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


Like a Jew in a Bagel Store

I’m no longer a virgin. To Israel, that is. This single babe just returned from her maiden voyage to the land of milk and honey. And all I can say is — there were a lot of honeys. Jewish men everywhere.

In the restaurants, on the streets, in the shops — I didn’t know where to flirt first. Forget a kid in a candy store, I was like a Jew in a bagel store. I’ll take a dozen — hot ones if you have them. Israel is a single Jewish girl’s fantasy.

Take one of my Tel Aviv adventures. I was downing a Maccabee Beer in a disco on the pier when it hit me: Every guy in this club is Jewish — they’re all fair game. The cute guy in the corner, the tall guy drinking Goldstar, the fine guy who asked me to dance and the young guy who could not ask at all. Every man here has a "for sale" sign. This must be what the rest of the world feels like — everyone they meet is a potential mate.

In Los Angeles, it’s all about the Jew-crew prescreen for me. When I get to a bar, first thing I do is a lap. OK, first thing I do is a shot. Second thing I do is a lap. Once I locate the hot guys, the real fun begins. Will the real Slim Schwartzie please stand up? OK, it’s not that bad. But without a secret password or members-only handshake, I have to do some fast detective work to uncover the boys’ roots. I open with subtle overtures like, "Where’d you go to school? When’d you graduate? When was your bar mitzvah?" Sometimes I slip in the, "Hi, my name’s Carin. What’s your last name?" or the ever-popular "Can I buy you a drink? Are you circumcised?" We even turn it into a drinking game, "Name That Jew." Every time you correctly ID a Jew in a bar, you pound a beer.

Some guys pass the Tribe test, but in a room of 100 random American men, statistics say I’ve narrowed my options to 2.2 of them. One of them is probably hitting on the 21-year-old blonde who’s up for a WB pilot and the other is usually a band geek without an instrument.

By dating only Jews, I really limit my pool. We’re not talking Olympic-size pool or even kiddie pool. Picture the small plastic pool you can purchase at Toys R Us. No — picture a bathtub. That’s my sample size.

So why put myself through that? Why restrict myself to .02 percent of the single men in the world? I haven’t always. In college I dated and fell love with an incredible Catholic guy. I told myself we’d work the religion thing out, we could compromise. But eventually I realized I didn’t want to compromise. Not about this. Judaism is an essential part of my life, it’s Carin to the core. I’d be lying to myself if I said it wasn’t. So now I only pick up Jews. Cuz’ you never know when that flirt’s gonna lead to a date, and that date to a relationship and that relationship to a puffy white dress and a drunken wedding hora. So for me it’s Heeb or nothing.

It’d be easier if I went outside the Jewish circle. I’d meet more men, I’d go on more dates, I could be married by now. But not under a chuppah. And there’s the snag. Dancing in that Tel Aviv club, I realized what it feels like to have my choice of any man at the bar. It feels amazing — I love the multiple choice. But more importantly, I realized what it feels to be in a bar packed with fellow Jews. The connection I felt to the people in the room — these were my peeps. And my future husband, he’s gonna be one of us. While dating only Jews limits my choices, it’s the only choice for me. Which is why I loved Israel’s all-you-can-date buffet. I was dancing on a platform in that Tel Aviv club when my friend, Amy, introduced us.

"Carin, this is Eli."

I owe Amy big time. In the movie of his life, Eli was hot enough to play himself. He had a cocky smile and a tight little Israeli boot-camp bootie. I didn’t have to hunt for the hecksher before we started kissing. In Israel, you know the guys are kosher.

If only it were that easy in Los Angeles. I’m back in Hollywood and trawling the scene for Jewish men. It’s frustrating, looking for mensch in a haystack. I miss my Israeli all-access pass. When a date goes poorly in Los Angeles, we say there’s always more fish in the sea. But in Israel, there’s a whole sea of Jewish fish waiting to be caught.

Carin Davis is a freelance writer and
can be reached at

Self-Help for Singles

“This is an amazing book,” said my friend Lynn, solemnly handing me my birthday present, a paperback she handled as though it were the Holy Grail. “But rip off the cover right away.”

When I looked down at my gift, I had the sudden urge to douse my hand in hydrogen peroxide. And then, of course, my fingerprints would need to be removed so that no evidence of my owning said book could ever come to light. The cover sported more pastel than a saleslady at Lane Bryant; there was a wash of banana yellow, a splash of minty hospital corridor green.

