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Dec 27, 2012

The Magic Number 2

I've noticed an interesting pattern in my own dating behavior, and I thought I'd share and get some perspective from the peanut gallery too...

I've written before about the importance of responsiveness (or receptivity) when it comes to interacting with a woman, and in the dating world generally. In the absence of an adequate level of responsiveness, I'll usually give it two tries, but then my motivation to continue plummets. This can be with respect to phone calls, texts, or other forms of contact as well as attempts to schedule another date. I'm tempted to generalize to all forms of initiation in the dating world (and possibly within my relationships as well). But let me not get ahead of myself yet.  

For example, there was a young woman I went on a first date with. It was a nice date and I felt that we began getting to know each other, so I called her up and asked her out again. She responded, "one of my friends is in town, so I'm busy that day." 

"Okay," I thought to myself "that happens. I like to spend time with my out-of-town friends too." So I suggested another potential time and venue. "That's not a good time for me either, I have a work function that night," she replied. At that point, I was simultaneously frustrated ("Well then, just tell me what works for you!") and in doubt ("Okay, I get the message. We're done here.").

It was seriously disheartening. So I said "Alright, let me know if your evenings open up" and I was done. Needless to say, I didn't contact her again.

Was that a mistake? God only knows. But I can say that my motivation plummeted as she told me she was unavailable, yet made no attempt to suggest a viable time. Twice.

In another situation, a mutual friend had followed through with a suggestion, giving me the "a-okay" to contact the lovely lady whose qualities had been so eloquently lauded. I texted her to see when she would like to talk (with the intent of setting a date, of course). A couple -there's that number two again -of quiet days later, I called her up. After ringing all the way to voice mail, I left a message. A day or two later and I'd mentally washed my hands of her. Did she ever contact me back? Yeah. Two weeks later (and no, she wasn't in a different country)... By which point I was long gone.

I've also been on dates that I felt it were dragging on. I don't need a woman to hang on my every word, but it's important to have more than a one-way conversation that feels like a therapy or interrogation session. I can ask a hundred questions, but after just two carefully crafted open-ended inquiries that are reciprocated with monosyllabic answers, I'm practically resigning. While I'm fairly confident I might be able to continue the line of inquiry -and even though I often will, for the sake of getting through the date -I'm usually giving up on the inside. 

On occasion I'll be more persistent. If there's something really pulling me, a strong point of connection, an emotional hook-point... I'll be motivated for longer. When I've had strong feelings, I've been known to pursue with more zeal. However, that is fairly uncommon in the  earliest stages of dating.

Could I be too sensitive? Sure, that's a definite possibility.
Am I missing out on opportunities? I'll submit to that potentiality.
Should I change my modus operandum? Ay, that's the question... I'm not so sure.

I can imagine I'm not the only guy who reacts that way. Part of me wants women to understand that just replying without giving more -be it a question or a suggested date option -will probably be taken as a sign disinterest (at least by me). Another part of me wonders if I'm just letting go too soon. Then again, in the wonderfully diverse world of dating my style is -like ice cream -just one flavor of many. I'll have to keep tabs and see if it's actually working for me or not.

Feel free to add your two cents.

Dec 23, 2012

Hide your feelings!

While I will pursue a woman when I have a particular interest, it helps to know she may like me. In fact, the greatest predictor of whether we like someone is often whether we think/know that they like us... 

And yet every so often I'll hear about a missed opportunity, someone who harbored secret feelings for me and worked to hide them rather than allowing them to be known.

How unfortunate. 

Dec 7, 2012

Dating Towards a Shared Vision

The Gottmans are a power couple in the field of relationships. Dr. John Gottman is a relationship researcher and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz, is a clinician. I attended a seminar about their perspective on couples in which Dr. J. Gottman talked about his research on successful couples.

One of the most striking pieces of his work that struck me is the concept of a shared vision. Practically every successful couple has a shared vision, a set of goals and values that the partners lean on one another to achieve together. During the seminar, he posited that the shared vision is created together.

Which got me thinking about how we date, or at least what I'd thought about how we date. The impression I had when I entered the dating world is that each person has their criteria, their list, their image of what marriage, life, children should look like. We are each trying to find the other person to fit that bill.

I started wondering if maybe instead of looking for that image in another person we should be looking for the person with whom we can create a new image.

Perhaps it wasn't so relevant when we consider the dating history of frum Jews. Living and growing up in small communities may have created a community image, a shared image that children grew up with. Variations may have been smaller. Perhaps in some ways we still have those small communities and still look within them for that shared image. It may have worked then, perhaps it still works today for some.

On the one hand, it seems easy to choose someone based on their fit with our image, and then we stay with them because we like their character and find them attractive. However, it can be quite difficult to find someone who fits that image, and to expect or look for character and attraction in addition can sometimes seem like a tall order.

On the other hand, choosing someone based on character and attraction may seem difficult too, and with the added work of creating a shared image, of having to work and not so easily have the life, marriage, family that we expect or dream of in this moment can also feel like a tough expectation to swallow.

Which way resonates with you?

Dec 3, 2012

Dating: Traditional Vs Feminist

Every not-so-often, I get a suggestion from someone -family, friend, a random disgruntled date -that I should probably go for a woman who is more traditional.

