Jews, you're not just "single" (adjective), you're
"a single" (noun), meaning eligible flesh ripe for
matchmaking by a yenta or a Jewish newspaper's classified
section. The idea of enrolling in a Jewish singles service
always made me feel like I'd be joining a nation of individually-wrapped
American cheese slices coming together to form supermarket-ready
packs of 16 or 32. And in many ways, it's just that contrived.
Panicked about soaring intermarriage rates, Jews cling to
old-country matchmaking rituals--putting the pedal to the
shtetl to ensure our intra-faith coupling.
years, I shunned this frantic pursuit of Jewish man-flesh.
Chemistry and common interests cemented my relationships more
than hazy memories of "Adon Olam" lyrics. I also
felt too loud, too "fat," too attitudinal around
American Jewish guys--a Queen Bee whose drones preferred their
nectar from a WASP nest. Why hard sell myself to the locals,
I figured, when the goy-boys were begging me to throw them
a curve? My enthusiasm for the brothas plunged further at
24, when my first Jewish boyfriend dumped me with the Semitic
death sentence: "You're acting just like my mother."
I was too stung for a sequel.
is, until Jdate.com came along. I was 27, finally recovered
from Portnoy's Complaint, and living in Manhattan. Suddenly,
I was surrounded by hot Jewboys who had seismically shifted
after crossing the threshold of 25. Egos receding with their
hairlines, they were checking me out on the street and seeking
a Jewish woman of substance.
I realized that I could use the Internet to anonymously pick
through thousands of eligible Jewish guys, I figured, why
not? No huge rejections would complicate things; it was just
another avenue to meet men. It would be a joke, an experiment,
something to write about. And before you could say shidduch,
I was uploading my Amex digits, a JPEG photo, and a painstakingly
crafted set of personal essays describing my "perfect
first date" and "things I've learned from past relationships."
didn't just go on one or two dates, like any normal skeptic
would. I stayed for a year--paying $19.95 a month--and went
on about 20 dates. By the time I retired, I was emailing between
five and ten guys a month, rejecting countless others, and
even began to recognize photos that popped up in my advanced
late-night searches. Jdate became more than the breezy science
project I told people. It was hope. It was flight from my
fears of being alone and undesirable. It was the quest for
what could be different when dating a Jew. Eventually, it
was an addiction. In my first month, I got 3-5 email solicitations
a day, praising me for my wit and attractiveness. Then, I
had a good first date with a cute, leather-panted Brooklyn
writer named Aaron. Once I got over my shock that a down-to-earth,
appreciative Jewish audience was in the tristate area, I wanted
had some bad dates, of course. The New Jersey boy who, half
an hour into our first and last date, invited me to have bagels
at his parents' house the next morning. The sharing of an
uncomfortably viscous appetizer with an agitated stockbroker
who was practically a soprano--and I'm not talking about the
HBO kind. The dude who showed up with more crust on him than
a loaf of split-top wheat. The dude who didn't show up at
hope springs eternal on Jdate. If a date sucked, I could head
home, log on, and sift through a hundred thousand other prospects.
And most of the guys I met were cool--much cooler than I expected.
Although no relationships materialized, I befriended some
fellow writers, a hip-hop DJ, and a San Francisco engineer
who collected Vespas and went to high school with Snoop Doggy
Dog. Whether by coincidence or not, these fellas shared my
ambiguity over Jdate, and my distaste for the scene's breeding
pressure. Most had only dated a couple Jewish women, if any,
and were similarly mystified by what internal motivations
led them to Jdate.
it age, or some biological force? Maybe, but none of us were
looking for the marriage-and-kids package anytime soon. So
why the hell did we care about dating Jewish? Would it really
make life easier? We didn't go to synagogue, and our parents'
kitchens provided ample sustenance for major Jewish holidays.
Would we have common values? Again, not sure. Every goy-boy
I've dated has appreciated the Sunday Times
and a bagel brunch as much as the next future Jewish husband.
Or maybe it would make life easier, in a way. I don't want
to be the family member responsible for the loss of time-honored
Jewish traditions. Age is bringing me the weighty recognition
of this responsibility. Yet, I'm bed-of-nails uncomfortable
with the idea of leading a Kiddush, fire-bombing chametz from
my cupboards at Pesach, or reciting Torah portions. An equally
distraught Jewish mate could be a comforting companion, a
partner in crime for the bumpy road trip home.
the flip side, an intermarried friend says that her Christian
husband actually makes her feel more Jewish, because she's
constantly explaining Jewish traditions she never understood.
