Author Archive

Call Me

by Aaron under JDate,Judaism,Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

Initially, the last car wreck I was in seemed awful (no one was hurt, just my car). It was an accident, obviously, but I felt terrible. It was completely my fault and I had to get my car repaired using money I was saving at the time for grad school. My rental car, required while I had my car repaired, made me feel slightly better about the accident — it was a sleek version of my car, but newer and full of little perks like Bluetooth connectivity.

As I drove home on my first Shabbat with that rental car, I wanted to try every feature (yep, playing around while driving — probably why I wrecked my car in the first place). Specifically, that Bluetooth was fun, and I used it to start making calls. It was Friday afternoon and I had to drive home from Wylie, Texas back to my little town of Plano, a 45-minute commute on a good day, but an hour or more on this Friday afternoon. It started, as it now does every week, with a call to my Zeyde, who at the time was an hour ahead of me in Miami. Then my grandparents, and then a friend or two… I just went on and on, calling friends and seeing how their week’s went, even if it’d been a while since we kept in touch.

The list changes frequently; I’ll forget someone or substitute someone in that I haven’t seen in a while for someone I just saw. In the age of texting, Facebook, and email, I was connecting to friends at a larger scale than ever had before. My network didn’t lose touch with me as easily (relegated to liking goofy Facebook posts occasionally); if I had their number, they got a call.

Nowadays in New York, my roommates know Friday afternoons before Shabbat are for calls. They’re a little different now though. I call my mom, my dad and my brother, in addition to all of those old friends and family I don’t see as often. I call friends from home and friends in New York, keeping some friendships stable and growing others.

But most helpful was the way it grew my relationship with my current girlfriend. I always worry about keeping a relationship in this age of texting. We have to be on our game so often early on in relationships (i.e. Am I saying the right thing? Did I wait long enough? etc.) But Shabbos calls were different. My girlfriend and I still do it every week, she’s usually my last call before my phone goes off for Shabbat, and we typically finalize our Shabbat plans together.

The habit is very much so in the spirit of Shabbat: just a simple call saying you’re thinking of someone. For me it was Friday afternoons, but whatever you do, using the phone is a great way to build relationships, platonic or romantic, and I think you’ll be surprised by how grateful people are for that little call.


The Three Weeks

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Single Life

As I write this entry, I’m certain it will not come out grammatically correct, maybe not even as rational thoughts. Normally that’s not an issue as I write, but today it kind of is. The reason is that today, I am hungry.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start playing sad music and show you starving kids in Africa, nor will I go on about food stamps. Instead, I am writing about a different cause of hunger: two fasts that begin and end the period in Jewish life known as “The Three Weeks.”

The Three Weeks always scare me. They started on Tuesday, July 15 (The 17th of Tammuz) and end on the evening of August 5th (The 9th of Av). These are three weeks that were very difficult for the ancient Jews (yes, even by Jewish standards these weeks weren’t easy). Some people don’t listen to music or get haircuts during this time of year.

For me, these weeks are always scary. I worry I’ll lose a job, a girl I’m dating, or worse. My brother returns from Israel in two days, but obviously having him there as I write this scares me as well. While I won’t get too much into it, the situation in Israel during this time of year is an obvious reason for worry right now.

But worry would defeat the purpose of these weeks, in my opinion. The Shabbat service I went to last Saturday discussed the reasoning for studying the rituals of the temple during these three weeks — not to mourn their destructions (both took place during this three-week span), but to hope for the days when we go back to the temple and have to use those rituals again.

Life is gonna kick you in the face sometimes, that’s how it goes. As a new guy in New York, it’s literally happened to me once or twice. But you can’t let it sway how you live. That means if someone turns you down on a dating site, don’t go on and on about it if you meet that person in real life. Don’t whine to others about how you’re always single.

What people really want is someone who will keep them upbeat. At any given moment, we are all just one or two complaints from a total kvetch-fest with the right crowd. Who doesn’t like to complain? But in this three-week period, I encourage you to make the choice to say nice things, to learn about the positive things around you. Destruction will always happen, we may lose the temple, but one day it will stop, and maybe the temple won’t be rebuilt tomorrow, but maybe we can make each other a little happier in the meantime. Have a safe and happy three weeks everyone — and if you’re fasting, may your fasts be easy as well.


