Five questions you may want to ask yourself if you are single


Are you afraid of getting close? Do you follow a pattern of backing out of relationships once they get serious? If so, chances are that your relationships are fine, but you have difficulty with intimacy and attachment. Don’t give up the relationship; get help to give up your fear. 

[The singles crisis: Let’s support singles for relationship success]

Are your relationships like a roller coaster? Do you follow a pattern of getting super excited about someone you are dating, only to suffer huge disappointment? If so, you would do well to understand that you have a tendency to idolize your date and then suffer the inevitable disappointment when the bubble bursts. Your deflation does not mean there’s a problem with the relationship.  

Do you practice love by smothering? Do you find that people back away when they start a relationship with you? Perhaps you are squashing and overwhelming your love interest with your intensity. Twenty texts a day is exhausting and risks alienating the one you are so keen to draw close. Respect your partner’s space. 

Do you find it hard to fall in love? Do you meet lots of lovely people, but feel there is no spark or emotional draw? It could be that you have difficulty bonding. There may be nothing you can/should do to change that, but do not withdraw from a relationship when you have the issue. Learn how to connect meaningfully with another person.  

Are there actually two of you? Some people are conflicted and are actually looking for incompatible qualities in a partner. If so, what you need is bigamy! Otherwise, get real. Work out who the “real you” is and focus on getting that one married. Finding a partner often means giving up on unrealistic dreams. Good news: Once you wrap your brain around it, you can enjoy a long, happy relationship.

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.

 

David Henry G.


David, 27, seems to be brimming with confidence. He’s got a good, deep voice, and he’s still when he speaks. I fidget. My fingers or toes are generally wiggling, and I shift my position constantly. It suddenly dawns on me — I’m jealous. Why can’t I be as sure of myself?

“I’m from Washington, D.C. My mother’s a Jewish cookbook writer, Joan Nathan. My father’s a lawyer. I have two older sisters. I went to Columbia, studied English. I went to England and studied acting [there]. Made a few films. Acted in a few films. I lived in New York for the last eight years, since Columbia. I moved here a few months ago. I’m loving it. My sister lives here. She’s a journalist. I also work as a private chef on the side. I used to want to be a chef for a long time. I started working in restaurants when I was 15. My mother told me I couldn’t be a chef, so I spited her and became an actor.” He laughs.

“I like interesting women who do interesting things — who are really their own people and sort of motivate you. Kindness is important. Not niceness, but kindness. There’s something false about niceness and something authentic about kind[ness]. People I’ve dated in the past have been farmers [and] painters.” He met them summering on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve never been there, but I picture him hanging out with the Kennedys on a yacht. And jealousy keeps rearing its ugly head.

“Generally, I’ve liked sort of goyishe girls — blond, beautiful … I like brunettes, too. I like small women. I like earthy women. I like women who know how to stick their hands in soil. I’m that way, too. When I was living in Brooklyn, I had my own vegetable garden in the backyard. I can build stuff.”

I need to find this guy’s kryptonite. “What makes you difficult?” I ask. 

“I tend to be reserved sometimes … which can come across as cocky.” He nails exactly what’s been bothering me about him. He seems cocky. “I have this weird balance where I’m super cocky and secure, to just being panicked and [this] nebbishy doubting everything and wondering what I should do. That’s just the worst. You want to stay away from that aspect of yourself as much as possible.” His cockiness is his defense mechanism. But he tells me he often feels insecure. My jealousy quickly dissipates.

“I can also be very demanding — wanting to do it my way. That’s probably my biggest problem in general — wanting to do it your way, which is a good thing, [but] can also set you back in a lot of ways. I’ve done enough where I don’t feel insecure, and then I sit next to Andrew Garfield and I think he’s done so much. That’s what’s so hard is feeling like you have to justify yourself when you haven’t won your Tony or your Oscar yet, when you know [you have the potential]. I think my other big fault is I can just be too uptight. I can take things too seriously. I think I want to take things less seriously. I was grinding my teeth in New York.” Part of the reason he moved to Los Angeles was to get back in touch with what’s important. I think if people in general are in that place where they’re fully themselves, then we’re in a better place. 

“What makes you great?” I ask. 

“I think I have a unique way of looking at the world. And I’m a doer. I like to do and make things happen. I’m always looking for beauty … whether it’s visually, about character [or] about the world … I’m always trying to find beauty.”


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: Francesca L.


Francesca, a British woman I’m pegging to be in her late 30s, shows up wearing gloves. She seems flustered. She’s holding a notepad full of notes and a Broadway-style hat. She tells me she just reviewed a “Frank Sinatra show” and was inspired to wear a hat. Realizing the hat’s still in her hand, she plops it onto her head. Her gloves stay on for the whole interview until I finally ask her why she’s wearing them. It’s not a particularly cold day. 

“Oh, they’re for driving,” she tells me. 

“I never understood the whole driving-gloves thing,” I say. “But maybe it’s a British thing. I’m more curious why you’re still wearing them.” 

She pulls one off and I see she has writing on her hand. She tells me it’s a note so she wouldn’t forget what she had to say. I ask her to read the note. “It says older guy.” 

I laugh. “I can’t believe you had to write it down to remember that you like older men.” She doesn’t respond. “Older than what?” I ask. 

She says, “I believe everyone should be judged not by their age or their job but by the content of their character.” She says she knows I’ll make fun of her for that statement when I write this. But she doesn’t seem to mind, which I like.

Francesca’s energetic. She gets distracted incessantly and will suddenly stop talking and stare at the street if there’s any action. When she talks to me, she acts out her sentences with her hands, gesticulating to accentuate various words. She refers to her notes often and speaks cryptically. I’m frustrated, and I let her know. She tells me she’s trying to be mysterious. I tell her she’s doing a good job, as I know nothing about her. Information comes in spurts.

She was raised a show-biz kid — but when I ask her if she’s an actor, she scoffs. She’s a dancer, I think. And a roller skater. And a theater reviewer. She just finished shooting an episode of “Bones,” where she played a roller-derby skater. She was a swing dancer on stage at a Brian Setzer Orchestra show at the Hollywood Bowl. Clearly, there’s talent there.

I ask her about wanting older men. “Younger guys don’t know a lot of things. Being well traveled and well read I appreciate the company of an older man who has lived a bit. I've had a lot of life experiences for my age so i'm looking for someone who can compliment me intellectually, socially and spiritually. I’m looking for an archaeologist, because the older I get, the more interested he’s going to be in me.” She laughs hysterically after that joke.

“I love not knowing what’s going to happen every day or week. The unknown is completely fascinating for me, and that’s how I want to live my life. No one can hit my mark in terms of eccentricity. I’m a Gemini, and I have so many different personalities. They’re all positive. I can be a social butterfly one moment and then just be on my own for hours to think.”

There’s a noise outside and she pops her head up like a puppy. And then, as if Francesca could sense the bad luck coming, a gardening truck backs into her car. The driver parks and is about to walk away when I run out to stop him. Francesca follows me. The driver denies it. I get louder and bring him over to look at the chunk he took out of her bumper. Francesca says, “Hey, no worries,” and lets him off the hook. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff. The gardener, knowing she won’t make him pay for the damage, then admits his mistake and apologizes. She thanks me, puts on her other glove and drives off.


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.

 

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Oct. 13-19, 2012


SUN OCT 14

 

11th Annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days

Dedicated to the life and memory of journalist Daniel Pearl, this October music month features concerts across the globe, including today’s performance of “Songs of Salomone Rossi: Harmony for Humanity” by Tesserae at Contrapuntal Recital Hall in Brentwood. Other concerts include Ray Dewey (Oct. 16); Chabad-hosted Hakafot (Oct. 20); the Phil Ranelin Jazz Ensemble (Oct. 21); the Kadima String Quartet (Oct. 24 & 28); the UCLA Philharmonia (Oct. 25); the Daniel Pearl Magnet High School Choir (Oct. 26); Cantor Ruti Braier, the Orange County Wind Ensemble and conductor William Nicholls (Oct. 26); the Harmony Project and the West Los Angeles Branch of the Music Student Services League (Oct. 28); Yuval Ron, Russell Steinberg, Mitchell Newman and Hazzan Mike Stein (Oct. 29); and Conductor Noreen Green of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, Cantor Magda Fishman and Cantor Marcus Feldman (Oct. 30). Through Oct. 31. For information about other Daniel Pearl World Music Days performances, visit danielpearlmusicdays.org.

 

30 Years After Civic Action Conference

The Iranian-American Jewish group’s third biennial conference explores the imperative of civic participation and community leadership from the Iranian-American Jewish community. Speakers include Ambassador Dennis Ross, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Consul General of Israel David Siegel and former U.N. Ambassador Mark Wallace, the current CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran. The daylong conference will include a mayoral candidates forum; an organizational fair; and sessions on the future of the Middle East, Jewish life in Los Angeles, Israel and Iran, activism, political action and philanthropy. Sun. 9:30 a.m. (opening plenary), 7 p.m. (keynote gala dinner). $150 (includes glatt kosher breakfast, lunch, cocktail reception, community organization fair and gala dinner). Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Ave., downtown. 30yearsafter.org.

TUE OCT 16

“Battle for Our Minds”

Michael Widlanski, a specialist in Arab politics and communication, appears in person to discuss his new book, “Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat,” and why America and the Jewish people remain prime targets of terrorists. A book signing follows. Tue. 7 p.m. Free (reservations required). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 553-8403. museumoftolerance.com.

WED OCT 17

“Deeply Rooted” and “Photographic Visions of the Diaspora”

An artists’ reception celebrates two exhibitions opening at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. “Deeply Rooted” explores the connection between the two primordial trees in the Garden of Eden while “Photographic Visions of the Diaspora” highlights the once-vibrant but rapidly fading world of Jewish shopkeepers. Wed. 5-7 p.m. (reception). Through Dec. 14 (“Deeply Rooted”). Through May 31 (“Photographic Visions”). Free. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 3077 University Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 765-2106. huc.edu.

Mayoral Candidates Forum

Los Angeles mayoral candidates Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Council member Jan Perry and L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel discuss their positions on issues facing Los Angeles and participate in a Q-and-A with the audience. A meet-and-greet reception featuring local representatives within the public and private sectors precedes the candidates’ forum. Light refreshments served. Organized by Temple Isaiah’s Isaiah Continuing Enrichment program. Wed. 6-7 p.m. (meet and greet), 7:30-9 p.m. (mayoral candidates forum). Free. Temple Isaiah, 10345 W. Pico  Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-2772. templeisaiah.com.

THU OCT 18

“The Other Son”

French-Jewish writer-director Lorraine Le-
vy’s family drama follows two young men — one Israeli, the other Palestinian — who discover that they were accidentally switched at birth. The revelation turns the lives of the two families upside down, forcing them to reassess their respective identities, values and beliefs. Thu. 7:30 p.m. $10. Laemmle Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (213) 368-1661. lajfilmfest.org.