Personally, I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I was raised in a very traditional family. My Mother felt a deep sense of responsibility and fulfillment in taking care of us kids, cooking and creating a home environment, while my Father was the breadwinner and head of the household. On the other hand, my family also has some distinct non-traditional leanings. My Mother has more formal education than my Father, while my Father was more than happy to change my diapers and get to cooking/cleaning when he got home from work and my Mother was busy (either playing with us kids or with work/school). In many ways, I'd like to think my parents were flexible in their roles.

But there's more to it than that. I saw bits of both the traditional and non-traditional relationship in my parents. Truth be told, I think I absorbed a value for both, and I want both -or parts of both. Which can all be very confusing, since at times they seem to be in conflict with one another. On top of that, I grew up exposed to American culture and media, which has a whole other set of values and expectations for relationships. Of course it's not so simple, and I'm working through my own values. 

As much as I feel conflicted and confused about my expectations and values, I can imagine that it might be just as conflicting and/or confusing for women. So I'd like to throw a question out there for all the ladies out there: Do you experience a similar conflict for yourself? How do you deal with it?

Nov 25, 2012


The most difficult thing -for me -about a break up is the thoughts I'm left with immediately after. Running my mind through the things I really enjoyed about her, about our experiences together, about her character. Wondering about potential. Wondering about the path not taken.

Over time, that fades... life moves along, and I let myself get swept up.

After a little while, I find that some days I'm torn between enjoying and relishing my bachelor's freedom (again) versus the meaning and joy of engaging in the depth and connection of a relationship. Other days, it's one or the other. While I think I'll have days of each throughout my life, today is one of those conflicted days.

In fact, it's been a conflicted couple of weeks. After the initial "I've had enough" feeling following a break-up, I've noticed a pattern of feeling conflicted as I move on. That kind of ambivalence can make it tough to be motivated to get back into dating...

Sometimes, it just takes the nudge of meeting someone striking to get motivated again.

Nov 19, 2012

Dating Models

Everyone wants to date models, and while I'm sure plenty of people fantasize about it, this post explores something slightly different. 

We all have an image of how to date, and perhaps the type of person we want to date. Often times, we base this on our experiences, seeing things we like and things we don't. Our upbringing has a significant impact on that image, as our expectations are often shaped by the experiences we had growing up, both in terms of the good -which we want to replicate -and the bad -which we avidly avoid like the plague.

So when it came time to start dating, I found myself asking a lot of questions about how others dated. Married friends, single friends, random people on the street, Shadchanim (some of whom decided it's their mission to dictate what I should do and some whose wisdom I continue to cherish)... practically anyone who I could squeeze for a perspective.

I have to say, the single most influential couple in my life is my parents. I grew up watching their ongoing romance -and sometimes lack thereof -both subconsciously and with rapt attention. Some things I decided to avoid at all costs, while others I absorbed with pride and hope to replicate in my own future marriage. Most importantly, though, are those elements of their relationship that silently slipped into my subconscious mind, planting seeds that grew without my notice.

The longer I'm dating, the more I discover some of those seeds, though more often than not they've grown into fruit-bearing trees that have fed my insecurities, frustrations and successes alike.

For example, my parents have some very different attitudes and beliefs. When they met, my Father was far more traditional than religious, and my Mother was far more religious than traditional. My Mother's family grew up immensely wealthy, while my Father did not experience that privilege. My Mother came from a very large family, my Father less so. My Mother is decidedly Democratic and my Father robustly Republican.

(Would such a couple date or marry today? I wonder... )

They grappled with so many issues and differences between them, including religious observance, finances, children, and politics. But what they did was create a shared vision together, and put every ounce of effort into building that dream into a reality. In truth, both my parents are immensely proud of that work, and so much of that dream has been realized through their choices and their relationship (of course there is always more!). They compromised in thousands upon thousands of ways over years, each one giving up huge parts of their individual dreams to build something together. 

I am beginning to realize how their relationship affects my expectations, in big and small ways alike. My mind absorbed so much from them, such as valuing flexibility and being less picky about many differences between myself and a potential partner as well as expecting and hoping to replicate one of our family rituals wherein everyone stops what they are doing, gets up, and meets my Father and/or Mother at the door when they come home from their long days.

In other ways, I would like to choose my own path, since my experience growing up had its unpleasant moments. I cannot overestimate the effect of seeing my parents argue over some of their issues without ever really seeing a reconciliation happen (though they always did reconcile and build a stronger relationship together). I resolved to learn how to reconcile conflict even though I did not get to learn by observing my parents, and I very strongly believe that children should have that opportunity to learn by witnessing their parents work through conflict rather than just experiencing the arguments that spill out from behind closed doors. Part of me feels it is important to protect children but more than that I believe that as a parent my primary mission is to teach them, by example wherever possible.

It can be so clear sometimes. I met a woman whose mother begrudgingly gave up her own career so that she could stay home and raise her children. Her mother's resentment became her insecurity, and this woman grew to feel petrified of marriage, assuming it means she gives up her own life for someone else just to create a family life.

