My Single Peeps: Elyse G.


Elyse, 43, is a freelancer for this magazine — but that doesn’t mean she was coerced into being interviewed for My Single Peeps. At least as far as I know. I’ve never met a single person at the office. I write from home. Maybe it’s a tyrannical organization. All I know is she showed up to meet me, and she seemed interested in genuinely finding love.

“I basically grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston,” Elyse begins. “I went to the University of Illinois [at Chicago — UIC] and got my master’s in journalism from Syracuse University. I began my journalism career as a music journalist and interviewed bands while maintaining straight A’s. While an undergrad at UIC, I co-founded the Chicago Flame,” a community newspaper that was around for 20 years. That’s where Elyse honed her chops as a restaurant and travel writer. “I pretty much lived the whole plot of ‘Reality Bites,’ minus the two cute guys fighting over me. It was time for a fresh start, so I moved out to California in October of ’94.” She did temp work for a few months before landing her first real job, at Rogers & Cowan. She moved on to other PR companies, writing press kits and press releases, but, “I discovered I love the work and didn’t care for the politics. After 9/11, it made me realize how fragile and fleeting life is, and I decided to go into business for myself.” She’s a freelancer who writes about food, travel and wellness. 

Elyse describes herself as quirky. “Quirky works if you’re Zooey Deschanel on TV and under 30. I’m told I was quirky, and guys don’t like quirky.” I ask her what makes her quirky. “The way I express myself; my hand gestures; my eyes … I look away. I just have my own way of seeing the world. I see my competition in L.A. — they have the long, straight hair, they come off easygoing, and I come off uptight until I can relax and express myself.”

When she first sits down with me, she’s ready to talk. I slow her down because she’s talking faster than I type. She pauses, and then continues midsentence when I prompt her. I think she’s too serious — that she doesn’t know how to laugh at life. But as she gets out her story, I realize that she just wants to show me that side of herself. We all want to show our best sides right away — and to Elyse, her best side is one of a serious journalist. But it’s when she makes jokes about the horrors of being single that I see her at her best. Later she tells me, “If I seem stiff and uncomfortable, it’s because I like to get to know people. I have this whole other side where I’m fun [and I’m the] life of the party.” And I believe her.

She wants an educated man. “Somebody who likes to actually get out and do things — try new foods, have new life experiences. Somebody with a good job. I want a guy who’s comfortable in his own skin. I like a guy who’s tall and works out. I realize at this stage in my life, I don’t want IKEA. I want Ethan Allen — something I can just take home and enjoy.

“If it’s in the cards for me to have a child of my own, that’s great; but if not, I can adopt. There are certain things I’d like to do in life before I become a parent.” “Like what?” I ask. She thinks for a few moments and realizes she’s done everything she’s wanted to do. “The only thing I haven’t found is a great guy.”


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.

 

Web site matchmaker for charity


Big Sunday, the year-round volunteer organization, has launched BIGlist, an online charity service partnering nonprofits, individuals and the causes that need them the most. Dubbed a “non-profit matchmaking microsite,” it features all kinds of things that people in the Big Sunday community want to give away, as well as listing the  needs of Big Sunday’s nonprofit partners. 

Big Sunday, which originated as Mitzvah Day at Temple Israel of Hollywood, now organizes an annual service weekend that draws thousands of people to community service projects statewide. But it has also expanded to facilitate volunteer activities year-round.

Here’s how the BIGlist works: Individuals donate items ranging from books, jungle gyms, pianos, clothes and Thanksgiving turkeys, and nonprofits partnered with Big Sunday claim these items and give them to people in need. The nonprofits also can post their own needs. Items can only be claimed by nonprofit organizations; individuals can only donate.

Recently, the list of items people wished to give away included furniture, two pianos, Thanksgiving dinner at the Hard Rock and a very cute basset hound named Arlo (just to name a few). Stuff needed included non-perishables, including food, soap, bookshelves, and more.

To make donations, contact the thebiglist@bigsunday.org.

My Single Peeps: Lisa B.


Here are 13 things about Lisa she wants you to know:

1. I am a huge astronomy lover and own the original Chicago Tribune when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, July 20, 1969. 

2. I have revised this list 9 times. Niiinnnee timmmess. 

3. I have severe disdain toward shorthand for IM/e-mail. y? u ask. bc it iz goin to ruin the english language, lik u no? 

4. I have been told I am psychic.  

5. I have lived in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. I actually hated living in N.Y., and Chicago is a mixed bag, but I love L.A. What can I say? I like to drive and be as far away from the family as possible. 

