number of issues we agreed on beyond the superficial. Religion, family, politics, even our lifestyle goals — retire early, travel much — seemed to be in sync. Clearly, the person who set us up wasn’t high on crack — he’s a Jewish boy and you’re a Jewish girl — because we had a lot more in common beyond the nature of our religion, age and geographic location.

I could tell he was excited by these things. The way he paused when I said something he agreed with, like wanting to do Friday night meals for the camaraderie, and his eyes lit up like a Vegas jackpot if I happened upon a subject we had the same feelings about.

These are the kinds of dates I hear about all the time, usually from women. The dates where (finally!) everything is simpatico and natural, almost as if you’re not on a date at all. And then he doesn’t call.

“How could he not call?” these women complain. “You don’t understand, he told me that ___________,” they say, pointing out all the intimate details the guy shared, and all witty repartee they both shared, and all the lack of awkwardness that for sure meant the date was going superbly.

“How could he not call?” they say. “I thought it was going so well.”

I can tell you why he didn’t call. I can tell you why he didn’t call, because I was just on one of those dates where everything seemed to be going perfectly, but it didn’t work out.

It didn’t work out because I wasn’t interested. I know it started even before we met. On the phone we spoke for about an hour, maybe even longer, and it was like talking to someone who was really interesting, but who I wasn’t interested in. I don’t know why.

Not that I’d given it much thought. After our conversation, I didn’t analyze it, or him. To be honest, I didn’t think about him much, and that’s because I didn’t have that heart-pounding anticipation that can, yes, come even from just talking to a faceless person on the phone. But, I reasoned, all that heart-pounding anticipation has never exactly steered me in the right direction, so perhaps apathy isn’t the wrong emotion to have before a blind date either.

But when I met him, everything became clear. He was exactly as described: An average looking guy, not freakishly short or tall, somewhat of the teddy bear type and, well, just not my type. He was one of those guys I was neither dying for nor repulsed by — he just wasn’t for me.

“Why don’t you go out with him again and give it another shot?” my friends would say, if I would ever tell them this story, which I wouldn’t because then I’d have to hear yet again how they hated their husbands for the first X months before they married them. (If you ask me, they are all too readily connected to that initial animosity, which is why, except in the first grade and in Shakespeare, love should never begin with hate.) In any case, I didn’t hate this guy, and I’d never hate him. I knew this, just as I knew I’d never like him any more than as a … friend.

By friend I didn’t mean that I never wanted to see him again either romantically or platonically, or that I wouldn’t mind inviting him to my parties and introducing him to others in my circle who were really my friends.

I knew this from the moment I saw him, but what was I supposed to do? Was I to tell him this in the beginning? Was I to allude to a long and complicated dating history so as to dissuade him from liking me? Not that everyone likes me, but when someone does, and it’s one-sided — what is the proper etiquette?

I decided to be myself. I wasn’t overly flirtatious in a way I might have once been in order to entertain or to fulfill some ego-need to be liked by all; I just answered his questions, asked a few of my own (hopefully, although maybe I didn’t manage to get in too many) the way I would when I am out with a friend.

Which is the unfortunate answer to all those people who thought they had the perfect date and never heard from the other person again and are wondering “why?”

Why? Because it might have been a perfectly nice date, but it’s not a perfect date unless the people are right for each other.

Both of them.

Married . . . at last!


I got married for the first time at 50. The groom was 51. Yes, we are both Jewish. We met online.

I am tall, thin, blonde, green-eyed, and have a little turned-up nose. My
father-in-law’s first comment, across the Thanksgiving table, was, “Doesn’t she look like a shiksa?”

My husband is an inch shorter than I am and round. He is also handsome, smart, funny and very logical. But I married him because he is a good person and I love him very much.

I decided when I was about 46 that I really wanted to get married. The question became where to meet men who really wanted to get married, too. I decided to try online dating. I had already done everything else.

It was not love at first sight. It was interest. It was let’s see what will happen. We both had dated enough to know the difference between passion and real caring.

It took three years, but we did it. The short version:

We met in November of 2000. The cats and I moved in with him in 2001, and I gave him an ultimatum. We got engaged in June of 2002 and were planning to marry in December 2002, although I had yet to see a ring.

Thirteen weeks before the wedding, he fell and shattered his shoulder. We postponed the wedding. I told him he had until my birthday, in August, to do the ring, or it was over. This was it.

It took him eight months, but he did it. Three days before my birthday, he took me to dinner, and proposed a second time, this time with ring in hand.

This was August 2003, and we were going to get married August 2004. We would have a year to arrange the wedding. That was the plan. The next month, my then-91-year-old mother fell and wound up in the hospital, so the wedding was moved up to December.

I had three months to plan the wedding. I was crazed, to say the least. It turned out that my little, humble then-83-year-old aunt knew the owner of a hotel, which shall remain nameless, kayn ayin hora, poo poo. It was a fabulous hotel, famous for its weddings. We had a place. Then we had a date, invitations, a dress, a menu, a klezmer band and a dance band, and a lot of tuxedos.

In addition to planning a wedding in three months, a full-time job, I was also working and taking a class. How I did it, I don’t know. But I was almost there. We divided the wedding planning, sort of. My husband chose all the food and liquor. I handled the cake and flowers, the logistics of the day, the arrangements for out-of-towners, the rehearsal dinner, the auf ruf and half of the visitor packets. (My husband did the maps and the sites of interest.)

The day finally arrived. Hair and make-up call, 6 a.m. Both my husband and I have backgrounds in the entertainment industry, but this was the biggest production either of us had to pull off. He had produced and directed theater, and I had produced and directed reality TV. But this was something else.

I was drugged out of my mind the morning of the wedding. Not serious drugs, but Advil combined with terror can have a mind-numbing effect.

I had only my maid of honor, my cousin Patty, in the suite with me as I got ready. The ketubah signing was done privately with the rabbi in a separate room with only my two attendants and the two male witnesses present. It was beautiful.

It was getting scarier and scarier. Patty and I retired to the bridal suite to await the final call. The hotel’s coordinator lined everyone up, then called up to the room. They were ready for me.

Patty and I took the elevator down. We stepped out. I looked back at the mirrored elevator doors as they were closing on 50 years of being single. I looked at myself and affirmed, “I’m doing this.”

I just wanted to get through the chuppah. I got into line, at the end, next to my then 84-year-old father. This was a dream. This was unreal.

The music started and the bridal procession began. The coordinator was counting the beats. The aisle was 80 feet long. My father and I had rehearsed this, but there was no need. He was a natural. The music changed. I heard, “Now,” and I said to my Dad, “Right foot.”

Talk about a deer in headlights. I saw my cousin Jenny smiling. She stood up first, and everyone followed suit. All these people were standing up for me! I was the bride!

The ceremony was great, I thought. I loved the rabbi’s words of wisdom, although I had to watch the video about four times to remember what he said.

It was an awesome wedding, filled with Jewish rituals — the hora, the chair dance, the brachot over wine and bread. Then, after the first course, the mezinka, the dance honoring the mother upon the marriage of the last child. I am an only child, my husband, the last of four. His mother was deceased. We danced around our three parents, unbelieving that their “old” children were finally married.

In case you are wondering, married life is great. It is not a sitcom, it is not a romantic comedy — it is real life. Whatever you were before, you bring to marriage. Marriage is not a date — you see each other in the morning, someone takes out the trash, and you pay the bills.

But you do it together. At last.

Mierel Verbit is a writer and teacher who lives with her husband and cat in Santa Monica. She can be reached at mierelverbit@yahoo.com.

Dear Mr. Sensitive


Jokes survive on the Internet like Styrofoam in a landfill. Perhaps you’ve already read these “Actual Personal Ads in Israeli Newspapers”:

  • Professor with 18 years of teaching in my behind wants American-born woman who speaks English very good.
  • 80-year-old bubbe, no assets, seeks handsome, virile Jewish male under 35. Object: matrimony. I can dream, can’t I?
  • Sensitive Jewish prince whom you can open your heart to. Share your innermost thoughts and deepest secrets. Confide in me. I’ll understand your insecurities. No fatties, please.

 

So I laughed. Silly yet funny. Until the last one came true for me on JDate.

I don’t usually contact men first. No matter how brief or cheery, my message signals, “Hey, I’m interested.” And for some reason, men like to feel that they are the hunters. Or perhaps they want younger women who can still give them babies. That’s fine — but that’s not me. I’ll be 50 soon, which I’m not afraid to admit in print. Not many men seem willing to date women their own age.