Breaking In

by Aaron under Judaism,Single Life

I recently wrote a piece on man-dating. Much of that post was about how to handle going out and reaching out to friends of friends or old friends, but one thing I didn’t cover was how to go about making friends any time you go out. I’ve covered it a little bit in the past, but with the new perspective of actually being new to a city and going through this challenge recently, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in a month of living in New York.

For me, the challenge started when I went to a very popular young professional shul here. I had no idea where to start, aside from the one or two people I knew, and I found myself, for the first time in years, unable to work a room. I made a vow to myself to fix that though, so here’s what I did:

  • Don’t act like you know anything about the environment around you… I have a habit that can be both good and bad, and that is my ability to walk into a room and act like I own the place. While it can sometimes be charming, I’m sure it can also come off as arrogant. The greatest mistake I made when moving to New York was acting as if I’d been there forever and understood how things worked.
  • And yet, be observant… I’ve said it plenty on this blog, but observe things around you that make you curious. Ask someone if the crowd is normally this big, ask if they know a lot of the people, if they’re from the area, etc. Make comments about the food (food especially is a good common ground), the service, etc. Shared experiences are a basic building block of relationships, and reminding people through observing things that you’re sharing something helps a lot.
  • Lean on the fact that you’re new… Introduce yourself immediately as a new guy/gal. It makes you immediately vulnerable and gives people a reason to introduce you around. You can be fairly socially inept at first given the guise of being new. This one even works if you’re not new to town — you may just be new to a group, but even that works at breaking down barriers.

I realize none of these are groundbreaking, but they helped me to make friends at synagogue this last weekend, and maybe they can guide you a bit as well.


Play Date

by Aaron under Date Night,Entertainment,Judaism,Single Life

When I was little (okay, sixteen), nothing was cooler to me than action figures. I would manipulate Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into teaming up with Spider-Man and Wolverine to take on the evil likes of Magneto and other villains. It gave me such a feeling of joy to sit and play with my toys and create new stories.

As the years went on, I started to grow out of my toys and into dating. As an adult, dating became one of my favorite pastimes. However, while Shredder and Spider-Man have yet to show up on any date I’ve been on, one of my favorite traits about the dates I’ve been on has been the imagination and effort put into them. Sometimes I’m the one with a brilliant idea, or sometimes the girl comes up with something fun, and sometimes it’s a combination of the two.

Regardless of who takes credit, it’s always fun to do something different. I always wanted to explore Dallas more before I left, but even my last dates there were still very basic: bowling, dinners, etc. I explored things on my own, such as two-stepping and indie concerts, but never had such fun dates.

And yet, when I was away, I became a master of fun dates. I guess it started with a date in Arkansas that stretched all the way to Memphis, but since moving to New York I’ve discovered the beauty of exploring a city with fresh eyes. Some people might groan at the touristy things to do in a city, but sometimes tourists go places for a reason. Though Times Square would still mostly be a no-no in my eyes, there are a lot of great options in the Big Apple and elsewhere.

My dates have been as simple as a Shabbat walk in Central Park or watching the sun set on the Hudson, or extravagant as trips to Coney Island and the Empire State Building. Being in New York has allowed me to see things with a fresh eye and excitement, and I think that fresh way of thinking has really enhanced the dates I’ve been on recently.

We all want to see the world from fresh eyes and be whisked away on an adventure, and you don’t have to be new to a city to do it. Try to take some time to go to that touristy place around you where no locals ever go — from Graceland to the Fort Worth Stockyards to the World of Coke to the Sears Tower. Sometimes things can be pricey, but they can also provide a new adventure, and definitely something different (and also probably more worth paying for than a dinner date). I don’t see myself playing with action figures any time soon, but in a sense the world is the greatest play set I’ve ever had, and I love trying new combinations of characters and places in it.


A Gentleman’s Guide to Man-Dating

by Aaron under Date Night,Single Life

It was seven o’clock on a Sunday, and I was frightened. I had already postponed our meeting thanks to a broken 1 train, and I was schvitzing from the bus ride. But I walked into the bar, ready to finally do this. It’d been a while.