Cutting across the cover was a long rose with a simple gold ring around its stem. I stood still with a fake smile plastered on my face as I read the hideously desperate sounding title, “Getting to ‘I Do.'” Subtitle: “The Secret to Doing Relationships Right!”

This book, according to Lynn, had been passed around among her friends and had reportedly resulted in more than one engagement. Many in her circle had even gone to see the author, Dr. Patricia Allen, for a dose of her no-nonsense wisdom on catching a man. I tucked the book into my purse like contraband and drove home very, very carefully. Ratty underwear would not be nearly as embarrassing as dying in a car wreck with this little gem on my person.

“You must nourish a man’s self-esteem. Women who cannot allow themselves to feel ‘little’ next to their man are often afraid to be vulnerable and intimate. They believe they must feel ‘equal to’ or, worse, ‘better than’ their man,” Allen writes.

Wouldn’t the 1950s be proud. Did this thing make the Ralph Cramden memorial reading list, or what?

The feminist in me was a little horrified, but I couldn’t stop reading, which was surprising, since the last self-help book I bought was a little piece entitled “Let’s Get Off Our Butts and Do It!” which I never got off my butt and read. There was also “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” which scared me off with its vexing “Pain to Power” chart.

No such problems with this book. I was riveted.

“Does this sound like you?” Allen writes. “You’re alone, successful and the clock is ticking. … You have dated men who seem right in the beginning, but then it falls apart…usually within the first year.”

Well, that kind of sounds like me. And buried under a lot of antiquated logic about how women are “feelers” and men “thinkers,” were some concepts that smacked of reason. For one thing, she has a strict no-sex-until-commitment policy, which I strongly support.

My favorite chapter was called “Oxytocin, the Love Hormone,” which describes how oxytocin, a sexually stimulated hormone, triggers a bonding response in women akin to physical addiction. It’s not love. It’s just a potent chemical that makes you think the guy you woke up with is the love of your life. Good to know.

The allure of this book, and dozens of others like it, is that it appeals to the human need to see patterns. There is only one man! This is how he behaves! Follow the rules, and you can predict his behavior!

Like a horoscope, it’s tempting to project these grand notions onto our lives, especially because some of them have the breathtaking, page-turning, ring of truth.

Would a man be caught dead reading one of these books? No, according to author J.D. Smith, a 39-year-old from Los Angeles who recently published “Life Sentence: The Guy’s Survival Guide to Getting Engaged and Married.” No pastel, no admonitions to “love yourself;” just a humorous look at what his “comrades in arms” have in store after tying the knot.

There’s the usual stuff: Your wife won’t let you hang out with your friends; your in-laws will drive you nuts; women like to shop as opposed to watching sports; certain sexual practices will trickle off noticeably. He serves up obvious information but with a cleverness and brutal honesty that men might find more appealing than roses and flowery prose.

As in Allen’s book, Smith delivers some poignant insights and comes out on the side of matrimony. Marriage, he concludes, is a good thing, if for no other reason than “you’ll always have a New Year’s date.”

His real brilliance comes in the chapter “Meet Your Wife,” in which he advises men: “Always put your wife on a pedestal. You don’t even notice her pimples. If you do, don’t flinch.”

This is great advice even if it does lump all women into that one fictive “wife.” Still, I wondered if any self-respecting man would buy this tongue-in-cheek but still relationship-oriented book.

I showed “Life Sentence” to my single friend Gary. He eyed it, flipped through it and at no point treated it like a rabid ferret to be dropped with haste.

“Would you pay 10 bucks for this thing?” I asked.

Not taking his eyes off the chapter entitled, “The Bachelor Party,” he said, “I’d pay $20.”

Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.

A Woman’s Voice

Stop the presses: The Jewish communityis ready to discover…singles. That’s right. What intermarriage and”continuity” were to the 1990s, singles will be in the years ahead: agroup to study, court, serve and, finally, value.

