Author Archive

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.


The Plight of Monica Lewinsky

by Aaron under Israel,Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

Listening to the radio this last week, I was surprised to hear a name being talked about that I hadn’t heard in a long time. That name, as the title spoils, was Monica Lewinsky. Without me even writing anything else about the story, I’m sure you already know what they talked about.

And that’s the big problem: poor Monica Lewinsky can’t escape her stupid scandal no matter how hard she tries. The story talked about how she can’t get jobs, she can’t date easily, and, in general, any mention of her name (as demonstrated above) draws an instant connotation. In short, Monica Lewinsky, now age 40, seems doomed as long as she carries her name.

The easy answer, I suppose, is to change her name. It’s not like people would recognize her on the regular all these years later. Although she may illicit a familiar vibe just by seeing her. She could just become that woman who reminds people of… Monica Lewinsky.

You’re probably thinking, “this is the weirdest dating-related blog ever — who cares about Monica Lewinsky?” Well, for one, I feel bad for the poor lady. Heck, she may even be on JDate with us! But more than that, I feel like her story is a great hyperbole for how stuck we are in ourselves, and an awesome inspiration for how we can endure our reputations.

Reinvention is something a good number of us aim for regularly, especially those of us in our twenties and thirties. Reinvention is easier said than done, however. “A tiger doesn’t change it’s stripes!” people will tell you, and then we settle into our old ways. We can change our habits one by one and slowly change, but more than that, we can choose to change.

While eating hamburgers together, one of my rabbis and I talked about changing when we moved. I was expressing excitement at who I would begin life in New York as, he talked about when he first moved to Israel. What I really enjoyed about his story was his take on the month of Adar. He said before he went to Israel, he thought dancing around and being joyous during services for a month was bogus, and it drove him crazy he couldn’t get into it. When he got to Israel, he realized no one knew him as the guy who hated Adar, and he suddenly became very excited to celebrate the entire month. He set himself to be the guy who loves Adar, and it happened.

You don’t have to move to change, however. Sure, it’s definitely easier, but sometimes it can be as simple as just choosing internally to do something. My rabbi could just as easily have decided to be happy at home during Adar, and maybe people would have been surprised, but it would have quickly become normal.

So why Monica Lewinsky? More than anything, I wanted to make a point, and the rabbi story solidifies it. We get so wrapped up in who everyone thinks we are. We think everyone associates us with a certain story, a certain trait, a certain something we don’t control. Maybe Monica Lewinsky has a lot of publicity to deal with, but chances are your reputation is much less widespread than that. You can be anyone you want; all you have to do is choose that it’s what you want. Maybe it’s being the happy guy, or just the girl in the blue dress, but either way, only you get to choose.


If You Build It

by Aaron under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

As I get ready to move, one thing really scares me: the idea of not having a built-in group of friends around me. Luckily, I have some family and friends in NYC; it’s just not quite the network I have in Dallas where I’m a regular at a few shuls, and have made a great circle of friends and acquaintances.

What comforts me, however, is knowing that I have the skill-set to manage. When I got to Dallas after college, I felt like a stranger in a familiar land. I was from Dallas, but not a part of the community I was trying to break into. I grew up conservative, regularly going to USY events, but the people I largely grew to know were not those same people from my youth.

The big challenge I found in my first year in Dallas was finding people to date. I wanted to date someone younger, but being 21 in a community of young adults (who were largely much older than me) made that difficult. I did make friends, however, and found the second year to be a much easier experience. Friends would set me up with newly graduated girls they knew, and I found it easy to find dates when I was a regular at events and had people to introduce me.

If there’s one thing I’ve found since entering the real world, it’s the strength of a network. Whether it’s for getting a job (I had a friend send a recommendation for me to a recruiter hew knew and often found ways to make new friends through LinkedIn by having local friends introduce me to New York contacts), or just getting a date, a strong network can change everything.

So when I think about New York, I still worry a bit. I’m worried largely about that first Saturday night, about the first time I walk into a shul I don’t know for a class, and about where I’ll be spending Shavuot. And then I think of the people I already know, and the people I met as I networked my way to New York. I think of the first time I walked into an event in the Dallas young adult community, and I remember the first time I finally just learned to sit in a circle and listen to a rabbi’s class, letting my worries take a back seat for just a minute and then managing to make friends.

And that’s how I know it will all be fine — life is scary, but the more you put yourself out there, the more you’re bound to inherently build a network and move forward. Chances are your Besheret is not going to be sitting at the next Jewish or secular event you go to. Looking for that would be silly. Instead, consider that his/her best friend may be checking out a class that night, or their boss, or their cousin’s dogsitter. The world is a wide place, but if you just focus on the people around you, and constantly add new people into your life, life has a great way of surprising you by eventually adding the right people in.