Another man I know watched his parents argue for years, slowly becoming bitter towards each other and finally divorcing. The parents' sniping led him to expect his partner would take belittle him too, and he often seemed to be waiting for the hammer to come down any time a potential argument broke out.

I know a single mother whose son grew to have great admiration for her, but lacked a sense of his own role and meaning in a relationship. In some ways, without a father as a male role model, he felt lost and useless. His mother got along just fine without a man, so what makes him important in a relationship? He struggled with feeling important and needed, assuming that his feelings and needs are not necessary to express and have fulfilled for a successful marriage/family. On the flip-side, I have seen men like this who grew up to expect a woman will take care of everything for them (after all, his mother seemed to manage beautifully!). 

Everyone sees something in their parents' relationship (or lack thereof), and everyone has expectations based on what they saw -both the good and bad. Those models can silently creep in and determine our frustrations, fears and limitations, or we can explore and decide for ourselves how we will work with the blueprints we inherited.

Nov 6, 2012

Thought of the Day (#5)

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:
"Telling someone what to do is easy, but leadership requires consideration for the consequences to all parties involved. That responsibility is no small burden, demanding empathy and insight, acceptance of feedback and adapting to changing circumstances."
As always, thoughts and feedback are welcome. 

Sep 11, 2012

Men 101: Physical Proximity

After my side-note on this post about long distance, I remembered something very interesting about how I relate to physical proximity with others.

I think -on the whole -we men actually build relationships of different kinds through physical proximity. For example, my gym buddy isn't someone I need to talk to about my personal problems or feelings. We go to the gym, have a workout, and go our separate ways. But after doing that for some time, I'm comfortable and feel close with him. Some of my best guy friends are dudes that I spend time with playing board games and card games, sports or just living together as roommates.

We don't need to sit down and talk about our deep feelings to bond, just spending time around each other, especially engaging in activities together, builds a connection. Kind of like the guys on a sports team. They don't sit around the locker room drinking tea and talking about their relationships and feelings to become friends -they do that after, when they already feel bonded by spending time together. 

 In fact, when some of my guy friends have moved away, our relationship somewhat stagnated. In person we are right back to where we used to be. But from far away, it's just not the same. Talking online or via phone doesn't really build the connection so much.

So I posit this: Men bond through physical proximity. Just spending time together. Perhaps not exclusively, but in a big way. 

I don't mind doing an activity as a date, as much as I enjoy talking. In fact, in many ways it's really more about spending time together than talking. Of course the exception is when information-seeking, but I'm talking about building a bond, not trying to figure out what a woman is going to do with her hair when she's married or what she thinks about television and movies. There's gathering intel, and there's bonding with someone; I think they are two different things.

Sep 10, 2012

Oh, Long Distance.

Sometimes we can be blissfully oblivious of what we're saying until after we've heard the words out of our own mouth, and then... Wham! We process what just came out. Other times, it can take a while before our words come back to haunt us.

I've had to eat my own words a few times. It can be so embarrassing, and yet so enlightening at the same time. I usually laugh -it's amazing how we can corner ourselves with just a few words. I relish the experience, the double entendre, the unintended (perhaps subconscious) meanings we convey, how simple it is to misunderstand or misrepresent what we mean.

And so, with reference to my abhorring long distance here and an entire post devoted to it here, it's time to eat my words, so to speak. I'm doing the long distance thing now. I think I dislike long distance more than ever, but sometimes the person is worth it. I certainly feel that way now.

Sometimes, I feel that life experience is telling me that ideals and reality don't always mix -it's like oil and water. Ideals can be lofty and light, rising above the realities of life. Ideally, I'd avoid long distance. In reality, it's something I'll put up with -for someone I feel is worth overcoming the obstacles. 

But back to the ol' peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich metaphor for long distance versus proximal dating:
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.
With long distance, each bite is more intense. Spending time together can feel pressured -there's just so much I want to cram into every moment, unsaid feelings and thoughts, curiosity and so much I'd like to learn and see, wanting more time, always thinking about when the next opportunity might be, and fretting about parting ways until some nebulous, hopeful future time to get together again. And then the process repeats itself, feeling pressured and trying to cram too much into too little time.

Afterwards, looking back, I sometimes wish it could just be more relaxed and less intense. Being able to spend time together doing things and interacting rather than trying to cram two or three weeks' anticipation into a sliver of time. Talk about overwhelming!

It's all in my own mind, of course. I'm just going to have to put it to work figuring out how to chill and slow down, take the pressure for intensity down a few notches. Which is hard to do when I don't really want it to slow down, especially given that the distance is already built into the package. On the other hand, I'm learning that trying to compensate by cramming more intensity into less time (or fewer meetings) isn't a particularly effective solution.

[As a side note, I find myself trying harder to develop more of a connection faster (or a stronger connection), perhaps to compensate for the physical distance I'm forced to acknowledge and deal with. It's a push to handle my own dislike and frustration with the physical distance by trying to balance it with emotional closeness. I'm curious if anyone else has had that experience too.]

Balance, as they say. It's just a matter of time. Well, space and time. *Sigh* Oh, long distance. 

Aug 27, 2012

Quote of the Day #10

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: 

"I find it a profound irony that we spend all of our time dating obsessing about similarity and our relationships/marriages learning to appreciate and overcome our differences. "

As always, thoughts or feedback are appreciated.

