What does a Jewish woman in her 30s, who lives in NYC and has parents like mine, do after the breakup haze has cleared? You guessed it. She joins J-date.
Yeah, I’m going there. I’m going to write the post that I think some of you expect, and probably want. Even though I believe I’ve been subconsciously avoiding it because 1) It seems to have jumped the shark in every relationship magazine, blog, column, etc. And I’m trying to do something different, damn it. And, 2) I’m cognizant that some ex’s and others (hi mom!) are reading this blog and I don’t want to ruffle any feathers. But then I thought, if I’m worried about that, what am I doing being a writer?
Okay, so what does a Cougel do now that she’s finally succumbed to online dating, and starts perusing the crowded market of profiles in search of a nice Jewish boy (I mean, man)?
She finds the non-Jewish ones.
Apparently I have a talent for this. I’m like a dog that’s been set loose in the yard and immediately sniffs out the one piece of bacon that’s buried six feet under. I didn’t do this on purpose; it was some unconscious instinct. The first five men whose photos I actually stopped at and thought, “Hmm, he seems manly, interesting,” not only had emphatically written, “Not Jewish” on their profile, but more specifically: “Will not convert.”
That’s presumptuous, I thought. I haven’t asked you to. I don’t ever use the word “chillax,” but kinda felt like it then.
That begs another question: What the hell are these goys (I mean guys—that was a typo), doing on J-date? That’s just plain sneaky. It’s no different than them showing up at my temple (if I actually went), when I’m having a good hair day. Or like my Jewy looking self showing up to lunch at a yacht club. Besides, how was I supposed to explain to my parents that I got on J-date to find a Jewish boyfriend, and they should be pleased, only to break the news that instead I found a goyfriend?
The thing is, while they might not be overjoyed, I know they would accept it. They just want me to be happy. And I don’t believe in closing any doors, in narrowing a pool that’s already small and shallow. Come to think of it, my last two boyfriends since my divorce – ironically, my only boyfriends – were not Jewish, and my parents liked them well enough. Although in retrospect, this was deviously well planned on my part. Both guys were young cubs, providing my parents with something more displeasing to focus on instead. My dad referred to one of them as my “oy-friend”(I am not making this up). So yes, the time has come for me to skew Jew.
Not that it stopped me from emailing the three non-Jews who intrigued me. I am a curious person, and when something puzzles me, I must get to the bottom of it. I asked them point blank:“So what are you doing on here?” One totally ignored me (I don’t blame him). The other two had interesting responses, and we’ve since begun a dialogue. One confessed that his boss is Jewish, and said that the caliber of women on J-date was better (no I cannot qualify “better” in this context). The other said he is a wedding photographer for mostly Jewish weddings, for couples who met on J-date. So he thought he’d give it a try. Why should he be on the outside looking in, when it was as simple as signing up?
Which made me wonder, is it really that simple? Can someone just log on, sign up to J?
Although I don’t know what I expected. It’s not like J-date has Jewish Border control, asking for proof of your J-dentity before being permitted entry. Besides, how would that be enforced exactly? That’s a topic for a whole other blog. Passing the Jewish test. Perhaps it could be questions like:“Do you know what shmutz means?” “Do you say “oy” more than once a day, and sigh heavily when doing so?” “Is your mother overbearing? “Do you know what guilt is?”
Or, because this always seals the deal for me: “Do you know what kugel is?”
A few weeks ago, on the heels of a break up, I vowed to immediately “get out there.” No, not in that way. I didn’t want a new boyfriend, or even a casual hook up. I wanted to try and connect with more than just the fabric of my couch. A friend had invited me to a book reading for a friend of hers, one day after my break up, and without bothering to actually ask what said reading was for, I eagerly agreed to attend. A book reading! Isn’t that something a writer is supposed to do? Isn’t that the kind of event where I can not only learn something about my own writing pursuits, but also meet other writers? PS. When I told my mother I was going to start going to these things, she exclaimed, “Good! Maybe you can meet some men who have sold books!” (the operative word being “sold,” of course. As in, for money).
I pride myself on being punctual. And I got to the Borders on 57th St. and Columbus Circle right on time, to see Melissa Rivers behind a podium, speaking to a group of women who all looked like her. This was not the kind of reading I had in mind. Luckily, I was at the wrong Borders. The one I was meeting my friend at was on Park Avenue and 57th. I was going to miss most of it. When I finally arrived, I wandered into a similarly crowded and disorienting pocket of the bookstore. Women, all over thirty five, who looked like Melissa Rivers but Jewish (the hair, not the voice…ok maybe the voice too), were beaming with adoration at a skinny blonde woman on the podium, Lori Gottlieb. She was fielding questions with messianic zeal for her new book “Marry Him. The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” as if she was Dr. Ruth, Carrie Bradshaw, or Jesus Christ. She was saying something like: “If a hypereducated, ambitious woman is still single after age 35, it’s because she’s too picky.”
You know that tingling sensation, the indescribable kind whose symptoms resemble a panic attack? The kind experienced when you’re trapped in the back row of an airplane on a seat that doesn’t recline, for a night flight, and a family with three kids parks it in front of you? The kind of fright or flight feeling that courses through you when you’ve agreed to be set up on a blind date, and the moment you sit down across from the guy, you immediately wish you were blind?
One glance at this Cougarish pack of disciples (I don’t care that they were mostly Jewesses; they appeared too desperate, and not cute enough, to qualify as Cougelish) looking to this embittered women for answers was enough to trigger the equivalent of that anxiety. Not to mention that right on cue, my ex-boyfriend of barely 48 hours, texted me just then to say that he missed me. I should add here, that my ex-boyfriend is a decade younger than me. Yes, I fell for a Young Cub. But I’d argue that it was a mutual fall, with no hunting on either side (persistence is not the same thing). Pangs of regret hit me then – did I just lose my Mr. Good Enough? Was I too picky? Did the Cougel scare away the Cub by mentioning that big topic called “The Future” (and no, not in the cool sci-fi way).
I had to get out of there. I swiftly found my girlfriend and said, “Sorry, but this whole thing? It’s not for me.” She completely understood. “Why don’t you go upstairs to the café? I’ll meet you when it’s over.” My response: “Café? I’ll be at the bar at the Four Seasons.”
Little did I know, because I rarely frequent bars north of 27th street (that includes Hurray Hill, let alone the Upper Easy Side) what awaited me there. Men. Old men. We’re talking Papa Bears who’ve raised young cubs. Salesman. Semi-retired tech guys with homes in Miami and West Hampton. Dentists. All divorced at least once, and on the prowl for young Cougels – dressed in second-hand fake fur coats and ripped jeans – like myself.
The drinks these men bought me managed to do two things: take the reading’s edge off, and influence me to give out my phone number to one or two of them (not the dentist). It also reminded me that there is a whole world out there, not just outside the den, but above 27th Street.
But still, I had no desire to go out with any of them. Not then, anyway.
When Mom called the next day to ask me how my night of “getting out there” went, I told her that I had a good time.
She said, “Really? So you met guys at the reading?”
I told her that actually no, I met them “at a place called a bar,” but that none of them were for me.
“Why not?” I could tell in her voice she was already accusing me of being too picky.
“They were too old for me, Mom. Like over 50. And divorced.”
“So what?! They’re good enough.”