FRI OCT 19

“Simon and the Oaks” 

Swedish director Lisa Ohlin’s epic drama portrays the situation of Jews in Sweden during World War II. Spanning the years 1939 to 1952, the film follows Simon, an intellectually gifted boy from a working-class family in Gothenburg who attends an upper-class grammar school. Soon he meets Isak, the son of a wealthy Jewish bookseller who has fled Nazi persecution in Germany. When Simon’s family takes in Isak, the boys’ households merge and connect in unexpected ways. Fri. Various times. $13 (general), $10 (matinees, seniors, children). Landmark Theatres, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-6291. landmarktheatres.com.

My Single Peeps: Brandon B.


Brandon’s an only child. He tells me he’s the kind of kid who kept to himself. “I didn’t break out of my shell until late in high school. I’m still kind of introverted, but an outgoing introvert, if that makes sense.”

“How’d you break out in high school?” I ask. “I just started doing things to get more confidence in myself. I didn’t want to be a nerd, for example. I wasn’t comfortable with that.”

He decided to own up to his strengths. “I got into programming, code … that whole world.” He joined the robotics team.

“I also got into photography. I got my first DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera and started playing with it and got really good at it. I learned Photoshop, and I learned that I liked Photoshop more than I liked taking pictures. And that turned into someone asking me to build a Web site. It wasn’t easy at all, but I did it. Things I couldn’t do, I hired people to do for me. One turned into two. Two turned into four. And now I have developed over 200 Web sites.

“[In college] I went from having no Jewish friends to having mostly Jewish friends. I realized their personality was similar to mine. The way I think about things, the way I approach things, and the way I think about family.”

He’d love to meet a Jewish girl. “I want someone who’s very driven. I like someone that’s as busy as I am but always makes time to see me. Someone who cares about her appearance. Someone who understands that friends and family are more important than career. Education’s important. I like someone who’s healthy — who goes to the gym on a regular basis. Someone who tries as hard for me as I try for them. I think it should be 60/60 rather than 50/50. Each person should put in more toward the relationship than the other person is.”

Last summer, Brandon, 22, needed surgery. “There’s three scars on my shoulder — it’s pretty cool. I started going to physical therapy, and then I got a personal trainer. It ended up with me gaining about 20 pounds of muscle in about four months, and it completely changed my body. … All of a sudden, my arms were twice as big, and my shoulder was never stronger.”

He’s into self-improvement — if he doesn’t like something about himself, he fixes it. “I try too hard to be perfect, which is the best and worst attribute about me.”

When it comes to work, he’s extremely confident. “When I was younger it was very difficult for me to say good things about myself. Society tells you people will think you’re cocky. But why shouldn’t you be able to say, ‘I’m good at this; I’m the best Web developer you’ll find.’? I’m not saying I’m better than you. I’m saying I’m better than you at building a Web site. That’s my thing. That’s what I do. So I might as well be the best at it.”

In high school, when he was still shy, he read the book “The Game.” “It changed my life.” He learned a lot from it. “I wouldn’t date someone I was attracted to, because I didn’t feel I was good enough, and that’s absurd. I was good enough — I just didn’t have the confidence to tell them I was good enough. If you’re not proud of who you are, why would someone else be? If you wouldn’t date yourself, why would a girl date you?”

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 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 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: Mike K.


I generally don’t meet people at their offices. I feel it’s best to get to know them in a neutral place, like a coffee shop. But Mike told me he worked in porn, and the deviant in me was intrigued. Suffice it to say, his office might as well have sold paper supplies, it was that generic. There were a few mainstream movie posters on the walls, DVD replication machines in the back, and ordinary offices and editing suites — with mezuzahs on every doorpost. He insisted that I meet him there for just that reason. “I don’t see porn as most people in the mainstream world [would]. It’s like I’m selling toilets. It’s just a product. And it’s something I know how to do better than anyone else. To me, it’s all the same — whether it’s power tools, sinks or toilets. We’re a professional company.”

Mike was born and raised in Connecticut “in a very rich family. Kind of like the Beverly Hills of the East Coast. My brother owns a pediatric practice. My mom owns a kosher travel agency. If you want to go to China and you’re a Chasidic Jew, she’ll set up all the kosher tours. And somehow I ended up in the porn business.”

When he was 18, he moved to Los Angeles with a girl he was dating. He took a job working for a smoke shop distributor, which led him to another job with a porn video and distribution business. He quickly learned the ropes, and when he saw that the owner wanted to diversify, Mike started up the replication side. “I wanted to get back to video and distribution, so I started my company, Monarchy. I own seven studios. The business just kind of blew up. We’re at the top of the industry right now. We move more product than anyone else. Life is pretty good.”

Mike’s a very hardworking guy — he seems smart, and he clearly has the business head to be successful, and not just in the pornography business. “In 10 years, when I’m 35 … I’d like to diversify and start some other companies that aren’t porn-related.” Restaurants and real estate interest him. He owns a house in the Valley, plus a vacation home in San Diego in an avocado orchard.

“I’m actually pretty traditional. I like the simple things in life. It’s weird, you writing up what I do, because I don’t really put myself on Front Street a lot and talk about working in the porn business, because it’s a taboo field, and people have their automatic opinion about it. Frankly, I’m just a businessman. It’s what I do; it’s a product I sell.”

Mike has a son he’s very close to — and an ex-wife, as well. He’s very mature for a 25-year-old. But it’s what also makes it hard for him to date. “There aren’t a lot of 25-year-olds with kids. That’s why my last relationship ended. She said, ‘You have a lot of baggage: You work in porn, you have a kid.’ So it’s hard to find someone to look past everything and see you for you.”

“I’d say business is a big hobby of mine — coming up with new ideas and implementing them. To me, it’s like having another child.  Business is another child.” 

Mike also likes hiking in Azusa, and he goes to Runyon Canyon twice a month.

“I just started going to services again. I went the last couple of weeks to the Chabad in Toluca Lake. The rabbi’s a cool guy.”

“My strength is motivation. When I set my mind to something, I not only do it, but I always succeed at it. And if I’m not succeeding at it, I make myself succeed at 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 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 at mysinglepeeps.com.

Israel is swamped with singles


Israelis are known for their gregarious behavior and love nothing more than spending time with their group of close friends. It’s a trait that is wreaking havoc among the quickly mushrooming singles population and threatens to have long-range anthropological effects on Israel’s future society.

“The impact of the singles revolution, or better called ‘the breaking-up revolution,’ is far reaching and has been leaving its mark in recent years on housing, economy, education and even the level of personal happiness,” writes Amit Zahavi-London in a new study on the singles scene in Israel.

Zahavi-London, who manages a dating service, maintains that modernization, pluralism and the rise in the standard of living can actually increase misery. “Perhaps it is temporary misery – a transition stage on the way to a society with new game rules.”

According to the statistics, in 1971 the chance of a 35-year-old woman in Israel being unmarried was 1 in 40. Today, at least one in four women of that age is unattached. The situation is the same with men. Reflecting trends in the West, Israel is also witnessing a sharp rise in the divorce rate.

“A few years ago being divorced was a disgrace, shameful. People wouldn’t even admit they were divorced. Now, in America, one out of every two couples is divorced. It’s a very common phenomenon. In Israel, it’s one out of three,” Prof. Oz Almog, a sociologist from the Israel Studies Department at Haifa University, told The Media Line. “Having a lasting marriage is becoming abnormal, and that’s no joke. We have to adapt.”

Israelis use the Hebrew term Panu’i or “seeking” to describe that growing chunk of the population looking for a relationship around which an industry has been built. According to those in the business, Panu’i is anyone over the age of 24 who is officially either divorced, widowed or has never been married and is looking for a partner. It excludes all those fantasizing or miserable or even happy married folks who just want to hook up with someone new.

The latest figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics show that 35% of Israeli women between the ages of 35-49 are “seeking.” For men, 42% between the ages of 35-39 are in this category. It drops to 35% between the ages of 40-44, and to 31% for the 45-49 age bracket.

As late as 1980, the Central Bureau of Statistics didn’t even list “divorced” as a category for family status; offering only “single” or “not single.” This drives home the fact that at that time, divorce was still on the margins.
“Dating sites have taken the place of the matchmaker with one exception,” Zahavi-London tells The Media Line. “In the past it was uncomfortable to admit one needed the services of a matchmaker and it was usually done clandestinely. Today, belonging to a dating service is very legitimate.”

Zahavi-London manages a dating site called “Shakuf B’Tzafon,” in northern Israel. She maintains that the Internet significantly widens the number of potential partners over the traditional ways of hooking up. They usually offer everything from hikes, to dance parties, bus tours, communal singing, folk dancing and even bowling events. 

But in reality, these events are very often attended by many more women than men; sometimes up to 80% are women.

“Women come to the parties in packs, not alone, whereas a man will come alone,” she explains. “Men are less social and less engaged and are embarrassed to come alone. They are more functional minded. If they come to an event and don’t find someone to go home with they won’t come back. But girls have a good time. If they don’t meet someone, then so what? They had fun and will come back hoping to meet someone the next time.”

Eviatar Ronen, a divorced 49-year-old events organizer with boyish, charming looks, says he finds Internet dating the best way to meet women. However, while he says he has enjoyed it, he suggests that it risks creating a culture of “alienation” from the more challenging real world.

“Dating is easy these days. There are lots of choices and if you don’t like it… click away and go to another group of choices,” Ronen tells The Media Line. “Internet dating sites create an illusion of getting closer to people but really it creates alienation. You just head to J-Date and login and it creates a sense that if things don’t work out, then you can just move on with the idea that you’ll find another one with another click of a button.”

Noga Martin, an editor in her 30s living in Tel Aviv, says she’s practically given up on Internet dating sites.

“I’ve tried. I have stopped counting. When I used to keep a running tally I think I went out with well over 60 guys and the conclusion I’ve drawn about Internet dating is that it reflects exactly what you would find if you weren’t using the Internet. People who are very sociable and outgoing find it very easy to meet people on the Internet and people who are more reserved or shy find it difficult,” says Martin who has big brown eyes and enjoys long walks on the beach.

“If you are in a bar or any real analogue social situation and someone comes up and talks to you, you might not be that interested in talking to them at first but you know, someone can have another chance. Whereas, if someone passes over you on an Internet site, there is nothing you can do,” she tells The Media Line.

Still, Zahavi-London argues that the Internet lets one cast a wider net.

“True, the alienation is easier, but why? It’s because you can reach a wider group of people now. In the past, it was harder to break-up because often you and your spouse were in the same circle of friends, or at work or in the neighborhood. Now, if it doesn’t work out, it is easier to cut-off because you don’t have to see them,” Zahavi-London says.