I don't know which would be a bigger pain in the ass: performing
contrived Jewish rituals out of familial duty, or paging through
the Dictionary of Jewish Literacy to find the origins of the
word "chutzpah" for my goyishe mother-in-law.
way, all this existential confusion made Jdate a dry gulch
in my "horizontal horah" department. I've been known
to screw first and ask questions later; yet, I went no further
than an awkward goodbye kiss on the cheek. It was like having
both of our mothers there, nudging on either side, "Go
on, hold her hand, Steven," or "fix your blouse,
Amy. And sit up straight!" Nothing causes more performance
anxiety than to wonder if you're going to marry someone when
you're just trying to get to know each other, or make out
on the sofa and -- who knows? -- maybe never see each other
all these rules and stressors, no wonder so many of us are
dissing each other for non-tribal mates. Dating Jewish has
become so compulsory that the element of choice has disappeared,
taking desire with it. There is nothing sexy about the eternally-hovering
pressure to outfit one's parents in "Ask Me About My
Grandchildren" T-shirts. And I'm simply too American
to sacrifice my individuality to carry on some ambiguous bloodline.
Besides, it's bizarre. Hasn't anyone else noticed the irony
of enforced homogeny among a people who were killed because
they didn't fit the credentials of a so-called master race?
Tradition is important, but please.
my traditionalism is half-baked and private, anyway, a minor
artery supplying my Jewish flow. My identity comes from my
Israeli father and his family in Tel Aviv, my teeming bookshelves,
the negative space my Jewishness creates in contrast to my
multiethnic friends. Last Chanukah, I kindled my menorah alone,
mumbled what I remembered of the bracha, then lit a cigarette
off one of the candles. I couldn't pull of the parentally-approved
cheese without nodding to my inner bad-ass.
anything, Jdate taught me the importance of grooving on this
personal Judeo-irreverence. I can't date a Jewish man unless
I feel free to misbehave on my own terms. I have loved and
lived with a Yoruba priest, a motorcycle-driving anti-racist
skinhead, a college football star, an uptight chemical engineer
and a dreamy boy-poet. I've done the zodiac and tasted the
rainbow. My world has no place for the possibility of a Jewish
boyfriend unless I also save room for the opposite.
attitude bonded me to my Jdates, but more as comrades on a
shared philosophical quest. We're all struggling to figure
out what the hell this Jewish business has to do with our
personal lives. And we're all still hoping, in a tiny way,
that our soul mates do end up being Jews -- if only so we
can stop trying to explain a part of ourselves that we don't
Jdate experience has a strange, almost storybook ending. It
involves Aaron, my first Jdate, who's exclusively and happily
dating a non-Jewish woman. We hang out once a month or so,
and he's enlisted me as his official companion to cheesy Jewish
events that we dare not visit alone. At one party, I met an
Israeli hottie who has since become my boyfriend.
have nothing in common -- on the surface, that is -- and Jdate's
computer wouldn't have matched us in a million years. Yet,
if there's anything matchmakers--computerized or real--can't
predict, it's chemistry.
my year on Jdate, I watch the site's membership nearly double.
Obviously, that proves that single Jews want these services,
even if we're not sure why. As a girl whose wits outmatch
her tits, I appreciate that Jdate connected me with intelligent,
thoughtful Jewish guys--and helped me screen out the legions
seeking workout partners, stay-at-home wives, and Yankee season
ticket holders. I now consider Jewish men equal contenders
in the love game.
I doubt I'll ever be a regular patron of Jewish singles services.
There's something a little too practical about hooking up
with a well-matched set of data. I want a boyfriend, not a
resume. But if the season gets dry or my social prospects
dim, I can't say I wouldn't log on again.
LISTEN UP BOYS:
like to channel my experiences to help those gentlemen whose
return on their Jdate investment may not be meeting quota.
Blurry photos = bad.
If your face looks like a CAT scan, a Rorschach inkblot, or
a FBI fingerprint, I'm off the case faster than you can say
"Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective."
Ditto for photos of your professional school graduation,
particularly shots with cameos of your parents. If I wanted
to see men in gowns, I'd take in a drag show at Lucky Cheng's
in the East Village.
Ditto again for pics of you hugging a child or fluffy dog.
Actually, I may be an unpopular voice here. Those probably
appeal to plenty of women, whose family-life fantasies you
are deliberately stoking with these obvious images of procreation
and pets. But if you really don't intend for us to grow old
opening Kal-Kan together, let's just try to establish an interpersonal
connection before we throw in the dependents.
One last ditto for the
"oops is that my college girlfriend's arm cropped out
at this frat party photo from 1992?" shots. First impressions
last. Don't stamp my brain with the image of another woman's
hands on you before mine even get there.
If your muses include Andrew Dice Clay, Adam Sandler, or Ludacris,
I urge you to resist quoting their work in your profile. Yes, there are lots of opportunities to sprinkle in
SNL references, and we gals may have laughed just as heartily
at them. But your delivery only serves us a vivid picture
of you as an obnoxious, pimpled Bar Mitzvah boy who ignored
us to play Mortal Kombat with his cronies. Besides, wouldn't
you have to stop and wonder if we peppered our profiles with
cliches like "Favorite Activities: Chanukah gift-wrapping,
scuba-diving, planning names for my children and checking
my email, like, COMPULSIVELY in case you write back!"
Sometimes, honesty is not the best policy.
in premiere issue of Heeb:
The New Jew Review)