Tech Stuff

Hiatus Explained


Greetings, those of you who are still tuned into JDatersAnonymous. I wanted to apologize for my absence these last several months – there are two main reasons that I wanted to share.

The most major reason for my absence was the death of my mother, Shulamit Kustanowitz, mid-May. (Those of you who read my other blog, My Urban Kvetch, undoubtedly already know this, as the last two posts over there were about my mother.)

I’m making my way back to life, through the process of the Jewish year of mourning, and her memory and spirit informs my writing and my progress toward a new normal. But both the writing and the progress are slow. So I beg your patience during this time. And may her memory be for a blessing.

Beyond that very major reason for my disappearance, I’ve frankly become aware that writing for this blog about the challenges of dating (and specifically Jewish dating) in a modern, connected world fills me with despair. And it’s not the process of writing itself – it’s the responses: the despair of others, the negativity, the name-calling, the derision of men from women and women from men, the anti-Semitic slurs against Jewish men and Jewish women, the perpetuating of stereotypes that aren’t fair to anyone.

So I’ve been absent. And may remain so. At least for a while. If I’m motivated to write, I’ll write. But this hiatus is important enough for me to violate my own blogging advice (“blog regularly, so your audience knows they can rely on you!”) in favor of emotional balance.

I would still really like it if – on and off the blog – we could live up to the motto I had in mind when I founded this non-geographic place: “Group therapy in a blog…welcome home, singles.” But home is supportive, where everyone knows and accepts you for who you are. This place has not been that kind of home in some time, but I hope that it will be again one day.

Those of you who have been readers for a while and want to submit guest posts, please feel free to do so: jdatersanonymous at But it is likely that, aside from those posts, this blog will not be updated for a while. Thanks for your readership and your support – I will be back when I can.

Until then, wishing you good health, friendship, love and happiness.

Facelift in Progress


Greetings, JDA readers…

I want to apologize for the lull in posting and for this facelift-in-progress that may have altered the somewhat more classic design that we’ve traditionally had here.

Hopefully, said surgery will be completed soon and the new interface will be more visually appealing and organized than ever before.

Looking forward to additional discussions on dating, relationships and social interactions…happening in this space soon.

Thanks for your patience!

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…

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.

Who’s Crazy?: Lessons in Love and Communication


My old “nondating” bloggerfriend Ken Wheaton (who’s got a novel coming out, btw), posted this to Facebook, noting that women are crazy and that he had no idea if this was true or a stunt. So I clicked play hesitantly, prepared to defend the honor of this particular woman and all women everywhere, noting that we are not crazy, or that the whole thing sounded made up to me.

And so it began:

During the Summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to backpack around Europe for 2 weeks. I talked about it often before I left. My girlfriend however, although great in many respects, was not the world’s greatest listener. I left on Friday June 1st. Despite even calling her to say goodbye the night before, she never realized I left. When I arrived home 2 weeks later, I had several emails from her, waiting in my inbox…

On his site, JD notes (about all his content), “All of this is true, or none of it is — whatever you want.

After viewing it, I’m not sure what to think. Is her descent into relationship madness funny/relatable/pathetic? Yes. Are some of her reactions over the top? Of course. Should she have listened when her boyfriend told her he’d be out of town for two weeks? Given. But do we know that said boyfriend is an excellent communicator? Nope, we don’t. And what kind of human being doesn’t check email even once for two whole weeks? I know most people feel we’re too connected these days, but two weeks without phone or email, even to Mom? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s like the statistic quoted in a number of (pre-2001) films, including “Sleepless in Seattle,” which noted that women over 40 were more likely to be killed in a terrorist attack than they were to get married – fictional, but that it doesn’t matter if the story is actually true, as Rosie O’Donnell’s character says in “Sleepless”: it feels true. (But don’t worry: the “doomed spinsters” are getting married, says Newsweek.)

So: crazy? Or not crazy? True? Or just “feels true”? I don’t have answers. But what I do have (without spoiling the ending of the clip) is some idea that when they’re in relationships, people need to communicate more clearly in advance of an absence, and yes – I’ll go out there and say it – even when they’re not absent. Now, watch the clip. Laugh. Think it insane or untrue, or crazy or accurate, but enjoy the outstanding musical accompaniment and the dramatic escalation. (And for more of JD’s stories, check out

“JDaters Anonymous Live” Yields Strange Results


It’s been a while since I posted here, I know. I’ve been running around presenting at conferences like a crazy person, or at least the type of crazy person who’s asked to speak at conferences. And a quarter of those presentations centered on our topic at hand: dating and relationships.

This past weekend, I spoke to a crowd of 200 people – most of them students in their early 20s – about the challenges of dating in the age of technology. The session was titled – somewhat obscurely – “JDaters Anonymous Live,” which led people to make their own assumptions about what the session would address. Some thought it was going to be speed dating, or me talking about my dating horror stories, or an opportunity for the participants to share their horror stories. And as a result, although I tried to keep the conversation to the topic at  hand – technology, and how it complicates our communication process even as it keeps communication more frequent and varied – people just wanted to vent.

