Musical evaluations

I just bought a new case to hold my compact discs, which gave me an opportunity to organize the pile in my closet.

I arranged them by genre, so when I feel like listening to a certain type of music, I know where to look.

Somebody looking for a specific CD in my collection would probably have no idea where to find it, as it follows a personalized system: those I used to have album versions of in high school, getting-ready-to-go-out music, mellow when-I’m-reading music.

Recently, I was perusing the sideways titles on my cousin’s shelves of CDs and was amazed by her system – they were arranged alphabetically. That really had never occurred to me before. Elvis next to Eminem just doesn’t feel right to me.

I think this translates into an allegory of life.

Some people know exactly what they’re looking for when they are seeking something, while others have a general idea of what they’re looking for and where to look.

To narrow it down further, it probably also symbolizes the search for a mate.

Some people know exactly what they’re looking for, down to the eye and hair color. Others have a sense of what they’re looking for, but can’t quite define it.

Neither one is better, but it does make me wonder what you can tell about a person from their CD collection.

It’s a good sign when you scope a potential suitor’s rows of CDs and they have several of the same titles as your own. (Of course if you do end up together, there’ll be a lot of duplicates, but that’s something I could live with).

Another good sign are CDs that you’ve considered purchasing, but haven’t yet. This signifies room for growth and development, especially if it’s a whole genre of music that you’ve always been curious about but never pursued.

Once I was dating a guy and after inspecting his CD collection, I realized it was never going to work out. John Tesh? Celine Dion? I don’t think so. I think we only had about five CDs in common.

The CD case I bought (which isn’t actually a CD case, but a storage unit from Ikea that I liked … does that mean anything?) double stacks the CDs, so the back row is hidden behind the front row.

This may be a good recommendation for men with ‘N Sync or Spice Girls CDs. It’s not necessary to know everything about a person when you first examine their CD collection, right? After you get to know them, maybe that will seem charming, but not right up front.

In my hidden tier are childhood favorites such as the “Annie” soundtrack and “Rick Springfield’s Greatest Hits.” But I’m not embarrassed – I would reveal the second tier to the right person.

Diversity is a good sign. If somebody only has one type of music available, no matter what type it is, that can be downright frightening. Only rap? Only classical? Only ’80s music? Any one of those choices should send a warning sign.

Also, proceed with caution with somebody who owns a whole stack of CD singles – if they can’t commit to buying a whole CD and taking a chance on the unknown, that must mean something.

Those with many compilations are a mixed bag. On one hand, they’re creative music lovers – if the compilations are homemade – and probably have many interests. On the other hand, they could also have the CD single complex.

I’m probably overanalyzing the importance of a person’s musical choices, but if life truly is an allegory of compact disc organization, what does it mean if somebody has all their CDs in the wrong cases?

This first appeared in the Sept. 6, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Photo album tour: On the road of reminiscence

Last weekend, my life flashed before my eyes.

More specifically, through my rental car window.

I was in Los Angeles to visit an old friend who was in town from Montreal with her family for her brother’s wedding. I rented a car, made arrangements to stay with a cousin and that was the extent of my planning for the weekend.

However, that soon changed.

In just over 48 hours, I had Shabbat dinner at the home of a childhood friend who I hadn’t seen in 15 years, ate brunch with family members, searched through boxes of stuff in storage with my ex-husband, attended a birthday dinner for an old friend, met another friend for breakfast, visited with the Montrealers and saw seven out of eight of my former California homes.

As I drove solo through the streets of L.A. County, each of these visits was punctuated with time to reflect on the magnitude of the experience. Lots of time. (Lots of traffic.)

As I drove through neighborhoods that looked both comfortably and eerily familiar, I relied heavily on intuition and not on a map to find my way. I passed street names that I hadn’t thought of in years and recalled odd bits of memories as I drove past various places. I reflected on the different phases of my life and the people who shared them with me – family, friends, fellow students, colleagues, neighbors.

It amazes me how many people pass through one’s life. Faces smiled out at me from photo albums I found in storage – some I remembered well, others not at all.

