EVENT: Hot & Holy — A provocative discussion on sex and spirituality

A provocative discussion on sex and spirituality. Whether you are single, married, have a great sex life, or want one — join the conversation as we talk about what sex means to a relationship and how it is reflected in our faith.

Moderated by Ilana Angel, panelists are Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, Sex Therapist Dr. Limor Blockman, Dating Coach David Wygant, and Hollywood Jew Danielle Berrin.  Ticket price includes admission and hors d'oeuvres.  Cash Bar. Special Valet Rate of $7.00.

Click here to buy your ticket online and secure entry. Some tickets will be available at the door. First come, first served.

My Single Peeps: Jeff O.

I mentioned to a friend that I interviewed a nice guy today and said, “You might know him. He’s in casting.” When I told her his name, she said, “You’re joking. He dated my mom. I love him.” It turns out that after breaking up, they stayed friends. I can’t think of a better endorsement for the guy.

Jeff’s from the Midwest. “Raised in a town called Munster, Ind., which is right outside of Chicago. I have a pretty decent sized family — two older brothers and a younger sister. My 82-year-old mom still does great. She travels from coast to coast to coast to see us.”  

After his sophomore year of college, Jeff dropped out to become an actor. He had been studying improv at Second City and wanted to be in Los Angeles. While in his 20s, he read about a contest to see who could live on a billboard for the longest. The winner got a screen test and a car. He actually lived — and slept — on a billboard for six months. Eventually he made a pact with the other three actors to step down together. “They said the female was the winner. Had her go back up.” Some lawyers got involved with the incident but nothing happened. And Jeff’s not bitter. “I went up to get publicity,” and because of the stunt he got an agent and a publicist. “I got a lot of exposure. And that was good enough for me. I got a radio show [on KRTH-FM 101.1] from being up there. I would get information from various casting directors around town.

“I gave myself a 10-year goal in acting and, quite honestly, if I didn’t hit that I’d start looking for different outlets and staying in the entertainment business.” He met a casting director who hired him as a casting coordinator. After he felt he’d learned everything he could about casting, he went into business for himself. “I do ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Private Practice,’ ‘Medium’ … just a lot of TV shows and movies.” It’s mainly background casting. “I’m doing a feature film right now where I’m doing principal casting. I’ve been doing background for so long that now I’ve ventured out and do anything and everything.”

Jeff, who’s 51, plays tennis and a bad game of golf. “I’m not good at it, but I enjoy being out there.” He loves to drive — especially while listening to music with the top down on his car. “If I can break away to go up to Solvang, Newport Beach or an art festival somewhere, I jump in a car. I don’t hold back.”

When it comes to a woman, he’s looking for a best friend. “I’m looking for someone who understands me, will be supportive of what I do and lend her thoughts and visions to my future as much as I’d do for her. A true partnership, which is traditional, like when our parents got into a relationship and you felt it. You got into it, you went on a date and you wanted it to continue not because you had to, but because you wanted it to. Nowadays dating is such a revolving door. People are going on dates and not giving it the full commitment of the date. They’re making up their mind in a minute because they know they can get back online and get another date. She doesn’t have to like everything I like, but we’d certainly have a lot of commonalities, and first and foremost we’re just two good people who want to come together and be a happy couple. Everything else doesn’t matter. What really matters is you have a really true connection.”

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: Eric Z.

I like Eric right away for the most shallow of reasons — he’s got a New York accent and he dresses like my father did: jeans, tucked-in polo shirt, tassel loafers with colored socks. East Coast preppy. My father died 20 years ago, but sometimes little things can trigger my emotional memory and I find myself missing him out of nowhere. This was one of those times. 

Eric went to MIT and worked for years at Mobil Chemical as a chemical engineer. When he said it, I got a weird feeling in my stomach. How could a guy who reminded me of my dad work for a corporation making atomic weapons that kill puppies and babies? Granted, I should probably educate myself a bit on how chemistry works, but still … it sounded evil. I pressed him, like any good journalist would. And I got to the source of the truth. He made plastic foam for meat trays and egg cartons. Probably evil egg cartons, but I couldn’t be sure, so I moved on.

“Great engineers are tinkerers at heart, and I was more interested in the business side of things. So I went back to business school at Harvard. I said the only place I think I’d want to live that I haven’t been is the San Francisco Bay Area. So when I graduated, that’s where I went. I was in Silicon Valley back in the early ’80s. This was rock-and-roll heaven. There were always more positions than there were people.” After a few misses, he worked for Sun Microsoft Systems from the mid-’80s to 1999. “I came [to Los Angeles] to sell in 1988.” After 13 years, he grew bored and took some other sales jobs. Now he does a few small consulting projects. “But the women shouldn’t worry they have another guy who’s out of work. I don’t have a rent check to worry about or a car payment to make.”

He’s had a few long-term relationships, but they didn’t work out. At 58, “let me be the first to tell you, it’s no fun being single and alone. This was not my grand plan. Part of the challenge for me in L.A. is I don’t meet many women here that have enough East Coast umph behind them. They’re not sharp enough, quick enough, [or] worldly enough. [The] entertainment industry has a lot of New Yorkers here, but I’m not in the entertainment industry. Not even close. I’m looking for a woman who has some substance, a life of her own, a career, interests, [and she] brings something to the table that fascinates me. A woman also needs to be attractive and fit. I’m not talking model good looks, but she has to place some importance on it. I work out four or five days a week. I’m vegetarian. I think you just feel better when you’re healthy, and I think it just comes across.”

Eric’s favorite things to do are play golf on Sundays and go to Mulberry’s pizza on Friday nights. “I still think of myself as a New Yorker, even though I haven’t lived in New York in 40 years. I sit at the counter, eat a slice, and read the Post.” He smiles and laughs about it. The guys who work there, he says, “tease the heck out of me.”

“I did a lot of traveling when I worked for Sun. The travel part of it per se is just miserable. It’s just more of a hassle — and again, I want someone to do it with. I’ve been to a lot of places. It’s not as much fun alone. I’d much rather have a traveling companion.” 

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: Aviv A.

Aviv, 34, shows up to our interview dressed to the nines. He’s wearing khakis, a blue chambray shirt and a plaid blazer. He’s wearing Gant — a label I like a lot. And I appreciate how fastidious he is about clothing. “When you work in video games, everyone around you is a nerd or geek. They all wear the same shorts and T-shirts. Two years ago, I decided to start dressing like a grown-up. I find I get compliments from everyone. I know what I like, and I’m very picky, so it usually just works out.”

He works as a video game animator. “I make them, but I don’t play them. I do it all day at work; I don’t want to do it when I come home. I prefer to cook or read a book.”

Aviv was born in Israel but spent most of his childhood all over the world. “I grew up in Africa, Italy and Portugal, so I was more exposed to Western culture and traditions and ways of thinking. In Israel, it’s very different, and I have a hard time fitting in there. [It’s] a very rough-and-tumble place.” Yet after graduating from high school in Nairobi, he went back to Israel to serve in the army.

He’s an intellectual. Growing up, he said, “My father insisted that there was an unlimited budget for books and knowledge. Know as much as you can, think, discuss politics and philosophy. It’s almost a sacred duty to do that. Epicureans are the most appealing to me. In America, we’re taught happiness can be bought; philosophy teaches you about friendship and the value of sitting around, talking and [eating] good food.”

He’s a small guy, but athletic. “People seem to love hiking here for some reason, but I consider it just walking.” He hikes to relax and takes Krav Maga to work out. “I like the pragmatic nature of it and the fact that I can hold my own in a fight if it comes to that.”

But when it comes to women, he was, in his own words, “a late bloomer. Maybe because I moved around so much.

“College was a very different experience here than what was expected in Israel. In Israel, it’s your time to start getting serious; here, it’s your last party before you start work. I spent all my time studying, working or being in the lab.

“I was married eight years ago in New York City. I met her through a friend in college. I didn’t take New York well. I was always stressed out and always on edge, and we just stopped spending time together. I wanted to get out and go somewhere else, and she wanted to stay in New York. I think one of the reasons we didn’t work out is because we didn’t talk to each other. We were different people, and we were stressed out and worried about jobs, and we didn’t take the time to stop and smell the roses.

“You can’t really appreciate something that’s [of] value until you lose it. My parents didn’t have a good relationship. They were always at each other’s throats, and the lessons I took from them was what not to do. And the lessons on what to do, I’m still figuring out. I think it’s communicating and spending time together. You have to take a day or two and turn the phones off and just talk. I spent a lot of time on my own, so I can appreciate being alone, but I don’t like it. I miss having someone to talk to.”

I’m guessing that after this article comes out, Aviv will have plenty of women to keep him company.

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: Guershon M.