Ronen says that “seekers” who are put off by the blatant dating clubs and sites use other, more subtle activities to meet partners.

“Meditation classes, Yoga, Kabbalah studies, Tantra courses; it’s a meat market,” Ronen says. “Officially, it’s not a dating site but nevertheless, practically speaking, it is a very popular pick-up place and ironically, that’s because it doesn’t have that stigma.”

Ronen, who has lived abroad for extended periods, says he often finds Israeli single women very assertive.

“Israeli women can be very bold today and will come up to me and ask me for my business card and they ask me where I’m from and say ‘You’re so cute’,” he says. “Many of these are women are freed-up from a miserable relationship. They are saying to themselves that they live only once and they don’t give a damn and they deserve to enjoy life.”

Zahavi-London says that people seeking a partner are not necessarily interested in getting remarried but are mainly looking for a partner to take them out of their loneliness.

The “seekers” population in Israel is growing and not just because more and more people are divorcing, but because, as Prof. Almog, believes, it’s uniquely harder and harder to actually meet in Israel, regardless of the dating clubs. 

“Specifically in Israel we have extra difficulties,” Almog says. “One for them is our very inefficient public transportation network which makes it harder to meet up. Another thing is the lack of clubs and bars that cater for the middle aged, people above the age of 40—like me.”

Almog says this was because Israeli society itself is in-flux and the industry of night life is relatively new.

“We used to meet in each other’s apartment in our leisure time. And now, so many singles don’t have the right place and they don’t want to host someone in their apartment—why should they? Now, for them it’s difficult to adapt, and you know, there are so few bars that provide entertainment for mature people. It has to develop over the years. We have to think about people above forty.”

Almog, who has written extensively on Israeli culture, believes that the number of single people will grow, especially women, who will be inclined to do away with having a relationship altogether. He even believes that in the future women will start to live in communal dwellings, a sort of Amazonian kibbutz.

“They will say, ‘We don’t need the male full time. Let him be my neighbor and come to some arrangement that will gradually replace him’,” Almog quips. “Many people on Facebook do not accept term ‘relationship’. It’s not suitable for them. What we are going to have is a big large spectrum of relationships during a life course. It will be reflected in the different ways we are going to live. Many families will be temporary, they will change, and then we will live in a commune, then we will live alone, and then we will be together, with the kids, without the kids, kids coming back to our house, living with us, urban life, rural life, all sorts of things.”

“We are living in a twilight zone, sociologically speaking,” Almog says. “Researching the phenomenon of singles is actually researching the transformation of the human system.”

My Single Peeps: Karen B.


Karen got divorced a year and a half ago. “I think at first it was hard to come to terms with — ‘I’m divorced.’ It had a kind of negative connotation, but now I look at it like I’m an experienced person. I know exactly what I want. I know exactly what I don’t want. And I’m kind of enjoying it — having my own time. But I have my moments where I wish I did have somebody to share that time with.” 

And, ultimately, that’s what she wants.

“I’m originally from Argentina. I moved here when I was 13. I did not want to move here. The [Argentinian] Jewish community in the ’80s was really tight and incredible. The first year [in L.A.] was a shock for me. I didn’t speak the language. I spoke Spanish and Hebrew. But I was pretty determined, and within six months I was pretty fluent.”

She works as a Jewish educator. “I’m the director of an exchange program between Israeli and American teens. We have a twin school there. The Israelis come here; we go there. It’s a partnership. I’m very passionate about connecting kids to Israel — just making sure they feel connected. I work a lot. One of my goals for next year is to simplify my life a bit and work less.

“I feel like in the last year and a half I’ve really opened up to learn a lot about myself. And one of the things I’ve learned is to honor what I envision and to feel OK saying, ‘This is not what I need.’ I want someone who’s my No. 1 fan, my supporter, and vice versa. Someone I feel connected to — and I think that was the biggest thing that was missing in my marriage. The connection that I thought I had was phony.” In spite of all that, she’s still close with her ex-husband. “It just wasn’t a match.”

“What kind of guy do you want?” I ask. “I care that he’s passionate about something that he does, whether it’s a job or a hobby. I won’t lie — it’d be nice to have someone who makes a nice living, but it’s not the most important thing in life. Although I’m not looking for someone religious, I’m looking for someone Jewishly spiritual. I don’t even know if that’ s a sentence, really.” She laughs. “Does that make sense?” 

“What’s the most difficult thing about you?” I ask. “I can be reserved sometimes. Sometimes it takes a little bit to get through the walls around me. But once you’re in there, it’s a good place. I put a lot of pressure on myself — I always thought that it was really important to give off a certain image that everything is great and fantastic, even when it isn’t. And I think the hardest thing is that I’m really just hard on myself.”

“What’s the easiest thing about you?” I ask. “I’m a great schmoozer. Outgoing, friendly …” And she is.

She thinks for a moment and then says, “I would end by saying I’m in a really good place in my life right now. And this is why I’m really ready to meet someone. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier with myself. Once I allowed myself to be happy, a lot of doors have opened. Part of that goes back to having opened myself up to the spiritual side of things — again, not religious, but it’s just kind of connecting with the energy around you, and what you put out is what you get back. 

“Does that make sense?”

It does to me, Karen.

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 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 at mysinglepeeps.com.

My Single Peeps: Rachel C.


A close friend e-mailed me that he thought Rachel would be good for My Single Peeps.  “I think you guys will hit it off well, as you have a lot in common — a dead dad, childhood ADD, you both write and act, and you’re ‘good people.’ ”

Like me, Rachel moved from the Northeast to the Southeast when she was a kid. She was brought to the idyllic, suburban streets outside of Atlanta; I was brought to the multi-lingual, chaotic suburban hodgepodge of Miami. Still, we both ended up with ADD.  Blame television. Or Jew genetics.

She went to Yeshiva High School in Atlanta, where boys and girls were kept apart. “We had a kosher house, but we’d order cheese pizza and eat it on the porch. There was no kosher pizza in Atlanta then.”

She grew up with parents who dirty danced at bar mitzvahs and made out in public. “This is why I’m still single. My parents met. Ten day later, they were engaged. Ten weeks later, married. And they were happily married until my father passed away eight years ago.”

Her brother would bring girls home and run into her room whispering, “You have a stutter,” and she’d go with it, stammering through words as she introduced herself to his date. “We have fun like that. My family has food fights. We’d be at dinner, and my brother would turn to my mother and throw a drink at her. And everything would go flying. We’re crazy.”

Her first kiss didn’t happen until she was 18 because she thought it needed to be perfect. This time, television really was to blame. “So my first kiss was in Haifa, on a deserted beach, standing on a rock, with the waves crashing up, and Phil Collins’, ‘In the Air Tonight,’ was playing in the background.”

After the first kiss, she caught up quickly to the other kids her age. But her first boyfriend turned out to be gay. “For our first date, he sent me a note that said, ‘Please dress semi-formal with a casual flair.’ I don’t know how I didn’t know.”

An aspiring actor, she toured with a children’s play after college and got to see almost every state in the United States, except Hawaii. So, a few years ago, she flew there and ran a marathon. She’s run four half-marathons since then. Moving to Los Angeles was a good move for her acting career, but it hasn’t been great for dating.

“I’m looking for someone funny, and someone who makes me laugh and kind of gets that I’m super independent but still love to have the door held open for me. I want a partner in crime, really. I was driving back from Arizona once, and my wheel busted on a Sunday. It was a small town, and nothing was happening. I got a tow and sat in Wal-Mart for six hours. I called my friends and said, ‘Give me a list of items,’ and I created a scavenger hunt where I’d run around and grab things, take a picture, and call them when I found it. I want someone to do those things with me.”

She has no strict dating requirements. “Yes it’s about first impressions, but also so much more. A guy threw up on our first date, but we had great chemistry, so I went on a second date with him. That’s how good a dater I am.”

Contemplating what hasn’t been working up until this point she says, “I’m not going to the right store.” I feel like I keep on looking on Melrose, when I should be looking at the Beverly Center.” 

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 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 at mysinglepeeps.com.

My Single Peeps: Benson S.


Benson was born in Canada. “I call it Poland, because the winters are so bad.” He asks me about myself, and when I answer, he lifts his hands in the air and waves his fingers at me. He’s sending me “blessings,” he says. He has this spiritual/guru kind of bent to everything he says, and it’s not my kind of thing but I’m sure some girl reading this will be all over him like soybeans on tempeh. He’s got the charisma of a preacher, and as much as I blush around people who sincerely use the word “chakra,” I find Benson interesting to talk to.

Benson tells me about wanting to find a girl who’s working on herself in therapy. “I work on myself — but in a fun way.” He quotes from a book he’s writing, “Stop trying to be good and start trying to see good.” But when I ask him about how often he sees a therapist, he says, “I did a few years of therapy but I work with a healer all the time. Someone who has a system where she helps you get rid of negative patterns. She started doing sound therapy — it’s really difficult to explain. She’s removing limited belief systems.” “How does she do it?” I ask. “I don’t know … I just breathe.”

I really want to help Benson find someone. He’s genuine about his search, and there are definitely other people who are into this sort of stuff. I’m just not one of them. It’s not Benson I’m annoyed with — he’s a good guy — but industries built around charging people for hocus-pocus. Sound therapy to delete patterns in your brain that aren’t serving you? 

He tells me about being an actor for the past 20 years, and that he’s working on a DVD called “Master Your Audition.” “It even has a section where I look directly into the camera and say, ‘You’re amazing, you’re talented …’ ” He continues, “If God were preparing me for an audition, it has everything I want.” It sounds so odd, but later, when I show my wife a video of him talking about acting on YouTube, she says, “He’s interesting to listen to. He draws you in.”

I shift gears and ask about his hobbies outside of work. “My hobbies turn into my craft. I started painting, and that turned into people wanting to buy it, and putting them in galleries. I just had my second show as an artist.” He gave a painting to a friend of mine, and she says she loves it, so he might be on to something. He also goes to the gym five days a week, takes Pilates two days a week and meditates every morning.

“I keep kosher. I’ll never work on Shabbat or holidays. I just had to turn down a film in Canada because of it. I’ve been really lucky. On one shoot, it went late, and I got in my car, and as soon as it was Shabbat, I pulled the car over and walked home.”

“What do you want to get out of this?” I ask. He says, “To put myself out there, to commit to put myself out there in a bigger way. It’s in my book — shameless contribution …” but as he starts to quote from his book again, I stop typing. I need a break from the feel-goodness of it all and exit the Starbucks. On my way out, I take my plastic cup and toss it in the bin not marked for recycling. I’ve got a real bad temper.

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 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 at mysinglepeeps.com.