My Montreal friends got married a couple weeks after I did. Ten years later, I’m divorced with no children, and they have four sons. Besides the obvious, one difference I notice between my married friends’ lives and my own is the collective memory they share.

For singles, life feels more compartmentalized. Friends and family may not know each other; work and social lives are often kept separate. I guess that might be one of the basic needs that drives people to find a mate – to have someone there to share these references with, to connect the past to the present. To have somebody to turn to 20 years from now to say “Hey, do you remember…”

One can still have those connections through family members and friends, but they’re not intimately involved with your everyday life.

I guess that’s why, when two people start to date, there’s often a desire to share the previous part of their life with the other – to drive by the old elementary school and high school, to give them the photo album tour of the past.

One thing I also realized from my recent Los Angeles experience: I hope traffic never gets as bad in Phoenix. I don’t know if all that extra time to think is such a good thing.

This article first appeared in the Aug. 2, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Selling the smell of excitement

This article first appeared in the July 5, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Who can worry about being single at a time like this?

With wildfires threatening to devour entire towns, weekly suicide bombings in Israel and domestic terrorist threats, there’s no time to worry about being single.

In fact, it seems pointless to worry about it at all.

Some people try for years to meet someone – joining Internet dating sites, answering classified ads, participating in singles activities. Others, like a friend of mine, casually accept a blind date with a co-worker’s brother and, within a week, a full-fledged romance blossoms.

It’s impossible to determine where that magic comes from.

My grandparents met on a Friday, saw a movie on Saturday and got married on Sunday. Three consecutive days led to more than 65 years of marriage. Not that I’m recommending that, but today, some people date for years, eventually marry, then divorce in fewer years than they dated.

Relationship dynamics have always intrigued me – the mystery of what draws people to each other. Obviously, I haven’t yet found the answer so I decided to do a little Internet research.

One thing I learned about was human pheromones, defined as a chemical secreted by humans that influences the behavior or development of others of the same species, often functioning as an attractant of the opposite sex.

Pheromone, derived from Greek, means “I carry excitement.”

Apparently, this “excitement” can be bottled and sold.

One company, Natural Attraction, combines human pheromones with fragrances.

According to its Web site, humans have a small sense organ in their nose that is different from the sense of smell. The sensory structure is called the vomeronsasal organ, or VNO. It detects human pheromones, but not those from other animals. So any of the other animal scents, such as musk, wouldn’t have the same effect as these human pheromones. (Whew, I’d hate to think of the consequences of that…)

For those wanting to try this spray-on excitement: The men’s fragrance is a “blend of sheer woods, rich ambers and florals combined with synthesized human pheromones.”

The “rich but subtly masculine scent is designed to be the key to opening up your sixth sense and awakening your entire being.”

For women, it’s “crisp, clean notes of citrus and specially selected florals combined with synthesized human pheromones in a light, pleasing scent, designed to delight the wearer and that special man anytime, day or night.”

Another company, Pheromone Oil, offers a money-back guarantee that use of its products will attract members of the opposite sex.

According to its Web site, they have to add scent to the pheromones because by themselves, their strong scent is similar to body odor. In order for the pheromones to work effectively, they must be mixed with something to help them smell pleasant or negate the smell. The site explains that the primary pheromone humans secrete is androstenone, which is secreted only when they sweat. Those with good hygiene habits shower each day, and therefore wash off their own natural pheromones. Thus, the need for pheromone oil.

A third Web site I found was for a company called Tropical Tanning, which offers aloe vera-based lotion that maximizes a tan “while creating allure with the power of pheromones.”

Well, I do need to maximize my tan, but what will they think of next?

For those who suspect their spouse is cheating, maybe a spritz of pheromones with a scent to repel members of the opposite sex before their mate leaves the house?

Or for Jewish parents, a scent to spray on their children that will only attract Jewish potential mates?

All in all, I found it interesting research and I did consider ordering a bottle to see if it would affect my social life at all.