The most embarrassing aspect of Guershon’s life is that he’s 34 and lives with his mom, so of course I’ll lead with that. “I started film school and I [moved in with my mom], and the hardest thing for me was it seemed like [my friends] had all their s—- together. It was really hard for me to really go out a lot and date … and it’s gotten progressively harder. It’s kind of hard to say, ‘Yeah, I live at home.’ It was really embarrassing — especially when I hit 30. Then I started seeing my friends where I lived saying, ‘I got laid off. I can’t believe it, but I have to live with my parents again.’ So I said, ‘OK, this leveled the playing field a little for me.’ ”

Guershon’s not a lazy guy. He and his writing partner had some heat on a script, and when it fell through, they sat back down and kept writing. “I picked up the book ‘The Perfect Pitch’ and [the author, Ken Rotcop] had a workshop, and I called him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, come in.’ ” Ken has become a mentor to Guershon. “We got an agent through him, and our writing’s gotten better — more commercial. I’m right on that cusp — it’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.” 

Guershon’s family is from Mexico City, though he was born in Houston. He was raised Jewish, went to a Jewish day school and had a bar mitzvah’d — but he never felt that he fit in. “I kind of had this disdain for the religion or how judgmental I felt people on Pico were, because they’re like, ‘You speak Spanish and you’re Jewish?’ ” A lot of that changed when he met Rabbi Drew Kaplan, the rabbi for Southern California Jewish Student Services. “I started connecting as a Jew, not because it was forced on me. And while I’m not a perfect fit, it is my community, and I do care about it.

I look to his feet. He’s wearing what appear to be shoes, but they’re in the shape of feet — Vibram FiveFingers. I imagine they make sense for a guy who works out as often as he does, but there’s no hiding the fact that they’re ugly. “You’d wear them on a date?” I ask. “Yeah, I would. I even have a suede pair.” I guess he saves those for finer dining.

“I want a serious relationship. I’m not playing anymore. I haven’t wanted to play for a long time. And I’m not a huge drinker — I don’t like going to the bars or clubs. So if that’s what I wanted, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. I’ve never really had a problem getting a date; it’s, ‘What kind of date?’ Truth is, every one of my girlfriends have been beauty queens and models. I admit I’m vain. That’s what I like.  That doesn’t matter as much anymore, but I like a girl who’s thin and athletic.”

“What kind of person are you?” I ask. “I really care about people. If you’re my friend and you call me at 2 a.m. because there’s something wrong, I’ll get my ass in the car and drive down just to make sure you’re OK. I can sometimes come across as very forward or cocky, but it’s just because I’m very open. You always know where you stand with me. I’m never going to hide how I feel. If I’m sad, you know I’m sad. If I’m happy, you know I’m happy. If I’m angry, you know I’m angry. I’m the worst poker player in the world.”

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: Isaac S.

When Isaac sits down to speak with me, I see the rugged beard with a shot of gray around the chin, the athletic build and the tight-fitting Israeli-style clothes, and I think, “I know exactly who this guy is.” He has an Israeli accent, so when he first says to me, “In Israel I was in the army and then came here and worked as a professional dancer,” I’m not sure I’ve heard correctly. A dancer? I ask him to repeat himself.

“Ballroom dancing. I got an offer to come here and dance with a company, but after two months I didn’t like their style, so I opened up my own group.”  Two things about that sentence make me smile. One, the fact that this macho guy loves to ballroom dance. And two, I’m always impressed by the Israeli chutzpah to be in a new country for only two months, and, not liking the way something is run, they’ll start their own company.

“At that time, I was working two jobs — dancing and woodworking. [Carpentry] was my father’s work; since 10 years old, I was working with him.  And I was running from it.  I hated it.  But when I came here, I thought, ‘Let’s make money doing something I know.’ The dance group was running — it was my passion — but the woodworking was doing well.”

Although his company was growing, he hit a wall. “I felt stuck. Then I was introduced to Landmark Forum [and it] changed my life. I understand that I’m capable, and I can do way more, [so] I opened another company. And [with] this company right now, I’m actually living my dream. I know what my path is. I’m very successful — 2011 was really bad for everyone, and mine was the best of the 11 years I was here.” His new business helps brand companies, as well as build and design their facilities — often kiosks, or retail stores, restaurants and malls.  “What I like here in L.A. is there are more opportunities than [in] Israel. When you want something, go and do it. No one will stop you. No limitations. If I see any limit, I lose my drive. If I don’t see any limit, my drive can go on and on and on.”

I ask him about women. “I want a woman who has her own life, and [we] can grow from there.” He doesn’t want a woman who’s getting into a relationship from a needy place. “I want to wake up in the morning and see a beautiful woman who takes care of herself and cares about herself.” Isaac is 34 but thinks 27 or 28 is a good age for a woman: “A good state of mind for a girl. But if I meet a great girl, I’m really open [to any age].”

I ask him what he’s like as a boss; I think it says a lot about a person. “I’m very understanding, because I came from where they come from. Everyone says the customer is the first thing. For me, it’s my workers. I’ve done jobs where they mistreat my workers, and I leave the job. They are like my family — no matter what position they are.

“My vision is 10 years from now I live in my house in Costa Rica, my kids running around and a beautiful wife in a bikini running on the beach. I already have land over there. My vision is to make good businesses that work without me, and then I can really enjoy the time. Go back and forth. And that, for me, would be a good success.”

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: Lawrence J.

Lawrence is a South African Jew who has been in Southern California since he was 10. I met him through his sister, Francine, who briefly dated my eldest brother after they met abroad on a high-school trip. I hadn’t seen Francine in years, so she tagged along for the interview.

Lawrence is wearing a “Cat in the Hat” T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops when we meet. He’s got sleeve tattoos and an eyebrow piercing. He makes statements like, “I really want to change the world,” and he says it so sincerely and with such excitement that he reminds me of a naive college freshman taking his first sociology class. But he’s a divorced 42-year-old father with three daughters, and he’s well aware of the complexities in the world. Six years ago, Lawrence was married and working six days a week running a very successful stone and tile business he had started at 21 — designing his own lines and distributing them around the United States. “I also have some retail stores.” He emulated his father. “The way we were raised in South Africa, you had kids, had a career and made a lot of money,” Francine says. But his divorce rocked him to his foundation. “I also got sober at the same time,” he adds.

“I restructured my business, so I put in 10 hours a week at the office. It always used to be just about money — that’s how I was raised. Now, I just want to love everyone.” His sister jokes with him, “Who are you? Do I know you?” He continues, “In my personal life I’m trying to be really honest and ethical and present, and trying to bring my business in line with that. I’m trying to have every person who works for me get paid days every month to go out and work in their community. We look for anyone who’s struggling and look for ways to help them. A couple of years ago, some of my staff who work in my San Diego store went on a mission to Mexico to help build houses for people who couldn’t afford to build their own homes.”

Lawrence tells me about getting his toenails painted with his daughters — “I don’t want to miss out on something if they’re doing it. My exterior looks like it’s really out there, but my values and everything are traditional. Family’s important to me. I’m looking for someone who’s close to their family — that’s really, really important to me. I’m looking for someone who’s spiritual, grounded and has a strong sense of self. Spiritual practice would be No. 1. Intelligence would be No. 2. What I’m craving more than anything in my life is connectivity — and the only part of my life where I haven’t found that is in a relationship.”

I ask him what he sees his life like with a girlfriend. “I’d love to travel with them, meditate with them, do yoga with them, camp and hike … do one of the trails — as long as they’ll protect me from the bears. I’m scared of the bears,” he says. Francine jokes, “and the dark.” He agrees, “A little bit. I slept with a light on until I was 36. It didn’t dawn on me that I wasn’t scared of the dark until I got divorced. I didn’t know I liked stinky cheese either. And olives.” He laughs. “I believe in fairy tales. I love romantic movies. My daughters look at me in the middle of romantic movies, and I’m crying.”

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: EG Daily

The first time I saw EG I was just starting to train at the Howard Fine Acting Studio.  She looked familiar, but I didn’t put it together immediately.  Then it clicked — Dottie!  From “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”!  After we became friends and had worked together on various scenes for class, it was always hard for me to resist saying, “I’m a loner, Dottie.  A rebel.”  It still is.

Her family is European.  She’s one of five kids — one was born in France, another in Israel.  She was born in L.A.  “I was raised in a normal, middle-class neighborhood with kids.  We walked to school, whereas my kids now go to school in the Valley, so you have to drive.”

EG was more of a dancer and singer than an actor … “but I learned to be good at it.  And once I graduated high school, I started booking movies.  Lots of cult films.  Simultaneously did music, wrote songs and was on soundtracks.

“I was married maybe seven years — had two kids. [The ex and I] get along fine.  I love my girls.  I put a lot of attention on them — make sure my kids are priority.”