Aug 20, 2012

The Dangler

I'm a pretty straight-laced guy, so when I go out on a date with a woman and let her know at the end that I had a great time and would like to go out again, I mean it. I also contact her within the next couple of days, at least to chat a bit, build more of a connection, flirt, etc. Either way, I definitely have the next date in mind even if I don't always get "down to business" straight away.

I have come to understand that the process of dating takes time, to wait for a suggestion, consider it carefully, to answer and wait back for an affirmative response, to make contact and compare schedules, to set a date and go out, to talk a day or two later. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Still, sometimes it's too drawn out, like this story about the dangler, who strung me a long for a couple weeks after a first date. 

As I've mentioned, graduate school keeps me somewhat busy on occasion, reducing my available dating time. Summers are often the best and most open time I have, which also makes them the most precious for dating. While I could probably cram in 4-6 dates a week with anywhere between 2-6 women, being straight-laced means (to me) that I'll take it one at a time. I'd rather not compare or cram. 

So, onto the dangler. Our initial contact and phone conversation was great, and we set a time to go out. I thoroughly enjoyed exchanging stories on the date, I happen to think it's a great way to start getting to know each other, and there's always extra points when the stories are funny, shocking or otherwise striking. It's also a great way to slip in some intrigue, a la "remind me to tell you the story about my first experience with peas..."

Unfortunately it was all lateral from there. Lateral as in "sideways," as in "no upwards or downwards movement."

Communication almost immediately became particularly patchy. Texts would sometimes garner little response and other times multiple responses, calls went unanswered but returned via text (and then responded to patchily, as above), she'd selectively answer questions and comments I made. In the two weeks that followed our first date I mentioned talking about setting up another date at least twice, if not thrice, and I would have been perfectly fine if she were not interested. 

At first I wondered if it was a game of hot-and-cold. Personally, I don't have much interest in the game, but I was wondering about it. After about a week, I found my interest dropping, particularly since I experienced a significant drop in receptiveness. You'd think it could indicate her lack of interest, but I didn't sense that. Then I wondered if she was having a busy week, perhaps not unlike some of my own, but I thought she should have said something about that.

And then she did.

"Okay, that happens"  I thought to myself. "I have had busy weeks, I know what it's like. Maybe this week will be better." Meanwhile, a precious week of summer dating time had gone by with nary a date in sight.

And then she did it again.

After twelve days of this, I had pretty much lost interest. I didn't even really want to go out on a second date anymore. Being straight-laced does have its drawbacks, and feeling obligated to stay true to my word and go out again is one of them.

I figured if I didn't have a stellar time and a third date didn't materialize quickly thereafter, I'd wash my hands of the whole ordeal.

Finally, we set a time to talk on the phone. At this point I was pretty much done with chasing her, so we figured out a time and I let her know she can call me, thinking that I wasn't going to keep initiating forever with someone so busy. Let her make time and contact me when she is comfortable.

The call never came, but I did get a text three days later saying she's a bit too busy to date right now. "No kidding," I thought to myself, "I figured that one out on my own, thanks." Then she offered to talk on the phone about it. Having had enough of the dangling, this cat just walked away.

I learned two lessons. First, never tell a woman you'd like to go out again, until you are planning the next date already. Second, if someone you go out with is too busy to schedule another date, just tell them that they seem busy and cut 'em loose. Third, receptivity is #1. Okay, that's three, but the last one is an old lesson anyways. 

Aug 14, 2012

On Books and Covers

People say "don't judge a book by its cover" and sure, they're usually right. But sometimes you just wish the rest of the book is just like the cover.

Aug 10, 2012

#1 on my List is...

I can safely say that the largest factor for me when it comes to dating (and women in general) is receptivity.

But before I explain and qualify myself, permit me to paint a picture that clearly shows the difference between an encounter with someone who is receptive and someone who isn't. Let's say I'm in a room full of singles ready to mingle. I am taking my time walking around slowly, allowing myself to scan and note anyone I find potentially appealing or attractive. That's how the first impression works, and I've come to trust in what I find interesting.

And let's say I see two women that I am interested in talking to, and perhaps for the sake of this illustration I will posit that I find one significantly more attractive than the other at the moment. So, as I mingle and make my way around the room (assuming I wouldn't just make a beeline for whomever I found interesting), I look over a few times. Say the more attractive one is oblivious to my existence, and the other attractive woman looks back and smiles. Can you guess which I would approach?

I would not give it a second thought. If there were a balance and the initial attraction had it tipped to one side, at this point it would be almost entirely weighed on the other side.

What I'm hoping for is an indication of potential interest because -let's face it -I know how I feel and what I am thinking, but not what she's thinking or feeling. I'm just not very likely to spend or waste my time trying to charm or convince a woman to be interested in me. Furthermore, with every response, smile, laugh and look I will find myself more attracted and interested in this woman and less interested in the other one.

In one sense, it's not super complicated: we are more attracted to people who we think and feel are attracted to us. That's why hearing a woman likes me or has an interest in me will more likely pique my interest in her.