But I have enough things to worry about…

Practical romance: Relationships require maintenance

This article first appeared in the June 7, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

There’s a red plastic cup upside down on my kitchen windowsill. Underneath is a giant, ugly bug. It wasn’t moving when I placed the cup over its body, but I couldn’t bear looking at it or moving it. It was so big that I initially hoped it was really plastic and one of my roommate’s friends might have stuck it there as a practical joke and forgot to move it, but she was as surprised by it as I was. So there it sits.

In my bathroom, there’s a towel rack that I can’t hang anything on – if I do, it just falls off the wall.

It’s not that these are things that I couldn’t take care of if I really wanted to; I just haven’t gotten around to them. I’ve changed light bulbs, tightened the screw on the door of my bathroom cabinet, programmed my VCR and filled an almost-flat tire with air (although I did feel stupid for paying 50 cents for air). But there are some things that I just let go.

I think this is similar to the image of bachelors eating dinner out every night or letting laundry pile up in their closet.

There’s just too much to do and you can’t do it all.

I know this probably isn’t very politically correct, and there are probably some singles-rights activists out there who would vehemently disagree, but I don’t think we’re meant to be alone.

Married couples take for granted little things like always having a ride to and from the airport, having somebody else pick up their prescription from the drugstore when they’re sick in bed and somebody to help them hang a picture.

Singles have to depend on themselves.

Of course being single has its benefits too – the freedom to do what you want with whom you want, having regular doses of spontaneity and that anticipation of maybe today you’ll meet that special someone.

I was at a wedding in Vancouver a few weeks ago when this sense of anticipation reared its head. I was miles from home – not even in the same country – and throughout the evening aunts and cousins whispered to me, “I think he’s single…” about various men in the room. Nothing came of any of it, but it was fun to think of the possibilities.

If I marry a doctor, I wouldn’t have to worry about medical care. If I marry a lawyer, I wouldn’t have to worry about legal matters. If I marry a car salesman, I’d be driving a nice car. If I marry a carpenter, my towel rack won’t fall off the wall.

See? The possibilities are endless.

But knowing me, and the power of romantic movies on my imagination, I’ll probably marry for love. Which leads back to that feeling of anticipation and leaves me wondering whether or not my expectations are unrealistic.

I once expressed to a friend that maybe I’m too choosy when it comes to dating. Maybe I expect too much. He told me it wasn’t that it was having high expectations, it was just that I have high standards. That shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? After all, the decision to get married means that the intention is to spend the rest of your life with that person. That’s a pretty big decision, to say the least.

I think this is the idea that keeps many people I know single – the fear of making the decision to settle down with one person right before you meet the person of your dreams. A fear of settling with someone because you think it’s the right time, even though you suspect it may not be the right person.

I think this is a valid fear. It’s like eating a nonfat brownie. You know what you really want, but you know what you should do. And in the end, you’re not going to be satisfied because it wasn’t really what you wanted.

Is there a solution for this hesitancy? No. I guess at some point we have to evaluate our own situations and decide what sacrifices we’re willing to make.

Meanwhile, I guess singles will just have to stick together. Since Phoenix is such a transient town, many singles don’t have family here. Offer a ride to or from the airport. Offer to check their mail when they’re out of town. Invite them over for the holidays.

By the way, there’s a big ugly bug sitting in my kitchen that I’d love to get rid of….

Dating in the ‘real’ world

This article first appeared in the May 3, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

I made a big decision last week, even though I don’t think anyone will notice but me.

On my Jdate profile, I switched the “I am seeking” response from “a long-term relationship” to “marriage and children.”

When I first signed up, nearly a year ago, I was hesitant to check off “marriage and children,” thinking it would scare some potential suitor off. Last week, I decided that I don’t care anymore.

I’m tired of first dates, I’m tired of small talk, I’m tired of talking about my past with somebody who will probably be out of my life in two weeks.

However, I’m not at the point yet that I want to marry just to be married – having been married before, I know how crucial the decision is.

I try to keep an upbeat attitude about dating but lately it has taken a downturn. I feel like I’m wasting my time. I’d rather hang out with friends than go out on any more dates. Conflicting advice wrestles in my head. On one side of the ring: “It happens when you least expect it” (OK, so stop looking, don’t think about it). On the other, “It’s a numbers game” (keep searching and eventually you will find).

