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.

Dating Creeds

Believe it or not, I’ve never felt quite as valuable, attractive and desirable as the times I’ve gotten dumped. Well, sort of.

According to some once-doting men, I’m terrific. I’m also beautiful, talented, smart, sassy, funny, dynamic, cute and sweet. To make matters worse, I’d make a fantastic mother. And the final blow? Apparently … I’m a catch.

I listen intently to my lover-gone-evil dumper’s compliments — and cringe. Somehow my fairy tale has gone awry.

See, trailing the flattery describing my laundry list of potential partner credentials — the same saccharine methods that wooed me into that first kiss — lay an inevitable “but,” and some rambling, seemingly canned, statements.

In reiterating his appreciation for me, his desire to spare me pain and reasons why we — theoretically — should be together, suddenly my dumper’s not good enough, (“it’s not you, it’s me”), and reeeeeeally wants me to be happy (and move on). “I’m amazing, but [insert canned line here].”

Now clearly not everyone is a match. But instead of feeling empowered and desirable by my heartbreaker’s sweet lines, I am condemned to doubt not only him, but also our time together and, regrettably, my wonderful self. If I were a complete loser, I’d understand. But if I’m so swell, well … seems like I’ve been dating some — literally.

Take “Bob,” the professional with political aspirations. He fell quickly for me; we enjoyed each other, shared similar values and a distinct joie de vivre. He claimed I was everything he looked for in a woman. We talked about the future. And, importantly — we both loved sushi.

When I sought more “us” time to determine our true compatibility, Bob, the great orator, eloquently expressed his feelings for me: He relayed my wonderful attributes, my incomparable spunk and wished upon me the greatest happiness (without him). Apparently, he didn’t want to waste more of my (or his) very precious time (with me).

Guess my joie didn’t match his vivre.

“George,” a younger man (and baseball enthusiast) said I was the most beautiful, hilarious woman he had ever met. He’d gaze lovingly at me over dinner, swoon when we danced and high-five my ball-tossing ability. He reinforced my goodness and thought I’d make a beautiful bride.

Six months into it, when gazing, swooning and high-fiving left me out of a family gathering, I questioned my ranking. George stumbled to the plate, uttered something witty and reinforced my beauty. After two weeks of overtime? He was still charming and I was still “gorgeous” — just not for him.

I suppose even a great lineup can’t win a series without chemistry.

While a canned phrase certainly trumps a “fizzle,” where phone calls stop or rumors start, what if — instead of this PR-driven, cautious fantasy — we just said it: “You’re attractive, but I’ve found someone more so,” “Your neuroses were endearing; now, they’re just annoying,” “I wanted someone motivated and sassy; turns out I’d rather have a trophy wife who’ll focus more on me, ” “You’re incredible, sexy and I just don’t want to marry you.”

It may hurt, but you’ll at least have something to work with (and keep some shrinks in business). And after building your “qualifications,” seeking the “perfect” match (when perfection simply doesn’t exist), you’ve paid your dues. There’s got to be a takeaway. Otherwise, the faux-ex-fan club seems vacuous and wasteful, which simply seems frivolous.

So post-George, I reflected on men I passed up: “Jim” was great (but I wasn’t attracted to him), and “Josh” was terrific (but too goofy for me); “Brian” was really unique (but too scattered for me); “Ian,” while just OK, had amazing potential (just hadn’t gotten there yet); “Dan,” was the entire package — I just hadn’t reached the right place in my life.

So in full disclosure, I complimented my soon-to-be-ex-beaus like heck, and then dumped them. Not in a swift, clear way, but in some rambling, incoherent way. I explained issues as I saw them: “It’s not you, it’s me,” “You’re terrific, but I’m not in that place.” “I just don’t think it will work out. I can’t say why.”

Oh, no. Am I just as bad as Bob and George? Yikes.

I (and many like me) probably won’t and maybe shouldn’t ever know the whole story. But we should know something: Heartbreakers, while sometimes a fairy tale’s villain, were indeed “good” credentials. And with them, I not only learned to enjoy good food, follow baseball, work a room, and to appreciate cl-ar-it-y, I also learned “what I do/don’t want” and, importantly, to care.

I’ll absolutely take those lessons and since it’s ultimately (supposedly) worth it, I’ll tirelessly plug along in pursuit of my perfectly imperfect match. As for my ever-growing list of selling points? I’ll happily add “strong” and “wise” to my register of attributes. It’s — and here’s the hard part — adding “frustrated” and “cynical” that I’d like to avoid.

