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New Experiment

by Haley Plotnik under Date Night,Judaism,Relationships

In the last year, I’ve learned a lot about modesty in Orthodox Judaism. While I don’t follow it, I am finding that I like a lot of the principles behind it. About a month ago, I started covering my body more on a first dates.

Why, you ask? Dating is supposed to be fun, maybe a little bit flirty if you feel chemistry. But first dates in the long run are also about looking for a life partner. I evaluate men based on character, manners, values, and other traits that typically require having an engaging conversation.

Looking presentable and being hygienic are important in that they show effort, but they’re not everything. “Presentable” for women, especially in the summer, doesn’t have to mean “mostly naked.” I am generally more comfortable in my skin when it’s not all on display.

With this in mind, I’ve begun a new experiment. I try to look fashionable, but without showing my thighs, knees, shoulders, or any cleavage. Some guys are more receptive to this than others, but I think it’s become an easier way to dodge a bullet. If a guy seems bored or distracted by me, or he checks out scantily clad women while on a date with me, I can cut my losses and move on. I’ve been in situations before where I was keenly aware that a guy was only interested in me in a physical way. While it can be flattering, it’s not good for my self-esteem in the long-term. I like to be appreciated for my internal qualities, which can easily be overlooked on first dates.

I don’t have any data to prove it, but I think I now get more compliments related to qualities other than my looks on dates. I found them to be a rarity prior to my experiment. I’m also finding it easier to connect with people on a more personal level, and I think I’m going to stick to my new plan indefinitely.


Are You Dating Dishonestly?

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Online Dating,Single Life

A great blog about “15 Ways We Can Put an End to the Dishonest Dating Culture We’ve Created” echoes many of the same dating philosophies I put forth in the past few years while writing for JDate and in my book, “How to Woo a Jew: The Modern Jewish Guide to Dating and Mating.” The author of the blog laments about how many missed opportunities there are due to going in circles while playing the dating game. She has a challenge for all singles out there: stop playing games by following the 5 tips below.

  1. Go out on dates and have fun
  2. Let the person you like know that you like them, and if they don’t like you back, then you’ve now saved yourself lots of time and energy
  3. Don’t settle or change what you want in order to fit someone else’s needs
  4. Don’t be afraid to get hurt, or use past relationships to stop you from making a commitment to a new relationship
  5. Respect yourself and those you’re on a date with whether you want to go out on another date or not, it’s the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. That said, if you don’t like someone then don’t lead them on.

What Does a Happy Life Look Like?

by Haley Plotnik under Relationships,Single Life

As a Jewish adult, I’ve felt a lot of pressure to be successful. However, I don’t think the same emphasis is placed on being happy. Going into the working world after engineering school can feel like a nice change of pace for many recent graduates. However, the working world has its own stresses. Recently, people have been asking me what I want to do after graduation this December. Truth be told: I don’t exactly know! Many of my peers don’t know what we want our lives to look like.

The real question I’ve been asking myself is, “What does a happy life look like?” To be honest, I was in a deep rut midway through college, and I struggled to enjoy anything for a while. Now that the clouds have parted, I’m trying to emerge a stronger, happier, richer, and more compassionate person for the experience.

I sometimes still have dark days, but on the whole, things are looking up. Still, I can’t quite envision what my happy life looks like. Right now, it mostly consists of vague wants that are fairly universal. I’m trying to compile a who, what, where, when, and why of happy.

  • Who: Do you need to live near your parents or a sibling?
  • What: What are you going to spend the majority of your life doing?
  • Where: Does geography matter? Does the “Who” category trump the “Where” category?
  • When: When do you want these things to happen (if at all)? Not everyone wants children, for example.
  • Why: Why do we want certain things? What do they say about us as a person? The “Why” category is the hardest for me, but I think if I could figure it out more concretely, I would have an easier time answering in the other four questions.

Even though happiness is a mindset, having concrete goals makes it easier for me to document progress and create a sense of accomplishment along the way. What does your happy life look like, and how are you working toward making it a reality?