I Was An Online Dater

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

One thing that will almost certainly change as I move to the Northeast in the coming month is the way I date. Though I’ve touched on it in this blog loosely, I don’t think I’ve fully explored what I’ve been doing. I’ve dated a lot in the last year, but not in the way most would normally think: I’ve done a lot of Skype dates and dated girls in other states.

The whys behind that could fill an entire blog post (and have). More important, I think, are the lessons I will have taken away from this year of untraditional (yet amazingly rewarding, especially once things move beyond Skype) dating. The big ones are as follows:

  • Controlling my physicality. The main thing you learn from dating via Skype is how great it is to just talk to a person you’re romantically interested in. The talk can get flirty, and there is definitely possibility for tension (in my case, every girl I met was from JDate or other Jewish sites, so there is no question we both like each other before getting started), but it’s just that — talk. I’ve never been one for physicality in general other than light touches on a first date (I believe in getting to know people at slower rates, but that’s just me), and with a screen between you it’s almost like the orthodox style of dating — just a chat to learn about each other and where you’re headed.
  • Texting. While texting can vary in other relationships, it helps to hold interest in a long-distance, online-created relationship. Sometimes it can be as simple as just observing something about my day and asking how the other person is, but overall I like checking in when it’s our only method of daily contact.
  • Understanding my options. When my first online relationship began, I was definitely skeptical. We’d chatted for a few months on JDate while I continued to look locally, but once we brought Skype in, it was different. Crazy as it sounds, you get to feel good about the fact that you’re sort of seeing someone and it boosts your confidence. This can be true of any relationship, but in the case of living in a small town without many Jews, and thus fewer options, this can be a great game-changer for your confidence.

In short, all of these lessons can be learned by not doing the long distance/Skype deal, and it’s certainly not an ideal situation. But for those of us in places outside New York, LA, etc., Skype dating can offer you real opportunities beyond those same few girls you always see online. I became regularly fixed on the “currently online” page, and was constantly surprised how many people were interested in someone in another place — the same way I was pleasantly surprised when a cute girl from California first messaged me last year. It definitely seems weird at first, but if you’re willing to see where it can take you, you never know what possibilities may come.


Not My Smartest Decision

by Aaron under Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

As I sit down to quickly write this blog, I find it incredibly fitting that I just came home from a very stupid run. It was stupid in the sense of when I did it: coming off of a sickness and eating limited food this last week (for Passover), I should not have been straining myself today. And yet, an overwhelming desire to feel the wind against my back and feel the beautiful spring day (not to mention to make myself look amazing for the wonderful women of New York) overwhelmed me… and I made a stupid decision.

So here I sit coughing again and writing this entry. Yet, like many things that have happened in my life in these last three years in Dallas, this was yet another piece of training. In one sense, the run was training to get myself back into shape — I got an annoyingly long cough after Israel that I let prevent me from exercising. Yet, it was also another way I am slowly — but surely — hoping to make myself a fine specimen in a new dating scene.

My hope is that New York will lead to some great dates and adventures for myself, and through that, some great advice that I wouldn’t have been able to spread forward without the change of pace I’m headed for. Yet even in Dallas, I’ve probably held back on some of my better advice for fear of embarrassing myself. While I think one entry is too little space to spare the countless misadventures I’ve had for you to learn from, I’d simply like to remind you that every experience is a great way for you to learn… and laugh.

In a sense, I feel like I’ve messed up even in the course of blogging these last few months. I wish I had more to regularly offer you as readers — more consistently insightful moments, more secret tricks you didn’t know, something to really change your dating life. I know I used to look for that kind of advice all the time when I was serious about changing my luck. I’ve come to my own relatively simple answer, however… which is to focus on what I can control and fix it, and otherwise learn to work with the cards I’ve been dealt.

I may not always have your easy fix, and I apologize if you came here seeking a secret I couldn’t give you today. But in the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of what I did when I realized Dallas and I weren’t as compatible as I wanted — and hopefully in the coming months I can mess up enough for all of us to learn from my not-so-smart decisions.


Success

by Aaron under JBloggers,JDate,Judaism,Single Life,Success Stories

Failure, inherently, is a gigantic part of life. As your life goes on and opens up new opportunities, you are bound to fail at some point. But more rewarding than anything are those moments when you seem so on the brink of failure, and success somehow comes crashing toward you anyway.