After all, I’m a catch. As-Is. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Dara Lehon, a freelance writer living in New York City, can be reached at dlehon@yahoo.com.


Aunt Coca’s Ghost

Did you have an Aunt Coca? My auntie, to
whom I am not genetically connected, was a lady we kindly invited to family
gatherings because she was alone. It was silently understood that she was an “old maid,” one of those
unfortunate women who did not marry and have children.

My Aunt Coca, from my child perspective, was an “old” woman.
A distinguished blonde lady, a member of the adult clan who clumsily pinched my
cheeks and brought gifts. What seemed old then, is close to home now. Like her,
I am an unmarried, 40-year-old woman, and I sometimes painfully feel the same
loneliness and single-woman stigmas as she did.

My four closest girlfriends are also not married. One of
them is 38 — but we still love her. Another has returned to the chevra (group)
after going through a divorce and becoming a single mom. She at least has a
record of having “sealed the deal.”

In our achievements and independence, we are very different
from Aunt Coca, who I believe spent her life working as a secretary. I am
reminded of our professional competence as we sit for our weekly Coffee Bean
& Tea Leaf shot of friendship. Our skills are varied: a lawyer, a doctor, a
writer, another lawyer and a high-tech wiz.

Our chevra was bonded and sealed through our 20-year
adventures in Los Angeles single Jewish life. In our 20s and 30s we all dated
many men, had some near-misses, attended young leader retreats, Shabbatons,
traveled to exotic destinations and busily became ensconced in Los Angeles
Jewish life.

As we chat and interrupt each other, I think of our common
denominators besides being 40: we are smart, kind, interesting and always
chasing those extra 10 (or 15) zaftig pounds. Our exchange does not have
commercial breaks:

“Jewish men are looking for playboy bunnies who read Torah.”

“Los Angeles is not Kansas City! There are so many women who
look fabulous here. Anyway they want women in their 20s to have a family.”

“Bull, they are just dirty old men”

We exchange JDate horror and victory stories. My friend
Debbie, who was not even looking (she had a top-level marketing job), got
married to a great guy through JDate.

Our PalmPilots sit on the table as we pick them up to
proactively pencil in social opportunities to be aware of: “Makor has a 40-50
singles group.” “What’s their Web site?” “Are you going to The Federation
leadership event?” “Too young. The guys are looking for 20-year-olds.” “LACMA
has free concerts on Fridays.” “MOCA has a singles group.” “It’s 20-something.”
“Did you go to Friday Night Live?” “The UJ has a 39 cutoff for their discussion
group.” “I am taking bridge lessons.” “The Fountain Theatre has a great play.”

We network activities for an hour. Our loneliness, though
populated with (diminishing) marriage prospects according to researchers, is
densely populated with friendships, philanthropic involvements, cultural
activities, family events, the gym, our pets and occasional nights at home.

Midweek I met my friend Elliott in the magazine area of
Barnes & Noble. By his own admission, he is a Jewish prince who fears
commitment. His (generally blonde) relationship attempts fail regularly and he
lives on antidepressants, while attending every single event listed (and not
listed) to find his muse. Though my friends and I would probably fit his needs
better than his relationship résumé, he would never consider dating a woman
like me. “Kind” is not one of the criteria he seeks in a woman. He wants a
young, beautiful, successful, slim, amazing, funny, superlative fit.

I leave Elliott and feel angry at men like him. Of course,
there are lot of good men who are more real, but it does certainly seem like
there are many Elliotts around. What’s a girl to do? Have fun and enjoy life
anyway, is my answer. I do feel shame not being married, but I do not feel
desperate or bored. There are times when I feel that I live on another planet
from my Valley friends, who are consumed with diaper and carpool concerns.
Mostly, my throat tightens and I feel particularly single at family Shabbat
dinners and holidays. My brothers have supplied the grandchildren, not I, the
Jewish daughter brought up for marriage. Luck? Fear of commitment? Who knows?

Am I that different than my Aunt Coca? Is the organized
Jewish community life aware of the great number of mature singles —
particularly women? Is anything being done on a community level to integrate us
into a fulfilling role other than being an alien in a synagogue world dedicated
to family life? I hope that Jewish leaders and rabbis will hear our message as
they look at Jewish life today and tomorrow.