6. I am very picky with people but will eat any kind of food. 

7. Even though I want to be in a relationship, I really do enjoy spending time alone, and 93 percent of people bug the f—- out of me. The other 7 percent are my friends. 

8. I am a computer/technology geek. I have built PCs, taken apart my Mac mini to install more RAM and love anything computer/tech related. 

9. Being pregnant doesn’t interest me, but adoption does. If I ever have a child, I would prefer a boy and name him Ceven (like the number — with a twist) I thought of this prior to “Seinfeld”!

10. I think that Phoebe, Monica and Rachel from “Friends” are all inside of me: spiritual ditz, a chef who can be anal, and a “JAP” with a horrible romantic life.

11. I consider dancing around my apartment in 10-minute spurts a valid form of exercise. 

12. Even though I am a chef, I have the worst eating habits. I have been eating Filet-o-Fish from Mickey D’s with chocolate milk for over 28 years. I think I could eat anything with tartar sauce. In fact, I think I could live on sauces in general. 

13. I wish I didn’t have freckles or beauty marks, but I’m sure as s—- glad I had a nose job!

BONUS TRACK!  
14.
I have been told that although I look like I am high maintenance, I am really low maintenance. 

Here are three things about Lisa I would like you to know:

1. I didn’t ask Lisa to make this list; she did it on her own. So the fact that she added a bonus track to an arbitrary number says something about how deep her anal-retentiveness goes.
2. When I asked her about being psychic, she told me that she can’t predict anything like an earthquake or tsunami. But when asked the temperature of water in a pot and later a random guy’s astrological sign, she was correct both times. I’m not sure that qualifies her as psychic, but if she is, it’s the equivalent of being able to bend your thumb back to your wrist — interesting to look at but of no use to anyone.
3. She’ll sooner sleep with you than cook for you. She views her kitchen the way a surgeon views the operating room:  “It’s my job, and a healthy amount of stress accompanies it.”  So when she does it for free, you’ll know you’ve won her heart. So don’t break it.

If you’re interested in anyone you see on My Single Peeps, send an e-mail and a picture, including the person’s name in the subject line, to {encode=”mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com” title=”mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com”}, and we’ll forward it to your favorite peep.


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 by visiting his website mysinglepeeps.com.

My Single Peeps: Ameenah K.


I am married with a kid and living in Los Angeles. Many of my friends are single. They like to complain to me about how hard it is to find someone to love. (I like to complain about how hard it is living with someone you love.) This is my way of trying to get them off of my back. Every week I’ll post a new single peep, or someone new I meet who might be good for one of my peeps. If you’re interested in anyone you see on My Single Peeps, send an e-mail and a picture, including the person’s name in the subject line, to {encode=”mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com” title=”mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com”}, and we’ll forward it to your favorite peep.

I met Ameenah when I was in sixth or seventh grade at “Jew camp.” She stuck out like a sore thumb … because she’s so funny. Oh, and she’s black. And there weren’t many black Jews at Jew camp.

No matter where we were in our lives, Ameenah and I always managed to stay in touch. And we often ended up living in the same cities. We’ve both been in Los Angeles for years now, struggling as artists … that is, if you can call having more money than you know what to do with a struggle. I just bought a Maserati and then cut off the top and let the homeless people in my neighborhood use it for a bathroom. That’s just how I roll. Don’t ask me why there are so many homeless people in my neighborhood — I don’t need you people finding holes in my logic. This is about Ameenah, not me … so focus.

Ameenah worked for years performing in the original cast of “Stomp” on Broadway. When we were 15, I showed her how to do a drum lick called a paradiddle. Since then, she’s turned into a sick drummer, and the only thing I still know how to do is a paradiddle. I walk around tapping my hands on my chest, and she’s playing percussion with Rihanna on the American Music Awards. TomAYto, tomAHto.

She can be intense. She’s opinionated and is not afraid to speak her mind. She’s really serious about what she does and tends to use terms like “my craft” when referring to acting. I just call it by the term my wife always uses — “The stupidest decision I’ve ever made.”

Although very much a tomboy and the kind of girl who can “roll with the boys,” she’s all woman. She’s got big, beautiful eyes, and she’s in unbelievable shape, with every muscle clearly defined. She dances and choreographs and has won more awards than I can mention.

She likes her men confident, and she doesn’t discriminate against race, creed, color or religion. But she does discriminate against stupid. So, don’t forget to bring your brains.


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.