But Mr. Sensitive’s ad was different. His opening line, if true, sounded good (“Wanted: romantic partner for an exciting yet sensitive man of brains, wit and integrity”), even if it was arrogant and earnest. No wit to be found, even with a magnifying glass. But if he had the goods to back it up, what’s wrong with a healthy ego? OK, he mentioned “fit” in his profile, and though I am — blood pressure’s great, doctor’s actually concerned that my cholesterol is too low, I try to exercise every day — I’m not the conventional skinny/active type.

However, his last line convinced me: “If you are funny, brave, sexy, super-smart and self-aware, what are you waiting for?”

So I responded:

“I am (or think that I am) all of the above, but it depends on your definition of ‘fit.’ Is that code for thin? Or code for “climbs Kilimanjaro without getting winded”? Neither applies to me. I’m voluptuous in the true meaning of the world — an hour-glass figure, more Jayne Mansfield than Kate Moss. I’ve climbed Chichen-Itza but I’ve never skied in my life. So take a look at my profile, maybe I’ll hear from you. If not, good luck on Jdate.”

Yes, I heard back. Mr. Sensitive wrote:

“Your profile is extremely well-written, as is your note. You are clearly very, very bright, as am I. That’s why I can’t understand why you’d be in such absolute denial of a clear reality.

You didn’t fill in your weight in your profile because you’re not happy with it. If you were, it would be there and you wouldn’t be writing all that senseless crap about Jane Mansfield, with whom you have absolutely nothing in common.

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

Now go do the right thing.”

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

Of course I wanted to argue, it’s Jayne, not Jane, you idiot! No, I’m not blonde like Jayne, nor dead either. I meant only that I have curves, and I’m buxom. Jayne was actually not that busty; she had an extremely large rib cage, and she….

Oh, me? Defensive? Apparently. Jayne is beside the point, as is my body. The issue: Whatever happened to personal ad etiquette, to kindness, or at least civility? Whatever happened to the short, sweet brush-off, “Thanks for writing, but I don’t think we’d be a match”?

How can a man consider himself sensitive, a person of integrity, yet write a note like that? For all its glories, the Internet allows people to be anonymous and unaccountable. Mr. Sensitive forgets that I, too, am sensitive, and he turned personal ads into impersonal attacks. Let’s be honest. Most people on dating sites are essentially saying: “I want love. I want intimacy. I want to be wanted and need to be needed.” So why trample on someone who is fragile, open, reaching out?

Why be gratuitously mean?

I didn’t ask for a critique; I asked if he were interested in getting to know me. Mr. Sensitive basically answered, “How dare someone like you have the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to even say hello to me?” Navigating dating after divorce is hard enough without being terrified of potential Mr. Sensitives lurking behind every personal ad. How does one maintain dating vulnerability, while developing a thick skin so that such attacks no longer hurt? How does one maintain the tension between cheerfulness and cynicism, between hopefulness and experience?

I don’t have the answers. But I’m still searching; I’m still on JDate. I refuse to believe that all men (or women) are like Mr. (In)Sensitive. And if you’re not interested in me, all you have to say is, “Thank you. But no.” I’ll understand.

Diane Saltzberg lives in Los Angeles, and can be reached at dlsaltzberg@gmail.com.

 

No Deposit, No Return


Modern Orthodoxy’s Marriage Crisis


Hard-to-marry-off children have been worrying parents since Genesis, when Leah, her eyes tender from the sadness of being unwanted, took part in a hoax to trick Jacob — her younger, prettier sister’s suitor — into marrying her. There’s no indication of how old Leah was at betrothal, but the tone of the text prompts a mortifying thought: Had she lived in our time, the future matriarch of the Jewish people would likely be another tough case for the matchmakers.

Or so I surmised a few months ago after a crowded panel in Manhattan on what has come to be known as the “shidduch crisis” in Modern Orthodoxy. Over the past decade, rabbis, activists and parents have been wringing their hands over the “ever-burgeoning number of religious singles and rising percentage of failed marriages” in the community. This event was only the most recent of many discussions devoted to the topic.

Having once been both single and Modern Orthodox, I recognized many of the audience members — not exact faces, of course, but types: The knitted-browed parents, bantering anxiously among themselves; the fresh-faced Stern and Yeshiva University students who seemed too young to take the bus themselves, let alone join in holy matrimony; a handful of older singles brave enough to show their faces at such a gathering.

The evening’s discussion traversed a lot of ground, but it was clear that among its primary goals was the prevention of those too-often-seen tragic situations — “marriages that end, God forbid, in divorce” and “people who are in their late 20s, even 30, and not married.”

The timing could not have been better — or worse: Three days earlier, I had signed divorce papers; six days later, I turned 30.

Of course, the world is filled with singles wishing to be part of doubles. Since the fate of every society turns on the success or failure of its particular set of mating rituals, each one develops its own specialized system of coupling. But what happens when those rituals erode?

This is the bind in which Modern Orthodoxy has lately found itself. Over the past decade, the movement has drifted to the right — adopting, along the way, the belief that greater stringency in Jewish law and ritual equals greater religiosity. Distinctions that might seem infinitesimal to an outsider — “she’s a Bais Yaakov girl,” “he wears a kippah sruga” — have become fundamental differences, and competitions have sprouted up over who follows which obligations more strictly.

Along with new perspectives on the legality of singing in the shower and smoking cigarettes on Passover, there also has emerged a more exacting code of modesty and celibacy for singles. In response, ever younger people have begun racing to the chuppah, with many of us discussing potential mates as early as high school.

This is the system used successfully by the ultra-Orthodox, who place more emphasis on God, family and community than on individual choices: Each person has confidence in her mate not only because he is right for her, but because he is right for everyone and everything in her life. On the other end of the spectrum, the secular world offers a method based on individualism: Release yourself from everyone else’s expectations, and date as many people as it takes to find the one.

The problem is that both of these opposing philosophies are now circulating in the Modern Orthodox community, and their coexistence is causing static — mixed signals, false expectations, miscommunications. The confusion might be surmountable, but muddling through it requires two things that Orthodox Jews who’d like to remain marriageable don’t have: experience and time.

The first inkling that I did not have nearly enough time to find a mate was in my junior year of yeshiva high school. We were learning about Amuka, an area in northern Israel where the prayers of people looking for their besherts (destined partners) allegedly are answered, when I was seized with confusion.

“Can each person only have one beshert?” I asked.

“I think so,” said the rabbi.

“But what about a woman who remarries after her husband dies? Which one was her beshert?”

“Only God knows,” came the reply.

“What if my beshert lives in, like, Pakistan?”

“You have to just believe, Alana.”

I can’t, I thought suddenly. I don’t know enough about the world.

And with that, Amuka became my Archimedean point, the place where I stood when I inadvertently lifted my entire religious world off its axis. After that, the questions came quickly — even leading, briefly, to a period of greater observance.

By the time I started my second year at Barnard, I was taking classes on other religions, had an Episcopalian best friend and regularly attended non-Jewish campus events on Friday night, as long as I could walk to them.

But as my curiosity about the larger world expanded, the atmosphere of Modern Orthodoxy contracted. I wanted to engage with the secular world — to learn about it as well as to experience it — but the same adventures that might have once been par for the Modern Orthodox course now threatened to make me an outcast.

I was too attached to religious life and thought to abandon it entirely. Instead, I made the kind of unspoken compromises with my parents (and, by extension, the community) that some people make with God: I will not go to services often, but when I do, I’ll attend Orthodox synagogues; I will eat nonkosher in restaurants but at home will abide by rules strict enough that the rebbe could snack in my kitchen; I will avoid premarital sex, but won’t follow the laws of negiah.

This last item was, in fact, the only one for which I had an intellectual defense. I was shy and insecure about sex and knew enough to fear its power as an obfuscating force in relationships. The more I knew, I thought, the better my chances that I wouldn’t mistake lust for love.

Fooling around before marriage has, historically, not been an uncommon practice among Modern Orthodox Jews. After all, they gave the world the “tefillin date,” so named for the men who brought along their phylacteries in hopes they wouldn’t be home in time for morning prayers.

By my early 20s, the community had moved significantly to the right. People found themselves caught between rules of the old world and the kind of curiosity about sex and dating fostered in the new one.

“It is bad enough to be alone, but to be not sexual is almost as bad, and the two together is terrible,” writes an anonymous Orthodox blogger. “I have had fantasies of killing myself. I have considered hiring a male prostitute and getting it over with. No, I have not tried either of those last two things, chas vishalom…. To all the married people out there telling older singles that they should deny themselves, I wish I could respond, ‘Let he who is 34 and never been kissed cast the first stone.'”

I was 25 when I married — a bit old compared to my yeshiva classmates but still within respectable limits. To a casual observer, Daniel might have seemed like a rebellious choice: He did not grow up Orthodox; his father is not Jewish; his last name is Scotch-Irish. But he was almost as connected to the community as I was, having just gotten out of a relationship with another Orthodox woman.