Why are we discovering singles just now? Thearrival of singles is foretold in a soon-to-be-released populationsurvey of Jewish Los Angeles, which shows that 38 percent of Jewsover age 18 are currently unmarried. Moreover, that singlespopulation is lodged squarely in both the baby boomer group andGen-X. The numbers break down by age as follows:

Ages 18 to 29: 33 percent (of all thosesingle)

Ages 30 to 59: 39 percent

Ages 60 and up: 28 percent

There’s really no surprise in this, especially ifyou read single ads or sit in on chat rooms. In fact, the Los Angelessurvey generally repeats figures first seen in the 1990 NationalJewish Population Survey. Apparently, no one read them in thehysteria over intermarriage. Until now, the part of the singles worldthat got attention was the frail, elderly grandma or grandpa wholived alone and needed Meals on Wheels.

But better late than never. Today, the passion isfor singles, and I say it’s good news, indeed.

“They’re a silent segment of the Jewishcommunity,” Sandra King, director of Jewish Family Service in LosAngeles, said of singles. “They’ve gotten lost in the hierarchy ofneeds. Now, attention must be paid.” Pini Herman, researchcoordinator of the Federation’s Planning and Allocations Department,which oversaw the study, calls these singles the “bellwether” of theJewish future.

What does it mean to pay attention to singles?That is ticklish. Jewish singles, professionally competent and oftenwell-educated, learn quickly to fend for themselves. They are used tocreating what sociologists call “compensatory systems” — supportgroups of their own to celebrate holidays or help with childcare.

But Sally Weber, director of Jewish communityoutreach programs for Jewish Family Service, tells me that whilesingles don’t organize or complain to the powers that be, their needsare great. (On Sunday, Feb. 15, Weber and I will participate in adaylong program, “Creating Family Life as a Single Parent,” at theWestside Jewish Community Center, sponsored by JFS’s new JewishSingle Parent Network. For information, call [213] 761-8800.)

“They feel isolated, spiritually and personally.You’re supposed to know how to be an adult, to raise your own kids,find your own friends, your own dates,” she says. “Singles are nothappy about asking for advice.” So get ready for a lot of singlessupport groups, for grants and symposia and commissions. I’m surewe’ll learn a lot.

But singles are, by nature, suspicious; they’vehad one too many bad dates and one too many unreturned phone calls.They’ve gone to networking parties where the testosterone level isabout -3. They know a line when they’ve heard one. And they’ll besuspicious of being discovered only just now, when fund raising inother parts of the community is drying up.

Can they be reached? My guess is that singles willput cynicism aside if, and it’s a big if, our community offers themsomething they can’t get anywhere else.

What will that be? Over the last few years,synagogues and community organizations have tried to become more opento singles. Synagogue rituals are no longer strictly reserved forcouples. There are singles havurot, and a small but growing “men’sclub” revival. The old institutional bias against the unmarried isfading, if not gone.

So there’s only one service the Jewish communityalone can provide to singles: a dating service. I’ll know the Jewishcommunity is committed to serving the needs of single Jews when itfunds a full-time matchmaker and does personalized matchmaking on alow-fee basis.

A shadchan: Am I serious? Totally. Until now, ourcommunity has generally left the singles market to privateenterprise. If you’re not the kind who responds to young leadershipprograms, then you’re left to seek out personal ads, GreatExpectations, a private matchmaker, Aish HaTorah. This neglect of theone matter closest to a single’s heart sent a message: You’re on yourown.

The fact is that most single people who doeventually marry meet their spouses through acquaintances. Eightypercent of married couples were introduced by family and friends. Ofthese, 10 percent were via blind dates. Nothing, not the Internet,not networking parties, replaces the comfort of community and what iscalled “the human credential” — someone to vouch for me.

This need for personal references, for someone whocan bring man and woman together, is great and untapped. What is atightly knit community about if not to make connections? And in a fewJewish communities, such a “someone” is already on the payroll. InSt. Louis, for example, Dr. Leah Hakimian, a math professor, isdirector of Connections of St. Louis, sponsored by the JewishFederation. She charges a modest $35 for registration, and she knowseveryone in town.

It’s nice that we’re about to discover oursingles, to let them know officially that they’re not alone. But whatsingles want are not more programs, conferences or committees; whatsingles are waiting for is an old-fashioned phone call with theheartwarming words: “Have I got a guy/gal for you!”

Marlene Adler Marks is senior columnist at TheJewish Journal. Her e-mail address is Join herthis Sunday morning at the Skirball Cultural Center for aconversation with writers Lisa and Carolyn See.


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