Might as well live in a cornfield in Iowa

It struck me last week that there’s a large chance I’m not going to ever celebrate my 68th wedding anniversary.

I’ve blown that chance because even if I get married tomorrow – highly unlikely – I would be 101 when that milestone rolls around. I suppose you never know where medical technology will be in 2071, but it doesn’t seem very realistic to count on it.

When my grandparents met, my grandmother was 22 and my grandfather 27. They celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary last month. As the story goes: They met on a Friday, went to a movie on Saturday and were married on Sunday. A life decision made in three consecutive days and they were together until my grandfather’s death this year on July 1.

Sixty-eight years. Since my divorce, I haven’t even made it past a six-month period. And it’s not just me (I admit, I do feel some consolation in that).

The majority of people my age weave in and out of the dating scene at an alarmingly fast pace. They disappear for a month or so then reappear at the next Jewish singles event. A seemingly rare – distressingly rare – amount get out. Why is this?

Last week while clicking through the few channels on my non-cable TV, I came across one of the most recent reality TV dating shows: “The Dating Experiment.”

Basically, strangers place their romantic lives in the control of a red diary that gives them instructions that they must follow. The participants relocate to a temporary home and rely on the diary to progress their relationship – it dictates the type of date they go on, as well as some of their actions.

Something about this appealed to me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rely on something other than our own thwarted judgment in relationship matters? Wouldn’t it be welcome to have a diary appear on our doorstep dictating the next move that would be best for us?

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from a handful of single Jewish women about how bleak the Jewish singles scene is in the Valley. All of the conversations touched upon the possibility of moving out of state – mainly to New York – to meet their mate. Or even out of the country – to Israel.

I understand their lament and definitely commiserate, but at the same time, it makes me angry. Why should we have to uproot our lives and move away to meet someone? Although Phoenix certainly isn’t the Jewish singles Mecca, it’s not like we chose to live in a cornfield in Iowa – Phoenix is a major metropolitan area with a somewhat thriving Jewish community.

If something is “meant to be,” shouldn’t it “be” regardless of where we live?

At the end of each episode of “The Dating Experiment,” the diary tells the couple that they must “part forever.” But after they separate, the diary gives each of them the opportunity to write the final entry – placing their destiny back in their own hands.

Although this may sound far-fetched, I guess in some way, that reality show does represent life. We are offered opportunities at love and the situations are created, but the final decision is up to us.

This article first appeared in the July 11, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

In pursuit of a balanced life

A guy once told me that he doesn’t think that single women who buy a condo or a house are interested in getting married and he tries to avoid them.

I realize that he said this before interest rates fell so low, but it’s a comment that stuck with me, although I never agreed with the assessment.

Should a single woman continue to throw money away on rent, waiting for a prince in shining armor to come whisk her away into a big castle?

I don’t think so.

I recently moved into my new place and although it’s a huge commitment, it doesn’t affect my attitude about marriage. In fact, I still wish I had someone to take out the trash and rake the leaves in the backyard. Just kidding. Sort of.

I also recently became a single mom – by adopting two puppies.

So within a couple of weeks I went from being basically a responsibility-free renter to a homeowner with two little furry dependents. Whew, I don’t think I quite know what I’m getting myself into. Or so I’ve been told.

I haven’t actually brought the puppies home yet – I’ve only bought a big bag of puppy food, snacks, bowls and Bitter Apple, so it’s been easy so far. I figure I can train myself as I train the puppies – in this house, we don’t leave our shoes on the floor; if we do, there’s a danger they will be chewed.

I know these changes will transform my life dramatically and although I had always thought of buying a house and training puppies as something you do after marriage, how long are you supposed to wait? Are you supposed to put your life on hold until you meet the right person?

When I was researching online for this article, trying to get some statistics on single women becoming homeowners, I came across a Web site called “Leather Spinsters on the Web: An E-zine for the Happily Unmarried Woman.”

I did find the statistic I was looking for: According to a 2000 article, statistics show 57 percent of single women now own their own homes.

But wait – what is this Web site?

