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Jul 31, 2011

Long Distance (aka "Out of Town") Dating

Personally, as a general rule, I don't date long distance.

How do I define long distance? It boils down to a matter of access/opportunity. Long distance is being far enough away (or busy enough) that seeing one another regularly (as in at least once or twice a week) is improbable, impractical or impossible. Simply put, when spending time together more often than twice (or even three times) a month is just not going to happen. It's not a matter of distance, as in number of miles, as much as it's a matter of time spent together, and I'll get to this issue in a moment.

I'm sure you've already noticed there's a whole lot of grey area in the middle. The gap between twice a week (or eight times a month) and twice a month is pretty large. We'll call that my leeway, or acceptable limits of compromise. One end is my preference, the other end is what I'm not willing to do and the middle is negotiable.

Something about spending most of my time on a phone, texting and/or talking instead of interacting and being in the presence of someone when dating them is particularly unpalatable to me. We can have the same conversations, but being in person makes a world of difference. There is a different kind of presence, and a different dynamic at play.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I never text or talk on the phone with a woman I'm dating, and clearly it's better than not communicating at all, but seeing someone once or twice a month -at best -really doesn't appeal to me, because the purpose of dating is to really get to know someone.

Without interacting, seeing her facial expressions, body language, her eyes and all those little things, I have less to go on and I don't get a clear impression of a woman. Maybe that's just me, but hearing someone talk (about themselves, their beliefs, telling stories, etc.) versus seeing who they are in action, in my experience, can be very different and I tend to trust consistent behavior better than consistent speech. As the saying goes in my field of study/work, "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," and so I'd like to experience the behavior and see the relationship dynamic myself.

Another factor is travel. I'm a full-time grad student, which means that aside from not having all the money in the world to jump on a jet-plane whenever I'd like, I don't have the time to spend hours traveling back and forth on a regular or semi-regular basis. I also don't expect someone to constantly and consistently travel just to see me. If you have different perspective, feel free to enlighten me with your experience and wisdom.

Next, there's time spent together, for which I'll will do some quick math using estimations as I see them in my own mind and based on my own experience. For anyone who consistently has a different experience that goes against my point -please do share!

If, regularly, I'd date someone twice a week on average for three hours per date, we're talking about (2dates*3hours = 6hours) six hours a week, which is a seriously conservative estimate at that. Over the course of three months, it would amount to (3months*4weeks*6hours = 72 hours) about seventy two hours total.

Now say I'm dating someone long distance. At best, twice a month, spending about ten hours per visit with them (liberally speaking). So, twenty hours a month over three months (3*20 = 60) makes sixty hours.

This is not including time spent texting or on the phone, which, for these purposes, I'm excluding from both long-distance and in-town dating, since (a) I'd be texting/talking with a woman regardless where she lives and (b) we're focusing on face-to-face time, and it's a quality concern. Even spending the same number of hours talking, there's a difference in quality of interaction and the impression I get based solely on face-to-face time. 

Let's set aside the little fact that, over three months, two people dating with this basic pattern have barely spent the equivalent of three days together (which, for me, seems like a short time and isn't enough to determine that I'm committed to sharing every following moment of my life with that person... also see here), but even given the best case scenario, there is a significant difference in face-to-face time.

I also happen to think there's a difference in spending time with someone consistently versus inconsistently. Even given the same -or comparable -time spend face-to-face, the idea of spending all of it at once versus spread out evenly over time is important to consider. It's like the difference between spreading peanut-butter and jelly evenly on two slices of bread versus putting a glob on each and smushing them together haphazardly. The two sandwiches may have the same ingredients, but there's a world of difference in their taste, perhaps in each bite.

Along with that goes the idea of the "Shabbat image," or the way we tend to present the best of ourselves and maintain the image for as long as possible when dating. In my experience, it's easier to do that when a couple spends less time face-to-face, and the time spent together can reinforce this fantasized image. But I'd rather allow that to relax and see the person for who they are (not that I'll really know until years after marriage, but a taste -however small -is always better than nothing), even if I do recognize that it's nice to see the best of someone first, I do want to get to know them in depth.

So recently, when someone cajoled, baited and pushed for me to date someone from across the country, I finally gave in, partially frustrated with myself for not just flat-out turning the suggestion down. Over and over I asked: What happens when -after whatever time we'd spend together -she leaves?

And of course, the question was squashed with the typical kung-fu super-sneaky mind trick response: "just go out, you'll see if it's even worth considering, and besides, she's flexible, she may even move to where you are!" I didn't want her to move out just to date me. That's ridiculous, and can add a lot of pressure.

Sometimes, no matter what my brain says... it's hard to push back against the pressure. Especially when family gets involved and the person suggesting is dead-set in believing they've found the perfect match.

Jul 24, 2011

Thought of the Day (#6)

Every so often, I work out a little phrase or thought. Often it seems like I've heard it before, but I'll admit I don't read libraries of literature and I'm not well versed in the world's quotes. In any case, here's one from the other day: 

"God gives each person opportunity. Every bit of life experience is a chance to learn, grow, act and move forward or ignore, criticize, point the finger elsewhere and stagnate. What makes a person great is how they seize that opportunity."
As always, thoughts and feedback are welcome.

Interview with the Shadchan Brigade

The other night I went to a "Meet the Shadchan" event. Here's the story.

