Author Archive

Losing (Or Gaining?) My Religion

by Aaron under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

After writing a blog about taking a hi-datus a few months back, there were obviously protests from women all over the world. But in terms of things that actually happened, one of my rabbis contacted me and said I was flat out wrong. “Being single,” he said, “is not how one grows in Judaism. True growth is done by growing together.”

As friends and readers may know, much of my life has been spent single, and I’ve grown Jewishly quite a bit in the years since college. There are definitely a lot of things I wonder about, such as whether I would’ve grown more or less with a steady partner in my life. So I did the logical thing and took to Facebook to question other friends on their religious growth — with or without relationships. Here’s what I found:

  • One friend started keeping Shabbat after dating her boyfriend.
  • Another married couple I’m close with now spends every Shabbat together, though the woman in the relationship did not grow up keeping it.
  • Some of my friends found that being alone, whether from moving or just being single and diving within themselves, made them feel more religious.
  • Other friends found their experiences to fluctuate more than they’d like when they are in relationships, both positively or negatively.

The responses I liked the most though, and fittingly enough for JDate, were the ones that held the idea that the relationship needed that religious foundation to exist in the first place. Very few people who claim religion is a dating dealbreaker will message outside of their religious affiliation, according to a study from Wired.com (special shout out to my friend Rachel for the link). One the most profound responses came from a Catholic friend; she said religion was an important part of her marriage, and something she could share with her husband. Additionally, other friends saw this shared religion as a model they wanted to base their future relationships on, even if they didn’t exist yet.

So does one grow more while single or in a relationship? It’s difficult to say, but what seems certain to me is that there is no point to stopping the growth. It’s worthwhile to explore what’s important to you when you’re single, and even better to find someone to share you passions and growth.


Just Do It

by Aaron under Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

*This is a guest blog written by Jeff, a friend of JBlogger Aaron

As a result of the constant procrastinating and constant internal topic struggle in my head, I thought no better a topic than taking action. I told Aaron I was interested in writing a guest blog several months ago, but had produced bubkiss.  I’m willing to go out on a limb and take a chance generally, but I was not always this way, and in dating it can cost you plenty. I’d like a minute to talk about quitting, quitting coming up with excuses for not being more social (romantically or otherwise) and just taking a chance. If you can’t tell by now, I’m not a writer; but I am half-Jewish and an effective dater. If this does not impress you, feel free to stop reading now, but my point is to say “Yes” to more things.

I justified the whole process of failing to date; it was only years later that I realized it was irrational fear that was preventing me from asking out a girl I liked, or making a move when the time was right. What was I afraid of? I might have been rejected, or G-d forbid embarrassed. Growing up is progressively understanding yourself by trial and error. I know who I am and am not shaken by women not reciprocating my romantic interests.

Some meaningful relationships of mine have begun with someone I had my doubts about. It was through these relationships that I realized the kind of qualities I was looking for and what to avoid (in a partner and a relationship). After all, most of us are looking for love, and like other men who date a lot, I get lumped in as a “player,” when in reality I’m just looking to stop looking.

I don’t recommend putting on blinders completely, but reconsider the situation where you were on the fence. What is important, is stepping out of your comfort zone — if nothing more than to understand where your comfort zone really ends. A wise friend would tell anyone with a problem (be it alcoholism, mental illness or a something petty) to simply “Stop It!” So if you are lonely and single, stop it! If you want to get different results, you need to do something different.


Wait, We’re On a Date?

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

One of my favorite episodes of the American version of The Office is called “Happy Hour,” and it introduces a fun character from Steve Carell: Date Mike. Date Mike only comes to exist after Steve Carell’s character (Michael) finds out that one of his employees has brought a date for him to the company happy hour. Michael dons sunglasses, pops his collar, and puts on an attitude, explaining he didn’t realize he was on a date.