The same has been my experience with online and shidduch dating. Whether it's because of emotional (interest/attraction) or logistical (school/work/being busy) factors, I'm MUCH more into a woman who is available and responsive to me (and of course we have lives, I don't expect 24/6 responsiveness).

And there you have a definition for receptivity: being available and responsive. Body language and nonverbals are just as important as listening and being open to hearing and responding to whatever stories, thoughts or jokes I'm sharing (and of course that goes two ways as well). It's not just about responding, but how she responds too.

Receptivity is honestly, seriously, actually, very attractive. Downright hott. It easily tips the scales for me.

I naturally gravitate towards people who are more responsive to me, and I assume that's the case for most people. On the flip side, when I sense less receptivity, I'm often finding myself less interested, less invested and less attracted.

Some people think that "playing the game" -when they wait, hold back and are not very receptive -works better. Maybe in America we were raised and told to play our cards close to our chest, to give up as little as possible it's understandable that people would do so. I would much rather smile and see smiles, tease and be teased, to quip and use wordplay, push away and pull in with playful communication.

Aug 3, 2012

My Love-Hate Relationship with Dating

I recently go back on the horse and started dating again. It was not easy for me. In fact, I practically had to drag my resistant heart and mind through the process just to get myself out on a date. I found myself very much lacking in motivation, and found my body leading my heart. It was an odd, dream-like, zombie-esque experience.

I recently heard a great analogy (for guys, at least): dating is like shaving. See, when you start it's super exciting, because of what it means (as sign of manhood/adulthood) and because of the newness. After a couple months or so (no, I don't mean dating the same person for two months, I mean dating bunches of people), it starts to become a chore. Pretty soon after it's a downright pain.

At least the date was fun. Taking time away helped in that being on the date felt refreshing rather than jaded. Kind of like how guys often have fun shaving after the three weeks or the Omer, making all kinds of designs, patterns and crazy beards before going baby-faced again.

During my long "break," in random moments when I had some time to breathe, I reflected on my dating experiences, what I enjoy and appreciate and what I really don't like.

I found that I enjoy having time and space for myself, that I like to be more laid back and relaxed about dating, and that formality, pressure and stress just get in the way of being myself and actually experiencing the other person. I found that when I feel the dating is pressured or formal I become a lot more self-conscious and focus on myself instead of getting to know the woman. I become preoccupied with protocol and all of these things rather than just spending time swapping stories, building rapport and flirting.

As much as I've learned about myself through dating, the things I like and don't like about it, I wonder about my on-again-off-again relationship with it. I spent some time dating intensely when I started, and then found I had to back off quite a bit. Perhaps finding a balance, something more laid back with less pressure to keep going out with women back-to-back may be more ideal for me.

Either way, though I love to get out there and meet people, I'm finding my heart isn't always into it. I have to balance listening to my heart with persevering through the chore and pain of shaving. Oops, dating.

Jul 31, 2012

My Anonymity

There are all sorts of reasons why a blogger may want to be anonymous, and I'm sure it may lead to lots of curiosity, especially for people who read something that sounds familiar, or like someone they know.

I originally thought that people may be respectful of my choice to be anonymous, and leave it at that. Over the past year I've found out otherwise, multiple times. It seems that curiosity often overrides respect for privacy nowadays, a sad reality to consider.

Which has compelled me to explicitly state my own need and reasons for anonymity.

I wrote about being a psych grad student here, and by nature that means this blog has a half-life. The type of writing and disclosure I allow myself on a blog -talking about my own feelings, experiences, perceptions, beliefs -is a wonderful experience, but based on my own training in grad school, I feel it is not appropriate for a practicing psychologist.

A quick explanation on that point: therapy should not be about the therapist, and while there are times that divulging some feelings or personal experiences may be beneficial for a client and should be weighed carefully on a case-by-case basis, having too much of the therapist's life/thoughts/feelings/experiences may change the focus of therapy, which ultimately is worse for clients.

Having so much of my own experience, feelings, beliefs and insecurities publicly posted is a risk I take, one that is tempered and I permit through the protection afforded by a thin veil of anonymity. When I do finally begin practicing -years from now -it's a risk I very likely will not allow, for the integrity of my work.

Sharing my deep thoughts, pains, desires is a joy in more ways than I can express. I'm sure I will continue to do so in my own way even when I do not have this blog, but not publicly with my name attached to it.

So each time someone tells another person my name this blog becomes more public and less anonymous, leading me to a dilemma. Because, like roaches and mice in New York apartments, for every one you see there are forty others you don't. Every time I find out my anonymity is breached, I have to revisit the concern and potential responsibility to end this blog.

With each person who finds out who I am, I feel the clock ticking towards the day this blog will end.   

This year alone, I have revisited the concern more times than I am comfortable with. I could ask that those of you who read the blog, who find familiarity and have curiosity help maintain that thin layer of protection, to curtail your curiosity or at the very least hold it in and keep it to yourself. Doing so would be a great contribution towards keeping this blog up longer.

In the end, this is mostly out of my control. For anyone who respects my choice for anonymity, you have my appreciation and my thanks. 

Jul 12, 2012


There's a brilliant talk by Brene Brown about vulnerability. If you're interested, I've embedded it here from YouTube, and it's also on TED Talks.