We spotted each other right away, and though we’d never met, we instantly recognized each other as the people who had messaged each other such things on Facebook as “yo” and “wanna grab beers?”. It was so nice to have found this again.

“This” was friendship.

Moving to a new city was scary to me in many ways. I didn’t know anyone initially (luckily a last-minute roommate change meant I was living with a good friend who is also Jewish), and meeting new people in the big city can be tough. I was lucky to have mutual friends setting us up. So if you’re looking for new friends, whether in a new city or not, here’s some tips I’d like to offer:

  • Tell your friends you’re looking. Like with dating, it’s easier for people to set you up if they know. And in this case, much less threatening to their relationship with that person if things go south.
  • Even if you don’t plan to drink beer, go to a place that sells it. One of my best man-dates in the city was at a burger joint where the other guy drank some beers while I downed chicken fingers.
  • Reach out to people you haven’t seen in a while. I met a guy in Barcelona who lived in New York and we reconnected, and I reached out to friends I met once in college.
  • Work at it. For me, this has been a big one. Moving to a new city has meant I need to be proactive about my relationships. People will seldom go out of their way to make new friends, but building habits by staying in touch with people is a great lesson for all of life.

Though dating has been great here, I think friendships are also a vital part of life, especially with little family around you. Even if you’re not in a new city, try reaching out to friends of the same gender you may not have seen in a while. Building your network is vital, and you never know who might know a nice, Jewish girl (or guy) they never would’ve thought to introduce you to otherwise.


Ease of Life

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism

M’shana makom, m’shana mazel — this is the phrase people kept repeating to me as I decided between Dallas and New York. The phrase means change your place and change your fortunes. I was doing fine in Dallas, but I can tell you New York is a different world entirely, and I love it. There are more Jews to date here, more things to do on Shabbat (the Great Lawn in Central Park and touring the Upper West Side’s Kiddushes with my roommate have become my favorite activities each week), and best of all, more places to enjoy Kosher dining.

Jewish life in New York, to put it simply, is really easy. I tell my company it’s Shabbat on Friday nights and I get to be out in time every week. People on my block in Harlem know how to properly get a mezuzah affixed on a doorway. There’s a kosher section in my grocery store in an area where there are few Jews. And even in this (Jewishly) remote area of town (The middle of 150th street, where the nearest synagogue is a 30-minute walk), even the far walks of one hour to synagogues with numerous young people is closer than the two or so hours it would take me to walk to any shul in Dallas from my house (not to mention how easy it is to walk here).

It makes me wonder though — is life more meaningful when it’s difficult? Wasn’t there more meaning to the fact that in Dallas I was still attempting to keep Kosher, I still kept Shabbat every week (although by staying at different homes every week), and I still only dated Jewish despite a small dating pool? Life was definitely not tough, luckily, but there were some strange challenges. People thought I was nuts when I told them I dated long-distance to have a bigger dating pool, and the first time I told a group I’d not be able to meet during Shabbat got some weird reactions. Did my continued efforts despite people’s lack of understanding mean anything more came out of it?

In some ways, yes. I gained a great deal of confidence by standing up for my decisions that a lot of people didn’t understand, and my efforts in keeping Kosher, keeping Shabbat, and dating Jewish, no matter what it took, led me to great places that have made living in New York more exciting and meaningful than if I’d just waited to do those things here. But to call New York “easy” is still relative — the truth is, those things are still difficult here. Sure, there are 2 million Jews, but 10 million people overall here, it’d be much easier to date a non-Jew. There are tons of Kosher restaurants, but there are also hundreds more non-Kosher restaurants, many with great smells and sights in their windows. It’s not a rare occurrence for me to drool over the smell of Subway or the sight of a chicken and cheese sandwich. And while Shabbat is easy because of the number of people in my life who keep it, there are definitely moments where I don’t want to take a walk or read a book and instead just pop open my laptop to goof around.

Judaism, and life in general, is full of challenges and tests. Some are easier than others. But just because things are made easier doesn’t make them any less of tests, and any less special when we stick to our guns. I felt guilty when I got here and it seemed like everything was so much easier, I thought life needed to be more difficult. But I think it’s just become relatively easier, and new challenges have started to show — prepping my own home for Shabbat every week or finding the budget to keep kosher. The only bad thing, really, would be for me not to keep pushing myself to grow and find new challenges around me. Whether it’s Judaism for you, or a new place, or whatever the thing in your life, don’t hesitate to try and make it easier. New York has been a great experience, and even better, I’m sure it will bring me many more challenging experiences to help me grow in ways that wouldn’t have been possible when the now-easy parts of my life were difficult.