It sometimes feels like the Orthodox community is making a
more concerted effort to reach out to older singles. Some question their
motives, but the consistency of their outreach voice is undeniable. My friends
and I often trek to Pico-Robertson to experience Shabbat with Jewish families
and feel the warmth of community sharing.

My options are different than Aunt Coca’s. To address my
ticking biological clock, I could adopt or consider other options. I can enjoy
the benefits of independent life and choose other ways to contribute socially
than by having a family and children.

However, tonight I finish my fun
Scrabble game on PlaySite.com and then switch to JCupid to see if their Web site has more
options than JDate.

Five days to the next girlfriend caffeinated meeting.

Annabelle Stevens is a writer and the public relations director at Gary Wexler + Associates | Passion Marketing for Issues and Causes. She is the mother of the infamous Black Jacquie the cat.

SJM Seeks Perfect Woman

Joanne, my relationship advisor, insists that the source of my problem is that I don’t know what I want. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” she said. I brought Jo in after reading that Lizzie Grubman and Gary Condit have hired “crisis managers” to help them through their times of need. My particular crisis is a little less immediate — I just need someone to love — but I always say: When in doubt, call in a pro.

Joanne said that I was too fickle, but I take exception to that characterization. Fickle, according to my Webster’s dictionary, means: changeable, especially regarding affections or attachments; inconstant, capricious. Anyone who knows me would disagree. I am as constant as the stars above, and the older I get, the more fixed, rigid, and utterly without caprice I become. I may vary the object of my affections from time to time, but I myself, remain remarkably unyielding. If anything, I ought to be more fickle.

In some ways, it’s easier to identify the things you don’t like in a person, and use those traits to whittle down the list of prospects to a manageable number. It may not be an exact method, but I tend to take the approach that you can disqualify a candidate for the things you simply cannot abide. Any one of these things individually could be forgiven, but if a woman has two or more in any combination, let’s just shake hands and call it a day.

So, what do I want? Hmmm….Let’s see….I think it’s very important that she speak English with reasonable fluency. I seem to be casting as wide a net as possible, while excluding most of the world at the same time. For simplicity’s sake, she has to live in an adjacent area code — geographical desirability further narrowing the search.

No extremes. No drunks, gluttons, religious fundamentalists or vegans need apply. She shall not be indigent, flatulent or otherwise unusually odoriferous. She may not smoke during daylight hours. She may have pets, but no more than two. The same goes for children and ex-husbands.

She can’t work as a prostitute or terrorist, or be involved with cock fighting. She should not currently be married. She cannot be a convicted and/or escaped felon, or a Nazi sympathizer. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s important to maintain exacting standards like these to weed out the riff-raff.

Certain things are matters of taste. She must not listen primarily to rap, country, heavy metal or Streisand, nor may she like Steven Seagal movies. She can’t wear caftans or drive a truck. She may not have more than one small tattoo (placed somewhere discreet), nor any piercings in the middle of her head. Toe ring = good; nose ring = bad.

A woman can’t be any of the “Seinfeld” things: low-talker, close-talker, high-talker, a nudist, or a “Yada Yada.” She can’t have man-hands, eat her peas one at a time, or have ever dated Newman.

In Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” confirmed bachelor Benedick considers the charms of fair Lady Beatrice: “Till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace. Rich she shall be, that’s certain; wise, or I’ll none; virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or I’ll never look on her; mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall be of what colour it please God.”

I couldn’t agree more, Bill, but she can’t be a redhead, whether it pleases God or not.

There’s a bad old joke that says the perfect woman is a mute nymphomaniac who owns a pizza joint and a liquor store. While that may be too much to hope for, it is important to know what you do want in a partner.

I’m afraid that anything else I might say here could lead some to call me a shallow, controlling elitist. And so what? I’m sorry, but she can’t be much taller than I am. Does that make me a heightist? I wouldn’t mind having these people in my neighborhood, I just don’t want to put any of them in a position to kill me in my sleep.

The math says that it’s next to impossible to get two people together who don’t have at least one thing driving the other crazy. No one can honestly say “None of the above” on the Things One Cannot Abide Test. So, it turns out that after all the searching, the most attractive person to you is actually the one you find least objectionable.

J.D. Smith is @ www.lifesentence.net.