We have this tendency in our society to see vulnerability as weakness, to see someone willing to risk hurt, to show hurt, to be hurt as not being strong enough. Maybe we need more vulnerability in our lives; there's something more genuine about it.

So let's hear from y'all - what is vulnerability to you? what makes you feel vulnerable? when do you feel vulnerable?

Jul 9, 2012

Stop Searching and Start Experiencing

I came across this blog the other day, originally for a Market Design class, and was exploring when I stumbled on this link, which took me to this research article.

It's a fascinating piece about how people and relationships are experiences, not just a pile of criteria and tangible attributes. It was talking about online dating, and made a case in saying that people waste far too much time getting far too little because of the way we are dating online.

What happens online?

We search. We look at criteria, a list of things including height and age, eye color and Jewish school, frequency of davening and move watching habits, skirts or pants, personality and music, activities and body type... the list just keeps going on.

And when we see something we don't like? We click a button and just keep going on.

I'm as guilty of it as the next person, and as a guy I am privileged to do that more easily and feel assured that I will have another chance very soon.

Perhaps we should adjust the questions we ask, the things we spend time thinking about. Maybe we should request different information from a Shadchan, answer questions a bit differently. Maybe we should slow down, spend less time focusing on criteria and more time focusing on creating experiences, or sharing our own.

I don't want to marry a list, paper and pen doesn't quite do it for me. But I would like to have a really wonderful experience in marriage. I guess that starts with experiencing another person, sharing my experiences, hearing hers, and creating ours together.

Jul 2, 2012

10 Reasons Why Nerdy isn't Attractive (and How to Get Over it)...

10) Often isolated or less social, particularly in crowds or large events. Face it, he's probably not going to be the life of the party. Unless it's a cocktail party for physicists, in which case I hope you like physics puns...
9) Can, at times, be an inflexible, insufferable know-it-all. You're just going to have to get used to it. Just remember, even when he thinks he knows, doesn't mean he's right. You can always remind him that science changes its mind about every 50 years about what's right, but that may just spark more debate.
8) May not always have great social skills or tact. But don't worry, he can learn. It just requires some patience and you have to explain it to him rationally. If there's logic involved, it can be learned and absorbed.
7) Sometimes, they can be difficult to understand. If you know half the words he's using, it's hard to follow. If there are offhand references to theories, hobbies or knowledge that you don't have, it's just awkward and slightly embarrassing. There's only so many times you can stop someone mid-point to clarify what they mean and have them explain something to you.
6) Less likely to ask you out. Afraid of rejection, as we all are. But, perhaps a tad more sensitive, owing to repeated previous social/romantic rejections. With a bit of extra/special attention, smiling and perhaps being a bit more obvious about how you feel about him (if you feel that way), he'll get there. Patience is a virtue...
5) Often present as unconfident. See above. He's probably plenty confident about some things, but unfortunately that's less likely to include being around beautiful women or striking up conversations out of thin air. There's confidence somewhere, even if you have to dig to find out he can build his own generator from a potato and some tin foil.
4) Less inclined to approach others, often at a loss for what to talk about. See above. Also nervousness, and anticipated/expected rejection. Sometimes it just takes a bit more sensitivity, acceptance and warmth. Other times, it will take a whole lot more time.
3) Won't always be assertive or straightforward. It didn't work in grade school, middle school or high school, so why would they expect it to work with women later on? You might have to let him know that you want to hear it, and being gentle/responsive when he is being assertive will go a long way.
2) Tend to be afraid of hurting feelings -afraid of making you angry or upset. These guys have probably heard one too many times that they should never, ever hurt a gal's feelings. And they took it seriously. Unfortunately, I think this is one of the larger issues, because it leads to... 
1) Emotionally unexciting. Being afraid to slightly offend can cramp interactions, especially since being playful is about the little ups and downs, poking and jabbing and teasing mixed with joking and compliments. That kind of banter is often the essence of flirtatious attraction. 

Perhaps that's the biggest point -not being afraid to be playful. Find a playful nerdy guy, and you're set. Or perhaps you can encourage it (eg. being playful yourself) and see whether or not it comes once he relaxes.


Every so often (or rather more than that) I hear people talk about how generalizations are unfair, don't really represent everyone, or point out the exceptions to whatever statement is made about a group of people.

So I decided to put down a quick reference to what a generalization refers to (partly so I can make quick reference to it later). Without getting too much into the math, here's a picture of what we call the "normal curve," which pretty much shows how people score or are organized in most areas of life, including intelligence, personality characteristics, chess ability, height, musical ability, or attractiveness.

normal_curve.gif (76564 bytes)

As you can see, it's color coded and broken into sections. These sections represent groups of people, depending on how far they deviate from the line in the middle (aka the average Joe).

The blue section is what we would call the "average." When we talk about IQ or SAT scores, the average range is that 68.2% in the blue shaded region. The average score (about 1000 for the SAT, or 100 for an IQ test) is the line right down the middle there. For example, in an IQ test the shaded area would cover scores ranging from 85 to 115, which is the range that most people (just about 68.2%) would score if you tested them.