‘Being Erica’ Takes Jewish Slant on Single Life


In the March 19 episode of SOAPnet’s time-travel fantasy, “Being Erica,” 30-something Erica Strange (Erin Karpluk) is zapped back to the day of her bat mitzvah, shocked to find her grownup brain inside her 13-year-old body as she recites her haftarah portion, which she barely remembers. With help from the rabbi, she completes her parsha, and at her reception tells off the boy who calls her a “Jew-ser” (that’s “Jew” plus “loser”), because he regards her “Dirty Dancing” theme as déclassé.

Erica is less feisty when her mother gushes about her expectations for Erica’s future, which include marrying, having kids and becoming a high-powered attorney by the age of 30, a milestone the adult Erica has already passed.

“What if in my 30s I’m still single, living in a one-bedroom apartment and working as someone’s assistant?” Erica asks her mother.

“Stop thinking such terrible thoughts,” her mother replies.

“Being Erica” is the latest TV series to address the kind of single-gal questions posed by zeitgeist-meters, such as “Sex and the City” — minus the Manolos and the Cosmos — in a manner that is part “Bridget Jones,” part “Back to the Future.”

In the series pilot, Erica is dumped by a dentist and fired from her dead-end job on the same day, then meets a mysterious “therapist” who allows her to go back in time to her worst moments to fix her mistakes and thereby alter the course of her life. In what may be the most overtly Jewish show currently on TV, Erica not only revisits her bat mitzvah but also returns to the Yom Kippur when her father, a hippie-turned-rabbi, tries to preempt a scandal at his synagogue.

When her boyfriend-du-jour wishes her “Happy New Year” in the Yom Kippur episode, she cheerily informs him: “Wrong holiday.” Other disastrous incidents revisited include Erica’s vodka-infused high school prom and the day she lost her virginity to a creep.

Originally created for Canadian television, the show has mostly gleaned glowing reviews and is the brainchild of writer-producer Jana Sinyor, who, like Erica, is a highly educated, Jewish, 32-year-old resident of Toronto. Although she is now married with two children, there was a time, after she graduated from McGill University with a degree in Old and New Testament studies, when Sinyor shared Erica’s confusion and despondency.

“I was in such a bad place, just desperately unhappy,” she recalled in a phone interview from Toronto, sounding as whimsical (if more soft-spoken) than her character.

“I had no marketable skills, so I took a call-center job at an insurance company, which is the position that Erica has at the beginning of the series. I would sit at my cubicle desk and make little hats out of cardboard, because I had no creative outlet.”

After taking a class in screenwriting, Sinyor discovered a talent for television work and in 2004 created a half-hour teen show called, “Dark Oracle,” which also involved time travel.

“As a kid, I had been obsessed with the ‘Narnia’ books and was devastated to learn that you couldn’t actually go through the wardrobe,” she explained of her love for the fantasy genre. “I’m also fascinated by the concept of time and the fact that it is so linear — because it just feels like you should be able to go backwards and forwards. I can’t quite accept the fact that I have to live things out in one take.”

“Being Erica” also focuses upon more real-world concerns: “Several years ago, I noticed that many of my beautiful, funny, talented friends were feeling stressed because they hadn’t found ‘the guy’ or ‘the career,’” she said. “There was this mass anxiety that if you hadn’t achieved certain things by a certain age, you’re failing. And that was the spark that generated the character of Erica.”

Sinyor made Erica Jewish because, “it’s easier to write in a voice that’s familiar to me,” she said. “I don’t share Erica’s life at all, but I understand exactly who she is, because I know her world and what it is like to have that Jewish family dynamic — that way of being very direct.”

The character is, in fact, so organically immersed in her heritage that actress Karpluk, who was raised in a non-Jewish home in rural Alberta, spent hours interviewing Jewish subjects to prepare for the role.

“I was terrified of appearing inauthentic,” she said over lunch in Los Angeles recently. “I share Jana’s belief that the more specific a character, the more relatable she is.”

Perhaps there is another reason for Erica’s universal appeal, as well. Sinyor said she studied religion in college because “I believe these biblical stories are the archetypes that have seeped into every aspect of our culture.

“You could say that Erica is lost in the wilderness, and we’ve all been there at some point in our lives.”

The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m.

Status symbol


Status used to be about social hierarchy — whether you made a good living or were born into the right family or had achieved prominence in your community. But these days, if you say the word “status” to Generation Single-and-Facebooking, you may be understood very differently.

For the novices, Facebook is a social media utility, commonly called “social networking.” This is basically an online community where the youngish and technology-loving assemble, sharing their friend lists, interests and activities with each other toward the creation of a greater social entity — a network. One of the most popular features of Facebook is a “status feed,” a running list of what your friends are up to, updated whenever anyone makes a change to his or her profile. “Tiffany Jewstein joined the ‘All Jews on Facebook’ group.” “Rachel Goldberg is engaged to Shmuley Greenberg.” “David Bernowitz is sooo glad finals are over.”

For Facebookers in their 20s and 30s, one of the trickiest status areas is the “relationships” line. In your profile, you choose how to identify yourself. Are you “single,” “married,” “engaged” or “in a relationship,” or would you say you’re “in an open marriage”? Or are you an “it’s complicated”? What are you looking for: “friendship,” “dating,” “networking,” “a relationship” or “whatever I can get”? You can choose multiple identifiers, since this is a generation of multiple identities, but this can refract the message. You might think “whatever I can get” is funny and shows how open and casual you are, but someone who’s looking for something special might see you as desperate or not serious.

Once you’ve started dating, other minefields await. Back in the day, if you met someone on JDate and you started dating each other exclusively, the big conversation was about taking down your online profile — this meant you were serious and weren’t going to be online during off hours, cruising for someone “better.” This was commitment.

But on Facebook, relationships are not about the vanishing of profiles, because the function of the community is not supposed to end when couplehood is achieved; relationships mean the public declaration of a change in status. And there are levels of such declaration. You can change your status from single to “in a relationship.” You can declare publicly the name of the person with whom you’re in the relationship or, if you’re afraid of tempting the evil eye, you can leave it anonymous for friends to guess or know.

A friend of mine who recently started dating someone changed his status from “single” to “in a relationship.” But his girlfriend hadn’t yet changed hers, so he wasn’t sure whether the relationship meant more to him than to her. And neither of them was sure that they were ready to declare to the world that they were in a relationship with each other — that’s a huge commitment, to go public, because if, God forbid, the relationship doesn’t work out, that failure and loss is also public.

Status is yours to claim, or in the case of one sister-single friend of mine, reclaim. When she first joined Facebook, her status was set to “single.” But this week I got a notification that she “is no longer listed as single.” I assumed this meant that she had met someone.

No, she told me, she was still single, but had decided to reclaim her status. She didn’t like the fact that everyone looking at her page saw her as single, because she was so much more than that. She wasn’t announcing a relationship; she was announcing her reclamation of how she presented herself to the online world.

If only we all gave as much time and consideration to how we present ourselves offline — not in terms of physical appearance, but in how we define ourselves in relation to others, in how we determine our goals professionally and personally and in how we relate to the community at large. Are we conveying that we’re open to new relationships? Are we being honest about our availability? Are we publicly declaring our intentions toward others?

While many of us live online, we shouldn’t forget that even if we spend days chained to our computers and the online representations of ourselves, life is about human — and humane — interaction. Whether online or off, we should learn to present ourselves clearly, identify ourselves truthfully and with an understanding that status is about half in its declaration, and half in how it is perceived by others.

Esther D. Kustanowitz is currently “in an open relationship” with her Facebook Status Feed. Don’t ask; “it’s complicated.” You can reach her at jdatersanonymous@gmail.com. This column originally appeared in The Jewish Week.


JJ LA asks you to be a

The Great Reveal


From now on, I’ll only go on dates in pajamas.

On Wednesdays.

At 10:45 p.m.

Such midweek engagements in sweats and old T-shirts, with stress and exhaustion at their peak, would eliminate some pretense — therefore saving my suitors and me time in assessing marriage potential. Presenting attractive facades of ourselves in lovely clothes, fancy restaurants and charming conversation would only delay our determining true compatibility. After all, one’s spouse is the person who sees what’s revealed “in here” considerably more often than what’s undercover “out there.”

To be sure, more than a bridal veil is lifted during the transition from courtship into matrimony. The intimacy of the latter demands that two people are prepared to pour themselves out before one another, exposing the purest and most naked part of their being with faith that it will be embraced. A sacred union requires nothing less than this kind of nakedness: a revelation far beyond the physical, and so exclusive that it cannot be attained with anyone else — not even God.

That’s what this week’s Torah portion suggests. In its opening lines we learn that a meeting with the Divine is, at its most personal, something of a formal first date. Not only must one “bathe his flesh in water,” but also “be attired [in] holy garments” (Leviticus 16:4) before getting together with God — who will be “within [a] veil before [a] covering” (Leviticus 16:2).

Like a bachelor who dons a great pair of jeans, expensive cologne and plays it cool to shield himself from vulnerability to a broken heart, the High Priest must wear fine linens, burn sweet smells and keep a safe distance from his beloved, “lest he die.” Both men understand that only fools rush in to certain relationships; conversely, the High Priest’s sons — after whom the portion is named — were just those kinds of fools.

“After the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they came near before the Lord and died” (Leviticus 16:2), we learn that it was Nadav and Avihu’s premature and over-exposed advances toward God that killed them. In their display of openness to the Divine, they became consumed in their love — literally.

Perhaps this is why Rabbi Isaac Luria said the boys were killed because they were unmarried; they mistook the nakedness that can lead to ecstatic union with one’s spouse to be translatable to communion with God.

The parsha makes it more than clear that this is not a mistake to be made. Exposure of one’s nakedness — emotional or corporeal — is a level of intimacy reserved exclusively for one’s partner in love and procreation. And to make sure we get the message, the text goes on to repeat its point. It repeats the word ervah (translated as “nakedness” or “to pour out”) in prohibitive context 24 times in a 16-line paragraph.

Be it one’s parent, sibling, grandchild or in-law, we must cover our essential states of defenselessness from one another at all times. We are not intended to reveal our totalities to more than one human being at a time.

As it is, most of us are still hiding from ourselves. Be it the disapproving grimaces we offer our reflections before the mirror or the shadows we cast over the ugly aspects of our characters, we have enough trouble confronting our own naked truths with unconditional love. To succeed in achieving intimacy with another is therefore more than enough to aspire toward.

The capacity to entirely behold the emptiness and starkness and frailty of a human being is the holiest of places we can occupy. If we succeed in embracing this place, we are rewarded with the ecstasy of reunion with the Divine.

And the competence to respect the fullness and complexity and protectiveness of everyone else is the holiest of positions we can take. If we succeed in revering this place, we are rewarded with the delight of communion with the Divine.

Somewhere between the lines of the text, we can find balance between what is concealed and what is revealed. We learn through the death of the two young priests that the Light of God is too strong to approach directly; a covering is necessary. And in that we are all made in the Image, we can more easily acknowledge the Divine light that must therefore be shining behind the veils of our fellows. In fact, the more they hide behind, the more we ought to appreciate the sanctity hidden within.