I know there’s not only one way to meet the person destined to be your “significant other.” For some there’s a connection at first sight, while for others, it comes after years of friendship. At the very least, I’m glad I’ve decided to do my dating privately rather than on national television.

Last week, the ABC series “The Bachelor” had its season finale.

Twenty-five women went on the initial show to meet the bachelor – Alex, a 31-year-old management consultant. After being introduced to all of these women at a cocktail party, he narrowed his choice to 15.

On the following shows, he goes on group dates, has two of his close friends give the women compatibility tests and narrows the pool down at the end of each show – in a rose ceremony where he hands a rose to the women he wants to hang around.

How romantic.

The six-week show ended with him presenting Amanda, a 23-year-old from a small town in Kansas, with an engagement ring – telling her he’d hold onto it until they date longer and get to know each other better. Good idea, Alex, you don’t want to rush anything.

I guess that’s an improvement on “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire,” where the millionaire selected his wife after a few-hour pageant.

These dating shows intrigue me. On UPN’s “Blind Date,” a couple goes on a blind date while the producers use visual commentary such as thought bubbles and sarcastic remarks to help provide viewers with plenty of fodder to make fun of the couple throughout the show.

Usually, the couple does a fun activity together such as learning how to sword-fight or dance the samba. Next they go for dinner to check out each other’s table manners and share intimate conversation such as “So, are you a member of the Mile-High Club?” By the end of the date, the couple often either ends up in a hot tub or in a fistfight.

Then there’s “Dismissed,” an MTV show where threesomes, usually in their early 20s, go on a date and the two men or two women compete for the single member of the opposite sex by trying to plan and execute a better date than the other. Each competitor also gets to give the other a “time-out,” which is when the third party leaves for a few minutes, allowing for either genuine conversation or a make-out session. The loser is “dismissed” at the end of the evening. The guy usually chooses the woman with the biggest breasts. I don’t know how the woman chooses because the guys usually act like idiots.

On UPN’s “The 5th Wheel,” five gossipy singles date. It starts out with two men and two women and then a fifth man or woman joins the date, flirting, causing trouble and mixing things up.

These are only a few “reality” dating games – then there’s the truly awful shows, the ones where couples put their relationship on the line, such as Warner Brothers’ “Change of Heart,” where members of an unsatisfied couple go on a blind date with somebody else. The dates join the couple on the show where they discuss and watch videos of the dates. The show concludes with the members of the original couple holding up either a “Stay Together” or “Change of Heart” sign.

I’m not quite sure of the details of “Temptation Island,” since I haven’t made it through one complete show. Basically, it’s a lot of good-looking “committed” couples who stay on a tropical island and try to withhold the temptation to cheat with good-looking singles who are determined to test the couple’s faithfulness.

While I find the dating shows a guilty pleasure, the shows such as “Change of Heart” and “Temptation Island” repel me. The couples often show up teary-eyed on camera, upset that their boyfriend or girlfriend would mess around with another. What did they think would happen? Don’t they realize that when they find that “special someone,” it’s stupid to jeopardize it?

I’m not sure why these shows fall in the “reality” genre, they’re not similar to any reality I’ve faced. Who wants a camera following them around to record every awkward moment and have millions of people witness their stupidity? I wonder how many of these contestants actually get another date after the show airs.

But maybe that’s just me.

Across the country – Could a perfect mate be in a different state?

This article first appeared in the April 5, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

I received an e-mail from a guy on JDate the other day – a brief note saying he liked my profile, would I like to meet for coffee?

I check his profile. He looks fairly attractive and I like what he wrote. The catch? He lives in Minnesota.

At first I laughed and dismissed it – it’s one thing to meet for coffee between Phoenix and Chandler, but where would we meet – in Colorado?

But then I thought about it. Just because I decided to live in Phoenix at this particular point in my life, does that mean I should dismiss everybody in every other place in the world?

I often hear complaints from single friends – it’s always the same people at the Jewish singles events, never any new faces. But when an opportunity arises – forget it, he lives in Tucson.

