NEW YORK (Aug. 18)
When friends suggested Internet dating after I
separated from my husband a few years ago, I was worried. I had a fear of
meeting and dating someone non-Jewish — not necessarily because I wanted
to preserve my heritage — but because I’d heard one too many stories about
chat room buddies who would cut your head off and put it in the freezer. (I
could stand being decapitated, but if my Grandma Sophie saw my head next to
except for David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” — but he’s the exception that
proves the rule. The last time I had had a date, my computer was a DOS
machine, and the Internet was as foreign to me as the phrase “division of
assets.” In fact, back then the thought that I would ever have more than
the $500 savings bond I got for my Bat Mitzvah seemed unlikely.
At age 33, in the process of a divorce after eight years of marriage, I had
no idea where to meet men. I worked alone. All of my girlfriends were
married and, for the most part, lactating.
My first husband was Italian Catholic, and before him I had never really
dated Jewish. This upset my parents, of course. My dad was president of our
synagogue, and my mom needs smelling salts if you use the fleishig sponge
to wipe out your cereal bowl. There are no pets buried in our backyard, but
there are lots of forks.
Before the ink was dry on my separation agreement, I wanted to get out
there and start dating. My Eastern European childbearing hips were not
getting any younger, and my biological alarm clock had gone off. The only
problem was, I had no idea how to start. I logged onto JDate. The Web site
was slick, the graphics cool and they had such all-important categories as
salary range next to the requisite question: What Pets Do You Like? The
picture on the home page of newlyweds wearing smiles and yarmulkes was the
deal-closer. Internet dating seemed tailor-made for me. I could find Mr.
Right without applying lipstick or even brushing the cat hair off my shirt
I scrolled around. The men in my desired age group and zip code all seemed
to be datable. It was exactly like shopping, but at checkout you possibly
got someone to bring you a glass of water before bed. Then reality hit. I
had to write a personal ad about me. My first instinct was just to write “I
like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain” and attach a picture of
me in a low-cut shirt, but JDate was having none of this. They wanted facts
and thoughtful essays. How do you describe your perfect mate? they wanted
to know. How do you describe yourself? I panicked. How could I explain in
200 words that I bake killer brownies, love “shock jock” Howard Stern,
prefer the Lakers to the Knicks, and am a stickler for hand-written thank
you notes? If I mentioned my love of Bruce Springsteen, would men from New
Jersey with AARP cards want to take me to the movies?
I skimmed the profiles of the other women in my age group. They all had
photos of themselves that were in focus. The only in-focus ones of me are
at my wedding, and that seemed like bad form. Besides, JDate insists on a
current photo, and suggests not wearing white. The women I read about all
seemed more successful, more easygoing and thinner than I. (I was only
doubted that these ladies came from one of the 12 tribes. After two hours,
I abandoned all hope.
Several weekends passed. I watched George Clooney movies, danced with the
cats and went to bed at 8:30. When I started wearing my slippers as shoes
around the neighborhood, I decided to give JDate another shot. I checked
off the boxes and answered questions honestly. I am a Leo, I said, and I
don’t like Ethiopian food. I go to temple on High Holidays because I
believe that if I didn’t, bushes would burn. I want a man who is checkbook
literate and tall enough to change the light bulbs in my kitchen. I clicked
the send button. I figured I’d send a photo later, something out of focus
with a tasteful amount of cleavage. It worked, sort of. I went out on many
dates. Some were immediate small-talk wipeouts. It didn’t take me long to
realize that dating Jewish did not automatically mean that these men and I
had anything in common. I pictured our ancestors wandering in the desert
for 40 years without much more to say than “Sure is hot out.” But the
Internet beat my other options, and it was easier to get to know someone by
exchanging e-mails than by yelling over a jukebox.
One day, after months and months of nice, naughty, cute, ugly, smart, crazy
and boring Jewish men, after excruciatingly bad dates, after good dates
that went nowhere, I found a guy with an out-of focus photo. His profile
told me that he’s good at reading maps but bad at folding them; he’s
allergic to cats; and he knows the words to the Mr. Softee ice-cream truck
song. I liked what I saw.
We corresponded, we met, we hit it off. That was a year ago, and frankly, I
don’t know what will happen next. I do know that last night, before I went
to sleep, he brought me a glass of water.