Meanwhile, late at night, in sweats and a T-shirt full of holes, I am faithful that I will come to meet someone who will see this display as holy indeed. I pray for an opportunity to join those courageous enough to commit to see and be seen in a nakedness beyond the shadows, and feel blessed in knowing that God exists in it all.

Rabbi Karen Deitsch works as a freelance officiant and lecturer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at karendeitsch@yahoo.com.

Accountability


As usual, it started out with questions.

“Where do you work? What do you do? Have you been on any trips lately?”

I was all for talking about myself, what I do, where I’ve been, where I’m going. But then it got personal.

“Are you renting? How much do you pay per month?”

Real estate is a touchy subject. But it’s one that anyone in any major city discusses. I used to feel guilty about renting a place, what with everyone and their mother owning property, but now with the subprime mortgage rates and the housing market crash, I feel smugly superior that I didn’t fall prey to the greed. Yes, I rent! Isn’t that great?

And then it got really personal.

“And are you still single?”

It was that one word that really got to me. Still Single. Still. As if I hadn’t accomplished anything in the last year. As if I hadn’t published articles, essays — been on NPR, for God’s sake! — influenced people with my writing. As if I hadn’t started teaching at a university, traveled around the world, lost 10 pounds, learned how to surf, counseled countless friends and family members through countless crises. It all had been erased to nothing — nothing! — with that one question: “Are you still single?”

OK, so what if it was my accountant who was doing the asking?

For the last six years I’ve been doing my taxes with this seemingly sweet older lady. She is tall, white-haired and stooped over, with blue eyes that might be described as kindly if you’ve never sat down with her for a tax interview. If you had, you might say her eyes were steely blue and her demeanor hawkish. The woman, God help her, will ferret out any and every possible deduction known to mankind. Especially if you’re an artist, which many of her clients are. Why, then every activity you do, from reading newspapers to traveling, to meeting with people to anything that might have a direct influence on your art is fair game.

(But, Mr. I.R.S., if you’re reading this, she and her firm are totally and completely legal. Case in point, many of my seemingly “social” interactions are part of my writing. Most of them are, since I write about myself.)

But deductions are not the point. The point is that when she asks me if I’m still single — she has to ask me, it’s part of her job — it chafes. It brings up a lot of issues for me. Am I still single? Am I in the same job as last year? The same house? The very same life? What have I done with the last 12 months of my life that we can tell the I.R.S.?

I imagine my accountant saying, “They’re going to audit you because everything in your life sounds suspiciously similar to last year and beyond!”

Mind you, she asks, “Are you still single?” in the same tone she asks, “Are you still driving a Volkswagen?” and “Are you still subscribing to The New York Times? And The New York Review of Books? (I let the latter lapse because it was just too dense, and there’s no one in L.A. bars to discuss it with.)

But as I answer, “Yes, still single. Same job. Same car, same house,” in my mind I picture others who file with her from year to year, making dozens of changes and updates to their files: Change of name (married), change of residence (bought a house), change of mortgage (paid in full), sale of stocks (to pay for house), number of dependents (one, two, three).

Look, it’s not necessarily any cheaper to file as a married person than as a single person.

But we’re not talking about money here (Mr. I.R.S., I definitely am talking about lots of money from you!). We’re talking more than financial accountability. We’re talking life accountability.

I know in Judaism we review our year on Rosh Hashanah, and we tally up our good deeds and bad deeds before Yom Kippur. For our superficial — or more worldly — deeds, we use the Gregorian New Year to make resolutions. On our birthdays, we take stock, using the number of years as a measuring stick.

But on all those occasions it’s possible to fudge a bit. To make things look better than they are (“OK, so I wasn’t such a bad Jew this year — even though this is my first time in synagogue, I did give tzedakah to every homeless person who asked …”). In the run-up to April 15, though, it’s hard to lie. (Actually, it’s criminal.) It’s all laid out there in front of you in stacks of paper that you’ve finally separated, organized, catalogued and filed.

Still writing. Still renting. Still driving a VW. And yes, still, ahem, single.

It’s all naked and exposed before my accountant. But that’s what frustrates me so. There is so much beyond those cut-and-dried numbers. There’s poetry behind the columns. “Romeo and Juliet” can’t be summed up as, “Both Capulet and Montague family have one less dependent this year.”

And neither can my life. I may not be married yet, but I’ve met dozens of wonderful people — men and women — this year. I’ve deepened my relationships to dozens I’ve already known, been to fabulous places and, most importantly, learned so many new life lessons: on how to love, how to be loved, whom to love, whom to leave and to whom to give a second chance.

And these things can’t be measured on paper. No matter who — my accountant, my parents, my relatives, my so-called friends — is asking.

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.

The Connector


I love my neighbor. Not, as it says in the Torah, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” But literally, I love him. It’s not only because he helps me with manly activities, like moving furniture, killing cockroaches and opening jars (how do single women do these things alone?) but because Eric is a real man of character.

Here’s the thing about being neighbors in a claptrap house, where the walls are as thin as silk: I can hear everything that’s going on. Like when his young son visits for a month, and he is staying up in the middle of the night with him because he has a bad dream. Eric is a real mensch.

He’s also not Jewish. So I decided to do what any nice Jewish girl would do: I set him up with my friend, Genevieve. She’s also not Jewish, so they should be perfect together. Ha! If only matchmaking were so simple. Yes, the truth is, their non-Jewishness is not enough to make them a match (see: my single status), but they’re both smart, attractive, earthy, intellectual and worldly.

Besides, at synagogue on the High Holy Days I discovered a couple I’d set up. I’d gone out with David, thought he was great but not for me — so I’d introduced him to Risa.

“I hope I get credit for this,” I tell them after shul.

But they can’t give me credit — only God can. It says if you make three successful shidduchim, three matches, you automatically go to heaven. And this High Holy Day season I was thinking that I’d really like an automatic pass. (“Go directly to heaven. Do not pass hell; do not collect $200.)

Three should be easy enough. I meet so many guys who just because they aren’t for me doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be good for someone. What if this is my purpose in life? What if the point of my meeting so many people is to serve as what Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, “The Tipping Point,” calls “The connector?” I feel heady with possibilities.

I decide to connect my ex, Ben, with my friend’s friend, Deb. Deb’s a smart, sassy lawyer whose really into good wine and food; Ben’s also a lawyer who likes the good life and always says he needs a woman who will not put up with his … with the behavior he pulled on me, and I put up with.

Then I visit friends in D.C., and I run into Sara, a woman who just moved there from Los Angeles. She’s into Jewish education and is really tall and slim. She’d be perfect for Marc, this guy I meet in synagogue who works in aerospace and is … really tall. OK, so I don’t know either of them so well (at all), but isn’t it better to be introduced to someone through a friend than through a profile that may or may not resemble their actual brick and mortar selves?

I guess not. Sara wants to see a picture of Marc before she commits to anything — even though she’s new to town, and Marc figured the least he could do was introduce her around.

Ben, my ex, did see a photo of Deb on her law firm’s Web site and is not sure he wants to take her out — this is after I’ve given him her number and told her he’d call.

“Is she a good listener?” he wants to know. “Are you?” I want to reply, but I know he isn’t.

“I don’t want a loudmouthed woman who is going to always be telling me what to do,” he says explaining a Jewish stereotype without actually using the actual word.

“I thought you didn’t want a shrinking violet, a woman who wasn’t going to let you push her around,” I say. He couldn’t explain it.

But Genevieve could. She thinks my neighbor is nice, but she doesn’t want someone like her ex-boyfriend; she doesn’t want to like anyone too much because she acts silly. She doesn’t want someone to like her too much, because it makes her nervous; she wants to be friends first with everyone because…

OMG! People are crazy! Is this how insane I sound when talking about my dates? As I watch these dramas unfold around me, I am yet again amazed by the complex nature of human beings; is it a complexity we bring on ourselves?

For example: Eric and Genevieve. After every date, I get the story from both of them — believe me when I say I ask neither. One night, at midnight, there’s a knock on my door. They come in, we hang out, they leave. Ten minutes later, another knock. It’s Eric. He wants to talk. But the phone rings. It’s Genevieve. Eric leaves. I talk to Genevieve. I go to Eric’s after.

“What should I do?” he asks me.

I don’t know what to tell him. Or Genevieve, who is freaked out because he likes her. Or my ex, Ben, who has now put me in the awkward position of not wanting to take my setup. Or the couple in D.C., who are interrogating me like I’m applying for a job with the CIA.

Why am I doing this again? What was the reason I yetna-ed my way into these people’s lives? I am beginning to think they are all single — we are all single — for a very good reason. And I’m not sure I’m up for dealing with other people’s mishegoss (on which the Jews have no monopoly.)

So I give the D.C. couple each other’s online profile numbers; I tell Ben to do what he likes with Deb; but I also tell her to not expect his call; and I tell Eric and Genevieve they’re on their own.

I don’t have time to worry about them anymore. I’ve got to find someone for myself.

Happiness — maybe it’s not ‘out there’


It all started with the phone call from my Jewish mother in the Philadelphia suburbs about five years ago: “My friend’s son is moving to L.A. I think he has an on-again-off-again girlfriend. But, he’s cute and nice. Anyway, he’s going to call you for coffee.” Innocent enough, or so I thought. Then, as the hours flew by and the age of 28 approached from around the corner, a cold sweat bathed my East Coast family. My 24-year-old first cousin announced her engagement to a nice lawyer from George Washington University.

Here I was across the country, no family, in grad school, living on loans, virtually dateless and in emotional recovery from a Beverly Hills player who thought marriage proposals were a game.

We were entering the danger zone, ladies and gentleman.

It was time to call in the big guns. The yentas held a conference, and mission “marry my Jewish daughter before age 30” began. My cousin’s friend, the pediatrician, was going to call; my dad paid for me to go wine tasting in Malibu; and my Pilates teacher knew a great single Jewish tow-truck driver.

That was around the time I had a nervous breakdown. I knew I didn’t need any help or handouts. I was a smart, attractive, independent woman, and I knew I could find my true love online in a week if I were really serious about it. I posted a profile.

The concept that even Frankenstein got married would often dance through my sleepless head after each grueling online date or night out at a bar. When the 5-foot-tall doctor who had posted a picture of his 6-foot-tall brother asked me to split the bill for coffee, I knew it was time to take a break. Why was there so much pressure? Thirty is just a number. Who really cares? Madonna had kids in her 40s, and look at Demi Moore.

My friends and therapist told me it was “them,” not me. There was nothing wrong with me. I just needed to get out there. That was when it dawned on me, after a yoga class, that maybe “out there” was really just a reflection of what was “in here.” Maybe my frenetic coffee shop drive-bys, obsessively long elliptical workouts by my gym’s basketball court and late-night strolls down the produce aisle weren’t going to help me find what I was searching for “out there.”