I heard about it only a few days in advance, and while I immediately set aside the time in my planner, it took until the morning of to hammer out all the details. I had some errands to run and therapy in the morning, schoolwork to do in the afternoon and less than an hour to get ready and travel. Busy day, of course. Clearly nobody's making this easy on me.

I picked out my clothing the night before, everything from pants to button-down shirt, belt and shoes. I was dressing to make a distinctly "me" impression, and -as usual -I was determined to make it the best of me.

I had received some guiding questions in advance, and spent hours crafting finely wrought, concise but genuine answers. Then I spent even more time formatting. I wanted them to take a glance and clearly see the basics -name, contact info, height, open-ended questions, references -and notice that I put thought and consideration into my answers. When they were checked, double checked, printed, checked and double checked again, they finally went into my leather folder, ready to take with me. Finally, I felt more confident, powerful and refined once armed with my Shidduch resume.

I'm not messing around, this is the most important position I'll ever have in life, and the potential for growth and promotion -"random guy" to "dating" to "significant other" to "chatan" to "husband" to "father" and beyond -is unfathomable.  "One step at a time," I tell myself. I'm not the only one being interviewed, or searching. For that matter, a good chunk of that is self-employment and motivation. I go nowhere without "me" and the hard work I put in.  

I'm about to head out, but turn around. I forgot my headphones. Must. Listen. To. Music. Aside from putting a lighter note in my heart, a bounce in my step and stimulating my mind... it also calms my nerves, when they begin to fray.

Flash forward. I arrive.

Okay, so things were a tad shaky to start. I had to print out my own resume instead of being able to just email it and have them print it out for the Shadchanim. That's okay, handing it to them separately will make me stick out. I wasn't sure if there would be space, but I'm here and that's all that matters, right? Right. I enter the fray.

As the night begins, I speak with a few Shdchanim that really spend time getting a feel for who I am, but as more people show up, an air of rushing and getting to the point quicker adds some time-pressure to the meetings. I hear many of the same questions -asking about my religiosity, hashgafah, my ideal woman, what I can't stand, my "look," personality traits, if I'll date Ashkenazi women or prefer only Sefardi, etc.

It's not so bad, these Shadchanim know how to schmooze. They seem very in tune and get to the point without being overly blunt. I get a lot of ego stroking... comments like "you have a nice smile," "you need a fantastic woman, I have to see if I have one for you" abound. If my face could turn red, it might have.

But, for the most part, I don't really answer these questions. I side-step them. I'm not an "in the box" or "cookie-cutter" type person and I don't have a specific "look." I find many different kinds of women attractive. Aside from the fact that no single combination of features is singularly attractive to me, attraction is broader than thinness, dress size, hip-waist-chest ratios and whatever else people are obsessed with nowadays.

I don't have a "personality type," like outgoing versus quiet. I care about character, like a woman being a giving person, particularly in her desire to fulfill the needs of her husband. That she communicates well, has a basic unbreakable respect that won't collapse under stress, pressure, anger, hurt or frustration -because without that respect communication breaks down and blame is laid out. I know I need a nurturing woman, someone who cares about (and is dedicated to) Halachah, someone who works hard on their own personal development and is motivated/committed to continue that growth process. And, apparently, through the way I talk most shadchanim assume I need someone intelligent. I like to think I need someone who can keep up with me.

Anything more is the icing and cherry on top. It helps that I'm not worried about lack of chemistry.

I also say that I think issues like who does the cooking or cleaning or fixes the car or are relatively irrelevant. With mature people who communicate, it can be worked out. For the most part, people aren't thrilled about doing chores, and they just need to get done. With people who have the giving mentality of "if I can do it, I will," and see it as showing love and care for the relationship/home/family, there's no reason to fight over it. Each person is 100% responsible for each thing that needs to be done, and should show appreciation when the other is filling that need. In fact, fighting over this kind of thing vaguely reminds me of two kids arguing about who has more orange juice in their glass.

More ego stroking ensues.

After interviewing with over twenty Shadchanim (and not even getting to introduce myself to half of the Shadchanim at the event), I'm exhausted. Also, despite my initial perspective and subsequent preparation, the process felt much more human than businesslike, which is something I particularly enjoy about YUConnects, and my experience with them has been much better as I have more and more human contact. By the time I leave, I've already got a few suggestions and immanent follow-ups. I've also collected many complements, and of course I show every bit of appreciation I can for the time and effort they clearly give to me and others. It really impresses me, and I'm always touched and amazed at the sheer time and effort that goes into the system.

Plus, I've now met many more Shadchanim, and that's part of the larger networking process of getting more people to think about me. Make an impression, and when someone comes along, perhaps with a bit of divine guidance, I'll pop into the matchmaker's mind. At least, that's how it is supposed to work, right?

Jul 19, 2011

Top Ten Signs Your Rabbi is a Bit Too Into Harry Potter

The following is not my own writing, see here for the original article. 

10. Wonders if the Half-Blood prince is from his mother's side
9. Refers to "Shabbos Goy" as "Shabbos Muggle"
8. Calls really bad short drashas: HogVorts
7. Instead of Yasher Koach he tells you: "2 points Gryffindor"
6. This shalosh shuddos talk will 100% be entitled: "Witchcraft and Wizardry in Halachah"
5. Calls a yeshivish guy Serious Black
4. Instead of tallis he's wearing a red and gold scarf
3. On his wall he has pictures of Great Rabbis including R' Dumbledore
2. Doesn't chap why Harry and Hermione were never a good shidduch
1. When he thanks the Lord, he clarifies: "Almighty, not Voldemort"