He had started learning Hebrew, loved Shabbat and had relatives in Israel. And, unlike me, he had yichus, a distinguished lineage: His grandfather was a famed civil rights lawyer and Zionist activist. He was different enough, and yet similar.

After a year of dating, we wanted to move in together, but I knew this was unheard of in our circles. So I made another silent compromise: I’d marry the person of my choosing, but at an age and in a way that would be acceptable within the community.

Daniel and I married before we should have, a step that put undue pressure on a young relationship and two people still struggling to define themselves. When the marriage ruptured, so did the thin thread holding me to Orthodoxy. I became angry at the community for depriving me of my adolescence or, rather, for being too rigid to encourage it.

As psychologist Naomi Mark said at the panel on the shidduch crisis that I attended, the community expects young adults to have marriage, education and careers settled, or at least on track, by their early 20s, leaving no time to make the kind of mistakes that teach us who we are. My effort to avoid these mistakes — to experience the world but not so much that I’d be forced from the community’s safe corral — threatened to split the baby. And the baby was me.

In the end, I chose self-definition over religion. As Plato promised, the examined life is indeed fulfilling — firsthand experience of oneself trumps guesswork any day — but it’s not nearly as pretty as the brochure implies. For me, the ugliness lies not in the fact that by opening the door to all experience I’ve ushered in pain as well as joy, or because in the course of learning about myself, I’ve unearthed a few things I’d rather never have known — though both have certainly happened.

What most disquiets me is the limbo. Unlike my Orthodox peers, who can be sure of the basic contours of their lives, I writhe with uncertainty: Where will I be living 10 years from now? What school will my kids attend? How kosher will my kitchen be?

Sometimes, the fog gets so intimidating that I start to wonder if there’s still time to go back, to abandon all this liberty and just get comfortable again. Alas, I fear all this experience has ruined me; I’ve lost too many virginities — intellectual, emotional, psychological and, well, otherwise — to mesh again with that life. Plus, as the panel proved, the community hardly needs another 30-year-old woman in need of marrying off, especially one without a younger, prettier sister to use as bait.

Alana Newhouse is the arts and letters editor at The Forward.

Reprinted from

Singles – Soulmate Surfing


Dating can be scary. Dating in a foreign country can be petrifying.

When I arrived in Los Angeles in 2003, going on dates was the farthest thing from my mind. I came here for love — my love of the entertainment biz, but more importantly (and naively), my love for a guy.

Unfortunately, my dreams of a fairy-tale ending with my long distance-turned-local beau were dashed when our relationship went sour a few months after my arrival.

Fortuitously for me, although my life — with the same boyfriend for three years –was drastically altered, I was offered a job in show business (my career of choice at the time). I conveniently threw myself into my work but soon found that there was a void: I had no man to call my own.

My entire dating life, I had been what some relationship cynics call a serial monogamist. By the time I was 24, I had been in a relationship for nine years. Not with the same person. Actually, four different ones — with gaps between of just a day, a week, or a month.

When the oozing wound of the latest breakup began healing, I decided it was time to find someone new. But my desire to start dating again overwhelmed me with fear because I did not have the faintest idea how to meet someone.

As a Canadian living in Los Angeles, I didn’t have a network of friends to introduce me to eligible bachelors. The only people I knew were friends of my ex. And so, I reluctantly resorted to online dating.

The first challenge was to build an online profile. The Web site asked me to create a personal essay — the first tidbit that a prospective suitor would ever learn about me. But what could I possibly say that wouldn’t turn someone off?

After pondering the content of this paragraph for a couple of days and filling out the rest of the information in my personal Web page, I chose to write a short but to-the-point introduction that simply stated that I was Canadian and looking to meet someone new.

Once my photo was uploaded, my journey of online dating officially commenced. I immediately began to worry that no one would contact me.

All my concerns about online dating were for naught. After about a week, I was a pro. I realized how scrolling down the pages, looking at photos of available Jewish men, was similar to online shopping. This “shopping” experience became one of my favorite pastimes.

Online dating even gave my bruised ego a boost. I began receiving compliments about my looks and my accomplishments from potential suitors almost daily. I began to feel hopeful that I would find my Prince Charming within this brand new group of available bachelors.

I was soon going on dates three to five times a week. I met all kinds of men: short, tall, hirsute, skinny, gorgeous and not-so-hot; lawyers, doctors, students, businessmen and, of course, actors. It is Los Angeles after all.

Dating was no longer frightening. It actually became enjoyable, and I eagerly anticipated meeting cute, single, Jewish men, in the hopes that one special guy would win the coveted title of Melanie’s Boyfriend.

Cut to: Two Years Later.

I created my third “new” profile on the same online dating site.

Dating many different guys had lost its luster, and I was ready for something serious. Yet, at the same time, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel on dating altogether. I was certain I’d exhausted the pool of single men that I had once been so anxious to dive into.

One lonely evening, I was looking for a beacon, or at least a glimmer of hope that my perfect match was out there. I began perusing all the dating success stories listed on the dating Web site. I started reading at “A” and only made it through “D” before I became slightly more optimistic about my dating future. I vowed that evening that one day, I, too, would have my own story posted there.

Nevertheless, two weeks and three first dates later, I was fed up again, and declared myself too busy to date. Just one day later, I found him.

Ironically, he was an acquaintance of the long-distance ex. Someone I’d even had a small crush on for years. He had just joined my online dating service and thought he’d say hello to a familiar face. I was the first person he contacted.

Eight months later, we’re going strong. I don’t know if I can impute our connection to my proclamation of having no time to date, or if my taking the success stories to heart ignited a cosmic force that ushered him into my life.

But how and why don’t matter. The point is: I met him. And now that I’ve found happiness, I advocate online dating to anyone who will listen and play matchmaker as a hobby. I’m just trying to spread the wealth.

Dating by Committee


My guy Scott and I talked every night — until last night. He flew to San Francisco to hear a friend’s band play and I never heard from him. I left a message, he left me hanging. I know. He calls me, he calls me not, is nothing new. But it’s new to me. I’m too cute to be blown off. No seriously — way too cute.

And yet, I haven’t heard from him. I’ve been dating for more than a decade. I should know what this means, but I don’t. I’m Jewish. What do I know from a silent night? So I do what any woman in my sitch would do: I pick up the phone and call — don’t say him. Please, that’d be too logical. I call my girlfriends — ‘cuz women date by committee. When faced with a new crush, a dating dilemma or a relationship 911, we dial our friends and ask for advice.

“I’m gonna be honest, you’re in trouble,” said Amanda, who’s currently juggling two men. “It’s not good. It’s gotta be another girl.”

Scott and I have been linked for awhile. He’s a great guy, an honest guy; he’d never make a behind-my-back pass at another woman. So it’s gotta be — “you,” said Ann, who often goes three dates and out. “You’re probably pressuring him, he wants some space.”

Space? He spent the night in Northern California. That’s unofficially another state.

“If he can’t handle calling you, he can’t handle dating you,” pipes in newlywed Rachel. “What happens if you two get married and have kids? Your son is sick at school, and since Scott’s closer, you call and ask him to pick Morty up. But Scott doesn’t call you back and sick little Morty’s left waiting all alone on the playground. In the rain. Is that what you want?”

I know I don’t want to name my son Morty.

Men don’t do this. Men don’t overanalyze their relationships with their buddies. They don’t compare and contrast their girl’s behavior with that of their friend’s ex. They don’t do a play-by-play analysis of their last date. They don’t discuss. But girls always move in packs. We shop together, workout together, hit the ladies room together — in fact, we do everything in groups, except the one thing men wish we did in groups.

When it comes to relationships, girls are all about group think. We poll all our friends; we share all the evidence. We dissect voicemails men leave on friends’ phones. We decode text messages guys send to friends’ cells. We decipher e-mails that our friends forward in their entirety. My girls and I break down what a guy says, why he says it and why he didn’t say more. We analyze and scrutinize and interpret and debate. We’re like the great talmudic sages poring over a single phrase of the Torah. But hotter.

“Don’t worry. He’s just having fun with his friends. He’ll call when he gets back,” my college friend Kim said. “It’s not a big deal.” She’s right. She has to be right, because I so want her to be right.

See, women don’t really call friends for advice, we call for backup. In times of crisis and indecision, we call friend after friend after friend until we find one who agrees with us, someone who tells us what we’ve already told ourselves, someone who tells us what we want to hear.

