Esther Kustanowitz

Esther Kustanowitz

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Night Vision


There are those who will tell you that the dream state means nothing, that it’s a free association of jumbled thoughts assembling into random pictures, that to analyze dream stories is pointless at best, and, at worst, is to court the impossible madness of trying to ascribe meaning and import to something inherently meaningless.

But I am not one of those people. I am one of the others. I am one of the people who tries to learn from her dreams, tries to maintain the momentum of the dream state on waking, to dwell a few moments more in that space between, tries to glean glimmers of meaning from the corners of that night’s field of dreams.

This dream featured a man: he was no anonymous abstract; I saw his face, recognized him from real, waking life. We had connected on some level, and left the depth, then hazy, to be determined at some time beyond that moment. But the moment was its own totality; I perceived mutuality, but he withdrew. That was the reality of our reality.

But in the dream, we shared a symbiotic wave of energy , a constant exchange explored over endless hours wandering one of the largest cities in the world. From bars to restaurants to conversations in foreign languages with locals, we traversed the geography and offerings of New York City, lost in time and space, humming along with the pulse of the metropolis. We spoke in conspiratorial tones, our eyes made intimate contact, and our easy conversation was peppered with smiles and laughter. We wandered through the night, past midnight’s magic, past the point of reasonable bedtimes, moving on the momentum of chemistry and toward the expectation of sunrise.

The lull came way before dawn. It was a vast and awkward quiet, a pause palpable even in REM sleep. The inertia of momentum ceased, to be taken over by the inertia of something still and stopped. We seemed to have reached the end of a road. There was nowhere left to go. It wasn’t just symbolism; it was an end parenthesis.

We said a perfunctory, not entirely comfortable good night and promised to meet again when circumstance allowed. He was as sincere-sounding in parting as he had been when first we met, and that smile in his eyes massaged me into belief even as my mind knew better. He went on his way, vanishing foggily into a clear night, and I was left standing, knowing it was over. Marooned in early morning several hours before sunup, I wondered where I would go, where I would take refuge or find a bed, that late at night in a city where I no longer lived.

Perhaps, in my dream state, the New York I’ve left represents unlimited possibilities and endless night; my subconscious seems to believe that Los Angeles, where I dwell in daylight, while bright and sunny, is romantically limited.

Or perhaps the geography doesn’t symbolize a thing. Perhaps we’re all just smarter in our dreams than we are in real life. Perhaps only in sleep, our filters are shelved long enough to foster epiphanies that elude us in waking. Perhaps dreaming is passive decision-making, with just enough control relinquished to choose a less magical, more realistic path than our romantic little hearts might prefer.

Post-Its Are So 2006: Outsource Your Breakup Cowardice, to This Guy


We all thought it was harsh when Berger broke up with Carrie on a Post-It. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably won’t be seeing the “Sex and the City 2″ movie that’s due out this summer.) But now you don’t even have to commit the breakup yourself. That’s right: if you’re too cowardly to break up with someone via phone, text, email or even Post-It, now there’s help.

Jezebel found this story in Gothamist, about a guy named Bradley Laborman (holy pseudonym alert, Batman!) has stepped forward to be the jerk you’re convinced you can’t be, to break things off with your significant other or Facebook friend for fairly reasonable fees: $10 for a regular breakup, $25 for breaking an engagement, $50 for divorce. “He’ll even do it in person if you pay for airfare and hotel!,” reports Gothamist. These prices might seem like a steal until you realize the hidden cost: “the conversation will be recorded on the internet for all to hear.”

Yes, breakups are difficult, and we all sometimes wish we could outsource them to third-parties who could sever bonds with minimal emotional involvement from us. But most of us realize that we have to clean up our own messes, and that beyond that, we have a responsibility to the people we’re in relationships with to treat them with a modicum of respect, even in our endings.

Jezebel’s not a fan of iDump4U – they suspect that the guy’s enjoying it a little too much, and that beyond that, the site might actually be a hoax:

His method is quite sadistic. He calls the dumpee, announces that he is “Bradley, from,” and mocks the poor listener if they don’t immediately understand what is going on. And most of them don’t. In the registration forms, Bradley openly admits that he is an asshole (“remember, we dump people for a living,” he writes, as if you needed a reminder), but it also comes across quite clearly in most of the phone calls. His brand of sarcasm is very heavy-handed, often to the point where you have to wonder why he is mocking the recently dumped simply for mishearing the name of his website. He even has a special category for the criers and the “psychos,” so you can pick-and-choose what type of breakup you would like to enjoy. While some of the breakup recordings are funny – especially when Maggie tries to insist that she shouldn’t be referred to as “stupid” because she manages to make a living sleeping with rich men – others are just plain sad. Particularly Randy, who seems genuinely heartbroken that the callous-sounding Lisa has moved on.