In particular, I can remember two times in the last year where failure that I couldn’t begin to fathom came crashing on me. The first was a long-distance date with a Jewish girl from New York I’d been chatting with on JDate. As I planned to fly out to New York from Dallas, the greatest ice storm we’d seen in years began to take over the city. I had the foresight to move my flight to a day earlier, but even then, the ice piled on and basically froze all of Dallas in fear. I witnessed a truck crash on my way to the airport and was almost late for the flight. When I got to the airport, panic struck as I was told I’d miss my connector no matter what. At the last second, things changed, and they let me race through security for a long weekend in New York that, while a one time event, was still a good time.

As I sat in the baggage check-in line that day, I felt a dread I never knew before — here we are, having Skyped for two months, our big meeting finally at hand. We were so excited and the prospect of waiting any number of weeks more seemed awful. There is a certain power of getting to know someone, even over video, and it was devastating to not be able to be happy with that person in person… even for a weekend.

But as things often do, it worked itself out.

I had a similar experience again this last week. I had been trying and trying to get to New York for the summer, becoming so good at long distance networking that I started my own company to help people do it (TheSocialCustodian.com, though the site is not totally complete yet). As the one company I’d made it far with in New York was reaching a final decision, it was down to crunch time. They told me they’d let me know by a certain time, and I heard nothing.

And yet, I didn’t stop. I took my phone and called, and sure enough they were getting ready to offer me the job as I called. It was a moment that changed my life essentially, and will change the rest of my year by its very nature.

Yeah, that’s great, my life is awesome. How does it affect you? Life will bring on big challenges, and again on the theme of the beginning of the new year, don’t let that fear freeze you. The world offers great things to those who are ready for failure in pursuit of success, as I was when I made the call and tried to make the flight, and it rewards those ready to fall on their faces. Let this be the year you try to make a sketchy flight, make a new call, or just say hello to someone unexpected. Sure, you’ll probably fail at some point, but success is the greatest feeling in the world. See you in New York, JDaters.


Have You Met…

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

As we near an important time in our heritage, the holiday of Passover, the time comes around for us to think about new beginnings. Nisan is the first month on the Jewish calendar, and it represents spring and reinvention. If Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are our judgment, Passover is the time to really create a new you.

The one thing we underestimate however is just how difficult it is for any one person to do that alone. I know I constantly try to improve my social abilities and other areas of my life, but almost none of those are possible in a world where I am 100% responsible. Sometimes I don’t feel like making plans, sometimes I need expert advice from outside my knowledge base, and sometimes I simply wouldn’t do things like skydiving or volunteering in Israel completely alone.

As we begin our new year, I’ll draw from something that just ended to explain a bit better. One of my favorite parts of the show How I Met Your Mother was the awesome game of “have you met Ted?”. As Barney Stinson introduced Ted Mosby to women neither party knew, the ice was broken just a little bit by the two people having some vague reason to talk.

For the sake of being a decent person, that probably isn’t the best method of helping your friends meet people. But what I would suggest for your coming year, whether you are single or otherwise, is to help others a bit more in the realm of dating. As anyone reading this blog can probably attest to, it’s not easy out there alone. The good news is, we all know different people, and in an age where you have dating apps that let you click “yes” or “no” through masses of people, a personal touch is always nice. Try to think of two people who might work together in your life, or even easier, bring someone around who may be new to the rest of your social circle. It’s not easy out there, but if we all suit up to help each other, everyone stands to have a legendary year.

Have a very happy Pesach everyone, and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!


The Narrative

by Aaron under JDate,Online Dating,Single Life

As I interview for summer internships, there is one thing that consistently keeps me confident: the flow of my resume. While I was pretty unsure about my resume for a while (I only have two years of working experience), through a lot of practice, I have learned to make it read like a great drama that I had planned all along rather than a tragedy.

The idea that one of my senior classmates explained to me early on in my MBA classes was that every good resume reads like a crafted story with a purpose. This is relevant not just in your job, but also in your personal life, on dating sites and beyond. No one else has lived your life, so it is in your control what you tell and what you highlight.

I’m not saying everyone needs to be a Don Draper and make up who they are, but not everything is going to be a high in your life. What’s interesting about the mentality of creating a cohesive story is that you can easily turn negatives into positives. For example, I left a job in retail management last summer, never planning to return to retail. However, when I began the job hunt, I realized working in the corporate office of a retailer would be great with my experience, and I learned to pitch various parts of my job to any company I went to — retailer or not. My “on the floor” experience would be vital for any position within a retailer as it showed I understood the business. And as I applied to non-retailing companies, I highlighted the skills from my retail job to whatever the job posting was — everything can always fit, if you mold the story properly.