It’s like the french fry phenomenon. When girls grab lunch we’re faced with the “Sophie’s Choice” of fruit or fries with that. We all want fries, we all get fruit. But if one girl admits she’s considering fries, there’s a frenzied chorus of “If you get them, I’ll get them.” Suddenly we’re all eating fries. And Macho Nachos. And we go to town on an Awesome Blossom. Girls are always looking for friends to second our motion. Or order seconds. Or dessert. We’re not looking for opinions, we’re looking for confirmation. We want to find someone who interprets a situation the same way we do.

All I want is someone to tell me that I shouldn’t be nervous. That I’m right to believe one unreturned phone call is just that — an unreturned call. Not a bad sign … or a meltdown … or the Love Boat sinking.

But while my friends might be “dating mayvens,” the truth is: No one knows a relationship like the two people who are in it. Sometimes, we shouldn’t let our clique convince us that all is good when it’s going down fast. Or buy in when they say a good relationship’s going bad. We should listen to our gut — or in this case, the message, which Scott left while I was overanalyzing with the girls.

“Hey Carin, it’s Scott. Sorry I didn’t call last night. We were out late. I didn’t want to wake you. But my flight lands around 5. Thought maybe we’d grab Thai food together. Miss you.”

Hmm. All in favor of me meeting Scott for dinner say “aye.” All against say … actually on this one, the only vote that counts is mine.

Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

 

Age Apparent


Of all the May-to-December romances that were not meant to be, mine must top the list.

For starters, I met Rick in a hot tub — a cliché I was sure we could never get over. We found ourselves at the same party, where he was being accosted by a woman who kept sidling close to him and saying, “When I was at Harvard…” and “At Harvard, my friends and I would blah-blah-blah…”

Finally, I went in for the rescue: “When I was at Florida International University, we took classes in trailers,” I said, trying to mimic her smug tone and referring to a school so new that it barely had walls, much less Ivy-covered ones.

He was so grateful that, as we climbed out of the water, he thanked me and began to make conversation. Somehow, it came up that the following week was my birthday. “How old will you be?” he asked.

“Thirty-two,” I answered.

“Wow, you look way too young to be in your 30s,” he said.

“And you?” I inquired.

“Twenty-three,” he said.

Rick was visiting South Florida because he and his fiancé had recently called it quits. A mutual friend of ours had sent him a plane ticket to break the cycle of self-pity and draft ale that had been taking place in a bar in Pittsburgh, the city where he lived and worked.

In the days that followed, Rick and I spent quite a bit of time together. I worked nights as a reporter, so our friend asked if I’d entertain him during the day while she was stuck in the office. We had lunch, went for walks, visited museums.

He was charming but not the kind of guy I usually went for, with his Coke-bottle glasses and geeky clothes.

And yet before Rick’s weeklong visit was over, we found ourselves in the midst of a flirtation — even if it was one I wasn’t taking seriously. After all, Rick was on the rebound. He lived 1,200 miles away. And, most frightening of all, he was nine years younger than me.

At the time, I knew no one involved with a man that much younger. I had heard, of course, of some celebrity pairings: Cher was famous for dating men half her age, and Susan Sarandon had been with Tim Robbins, 12 years her junior, for quite a while.

But in my mind a match between an older woman and a younger man conjured up little more than “The Graduate.” I wanted none of it.

In fact, I indulged in the flirtation in large part because I believed it wouldn’t go anywhere. It was a mild distraction, safe and fun.

But Rick had other plans. After heading back to Pittsburgh, he began a long-distance courtship. He called. He wrote beautiful letters. And he kept his local florist incredibly busy.

One day, I walked into my office to find a dozen red roses sitting on my desk. The card read, “When you’re 109 and I’m 100, it won’t matter.”

Slowly, the unthinkable began to happen: I was falling for Rick. But I was also nervous — very nervous.

Were we moving too quickly? What about the geographic distance between us? And then there was the toughest hurdle of all, at least for me: our ages.

It wasn’t the inevitable cradle-robbing jokes that bothered me. I was more worried about the day-to-day realities of such a match. If this were the real thing, what would we do about having children? I was ready. Was he?

Then there was my vanity. Sure, a nine-year spread was no problem while I still looked youthful. But what about later, when my age would begin to show?

And that’s when my mother — a perfect mix of pragmatist and romantic — reminded me of something: Men have forever been leaving women for younger women.

“Dating a man your own age is no guarantee that it will work out,” she said. “He’s either a mensch or he’s not.”

While I couldn’t yet fully attest to Rick’s character, I knew deep down that he was nothing if not a mensch.

In a matter of months, Rick and I decided to start a life together in Los Angeles. Before we left for Los Angeles, we visited his parents in Baltimore. It had not been long since his former fiancé had vanished with the string of pearls they had given her to mark her engagement to their son. And now here I was at her heels — and nine years older. What could they be thinking?

“Are you kidding me?” an old friend of Rick’s said. “They won’t care if you’re the same age as his Aunt Lil. They’ll be so happy that he finally found a woman who is Jewish, they’ll be dancing ‘Hava Nagila’ on the dining room table.”

I’m not sure about “Hava Nagila” on the dining room table. But 18 months later, they danced the hora at our wedding. And now, 15 years and two children after that, I am sure Rick was right: When you’ve found the right person, age is beside the point — whether you’re 109 or 32, or somewhere in between.

Randye Hoder is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

 

Valentine’s Day.com


“J-ated,” as in “jaded,” might be the best way to describe the ennui that has set in among many JDaters these days, singles tired of the merry-go-round of endless possibility and disappointment.

In spite of that, or because of it, new dating Web sites seem to pop up every day.

Remember that scene in the movie “Singles,” where the desperate woman asks the airline to seat her next to a single man — and she ends aside an obnoxious 10-year-old? Ostensibly that won’t happen on AirTroductions.com, which is not a Web site for mile-high clubbers (if you don’t know, I can’t explain it here). Nor is it solely for Jews. This outfit targets people who want to make business or personal connections either on the flight, at the airport, or with other travelers in the same city. If they find someone who matches your itinerary, you can pay $5 to contact that person. (It might beat hearing, “Can you take off your belt, Miss?” from the security guy….)

For more personal intervention, try the new Jretromatch.com, which uses paid matchmakers to set Jews up (that’s the retro part). The site, which launched Feb. 6, is based on the successful SawYouAtSinai.com. (Get it? All Jewish souls were originally at Mount Sinai, so it’s based on the pickup line, “Haven’t we met before? Didn’t I see you at Sinai?”) SawYouAtSinai aims for traditional and religious Jews and has a firm foothold in the Modern Orthodox market. It claims 14,000 members and 95 married success stories.

If you don’t want to leave your entire fate to the matchmaker, Jretromatch.com (and its non-Jewish counterpart, retromatch.com) also will let you peruse the database on your own. At $35.95 for a gold membership (which gets you six months plus two “free bonus months”) it’s less than JDate for the same amount of time, although with a much smaller membership (launching with 2,500 non-Orthodox culled from SawYouatSinai’s lists). Still, Jretromatch promises that matchmakers will interview all members and verify that they’re Jewish, something that JDate does not guarantee.

There are a handful of other Web sites aimed at religious and traditional Jews. The main one is Frumster.com, which skews toward the more religious of the Orthodox community (hence the word frum, which means “religious” in Yiddish), although now it has opened up to all “marriage-minded” Jews, according to Ben Rabizadeh, CEO of Frumster. The Web site claims 20,000 members and 542 couples (married or engaged) and starts at $8.95 per month, but still seems aimed most at the very religious, especially given that it requires users to specify levels of observance. You can choose between Traditional and Non-Orthodox, Modern Orthodox-Machmir, Modern Orthodox-Liberal, Yeshivish Modern, Yeshivish/Black Hat, Chasidic, Carlebachian, Shomer Mitzvot.

Other religious Web sites include UrbanTraditional.com (“putting traditional values back into Jewish dating”), Orthodate (“Your Bashert could be just a click away”) and Frumdate (“Our first priority is not simply to make a match but to help singles draw closer to Hashem and find the best within themselves”).

In addition to religiosity, there are other niches in the Jewish online dating market. Consider DarkJews.com — not a racist term, but a statement about skin tone for some Sephardic Jews — a new Web site for Syrian, Persian, Bucharian, Moroccan, Israeli, Egyptian, Yemenite, Spanish, and Turkish Jews. There’s even a category for half-Sephardic and “other,” which defies easy understanding in this context. Another category is “Come to America” where the choices are: Born, Toddler, Adolescent, Teenager, Adult or I’m Not in America.

DarkJews.com is based on the myspace.com and friendster.com models, which allows users to add their friends and their friends’ friends and is more of a social connector than a straight dating Web site. Right now it’s free, and popular among Persian Jews in California. Lumping all “dark Jews” together doesn’t work even for all dark Jews, because many of Far and Middle Eastern origin prefer to date within their own, more narrowly defined communities. Bjews.com, for example, for Bukharian Jews (from Uzbekistan and Central Asia) includes a dating site.