The Sounds of Silence

by Aaron under Date Night,JBloggers,Relationships

As I attempted to come up with a topic this week, I was drawing blanks. I wanted to write about my trip to Europe, my life in New York so far, how my dating life is going, any number of things that have been on my mind. But every time I started writing something, it was worthless. I drew a blank.

When you’re not being asked to write a blog for an awesome organization every week, silence can actually be a great thing.  It’s not always that I can’t write about things, but sometimes I feel like I’m writing just to write.

Interestingly, in the last year, some of my best dating moments have involved silence. From long car rides to Memphis where I’m just taking in scenery to the beauty of Central Park, sometimes there’s more happening in life than just trying to get to know someone. Sharing an experience is such a beautiful thing, and I think sometimes we feel an overwhelming need to talk through things as we’re getting to know someone. But in my opinion, nothing compares to just sharing a moment in silence.

So that’s my very simple blog this week. I’ve been around the world in the last month, and I’ve seen some great sights. I know the best is only to come, but the finest moments since my last real writing time (early May) have been the moments of taking in life in silence with another person. Overlooking the beach in Barcelona, looking out over New York from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, or even just listening to strangers talk about Grindr while I was sitting on a park bench while cuddling up with someone special. These have been the best moments of my last month, and they didn’t involve me feeling the need to say a single word.


Guest Post: “Start Giving” by Ofir Tzoubari

by Aaron under Relationships,Success Stories

Last May, Mother’s Day was celebrated across the country. Families gathered to pay their respects to the woman who put so much of her time and energy into raising, feeding, and teaching her children. A mother’s life, we reflected, is truly dedicated to her children. A mother’s love for her offspring will always surpass the love of the child for his mother.

But why is this so? And why discuss this on a dating website? (And why, as an additional question, should we only recognize this on one day of the year? But this article won’t go there, at least not today…).

The answer to the above questions illuminates a profound truth about human nature, and about the nature of love. Often, we are told that the more we receive from someone else, the more we will love them. That seems to fly in the face of what we learn from our parents and the love they bestow on their children. Mothers and fathers give to their children since before their birth. Every minute of every day (particularly when in the child’s infancy) is dedicated to giving.

The reason for the love that develops as a result of the giving, is due to the investment the parents made into their children. They have put so much of their lives into the object of their giving and, as a result, the love grows. It is not a merely biological love; it goes much deeper. It must be the following: a parent will almost always love a child more than the child can love their parent because love grows from giving, and only from giving. And, the more selfless the giving, the more powerful the consequent love.

Anyone who has been truly in love can confirm this point. The love you feel for the other is made manifest by an overwhelming desire to give. One almost feels shame and annoyance, a besmirching of this great love, when one receives from their loved one in turn (which is unnecessary, to be sure, since another manifestation of the giving nature of the love is to permit your partner to give). Ideally, we should want only to give; the more you give, the greater the love becomes.

One of the reasons for this must be precisely the reason mentioned above for a parent’s love: the greater the investment of self that goes into the other person, the more you see yourself in that person. The natural human state is to love oneself; by extending this sense of self into the other by giving of yourself to him or her, that love expands outwards.

This can be seen quite clearly through our great affinity for things we have put so much time and effort into, such as our careers, building our homes (or even card-houses when we were children), or our music. The more time, energy, and money we put into a thing, the greater our love for that thing.

All the same, acknowledging this as truth today is unpopular today. In a relationship, we are told not to love as deeply as the other. Why? So we can walk away more easily, so that we will not be the one who leaves the relationship hurt. We must give the least and take the most.

The lesson we must learn from our parents teaches us the exact opposite: we must invest ourselves deeply into our beloved, to give as powerfully as possible, so that our love for them will grow. The paradox here is this: when you make the goal of the relationship the other person’s happiness, you in turn will find the greatest happiness of all. When the goal of the relationship is to be an altruistic giver, your relationship will last forever.