They were angry. Angry about being rejected. Angry about being deceived. Angry about not being called back, or being passed over in favor of a friend. But one of the comments made by a twentysomething male really gave me pause. He stated that he knows, definitively and always, whether it’s going to work (he meant a date) within the first five minutes of meeting someone.  Shocked, I polled the room, and most of them agreed, not just about a date/potential romance, but about a potential friendship. When I suggested that perhaps it was because the people in the room were under 25, I almost had a mutiny on my hands. The room was fairly united. Five minutes. And they’d know.

Maybe I err on the side of believing that first impressions, while often fairly accurate, do also contain a margin of error – some of the people I met and instantly liked I’ve since fallen out of like with, and others, who were slow starters for one reason or another have emerged as some of my nearest and dearest. While I’m talking about friendships mostly, I find the same is true for me in dating…I think most people become more interesting as you spend time with them, and it’s not fair to judge someone from five minutes of interaction.

Here’s the part where all y’all weigh in and tell me what you think…

Imagine the Implications…


Apparently, there’s a new computer program that can identify certain types of jokes within a body of text. Or so says the Wall Street Journal, if you can believe that rag.

The scientists gave their program a database of words and examples of how the words can be related to each other. When the program analyzes a passage, it uses that knowledge to find a word that doesn’t fit with the words around it. When an outlier appears, the program checks a pronunciation guide for similar-sounding words that would make better sense in the sentence. If a more logical term is identified, the program flags the sentence as a pun.

New Scientist offers the example of a boy who tells his mother that he has been in the garden so much because “teacher told me to weed a lot.” The program recognizes that “weed” doesn’t go well with “teacher” and that the similar-sounding “read” would be a better fit. As far as the scientists are concerned, the computer gets the joke.

This makes humor sound so technical and boring that I almost never want to hear another joke. It’s like someone explaining to you the chemical reasons that you have “the feelings” for a certain person, or telling you that candlelight isn’t really romantic, that there’s a physiological reason and it’s involuntary, and you’re like “shut up already!”

But still, maybe we should look at the practical implications of such technology…
If computers can apply logical processes in the service of recognizing jokes, maybe this can have implications for the online daters among us. Maybe a search engine could be specialized to weed out actual senses of humor from perceived senses of humor. Or we could enact the “personality filter” to generate a list of profiles where actually having a personality instead of having friend who think you’ve got a great personality ranks you higher in search results.

Oh, Brave New World. Send us the tools we need for success.

V-Day Discussion: “Checkbox Commitment,” Kiss and Tell, and Privacy


Don’t you love Valentine’s Day?

In response to last week’s Jewish Week column, “Checkbox Commitment,” I received this lovely letter from someone I’m rebranding as “a fan.”

Maybe another reason that so many of you folks are single in your 30s is your compulsion to discuss the intimate details of your relationships with your friends and your relatives. On more than one occasion, a girl did that to me and that usually sent me running the other way. It still angers me, why does what happen on a date become fodder for a discussion between a woman and her friends.

I met my wife via a personal ad in [location deleted]. To this day our friends know that, our families think we met via a mutual friend. I may be old-school, but I am not ancient.

I occasionally would be chided for keeping my private relationships private. I would simply reply that a gentleman does not kiss and tell and neither does a lady. Perhaps your crowd should follow that axiom. You may have a bit less to talk about, but maybe you’d screw up less relationships.

It’s the use of the term “screw up” that shows he really cares. But seriously, I don’t necessarily think he’s all wrong. As I wrote in my response to him, the communication in the relationship, especially starting out, is often so uncertain and confusing–and in some cases demoralizing–that the only way to survive is to ask friends for advice. But I do think that sometimes people take the private into the public too often.

What do you think?

Is “Playing Hard to Get” a Non-Issue in the Digital Age?


This past Friday night, I did a Bloggers’ Roundtable at the Town & Village Synagogue in downtown NYC, featuring participation from the venerable bloggers of BlogsofZion, Kesher Talk, Shabot6000 and Jewschool. And my column in the Jewish Week for this week focused on “Dating 2.0“–a new model for approaching relationships in the digital age. So when a reader/attendee at the roundtable approached me afterwards and asked me about “playing hard to get” and whether women should engage in this, I thought before answering.

My immediate response was that playing hard to get, a la “The Rules” was ridiculous. That there’s a number of days minimum that women should wait before agreeing to date a particular gentleman caller seems antiquated and a little too game-oriented for my taste. But anecdotal evidence does seem to suggest that men do enjoy a bit of a challenge–if something or someone is accessible, it doesn’t seem to be as thrilling or filled with accomplishment as something that’s a little less so. So being available at every moment–or to quote Ms. Roberts-as-celluloid-hooker, “a beck-and-call girl”–might not be the best idea either. Not always being available when he calls also helps to avoid becoming his melancholy booty call baby or his inadvertent friend-with-not-all-the-
benefits-you-were-looking-for, and might help weed out people who don’t have a serious interest.