There’s never a good way to disappoint someone who’s hopeful, let alone to break someone’s heart. But this seems like the least good way: it turns a painful process into derision and schadenfreude-style entertainment for the internet masses.

Basically? If “outsource your breakup for cash so you don’t have to deal and humiliate your ex at the same time” were a Facebook status, I would “dislike.”

But what do I know? It’s not like I’m an expert on dating ethics or anything.

“Hassidic Weird Al” Sings “Shadchan (Bring Me a Wife)” to Evanescence Tune


If there’s any sign you’ve made it as a Christian rock act, it’s when your song “Bring Me to Life” is parodied by Ben Klein, the “Hassidic Weird Al.” (I know it’s April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke.)

Klein has also recorded fairly musically-accurate not-quite-parodies of songs by Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Linkin Park, the Plain White T’s, Cascada and Miley Cyrus. What’s YOUR favorite?

Jewish Journal Interviews CyberDating’s Julie Spira


“Should you Google-stalk your dates?” and other questions answered by CyberDatingExpert‘s Julie Spira, in this Jewish Journal interview.

Special kudos to JJ writer Ryan Torok for venturing in front of the camera to have Julie assess his online dating profile. It takes a brave man to do this for the sake of journalism…

What burning questions do you have about cyberdating? If you submit them here, I’ll try to snag some answers from Julie or another expert…

The JDate Breastplate of Truth (condensed version)


purim_041__320x200_.JPG(A longer version of this piece appears at MyUrbanKvetch.)

Recently, Jews observed the holiday of Purim, which thematically centers on disguise, withheld information, and political intrigue. To commemorate these themes and celebrate the inner parts of our lives that we might not always feel comfortable expressing, Jews traditionally dress in costume. Some costumes are fun, or (taking a cue from secular cousin Halloween) present an excuse to sex it up a little, at least for the one day. But if the theme was exposure and honesty, my costume choice was clear: I would become the clichés that people write (over and over again) in their online dating profiles.

How would I do this? Could I wear “a little black dress and jeans and a t-shirt”? How would I visually manifest “working hard and playing hard”? Should I get a fake arm, throw it around my shoulder, and label with a sign that says “my ex – but don’t worry, he’s out of the picture”?

I started with the little black dress, and attached to the front of the dress a whiteboard of sorts – then let people add their own clichés via stickers. And then the public art/commenting phase began. Afterwards, I knew I needed to analyze this piece of public commentary for the audience of online daters and beyond, so that we can all learn to be ourselves and not clichés.

Alongside “work hard and play hard,” “I like a fancy night out, but also a night in,” “friends and family are important to me,” and “a perfect date is when you don’t want it to end”- as well as “looking for someone with a good head on his shoulders,” which was scribbled on a sticker in Hebrew – were several categories of clichés:

The Blame Game: These comments blame someone else for your presence on JDate, usually a parent or a friend. “I never do this,” “I can’t believe I’m on JDate,” “my friends made me join.” However you got here, you’re here and so is everyone else, so get over it.

“Duh” statements: “I love travel and sushi,” “I love to laugh,” “communication is the most important thing,” and “love to hike and bike.” They don’t really tell you anything about the person in question: it’s like saying “I’m a carbon-based lifeform who enjoys breathing oxygen and locomoting bipedally” (except less interestingly). And as for “my mom thinks I’m a catch,” we’re so glad for you, and are certain that this focus on your mother during a search for a life partner is not at all negatively influencing your results.


Dumped By a Homeless Guy? Hire a Pickup Artist to Help You Get “Girl Game”


I was working on another post when I found this story via Twitter. If you think your city’s dating life is lame, maybe try San Francisco’s brand of excitement. In SanFran, you can meet a guy at a party, if he turns out to be straight and single (“Although the man smelled a little funny, the two spent the whole night talking”), you can make out with him, start dating him, and then realize that the reason you never went to his place is because he doesn’t have one. Knowing that there’s a scarcity of straight single men in the dating pool, you’ll probably continue to date him anyway, just to give the relationship a chance. And then, you’d get dumped. By a guy who’s homeless.

