Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Walk on the Singles Side a Glass of Water Before Bed: Finding Love on the Internet

August 19, 2003
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

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.

Recommended from JTA