Luckily, dating is pretty free form — there’s no industries or specific jobs, just genders and traits you’re looking for in a partner. When I last re-did my JDate profile, I had just come back from an amazing experience volunteering in Israel and wanted to highlight my desire to give back and find someone else to explore the world with me. That is definitely not all there is to me, but I do like to travel and want someone with a kind heart, so that is the story my current profile tells, and my pictures back it up. So whatever you do, don’t worry too much about covering every base with your profile, should you choose to redo it, but tell a good story.

No matter how hard you try, the true you can never show up 100% in a small dating profile, but you can make the story sound nice enough. Whatever’s left, you can fill in with a message to those who fit what you’re looking for. But no matter what, don’t underestimate people’s desire for a good story, and make sure the narrative you make flows through your entire online persona and beyond.


Lauren and Alastair

by Aaron under Judaism,Relationships,Single Life

In writing my blogs, I sometimes like to remember that it’s not only single people reading. So for this week’s piece, I went to one of the sturdiest relationships in my life, the marriage of my friends Alastair and Lauren. As we ate dinner together last week, I decided to ask them for advice on healthy relationships.

  • On how they decided they were right for each other. Practicality is always king. Agreement on where you’re both headed is vital. Alastair and Lauren think of themselves as good roommates and think that, combined with their attraction, made for a great relationship. Common goals are also vital, and the practical understanding of the long-term blueprint was important in their relationship leading into marriage. They also trust each other immensely, and think of each other as their closest confidants. Money is an important point that comes up for them as something they immediately trusted each other with beyond just living together.
  • On what keeps them happy. Anticipate the other person’s needs. For example, Lauren and Alastair cook for each other when one is stuck at work (or in a classroom with me, in Alastair’s case). Basically, do nice things without being asked and put your partner before yourself. Life isn’t having sex and talking about G-d, it’s making the decisions to help each other and keep life stable.
  • On finding the right person for you. Find an environment that’s conducive for people being together regularly. Jewish events, hobby groups, and universities (within limits — maybe not if you’re in your 30s or older and not in college) are great ways to find people. Finding a place where you’re comfortable with lots of people is great, and while the university option was how they met, they still have lots of faith in meeting at community events.

One final note I’d like to make is how much I enjoy having Alastair and Lauren and their fellow married friends in my Jewish community. In Dallas, we don’t have “singles” events for young Jews, but rather events for young Jewish people in general.  While some people don’t love the mixing of singles and couples (how can you tell who to hit on?), I think there’s an added value not just from the fact that those in relationships can also be great people, but in the fact that they can give you a sense of guidance in a very confusing dating landscape.

Having two people in as stable of a relationship as Alastair and Lauren is more than just a great reminder of what I aspire for, but also a great resource to help me get there. So couples of the Jewish world, be sure to stay active in your community as my friends have, you never know who will benefit from your friendship, and the friends you can introduce them to.


Find the Funny

by Aaron under Judaism,Single Life

A few weeks ago, I began working on learning a new art: improv. The entire experience so far has been a blast. Working with Jewish friends, and learning as a group of Jewish young professionals, has been outstanding. It has also helped me to see the humor in everyday situations, and has given me more ways to think about how things are funny in my daily life.

Between the experiences so far in improv and my light background in stand-up comedy, I thought I’d give some tips on how to make light of situations to make yourself and others happier.

 

  • Write down all your ridiculous arguments… This can be as simple as the difference between a fajita and a taco, which is the worst type of doctor, or simply whether or not you should freeze bread, but chances are you argue about stupid things regularly. I find writing these arguments down has helped me either open new strangers up to conversation, or simply add humor when with old friends.

 

  • Yes, and… One of my favorite bits from my improv classes that has really improved my attitude is just agreeing with things either other people say or that I think. For example, one of my first improv classes involved blanket statements we had to say “yes, and…” to. We would then build off of  that statement and go back and forth between partners, just starting each sentence with “yes, and…”. The ridiculousness that comes from a person agreeing with any given statement and making a joke of things can always make a situation easier to deal with.

 

  • Don’t do what’s expected… This is pretty obvious, but creating characters who go in extremes of what you actually believe can be fun. For example, most people tend to glamourize volunteering, and few can find faults with people giving of their time. But pretending (with a smile, of course) that you really hate giving of your time and being ridiculous in situations where no one would ever say such things can be fun.

 

I apologize if these are pretty generic pieces of advice, but finding the humor in your life and being able to laugh at the world is a key piece to happiness, in my opinion. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but those are just more opportunities to find your funny.