That was when something miraculous happened.

Nope. I’m not going to tell some Pollyanna story about how I stopped looking and then found my soul mate at the gas station. The truth is simple. I gave up searching outside myself and committed to my passion.

It was like I had some sort of biblical experience. I was on the plane returning to Los Angeles when it hit me. I knew exactly what I had to do. I was just a couple classes shy of my master’s degree in psychology and had been counseling individuals and couples in a local Jewish agency for about a year.

I had been on more than 200 first dates in Los Angeles.

I’d learned exactly what I was not looking for.

My experience skimming through online profiles helped me master the art and science of weeding out Mr. Wrong with one questionable sentence or phone message. I helped a bunch of my guy friends write profiles and watched as they single-handedly, consistently met girls and got engaged.

All my friends already had been calling me for relationship advice every day since high school. With my background in psychology and the positive growth I saw from working with my clients, I realized that I had what it took to help singles out there save their Jewish mothers from the schpilkes that kept mine up at night. I focused on helping other singles in my psychotherapy practice.

Over the years I have helped young, shy guys find their inner chutzpah, those with poor self-images gain the self confidence to write delete-proof profiles, and I realized that so many of us just want to find the same thing, but our own fear and self-doubt makes us question the ones who see our true inner beauty. As I have helped my clients get past their emotional blocks, I have seen them find what they want. It was like clockwork.

I began to wake up each morning like a woman in love.

That was when the words my grandmother always spoke came true. Yup. This one annoying doctor who kept calling finally met me for coffee one morning. My grandmother said I’d find him when I was not looking. I couldn’t stand this guy over the phone, and I had little to no faith in online matchmaking. But something magical happened that day as our morning coffee turned into a ride up the coast and a lovely dinner in Malibu.

I was skeptical when he told me at the end of the night that he had a feeling we would be spending a lot of time together. Yet, somehow we have been talking every day since. And the love I sought from outside for so long, grew and grew as my commitment to my own success and joy filled up any emptiness or lacking.

Yes, I found my soul mate when I fell in love with my own life – although it happened several months after turning 30.

The moral of my story can best be summed up in my yoga revelation. Stop looking “out there” for the life you want. The happiness you seek is already “in here.”

Live passionately while you are single and life will have a funny way of delivering your heart’s desire – when your heart is already full.


Alisa Ruby is a psychotherapist, a part-time school counselor at Malibu High School and a freelance writer.

‘Love 101’ from the teachers at Tel Aviv’s dating school


Michal’s story of dating frustration is undoubtedly common among singles living in Tel Aviv, or any major population center of the United States.

“I’d often go out on dates and meet guys hoping to create a relationship. I’m good-looking, smart, fun, communicative, but I’d end up alone,” the 44-year-old divorcee said. “Then I noticed something in the system that didn’t work. I wasn’t doing something right.”

The practitioner of Chinese medicine decided that maybe she needed a little education in the field of dating. This led her to Tel Aviv’s Date School, the only psychotherapy-based dating program in Israel — and perhaps the world — which literally teaches people how to be more effective, self-aware and informed daters.

Date School was developed by the Center for Sexuality in Tel Aviv, a psychosexological clinic that treats couples and individuals who have difficulties developing and maintaining healthy sexual relationships. The weekly workshops are conducted by center director Dr. Ilan Biran and cognitive behavioral therapist Vered Merzer-Sapir, and combine discussions and exercises that implement the center’s cognitive behavior therapy approach.

The 10-week pilot course opened in March to nine participants who, throughout the course, are each assigned “professional daters,” psychotherapists who simulate dates with the participants so that they can determine and study behaviors and actions that may contribute to their dating failure.

“There are many attempts to teach people how to date,” Biran said from the couch-lined room where the workshops are held on the 15th floor of a Tel Aviv medical building. “These efforts fail because … there is no textbook approach. What works for one may not work for another.”

The workshops teach that dating is an art, which first and foremost involves identifying the good in one’s self and knowing how to market those assets, Biran said.

“This can only be done with individual treatment. Second, there is no effective learning without practice and feedback, which is achieved best by dating a ‘professional dater,'” he added.

To protect the privacy of the participants, the Sexuality Center prohibits journalists from sitting in on workshops. In fact, Biran explained that discretion and anonymity is so vital that he cleared the hallways of patients before our meeting.

The center screens all prospective participants, and Biran notes that they consist of professional, educated and intelligent singles who encounter problems in dating due to factors such as social anxiety, bad past experience, or just plain bad luck.

Michal, the only female participant in the workshop, pinpoints her failures in part to her approach: she would always judge and eventually disqualify men based on superficial qualities, particularly appearance.

“I’m gaining the ability to get to know the soul of a man who can be a person of great quality, but who I wouldn’t normally choose because he’s bald, has a big nose, or a pot belly,” she said.

She also discovered that, in part because of her free-flowing personality, she opens up excessively on the first date, often intimidating men with an overflow of information.
“I’ve learned to limit myself on the first meeting, and open myself more at later dates,” she said.

Biran and Merzer-Sapir don’t think there are any magic formulas or tips they can offer frustrated daters, but they point to common pitfalls and misconceptions.

“Many people, especially those who come to us, have a big dream about what they seek to find in a date,” Biran said. “Mainly, they come with the vision that they will find the love of their life. On the first date, he is already asking if this person will be the mother of his children. You can’t do that on a first date and even trying to do that will necessarily harm your behavior and/or your decision making.”

He attributes the unnecessary pressure and disillusionment dating may cause in part to the individualistic nature of today’s society. “We live in a society that is more alienated. Concomitant with that is a lot of pressure to find happiness and love without compromising. I think it’s a problem that only gets worse — they are in stress when they go out on dates to find their love, and it doesn’t work.”

Irena Netanel, a psychotherapist and “professional dater” in the workshop, slams another myth: “Many dates fail because they decide right away that it doesn’t work because there is no chemistry.”

A date, the professionals emphasize, is about getting to know another person and one’s self. Four basic parameters should be checked upon the first date: biographical details, personality, behavior and appearance.

“If a participant says something doesn’t work, we have them pinpoint why it doesn’t work,” Merzer-Sapir said.

Many dates often go no further than the first coffee cup because men and women make superficial assessments and judgments without examining the many facets of the person sitting in front of them.

Michal has recently begun dating someone she met online who she would have normally rejected prior to attending the workshop. While she doesn’t like considering a date as “practice,” she’s already started implementing this rational approach to dating and is pleased with the opportunities now open to her.

“Every person has a ‘type’ they seek. The guy has to be like this, dress like this, look like that. When you give a chance and don’t disqualify a guy who isn’t so good looking, but who has a lot of emotional intelligence — is funny, smart, fun to be with and makes you feel good — then you see something else, the other side of the soul. You can fall in love with a person like that.”

Orit Arfa is a freelance writer for ISRAEL21c, a media organization focusing on 21st century Israel.

MUSIC VIDEO: Kenny Ellis — ‘Swingin’ Dreidel’


Kenny Ellis sings his hit single from his ‘Hanukkah Swings!’ album on Favored Nations Records—swingingest ‘Dreidel Song’ ever

My True Best Feature — My Crazy Charm?


My friend Nanea is breaking up with singlehood, and my girls and I are ready to help. Best friends since UCLA, we throw Nanea a wild bachelorette party weekend in NYC.

My group takes a bite out of the big apple. We shop uptown, dine downtown, theater on Broadway, picnic in Central Park — good times, good times. Saturday night, we hit a bar in the meat packing district.

The joint is too cool for signage, but not too cool for us. I’m sporting a black lace tube top from Forever 21, and I am rocking that discount couture. Picture me… I look even better. Feeling feisty, I take the tiara intended for the bachelorette and wear it all night. Normal, no? Effective, yes? It’s an instant conversation piece.

I’m meeting people. I’m making friends. I am in a zone. I even start a game of truth or dare. I’m the life of the bar.

Local boy Jake buys us a round and brings good conversation. We have one of those long ask-anything, reveal-everything chats reserved for bars in strange cities and freshman year dorms. All of us girls have boys at home, so the chat is for pure flirt’s sake. We talk relationships, dating, hook-ups and land on what’s our type.

Jake looks our gaggle of girls up and down and says, “For me, the perfect woman would have Shana’s top, Nanea’s bottom, Angel’s lips and Carin’s….”

Carin’s what? My mind races through the endless possibilities. I’ve been working hard with my trainer and my little bod is working for me. So he’ll totally go with my flat abs and tiny waist. Or maybe he’s a curves guy, and is all about my swingin’ hips. Oh, but men do dig my long, flowing dark blonde — OK, fine, highlighted dark blonde — hair. Hmmm. What is the sexiest part of Carin Davis?
There are really too many to just say one. But Jake managed to:
“The perfect woman would have Shana’s top, Nanea’s bottom, angel’s lips, and Carin’s … ridiculousness.”

My ridiculousness? Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis? My ridiculousness?
That’s crazy talk. He might as well have said I have a good personality and doomed me to wallflower status. My ridiculousness. Ha! I am a very cute girl.

More than cute — attractive. Yeah … I’m like a model. That’s right. I’m like a 5′ 2″ supermodel. I’m talking “Deal or No Deal” briefcase-babe hot.
And yet you claim my best attribute is my ridiculousness?

Wait. Hold on. You think I’m ridiculous?

“Um, you are wearing an unexplained tiara,” Jake points out.

I get it. Bedazzled hair wear is cool for Miss America, but not for me. Well, listen here buddy. There’s nothing wrong with a girl having a little sparkle.

So I’m bizarrely outgoing, unusually uninhibited, and have been known to like center stage. A lot. But to say that makes me ridiculous — that’s uncalled for. And for your information, no one uses the term “ridiculousness” anymore, the PC phrase is “normalcy challenged.”

Why am I getting so fired up? Why do I care? This is some guy I’ve known for an hour, not one I’ve dated for a while. I’ve got an amazing boyfriend at home who thinks I’m a babe. I think….

I drunk-dial my boy Scott and recap the night. He seems amused as I describe our social antics, public game play and the cheer I was dared to perform for the bar. Then I tell Scott about Jake’s perfect woman. And he laughs, in a way that says Jake may have gotten it right. I am little ridiculous. And that’s kinda hot.

Could it be that my looks only complement my true best feature — my crazy charm? Interesting. Men find my charisma endearing, even magnetic. Anyone can be good looking, but I’m good fun.

Looking for back up on my theory, I poll my male friends and ask: “What makes a woman sexy?” Their answers: confidence, wit, intelligence and large breasts (OK, there’s always one).

But maybe Jake and Scott are on to something. I am a confident, energetic, funny, silly, spunky girl and that makes me sexy. For me to think otherwise would be ridiculous.