The most retro thing of all, though, might be to leave the computer behind. “Just let it happen naturally,” as your married friends will advise, putting aside the problem that natural meetings often mean the UPS man (or woman) delivering your Amazon.com orders and your neighbor asking you to turn your music down. Bar hopping is equally random and can lead to options with less to offer than the hardworking UPS delivery person.

If that leads you back to JDate, well, it does claim half a million members. And JDate is throwing a party at The House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard on Feb. 13.

Who knows?

 

Singles – Out of the Wilderness


Generally speaking, Ventura County is a lovely place. It has beautiful weather, decent air quality, low crime and renowned surfing spots.

It’s a nice place to look for antiques or raise a family.

It’s not so hot for Jewish singles.

I found myself moving there in 2002 for professional reasons related to my career as an editorial cartoonist.

To put it another way: There are more jobs playing pro football in the NFL than there are jobs in my field. And given that I’m lousy at football, I seized an opportunity to combine graphics and cartooning at the Ventura County Star in Ventura. I picked Camarillo as a compromise residence: close enough to commute; a tad closer to Los Angeles.

I soon learned that the heart of Ventura County — Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura — is nothing like Los Angeles, and does not really associate itself with Southern California. Local radio ads promote their locations on the “Central Coast” or in the “Tri-Counties.” Huh?

(A hint: Los Angeles is not one of the three.)

There’s no Jewish Community Center, no Judaica stores and only one sort of “real” deli, though it would never be confused with Art’s. The Jewish Journal doesn’t even distribute here.

Venturing into the local Jewish singles world, I learned … well, that there wasn’t one. No Israeli folkdance, no SpeedDating, no singles groups. Even basic aspects of dating Jews seemed challenging.

I discovered that the Conejo Grade — that long, engine-straining climb between the 23 Freeway and the Camarillo outlet mall — was more like the Berlin Wall for dating. East of it, Thousand Oaks (part of Ventura County) was still extended suburbia, still part of Los Angeles’ Jewish Federation. A few MTA buses go there, and its ZIP codes begin with “913” — almost like the Valley.

But down the hill on the other side, it’s a different story. Ventura’s Jewish Federation is tiny. The buses all seem to go to Santa Barbara; ZIP codes begin with “930,” and agricultural fields abound.

The handful of synagogues seem mostly full of soccer moms or older retirees, with almost nothing in between. But while my 30-to 50-mile treks to the Valley or Los Angeles for singles events led me to eligible women, they also led to the ultimate slam: geographic undesirability. As in: “Whoa, you’re way too far away. Sorry.”

In the play “Jewtopia” is a scene where one guy encourages his friend to expand his JDate searches beyond area codes 310 and 818 to include area code 805, eliciting a scream, “No way! I am not going to Thousand Oaks!”

I laughed, but thought, “And that’s merely the near side of Ventura County!”

My own JDate searches weren’t dissimilar. I was too far away to be worthwhile for any “818-er,” and there were few compatible “805-ers.”

A Ventura County Jewish Singles group bravely took life, but died after several months, caught between low turnout and a lack of volunteers. In this group, as well as with a small Santa Barbara one, it felt as though the same people came to every event.

But now, things have changed for me. One JDater has worked out, wonderfully, all the way to the altar. Even so, Roberta and I have just moved eastward, to Westlake Village (straddling the Ventura-L.A. County line), a move made possible by the upcoming relocation of my office.

And suddenly, a haimish world of possibilities has opened up. There’s Roxy’s Famous Deli to the west and Agoura Deli to the east. Not only is there a Gelson’s, but they actually carry The Jewish Journal, as does Whole Foods (neither of which exist on the flats of the Oxnard Plain). You can actually find Chanukah candles! They’ve heard of hamantaschen. There are homes nearby with mezuzahs. And the shlep to my family in the Valley or to my preferred shul, Makom Ohr Shalom in Encino, finally has become reasonable.

At the closing of escrow on the townhouse we’d just bought, the seller’s agent revealed a secret he’d been waiting to share, spoken in reverent tones: a new branch of Brent’s Deli will open soon … right here in Westlake Village!

Ohmigosh.

OK. I guess I’m a lousy pioneer. I failed to conquer new territory for Jewish singles. I gave up on the outer boonies — though I’m sure those climes make for lovely homes for many Jewish families.

For that matter, I’ve given up on singlehood, too.

At last, the years of wandering in the wilderness, geographically and dating-wise, are over. I’ve made it to the Promised Land. And I’m not just talking about a good pastrami on rye.

Steve Greenberg contributes editorial cartoons, art and occasional writing to The Journal. His email address is steve@greenberg-art.com.

 

Cool Songs? It’s a Miracle!


For all the nice Jewish boys looking for other nice Jewish boys, JDate.com has come to the rescue.

The popular Jewish online dating site expanded its search capabilities this month to allow gay men — and also lesbians — to seek matches. The Web site now asks people for their gender and the gender they’re searching, allowing men to search for men and women to search for women.

When his sister didn’t marry a Jewish boy, Gary Pinsky was told by his mother that he had to. Pinsky, 32, joined JDate several weeks ago, after returning to New Jersey after living in South Africa for several years. He said he thinks he can find more serious suitors on the Jewish dating site.

“I’ve gotten three responses since I’ve joined,” said Pinsky, a production stage manager. “They’ve all been very nice and seem to have a good head on their shoulders.”

That’s a big difference from other gay and lesbian dating sites, he said, where potential matches are less serious, and largely not Jewish.

“I didn’t find a lot of Jews out there,” Pinsky said.

Gail Laguna, vice president for communications at Spark Networks, JDate’s parent company, said the Web site’s revision came at the request of many Jewish singles.

With more than 600,000 active members, JDate has become one of the standards for niche online dating sites. The profiles of two Jewish congressmen have even been spotted on the site.

JDate officials say the original Web site did not intentionally exclude gay searches, but there was not a demand for it when the site was unveiled in 1997.

The new site includes other requested features, including a better system for identifying non-Jews. The site has become popular with non-Jews seeking Jews, and non-Jews now can express a willingness to convert as part of their online profiles.

But the expansion to gay searches has had the most immediate impact. In less than a month, 700 members have registered for same-sex searches, Laguna said.

She added there are no plans to market to the gay community or to include gays and lesbians in JDate’s current media campaign.

The Jewish world’s policies on gay rights and gay marriage vary wildly. Reform rabbis may perform gay unions, and the issue has been a hot topic within the Conservative movement, which unlike the Reform movement, does not permit the ordination of openly gay rabbis.

Orthodox groups oppose homosexual acts. The struggle of gay Orthodox Jews was the subject of a 2001 documentary, “Trembling Before G-d.”

Straight people will not receive profiles of gay members or vice versa. But, alas, there’s not yet a filter for screening out members of Congress.

On Dec. 13, The Leevees (www.theleevees.com) open for Barenaked Ladies at 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica. For tickets, call (213) 480 3232. On Dec. 15, The Leevees play “Hanukkah Rocks!” at 8 p.m. at the Knitting Factory L.A., 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 209. $15 (21 and older only). For tickets, call (866) 468 3399. 

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated


You know how Harry Potter has a scar emblazoned on his forehead from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Dan has a big T for Trouble on his, marking him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Dated.

Let me start in the middle: I go to this party at an awful place in Santa Monica, in some dark and crowded and loud basement bar, and I feel like I’ve accidentally, anachronistically stepped into a college party circa 1992 except that everyone here is old — by old I mean my age — and it’s hard to have a proper conversation.

Of course you don’t go to a bar for proper conversations — I’m not that old — but you can hardly see anybody or anything except the mosh pit of bodies swaying in 2-by-2 dancing/flirting/making-out duets. Maybe it’s just one of those nights when I feel terribly left out of everything no matter where I go. (I’ve just come from a Shabbat dinner with lots of married couples and kids — try finding an outfit that fits both these occasions.) Or maybe it’s Dan.

I met Dan a few weeks ago at an awesome party downtown. It was held on the entire floor of an industrial building on Spring Street, where a dozen or so artists were showing their work — mostly photographs and paintings but with a couple of jewelry and clothing designers interspersed. The lighting and the ceilings were low in a way that made everyone look more scintillating than they might in a retro basement bar in Santa Monica. Of course, it could have been the flutes of wine or the chocolate truffles. Or could it really have been Dan?

I wasn’t even looking to meet someone. I was actually dating someone else.