“What did you learn from divorce?” I ask.  She says, “You know that game — ‘Hot, hot, hot, you’re getting cold, cold, cold’ ”?  I nod, yes.  “It’s pretty simple.  If it feels good, it’s hot, hot, hot; if I want to get out, it’s cold, cold, cold.  How does it feel, is the big question.  I think when you’re with the right person, your life gets better.”

We talk about the difficulty in meeting men.  She’s now more known for voicing cartoon characters on projects like “Rugrats,” “Happy Feet” and “The Powerpuff Girls,” so her fans have changed.  “I started doing a lot of voiceover because I was being a mommy, so it sort of just worked itself out for me.  I was able to be there for [my kids], so voiceovers just blew up.  It was fun for them, too, to have the mommy who was the successful cartoon mommy.  I still have a lot of guys who are in love with me from ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.’  I had to weed through a lot of people at that point.”

I ask her what kind of men she likes.  “I like funny, connected, kind and sensitive — not out of touch, [where] you don’t feel like you can share what you’re really feeling.  Someone who’s comfortable with himself and also works on himself and is growing.  Someone who brings to the party, rather than a taker.  Someone who’s your best friend, who you’re super attracted to.  That’s ideal.  And where you feel at home.  I always say, where you feel like you’re sitting in a warm bath.”

“How do you meet guys?” I ask.  “At my car.” I laugh.  “Seriously, I get notes on my car.”  “Do you respond to them?”  She doesn’t.  But I get the feeling she finds it flattering.  “Guys come over to me in stores, in a market, in the gym. … I was at a party and met someone I dated that way.  I don’t have a 9-to-5 job, so I meet people out.  I’ve dated other dads from the kids’ school.  It was cool.

“I’d say he should be between 40 and 55.  I’m in a different place now.  I feel like I’ve been out of the loop, because I’ve been raising children. … Some dating, but nothing serious.  But now I feel like there’s more of an opening for having a partner.  Because what else is there?  Printing up resumes, doing your auditions, but at the end of the day, what else is there besides companionship?”

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: Ruthie B.

Ruthie, who is 81 now, was raised in Chicago. An abused child, she was sent away to live on a farm called Glen Eyrie in Delavan, Wis. “You know what it was like in the ’30s if you had a mean mother — no one talked about it. I know how to milk cows, kill chickens.”

Although she’s Jewish, she learned every Christian hymn in the book there. “That’s where I started to become a musician.” She took the train there every weekend, and in the summers for many years. “I still take trains today.”

When she was 17, she went to a music school in Aspen, Colo., run by the folk singer Richard Dyer-Bennet. She lived with him way up in the mountains for two years, until she got a scholarship to Bennington College, where she majored in anthropology. Her teacher, a Nobel laureate, told her to major in literature and she responded, “No. If I major in literature, I’d have nothing to write about.” She flew out to California to finish a paper, and that’s where she met her first husband, a clinical psychologist and father of her three children. I say first husband, because Ruthie has been married three times. Her second and third husbands passed away; six years ago, she lost the husband she calls her beshert.

She speaks so quickly — and jumps from tangent to tangent so often — that I finally grab her by the arms to ask her something, hoping it will slow her down. I hold on as she answers, but this leads her to another story, and she’s off and running again. So I give up and let her speak.

Ruthie’s spent most of her life on the radio, where she got the nickname “Uncle Ruthie” after doing a sketch satirizing all the on-air personalities with the nickname “uncle.” At some point she got a teaching degree, with a focus in special education. “I have worked with every single kind of special-needs kid there is. For the last 10 years, I’ve been with blind kids. I’m a music teacher at the Blind Childrens Center. I teach children from birth to second grade.”

I ask her when she’s retiring. She says, “Someone asked me about retiring and I said, ‘Maybe one day,’ and the principal said, ‘Never. She won’t ever retire.’ ‘What if I were to drop over dead?’ ‘We’ll sit you against the couch and go on with the song.’ ”

Her philosophy about school is, “Learning has to be fun. If you’re not excited about what you’re learning, there’s no point. The purpose of school isn’t to have knowledge thrown into you, it’s to teach you to teach yourself. To be self-winding. All your life, you’re going to be learning.”

“What do you want in a man?” I ask. “He should be breathing,” she jokes. “He should be progressive and vital and living in the world. I will not go to football games. I like tennis, and track and field. I like Olympics. I want someone who’s a left-wing, politically active person who does not object to taxes being raised. I want somebody who likes theater, arts and music. And has a very active life of his own. I don’t want anyone who says to me, ‘How come you’re so busy?’ I want someone who’s also busy. Someone who’s had a happy marriage. Someone who’s had good relationships with women. At this point, I could sum it up in one word who I’d like to meet — anybody.”

If you want to hear more of Ruthie, tune in to “Halfway Down the Stairs With Uncle Ruthie” on KPFK 90.7 FM on 8:30 Saturday mornings.

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: Gary L.

Gary’s brother, Jason, is a recent single peep. And, like Jason, Gary’s a nice, easygoing guy. But, he tells me, this wasn’t always the case. In college, just as he was launching an online magazine, his personality started to shift. He became moody and paranoid, and he was riddled with anxiety. And then one morning he woke up with double vision. He went to a doctor, who thought it might have been from a hockey injury. During a CAT scan, Gary fell asleep and had a nightmare that he was being chased by the hospital staff. Suddenly he snapped awake, and found himself strapped down to a hospital bed. It wasn’t a dream. They ran tests, discovering his glucose levels had dropped so low that his brain was no longer functioning properly. They also found a tumor on his pancreas. It had been slowly growing for 10 years. As soon as it was removed, all the strange behavior disappeared and the old Gary came back.

Gary now lives with his younger brother, who is a partner in their T-shirt line, Nerdy Shirts. He is also relaunching his online magazine, A.Refuge — the Web site is arefuge.com. “The goal is to inspire people and motivate them to get involved with charities, and highlight artists that we look up to. I’m trying to focus on inspiring people. That’s my No. 1 goal.” I ask him what that means. “Inspire them to be better versions of themselves. I’m pretty persistent.”

When it comes to dating, he’s looking for a real relationship. “I’m like a prude in some ways. I’ve never had a one-night stand. If it’s something that’s not purposeful, it feels like a waste of time to me. Once I’m with a girl, if it feels like it’s building toward something, the whole prude title goes out the door. It’s like a two-stage process. Looks get them in the door, and personality keeps them there. And they’re both pretty rigid requirements, I guess. The last girl — who happened to be a model — loved comic books, video games, cartoons … all the goofy guy things that nerds like. I was like, ‘Oh rad, we’re gonna be best friends.’ All of a sudden she started flirting with me, and I realized she was into me. Then she bailed on me when I got sick. She was perfect except for that.”

I ask about personality preferences. “It’s like one of those things where you need enough of the pieces lined up, but a few jagged edges to show you new things.” He continues, “A good sense of humor, someone who understands sarcasm and is OK with a little bit of back-and-forth ribbing.” Ambition is also important to him. “I don’t care what it is. If you want to be the best goddamn waitress in the world, that’s fine. But aim for the top.”

I ask him what he’s learned from his experience with the tumor. He says, “There’s no way I don’t feel super lucky and appreciate that it was averted. No one would wish this on anyone, but it wasn’t a bad experience, because of everything I learned and the people I met. The hospital staff at Cedars-Sinai — I felt so loved. They’re strangers, but they’d come in on their off shifts just to say hi.

“My favorite thought to have in my head through it all was of Calvin’s dad from ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’ Every time something bad would happen, Calvin’s dad would justify it and make it OK by saying, ‘You’re building character.’ I love that. They’d say, ‘We’re taking out the catheter now.’ I’d say, ‘OK, I’m going to build some character now.’ ”

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: Aimee L.

Aimee was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., but went to college in upstate New York to get as far away from the South as possible. “Memphis was kind of racist and conservative, and I felt like there was a different world out there that I wanted to check out. When I was 12, I went to New York and thought, “Dang, this is the place for me.” All traces of her accent are gone, until I hear her say “dang.” Let’s face it, even without the accent, you’d never hear a New Yorker say “dang.”

“I’m an artist. As a way to kind of integrate my creative self with supporting myself and being a grown-up, I moved into design.” She works at an architecture firm. “I’d technically call myself an environmental designer more than an interior designer. It’s about looking at spaces as a whole environment and designing every part of it.”

After living in various cities, she settled in Los Angeles eight years ago. “New York had changed. It wasn’t the bohemia it had once been. I went on dates with investment bankers. And the city was turning into a mall — there was a Gap on every corner.”

She flew to Los Angeles to look at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and when she saw the mountains from the plane, she said to herself, “I’m moving.”