The woman in the story above is real. And now, according to the SF Gate, she’s one of the single women in San Francisco who find themselves turning to an unlikely source for help: the #8 Pickup Artist known as “Soul.” Previously, he focused on training men to pick up women. Now he’s launching “Girl Game,” to help the ladies find the guys:

The thrust of his advice was that they should forgo aggression, and instead create a “window of opportunity” for men to initiate a connection. This can be as simple as using eye contact, body language, or, if absolutely necessary, starting a “functional” conversation. For instance, “How was your week?”

What I learned? Women shouldn’t be too aggressive or put guys on the spot. They should flip their hair when they’re interested. And I also learned that there’s apparently a “seduction community,” a group of professionals who help (mostly) men pick up the ladies. More tidbits in the full article, here.

The Age Thing, Again


My friends and I often find ourselves talking about “the age thing” – this can include men’s propensity to seek out younger women (often excluding women in their own age group), how older women dating younger men are generally frowned on and assigned an animal nickname (welcome to “Cougartown”), how an age difference can either matter or not matter in choosing someone to date, and the degree to which online dating – filtering primarily by age – creates unnecessary and unimportant hurdles in front of someone who could be great.

For instance, this “Vows” couple who almost didn’t make it, because of her list, and because of “the age thing.” They went out twice, had two great dates, and then she called it off – not because she didn’t like him or have fun with him, but because he was nine years older. True, part of that was because she was feeling her youth and her newness in a big city with lots of (perceived potential) – at that point, to her, 26/35 was a huge difference.

Don’t cry for him, though – he became a “serial dater” in the ultimate serial dater city, and along the way, stayed in touch with the lady in question, meeting for drinks and listening to her kvetch about other guys. Eventually, the stars aligned, something shifted, the bride-to-be got older and wiser, and the couple dated, got engaged and got married.

The bride said she could not believe she wasted more than 10 years without him.  “I look at him now and he’s the hottest guy on the planet,” she said.

What lesson should we learn from this couple?

That the right guy at the wrong time is the wrong guy?

That attraction sometimes takes 10 years to develop? (For women – if he hadn’t been attracted from the beginning, I don’t think we’d be reading this story…)

That we shouldn’t cling so tightly to our “lists”?

That age ain’t nothin’ but a number? Or that age unfairly assigns a set of stereotypes to a person who may not remotely fit them?

JDate Kicks Off New Year with “The Color Code”


Maybe JDate was as sick of those “chemistry-inspired matches” commercials for sites like and as we were, and figured, “if you can’t beat them, join them by creating a personality test that assigns a color to you as a dater and indicates what kinds of things you may need (if not be actively looking for) in a date/partner.”

Ever wonder why some people are so easy to love, work for, and befriend, while it’s difficult to build and maintain healthy relationships with others? All of these relationships begin with you. Imagine the power of truly knowing yourself, including what motivates you, and how the relationships in your life are impacted as a result. The Color Code is one of the most revolutionary and accurate measurements of your personality and is your best bet for understanding how to make sense out of your relationships.

JDate’s new way to self-analyze toward trying to discern a potential chemistry with someone asks a series of questions about the reactions you had to situations when you were a child. You choose “the best” answer, which may not accurately describe you, but never mind about that for now. It creates a personality type that, instead of a Myers-Briggsian “INFJ” or something like that, assigns you a color. The 15-minute test (unlike JDate membership that enables you to actually interact with people on the site) is free, and promises to help you:

“determine your own Color, or driving Core Motive, “speak the language” of others by identifying their Color, and build stronger and more meaningful relationships by understanding what drives people and their behavior. The Color Code Personality Test will provide you with in-depth understanding of why you do the things you do and how you can best interact with the other Color personalities.”

The test determines which personality color is your personality type, which determines which color drives your “Core Motives.”

  • RED (The Power-Wielders): Core Motive = Power, or the ability to move from “a” to “b” as efficiently as possible
  • BLUE (The Do-Gooders): Core Motive = Intimacy, this doesn’t mean sex, but the need to connect, share feelings, and build relationships with others
  • WHITE (The Peacekeepers): Core Motive = Peace, or calm even in the midst of conflict; clarity in the midst of confusion
  • YELLOW (The Fun-Lovers): Core Motive = Fun, or always enjoying the moment

My results will be no surprise to anyone who knows me. I was 66% Blue, followed by a 19% White and 13% yellow. Only 2% Red. According to the test, this means that I am (in alphabetical order, apparently) “analytical, committed, compassionate, dedicated, deliberate, dependable, emotional, loyal, nurturing, quality-seeking, respectful, sincere, thoughtful and well-mannered.”