Lately I’ve seen my social media feeds clutter with people’s confusion about dates. One article went viral about people not being clear enough when it comes to their romantic intentions. Another recent article in USA Today reported on a study commissioned by JDate and ChristianMingle that found there is a lot of confusion when it comes to figuring out whether or not a date was actually a date… or something else.

There’s a few angles I see with this. On the one hand, online dating should make this issue much easier: when a website has the word “date” in the title, it should be pretty clear what’s happening. But that isn’t always the case. Over Shabbat, I discussed this with friends. Some had used JDate simply as a way to further test the waters, inviting people to happy hours — not a date, simply an introduction opportunity that other parties misunderstood.

Here’s a distinction that makes defining a date less ambiguous: a good date simply involves people having fun, a little bit of sexual tension, and most importantly, spontaneity. My friends and I discussed our best and worst dates earlier this week (three men, two women) and came up with some conclusive answers as to how we enjoyed or disliked dates. When both parties interacted heavily (not seeing Troy, for example, when one party isn’t into action movies), or had a fun time just doing something random (not as random as buying plants at Home Depot, but maybe as random as eating a cookie cake together and sharing wine), it didn’t matter how the night was labeled.

People like to have a good time and try new things. If you can do that together, a date becomes a date whether you call it so or not. More often than not, the hangouts I’ve had with members of the opposite sex — such as watching a Scream movie marathon or going to a women’s basketball game on campus — have often led to much deeper connections than me making small talk about the first time I ordered the veggie burger at a restaurant. So date, hangout, invitation to meet at Whole Foods — it doesn’t matter what you call it. A date has a lot of extra pressure added to it, and that tends to take away from the fun. There’s no need to bring Date Mike to the party, but add some fun and spontaneity, and it’s going to be a good time — regardless of what it’s called.


Why the Underwear Matches

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism,Single Life

In what will henceforth be deemed my “women-ssance” of 2013, I began to develop a new pattern. I started matching my underwear color to an item of clothing I was wearing. From shirts to sweaters to socks, what was underneath always matched something visible.

I didn’t know at first why I started doing this. It was just fun and made choosing outfits in the morning an exciting endeavor. But a year later, I think it finally makes sense in other ways. All it took was me wearing a yarmulke (that also matches my clothing, typically) to make me understand.

For a good while, I’ve been Shomer Shabbos, and I keep Kosher for the most part (I’ll still eat dairy or pareve outside of my home), but I felt like until I was the best Jew ever, I couldn’t wear a yarmulke regularly. I found a loophole of sorts (I wear a hat when eating treif to avoid the guilt I believe I’d otherwise feel with a yarmulke), and suddenly I feel comfortable wearing a yarmulke everywhere. The first day of class with it was a little weird (classmates are still asking me what holiday it is since it’s so new for them to see), but it has since helped in making me more comfortable in my own skin.

What I think it does best is it puts all of my cards on the table in a lot of situations. What you see with me is totally what you get — I wear a yarmulke, and it shouldn’t surprise you if I can’t do something on Shabbat or eat certain foods. It makes it easier to turn down interviews on Shabbat or to keep myself dating Jewish exclusively. It comes down to the basic idea of both the yarmulke and my boxers: what’s beneath should match what we see.

This applies online and in real life. Your dating profile and messages should be authentically you — don’t try to cast a wide net; you want to find someone for the long game. And in real life, people should be able to tell what they’re getting into, whether it’s in what you’re wearing, or just the actions you take and the words you say. This is really just a spin of something that’s been said to death, but nothing is sexier than when your external attitudes are true to your internal self, or in my terms, your clothing matches your underwear.


Lashon Hara

by Aaron under Judaism

A part of dating that many people underestimate takes place off the dating websites, and is not only limited to your engagements with the opposite sex: it’s the attitude you carry with you all the time. You can’t change that, and a lot of different parts of your life impact that attitude. With that in mind, one of my friends did something amazing a few weeks ago: they stopped me from gossiping about someone.