“The first few months, I felt like all these shingles that had encased me while living [in New York] fell off. I like a little bit of a softer lifestyle. A softer city. Not that L.A.’s so soft. [But] New York takes itself so freaking seriously.

“I love L.A. I feel like it’s a city with a sense of humor. There’s so much irony and wit — just in terms of the architecture, colors and signage — and layered on top of that, all the crazy people. I think it’s super beautiful in and among all the ugliness. Whereas New York and San Francisco are already established who they are as cities, [in L.A.] you can put up a hedge and never know there’s a restaurant or store back there. Because L.A.’s so huge, and this kind of massive amoebic monster, L.A. doesn’t need to be one kind of thing. I can be in one part of town and there are roosters crowing, and in another part of town it’s urban. I can do something in one part of town that might be a success and something in another part of town that might not be a success.”

Aimee is looking for a youthful guy between 36 and 42. “I’m the typical Jewish woman who never finds herself attracted to Jewish men. Well, I mean I do. But it’s hard. It’s complicated. I can’t handle a mama’s boy. He needs to be somewhat developed, and — this sounds so cheesy — on a path of self-awareness, growth and inner reflection. Just an interesting dude. He doesn’t have to party all night. He can be interested in gardening.

“I feel like what I’m good at, and really passionate at, is just making things. My fantasy is to have a beautiful piece of property — doesn’t have to be huge — but has a house and a studio and a big wooden table where I can work on my stuff. And in my dream, everyone’s barefoot. The one thing I like is working on multimedia. One day I like working on pottery, next day making jewelry, maybe that afternoon I’m painting. I’m a crafty/arty girl. I just want to be making stuff … and selling it. And maybe teaching a little. And ideally there’s a kid or two in there somewhere. And I’m cool with adopting.”

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: Ian L.

Ian grew up with two much older sisters, but “I was kind of like an only child … good life, good childhood, maids … I even had a wet nurse.”

He was a very bright kid —“not like jerky smart, but like an old soul.” In second grade, his parents moved him to a Jewish day school. “My friends went to shul, my parents didn’t.” He taught his parents about the Jewish laws, though they never got them right.

He went to Vassar College, where he was dating women, but secretly fooling around with guys. “I went to the quintessential perfect college, and it would have been perfect to come out, but AIDS hit, and I said, ‘I’m sticking to women.’ It was one thing to deviate from the norm, but, at the time, it went so hand in hand with an emaciated corpse with lesions, and it was sensory overload. So I stayed with women, and got loaded and got high.

“By senior year, I couldn’t do it anymore. I got sober. My legacy at college is I founded the first continuous AA meeting at Rockefeller Hall, Monday night.” After graduation, Ian moved to Israel with his girlfriend — “to avoid real life and to delay the inevitable.” He started drinking again. It was 1990, and he was taking classes in an ulpan to help Americans who want to join the Israeli army. “We’re handing out gas masks, because Saddam is threatening to send out Scuds. I’m thinking, ‘Who am I? I’m probably gay, I have a drinking problem, and I’m about to go in the army. I get a letter from my mother on beautiful embossed stationary. It reads, ‘Ian, I know why you’re doing this. It’s because you found your adoption papers.’ ” He was thrown — adopted? “My first thought was, ‘I’m not Jewish. Get me the f—- out of here.’ My second thought was, ‘How do I protect my mother?’ I knew I loved my family, and my identity, and in that one letter I had nothing — or so I thought. And it afforded me the opportunity to create my destiny. I came home, got sober, came out of the closet, and here we are today.”

I ask him about the kind of guy he’s looking for. He says, “They have to be smart. I want someone opinionated, with passions and beliefs. I love a good argument. For me, the most important quality in a guy is kindness, and ‘kind’ holds more than the basic definition that he’s nice. Kind goes to the soul — empathetic, nurturing, helps a stranger. And if they value themselves, they value the world. I’m a social worker. I work with the poor, I work with the downtrodden. With all the advantages I’ve had in my life, I’ve had my share of crap — more so than most — but I was lucky I had a foundation where I knew I was loved. I don’t get depressed. I barely get upset. When people are upset or aggravated, I look at them and say, ‘That’s a choice.’ A lot of that comes from my sobriety and working the program.”

I ask him if he dates a lot. “It’s just easier to be single these days because I have such a full life, so I have to put the energy toward bringing love in my life so at the same time I don’t feel any void or anything lacking. I’m certainly open to it; I’m not closed off to it, but I’m open to making it richer. I’ve become very wise. I’m an old soul, but at the same time I’m incredibly immature and silly, and I love that balance. It’s who I am.”

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: Altara M.

Altara is an only child, raised in New York. She wants to find a man from the East Coast. And when she wants something, she goes after it. That’s how she got in this column.

“At 27, I bought myself a little Mercedes. I focused on something I was really good at. I sold advertising. Because I had so much success in that, I was able to go to Sundance and become a journalist, do my own radio show, do some acting work. Because I know my pattern of behavior, when I say I’m going to do this as my full-time job, it frees me up to do it.”

She’s 32 now and wants to get her real-estate license and start selling homes. But her passion is entertainment. “When you’re passionate about something, you’ll put all your energy into making it successful because you deem it important.” She tells me about the documentary she’s been working on — “It’s going to be out of this world.”

She’s an only child, and, unlike someone like me — the third of four siblings — she is brimming with self-esteem. She doesn’t seem to have a fear of failure, or any self-deprecation. “A casting director called me in to play the younger version of Barbra Streisand. So when I get things now, they’re pretty big.” I ask her if she got the job. “No. It went to a girl who had her nose and her eyes.”

She takes charge of the interview and asks me, “Do you want to know what I like to do?” I shrug. “Sure.” She says, “Hiking, working out, anything that has to do with working hard and pushing myself. I like to do Bikram yoga when I feel like being really cruel to myself. I hike Runyon [Canyon] five to seven days a week for about an hour and a half per day. I go to the gym for body-sculpting classes and Pilates classes, and I like to use the treadmill and talk to my friends. I love movies, of course. I love to do new things. When I go on a date, I like to do new things. If they do the same thing the last guy did, it’s unoriginal.”

“So, no dinners?” I ask. She says, “It comes down to original conversation. Show me your real personality. Even if it’s just grabbing a bite to eat, if the person is interesting, who cares what we’re doing.”

She wants to meet a man who isn’t on the same page as her — “maybe a little further ahead. Maybe a little older. I’d like to meet someone in the business out here, but I’m not opposed to meeting a doctor.” A Jewish woman looking for a doctor? Shocker.

“I’m looking for the real deal. I’m looking for a soul mate. My parents have been married for 39 years. I think they’re perfect for one another.”

Altara didn’t grow up religious, but she recently started going to Shabbat dinners hosted by a Chabad rabbi. “Everyone I met most recently in the Jewish community is amazing, and it’s like everyone knows each other. I realize I like having that “family” out here. I didn’t realize how powerful it could be. The people I’m hanging out with are amazing, and I guess I didn’t realize that until I needed it.”

She’s decided to start saying yes to more things in life. “I think that’s the moral of the story when it comes to my life. Sometimes you just have to keep moving forward when it comes to doing things. Choose new avenues — and keep yourself open and not be closed off.”

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.

JDate study claims more Jewish marriage matches than its competitors

The Jewish dating Web site JDate recently announced results from a study that claims the site is responsible for facilitating more Jewish marriages than all other dating Web sites combined. The study, commissioned in-house by JDate’s parent company, Spark Networks, and conducted by the research company ResearchNow, reportedly was based on a survey of 948 Jewish Internet users who have married since 2003. Of those surveyed, 52 percent said they met their match on JDate, compared with Match.com, which facilitated 17 percent, and eHarmony, which can claim 10 percent.

Spark Networks released the results of the study on a single-page press release that contained several added statistics to support its claims, but did not provide any additional supporting materials, including how the participants were selected and specific details on what questions were asked. Requests to obtain the full study were denied by Spark Networks and by ResearchNow, which operates under terms of strict confidentiality.

Steven M. Cohen, a research professor of Jewish social policy for Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner, said that while the results of the study may be credible, they are not verifiable.

“The recently conducted study, while promising, doesn’t provide enough of the critical details that we need to assess the validity of its claims,” Cohen said during a phone interview. “It’s like getting an untested product from an unknown manufacturer — it may be a good product, but there could be serious flaws.”

In addition to claiming credit for the majority of Jewish marriages facilitated online, the study also notably claims that 63 percent of all Jewish dates since 2008 were fostered by JDate (up 6 percent since 2003), compared with Match.com’s 19 percent and eHarmony’s 7 percent; that 76 percent of those Jews who used an online dating service used JDate; and more than half the Jews who have married since 2008 report having used an online dating site in their search for a partner.