The red and yellow zones mark people who are above or below the average range. For an IQ test, someone who scored above average in the range of 115 to 130 would fall under the red shaded area on the right (13.6% of people would have scores in that range, above others) and those who scored above 130 would fall into the yellow-ish shaded area on the right (with a tiny portion of the population, only 2.15%).

So, the way we think about "average" and the way we use generalizations, is people who basically fall in the blue shaded area. This is true for SAT scores and IQ tests, but also for things like attractiveness, basketball ability and pretty much any skill or attribute you can imagine.

Thus, a generalization very often and very likely refers only to the blue shaded area. Yes, there are plenty of people (close to 32%) who don't fit into it -either because they fall above or below the average range -and that is expected. The entire point is to capture a large portion of people -not every person -with a single statement.

Jun 29, 2012

10 Reasons Why Nerdy is the Way to Go

Having been born into nerdom, I'm probably biased here. In any case, here goes:

10) Our kids will most probably be brilliant too, or at least will be genetically predisposed.
9) Nerds often have had their feelings hurt, and tend to be more sensitive about hurting others' feelings, including yours.
8) When there's a problem, we'll put our minds to it and won't stop until we find a solution. 
7) We're genuinely happy to be with the person we're with.
6) We'll actually listen, because we know what it's like to feel unheard or unseen.
5) There is no superficial machismo in nerds.
4) There is a soft and vulnerable side to us -and you love it. 
3) We are willing to learn, and will go to great lengths to become better people, men, husbands, fathers, lovers...
2) We don't play games or lead you on.
1) We will appreciate and cherish you every day of our lives.

Next, I'll probably have to write about the 10 Reasons Why Nerdy isn't Attractive (and perhaps some thoughts on how to get over it)...

Jun 26, 2012

Questions I Hate (and Suggestions for Replacements)

I get all kinds of questions in dating, and people seem to answer specific questions in particular ways (regardless of how they are asked). Here are some of the more common ones and a few ideas I have and use in answering them.

1) What is your "look"?
     My Answer: I don't have a "look." I have some preferences, but hair color, eye color, height, age... are not as important to me as wanting to be around her, being proud of having her at my side. A woman with great character -and who wants me -is far more attractive than a picture perfect smile from a magazine. How many women do you know that would elicit those feelings?

2) What kind of personality are you looking for? 
     My Answer: I'm not picky about personality, per se. A little more outgoing or less outgoing isn't the biggest deal. A little more homey or outdoorsy doesn't make or break a marriage. I care about character -how does she handle differences between herself and others? Is she kind to herself and the people closest to her? How does she experience and interact with the world around her? What are her relationships with family and friends like? How does she act under tremendous stress and pressure? How does she handle anger (both her own and that of others)? How does she handle her own flaws, how does she feel about herself? I'm not looking for perfection, heaven knows my list of flaws is longer than my own new roll of toilet paper, but it's about how we handle them -individually and together. Admittedly, I do believe a little playfulness and laughter go a long way. Openness and receptivity are, I think, really important for all good relationships.

3) Do you want a woman who will cover her hair? (Alternatively: How do you want her to cover her hair?)
    My Answer: Tell me, do you know what covering hair means to her? Does she struggle with it? What does Halachah mean to her? Those are the important questions. We all struggle and have our own challenges, I want to know her values. Whether she covers one way or another isn't my greatest concern, it's engaging in the Halachah, struggling and working through it that I value more.

4) How many hours do you learn?
     My Answer: Let me tell you what learning means to me...

I'm going to stop here and ask -do you see a theme? Maybe it's just me (though I certainly hope not), but I think we need to start encouraging a different kind of question asking and answering process for dating. Instead of asking about details like how often someone goes to minyan or learns or whether she knows how to put on make-up, how about asking questions of values and meaning.

We all have a tough time with certain things, but instead of categorizing based on how many years the guy/gal went to HASC, how about asking what the experience of chessed is, what it means to the person? Because after 25 years of being married, the number of years in HASC matter a lot less than the value or perspective a person has in doing acts of loving kindness, or how they handle frustration -especially with their closest friends/family.

I certainly don't answer the questions that are asked of me much of the time, and I think that we have opportunities as single daters to change the questions that are being asked, if only we would answer the questions we want, and encourage our friends, family, matchmakers and websites to begin asking a different type of question.

I'll acknowledge that we often implicitly assume that something like one's kippah choice or time spent engaging in organized chessed represent something, but we have replaced seeking values with seeking culturally/communally determined outward expressions of those values instead. I don't think it's working very well. In fact, I think it's getting in the way of having the important conversations and focusing on the important values in dating, relationships and marriage. 

Jun 1, 2012

Relationship Without Marriage

Boy, do I have a lot to say about this topic!

After spending nine months doing shidduch dating, online dating, friends-setting-me-up-with-someone-random dating and the like, I had enough. I was exhausted, from putting myself into each date and each person, from getting nix'd over and over again. Feeling more judged and rejected than any other time in my life. I crammed a lot into those nine months.

Also, school completely swallowed me up. I had no more time -not a single night in the week -to go out. And then this happened. So when I found myself around someone who was simply a joy to talk to, to laugh with, to delve into the depths of conversation in so many topics, who was simply there while I was going through so much and had so much stress, I was overjoyed.

