Sprung At Last

June 24, 2015

The Jdate Chronicles: Back to School

My first jdate is with my second correspondent, who lists his profession as Educator. His messages sound intelligent, and he correctly guesses where I went to college based on my major – film – and where I grew up.

I ask him if he has any favorite movies, and he doesn’t really: Just the usual classics.

“One thing that interests me about old films is the way they give you a glimpse into the way people talked and interacted, etc. going back almost 100 years now. It one of the unique features of our age that we can have this degree of intimate and direct access to the life and culture of so long ago.”

I agree. I tell him that’s what I enjoy about genealogy, reading old documents and getting to know people: I was moved by how profoundly religious my great-great-grandfather was, when I read his will.

Yes, replies the Educator. Until recently religion was pretty much the foundation of all cultures.

Then he asks to meet me for a cup of coffee.

I accept.

He suggests that maybe meeting at Starbucks might work, except that it won’t: The one that is geographically closest to both of us is basically a drive-through. I decide to risk an alternative; my favorite  – at least, if you go by my Yelp reviews – coffee place, which is well-located and has places to sit. Normally I wouldn’t risk introducing a favored meeting spot to someone I potentially might not want to run into in the future, but the truth of the matter is, the only person I actually meet there is a girlfriend of mine who has her own online-dating tales to tell. If I met her there, and he showed up, she’d probably be my ally, or I could set them up on a date, and either way, I’d be doing okay.

This is how, one sunny Saturday, I found myself sitting in the back corner of a Seattle coffee house, sipping free-range coffee and admiring the rainclouds painted ironically on the ceiling.

He arrives a bit late, and is much like his profile picture: small and slightly unfocused. He first waits with the group that is trying to pick up their coffees, then discovers that he isn’t on the line to order coffee. Sorting out the ordering system takes a surprisingly long time, but things that seem obvious to me aren’t obvious to everyone. For example, although I’ve been known to pull semi-clean clothes out of my laundry basket and wear them, it strikes me as obvious that one shouldn’t do this when meeting someone.

This, too, is not obvious to everyone.

He approaches the table, rumpled and perplexed. I say hello and point to the ordering line.

Oh, he says. He walks back and gets on the line.

Eventually he returns, coffee in hand, and sits opposite me.

I’m annoyed that I put on makeup and heels, and also that I’m a quick coffee drinker – my latte is already half gone.

I ask questions, trying to start a conversation; each question results in a short monologue, about his PhD, papers he’s published, his time spent teaching in the south of England. He came here to work on a project that he hoped would turn into “something,” but it didn’t, though he doesn’t say why, and it’s fine, because he doesn’t need the income, which he doesn’t explain either.

The Educator doesn’t mention any past relationships, so I ask if he has children, and he says no, reminding me that I do have one – I mention her in my profile – but doesn’t ask about her.

He doesn’t ask anything, actually. Each time he exhausts each topic, I introduce another, which he discusses until it’s exhausted, while I listen and try to think of something else to talk about. We go back and forth like that, until I strike a nerve, asking why he left his job teaching in England.

He doesn’t want to talk about it, temper flaring as he dismisses the question.

I move on to other things, but I feel like a reporter: I ask, he answers. I sense the most interesting story is the one he doesn’t want to tell, so like a reporter, I try to draw the story out gently, approaching from different angles.

He doesn’t want to talk about it, from any angle. It was a bad situation. He was sabotaged by nasty politics. The temper flares. The conversation stops.

I’m tired of listening, and tired of thinking of things to ask him, so I don’t, and we sit there. He doesn’t know any more about me than he did when he walked in the door, a few facts he’s deduced correctly from other facts listed in my profile. I feel boring and clichéd and, mostly, unnecessary.

I say I have to go, and do.


June 22, 2015

The Jdate Chronicles: Coffee Time

There are lots of safety tips for online daters, and dozens of articles on the subject, which mostly boil down to a few key points: Meet in a public place. Drive yourself there and home. Stay sober.

All of this is good advice for staying safe.

There are other tips that apply to all first dates: Dress nicely. Express interest in the other person. Choose an activity that is low-pressure, but can be extended if things go well.

All of this is good advice for making a good impression.

Meeting for coffee is a good activity for a first date. You can always have dessert after, or just take a really long time drinking it, especially in Seattle, where some people seem to live in coffee shops and nobody thinks anything of it unless they can’t find a place to sit with their own latte and laptop.