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

That’s What I Do


If you’re a single 24-year-old gal looking to meet a preferably Jewish single guy in Los Angeles, you’d think a good pick-up line might include the words “I work for The Jewish Journal.” After all, what better way to convey to the guy-of-interest that you’re a fellow MOT? But you’d be wrong. That line’s great for when you meet his parents, and probably exactly why it’s not great for meeting him. The immediate thought bubble above his head reads something like, “Hmmm nice Jewish girl,” basically the Catholic equivalent of dating a nun.

So, when I started at The Journal four years ago, back when I was still single, in addition to the skills associated with my new job duties, there were conversational hurdles I had to learn to jump when meeting eligible guys. I had to be especially agile, since the most likely opening conversation with a new person usually centers on one’s career. To the question of “What do you do?” I came up with the following response strategy:

1. Be intentionally vague
“I’m a writer.” (If he presses for details, ask him about himself. See No. 2.)

2. Deflect
“What do you do?” (Appear fascinated, turn the conversation in another direction, move on to No. 3.)

3. Hook
(Insert clever comment to draw him in. He’ll remember now that you’re a writer. But now you’ve got him. The perfect time for No. 4.)

4. Make the bold statement
“I’m a writer for The Jewish Journal.” (Let it sink in for a second, two, three. “Wow,” he’ll say. “You must be really Jewish.” Quickly move in for step No. 5, or all is lost.)

5. Shame
(Insert clever retort to shame him and make him love you all at the same time. This will take skill to master, but you’re Keren Engelberg, Jewish Girl Reporter. The guilt force is strong within you. You are up to the task.)

 

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.

 

A Blog World After All


Last year, the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that 8 million American adults had created blogs. Although the number of specifically Jewish blogs is unconfirmed, those with knowledge of the blogosphere say the pool is substantial. Jewish blogs, or Web diaries, run the gamut from kosher cooking to Israeli advocacy. They include leftist rants, dating melodramas, rabbinic ruminations and secular musings from all corners of the globe.

“I’d estimate the number of active blogs at some several thousand,” says Steven Weiss, who currently blogs about religion (canonist.com), food (kosherbachelor.com) and the Jewish college experience (campusj.com).

“Among young, highly affiliated Jews, J-blogs are very popular,” the 24-year-old New Yorker continued. “As you move up the age brackets, the popularity drops off somewhat, though many in the organizational and rabbinic establishment have started paying a lot of attention to them.”

What exactly are these Jewish bloggers seeking on the Web?

Some, like 30-something New York blogging guru Esther Kustanowitz, say the blogosphere connects them to a larger, global Jewish community.

“I started looking at other Jewish blogs to see if there were other people like me out there — single, Jewish and blogging,” she explained.

The No. 1 thread on Jewlicious (jewlicious.com), a group blog focusing on Judaism, Israel and pop culture, addresses premarital sex in the Orthodox community. It pulled in 676 comments.

The No. 2 post, with 502 responses, tackles an equally contentious topic — the identity of Conservative Judaism.

Oftentimes, noisemakers walk a fine line between healthy debate and mudslinging.

“There are definitely blogs where the conversation tends to be acrimonious,” said Barenblat, who recently received anonymous hate mail. “People feel free to be obnoxious because it’s just through a computer screen.”

Fiery language also peppers the Jewlicious site, with posts often descending into vitriolic exchanges.

“It’s a paradigm for disagreement,” Kustanowitz said. “I think because of the anonymity and lack of accountability, people tend to not think before they write.”

Where exactly this blogging phenomenon is going remains unseen.

Schiano, for one, predicts a continuously evolving blogosphere.

“I think there will always be this room for grass-roots voices on the net,” she said.

And as long as rabbis continue to preach, advocates to crusade, singles to gripe and ideologues to spar, Jews will continue clicking — and posting — away.

 

The Cost of Marriage


After two years of single life in Israel, I looked forward to the new perspectives that marriage would bring to my Israeli immigrant experience.

I knew that the normal adjustments from bachelorhood were inevitable, such as putting down the toilet seat and washing linens more frequently than every six months. But I never imagined that marriage would force me to re-experience the entire immigration process.

My initiation began the day after our wedding in Pittsburgh, which was also the day before our flight to Israel.

We sat in Dena’s family’s basement all night packing (I should say cramming) the majority of her personal items into four giant duffle bags. By no means is Dena a materialistic person; the simpler lifestyle in Israel appeals to her, as it does to me.

But after spending all night deciding which sweaters could and could not immigrate with us, I suddenly remembered the remark of a married friend who tried to prepare me for the changes of married life: “Women just have more stuff than us.”

Now, instead of the two suitcases that I brought on my aliyah, we were pulling five giant bags — four of hers, one of mine — through Newark Airport. We tried to disperse the heavy items evenly among the bags so they wouldn’t be overweight.

But when we got to the check-in counter, three of the five were overweight. We worked frantically, exchanging the heavier items for lighter ones so that we wouldn’t have to either leave some unnecessary items behind (my suggestion) or pay the $120 overweight fee (her suggestion). After 20 minutes of labor, every bag was about five pounds overweight, an amount the clerk was willing to overlook.

But that was nothing compared to the work that awaited us upon arrival. While Dena filled out paperwork in the absorption office, I had the task of locating and dragging each enormous bag off the conveyer belt and loading it onto the cart.

We then had to load the five bags into a cab and, once in Jerusalem, carry them up four flights of stairs to our temporary apartment.

On my third trip up the stairs, I remembered another comment from that same married friend: “Being married means you have to schlep a lot more stuff. And just wait till you have kids!”

As we settled into our temporary home, I looked forward to the delicious dishes my wife had been planning to cook for us. Any one of them would have been a grand improvement from my bachelor diet. But I didn’t realize that a broader diet equals a much broader bill at the checkout. On our first trip to the grocery store together, the clerk rang up a bill of about $150. I bit my tongue as I thought to myself, “That’s how much I spend in a month!”

As we were walking out of the store I asked Dena if she thought we had spent a lot, and she answered, “Oh, that’s nothing compared to what I was spending for groceries in Philly!”

I couldn’t have been happier that we were living in Israel.

But the shopping had only begun. Since I previously had lived in a furnished apartment, the only household items I owned were a microwave, assorted plates and pieces of silverware, a pot and a pan.

It was understood that our housewares would need a major overhaul. Even more so, since we were moving to an unfurnished apartment, which in Israel generally means the place would be completely empty. Ours didn’t even come with closets, much less a refrigerator or oven.

Over the next several weeks, we tracked down all the necessary household items, some from Janglo, a kind of Craig’s List for English speakers in Jerusalem, some from places I’d never thought I’d visit, like IKEA.

As the weeks went on, our seemingly endless shopping spree started to feel like a nightmare.

Over the course of several weeks our to-buy list was starting to shrink, and we were just about ready to move to our new place in Efrat, in the West Bank about eight miles south of Jerusalem. But there were a few essentials remaining on the list that I never could have imagined, namely a Kitchen Aid and a Magimix.

Not only had I never heard of these items before I got married, I had no idea where to shop for them. Apparently I hadn’t spent any time in the dozens of Jerusalem appliance stores that we began stalking day and night looking for the best price on these items.

In the end we settled on a Magimix for about $345 and the Kitchen Aid for $600-plus, more than twice its price in the United States.

I agreed with Dena that it’s better to buy good items that are going to last, but the bills were really adding up. Again, I heard a familiar voice in my head: “Being married costs a heck of a lot more than being single!”

Maybe the life changes that I’m experiencing have more to do with marriage in general than aliyah. Maybe all new husbands have to swallow high grocery bills and Kitchen Aids, though the side effects of happiness and fulfillment that marriage provide make it all worthwhile.

It may be that the only difference between my newly married friends in the United States and me is that I’m learning these lessons in Israel. But, that detail makes it all even more worthwhile to us.

Jonathan Udren is a freelance writer who lives in Israel.

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Too Picky


A few weeks ago, I had just returned from a trip to New York to meet someone my rabbi tried to set me up with — a member of his

former congregation there. On my first Friday night back in shul, I was confronted by close married friends of mine with the question.

“So-o-o …,” the wife sweetly crooned, “how did it go?”

“Things went very well,” I replied coyly. “We went to see ‘Wicked’ on Broadway and took in a full day of the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows. We ate pizza in Brooklyn and walked back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge under a clear, crisp, starlit night. The New York City skyline was spectacular!”

My friend raised her eyebrow with the unspoken question I hadn’t yet answered.

“We had a good time together,” I responded to her inquiring look, “and she’s a very nice person. But I’m afraid nothing is going to happen.”

“Tsk-tsk,” she practically spat at me. “You’re just too picky!”

You know, I have never figured out why such well-meaning folks so quickly jump to that conclusion. As far as I know, my friend had never even met the woman in question or known anything about her. Does she assume that our rabbi, because he has such an intelligent, charming and attractive wife himself, obviously has the ability to pick out the perfect person for me?

Sometimes I think the erstwhile matchmaker’s calculus goes something like: “She’s single and Jewish and I like her; he’s single and Jewish and I like him — so why not?”

Usually that simple Jew math just doesn’t add up, and the “why not” becomes crystal clear less than five minutes after she opens the door. By now, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ended up forcing my way through the rest of a painful evening, wondering to myself, “What were they thinking?”

Part of the problem is their thinking is based on a false syllogism: Just because you like Seth, and you like Rachel, doesn’t mean Seth will like Rachel, much less fall in love with her. Needless to say, we human beings are a lot more complicated than that. The real point, though, is that this sort of math, simple or otherwise, is the wrong method to employ anyway. It’s rarely what “looks good on paper” that seems to work in romance; it’s much more about finding the right chemistry.

Trying to predict what will attract two people to each other is a difficult task. But that doesn’t mean you just throw two essentially random people against the wall and hope they stick. That’s like throwing two random chemicals into a beaker and hoping you’ll get the cure for bird flu. It’s theoretically possible, but it’s more likely to blow up in your face.

Please don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I don’t appreciate folks’ good intentions. I’m just suggesting the more successful fix-ups I’ve had have worked better because the fixer-upper has also thought with her head along with her heart. A few minutes of thought should reveal that in putting two otherwise perfectly “nice” people together, certain matches will have predictably poor results. Why put together a man who is complex and has lots of cultural interests with a relatively simple woman who is basically a homebody? Or a super-fit gal who spends a lot of time at the gym and likes hiking and the outdoors with a paunchy guy whose passion for “lifting” and “surfing” involves nothing heavier than a can of beer and nothing more adventurous than the remote control?

I’m sure you could find couples like those who do work. But the odds are against it. Contrary to “good sense,” two high-maintenance people get together all the time, for example — witness all the Hollywood marriages between two high-profile stars. But how many of those are healthy relationships that last the test of time, instead of imploding before the next issue of the Enquirer hits the newsstands?