All the choices we’ve made in the past brought us to wherever we are now. What if the person I’m supposed to be with made other choices that led him to a different city, and his life just hasn’t crossed paths with mine yet?

In the dating world, we disqualify people for many things – no chemistry, too short, too tall, too religious, not religious enough, different political philosophies, no political philosophy. And, as in the Seinfeld world, for reasons such as big hands or an annoying laugh.

So even if the geographical area isn’t ideal – even if he’s lived in a cold climate all his life and I’ve never lived in a place where it snows, is that so important? (I guess not, he’d just have to move here.)

A friend of mine once met a woman on a plane. There was a spark and he ended up moving to her town – Phoenix – where he’s now lived for several years. The relationship didn’t work out, but that’s not the point – the concept is noteworthy. You just never know.

I wrote the Minnesota guy back, telling him that I think it might be kind of difficult to meet for coffee, being that we live in different states and all.

He wrote me back, saying he’d be in town this weekend, he’d still like to meet me.

I haven’t decided yet what I want to do. I feel like I should just give it a chance, but he has the same name as my dad. That might be a little weird.

Seven dates & a cup of cappuccino

This article first appeared in the Feb. 1, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

I originally intended to write this column about the Valley premiere of SpeedDating – an evening which introduces seven men to seven women in 90 minutes.

But, due to a lack of participants, it was canceled.

I was intrigued by the idea of SpeedDating – I had heard of its success in Los Angeles and felt proud that the international organization Aish HaTorah had considered bringing it to Phoenix. Our desert city would now join the ranks of cities in 25 other states throughout America, three Canadian provinces and seven other countries, all recognized by Aish HaTorah as viable singles markets.

We were on the map.

But the 14 people between ages 25-35 needed to make the evening happen never materialized.

A few people I spoke to were reluctant to sign up because they assumed they probably wouldn’t meet anyone new – Phoenix tends to be a small singles community and often the same familiar faces show up at the various events. The possibility of spending seven minutes with a previous bad date was just not worth it, they said.

The odd thing was that it was the men who caused the SpeedDating shortage. What were they thinking? Where else can they date seven women in one night for just $35? And that includes cappuccino.

Maybe I’m just more optimistic than most because I reentered the dating world only a couple of years ago after several years of marriage. I haven’t yet reached the level of disappointment others seem to have reached. I’m still enjoying being single and taking part in the various activities, from happy hours and hikes to community-service work and educational programs.

Sure, I want to meet that “special someone” but that is not my raison d’ˆtre right now. I know from experience that marriage is full of compromise and work and frankly, I don’t mind the break.

Since I was married through most of my 20s – a time when so much personal development takes place – I’m finally getting a chance to fill my life with activities and people that I choose myself, without having to consult anybody.

Like any other aspect of life, the status quo can change in a single moment. When you least expect it, you can meet someone and lose the desire to attend any future events. Might as well enjoy singledom while it lasts – appreciate the freedom, relish the experience.

Granted, the whole dating process has changed since I dated in college. People who live across the country from each other develop lasting relationships through the Internet and people living within 25 miles of each other exchange e-mails for weeks without ever meeting.

It’s been interesting trying to adjust to this new way of life, and I’ve met some great people. Haven’t yet had seven dates in one evening, but I’m willing to try it.

An adult ‘bar mitzvah’ party?

This article first appeared in the Jan. 4, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

With balloons, deejays, dance floors and a twinge of awkwardness in the air, the Christmas Eve event for Jewish young adults resembled a bar mitzvah party – except that everybody was 10-20 years older and they were drinking legally.

The fourth annual Mazelpalooza, sponsored by the Young Leadership Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, was held Dec. 24 at Monterra at West World.

The dress code was similar to that of a Scottsdale nightclub – the predominant color was black – but the atmosphere was different. I felt some sense of camaraderie; maybe it was because everybody in the adjoining rooms and patio areas was Jewish.

Although I recognized several people, there were many unfamiliar faces. Where are these people the rest of the year? There is often a good crowd at YLD happy hours, held most often at Scottsdale nightclubs, but YLD estimates the turnout at Monterra to have been nearly 600.

