Every year, it happens again. We surround the base of Sinai, to re-receive what has been given and regiven, year-to-year.
In the span of a year, most of us haven’t changed that much. Or at least, that is what we think, when confronting these texts, ideas, people we may not have considered much in the past few months. But the truth is that perspective isn’t often the big bang, a paradigm shift, a tectonic movement of earth under feet, that rattles assumptions and forces a review of priorities. Sometimes it starts with reconsidering a word, or a person, or a word from a person.
A once-and-perhaps-future friend once told me that you can’t change people. Maybe not at their essence; maybe there’s a part of us that exists before we’re aware of existence itself, and this element is immutable, ingrained. But people change every day. They change their minds. They change careers. They look at a person differently, or see a new meaning in a text, or suddenly claim a path as destiny with a passion that no one could have foreseen.
Some people object to the cycle of holidays, to the annual repetition of the same rituals, often with no change perceived from one year to the next. But I try to take the opportunity to move in some way, to extrapolate a theme from the biblical or the talmudic meaning of the day and let it inform my life, words and actions. It’s a difficult exercise, this receiving, this accepting. The practice of it requires exercise – although the prescription is annual, bound to the calendar, repeated exercise even more often would show greater benefits.
But there’s a disconnect. If the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the mountain was their wedding canopy, and God declared love for the Jewish people at that grand elevation of nature, and we entered into partnership, then the reigning metaphor of the receipt of the Torah was the declaration of relationship, a declaration of commitment and covenant, the analog of which I currently lack. But this time on the calendar comes annually, whether I’m single or not, to remind me that relationship is a value, is possible, is important.
So I think about my words, about how the use of them binds me to others in this world and to those who are beyond, how they aid me in connecting to relationships that nourish me, and how they nurture my innermost self and soul. This year, those words are different than they were in tone and register, but still serve to adhere me to history and to humanity.
I hear voices in the texts, sacred and profane, past, present and future. I have hope that they will steer me toward an enhanced ability to recognize and welcome goodness, should I be lucky enough to find it.
We are constantly in the process of receiving, whether it is Torah, or meaning, or love. But it takes an open mind, and the willingness to say, “my perception is not set in stone tablets.” I might fear restrictive laws and tremble at the foot of the mountain, but when it comes to the opportunity to accept relationship, I am certain that I will.
It’s one of those seasonal romances, the kind in which you’ve totally forgotten that your partner is there, waiting for you, and then you realize all the time you’ve wasted. You rededicate yourself, knowing that if you’d been more attentive all along, the effort now would be less strenuous, and you resolve to never let it happen again. It’s spring, and suddenly you see the optimism of possibility. You spend late hours together, over lunches and dinners, tea, coffee, or sometimes a glass of red wine or a shot glass full of Bailey’s as you drift past midnight and worry that your brain is buzzing too much with stimuli to sleep. Occasionally glancing at the window, you know it’s late enough at night that some people consider it early morning, and you might just see day beginning to break over the trees in the yard.
Sadly, the situation above is not one of romance, but one of tax frustration. The long hours come before and after a long day at one or more jobs, and the exhaustion level is considerable. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my receipts, categorizing and adding them together, trying to figure out how they all fit into the financial picture that is my state and Federal income taxes. This year, I’m consulting an accountant, and hope this will make the process easier at some point – if not during the birth pangs of this startup reorganization of my finances, then hopefully by next spring.
And it occurred to me that perhaps there is a lesson here for some of us, especially those who tend to read into things a lot.
There are things we do because we want to do them so much that they become a life requirement; these things are intrinsic to our self-identity – if we ceased to do them, we would cease to be the selves we have constructed ourselves to be. Other things we do because we have to do them, but if someone – a parent, the government, society – was not forcing us to do so, under penalty of fees, imprisonment or being grounded – we would not do them. The looming threat of jail or going to bed without supper or being shunned by society is what motivates us to do these things. This is why we do an annual tax review or pay our bills even if we think the cable bill or the rent is too damn high.
But then there’s everything in the middle. We might enjoy doing some of those things, but we don’t make them a priority. If we happen upon them – if we see someone post a funny video on Facebook, or if we note that someone is on GChat and has changed his or her message, we might check it out, but if we didn’t, we wouldn’t feel a void because we wouldn’t know what we were missing. If we really see something in that middle zone that catches our attention, we might change its status – realizing it was something important, either because of obligation to a person or relationship, or because it was something that we realized we wanted to do a lot more of.
During the busy day-to-day of any given year, we can forget about the things that we have to do, and only see what we want to see, and do what we want to do. Around tax time, it becomes all about the obligation – to count the literal level of our own worth and submit a report to our supervisors so we can make sure we are pulling our own weight in this crazy world. But there’s a middle ground full of possibilities, some of which can move and inspire us in the months ahead to achieve a more steady, committed pace – we can send some of those minor attachments up to the majors, making them priorities instead of past-times, and maybe break it to some of the devoted, but limited, pursuits that they’re better suited to minor league play.