In the age of the paparazzi, gossip (or Lashon Hara as it is called in Hebrew, meaning literally “evil language”) about anyone and everyone is a common thing. Sometimes it can even be helpful, as the Torah tells us (and science reaffirms, through helping our mental health according to some studies) that talking ill of someone to help avoid an unfair situation, such as Bernie Madoff’s scheme, is okay. What is not okay is talking about others in lights that we shouldn’t be.

Dallas has this problem, and I’m sure many more of the young adult communities have the same problems around the world, Jewish or otherwise. But it’s become a real problem in Dallas, with a lot of people hurt over people being involved in their lives that shouldn’t be. So my friends and I have gotten in the habit of watching out for each other and reminding each other not to gossip about others and rather to avoid names (which is also not okay if it makes it obvious as to who is being spoken of still), or even better, just saying nice things about others.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with dating or your life. It’s simple: people may not be able to read your mind, but your attitude will come across in everything that you do, and gossiping about others on a regular basis is only likely to bring you down. I consider myself pretty happy, but even I do it sometimes, and I know that’s not right. I feel worse when I talk about others, even if that slight second as it’s happening feels so juicy.

So start looking for the positivity more in others and raising people’s spirits when possible. Everyone loves the person who makes others feel great, and believe me — you’ll start to love that person, too.  And really, that’s the first step of this whole thing.


Is This Bad for Me?

by Aaron under Online Dating,Single Life

Sunday nights have never been easy for me. An ex once told me I might have a light case of Sunday night depression, which is apparently common among people as Sunday is a daunting day (especially when your last two Sundays have been right before holidays from work). Last Sunday was especially rough on my psyche, as I finished watching an episode of Star Trek and felt the nothingness sink in. No more NFL games for the day, no more LinkedIn promoting of myself to get a job up north, and nothing to advance my day any further (it felt like).

What caused this feeling? I think it’s actually pretty easy to pinpoint. First of all, I spent the entire day doing nothing really. I did get some job leads, watched a movie, and went to dinner with family and friends, but for some reason I just felt empty. And of course there was the main thing I did — leave my browser open on dating websites.

In the coming weeks I plan on starting my own business for online dating coaching, and have thus immersed myself this week in as many online dating websites as possible. Unfortunately, doing so has made it feel like I’m getting nowhere with women (which really isn’t true, I’m doing just fine, but so many options with less than stellar response rates can feel that way sometimes). Especially sitting with JDate open today, sending messages every few hours and not getting as many responses as I’d like.

This isn’t to say if you go on JDate, you’re going to feel disappointment. Quite the opposite. Some of the greatest women I’ve dated have been from JDate or are frequent users. One of my favorite things to do is log in and hear the chat buzz from an old flame as we catch up in the most unorthodox of ways, while waiting for others to view us and we give each other feedback on messages and our profiles.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The best thing to do is not to wait for the chats and messages to come in, but instead to start making your own actions the focus of your own happiness. I’ve been reading a great book called The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, and one of the main points it makes is not to let others determine your opinion of yourself and instead make yourself satisfied by doing the things you think are important.

So as time for sleep approached this Sunday, I suddenly got the urge to do some things. I write a journal every day, and after examining my entirely selfish day, decided to write some thank you notes to friends for birthday gifts and work on some projects for my nearly-completed winter internship. The fact of the matter comes down to this: you can wait for someone else to show up to make you happy and get dragged down in the process, or you can be pro-active in the areas of your life you can control, and the happiness will follow. What will you choose?


I’m a man!

by Aaron under JBloggers,Judaism,Single Life

Eleven years ago this week, I participated in a ritual that has been part of Jewish custom for all of time: I became a Bar Mitzvah. I read from the Torah, led some services, and, of course, had the party that the ritual has come to be known for in secular culture. While I didn’t have dancers welcome me to the stage with neon signs, I still felt like it was a very meaningful experience.