If true, those are the kinds of claims that JDate, which bills itself as “the premier Jewish singles community online,” should be proud to publicize. So why is the company refusing to disclose the full results of the study?

Cohen wondered whether JDate’s parent company fears subjecting the study to the academic community’s scientific standards. But he also said that it is not unusual for a commercial enterprise to conduct its own research and use select claims in their advertising. “The behavior is not the most admirable, but it is not illegal or unethical,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he sees value in the company regardless of the results, saying that the very existence of JDate promotes Jewish marriage at a time when more and more Jews are marrying later — or maybe not at all — or, alternatively, intermarrying. “Right now we are seeing significant adverse demographic consequences of nonmarriage and intermarriage for the Jewish population in America,” he said. “And JDate promises to promote marriage and probably in-marrying,” and that as long “as we can promote marriage and in-marriage, we can promote the stability, if not the expansion of, the Jewish population in the coming generations.”

My Single Peeps: Michele K.

As soon as Michele sits down with me, she says, “I’m crap at talking about myself.” Hear it with a British accent, and it’s 10 times cuter. I’ve known Michele for years — she’s a friend of a friend — and I realize I don’t know a whole lot about her. She really is crap at talking about herself. She’s a great listener. And unlike the rest of us who moved to Los Angeles because we’re desperate for attention due to getting lost in big, loud families and having dead fathers (just me?), Michele is quietly comfortable with who she is.

Michele grew up in England, in a small Jewish community outside of London. “We grew up kosher, Shabbat, and that’s kind of how everyone was there.” But, she says, “There were very few Jews in my high school.” To counter that, her parents sent her to a Zionist camp, “which was all about Israel. I spent a year in Israel when I was 18 and made aliyah when I was 27. I lived in Israel for seven years. I grew up to be a Zionist.”

She moved to Los Angeles 11 years ago. “Israel’s not an easy place to live. I had the best time, a great life socially, but work-wise and living-wise it’s a tough place. Israelis are tough. Energy’s tough.” 

Michele runs her own business, Mak Designs. “I do design consultancy. I go to homes or events and help people figure out what colors they want. I don’t even need to buy new stuff. I’ll help them organize their house. I do a lot of weddings.”

She’s 43, but is open to dating anyone between 35 and 50. “I want to have a family. I think that’s important. I’m definitely interested in someone who wants to have kids.” She’s also spiritual and looking for someone similarly minded, who’s “not just living in the physical.” Although she wasn’t raised in a spiritual home, it always appealed to her. “I was always interested in angels and going to psychics and meditation, and it just grew and grew. I was always looking for ways to change and ways to grow. I don’t think you can change in this world unless you have some kind of faith, some kind of spiritual path, some kind of connection to God initially.”

I ask her more about being spiritual, and she says, “I don’t want to freak people out. I wouldn’t use the word normal, but I’m a very grounded, practical person. I believe in the physical, I’m grounded, I’m on this planet. I think you have to balance the spiritual and the physical. Some people go off on a mountain and meditate, but what are they actually doing with their lives?”

I wind my way back to the subject of dating and ask her if she works at it. “Oh God, no one can fault me for not trying. I date. I’ve been in lots of relationships. I broke up with someone recently and started dating again. Even though I get to the point of ‘I’m not going on a f—-ing blind date ever again,’ I do. I just think I haven’t met the right guy. I’m not looking for Mr. Regular. I think I’m always looking for something more. And I think those guys aren’t easy to find.” 

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: David B.

David grew up in Miami — my mother was his elementary school teacher. Apparently he was always a nice kid. I’m not even sure he ever had a rebellious teenager phase. He’s a musician — and not only are his songs in the safe styling of Michael Buble, they’re also for children. “Every time I thought creatively of writing a romantic song, it came across as stupid, so I started writing kids’ music. I try to write things that say the world is a silly place and try to connect to that. From a writing standpoint, it opens you up to anything. I have a lyric in my song that says, ‘She built a ladder out of carrots that can reach up to the moon,’ and that’s probably not in a Pearl Jam song.”

He’s 35 and runs a DJ entertainment business called Groovy David Entertainment, where he performs at parties, bar mitzvahs and some malls around Los Angeles. Los Angeles magazine named him Best Kids’ DJ this year. “I love working with kids. They’re the most honest critics you’ll ever have. If a kid’s not digging you, they’ll pretty much express it right up front. It’s the same high of anyone who’s doing something creative. When you have the gratification of seeing something that was in your brain causing joy and wonder, and you can see it in their face, it’s not a fake golf clap reaction. It’s very addicting — and it’s why I keep doing it.”

He had a short marriage — six months — and is just starting to get back to dating. “I’m open to what I bump into. I’m looking for the happy accident. I think those are great. I’m trying not to have too many preconceived notions anymore.”

I ask him what he learned from his divorce.

“I’ve learned that you never know — it’s always the stuff that’s behind the scenes that’s the real stuff. The foundation thing is kind of important. My favorite couple is a friend who’s Israeli and she’s English. And if you lined them up, you’d never have thought they’d be the couple to end up together. But they’re the best. They are always ragging on each other all the time but they love each other, and they take care of their two kids, and the rest is noise. They’re so dedicated to making their family work.

“In terms of a girl, it’s cliché but you gotta both laugh — not the same sense of humor, but have a sense of humor and both be able to laugh at life. Even at the unfortunateness of it. I think we try to delude ourselves that life’s predictable — but it’s not. And if you’re going to be with someone, you need to be able to laugh at that stuff together. When your kid spills her drink all over your shirt, you have to just go with it.” 

I guess being a kids’ DJ has given David some insight, because as a father, I completely know what it’s like to have a warm bottle of milk dumped on my shirt … and as an actor I know what it’s like to show up at an audition wearing that same wet shirt. “Hi, I’m here to play the hip single guy. No, it’s not raining outside. My daughter spilled her milk on my shirt. Yes, that is a “Dora the Explorer” sticker on my elbow. Thanks for pointing that out.”

David continues, “It takes a long time to be OK with being yourself, and you still work on it no matter how old you are. Whoever you’re going to be with has to respect you for you, and you for them. And that’s it. I think the rest you can kind of figure out as you go along.”

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.

My Single Peeps: J Keith

When I first met J Keith, I found his personality really grating. A friend brought him to a softball game my wife and I used to organize every Sunday. He was competitive and started to take over the game. I’m not competitive.  I’m not a huge fan of sports. But I loved our low-key softball games. And this guy was f—-ing them up.

J Keith runs a show called “The Fix Up Show,” “which is a live on-stage matchmaking show where we fix up people on dates with the help of celebrities.” He’s hit me up many times to use “my single peeps” for his shows, and I send them his way. But I know he’s still single. And although I had remembered him being really irksome, I thought I’d give him another chance. So I told him to sit down for an interview with me.

He shows up to meet me looking like a shlump in an old baseball hat, ill-fitting jeans and a sweatshirt. But I quickly notice a nice, tailored dress shirt peeking out of the sweatshirt, as well as an understated dress watch on his wrist. You can sense he comes from money, but it goes back a couple of generations. There’s no need to show it off. “Make me look good,” he says. “Why?” I ask. “Make me look accurate, how about that?” I promise him I will do my best.

J Keith’s last name is Dutch, so people are often surprised to find out he’s “100 percent Jewish.” He was born and raised in Chicago with no religion. “I’m about 96 percent atheist,” he says. His mother was killed in a car accident when he was 2, and his father remarried twice. At 14, he moved to Los Angeles “under great duress.”

He’s a writer/performer. “I’m not a good actor. I’m a good host.” He did a bunch of those VH1 talking-head shows. “I’m good at being quippy that way.” He also writes poetry. And not the cool, hip kind. “It would not work well in a slam. It would work better in a bookstore or a coffeehouse. It’s not contemporary. The best thing about my poetry is that I won’t make anyone read it.” When he discusses it, though, I get a window into his intellectual side, and he lights up as he discusses history. 

He loves art, theater and baseball. “I’m a huge Angels fan, so I’d love someone who’d go with me to games. I also love board games. I’m in a Scrabble club … ladies?” he says with a laugh.

He wants a woman who’s smart, pretty and thin. “Someone who does something creative, even if it’s not their occupation. It’s really important to me that someone does something creative in their life.”

He also wants a woman who works on herself in some way. “I’m very pro-therapy. I think everyone should do therapy. It should be government mandated. We all have our issues, but as long as we’re working on them somehow, it’s very appealing.” 

I ask him about being an artist and if now, at 40, an unstable career scares him. “There was a point where every year was better than the year before, and I thought that will keep happening, but it didn’t. Fortunately, I’ve done well with what I’ve saved, and in many ways I’m a responsible grown-up. I have an IRA, no debt, matching placemats. Luckily I don’t need to worry about money.”