I’m not sure this helps me understand my dating preferences – it’s more about me identifying the patterns that make me me. (Plus, my parents will be very glad to learn that their raising such a responsible, reliable child has been independently verified by JDate.)

But perhaps it will help daters – if not to understand the way they themselves are wired – understand how to communicate with other people on the site. For instance, after taking the quiz, I clicked on the profile of a guy with a great smile, and learned he was a “yellow.” “The best way to communicate with this member is to try a positive and upbeat approach. A joke or two wouldn’t hurt either,” JDate advised me.

Pretty general: be upbeat and be funny. That’s pretty much my strategy anyway, especially in a first communication. But will I think about this as I craft an opener to him (or someone else)? Probably, and maybe that will help keep us all on track, so there’s less insanity in first contact emails. But then again, if the insanity of those emails disappeared, we probably would have to shutter JDatersAnonymous. So the conflict continues.

Have you taken this quiz? How did you rank? Were your results accurate? Has it helped you in your use of JDate? Send us your experiences.

Rumors of My Disappearance Are Greatly Exaggerated


So, the old year ended, and JDatersAnonymous seemed to have ended with it. A month went by with no posts. Cobwebs began to form over as daters retreated to the dating salt mines with no outlet or place to process their experiences.

Well, fear not – JDatersAnonymous is back, covering dating issues in 2010 ranging from the newest online dating trends to the substantive interpersonal relations between people who are trying to deal with the journey, the search, the rejection, the agony and the ecstasy of dating in the modern age. This year, we’re also hoping to branch out, with more video and images, in addition to the text content you’re used to. Plus, you are invited to share your experiences – guest posting spots to appear regularly, enabling JDatersAnonymous to more accurately speak in the “we.”

And as always, we seek your insights, opinions and questions, rendered with sincerity and respect. When dialogue is respectful, we all benefit. And when it’s not – well, that’s where the “comments held for approval” queue comes in.

Posts about “the age thing” and JDate’s new color coding system are in the works…so stay tuned. And until then, dear readers, date wisely, compassionately, respectfully and well.

Happy New Year: Thoughts Inspired By “When Harry Met Sally”


If it’s New Year’s week, and you’re a single woman, and you have a TV, you’re probably watching “When Harry Met Sally” right now. From “BabyFishMouth” to “tell me I’ll never have to be out there again,” you’re equal parts loving and hating yourself as you watch for the 20th time. The film itself has some of the most perfect comedic timing ever seen in movies over the past 20 years, and, since we’ve all grown up on this film and experienced it deeply personally, we can’t help but feel that since Harry and Sally got their perfect wedding to their perfect soulmate, so should we. In short, it built romantic expectations for a generation.

But then we run into the central premise, and debate it ad nauseam with our male and female friends. Can men and women be friends? And is that really what the movie is about? Let’s hear from co-author Nora Ephron. (I read this in the book edition of the screenplay and copied it out to share with you.)

…What “When Harry Met Sally” is really about – not, as i said, whether men and women can be friends, but about how different men and women are. The truth is that men don’t want to be friends with women. Men know they don’t understand women, and they don’t much care. They want women as lovers, as wives, as mothers, but they’re not really interested in them as friends. They have friends. Men are their friends. and they talk to their male friends about sports, and I have no idea what else.

Women, on the other hand, are dying to be friends with men. Women know they don’t understand men, and it bothers them. They think that if only they could be friends with them, they would understand them and, what’s more (and this is their gravest mistake), it would help. Women think if they could just understand men, they could do something.

I’ve been thinking about these words, and Nora Ephron’s wisdom about this topic. What we’re really trying to achieve is not friendship, it’s understanding why they do what they do (presumably to us). It’s only fitting, since I’ve spent decades thinking about whether men and women can be friends, that I try to give this some serious thought. I have some men friends, but the level of friendship isn’t even close – the trust, the reliability, the sympatico…it’s just a miss. And when they’re in relationships, they’re just gone. If the relationships don’t work out, they’re back. And then, when they vanish again, I know there’s someone else.

It’s fine. I mean, I get why it happens. But the fact that I get it doesn’t mean that I think that’s optimal behavior for friends. But of course now, we have a new definition for friends. And so I declare, “we have reached a new era, an era when men and women can be friends. On Facebook.”

If you have thoughts on this issue, please, share with the group.

And whatever you do this New Year’s Eve, keep your expectations reasonable, and find a designated driver. Wishing you all a safe and happy new year.

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