So for this week’s blog, I thought it might be appropriate to touch on some of the learnings from my Bar Mitzvah portion. The lessons this week (as with most weeks) can be applied to your life, secular or religious, Jewish or otherwise. The Parshah this week is called Bo (in English this translates to “come”), and the basic premise is the occurrence of the final three plagues in Egypt (I’m assuming everyone’s at least seen Rugrats Passover and remembers this part), as well as some other milestones for the Jewish people.

It’s also the birthday of the Jewish people (so if you’ve been wanting to throw a surprise party for us, now you know when to do it). It’s kind of an odd thing for an entire people to have a birthday together, and this raised an interesting point at the discussion class I go to on Monday nights: what’s more important, an individual or a community?

An individual needs to be well-rounded to help build a community, but at the same time, one can’t be fully community focused. It’s fitting to me that this is the Bar Mitzvah portion I was assigned, as community involvement is something very dear to my heart. I’ve run a community blog for a few years now, updating local young Jewish adults with events going on every week in Dallas, and in the meantime I have also witnessed tremendous growth in the young adult Jewish community in Dallas.

So when people come to Jewish events and dating inevitably comes up (what can I say? I really enjoy talking about dating and this blog), people tend to ask me what they could do to meet someone in Dallas. The easiest advice I always have to give is to come to more events in the community. Whether you’re Jewish or not, you’re never just going to meet someone being alone.

So if you’re not finding anyone, there’s no better time than the New Year to go out and get involved in a group or two in your community. Join one of the countless Facebook pages for Jewish life in your area, join a meetup group, or just any group where you can make new friends. Life didn’t get easier after I became a man, but after finding my community, it definitely did.


What I learned as a girl

by Aaron under JBloggers,JDate,Online Dating

My last name is Stayman, and I will frequently make a joke about my manliness when I introduce myself to people. Usually it’s something along the lines of “Stay-man, which I intend to do”. I have, however, somewhat been lying about that. I intend to stay a man of course, but I have veered a bit to the other side in a sense, too.

Back in college, some friends and I thought it would help our fraternity/Jewish groups to make a fake girl’s profile on Facebook as an entering Jewish freshman on campus. Using this technique we found a number of incoming Jewish freshman, men and women, who either returned our friend requests or were excited about our “existence” and friended us. We invited kids to parties and events using the girl and we set membership records for Hillel and the fraternity. No one ever noticed that first girl they talked to wasn’t there.

Not my proudest moment, but they called me the Jewhunter in college for a reason, and I was darn good at doing anything it took to get people involved. I called it quits after that, despite my fraternity continuing to do it in the coming year to see if lightning could strike twice (it didn’t).

So then this year I posted on Facebook for Chanukah that I would re-do anyone’s JDate profile that wanted me to. Surprisingly, the biggest response to my post was from females, and I started redoing profiles. In the last few weeks I’ve done some good ones, but my best one was for a close friend. It was my magnum opus, the greatest profile I’ve ever re-written from a pretty decently sized pool of profile re-dos.

There was one thing I forgot from my days of the fake Facebook girl though: men surprisingly forget so often to talk about anything but looks. So I asked my friend how her newly revamped profile was going. “Terribly,” she told me. “Everyone is just saying the equivalent of ‘you’re pretty’”.

I think on both ends, we misunderstand what it is we’re supposed to see in a girl’s profile. Most women I’ve helped have either way too simple or too complex of profiles (ie: 2-3 pictures and 6 adjectives and then a message me tag at the end, or the polar opposite with their overwhelming life story and the maximum on pictures), and I think that makes guys panic and talk about the only thing all of them have in common: being a girl. We message about looks far too frequently, and sometimes it’s because it’s all we can manage to easily take away. So ladies, be sure to add some personality, I know for me that is usually the biggest factor. I’ll definitely message a girl with a personality before I message a boring girl, the pictures only serve as a filter for whose profiles I’ll read (so in that sense, yes, pictures are important, too).