Perhaps a bit of attention to the middle, on a more consistent level year round, can help strip the literal or figurative Tax Days of their power to terrify; without a threat looming and forcing us into drastic action, we can identify the ideas and pursuits with staying power and invest our energies and resources accordingly, and hope that our investments enrich our lifestyle in inspiring and energizing ways.
Since my days writing the Jewish Week column, I’ve occasionally acted as a Lorax for Jewish singles: I speak for the women who are also struggling as we encounter men who range from oblivious and inconsiderate to deliberately rude and cruel. I try to balance things – I mean, the Mean Girls of Tina Fey’s film of the same name certainly exist in the dating realm as well – but the reality is there’s a real imbalance when it comes to cruelty. And every time I think I’m done with this post, I encounter another anecdote, another tale of ludicrous human behavior. I try to write with a balanced sense of where the blame lies and attempt to avoid gender stereotyping. But with the title of this post, you get an idea where my head is at.
I’ve of late been privy to some rather disturbing dating anecdotes in which grown men behave like babies, or teenagers, or bullies on the playground exploiting the weaknesses of the women they date/hook up with/rely on. These men bill themselves as single, divorced, separated or even still married. Through deliberate deceptions or lies of omission, they leave the ladies sad, crying, disillusioned, distrusting, damaged and increasingly cynical. Some of these stories were even told to me by the men in question, with a mixture of pride and matter-of-factness. They don’t think that they’ve done anything wrong, or even particularly remarkable, and maybe, if analyzed by dating experts, they haven’t.
All the questions we ask of ourselves and of each other – are there rules and should we play by them, why are men scared of commitment, can Mars and Venus ever have a conversation, why do women ask if their outfits make them look fat, who pays on a first date, why hasn’t he called, etc – don’t produce any real answers to speak of, because every person’s situation is different. But we keep asking our friends because we need reassurance. And the eventual outcome of this constant querying is Cosmopolitans and camaraderie, dining and commiserating with the other amazing people who fill our lives while we’re waiting for “the one, ” or “a one.”
It is rumored that there are good-hearted guys out there, the “nice guys” who “would never treat you like that,” the ones who smile and mean it. But the guys referred to in the title of this post are ruining it – and us – for the men who would make suitable partners. If and when we’re lucky enough to encounter more gentle considerate souls, we may not trust them, because our experience has taught us that to protect our fragile selves, we should trust no one at all.
But I’ve long believed that – as idealistic and perhaps unlikely as it sounds – we can earn each others’ trust as we swim in what is sometimes a murky and somewhat seedy dating pool. But we will all of us – men and women, those who behave well and certainly those who behave less well – need to treat each other more honestly and considerately in the courtship and dating process. Like anything worth doing well, it takes practice and effort. But a perhaps foolishly optimistic voice in me says that it’s possible.
This comes from Likeable Media, a site and company devoted to leveraging “social media and word of mouth marketing to create more transparent, responsive likeable companies, organizations and governments.”
Thoughts from you, dear readers? Is he on base, or way off?
Communication today is a series of short missives, texts, instant messages, tweets, or if we’re feeling verbose, emails. And none of us has figured out quite how to do it: either we self-edit like our lives depend on it and parse every letter of a person’s response, or we don’t edit at all – saying whatever we feel and then “unsaying” what we wish we hadn’t said with a simple “J/K.”
What if we were more honest with each other, turning off the self-editing and being real with each other in every medium – from the instant message to the text to the in-person conversation? Is that too risky? Too scary? Too unreasonable?
My friend J is funny, smart and sassy, and gets a lot of attention from men. During a recent conversation, I was relating the latest in a string of men whose interest (with a small i) I had mistaken for Interest (the capitalized “Interest” to indicate not just liking someone, but like-liking someone – this is part of the complex language of dating). Then she reminded me of her foolproof way to know if a guy likes her “as more than a friend.”
“You know how to know if a guy likes you? He asks you out.”
This is very simple advice, perhaps brilliantly simple. But I’m not convinced it’s always true. Just like women can be shy around guys they like, couldn’t the same be true for guys? Aren’t there men who need the encouragement in advance, to bolster their confidence that, if they ask, they’re assured a ‘yes’? Or should we assume – a la “He’s Just Not That Into You” – that if he hasn’t asked you out by now, he’s not going to?
I turn this question over to you, the JDA audience, for discussion. Remember: be respectful in the discussion, and generally excellent to one another. Thank you…
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.
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…
Maybe JDate was as sick of those “chemistry-inspired matches” commercials for sites like Chemistry.com and eHarmony.com 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.
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 JDatersAnonymous.com 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.