Compare & Contrast

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,Relationships,Single Life

Everyone has that one ex-lover to whom they compare everyone they ever go on to date. No matter how long ago it ended, or why it ended, or even how long the relationship lasted, everyone has their measuring stick (pardon the pun). Everyone also has that one ex-lover to whom they hope everyone thereafter will shine in contrast to because of how terrible they were treated. Sometimes both of these scenarios are the same person. Actually, oftentimes it’s the same person.

It’s perfectly acceptable and natural to experience this. The point is to make sure you are being realistic and have the right perspective. Don’t use an ex to trivial a new prospect, give each individual the respect to earn or lose your adulation. And just because a new prospect doesn’t measure up to all of your ex’s positives, that doesn’t mean he or she should be ruled out — perhaps they don’t have any of your ex’s negatives either!


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.


He’s Just Not That Into You

by Tamar Caspi under Online Dating,Relationships,Single Life

It appears that some people — both men and women — have forgotten some of the signals of what someone who isn’t interested in you looks like. When he (or she) is just not that into you, he/she:

  • doesn’t call you
  • doesn’t ask you out on dates
  • doesn’t kiss you
  • doesn’t flatter you
  • doesn’t remember you
  • doesn’t think about you
  • doesn’t text you
  • doesn’t respond to your texts or add to any continuity of a conversation

If you find yourself making all the moves, trying to create opportunities for your crush to notice you, and continuosly reaching out to someone who doesn’t engage, then it’s time to recognize that he or she is just not that into you. You can’t take it personally. If you are practicing poly-dating, which I address in my book How to Woo a Jew: The Modern Jewish Guide to Dating and Mating, then you should have other prospects in rotation and one so-called “rejection” shouldn’t make you skip a beat. Plenty of other people will be into you, don’t worry about the few who aren’t. You will never receive a satisfactory explanation as to their disinterest so don’t even bother asking.


Weddings Galore

by Haley Plotnik under Single Life

In the last 6 weeks, at least 9 of my friends have gotten married. They’re all 23 or younger. For me, it’s a bit freaky seeing my peers making such serious commitments. Sometimes I barely feel like an adult. I don’t think any of these marriages are doomed by any means. I just can’t possibly see myself in that situation at this point in my life. I’m always moving, I’m still finishing school, and I haven’t had a relationship with serious long-term potential.

According to an article I read, college-educated women who get married after 25 only have a 20% divorce rate, as compared to the national divorce rate of greater than 50%. I’m not sure how legitimate the study is, but it makes me feel better about thinking I’m too immature to make major life decisions at age 22.

If you are feeling family or peer pressure to get a significant other, get married, or have children, remember you are NOT alone. These things don’t just happen overnight, and they certainly aren’t things to jump into lightly. My philosophy is “compare and despair.” If I thought I should be getting married at this age too, I might despair in being single by comparison. My advice? Celebrate your life for what it is now. Don’t worry too much about being single or unmarried. If you worry too much about meeting benchmarks and attaining labels, you may miss out on enjoying the journey.


Forced Affection

by Tamar Caspi under Date Night,JDate,Single Life

What happens when you really like someone, but don’t necessarily feel comfortable being overtly affectionate quite yet? How do you force yourself to make sure you’re sending the right signals that you’re interested in the other person? Eye contact, placing a hand on a leg (or arm or small of the back), letting your foot or thighs or arms touch when you’re sitting near each other, giving authentic compliments, laughing at jokes, greeting each other with a hug, saying a long lingering goodbye. Little things go a long way.

Inversely, if you keep going out on dates with someone, but never make a move or flatter your date, then don’t be surprised when your date eventually rejects your next phone call.


Breaking Norms

by Haley Plotnik under Date Night,Single Life

I consider myself a progressive young woman in many ways. I talk a big talk when it comes to equality in pay, treatment, and many other capacities. However, when it comes to breaking certain gender norms, I’m all talk and no action. One of these norms I struggle with is asking men out. Even though I believe women can make great CEOs and can generally do anything a man can do, I still struggle in this area.

