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.


What Do You Do?

by Aaron under Single Life

We’ve all been there. You meet someone new, you get a name, and you think to yourself “what would get a conversation rolling?” It probably occurs to you that people like talking about themselves, and what could people love more than their job? So you ask it: “What do you do for a living?”

I’ll let you in on a secret. Some people like that question, but a lot of people see it for the conversational crutch it really is. Asking “what do you do?” is a faux pas in a few ways. For starters, you’re assuming all people like their job, and sadly that is not the case. I know when I was working retail I told very funny stories about things that happened to me (like a river of urine I found in my store), but it was the last thing I wanted to associate with new friends. Secondly, some people may take it as you trying to gauge how much money they make. And lastly, sometimes people just want work to stay at work.

When this question comes up, some friends and I have vowed not to reveal our jobs within thirty minutes of first meeting someone. We’ll say ridiculous jobs like bounty hunter, fruit bowl modeler, or selfie coach, and move the conversation along. So in order to help others make a more fun, lasting connection with a new friend, here are my three alternative suggestions for that rut when you need something to say:

  1. Talk about what’s around you. One of my favorite social rules is called “Observe, Share, Ask.” You see something in a room, mention something about it and how you relate, and ask something about the other person’s experience. For example, if I was in a room and saw a picture of a clown, I would say something along the lines of “did you see that clown picture? The circus always terrified me, did you ever like it?” This allows me to share a bit about me while sharing an experience (we both see the picture), and allows the other person to open up about their experiences.
  2. Ask how they got there. Whether you’re at a party, synagogue, or a singles mixer, ask someone who they know or how they found the place. This allows you to find mutual friends (this was my usual conversation starter at parties in college), and build a connection about any hooks that are revealed — they could be classmates, fellow natives, or mutual friends.
  3. Ask what they do in a different way. This is a fun one to me in that you still get to ask the job question — if they want to talk about it. An article I found on LinkedIn a while back had the amazing option of asking “What keeps you busy?” This is such an amusingly vague and open question that people can answer with anything from, “I blog for JDate and collect beer glasses” to what they do for a living.

Hopefully this sparks your conversations a bit, feel free to leave other ideas in the comments!


Backache

by AndyCowan under Relationships,Single Life

I once suffered through most of a boring, lavishly overproduced movie, because I’d fallen for the woman’s back in the row ahead of me, and I was dying to see what her face looked like. Tens of millions of dollars and an A-list director couldn’t compete with this woman’s back. I left before the end of the credits, so I could stand in the lobby and get a good look. Problem was, everyone who left the theater appeared so different from what my imagination had construed from a lovely back that I could never deduce the woman’s front. I had to quickly position myself behind as many candidates leaving in droves as I could to see if a back jumped out at me, but alas, my “Scarlett” was nowhere to be found. Women are like butterflies. In one instant, you admire their beauty. The next instant, they’ve flown away.

What was it about this woman’s back that got to me? Whose back from my formative years must she have subliminally reminded me of? Cute girls in the rows ahead of me in class, no doubt. Had I caught up with her, what would I have said? “How did you like the movie? … So… tell me about your back.”

Cute meets are tough in real life. That’s why we have JDate!