He looks at his watch and excuses himself. “All right, I don’t want to be late to therapy.”

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: Abby L.

Abby came to me via her mother, who e-mailed me after reading a My Single Peeps column. Abby, who is 34 and a stand-up comic, says she asked her mom — a founder of the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue — to use her contacts to hook her up with someone like David Letterman. Instead, her mom came back with, “I have someone better. I hooked you up with Seth from My Single Peeps.” I can’t help her stand-up career, but maybe I can help her meet her soul mate.

She describes her comedy as “conscious comedy,” which to me sounds like “comedy that isn’t funny.” “When I do shows, there will always be a redeeming punch line or something uplifting in my comedy,” she says. I’ve just met her but I can’t help telling her how unfunny that sounds. She defends herself with, “I always kill the room.” I assume she means kills them with the funny, but I’ve never heard her perform, so it’s up to you to decide. 

I ask Abby about the type of man she’s looking for, and she says, “I don’t want the typical L.A. cheese ball.” She wants someone who is spiritual, which to her means that he believes in something bigger than himself. “Call God whatever you want — just call God,” she says with a laugh. She studied with Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and “loves the life.” But she still likes to walk around in booty shorts and pumps. “I’d love a shomer Shabbos man to help me get toward that life.”

In college, she shadowed a weather guy at a news station and thought it looked easy. “He partied all night, got paid more than anyone on staff (according to him), went to the gym at noon, and strolled in to work at 2:30.” She spent most of her internship making out with him. She went on to graduate school, where she was shocked by the amount of science that went into being a meteorologist. “I thought it was two minutes of science and 10 hours of performance. I realized it was 10 hours of science and two minutes of performance.” She worked as a weather girl in Mississippi while still in school, but her heart wasn’t in it. “Anyone can do it, but it’s hard, and it’s not my passion. So I flew back to L.A. to become the actress/waitress my parents were panicked about me becoming.”

Abby has a lot of odd jobs. I can’t really keep track of all of the things she does. She has a tutoring company; she writes; she sells “Mitzvah Kitz,” which she calls “Shabbat in a bag”; she teaches yoga; and she’s a life coach. I say, “You’re all over the f—-ing map.”  She says, “It’s easy to get certifications.” And she has a sense of humor at the ridiculousness of her varied careers. 

Abby also has a kooky side — the side of her that tries to convince me to stay away from doctors and all Western medicine, because “they’ll kill you.” But she’s also kind of tongue-in-cheek about her vegan, consciousness-raising, hippie-speak. She says, with no shame, “I want to wake up every day and do something uplifting and beneficial to the world.” Then, realizing how saccharine that sounds, she adds, “Tikkun olam forever” and starts laughing.

If you’re interested in seeing what she’s about, you can check out her website, humorhealinghumanity.com.

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: Larry K.

Growing up, Larry spent his summers in Miami working as a sailing instructor on catamarans … which I think is some kind of a sailboat. Or else people should be asking for their money back. He’s very much a Miami guy — at least old Miami, before the Cubans came and turned it into the sexy, Latin metropolis it’s become. He likes the laid-back life, the warm Atlantic Ocean, and wearing shorts to work. In fact, he wore shorts to meet me for our interview.

After Larry graduated from college, someone told him about Club Med. “They were excited I had a sailing background. They said, ‘Would you mind being dressed like a banana and being chased through the restaurant by a guy dressed like a monkey?’ And I was, like, ‘That sounds fun. I’ll do it.’ ” He spent 4 years there, a lot of it in their Cancun resort. 

He taught sailing and provided entertainment at night. “I bought into it, loved it. I went to the beach every day. I got brown, buff. As a 23-year-old dude, it was exciting for me to get as close to [becoming] a rock star as I was going to get.”

After a while, he realized he had no life skills. It was an invaluable experience, but he wanted to move on. He had a friend in a one-year film program in Orlando and decided to apply. “Not a lot of theory. Just handed us a camera and said, ‘Go make a movie.’ ” He was older than most of the kids and took it more seriously. He became the valedictorian. “The kids wanted to be DPs [directors of photography] and directors, and I knew how hard it was. I took a pragmatic approach and said it’s more realistic to become an AD [assistant director].” After three years of applying to the Directors Guild of America program in Los Angeles, he was accepted and moved across the country to join the program. “I’ve never had to send out a resume since. In that 400 days [of the program], I met the people who still hire me to this day.”

Larry didn’t have a long-term girlfriend until he was in his 30s. With all the divorce in his family, he decided not to settle down until he was ready. “Everything I’ve done has been selfish, and I guess in a way I’m ready to not be selfish anymore and put that behind me and have kids. I feel I was born to be a dad.”

He tells me, “I’ve never had a bad first date. Never had one where this is a train wreck, this is all wrong. Even if I can tell it’s someone I’m not going to have a second date with.” When I ask what his ideal girl is, he says, “I want to find somebody who knows what they’re all about, knows what they’re doing … that’s attractive to me. Someone who has her own thing going on and is on a path.”

At 39, Larry’s the kind of guy who’s appreciative of what he has. “The last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on movies I never would have dreamed of working on.  I get to see every shot. I feel blessed that I get to do that.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Nicole M.

My first impression of Nicole, when she met me at my local Starbucks, was how adult-like she seems. I know that sounds silly — seeing as she’s a 31-year-old woman — but I’m 36, and my mannerisms probably haven’t changed a whole lot since I was a teenager. I still beatbox to myself, continuing my childhood fantasy of being one of the members of the Fat Boys. One day …

Born in Jersey and raised in L.A., Nicole thought she’d grow up to be a writer. She studied journalism in college, and when Kodak offered an internship to film students, she applied for the job. Though she wasn’t really a film student, they loved her essay and offered her the internship. She was assigned to shadow a film publicist, a field she knew nothing about. She loved it. After college, she worked for Disney in PR and then moved around the entertainment world for a while. And then she quit to start her own company. “I’m really nice, and this business is brutal, and I want to be a wife and mom and don’t want to be a bitter stereotypical woman … so I started a business at 25. It’s crazy.” Her PR company, NMPR, specializes in local businesses. “I wanted to distinguish myself, so I found a niche. L.A.-based clients only.”

When Nicole’s father was diagnosed with cancer, she went running back to corporate America. Maybe it was the fear of the unknown, and working in a corporate job felt the most stable. “But I wasn’t happy.” So she quit her job and opened up her own business again. “I think I live my life in a better way since it’s happened. I let the people around me know how I feel about them.”

“Do you want a family?” I ask. She doesn’t hesitate: “100 percent — which means I have to scale back my work. And I acknowledge that. You can’t have everything. And that’s OK.” What’s most strange about her is the dichotomy between this hardworking woman and the doting Jewish mother inside. It’s like they’re at odds with each other. But she explains it like this: “I’m very serious about my work, and I’m so much more playful outside of it. I know how to sit back and relax, and turn it on when I do the work stuff.”

When it comes to dating, Nicole likes her men confident. “It’s nice to be with a guy who lets you be a lady. I’m not asking for the moon and stars here. I didn’t even bring up money!” she realizes. “It’s not about material stuff to me. That stuff comes.” She laughs to herself as she says this. Then she qualifies, “It’s an added bonus, I guess.”

When I ask her how she describes herself, she says, “I’m girly but can throw on a baseball hat and go sit in a park or watch sports.” Her friends like to go to bars to meet men, but she doesn’t think that way. “If I run into him at the beach, great, or if I’m at Whole Foods and drop milk on him, great. It would be nice to find someone, but it’s not my mission. You put yourself out there and do your best, but it’s up to God. I really believe that.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Steve P.

Steve is extremely complimentary to women. They find him charming, even if the rest of us want to puke listening to accolades so saccharine. He’s an old-school charmer in the way that American men aren’t anymore. He’s like that Italian guy you meet in Rome who offers to take you on a private tour of the Colosseum because “a beautiful American girl shouldn’t be traveling alone.” The guys roll their eyes and then can’t understand how the girl actually jumps on the back of his Vespa. But she does. And we should all take note. 

He’s from Chicago — not Italy — and his values are Midwestern, whatever that means. I guess I know what it means, but I’m curious if it implies that those of us from the Coasts are jerks. Maybe we’re just more hesitant to be so openly sweet. If you’re dating Steve, he’s the kind of guy your mom would like, because he wouldn’t be embarrassed to pretend he mistook her for your sister. That kind of corniness isn’t done anymore, outside of bad TV and movies.