Which is why Dan and I could talk like normal people, and not single people on the make, dressed up in our best costumes and our most sparkly personalities, working furiously to obfuscate our skeletons beneath endless layers of jaunty jingles. So we talked about — what else? — relationships.

My one-two analysis: Dan has commitment-phobia, candy-store syndrome, and/or model rocket-scientist disorder. The thing is, like with milk or eggs, he can predict the exact shelf life of his relationships, but he goes for it anyway, pretending it’s real because he wants the comfort. He’s the guy that, out of the blue, when things were going perfectly well, says that things are not going well at all and disappears like he’s in the FBI Witness Protection Program. Dan is like many of my male single friends — friends I swear I’m going to dump because of the pain and torture they subject on womankind.

On that particular night, Dan’s problems didn’t bother me, because I had someone else. But then a little while later, I didn’t.

So when Dan called a few weeks later to invite me to this party in Santa Monica. I remembered his periwinkle eyes and his scruffy brown hair and the way he constantly touched my arm for punctuation. I said yes.

I finally locate him among the throngs, and we start talking. The problem is, we continue our conversation where we left off a few weeks ago: He regales me with his dating problems. How this one girl in Northern California is outdoorsy and smart but she lacks passion. How this other girl in Los Angeles is an aerobics instructor with an awesome body but not an intellectual.

“I want someone who is smart and challenging and has interests and is Jewish,” he says. “Is that too much to ask for?”

“Me!” I want to say. “Me! I’m smart, I’m Jewish, I’m passionate, I’m outdoorsy, I’m cool. What’s wrong with me?”

But I know: We’ve entered the friend zone. I’m like the fat girl in high school that boys confided in but never dated. Except that in high school I was the girl that everyone dated and didn’t confide in. So, I don’t know what to say when Dan points out the hot waitress. Okay, it’s hard to ignore her: fake boobs, butt tattoo, nimble waist that is so out of place in this dump — but am I such stuffed cabbage that I have to hear about the next entrée?

I’ve always heard stories of couples who were friends before they started dating, or people who claimed to have married “their best friend.”

But how is that possible? How can you see a person stripped of all their games, their pretensions, their public face, and still go through with it anyway?

Even in the darkness of this alcohol-drenched room, I can see Dan clearly: I’d never get anything more than an extended one-night stand that seemed like a romance. And he’s told me way too much about his technique and the endgame.

So I said my goodbyes and left Dan to go after the hot waitress. That’s what friends are for, right?

 

Watch Out Ladies, Dad’s Dating Again


Guess who has a new girlfriend? Well, besides me. And thanks in advance for your warm wishes. It’s the old man, actually. That’s right. Look out golden girls. Dad’s dating again.

Well, he was — until he met “the one.” Can you believe that? Six months and he’s off the market already. Now you can’t even get the guy on the horn. And when you do, his chick’s always beeping in on call-waiting.

“Tell her you’ll call back,” I plead.

Seniors today — always yapping on the phone.

Dad, or as I now refer to him, “Hef,” turns 80 this year. That just goes to show you how badly men want women in their lives. You think the urge would flame out at age 72? Please. 76? Hardly. The big 8-0 and still scoping out babes like Potsie on “Happy Days.”

A bit out of practice, yes, but give the guy some credit. Sure, he left the dating scene for a brief 52 years, but he returned stronger than ever. Scoured the online personals. Hung out at senior singles nights. Met and dated a number of women. My sisters started setting him up with prospects they came across.

I had thought about asking my female friends about their moms, but worried if things worked out a certain way, I could theoretically wind up as my own grandfather.

You’ve heard of the book, “He’s Just Not Into You”? Well, he’s really into this woman. It’s always “my girlfriend this” and “my girlfriend that.” Just like a teenager: No job. Obsessing over women. A really bad driver. I’m expecting the acne to start at any moment.

And get this — he’s asking me for advice! Me. The guy who once broke up with the same girl five times in seven months. I’m more confused than anyone.

Sure, I’ve dated a fair amount, but the over-70 age range is one even I haven’t yet ventured into. Don’t have a clue as to what those gals have on their mind. But judging from the women I do know, I’m guessing cats and jewelry wouldn’t be too far off.

Also Harry Connick Jr.

And the stories I hear. Once, he told me he met a woman who said she was 68. And guess what? That’s right — she was actually 71. Nice to see some courtship traditions last a lifetime.

Another time, I got the “why should I call her, let her call me” argument. Or “She lives too far away.” And “We don’t have anything in common.”

Now I know where I get my sunny disposition.

I’m glad he finally met someone. A nice, Jewish woman at that! She’s terrific. Pretty. Well-mannered. Early 70s. Marriage-minded, but not looking to have more children, evidently.

They’re having a great time. Even went to Disneyland the other day. The two of them flying down the Matterhorn like screaming kids. I’d suggest bumper cars, but it only promotes more bad habits behind the wheel.

Note to ABC: “The Bachelor — Senior Edition.”

Anyway, he’s happier now. That’s the great thing about finding someone — at any age. Gives you more reasons to keep going. Not that stamp collecting and watering the lawn aren’t enough. And the best part? It keeps him out of my hair.

Now I do the badgering: “How’s your girlfriend? How come I never hear from you anymore? When are you getting married? No, of course, I would never submit a story about you to a local publication read by all of your close friends and family members.”

I envy them. Seems to be a lot less pressure when you’re dating at their age. Fewer expectations and demands. They’ve been together a year and not one major fight, as far as I can tell.

Can’t wait for the bachelor party. Question: Do I hire dancers? Or their grandmothers?

I hope it lasts forever. I really don’t want to run into dad during happy hour at Hooters. At least not again.

Freelance writer Howard Leff lives in Los Angeles with one dog and two guitars. You can reach him at highway61x@gmail.com.

Mama Said…


Taking relationship advice from your Jewish mother is like heeding a shiksa friend’s advice about curly hair gel. It’s not their area.

Besides, your mom has an agenda: to get you married. Sure, she wants you to be happy. But in her mind, the two may or may not coincide. Consider the following well-meaning but misguided maternal advice:

You Can’t Love Somebody Else Until You Love Yourself. Of course you can! Granted, you may not love the person in a healthy, much less reciprocal way. But you’ll think you’re in love, and the power of a delusional mind and desperate heart are a formidable combination. Besides, love and hate are far enough apart on the scale of emotions that they come full circle and become the same thing. Your self-loathing turns into other-loving, so that the more you hate yourself, the more you love the other person. Don’t wait for self-esteem to kick in before pursuing romance. That could take years of therapy and remember, you’re not getting any younger.

If You Marry for Money, You’ll Pay the Price. Not really. Money’s good and, the fact is, no matter whom you’re with, you’re bound to be disappointed eventually. Wouldn’t you rather be disappointed and rich than disappointed and broke? Think of it this way: You can be disappointed on an estate in Malibu or disappointed in a crappy, roach-infested studio apartment in Reseda. Besides, what better way to drown your disappointment than in a shopping addiction?

You Won’t Meet Anyone by Sitting Home Alone in Front of Your Computer. Actually, I’ve never met more people more quickly than by sitting home alone in front of my computer. It’s like being at a fabulous party, but looking my best (courtesy of a JDate photo taken three years ago) and not having to deal with freeway traffic or second-hand smoke. In fact, my fondest dating encounters recently have taken place from the comfort of my Aeron chair.

Just Be Yourself. Do our mothers really expect us to get to a second date by being ourselves? Will any guy show interest in a judgmental intellectual snob who visibly rolls her eyes when her date says he doesn’t know who Thomas Friedman is? On the other hand, most guys will go ga-ga over a woman who says, “No way! Me, too!” when her date declares that “Tommy Boy” is his all-time favorite movie. So if your date thinks David Spade is an underrated genius and you think David Spade is a moron, feel free to borrow your date’s opinions. If he gushes about Aqualung, gush back for the sake of simpatico. (“Aqualung? Yeah, I love Aqualung!” — even if you’ve never heard of Aqualung.) If he says his favorite movies are “A Clockwork Orange” and “Raging Bull,” there’s no need to mention that yours are “Amelie” and “Lost in Translation.” If he says he’s a vegan who doesn’t eat junk food, stop yourself from talking about your love of Big Macs and Cold Stone chocolate sundaes. (The implication being: We both like healthy food, therefore we like each other.) It’s advisable to take on alternate personalities as we try to guess what type of person might appeal to the object of our affection. Be yourself, on the other hand, and you’ll be by yourself.

If He Can Have the Milk for Free, He Won’t Buy the Cow. Our moms clearly forgot about the sexual revolution. Nowadays, no guy will marry you just for the nooky. So if you’re going to be manipulative, choose something else to withhold. Like the truth about who you really are. Because if you give him that, he’ll probably want to trade you in for a less dysfunctional cow.