But once you’re playing the game, there are risks. Not being available can also be interpreted as lack of interest. (Not disinterest, which is something different: see William Safire in this weekend’s NY Times Magazine.) Plus, in the digital age, people are a lot more accessible than they used to be. Back in the day, if you left your house or your office, you couldn’t be reached by telephone. You were off the grid. But today, people can always get a hold of you, via phone, cell, email, pager, Sidekick, texting or whatever. “Hard to get” isn’t the problem.
So my response is this: one should not “play” anything. But constant availability, to the detriment of your own emotional well-being, is also not good. It’s about knowing your balance and what you want out of a relationship. If you want long-term serious, don’t settle for being an FWB. If what you want is an FWB, then don’t get involved with someone who wants a long-term relationship. If you tend to get sucked into long IM conversations with “potentials” who never make a move beyond the message window, just say no. If you tend to respond too eagerly when a potential calls, screen your incoming calls…you can always call them right back if it’s urgent, and if it isn’t, it can wait, and probably should.
So in short, gameplaying, bad. Knowing what you need, good.

But that’s just one person’s opinion. Now’s the part when you tell me that I’m wrong, or that I’m “right, but…”

“High School Revisited” (Jewish Week-First Person Singular)


High School Revisited
by Esther D. Kustanowitz
October 27, 2006

Back in high school, popularity was a cliche. There were varsity jackets, and even though there were no cheerleaders in yeshiva high schools, there were popular girls who would have seized a set of pompoms were they to be given rabbinic authorization to do so. Academic achievement was a given, but the varsity Jews were our physical elite, admired for rising above the cerebral success so long associated with our people, ascending to a place of physical strength. Even in a school that assigned points for Jewish values, high scores on the court sometimes meant more. Even in yeshiva, the social order followed secular norms: jocks at the top, nerds at the bottom.

In those days, one of the worst things you could call someone was “nerd.” Or “geek.” Or “four-eyes.” Being smart was nerdy enough; knowing how a computer worked was like the social kiss of death. You could use a computer for video games, but with Atari and Nintendo, you had self-contained gaming units; to master Pac-Man or Donkey Kong it was no computer required. And you’d certainly never mention having seen Star Wars 47 times.

Toting hardware used to be a bad thing. (Pocket protector, anyone?) But in 2006, being smart or involved in technology isn’t necessarily unpopular. Sure, high school is probably still a challenge. But today, geeks are role models. They created Windows, revolutionizing the way computers are used. They took “Al Gore’s Internet” and developed a tool that people can’t imagine living without. People live online: instant messaging, e-mailing, downloading, gaming, buying more stuff than anyone could conceivably need at and eBay. Without world nerd-dom, we wouldn’t have file-sharing or iPods.

Today’s pocket protectors are a business must-have–they’re called BlackBerrys. Today, everyone is a nerd at heart. Kids today own their nerdiness in an inspiring and holistic manner. Even cool kids are tech geeks, with their Sidekicks and plasma screens. Bloggers are arguably the most vocal kind of neo-nerd, but they–OK, we– wear the badge proudly, as it conveys a literate, passionate force of the opinionated, the vox populi given a platform. In high school, we might have suffered in silence. But time is the great equalizer. Nowadays, either literally or figuratively, we all wear glasses.

Because things have changed, we should face facts and readjust our expectations. Today, there are many more nerds than jocks, many more geeks than cheerleaders. These facts should provide us with a comfort zone of the cerebral. But anecdotally, experientially and in conversations overheard (OK, eavesdropped on) at Starbucks, our dating expectations are still totally out of whack. Women claim to want smart Jewish guys, but also want them to be strong, tall and non-nerdy. And men, literally sitting at the same table, say “I’ll go out with anyone, as long as she’s hot.”

As adults, we’ve recontextualized our nerdiness as normal. But inside, we’re still the faded remnants of whoever we were in high school, still playing by junior varsity rules. We believe we’re open-minded. But we’re probably not–maybe because we’re socially conditioned to believe that aligning with geeks will drag us back down, while “dating up” grants an all-access pass to communal acceptance. And the message of such an upward socially mobile alliance is recognition by someone “worthy” who sees that we are more than just our labels.

Which, of course, we are. Jewish singles are bodies and brains, hearts and ideas, values, personalities and quirks. Jocks may pick their noses, and cheerleaders may snore unattractively. A guy with a facial scar may not be dangerous, and a woman who’s endlessly peppy may not be happy. Our outsides don’t always match our insides. We’re all walking wounded, containing the shards of our adolescent selves; it’s called baggage because we take it everywhere.

The eternal dating challenge is to seek lasting relationships that elate us but which are still grounded in viable reality. Lowering expectations from “too high” to “reasonable” is not “settling”–it’s “being realistic.” But here’s the rub: Only by accepting ourselves for who we are can we expect the same of others–whoever they were then, or are now. Whatever our outside appearance, we’ve always been who we are. And even if life has transformed us from pimply teens to confident adults, on the inside, we are still us.

Esther D. Kustanowitz has seen Star Wars about 47 times and often wears her glasses.

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