Speaking of bad TV and movies, he might have produced or written some of the ones you’ve watched. Though much more of what he’s done has been good than bad. He and his producing partner are doing extremely well right now. They’re on set filming a new TV pilot this week. One that I auditioned for, by the way. And didn’t get. So, clearly he doesn’t know a great thing when he sees it, though he tells me in earnest that “they went a different way,” and I believe him. Because of that whole Midwestern thing. He also tells me he’ll get me on the show if it’s picked up, so my wife can ease up on all the financial pressure. I’m going to be starring in my own series soon, Carrie, so leave me alone. Geez, lady.

Although Steve’s a Jewish boy, he doesn’t need a Jewish girl. I mean, his parents would say he needs a Jewish girl, but he’d say he needs a great girl. Having a Jew would just be the icing on the cake, and make for less fighting around Christmas time when she wants to chop down an evergreen tree and jam it into the living room. That being said, he’d probably let you. Because he wants you to like him; and most of all, he wants your mom to like him.

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

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

My Single Peeps: Jami R.

Although I’ve met Jami, 39, a few times over the years, it’s generally been when I’ve been auditioning, as an actor, for her, a casting director. And you can’t really get to know someone when you’re nervously reading for a part you want to book. So I was excited to turn the tables on her and ask her out on a date … a date for my single peeps. 

I’m quoting Jami here, but it’s pretty accurate — “I give really good date.” When I asked her why she was so good at dating she said, “I’ve been on some horrible dates, and I can still make it good. I make a game out of it.” If there’s no romantic spark, she’ll find a way to make it interesting — she likes learning about people. It’s the same reason she loves being a casting director. She loves to give people their first acting job — big or small. “I love finding actors I know will be big stars.” 

Jami was born in Denver, where her father runs a deli called Zaidy’s. “Whoever marries me gets free bagels and lox for life.” She’s still a food lover and searches for out-of-the-way restaurants and taco trucks. Recently, a guy took her to a wine tasting in Malibu Canyon and laid out a blanket, where they drank wine and ate from his picnic basket. “That was a good date.” She likes when men take the initiative in making plans, and she enjoys being active. She’s run 15 marathons, so don’t be afraid to take her on a hike. She loves a challenge — including the crossword puzzles. She wants a man who’s as driven as she is: “It’s not wealth that matters to me, but drive. But No. 1 is a sense of humor.”

She’s pretty funny herself. During the show “Mortified,” where people stand on stage and read from their teenage diaries, she described her trip to Israel this way: “I went there to discover my heritage and instead discovered I was really horny.” 

The week before Thanksgiving, she was driving in her Volvo to work out — a boot camp class at 5:45 a.m. — and was hit by a semi. Her car flipped three times, but she walked out of it alive. It’s put things in perspective for her about life. She got a new Volvo and challenged herself to do the work on it. So far — all with help from YouTube — she’s changed the anti-lock brake control module and the heater core. I ran upstairs last week to brag to my wife that I screwed on my own license plate, so I’m impressed.

As independent as Jami is, she’d like to be taken care of occasionally. “When I come home at night, I want to have someone to share my day with — good and bad — instead of my dogs.”

After her car accident, as she lay on the ground trying to make sense of what happened, the fireman standing over her said, “OK ma’am, do you have anyone to call?” She thought, “I have a million people to call, but I don’t have that person. I want to find that person.”

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

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

My Single Peeps: Lisa B.

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

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

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

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

4. I have been told I am psychic.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have been told that although I look like I am high maintenance, I am really low maintenance. 

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

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

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

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

My Single Peeps: Shmuly G.

Shmuly is the least typical Chasidic Jew you will ever meet. The guy’s an anomaly. He will never cut his beard, and he always wears a yarmulke, no matter where he goes, but he will go anywhere. I mean, you can find him backstage at a Paul Oakenfold concert, or ranking third place in a 5K run to cure cancer. This picture of him is from a jewelry line that loves Shmuly’s look and insisted that he be in their catalog. He was just asked to be in a Pink music video but turned it down because it would have required him to lie undressed in bed with Pink and, although he’s not square, for him it wasn’t that funny a concept.

Shmuly installs high-end audio equipment for a company he owns. He does very well and meets a lot of interesting contacts through his work. I went to a Coldplay concert with my wife. We sat in the very last row of the stadium. He sat in the very first … and then went back stage to say hi to the band. I hate him. 

The strangest thing about Shmuly is that as successful as he is, he still lives with his grandma in the Valley. He doesn’t feel the need to have his own place. He’s waiting for marriage, and, in the meantime, his grandma’s place is just fine with him. She cooks for him, does his laundry … and, luckily, he’s religious, because there’s no chance he’s bringing girls back to his grandma’s place and trying to get them to quietly go upstairs with him without waking her.

Shmuly loves people. I like going out with him, because I love meeting new people and hearing their stories, too. Everyone who meets him likes him. He goes to clubs and bars, and by the time he heads home, half the place is high-fiving him. He collects numbers, he makes friends, and he’s so disarming that he has a phone full of hot girls’ contact information. But none are marriage material.

Shmuly’s in a tough position because he’s a Chasidic Jew with a foot in the secular world. He won’t waver on his religious beliefs, but he loves to go out, to meet people of all faiths, and to experience life. He went to Burning Man last summer — and while most people brought hallucinogenic mushrooms, he brought tefillin. Yet he still ran shirtless through the village and drank enough alcohol to fill a hot tub. Whomever he marries needs to be a religious Jew who doesn’t mind that her husband marches to the tune of his own shofar. She needs to be able to make latkes and vodkas. And she will need to get used to the fact that wherever they go, people from all over the city will shout out as they pass by, “Shmuly!”

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

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

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 cultivator

He saved a stub from Dec. 24.

I know this because I saw it on his desk.

After we’d broken up; when we shouldn’t have been talking, and
when I certainly shouldn’t have been in his home.

But we’d started as friends, and I foolishly thought we could stay that way.

The stub sat right where my extra hairbands once held court. And I remembered the night: We’d had an argument.

I don’t celebrate Christmas because I’m Jewish. He doesn’t because, well, he doesn’t. I’d made plans with my girlfriends; his had fallen through.

He wanted me to cancel. I wouldn’t.

Next thing I knew, he’d made a plan with “Michelle,” some girl he knew from work. We’d never met.

I first questioned the plan, but then — out of trust, and maybe ignorance — encouraged him to go out with this other woman, to whom, he said he wasn’t attracted. She was a friend, he said, who didn’t “have time” for or want a relationship.

Ryan had already told me he loved me, and I believed him. He dismissed my discomfort.

The fact that it was Christmas Eve was — most likely — a warning sign. But we hadn’t been dating long and came from different backgrounds. We needed to adjust. And learn.

So on Dec. 24, I went out with my girlfriends and vented about what had transpired. I begrudged the mood he had put me in, but tried to understand his side. I, after all, was being stubborn.

He, well, he just went on a date — with a girl — and enjoyed the movie. He even told me so.

And just like that, the seeds were planted.

See, Ryan and I were friends before we started dating. Not great friends, but friends nonetheless. We were both seeing people when we met through work.

Our occasional lunches, his random calls and his erratic invites seemed harmless. Sometimes, he’d bring up his then-girlfriend, whose name I didn’t know until we actually dated. He was thoughtful and seemed to confide in me, which I appreciated.

But when it came to his actual relationship with “Nameless,” it seemed he couldn’t commit; that he wasn’t into it; that he was only prolonging the anguish.

This, too, was likely a warning.

Seasons passed. Eventually — shockingly — Ryan and Nameless broke up. Eventually, things ended with my beau. Ryan and I remained “just friends.”

Then, one day, he asked to kiss me. I thought it was sweet and genuine. And so we did.

Six to nine months went by and we’d begun to talk about our future. “Girl stuff” and extra hair products began to populate Ryan’s apartment. I started wearing tighter jeans and higher heels — which he prefers. I bought travel Scrabble for the trips we talked about. I felt in love.

But soon enough, issues emerged: My inherent goofiness began to jar instead of entertain. His detail-orientation suddenly rendered him OCD. I enjoyed a good Reisling. He doesn’t drink. We never traveled.

We began to talk a lot about “us,” but IM’d more.

On weekends, I began to notice “borrowed” books cropping up in Ryan’s apartment. I saw “friendly” e-mails while leaning over his shoulder. I started hearing about occasional lunches and coffee breaks with “Michelle.”

First, I didn’t think too much of it. It seemed that we both wanted “us” to work.

But nearly a year later, I’d still never met this new companion who was absorbing my boyfriend’s limited attention. I finally wondered about his steadily declining interest in, well, anything related to me.

I questioned the accumulating books.

He insisted that they’re just friends; that he loved me. But the harder I tried, the more I realized he’d stopped trying.

Another season passed, and “we” gave up on “us” when I finally started saying no.

For a few weeks, we foolishly attempted to remain friendly — how we were before we started dating.