I was raised to believe that women are the gatekeepers in male-female relationships. Thus, if I express romantic interest in a man, I worry he may take advantage of this privileged information and pursue me despite lacking interest in me long-term. Many girls I know have been hurt by this when men fail to call them back after intimacy. I was also raised not to eat in restrooms. By this, I mean I was raised to avoid mingling professional and romantic relationships. Despite my better judgment, I just asked out a coworker in the meekest way possible.

My heart was pounding in my throat, even through chat box. I was certain he’d say no, but I had to ask. And he said yes. I didn’t know how to respond once he said yes because I was so certain that I was putting my feelings on the line to get crushed. I didn’t immediately feel good about breaking norms… it’s taking a while to digest what I just did. We’re already friendly, and we don’t work at the same location… how bad could it be? Sometimes in life, you just have to take chances and seize opportunities before they pass you by. I also have a lot more sympathy for men now. Social conventions tend to put them in a spot to face the roller coaster of heart rates that accompany exposing oneself to potential awkwardness, ridicule, and rejection.

Even though I threw the lessons of my upbringing out the window, I still managed to listen to parental wisdom. My parents always say, “You miss all the shots you never take!” I just don’t think they meant for me to become a man-wrangling renegade!


Everyone and No One and Anyone

by Tamar Caspi under JDate,Online Dating,Single Life

If everyone is on JDate then how come people complain to me “there’s no one on JDate!” Or, why do they lament about being unable to find anyone on JDate!? The people who make these statements and ask these questions run the gamut, from males to females, old and young, straight and gay, short and tall, and so on.

My answer is always simple: they’re out there, you’re just not looking hard enough. Typically people fall into two categories: they either tend to have their preferences set too narrowly and therefore don’t have a large pool of prospects to choose from and get frustrated by the lack of options — or they have their preferences set way too broadly and have far too many prospects to scroll through, and then get overwhelmed until everyone’s profiles begin to blend together.

In my book, ”How to Woo a Jew: The Modern Jewish Guide to Dating and Mating,” I recommend beginning with the former and setting your preferences to your absolute “perfect” idea of a match, and then broadening your options slowly from there. That will allow you time to see who’s out there and what one year of age, or one inch, or one level of education translates to in regards to the number of prospects you find. This will help you easily determine who is new to your search results in a slow and deliberate manner.

Here’s an example from one of my female clients, “Jamie,” age 34, of her ideal match:

  • woman seeking a man
  • age 34-39
  • located within 25 miles of her city
  • marital status: single
  • religion: reform, traditional, culturally Jewish, conservative
  • ethnicity: any
  • smoking: no
  • drinking: socially, on occasion
  • height: 6’0-6’6
  • body style: athletic
  • education: bachelor’s, master’s, JD/PhD
  • kosher: not at all
  • temple: on high holidays, sometimes
  • has kids: no
  • plans on having children: yes
  • custody: any
  • activity level: very active, active, selected activities
  • languages: english
  • willing to relocate: no

After I tweaked Jamie’s profile, we slowly adjusted one category at a time until she had a good number of options without compromising on her preferences too much. With age and height, we adjusted one year and one inch, respectively, at a time. This is how it looks now:

  • woman seeking a man
  • age 33-41
  • located within 50 miles of her city
  • marital status: single, divorced,
  • religion: reform, traditional, culturally Jewish, conservative
  • ethnicity: any
  • smoking: no
  • drinking: socially, on occasion
  • height: 5’10-6’9
  • body style: athletic, lean, firm, muscular, average, proportional
  • education: bachelor’s, master’s, JD/PhD
  • kosher: not at all
  • temple: on high holidays, sometimes
  • has kids: no
  • plans on having children: yes
  • custody: any
  • activity level: very active, active, selected activities
  • languages: english
  • willing to relocate: no

Jamie went from having about 60 prospects, many of which she knew already, to having more than 200 prospects, many of which she had never seen before. Put a little elbow grease into your profile and preferences, and your prospects will increase in quality and quantity!