Put on Some Lipstick, Mascara and a Cute Outfit When You Go Out for Your Morning Coffee — You Never Know Who You Might Run Into. Nobody wears makeup and a matching Juicy Couture get-up when they roll out of bed on Sunday mornings unless they’re Britney Spears or the Hilton sisters. If I’m all dolled up in the Peet’s line, it doesn’t matter who I run into — guys will be running away from me.

Honest Communication Is Key. Both honesty and communication can wreck an otherwise peaceful courtship. Nothing ends a relationship faster than getting the truthful answer to “What are you thinking about, sweetie?” and having him reply, “I was thinking about what the 19-year-old college student who works at Kinko’s looks like naked.”

Act Uninterested — It’s a Turn-on. A turn-on to whom? We’ve all had our objects of infatuation act uninterested, and it didn’t make us like them more — it just made us like ourselves less.

No disrespect to our mothers, but courtship rituals have changed since they were dating. So forget all their antiquated rules. Except the one about never criticizing your boyfriend’s mother, no matter what. If he secretly hates his mother, he’ll end up hating you instead for merely broaching the subject. In fact, he’ll probably accuse you of hating his mother, and say that he can’t love anyone who hates his mother, even though in truth he loves you and hates his mother. Or else he loves his mother so much that he hates you for demanding a portion of that love. Either way, you lose.

So shut up about his mother. Because this is one area Mom knows something about.

Lori Gottlieb, a commentator for NPR, is the author of “Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self.” Her Web site is www.lorigottlieb.com.

 

To Tree or Not to Tree


 

For the first time in my adult life I’m dating a Jewish girl.

Her father’s Catholic — an Italian — but according to my

rabbi, “She’s all good.”

(Maybe he didn’t use those exact words, but something to that effect.)

Carrie and I bicker but never have any real fights; that is not until Christmastime. She was raised with Christmas in her house. Chanukah was a pool they may have dipped their toes into out of some traditional obligation, but it was Christmas that they jumped into cannonball style.

Their house is covered in multicolored lights and adorned with cheap plastic Santa wall hangings. A gargantuan Douglas fir, rivaling the one in the center of The Grove, is squeezed in between the ceiling and floor. And gifts wrapped in red and green piled three-deep high surround the tree as if out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Her childhood memories are filled with Christmas as the happiest day of the year.

Then, she started dating me. And, like a Jewish Scrooge, I decided over dinner to let her know there would be no more Christmas. Well, at least not for us. I said that if we ever moved in together she would need to get used to the fact that there would be no Christmas tree in our house. She looked like she would drop her pork chop.

“I was raised with Christmas!” she said. “And I want a tree in my house.”

“I know,” I answered. “But, I wasn’t. And if we’re raising our kids Jewish why would we have a Christmas tree?”

“Because I like Christmas.”

“But, you’re Jewish!”

“My dad’s not.”

“But, you are. You were raised Jewish for the most part, you don’t believe in Jesus, why would we have a tree?”

“It’s got nothing to do with that,” she explained, quickly losing her patience. “It’s an American holiday.”

“Look, Carrie. You’re Jewish and I’m Jewish. What the hell are two Jews going to do with a Christmas tree?”

Two weekends ago we had to stop by her parents’ house she could pick up something she left there. Her mother proudly showed me the decorations on their tree and excitedly clicked on all the little lights strewn about the house.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed. She opened the front door. “Look at this wreath I made. I made it by hand.”

I smiled, uncomfortably. Ironically, it was Carrie’s Catholic father who saw my discomfort and said, “Some Jewish house, huh?”

Carrie’s mother once told me that when she married her husband she was very excited to have her first Christmas tree. She had been raised in a WASPY Long Island neighborhood and had hated feeling like an outcast. So, she looked forward to finally having a Christmas tree just like everyone else.

I suppose I understand her feelings — Christmas always looked like so much fun when I was a kid. We were inundated with music, TV specials and movies that showed families gathering together around the Christmas tree, tearing open gifts and singing uplifting songs. The plain menorah and a crappy song about a dreidel was no competition.

I tried to explain to Carrie that for most of us assimilated Jews there is something important about growing up without a tree.

We basically fit in with our non-Jewish friends and colleagues, and are careful not to stand out too much as Jews.

But, one time a year it becomes evident that we are different. Our houses are not decorated, we don’t have a Christmas tree and when people wish us a “Merry Christmas” we debate whether or not we should say, “Well, I don’t celebrate Christmas but thank you, anyway.”

“Once we allow ourselves to start appropriating another religion’s traditions in order to fit in with our neighbors, we have compromised who we are,” I told Carrie. “By taking away the wonderful things that separates us from non-Jews, it only damages us.”

Carrie’s mother joined in on my side, telling her daughter that it would be a little silly for us to ever have a Christmas tree in our house.

“I married someone who wasn’t Jewish, so it would be wrong for me to ignore my husband’s traditions,” her mother said. “But you are both Jewish and going to raise Jewish kids. You’re not going to celebrate Christmas. Instead, you can celebrate that other holiday — you know, the one with the candles and the spinning top.”

Carrie looked at me with resolve. “Fine, we won’t have a tree. But, I’m going to my parents’ house on Christmas.”

“Fine with me,” I answered. “If you need me, I’ll be at the movies.”

Seth Menachem is an actor and writer who lives in Los Angeles.

 

Secular Connection


I fell in love with a brilliant, attractive and witty Filipina woman last year. She was a fallen Catholic, didn’t accept Jesus as her savior and was totally cool with raising kids Jewish. When I went to her uncle’s place for a birthday party and everyone was singing "Sunrise, Sunset" on the karaoke machine, you’d be hard-pressed to find a closer, warmer, more Jewish family than theirs.

Apart from the fact that our cuisine is superior, I was amazed at how similar the dynamic was: Abundant food, loud overlapping conversations, juicy gossip and more food. I felt like I was at home, except for the fact that I was only white guy in the room.

I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island. I went to a public high school that had roughly the same percentage Jewish population as a yeshiva. My local synagogue was so Reform I think they closed down on High Holidays. And yet, of the women I’ve dated post-college, I’ve had exactly two Jewish girlfriends. What, in the name of my concerned Jewish mother, is going on here?

Well, it’s certainly not due to my love of the other major religions out there. Once you’ve had one drunken girlfriend speak in tongues, and had another say that, despite how much she loves you, you’re still going to hell, it’s hard to be sympathetic to non-Jewish zealots. My guess is that it’s just a numbers thing. There are 2 percent of us and there’s 98 percent of them. The odds are stacked in favor of intermarriage. Four out of my five cousins went that route and are all very happy. This poses an obvious dilemma: How important is it to marry within our religion?

On Passover 2002, I e-mailed my very close, very bright, very agnostic friend a simple "Happy Pesach" to greet her in the morning.

She innocently replied later, "Happy Peaches?" Ugh. You gotta be kidding.

In other relationships, I’ve had women suggest that we could raise our kids in both religions and let them decide what they are when they’re older. Yeah, right. Those kids won’t be Jewish — supporters of Israel, consumers of gefilte fish, complainers about drafty rooms — they’ll just be two more white kids in search of racial, ethnic or religious identity. That’s not a crime, per se, but it’s certainly not what I want for my children.

The Filipina and I ultimately didn’t make it as a couple, but not because of religion. Still, I decided to get serious and start dating Jewish women.

A lot of people don’t understand — or can’t accept — the strangely powerful hold Judaism holds for secular Jews like me. What makes me Jewish? My bloodline? My last name? My prominent nose, mop of hair and acute sense of sarcasm? It’s pointless to isolate individual qualities, especially ones that play to stereotypes, but as far as I can determine I’m Jewish because I was raised that way. I identify with others who were raised that way.

When I attended college in North Carolina, where only 20 percent of the student body was Jewish, all of my best friends were Jews — even though I wasn’t hanging around the Hillel. I didn’t seek them: I found them. We were like-minds sticking together in a foreign environment. And while many bristle at this comparison, my Jewish experience, far more cultural than religious, is more akin to being black than it is to being Christian.

Jewish neighborhoods in New York aren’t homogeneous ghettos because we’re forced to live there. They result from the desires of people who are looking for quality public schools, short commutes to the city and access to good bagels.

By any definition, I’m a bad Jew. I don’t keep kosher. I haven’t been to Jerusalem. I don’t belong to a synagogue. In fact, there are years that I don’t go at all because tickets are scarce and davening with Chabad isn’t my idea of a good time. So what difference does it make to me who I marry? I’m not sure, but it does. Not because of parental pressure, because I have my mother’s blessing no matter what I do. Not because Jews are better, as the best relationship I’ve yet to have was with a non-Jew. Rather, I see myself marrying a Jewish woman because of internal pride, shared values and cultural identity. Because of the commonality of knowing that our people have been persecuted for millennia and are still thriving. Because regardless of how often I demonstrate it publicly, there’s one important and undeniable fact: I am Jewish.