Choosing a coffee place in Seattle is harder than you might think – the coffee you drink, and where you drink it, are statements about who you are. For example, if you suggest meeting at Starbucks, you are saying: I lack imagination. I play it safe. In a city full of unique coffee spots, I’ve picked the most generic choice available.

If you choose a unique coffee spot, you run a different risk. Its personality may make a statement, but is it the right statement? If not, you are going to spend an awkward hour sipping a beverage with someone you’ll never see again, making halting conversational attempts and trying not to check the time too often.

If possible, you should find a place that is a safe choice, but doesn’t appear to be. Ideally, this should be someplace you don’t frequent regularly, because if you like the place and the date goes badly, you might have to find a new favorite coffee place. Based on my own admittedly unscientific research, there is a 98.3% probability that your internet date will fall into the “went badly” category.

One final tip for a successful first date: Relax! Be yourself.

After several weeks of perusing mostly inactive profiles and sending unsuccessful “flirts” on jdate, I receive a message. The sender’s profile photo was taken with a webcam, possibly as part of an application for clown college: Goofy smile, strange angle, glasses askew and too big for the face they’re on.

He gets straight to the point: You seem intelligent, he writes, would you like to meet for coffee?

I tell him no. I prefer to know a little about random men from the internet before I meet them. Tell me about yourself.

As we message back and forth, a message arrives from a second man.

Like the first, he’s significantly older than I am.

Like the first, he wants to meet for coffee.

And like the first, he acts as though he’s being gracious when he suggests that I pick the place where we’ll meet for coffee.


May 28, 2015

The Jdate Chronicles: Where Did My People Go?

There are a dozen or more emails waiting in my Jdate inbox; only one sender is located within a hundred miles of me. Still, he’s pleasant looking enough, so I reply and apologize for the lengthy time it took me to respond.

I receive no reply, and after reviewing the profiles of men that are actually in my area and age group, I note that my strategy of waiting has probably worked against me: Three months is the shortest subscription period Jdate offers, so his subscription likely lapsed in between the time he sent the message and the time he gave up on the site.

Please don’t tell me there are other fish in the sea, unless you are prepared to tell me which sea; it isn’t this one.

At this point, though, I’m an online dating pro, so I quickly execute the drill I perform on each new dating site or app that I try: I search out and block profiles of all the men I’ve met on other sites that I don’t want to encounter, or even make them aware I’m on the market. The nice thing about Jdate is that since it has a limited demographic, and the pickings are so slim in my area, the list is short: I locate and block him quickly.

I run across other familiar faces; each new site feels a bit like a high school reunion, a careful scrutinization of faces that seem familiar, and sometimes I remember right away where I saw them before – people often use the same profile photos on different sites. The brush-offs feel familiar too: The ones who didn’t respond to me on other sites don’t reply to me here, either.

Actually, no one replies.

The site tries to encourage me with emails and popups that offer me a stream of potential matches. All of them are from Canada, even though I haven’t checked the box that says I’m willing to relocate; even after I narrow my search parameters down to ensure I’m not accidentally searching in Canada, they keep coming, this Canadian invasion.

I start to become suspicious of the site’s motives: Is it deliberately trying to lure Jews out of the country? Why? Who’s behind it?

I don’t need a burning bush to tell me that my six-month subscription was overkill.

May 26, 2015

Getting Chosen: The Jdate Chronicles

Eventually, I get tired of re-reading texts, looking for subtexts, and replaying wished-for outcomes, looking for opportunities to re-write the ending, when The Child rewrites it for me. She tells me that she won’t be working backstage on the next school play – she volunteered, but there was too much concern about the potential for backstage drama.

I ask if I should speak to the Drama Teacher, try to work something out, and she says, No, he’s not working on this play, the other drama teacher is. The Drama Teacher is leaving at the end of the school year, moving back to LA to work in theater.

A distraction is needed. Having failed on Match.com and OKCupid and Tinder (and Coffee Meets Bagel and The League and let’s not forget Plenty of Fish), I consider that perhaps I’ll have better luck fishing in my own stream, so I set up a Jdate profile.

Get Chosen, says the website.

Pick me, says my profile.

I flip through all the profiles in my region, and get excited: Professional men with advanced degrees, nary a motorcycle or tattoo or unnerving bathroom mirror shot to be found.

Emails start to arrive, as do Flirts, Jdate’s version of the Match wink or the Facebook poke, but I can’t see who’s sending them: Every time I click a message, I am directed to sign up for a fairly pricey subscription.

But I’m Jewish, and regrettably familiar with how dating sites work, so I simply wait for Passover and the inevitable sale that comes with it, then pay in advance for six months of discounted Jdating.

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