More than that, though, meeting and getting to know someone casually, without pressure for marriage -which I realized only afterwards is a giant boulder weighing on my every word, thought and consideration in formal dating -allowed me to appreciate her for who she is, to get beyond little details and arbitrary criteria. For once, there was no need to analyze or worry about what her words mean for marriage, how my own actions and words are coming across. Without the pressure, I felt a lot more free to just be myself, to have fun.

Aside from the freedom, lighthearted joy and support, there was more that drew me to a relationship. Being in one -even without looking forward to marriage -is something I wanted to experience. Sure, I have been in relationships before. There was something distinctly different about being in a relationship with someone so self-aware and growth focused. Someone with whom I could explore my own faults and fears, with whom I can share my innermost core, someone who would do the same with me. There is never enough time, always so much more to explore of who we are, and who we are together too.

I wanted to have that, I wanted to know what an argument looks like when two people can be sensitive to each others' feelings and needs. I wanted to know what it's like to hold someone's anger, to feel open in expressing my own, to know that I will be heard and understood first, and to deal with the issues afterwards. I wanted to experience these aspects of a relationship (even in a limited capacity) and I wanted to see it in practice. I saw so much of what I think I'm looking for, and I wanted to experience it so that I will know when the right person comes along.

Which brings me to the next point: the conflict. Clearly I knew early on that she isn't for me (and I'll leave out the specific reason[s] why, because they're not important for this post), and I made sure very early on that we are on the same page. We discussed the issue at length, we weighed the benefits and consequences of being in a relationship that almost assuredly won't lead to marriage. We engaged in that concern, we talked about the value(s) and whether they are worth it. We discussed the limited nature of the relationship, recognizing that by necessity it will be short term. We talked about these issues over and over again, we opened up our feelings and frustrations, and we listened and empathized with each other over and over again. So much care and patience, such a wonder to experience.

In all these conversations I found myself wanting more. I wanted to be in a relationship with such fantastic dynamics, to hold onto someone who can have that kind of sensitivity, to learn about being in a relationship from each other. We made that choice together, and I'm  glad we did. That experience is something I will hold forever, and is invaluable to me.

Sure, it was tough. There was a lot of conflict, and the issues came up over and over again. In some ways, it was more like playing house than a real relationship, because there's no permanence without long-term commitment. Short term commitment may not be an adequate substitute. But it sure beats the pants off of my experience in dating, which as thus far been much more "no commitment" and very selfish in terms of criteria and choice-making.

Where this leaves me in dating now, I'm not sure. I have a lot more to think about in terms of shidduch dating versus meeting and building a relationship. I certainly don't want to have a string of short-term relationships that don't go anywhere, even though I hold this experience as one of the most valuable in my life.

In the meantime, I'll continue plodding along, living, exploring, and learning to handle the conflicts in life.

May 23, 2012

.... Aaaaand I'm back

Let's just say it's been a busy few months. The hiatus hasn't been easy, it has been time-intensive, demanding and exhausting. In fact, I'm not even finished with much of what's going on.  But I'm back. So want to drop a little nugget which I'll hopefully be posting about soon: 

I've been in a relationship. One I knew wasn't leading to marriage.

I might even share some of my experience, what I've learned and maybe even how and why I made those choices.

Apr 15, 2012

Choices #2: Corrosive Chain Choices

I can't count how many times I have heard that men have an overabundance and women a paucity of choices in shidduchim. And, of course, the implication is that men are better off. While I'm very willing to admit that as a man I realize that I have some important privilege, particularly when it comes to my age and expectations for marriage, I don't think the choices -both the many for men or the few for women -are particularly good for us as daters.

No matter how you date, there are often a series of choices we have to make -whether to pursue the other person or not, whether to accept and move forward or not, what to wear and how to dress, where to go, how to manage the many forks in the road of dating, be that between dates or as dating turns into a relationship and/or progresses towards marriage. 

Following my previous post, I found another interesting research article on choice-making, which I think is applicable, and actually follows a similar logic (see here and here for the research details). Basically, the research had participants making a chain of decisions in navigating a maze, where each choice either led to winning or losing money. By analyzing the choices made, the researchers found that any decision that having the immediate consequence of losing a large sum of money was avoided, even if/when it would lead to winning more money overall. Furthermore, the increased usage of this "pruning" decision making was correlated with increased symptoms of depression.

So lets take a process such as... hmmm let's say... dating in the shidduch world, where there are a series of decisions -a maze of sorts -to navigate. Each decision represents an investment, and potential loss of time, effort (and for men money) or potential benefits (connection, excitement, potential marriage). I can definitely see people using this same "pruning" process to avoid options/choices/decisions that they would expect to lead to loss (say, not being excited after the first date may be very discouraging in terms of choosing to go out again).

One thing that really bears out in the research is that people make poor choices based on the "pruning" decision-making process; furthermore, this type of avoidance in decision-making is actually related to greater symptoms of depression!

That is, of course, in addition to the pressures and stress and frustrations in dating. No wonder so many singles -especially those who have been navigating the shidduch dating scene for a while -are getting increasingly depressed!

Maybe it's time we find a different way of thinking about how we make choices in dating...