Attack of ‘The Mothers’


It’s early Saturday morning and Shabbat is cresting with the West Coast sunrise. As is my custom, I dress, slip into a pair of heels, and ready myself for a contemplative worship. When I was new in town I could daven, throw back a shot of Manichewitz and grab a piece of challah on my way out; but the days of passing through community circles unnoticed and unscathed are over.

The first time it happened, a well-dressed woman with ebony tresses and ample perfume pulled me aside during Kiddush and said, “Excuse me, are you married?”

She grabbed my right hand and glared at my naked finger.

“No, I’m not married,” I replied.

“Are you Jewish?”

“Am I Jewish?” I thought, incredulous. I’m in temple, on Shabbat. This is not a pashmina draped over my shoulders. It’s a tallit.

“How old are you?”

“I’m 24.”

“Very good,” she said, all smiley and nodding.

She meant “very good” not because she felt Jewish-feminist pride that a single young woman is attending Shabbat services, but because my answer affirmed that I have six more childbearing years before I turn 30.

“I have a son! He is handsome, a lawyer. Can he call you?”

I know how to handle men, but their mothers? An entirely different challenge. Until I moved to Los Angeles, I had never been “hit on” by women. Now women twice, thrice, even four times my age (I call them mothers-on-the-prowl) approach me nearly every Shabbat. Sometimes, they attack in the middle of the Amidah.

The interrogation usually happens in this order: marital status, ethnic/religious status, age. This maternal screening/courting ritual is difficult to deter. If I’m feeling naughty, I slip a ring on my index finger then stay silent after question No. 1.

At first, I was naïve. I dished out my Jewish Journal business cards like I had a thousand gathering dust on my desk. I didn’t really think they’d call.

I’ve since learned that Jewish mothers out to wed their sons have the chutzpah to persist until the messiah arrives. Oh did they call — reminding me that we met on Shabbat and that their handsome, corporate finance, lawyer/surgeon/mogul/magnate sons were going to ring.

Flattery turned to frustration. Could I stomach all these dates with men who were complete strangers? Did I want to date a man whose mother was doing his dirty work?

I dealt with the phone and e-mail dating inquiries with “busy”excuses or ignored them altogether. It’s easy to delete a voicemail from a guy you’ve never met, but negotiating the fragile terrain of The Mother Set-Up is fraught with sensitive social etiquette I’m not well versed in.

How do you explain — in person �”to an overbearing Jewish mother that you have zero interest in being set up with her sensational offspring?

You don’t. So it continued, every Shabbat when three or four or five mothers, grandmothers and even sisters would repeat the weekly ordeal:

“I have a son. He’s in real estate. A good business. Very handsome!”

“I have a brother. He’s 40, a plastic surgeon, very handsome!”

“I have two sons. Both doctors, very handsome. Have your pick!”

I stopped bringing the cards to temple because I thought I might be fired if my editors ever listened to my voicemail.

Then things changed. It started happening during services — a tap from behind, “Excuse me, are you married?”

“No, but do you think this could wait until after the rabbi’s sermon?”

So The Mothers would whip out their pens.

“Here, please. Write your phone number. My son will call you.”

I attend a Conservative synagogue and haven’t picked up a pen since one of the cantors reprimanded me for taking notes during a Shabbat lecture.

I started telling The Mothers that I do not give out my number on Shabbat. They laugh; then they ask again.

One providential morning, an attractive mother in hot pink satin gave me the third degree and went to fetch her son. I snuck into the sanctuary, hoping to disappear in the rabbi’s lecture, but the next thing I knew The Mother and The Son were sitting right behind me, patiently waiting half an hour for an opportunity to arrange the shidduch. Ugh!

After some chit-chat, The Mother suggested her son and I exchange phone numbers. To give us privacy she stepped a few feet away.

I wondered if she’d want an adjoining room on the honeymoon.

I walked away deflated. He wasn’t even cute. But something more bothered me: Mothers elicit the desire to please, which makes my refusal — and me �”disappointing; as if they pose a challenge I can’t meet. And maybe it hurts a little that their community embrace begins and ends with marriage machinations. Or perhaps, the sheer persistency is convincing me I might be wrong to doubt them.

I remind myself that I possess my own romantic dreams which do not include being followed three floors down into the parking garage in pursuit of a phone number. I’m not Britney Spears or a flank steak.

I guess I’m deceiving them by projecting the image of a woman who’s ready for that kind of arrangement. With my remaining childbearing years, I plan to hold out for the moment when I see him across the room, and our eyes meet like two souls dancing.