I was going to investigate further where these people are the rest of the year and intended to interview a few I’d never seen before, but frankly, after a couple drinks, I forgot.

The different conversations – standing near the dance floor, in the bathroom, at a table on the patio – sort of run together, but there was a mishmash of mini-reunions. Met him on a hike, painted a wall with her. I even ran into a fellow Camp Pearlstein C.I.T. from 15 years ago – now married and a doctor. (Where does the time go?)

One friend, who compared the evening to a typical bar scene, said it wasn’t conducive to meeting new people. There was a woman that he wanted to meet, but she was always engaged in conversation with people he didn’t know. She was never alone, and he didn’t want to intrude into her ongoing conversations.

It seems that the necessity of networking had moved beyond the business world and into the dating world. It’s not only important who you know, but who the people you know know. At events like happy hours or other bar sceneesque atmospheres, it’s often very difficult to meet new people on your own.

Why does Mazelpalooza draw such a big crowd? Maybe it’s a curiosity stemming from a year of parental prodding to meet a nice Jewish boy or girl. An opportunity to see all of the JDate profiles in person. Or maybe because there’s not much else to do on Christmas Eve.

For most of us, things have changed since bar and bat mitzvah days. Life is much more complicated now. For instance, one friend ran into her ex-fiancé; another spent the evening avoiding ex-girlfriends.

One guy I know avoided the event altogether because he was worried every ex he had would be there – haunting him like the ghosts of Christmas past.

Although thousands of years of collective dating experience filled the room, it was still reminiscent of high school dances – the earnest yet rejected dance requests, the eyeing across the room, the whispers and stares.

As I left, I saw a 31-year-old guy suck helium out of a balloon.

Some things never change.

A glimpse of online dating

“You look familiar. Are you on JDate?”

I don’t know why I felt the online dating service was anonymous; I, too, recognized some of my fellow partygoers’ faces from their tiny onscreen photographs. Yet, acknowledging this recognition was still disturbing.

Nearly 2,000 Jewish men and women in the Valley have profiles posted on JDate, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all available, as profiles remain on the system indefinitely unless removal is requested. So it shouldn’t be a shock to run into others who are interested in finding a Jewish mate at functions designed to offer that opportunity.

As the number of online dating services grows, the more it seems that this method of dating is here to stay, so, although it may seem awkward at times, Jewish singles may as well use it as a way to meet one another.

The standard procedure in online dating is posting an accurate description of yourself (more on that later…) and answering questions in essay form, such as what you consider the perfect first date and what you’ve learned from past relationships.

Members can then read through profiles to learn about people’s hobbies, likes, dislikes and philosophy of life. And, if available, view their photograph.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the person looks like, due to blurry or improperly scanned photos – or not being photogenic.

This should be the perfect opportunity to look beyond appearances and focus on the person, but this usually isn’t the case.

“We do notice that the odds are probably eight or nine times better if you have a photo posted that you’re going to get a reply,” says Scott Gordon, founder of the online dating service Jewishcupid.com.

From those who I’ve spoken to on the dating front, I’ve heard the same general comments about online dating. Following are some of the issues they’re dealing with – of course, they wish to remain anonymous (it’s a small Jewish community).

Although most people admit honesty is important in a relationship, some seem to overlook that it’s also important in online dating.

This includes writing the initial profile.

“We tell people to be as honest as they can be,” Gordon says. “It only hurts yourself if you list yourself as petite and you’re 40 pounds overweight when you meet the person.”

Gordon says the best thing about online dating is that it’s a great icebreaker.

“It’s definitely made it easier to meet new people,” he says.

For example, he notes, you can e-mail 10 different members and whoever replies, replies, but in a bar you’d have to gather the courage 10 times to walk up to 10 different people to strike up a conversation.
Although that may sound convenient – beware.

An e-mail that reads “Hi, I liked your profile. Write me and let’s chat” probably won’t get as warm a response as something a little more personal. It’s a good idea to at least pretend you’ve read their profile.