If you think that all seems fairly obvious, you should hear some of the stories my single friends and I tell of some of the futile, blind-date goose chases we’ve been sent on.

Now, I’m not saying any of this happened with my recent New York connection. “Laura” is, in fact, not only a very nice, but also an attractive and intelligent woman, with whom I share many interests. So I don’t think my rabbi could have so easily predicted in advance that we weren’t each other’s beshert. Ah, but no sooner had I admitted that to my friends, than what did I hear next from them?

“Nu? So if you’re not so picky, what’s the matter with her?

Glenn Gottlieb is a professional mediator and corporate attorney practicing in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at gmgottlieb@hotmail.com.

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The Painful Holidays


A feeling of trepidation takes hold of my heart. The Jewish holidays are upon us again, and as a 30-something single in a family of all married siblings, I’m feeling anxiety and pain.should be excited, as I get to spend two days with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law and their kids. However, for weeks before a holiday arrives, I experience apprehension that grows exponentially as each holiday draws closer.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my family very much. I’ve always gotten along with my siblings and their spouses; I love my nieces and nephews like crazy, and I’ve always considered my family to be closer than most. The idea of being with them should ease the pain of being single and alone, and should ease the sense of loneliness I feel being single among married couples.

Hence, my feelings of guilt, because I do not look forward to being with my family during the holidays. I don’t look forward to having to put on a happy face, when cheerful is the last thing I feel. I don’t look forward to the questions my nieces invariably ask, when wanting to know why I am not yet married.

It is as if an important part of me is missing. I watch the loving eye contact between my siblings and their spouses, the hand holding under the table as we eat the holiday meals and the cheerful chattering of my nieces and nephews. I listen to talk of the kids’ baseball leagues, dance lessons and where the next family get-together should be held.

Someone tries to pull me into the conversation every once in a while, but I don’t really have anything to add. I feel separated from what is going on.

What I really want to say aloud is, “What about me? I want someone to talk to, to love, who will understand me, and really listen to me, and have things in common with me. I want to enjoy my own little boy and girl.”

Sitting in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, I have tears in my eyes, because another year has past, and I’m still alone. And being with my family only makes it worse. Seeing the happiness among my family members and knowing it’s due to the one thing I don’t have — a loving spouse and children — makes my heart ache.

Jewish holidays are times when families come together. But I don’t have my own family yet. And this point is driven home to me very clearly every time I’m with my siblings for the holidays.

I sit at the meals wishing there was someone who could understand what I’m going through, and I’ve come up with what I think is a really good idea: If there were one or more singles sitting at the meals with me, this would surely ease the loneliness I feel. They would probably be feeling some of the same emotions as I am, and we could support each other, just by sharing these times together.

I would have someone to laugh with when my nieces asked their probing questions, someone to roll my eyes at when my siblings were acting mushy and I was feeling vulnerable, and someone who would be going through what I was going through and could relate.

There are always some singles who have nowhere to go for the holidays, because their families aren’t observant or perhaps they live too far away. If these singles were invited for the Jewish holidays by families like mine, where there is one single among many married couples, this could have multiple benefits.

First and foremost, it would be a tremendous mitzvah on the part of the families doing the inviting. It would also alleviate some of the pain that the singles feel at being the only one who is single. Personally, having another single around for the holidays would make me feel less alone and more open to enjoying my family’s company, without the added burden of loneliness.

Before the holidays wrap up for the year, I wish to call out to families who have singles in their midst. I wish to tell them that we, the singles, are lonely and need help this time of year, help that could come from having other singles around.

So please, this year when we are all trying to make changes, do something new, something good, and invite singles to your tables and to your homes on Yom Tov. You will warm others’ hearts, and maybe even your own.

Michele Herenstein is a freelance journalist working in New York. She can be reached at michelesherenstein@yahoo.com.

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He’s my …


 

The term “boyfriend” is like the knee joint on someone who is morbidly obese. It is being asked to do way more than it was designed

to do. It is buckling under the pressure. Where it once could do the job, it is now carrying too much weight.

Example: My grandma had a companion with whom she would converse and play bridge after my grandpa died. They had long phone conversations, saw movies together. He accompanied grandma to certain family events. He was over 90, he used a walker, but, technically, Roy was grandma’s boyfriend.

Something about the word is just so precious. And misleading. Unless you’re safely within the confines of a sorority house or discussing someone you met in a chat room last week, that word just doesn’t work. No matter how serious or long-standing the relationship is, once you refer to him as your boyfriend, it sounds all fluffy and insignificant — and gives me the distinct sense a pillow fight is going to break out any second.

So what should you call him if “boyfriend” doesn’t seem right to you, as it never has to me?

Let me help you avoid a mistake I recently made: do not say “my friend” when referring to your romantic partner. If you refer him simply as a friend, you might as well take him for a salt scrub followed by a matinee of “Miss Congeniality 2”; that’s how emasculated he will feel. This is because, sadly, “friend” is also the word used to describe male friends with whom you have no intention of having sex, so you see the problem here. It may be satisfyingly vague and pretty much accurate, but it’s also eunuch-izing.

Moving on. Let’s get into the novelty options: there’s “my old man” and “the old ball and chain.”

I like the former, as it seems to conjure a Hell’s Angels clubhouse and leather pants. Although it’s nice to use the argot of an extra in the movie “Mask,” it can seem somewhat out of place if your “old man” drives a Camry and invests regularly in his 401(k).

“The old ball and chain” has some camp value. But like “my old man” it can be tricky using a term to refer to your partner that contains the word “old.” If he actually is old, that’s uncomfortable. If he’s much younger, in the Demi/Ashton sense, no need to bring that into relief. I’ll throw in “my main squeeze” here as another troubling novelty term. The modifier “main” suggests you have numerous other “squeezes.” Is it just me, or does that sound like “Meet Joe, he’s my main squeeze. I have so many ‘squeezes’ I have to break them down into main, secondary and auxiliary”?

Above, I used the word “partner,” which I will lump in with “companion” as totally useless if you happen to be straight, because everyone associates these expressions with same-sex couples.

Here we head into the category of sugary terms: my sweetie, my honey, my cutie pie. These make me long for the relative class of “my baby daddy.”

A nickname that is used privately is one thing, but I’m talking about the need for a public term. He can be monkey, puppy, bobo or baby in private, but when it’s time to introduce him at a party, you will need a descriptor.

“This is my little puppy pants” is just not going to do when introducing him to your boss. Here is where “my honey” nauseates anyone within earshot, “my friend” pisses him off, “my old man” is trying too hard and “my baby daddy” only works if you have kids. You are stuck with boyfriend, which will make you feel like you’re in the 1950s. Or you’re 15. Or you just wrote his name on your sweatshirt in puffy paint.

If there’s one good reason to get married, it is simply to be able to use the dignified moniker “my husband.” Even “my fiancé” has limited appeal, but husband is solid, works for all ages (except maybe under 15, like in Appalachia, when it’s creepy).

This brings me to “my man,” which has a certain twangy charm. If you can pull it off, good for you and Tammy Wynette, but it’s a bit country for most of us. There’s always “beau,” which is old-fashioned and sweet, but also cloyingly French. “Lover” barely rates a mention, because even in the 1970s it was way too ’70s.

This is where I’m left. Lucky to have the guy, but wishing I had something better to call him.

Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?”

But I notice he didn’t call his play “Ralph and Bertha.”

Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

 

Twisted Spinster


 

My friend has a red velveteen frog that lives on the arm of her red velvet sofa.

Her living room has become the gathering place for our little group, five of us, all single. We spend many a night on these couches, shoes kicked under the coffee table, ordering Chinese food, watching “American Idol.”

One day, I looked over at the frog, and I thought, that thing is so spinstery. And that’s when we named him Spinster Frog. We make him talk, which is hilarious to spinsters like us. He holds up his stuffed hand and says, “Slap me four” — because, of course, Spinster Frog only has four fingers. We pick him up and move his spindly arms and make him say things like, “Don’t go out with that guy, he wears bad shoes! Stay in and hang out with us. Spinster Frog hates second dates!”

Spinster Frog never turns into a prince. He celebrates spinsterhood.

It’s a good time to be a spinster, if you ask me, but before I tell you why let’s define our terms.

Spinster: “A woman who is not married, especially a woman who is no longer young and seems unlikely ever to marry.”

Of all the dictionary definitions I found, most of which are the same, this is my favorite because of the phrase “no longer young,” which I prefer to “old” as in “old maid.” I wish they would let me put “no longer young” on my driver’s license, under date of birth.

The word spinster doesn’t scare me. In fact, I love saying it. If you want to have some fun, just greet one of your girlfriends with a casual nod and a “Hey, spinster.” Of course you can only do this if you yourself are a spinster. Otherwise, you will be violating the cardinal rule of taking back terms that were once meant to malign (If my Jewish friend says, “Hey Heeb” that’s a funny greeting; if a non-Jew says that, it’s an ass-kicking).

At various times in history, spinsters were thought to be witches, lesbians and prostitutes — or worse, unattractive. They were even hired out as slave laborers in 17th-century England. Today, it’s hard to say what age is “no longer young” and who is “unlikely ever to marry.” For every woman who seems to be on the fast track to Spinsterville, there’s some 60-year-old hottie on the JDate of her life, meeting her soul mate.

True, many of my fellow spinsters would prefer marriage and are simply making the best of things until a man comes along. I myself like being in a committed relationship. I’m in one now. Still, I have to be honest; how can I get excited about entering into an agreement that’s easier to get out of than a cellphone contract? When one of our friends, a former member of our red couch clan, got engaged last week, she came over, told us the proposal story and showed us the ring. It was all very magical and romantic, even to a coal-hearted “no longer young” spinster like me. There were tears and genuine joy (although Spinster Frog was very sad) but a part of me had to think big whoop.

I just signed a deal with T-Mobile. Where’s my champagne?

OK, that sounded bitter, and spinsters really have to be careful to avoid the appearance of bitterness. I celebrate the ritual of marriage for those who want it. I say, “l’chaim” to you. In my now-engaged friend’s case, she couldn’t be happier. They are a perfect couple. Marriage was made for couples like this.

When telling us the proposal story, she recalled, “I barely even noticed the ring when he gave it to me, because my fantasy isn’t about a ring, it’s about being married.”

That was so beautiful.

And I wish I felt that way, but to be honest, I was thinking the opposite. I’d like some jewelry and a fun proposal story to tell my friends, but the lifetime of marriage part gives me the willies.

That’s just me. My point is, whether marriage seems enticing or not, there’s no hurry like there used to be, when you’d have to marry the last guy to take an interest in you before the spinster window shut. For most of recent history, if we weren’t married, we were pitied. These days, for every desperate spinster there’s a desperate housewife.

Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

 

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