But I gotta hand it to ’em — those masterful mothers. If only their sons knew what they wanted in a woman as much as The Mothers know exactly what woman they want for their sons.

I am not a fixer-upper!


Do I have a sign on my forehead that says, “Fix me up”?

I hope not, because then I’d really have a hard time meeting guys.

But every so often I get a phone call from a friend or relative, or my mom’s friend or co-worker, and even from people I meet on the street: “Orit, I want to fix you up with someone.”

Hello? Did I ask to be fixed up? Did I shout on a loud speakerphone that I’m looking to date or get married right now?

For them, it’s enough to know that I’m 30 and single, and that the potential match is in his 30s (sometimes 40s) and single. Most of the time these amateur matchmakers hardly know anything about me, at least anything that really matters for a successful relationship, such as my interests, values, preferences — and the creative work that expresses those: the novel I’m writing.

At first I used to indulge these fixer-uppers — I don’t know if it was for their sake, my sake or the guy’s sake.

Like that time my mother’s co-worker wanted to set me up with her cousin. He’s smart, good-looking, put together, she assured me. So I agreed to meet him for coffee. I should have taken the first phone call as a sign that he wasn’t right for me. He was sweet yet clumsy, clearly lacking a confidence and suaveness that would have accompanied a guy who was smart (at least socially smart), good looking and put together.

We met, and the date ended, at least in my mind, after the first sip of coffee I didn’t really care to drink. He was exactly what I had imagined he would be: socially awkward around women, balding, two inches shorter than me — and the schnoz was huge. Don’t get me wrong, I have gone out with balding men who have imaginative noses, but they had other balancing intellectual and physical merits. This guy had a desk job at a cellphone company — not one to understand the life of an adventurous writer and artist.

Note to matchmakers: I don’t do charity dates.

After a few more close encounters of the dull kind, I decided to conduct rigorous advanced screening, asking very specific questions about the person and requesting a picture over e-mail. Does “smart” mean he is book smart? Socially aware? Emotionally intelligent? Does “good looking” mean that his mother thinks he’s good looking? Would a girl who sees him walk down the street say: “That is an above-average looking man”?

But there was only so much interrogating I could do without sounding overly picky. So I went out with a few more dates after at least getting the basics down, but the dates generally didn’t lead anywhere. Usually we did not have enough in common, and when we did, the guy wasn’t interested. Go figure.

Finally, I decided to tell these hopeful matchmakers I’m not interested in meeting anyone. And maybe, when it comes down to it, that’s the real reason behind the dating failures. At this, they were shocked.

“I’m dating the novel I’m writing,” I told one newly married fixer-upper. She replied: “It doesn’t matter. You should still be open to meeting people, because you never know.”

I wondered why she cared so much. Does she need me to marry someone to validate her own decision?

“I like being independent, exploring the world on my own. Once I get married, I won’t have this opportunity,” I told a single potential fixer-upper who was actually taking a course on “how to date.”

She replied by psychoanalyzing me: “You’re just saying that to comfort yourself in your loneliness.”

Then, with self-pity, I racked my brain wondering if I am rationalizing my singlehood.

“I’m not ready for marriage right now,” I recently told a married acquaintance.

She replied by lecturing me: “You’re too picky. You should consider guys you wouldn’t normally consider. You know how many people get married from the Internet?”

Huh? Did she even listen to me, and did I ask for advice? Just because she’s married with two kids at 31 doesn’t mean I should be too.

People can’t seem to fathom that a single, 30-year-old woman doesn’t necessarily define success in life by her mate. They think by definition a 30-year-old woman must be hungry for a boyfriend or husband, and if not, there is something wrong with her.

I’m enjoying every minute of my single life and all its advantages: getting to know myself deeply, being free to travel on my own, having significant mental and physical space to finish my novel. Sometimes I think I’ll only meet the “one” once I have actualized myself in a way that implicitly broadcasts the kind of guy who would suit my needs.

Women are living longer these days; technology has improved fertility. We can wait until the mid-30s before our biological alarm clock starts ringing. In the meantime, thank God for “snooze”!

Yes, there are the moments when I think, “God, how great would it be to have a boyfriend.” Like a few weeks ago when I enjoyed, as a travel writer, an all-expense paid vacation in a romantic bungalow in northern Israel. It would have been wonderful to have a traveling — and sleeping — companion.

I recognize the phenomenal values of relationships, which unfortunately I don’t see in enough couples. I would enjoy a trusted, intimate support system; sex on a regular basis; a social companion; sperm (for when I’m ready); hopefully someone handy around the house, and, most of all, people will stop bugging me!