And whomever I end up with had better know off the bat that the satin thing I grab from the box in temple once a year isn’t called a beanie.

Evan Marc Katz is the author of the “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book: A
Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating” (Ten Speed, 2004) and is the
founder of e-Cyrano (

Test-a-Jew


Back in high school, I had a crush on a Protestant girl, Joan Reid. She told me that her mother encouraged her to date — and even marry — Jewish guys because: a) They’re smarter and work harder; b) They make great fathers; c) They don’t get drunk and beat you. I told Joan her mom was absolutely correct, and then spent the rest of the year attempting to leverage that information into getting Joan’s bra off. But I digress.

The fact of the matter is, Jewish men are in demand, not just among Jewish women, but among non-Jewish women, as well. Similarly, there are non-Jewish men who have a thing for Jewish women. All well and good. The problem is that some of these gentiles are signing up on Jewish singles sites like JDate and raiding our people. They’re going Hebrew fishing.

Oh, sure, some of these "pretenders to the faith" will admit up front that they’re not Jewish, but many will not. It’s false advertising. Bait-and-switch. They’ll get a Jewish man or woman to fall in love with them, and only then reveal their dark secret. Shame! But, assuming this matters to you, what can be done about this treachery? Nothing. How can one determine if said potential romantic partner is, in fact, a Jew? One can’t. That is, one couldn’t — until now.

Fellow Jewish singles, no longer will a non-Jew take advantage of your good will and trusting nature. No longer will non-Jews toy with your affections. No longer will you give yourself, body and soul, to a, for want of a better word, Lutheran, only to find out that he or she grew up in a household in which the only time "Jew" was even mentioned was in conjunction with the terms "devil horns," "owning show business" and "killing our Lord."

Yes, our days and nights of uncertainty and betrayal are over. For, as a public service to my faith, I have created a fool-proof means of determining whether your potential life partner is one of the Chosen People. Now, admittedly, I am still perfecting and fine-tuning my Test-a-Jew creation. But, just to get you started, here is a brief sampling. Feel free to try them on your dates. But I beg you, if they answer incorrectly, can’t answer correctly immediately or get a glazed look in their eyes, run!

Test-a-Jew Sample Questions

1) Abba is:

a. The secret code word for getting into the hottest bar mitzvah parties.

b. A Swedish band famous for cheesy music that’s still popular, God knows why.

c. The Hebrew word for "father."

2) Mezuzah is:

a. The personal form of "Youzuzah."

b. A small parchment scroll written by a scribe and affixed to the doorpost, containing the first two paragraphs of the Shema.

c. The sound made in the throat when ingesting a matzah ball that’s too dry.

3) "Gut Shabbos" is an expression meaning:

a. Good Sabbath.

b. Shabby Guts.

c. We still own show business — pass it on.

4) Which of the following sentences uses the word shpilkes properly?

a. Did you shave your shpilkes today?

b. I had shpilkes before my big job interview.

c. Would you prefer some of the chocolate or the coconut shpilkes?

5) Which of these best describes Haman?

a. The villain of the story of Purim.

b. The last name of the one Orthodox Jew who plays professional hockey.

c. The menu term immediately preceding "cheese sandwich."

6) Kashrut is:

a. The condition immediately preceding bankruptcy.

b. Jewish dietary laws.

c. His real last name before he became "Neil Diamond."

I think you’ll agree with me that a test like this will do much to weed out the Jew-pretenders. If this situation is left unchecked, trust me, one day you’ll wake up to find your kids have blond hair, straight noses and think a shnorer is someone who makes a lot of noise in his sleep. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’re welcome.

Mark Miller has written for TV, movies and celebrities, been a professional
stand-up comedian and a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. He
can be reached at markmiller2000@comcast.net.

Looking for Ms. Wrong


A good friend of mine got married a couple of months ago to the wrong guy. The thing is, I think they’re going to last a long time.

My friend, “Karen,” is a top administrative officer for a government agency. She hired this lawyer, Joe, to do some outside legal work for the agency. He was living with someone at the time, and he wasn’t her “type” anyway. No problem: no chemistry, no conflict.

Karen and Joe worked together peacefully for more than four years. They got to be good friends on strictly a professional level. All was fine.

That is, until last October, when Joe suddenly realized he had fallen in love with Karen and told her about it. He told her she could take her time figuring it out for herself, but he was determined that they were going to end up spending the rest of their lives together. All this even though he still had a live-in. Karen’s reaction: She thought he had gone a little wacky and recommended counseling! But she reluctantly agreed to an “official date.”

Two weeks later, they were engaged; three-and-a-half months later, married. And they adore each other.

Same with my lifelong friend, Harry. He was a physical education teacher (Jewish — go figure!), 6-foot-3, about 210 pounds., strong as an ox — dated mostly the non-Jewish waitresses he met at the Charthouse, where he worked for waiter’s tips to earn enough to make ends meet. When he met Rachel, she was a pediatric physical therapist from a whole family of doctors — dated mostly short, unathletic, brainy Jewish doctors, lawyers and accountants. Harry was definitely not her type.

Harry’s idea of dress-up was a “nice” pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt without any holes in it. His dress shoes were his newest pair of sneakers. His idea of a great date was when she agreed to go “Dutch” down at Joe Jost’s, a popular, working-class dive in mid-Long Beach. Rachel was used to guys in designer suits who wouldn’t even think of not picking up the tab at the latest trendy Sushi bar.

Result of this “wrong” pairing: Click! Game, set and match. They’re about to celebrate their 17th anniversary; they have two great kids; and they’re still on their honeymoon.

Ever notice when you see some couples that they really “fit” — they really do seem to belong together? When I talk to them, I often find out that their partner was definitely not the person they thought they were looking for.

“In fact,” she’ll say, “he has some habits that in other guys I just couldn’t stand. But in him, I not only put up with them, but find it kind of cute!”

The way I figure it, in this game, you never really know what you’re looking for until you find it. And when you do, all those “wrong” things just suddenly become OK — even right.

So lately, I’ve been asking some hard questions about my own “requirements.” Jewish? Yeah, I guess that’s not negotiable. Oh, I’ve tried the “other side” a few times. It’s just that, when it comes right down to it, the possibility of having one of our future kids wearing a cross and believing Jesus was the messiah really isn’t acceptable.

OK, but what else? I’ve always been attracted to women who are clever, with a keen wit and sharp sense of humor. A bright, mischievous twinkle in the eye is a plus.

The rest of it? I took a lot of time working out my “perfect match” for my JDate profile. Now I’m realizing that I’ve just seen it too many times — regardless of what I “know” about my type, it’s probably going to happen that some vague biological reaction will mysteriously and unexpectedly assert itself when I meet the “wrong” person. Then all those things on my “must” list just won’t matter any more.

So now, taking a cue from the popular challenge to “think outside the box,” I’m doing my best to “look for love outside the box.”

What I still need from someone out there is to meet me halfway. While I’m trying to keep my eyes and my heart a lot more open to the possibilities, what are you looking for? What do you see when you look at me?

Deleted my JDate e-mails because I’m “too old”? Tell that to Catherine Zeta-Jones or Annette Bening! And are you telling me you’d take a pass on Sean Connery today, even at his age? (Same goes for receding hairline excuses.)

Rejected a setup by the matchmaking service because I’m “too short”? Hey, I thought you said “size” doesn’t matter! And how often have you expressed disdain for guys who focus a little too much attention on the size of a woman’s chest?

Looked past me at Friday Night Live because it seems like I’m “too serious?” You know, “serious” doesn’t have to mean “boring.” There’s nothing like a little serious fun to keep a relationship interesting and alive. Ever hear the expression, “Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac”? Try it, you might like it!

Now when they say to me, “There must be some reason a nice guy like you isn’t married,” I tell them, “It’s not that I’m waiting for that ‘perfect person’ who doesn’t exist. It’s just that I’m waiting for the right ‘wrong’ one to come along — the one whose ‘toos’ aren’t ‘too’ for me.”

Look, I know you’re out there somewhere. The problem is, although I’ve figured it out, I have to hope you’ll stop searching for Mr. Right. Because what you’re really looking for is me: Mr. Wrong … who’s really been the right one for you all along.

Glenn M. Gottlieb is a professional mediator and corporate attorney
practicing in Los Angeles. He is actively looking for Ms. Wrong and can be
contacted at gmgottlieb@hotmail.com.