On the site, a leather spinster is defined as (1) a happily unmarried straight or asexual woman and (2) a happily single woman who is not gay.

Whoa.

Maybe this is the attitude the guy meant when he talked about women who buy their own houses. But that’s not me at all! I don’t consider myself one of the people who must be dating somebody to be happy, going from relationship to relationship because I can’t bear not to be in one. But I wouldn’t say I’m “happily unmarried.”

Can you be “happily single” while at the same time be “unhappily unmarried?”

I think so.

Like with most everything else, moderation is a good thing. On the one hand, you need to still be open to meeting someone (JDate, singles events, giving up an evening to go on one more blind date) but it doesn’t mean that the pursuit of finding a partner should be the entire pursuit of your life.

This article first appeared in the June 13, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Why marry Jewish?

Although the inter-marriage rate is so high – 52 percent – I don’t think most Jews plan to join the statistics. I believe the majority of Jewish singles sincerely prefer to marry Jewish but simply give up.

After all, Jews are only 2 percent of the U.S. population so the chances of “accidentally” running into other Jews in everyday life – whether at work or in a bookstore – are slim. In Phoenix, you really have to go out of your way to meet other Jewish singles.

If Judaism is only a small part of your identity, and your lifestyle is more similar to your non-Jewish co-workers or friends than it is to observant Jews, you may even feel more comfortable dating non-Jews than going to Jewish singles events.

You’ve heard many of the arguments against inter-marriage: What about your children? What about the future of the Jewish people?

There’s so much to say about the subject, you could write a book about it.

Which is just what Rabbi Doron Kornbluth of Jerusalem did in his new book “Why Marry Jewish: Surprising Reasons for Jews to Marry Jews” (Feldheim Publishers, $15.99 paper-back), which he spoke about at a recent lecture sponsored by Aish Hatorah Scottsdale.

In his book, Kornbluth sums it all up in his introduction: “If you are Jewish, your chances of having a happy marriage, of your kids feeling rooted and stable and of having Jewish descendants are all significantly higher if you marry another Jew – whether a sincere convert or someone born Jewish.”

He backs up his theory with statistics and interviews with intermarried couples.

But even though Jewish singles theoretically know that it may be better to marry someone Jewish, the reality is that it’s not easy. It’s much easier to date whoever you feel a connection with, regardless of his or her religious background. It’s easier to rationalize the differences – “He’s not religious in his own religion” or “She said she’d be willing to raise the children Jewish” – than to walk away from a possibly wonderful relation-ship.

But then someone like Kornbluth comes along and, in a polite way, slams you with reality. For instance, he mentions findings of the 2001 “Jewish and Something Else: A Study of Mixed-Married Families” by Sylvia Barack Fishman of Brandeis University.

“Many non-Jewish parents eventually grew to resent their children’s Jewish upbringing, though they initially had agreed to the concept. The resentment stemmed from a feeling of exclusion – particularly when the child learned unfamiliar rituals and language.”

So even though the non-Jewish spouses may agree to continue to raise their children Jewish – they may come to resent it. After all, how would you feel if your spouse asked you never to bring any Jewish traditions into your home, and that he or she would be uncom-fortable celebrating Jewish holidays with your family?

The study also showed that the Jewish spouse often eventually compromises to be fair to their spouse – such as celebrating Christmas in some way in their home. The same study found that 82 percent of mixed-married households celebrate Christ-mas in some form, whether with trees, lights, presents, family celebrations or even going to church.

In Greater Phoenix, 50 percent of children in intermarried households are not raised Jewish, 26 percent are being raised Jewish; 18 percent are raised “Jewish and Something Else” and 6 percent are undecided, according to the 2002 Greater Phoenix Jewish Community Study.

What happens if the intermarried couple falls into the statistic that half of marriages end up in divorce? If a non-Jewish spouse isn’t interested in Judaism before marriage, what are the chances that they’ll be interested in it after divorce? And what happens to the children’s Judaism then?

Another sobering bit of discouragement Kornbluth brings up is the finding from the 1990 Council of Jewish Federations’ National Jewish Population Survey that more than 90 percent of the children of intermarriage themselves marry non-Jews.