It’s not very flattering to reply to somebody’s vague message and receive the response “What’s your profile number again?” – as if they’ve just written each new member of the opposite sex and can’t possibly remember which one you are.

Also, interrogation and intimidation isn’t advisable either. If declined by someone you’ve written, it probably won’t win him or her over to write them back to insist they go out with you or to question their reasoning.

And then there’s the rejection. A common complaint people have is being ignored after sending an initial contact letter. However, Gordon points out that some people prefer to be ignored, rather than straight-out rejected, because then they can tell themselves, “maybe they never got my e-mail.”

Once a connection between two people is established, singles have different ideas about the next move.

While some people feel more comfortable exchanging several e-mails and then moving on to several phone calls, others prefer to meet as soon as possible (in a public place, of course).

One friend of mine, after conversing with one man for several months via e-mail and telephone, finally met him and found they had absolutely no chemistry. Now, when there are sparks of interest during the initial correspondence, she wants to meet as soon as possible.

That is an important point – although online dating may be a convenient way to meet new people, it’s no substitute for the real thing.

This article first appeared in the Nov. 2, 2001 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Is love at first sight real?

This article first appeared in the Oct. 5, 2001 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

“Forty days before the creation of a child, a heavenly voice calls forth and proclaims: So and So’s daughter for So and So’s son!”

-Talmud, Sotah, 2a

From across the room, you see someone who catches your eye. There’s something about him or her, although you can’t quite figure out what it is. During the course of the evening, you strike up a conversation and you feel a connection. What is it that draws you to this particular person?

Is it “love at first sight?” Is it “chemistry?” Is it lust?

I’ve always believed in “love at first sight.” I believe in the whole concept of a “soul mate,” that somehow you are supposed to be at a particular place at a particular time to meet a particular person.

However, my experiences of “love at first sight” have so far proved wrong, so now I’m left wondering if I’ve just watched too many romantic comedies.

Because I am no expert in this sort of thing, I decided to delve into the wisdom of our sages, and met with Rabbi Zvi Holland of the Phoenix Community Kollel to see what the Torah has to say about this.

The concept of beshert (intended one) is introduced at the beginning of the Torah, Holland explains, where the creation of the world is described. Most of us are familiar with the idea that woman was created from man’s rib, but this is a misconception, he says.

In the first parsha (Torah portion), it says “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Beresheit 1:27) The part about God taking one of Adam’s ribs and making a woman from it doesn’t appear until the next chapter.

He refers to a commentary by Rashi (11th-century Bible and Talmud commentator) that says when God created the original man, man had two faces and the elements of both man and woman. But since the man and the woman elements were together as one, there was no interaction between them and they were unable to help each other.

So, in a sense, Holland explains, God broke man and woman into two pieces from the original being.

“Now, when you think about it that way, we understand that every man and every woman really has another part,” he says. “God made a man and a woman as separate beings but there’s also a plan that they should get together.”

According to the Talmud quote listed at the top of the article, there is an ordained mate for each person, that it’s all determined before you’re born. But what happens if your “predestined one” marries someone else or, sorry to be morbid, meets an untimely death? What happens to the remaining half of the whole?

“God is involved with arranging the right people for the right people,” Holland says. If you or your mate make lifestyle choices profoundly different from each other, “God will still attempt and be successful (in finding you a match), if you allow it to happen,” he says. “It’s a tremendous game of chess.”

He mentions a midrash in which a woman asks Rabbi Jose bar Halafta a question:

“How long did it take the Holy One, blessed be He, to create the world?” she asked. “Six days,” the rabbi answered. “What has He been doing since then?” she queried. Rabbi Halafta replied, “The Holy One, blessed be He, is busy making marriages.” (Beresheit Rabbah 68:4).

But what about “love at first sight?” Is this something we should wait for? Shouldn’t there be some sense of recognition when you meet your “predestined one?”

Holland says that the feeling of love at first sight should only be taken as a hint.

“It’s a present from God,” he says. “It’s a hint saying, ‘run with this, give it a shot.’ But getting married means more than that, it means a commitment to work together.”

“In a lifelong relationship, there is no room for love at first sight – it’s going to wear off as soon as you move in.”