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Settled… but not Settling

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israel

So many JDates, so little time. With all the options presented by online personals, it’s hard to know when it’s time to focus on one person. David Israel writes about how he decided to focus…for good.

The problem with Internet dating is not meeting people; it’s knowing when to stop. I should know: I met my wife on JDate after using the service on and off for nearly seven years. And while sure, some part of finding your other half is simply perseverance and ultimate good fortune, another, perhaps larger part, is knowing the best game plan. Just like a hockey coach has to know when to pull his goalie, those who subscribe to online personals services must know when to pull their profiles.

While some part of finding your other half is simply perseverance and ultimate good fortune, another, perhaps larger part, is knowing the best game plan.

The scene is your average corporate office floor in midtown Manhattan, about two years ago: Cubicle walls cut the vast interior space creating a maze of semiprivate cubbies. Each enclave is outfitted with the exact same desk, filing cabinet, and computer monitor.

I’m busy answering an email from a new girl I’ve met on JDate. Her name is Jamie. She’s a Columbia grad with subscriptions to both US Weekly and The Economist. She likes “titanium surfaces,” has “small wrists and ankles,” and “a thing for browsing ethnic grocery stores.” From what I gathered from her profile, she’s a savvy, good-looking, talented architect who’s had her fill of players, and has grown weary of the tall, dark, and hand-somebody-else-your-commitment-issue types.

I like her style. I like it a lot. But I don’t want to come on too strong too soon. Twenty-seven new profiles of gals between the ages of 26 and 36 within a 10-mile radius of my zip code have already signed up since I logged on yesterday. So I play it cool.

Yes, I agree, we should move this thing to the phone, and I thank you for trusting me with your digits. But may I suggest holding off another few days? Maybe get to know each other a little more here, on email, before hearing each other’s voices?

It’s not that I don’t want to speak to her. On the contrary, past experience has definitely taught me the importance of making voice contact early on. But I’ve also learned that once the ten-minute phone conversation is initiated, it’s pretty hard to wiggle your way out of a real, live, date. Email, on the other hand, is still a medium that allows for changing minds.

But later in the day, when Jamie hasn’t responded to my email, I begin to get a little worried. Maybe I shouldn’t have balked at the phone offer. Maybe she’s now moved on to the next guy on her list, the one who doesn’t have trouble switching from email to phone so quickly.

I bring it up on my therapist’s couch later that day.

“The problem is that there’s always going to be new profiles on there,” I say as I stare out her office window at the lower Manhattan cityscape.

With a tone of voice that suggests she already knows the answer to her question, she asks, “And why is that a problem?”

“Supposing I settle for Girl A,” I explain, “and begin to fall for her. I could be missing out on a new girl, say Girl E, who has A’s beauty, B’s IQ, C’s sense of humor and D’s summer house in the Berkshires.”

“True, but what if Girl E has bad breath? Or several Yanni CDs?” (My therapist is a hoot.) “What then? Girl F?”

“See that’s the thing: I’m sure there is a Girl F out there, and sometimes I feel that if I hold out long enough, she’ll show up on my results page.”

My therapist says nothing for a few moments, letting my last sentence linger in the air just to make sure I’m hearing myself. And that’s when it hits me: There are just way too many options out there.

After therapy, I wander across 14th Street in a state of bemused dismay. Everywhere I look there are storefronts advertising NEW! products. Pedestrians breeze by me carrying shopping bags full, no doubt, of IMPROVED! merchandise—better than last year’s, cooler than any predecessor.

I suddenly realize how all this has affected my dating life: I’ve become a victim of my environment. Used to getting everything I want with a pull of the mouse, I see how this has warped my outlook. In a blazing revelation on the subway, I begin to understand the difference between selecting “small” “medium” or “large” when shopping for Breathe Right nasal strips and hoping my potential soulmate has graduated with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Common bonds are formed (we both went through a hemp phase), jokes are made (about the hemp phase).
Furious with myself for allowing the problem to snowball out of control, I resolve to call Jamie the moment I get home. More importantly, I decide should the conversation and ensuing date go well, I’ll have to give the budding relationship a fair shake by pulling my profile off the site and suspending my membership at once.

Predictably, the ten-minute phone conversation with Jamie turns into a two-hour exchange. Connections are unearthed (we grew up visiting our grandparents in Fort Lauderdale), common bonds are formed (we both went through a hemp phase), jokes are made (about the hemp phase). Simply put, it is one of the most magical beginnings to a relationship anyone could want.

And the first date goes even better.
And, as planned, I indeed pull my profile.
And the second date goes even better than the first.

To this day I’ve never asked Jamie if she’s taken down her profile. I’ve been too busy enjoying the relationship to care. So if you’re conducting a search for single women within twenty miles of zip code 10011, and happen to run across a girl who has an “affinity for aerial photographs” and the guts to admit that she still “occasionally sleeps with her baby blanket,” don’t bother hotlisting her and don’t bother emailing her. She’s too busy writing thank-you notes to all our wedding guests.


David Israel is a writer who lives with his wife, Jamie, in Los Angeles. You can read more about his novel, Behind Everyman (Random House, 2005), on his website: www.davidisrael.net.
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One Comment »

  • Babs says:

    What a nice story. Thank-you. I pulled my profile on Valentine’s Day, but will never ask him about his. Would love to email this to him, per chance he hasn’t read it, but will not.

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