Until foolishly — or intentionally (after I dug) — the news emerged that he’d started seeing “Someone.”

I think that it’s awfully fast. But I also realize that sometimes, things just don’t work out. Maybe we should have never kissed.

My heart literally aches.

And, while in an apartment I shouldn’t have entered, near a desk I shouldn’t have touched, the truth becomes painfully clear: Perhaps Ryan and I were only meant to last one season.

Because all along, his newest crop had been skillfully cultivated over time. “Someone” is Michelle.

I imagine harmless lunches, and the takeaways. “It seems he can’t commit; he’s not that into it; he’s only prolonging the anguish.”

To Michelle, I might have been a placeholder, no more — or less — special than Nameless.

After all, for months, a very-loaded ticket stub dated Dec. 24 hid covertly in a desk drawer right below my extra hairbands.

I can’t help but question: What’s hiding under the stub now?

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

Silver screen love life

When I was 12 years old, I spent a steamy L.A. summer cooling off at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills watching old Oscar Best Picture

Award movies, including “How Green Was My Valley,” “Mrs. Miniver” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.”

That was the first time I saw “Gone with the Wind.” As a pre-adolescent Jewish girl living in the middle of Los Angeles in the 1970s, I had absolutely nothing in common with Southern belles living through the Civil War era, however I was transfixed by the images of romance and drama. When I closed my eyes, I saw the movie image of Rhett and Scarlett standing at the bottom of Tara’s red-carpeted staircase as Rhett reached down to sweep Scarlett into his arms and carry her up into the darkness. To my innocent mind, it seemed the height of sexual passion.

But their ardor was short-lived. Gradually, Rhett became increasingly disengaged from Scarlett, frustrated by her refusal to stop taking him for granted and her inability to acknowledge any feelings of intimacy towards him. And for her part, Scarlett had never stopped pining away for the married, and very cool, Ashley Wilkes.

Of course, when I first saw the movie, I was positive that Rhett would return to her. Although he can’t be accused of giving mixed messages. I mean, how much more direct can someone be than, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” But this was Hollywood. Didn’t movies always have to end happily? Wasn’t that the rule? Obviously, I was still too young to realize that there are consequences for one’s actions, and that taking someone for granted is never a good idea — Hollywood or not.

It has always been easy for me to get caught up in the world of fantasy through movies. However, the problem with that is that it is easy to stay in a place of denial. In the world of Hollywood, time doesn’t move forward. People don’t age. Scarlett could take all the time in the world to figure out a way to get Rhett to fall back in love with her.

Unfortunately, in the real world, time passes whether we are ready or not. And we are sometimes stuck in a particular stage while others move on around us. This all reminds me of Internet dating. Single people are all too familiar with the pitfalls of the online dating experience. Internet dating creates the perfect backdrop to hold onto our fantasies of perfect mates, as well as project perfected images of ourselves. We airbrush photos. We subtract a few years. We refuse to see flaws, or we project them onto other people.

The entire process can become addictive. After all, most single people crave companionship. Yet while staring at the computer screen, it seems so hard to settle on one profile, when, with the click of a finger, you can move on to the next one. It’s like finding a new snack at Trader Joe’s. There is always the potential that the next profile will be better than the previous one.

However, the good news is that I am less likely to engage in this “grass is greener” phenomenon these days. Most of us assume that someone else is happier than we are. This way of thinking is rapidly becoming one of our favorite national pastimes.

I don’t know — maybe it is part of being a psychotherapist, but it is so easy to idealize others, until you actually hear the personal struggles of individuals who are sitting across from you in your office. It is the old adage about how we see people’s outsides, but we rarely have access to their insides. And I am grateful for, and humbled by, my clients’ willingness to share their pain with me.

The hardest challenge for me is staying open to possibilities and not shutting off my desires, even though they haven’t yet come to fruition.

On my good days, which are most of the time, I realize that I have succeeded in moving forward and achieving some of my goals. A while ago, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t going to wait until my honeymoon to travel to Italy. So I didn’t. I was standing in my darkened apartment when I heard the taxi honking its horn to take me to the airport, and I began to cry. In that moment, I felt an incredible sense of exhilaration that I was not waiting any longer to begin my life.

That experience helped me realize that there is no “perfect” moment, just like I have realized I don’t have to maintain the fantasy of being perfect for other people. A few years after my trip, I returned to graduate school to get my master’s in social work, and I now have a career that fulfills me completely.

I took a trip to Club Med Cancun and had a romantic fling with a Mexican aerospace engineer. I became a doting aunt. I went to the pound and found the perfect dog to help disarm typically wary Angelenos into spontaneously reaching down to pet him. (He is also the perfect icebreaker for approaching cute men.) I hike and work out regularly with a personal trainer. I have recently become involved in a growing synagogue community and have begun to discover the value of becoming a participant, rather than an observer, in most aspects of my life.

I’ve become increasingly grateful for my dear friends, family and health. For nontoxic hair coloring. For the 2006 mid-term elections.

I have managed, if not mastered, the art of single life in a major metropolitan city in the 21st century.

Now I am more ready than ever to have a relationship with a real, flawed, man — not with the idealized fantasy of perfection epitomized by Ashley Wilkes.

I just hope he speaks English.

Roni Blau is a psychotherapist living in Los Angeles.

Majority Rules

Let me state for the record: I am a trendsetter.

This just in, according to no less an authority than The New York Times. Based on their most
recent census analysis, more American women are living without a husband than with one.

Yes, that’s right: 51 percent of women in 2005 said they were living without a spouse, compared to 35 percent in 1950. Living without a spouse doesn’t exactly mean single in the traditional sense of the word, if there is a traditional sense of the word. Some are living with partners (“in sin”), some have been married and are now widowed or divorced, and some, like me, just haven’t married yet because women are marrying later in life.

Incidentally, in 2005, married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time.


Jewish Singles Cruises

It’s comforting to know that at least I’m part of a majority.

So here’s what I’m wondering: If this trend continues, and, say, in a couple of decades the numbers shift so they’re the opposite of those in the 1950s, and only 35 percent of adults are married, what would the world be like? I mean, what would it be like for a nonmarried person?

You’d be at a meal with a group of people and everyone would be mingling with each other and having fun, and all of a sudden one man says, “We’re married.”

A silence would fall on the table, like in the old days, when someone confessed to being … single.

Finally someone would break the silence: “How long have you been married?”

“Ten years,” the “wife” would say.

Again the silence, and you are the one to ask what no one else could say. “But you’re so young! How old are you anyway?”

When it dawns on the crowd that the two are both 35 and have been married since they were 25, shock turns to disbelief, and the ice breaks. Everyone has questions. They’ve all forgotten their fun, single, happy life for a moment and turn to talk to this anomaly.
“Why do you think you’re still married?”

“I mean, are you even trying? Do you just stay home with each other?”
“Do you think maybe you’re too un-picky? I mean, maybe if you were more selective you wouldn’t be married.”

“God, it must be so hard for you to be married at your age,” someone would say, sort of sympathetically, but mostly inordinately relieved for herself that she’s not in that position.

“I think I may know someone else who’s married,” one man would add, trying to be helpful. Then he’d remember: “No, forget it, they split up.”

Soon, of course, the conversation would turn to fertility, as it always does in these situations.

“Aren’t you worried about your biological clock? I mean, you’re not getting any younger, and there still might be time to have children with other people. I guess you could always freeze your eggs — lots of married people are doing that these days, I hear. Why, this one friend of mine paid $100,000 in fertility treatments and got three viable eggs!”

And then everyone would be off, talking animatedly about doctors and sperm banks and adoption and how children these days are much better off than they were when we were growing up because there are so many parental units and families are so fluid and there’s so much less pressure to marry and to stay married and no stigma on divorce so kids can just focus on finding themselves and being good, productive people in good, healthy relationships.

Then some socially clueless person, who didn’t realize the conversation had finally taken its spotlight off the uncomfortable, lone, married couple, would pipe in, “I hear married people die younger than unmarried people.”

At that point you’d be able to hear the forks clatter to the plates, and everyone would be looking down, because even if that much-bandied about statistic were true — who researched those things anyway? It was like that urban legend in the 1980s, about a single woman over 35 being more likely to get killed by a terrorist than find a mate — was it really necessary to point it out?

Immediately everyone would start talking again — about the latest art opening, real estate prices, the upcoming ski trip to the Alps — anything to change the subject, because everyone would suddenly start to feel bad for the married couple, because really, it wasn’t their fault, exactly; it could happen to anyone if they weren’t careful.

And then they’d think back to an earlier, bygone era, back in the beginning of the millennium, say, in 2000, when married people were still the majority, and they’d thank their lucky stars for being born in such enlightened times.