And guys, seriously, pick out things that show personality on both ends. You’ve got to be fun, so find things in the pictures that aren’t their looks, even if their profiles are fairly empty. If they’re somewhere exciting, like say a picture in Rome, ask about their travels. It’s all about the details, so figure out what you can talk about that doesn’t mention looks.


Don’t Ever Change

by Aaron under JBloggers,Single Life

Hanging on the wall of my bedroom, there is a poster that has been with me in every room I’ve ever lived in, from when I shared a room with my brother as a kid to my dorm room to the bedroom I sleep in now. That poster is a poster of one of my favorite things: my name. Written around my name are compliments from fifth grade friends from an exercise my school completed weekly of hanging posters of a students’ name in each classroom. Every student went around and wrote nice things about each person, and at the end of the week the poster was laminated and given to us.

Some of the compliments make sense: “Have a very successful year!” “You’re a great friend!” “You’re cool!”. Some make a little less sense: “You’re good at football!” or the person who decided to write “Hi”. But one thing on my poster as well as the poster my brother has hanging in his room is one comment that I really like: “Don’t ever change.”

As I sit here on the eve of my 24th birthday, I think about how much about my life has changed in the last year. I’ve changed jobs, I’ve travelled more, I’ve become better at giving of myself and doing volunteer work more often. Heck, I’m writing for a dating website that until a year ago I’d hardly had any luck with as a user! Life is at its best when it is changing.

With all that in mind, I don’t believe the core of me has changed at all. One of my favorite rabbis once told me a story about a person who said they changed completely and made everyone ask “were you really so bad before?” One of my favorite books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks of becoming our habits. I suppose in some ways I have become my new habits, and that’s great, but it hasn’t changed who I am.

What’s fundamental about me is that I am a person who loves my Jewish culture, I like to help others, and I have a passion for any job placed before me. Those traits won’t change. Maybe next year people will be able to accurately say I got good at football, but they won’t be able to say Aaron at 24 fundamentally changed a bit.


I’m single

by Aaron under JBloggers,Single Life

My first year of college was spent at a community college. I wanted to be close to home, I could’ve gone anywhere probably, I had great grades in high school. I was transferring the next year, I told everyone.

I always had to defend my choice, I thought. Who would be impressed by me getting my core classes out of the way for a small price? I was scared to leave home and wanted to save money, but you can’t just tell people that, I thought.

I’ve had the same stigma attached to being single since I was aware of the fact at age 4. I don’t think I ever thought it was okay to be single. It just seemed to me like people had to be together.

At the risk of sounding like I shouldn’t be writing for this column, it may surprise you then that I’ve been perpetually single since the beginning of high school. Maybe it was my constant need for a committed relationship that’s been stopping me. Maybe it’s that secretly I’ve just been trying my whole life to impress people enough to want to be with me, and that constant need to be better has gotten in my way.

In one of my favorite movies, Before Sunrise, Ethan Hawke observes that he is always around himself and never gets a chance to be someone different. Everything he does, every kiss, every moment, has to involve him no matter what. I think I’ve felt some of that too, I just wanted to experience someone else, to not have to just experience me.

That’s not to say I’m not happy with who I am, far from it. Rather, I think the problem is that I can never accept just me as enough. I’ve always felt like some other half I was supposed to know is missing. But publicly, I would like to admit to myself here that I am very happy with who I am and very proud of the person I’ve become. I’ve done a lot of great things in an effort to make a name for myself, and I think even that I have done successfully.

So now I find only one thing left to do. There’s obviously a reason I’m writing this piece this week, and I’m sure you can figure it out based on my tone here. I’m ready to start a very extended Hi-Datus, as I call it, and just spend some time getting to know myself. I want to learn more what it is I like, how I can be happy alone, and how I can better find what exactly it is I’m even looking for, and even better, help others to do the same. As the wise artist Fergie once said, “This [guy] don’t stay single for long,” but as long as I can help it, I’m gonna say I’m single, and I’m not going to justify a damn thing.