Stay-at-Home Summer Movies

by Aaron under Date Night,Entertainment,Online Dating,Single Life

As summer movie season is upon us, the natural inclination is to drown our girlfriends in comic book lore and respectively take boyfriends to go see Legally Blonde 6. Not a lot of happiness comes out of that from my experience (just go with your same-interest friends!), but there are definitely some fun movies for everyone, with a little romantic spark to boost. So with that in mind, I’d like to give you some of my recommendations for your next stay-at-home movie night:

  • Before Sunrise/Before Sunset: Any girl I’ve ever dated knows these are the best romance movies known to man. As a grown man, I still tear up nearly every time I watch either one, but I love every second. The movies are literally just two people exploring two European cities (Vienna in Sunrise, Paris in Sunset), but what an experience. And they’re pretty short, so if either of you disagrees with my recommendation, at least it’s over quickly.
  • Definitely, Maybe: While Ryan Reynolds is rarely an actor I recommend, this is one of those fun romantic comedies that keeps everyone happy.

Okay, so it turns out I only have two (three depending on if you count the Before movies as separate) really romantic movies, but if you’re looking for more missed hits to watch on DVD/across the internet with your significant other, here are some other non-romances you may have missed:

  • Six Degrees of Separation: Who doesn’t love Will Smith? There’s a bit of romance here, but mostly the movie just asks the question “just who the heck is this guy?” A fun air of mystery makes it a fun watch for everyone.
  • Hamlet 2: I feel like this is a very special under-appreciated movie, and I highly recommend it for everyone (ladies will love Jesus’s sexy abs, but everyone will enjoy the fun of a sequel to Hamlet).
  • The Scream Movies: Horror is a special bonding experience, and no horror series is more lightweight, fun, and well-done than the Scream movies. The whole series isn’t perfect, but if you want to be scared in a way that won’t force you to keep the lights on, this is the way to do it.

So that’s my mini-movie corner, feel free to post your stay at home recommendations in the comments!


Why I Cried During The Zombie Movie

by Aaron under Judaism,Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

Before I was on this blog as a narcissistic storyteller every week, I was struggling with my dating life quite a bit. Break-ups were especially hard for me when they hit; I had a tendency to over-invest in relationships that were probably less real than I thought them to be.

One such afternoon comes to mind, and that is when I popped in a DVD I’d rented from Netflix called Warm Bodies. Now, this movie is literally a movie about a braindead zombie following a guy around for 80 minutes. That’s the entire movie. Somehow, in my shaken up state, I began to see parts of my life over the last few months reflected in the movie: “Wow, the way she stares at him and can’t say anything was just like our romance!” or “The way he shoots a gun at some other zombie for her is just like how we do things here in our Texas romances!”

Some of that is exaggerated, but it actually took me two days to finish this very mundane movie for the fact that I couldn’t keep my mind clear. All I could think about was the girl who had just broken things off with me. And then something changed.

You see, I found the secret to getting over a lot of issues in life, and that is by creating a routine only I have control over. It’s easy (and a little dangerous) for the world to dictate where you go from day to day, whether it’s your job or an overcommitment to someone of the opposite sex. So as I waited for grad school to start and had a month of funemployment last summer (and was freshly back on the dating market), I started doing things. I started taking more of an active interest in my Judaism by learning Talmud, putting on tefillin every day, and keeping Shabbat as to have a pattern in my life that kept me calm. That’s not necessarily for everyone, but it worked for me. Similarly, I spent the last five months learning improv a few times a week, and that calmed me like nothing else. It’s all about finding something that works for you.

There’s obviously a balance between living a life out of The Truman Show where you’re saying, “Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!” every single day, and uncontrollably weeping during teen movies. But if you’re struggling with finding yourself, take some time to do things that are distinctly for you. What started with tefillin and Shabbat has now become much more (though those are both still present), from writing these blogs to just learning new talents or having dinner every week with a few friends. There’s no easy way to make yourself invulnerable to being hurt, and you really shouldn’t, as vulnerability is a powerful thing in itself. However, you can definitely live a stronger dating life by giving yourself a little consistency. After the zombie incident, the next break-up was a lot easier, and I went right back to wrapping tefillin the next morning.