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Dating Blogger Amy: “Shalom, Be Alone”

I don’t understand why so many Jews refuse to marry non-Jews. This seems incredibly close-minded to me. Think about the tiny percentage of the population you’re limiting yourself to by insisting on marrying a Jew. I know of many young … Read More

By / January 9, 2007

I don’t understand why so many Jews refuse to marry non-Jews. This seems incredibly close-minded to me. Think about the tiny percentage of the population you’re limiting yourself to by insisting on marrying a Jew. I know of many young women (mostly J.A.P.s) who have discontinued burgeoning relationships with nice, hot guys just because they weren’t Jewish. 

Equally mysterious to me are the copious Jewish singles mixers in New York City. I can’t imagine a more awkward approach to dating (dating is awkward as it is) so I decided to see for myself what they’re like and if they work. 

I went to Mekudeshet last night. The main draw of this particular mixer for me was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Shalom in the Home fame. It wasn’t his “celebrity” I was interested in but the topic of his lecture: “12 Steps to Finding Your Bashert [soulmate] This Year.”

Now, I’m 21 years old—I’m not looking for a soulmate. Nor do I believe a soulmate is someone you find by actively looking or by following someone else’s lecture on how to find it. I couldn’t imagine that there were people that desperate and clueless when it came to dating that they needed a celebrity rabbi to spell it out for them.

But apparently there are. And they congregate at Jewish singles mixers.

The crowd was, well, Jewy. When I walked in with my girlfriend, one tall, fair-haired gentleman informed us immediately that admission was half-price since almost an hour had passed since the event started. Smile and nod.

We walked around the corner and into a large room with linoleum tiled floors and large round tables with white tablecloths that sat eight to ten people. The two rows of tables were flanked by buffets of sushi and Chinese food. There was no bar, but a table at the front of the room with bowls of ice and liter bottles of sodas. It felt like a high school cafeteria, partly because we didn’t fit in physically, partly because everyone else obviously felt weird about being there. Hardly anyone was mixing. Most were clustered according to sex.

“Matchmakers” are a key element to these affairs. If a man is shy about approaching a woman, he’ll have a matchmaker introduce them, to “break the ice” as one of the organization’s founders explained it to me. I asked him if he met his wife at one of these mixers. He said, “No. We met through a friend.”

Rabbi Shmuley’s speech addressed the quest for a spouse. How, he asked, did this whole dating thing become so complicated? The biggest problem in our culture, he said, is the superficial standards of men and women. Men are only attracted to supermodels—“five percent of the population”—and women are only attracted to successful men, which is why the first question they ask on dates is, “What do you do?”

Shmuley said nobody hates themselves more than modern-day women. It’s unbelievable that countries like Spain and Italy must enact legislation to prevent eating disorders, which affect Jewish women disproportionately higher than non-Jewish women. But I don’t know if I’d blame this on men as much as the fashion industry, or just Kate Moss, who started the whole stick-figure trend when Calvin Klein thought she was stunning.

Shmuley advocated setting more realistic (read: lower) standards as the key to romantic happiness. Forget the “One,” people marry to end loneliness.

Shmuley designed a 12-step program to help overcome “addictions to lovelessness and singlehood.” Steps include:

-Don’t date for two to three months so you start feeling like you need a man/woman.

-Stop blaming everyone you meet for the reason you’re not married.

-Commit first, fall in love later. To love someone is a desire to lose yourself in them. And how can you love someone before you’ve shared a life with them?

-Avoid meaningless sex. Women especially will feel used and regret it in the end.

-Let go of time-wasters. For a woman this includes a man who wants to have sex too soon and therefore isn’t interested in the erotic journey.

-Recapture your mental virginity (whatever that means).

-Let your guard down early. Talk about the things that pain you on dates. Don’t have too many walls up.

-Try to introduce your other single friends to each other.

These steps seem designed to help us settle. Not dating for two to three months is designed to make you desperate, no? So when you’re permitted to date again you’ll go for almost anyone. Anyone who’s had a dry spell knows this, and who hasn’t had a dry spell?

Though I can’t disagree more with Shmuley’s philosophy on sex. Some women possess men’s libidos: They like to sleep around, and they like to have lots of sex. I know a few girls like this and they don’t regret sleeping with lots of hot guys. And as long as they’re using protection and the decision to have sex is mutual, where’s the harm?

I was interested in Shmuley’s point about our addiction to variety. Dating lots of people is fun. And a fear of commitment can easily stem from the fear of not being able to do what you want with whomever you want, whenever you want. But when you find someone you truly like, the desire to see anyone else dissipates, and you do commit to that person. If you start wanting to see other people or you cheat, your commitment isn’t strong enough and you should end it and move on.

Looking around the room during Shmuley’s lecture I saw tons of sad-looking faces. Maybe the problem isn’t that their standards are too high. Maybe they just need the confidence to put themselves out there in a venue other than a Jewish singles mixer. Maybe they should open their minds to non-Jewish mates. Maybe they need to go to places without matchmakers, who only enable their lack of confidence. Maybe they should make their lives a little less awkward and not enter into situations as forced as singles mixers. 

Maybe they just need to party a little more.

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