But I’m holding out for the best for me. I’m going to work on myself — happily — finish my novel and continue to become the woman worthy of the man I seek.

I know people have good intentions, and I don’t oppose fixer-uppers altogether, but they should at least be mindful and set me up with men whom I would consider for friendship regardless of my single status — not just another man they assume to be desperate as well. And why not introduce us at a party or social gathering? I’m sick of coffee.

Otherwise, stop bugging me. I’m busy being single right now.

Orit Arfa is a writer living in Tel Aviv. She can be reached via her Web site: www.oritarfa.net.

Singles – Walk Out the Door


Mr. Chauvinist. Mr. Cheapskate. Mr. Paranoid. Mr. Habitually Late. Mr. Whiner. The parallel universe of “Little Men” of the 21st century are alive and well and living in Los Angeles — and my friends have, unfortunately, dated them all.

The friends I refer to (I’ll call them, “The Crew”) are all funny, attractive, nice, well-rounded, educated — who’ve stayed with Mr. Wrong far longer than they should have.

During a recent car trip, my sweet, insightful boyfriend of five months commented that it wasn’t fair that a girl he knows — cynical, sarcastic, not very personable — has a boyfriend, while the girls in The Crew don’t.

“Yeah, but look what’s she’s got,” I told him, referring to a guy so nebbishy that he makes Woody Allen look hip and so socially inept that even the guys from “Queer Eye” would throw up their hands. “Who wants that?”

Before I found my incredible guy, I was engaged to someone whom I went out with for two and half years — probably two years too long. Of course, after we broke up, everyone I knew said that he was just “OK” and that I deserved someone better.

My friends asked me why I stayed with him as long as I did when I knew I shouldn’t have. I told them that in this crazy, mixed-up world, perfectly smart girls stay in relationships they know they shouldn’t because it is easier to be a couple than solo — and to have to endure the dreaded dating game.

During silent prayer at Shabbat services, after I’ve prayed for the well-being of my family, I pray that all of my friends find love and happiness (if you ask that for yourself it is considered selfish for some reason, but I think it works if you delegate the good thoughts to a friend). And boy, could my friends use all the prayers they can get.

One of my L.A. Crew members went out on several dates with a guy — and things were looking good: He called her every day to see how she was and took her out on several fun dates during the week and on the weekend. Seemed like a prince until he turned into Mr. Paranoid and accused her of lying to him about everything and dating guys who had been her friends for years (which she didn’t do).

He then morphed into Mr. Stalker, calling her multiple times after she informed him that it wasn’t going to work. But before she pulled the plug, she asked me if she was doing the right thing.

This incredibly smart girl was second-guessing her gut reaction because of a larger nagging fear about being a single in a land of couples.

Another L.A. Crew member met Mr. Omission on JDate — he lied about being a smoker, then covered up by saying he was only an occasional smoker. She was so wrapped up in the idea that she needed a guy that she was willing to settle for this walking ashtray — until she met the guy she’s with now (we’ll call him Mr. Thank God, because he’s so much better than what she had).

My best friend dated a guy who was incredibly sweet, but she felt no chemistry. She told me that when they were alone he was fine — but she felt no sparks; when they went out with friends, he barely said anything. She broke up with him after several months of rationalizing.

This isn’t just a problem for the girls, either. How many guys out there have dated Ms. Clingy, Ms. Critical, Ms. Stalker, Ms. Shopaholic or Ms. Whiner — and stayed with them far too long? (I think my boyfriend’s exes fall under four of those categories, from what he’s told me.)

Think about it: The networks spend millions of dollars on new shows every year, but are perfectly OK with canceling something that isn’t pulling the ratings. If they don’t feel bad about canceling “Emily’s Reasons Why Not,” surely we shouldn’t feel bad about the time and money we lost on a bad relationship, when in the long run a better show will come along.

The key is knowing when to say adios — and sometimes it takes a nasty wake-up call.

Think Chris Parker in “Adventures in Babysitting,” who discovers her boyfriend at a romantic restaurant with the school slut — on their anniversary. Or Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City,” who let Mr. Big toy with her heart for years, much to the chagrin of her friends. Luckily, after several years, their relationship ended up working out — maybe because Aleksandr Petrovsky was so much worse.

I’m not a matchmaker, but the Dolly Levi in me thinks everyone should have someone — just make sure you aren’t settling for Mr. OK when you deserve Mr. Wonderful.