When you imagine your future family, do you envision sitting at a Passover seder with your grandchildren or around a Christmas tree?

As much as it’s each person’s choice to make his or her own decisions, it’s also the responsibility of the Jewish community to help. If the future of Judaism is so important to synagogues and other Jewish organizations, they need to do everything they can do to assist Jewish singles in following their first impulse to marry Jewish. Programs sporadically turn up, but there’s still not enough.

Of course, it’s not just up to the institutions. Small turnout to some singles events lead to cancellations and a lack of future programming. Some individuals have formed singles groups on their own, but it seems like it’s usually the same small number of people that attend all of the events.

If Jewish singles are truly interested in meeting other Jews, they at least have to show up.

This article first appeared in the May 9, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Wandering in the dating desert

Last week my Realtor took me to look at a handful of new places on the market. One of them I was hesitant about visiting because it was in the same development that an ex-boyfriend, whom I dated for six months, had lived in.

I couldn’t remember the address, but as we walked closer, I realized that the condo up for sale could be his. I knew he had moved out of state recently and that it was on the market, but what was the chance of it actually being his?

It was his.

My Realtor took the key out of the lockbox – was that my old key? – and we walked inside. I pointed out to her where all the furniture had been. On the patio, there was the bike I used to ride. All the furniture was gone, but my old bike was on the patio.

The last time I spoke to him, I ran into him while hiking down Squaw Peak. I hadn’t seen him in a few months and he mentioned he was moving the following week. And that was that.

So there I was three months later standing in his empty condo.

Funny that it happened right before Passover – a holiday that includes remembering the past and getting rid of chametz (the crumbs of your past?).

In fact, Passover seems quite relevant to my life right now. Not only am I packing in preparation to move to a different home (although I have more than one night to get my stuff together), I’m also cleaning out my desk at work as the editorial department prepares to move to a new location in our expanded Jewish News office.

So lately, it’s been a lot of going through boxes, folders, files and remembering my past. When I first started at the paper about three years ago, I used to keep all the printouts of notes for my stories. Looking through old folders, I remembered all the different articles I’ve written and all the people who included me in their life, if only for a few minutes, while I was working on those articles. At home I’ve found random reminders of evenings out, such as ticket stubs and playbills that at some point I thought I’d want to keep for posterity.

This type of introspection usually hits me during the High Holidays, when we’re encouraged to look within and review the past year. However, Passover seems to be more cleansing, in a sense, because of the physical elements – the whole idea of spring cleaning – tossing out clothes you haven’t worn in a year, cleaning out your cupboards, deep cleaning your home.

I recognize it more this year because I’ve packed things up and am preparing to move to a new place, and I’m not sure yet what it will be like. I’ll be in a different location, have new neighbors and have to have faith that it’s where I’m supposed to be.

Makes me think of the Israelites wandering in the desert. They left Egypt – and although they were leaving a difficult life, at least it was something they knew. After being divorced – not that I’m comparing marriage to slavery – all of a sudden I found myself wandering in the dating desert, not really sure of what was coming in the future.

Hopefully it won’t take 40 years to find out.

This article first appeared in the April 11, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Realty reality can be disheartening

Maturity can’t be measured by age, but it may be determined by which sections of the newspaper you read.

Every morning before heading out to high school, I would read Dear Abby, the comics and my horoscope with breakfast.

In college, it was the lifestyle section and a quick skim of the front page.

Two years ago – when the Diamondbacks were in the World Series – I even grabbed the Sports pages first, although they now always remain untouched.

But lately something’s changed. I recently found myself unfolding the House & Home section. I even read a story on mortgage insurance – with interest – and the HOA column.

When I first realized what I was doing, I was somewhat taken aback. I’d always been a renter and real estate was a foreign language. But now I’m in the process of buying my first house and I’m slowly beginning to understand the language of escrow and equity, although I’m far from fluent.

A few weeks ago, I was out to dinner with some friends and the conversation turned to down payments, titles, home inspections and other real-estate-type talk. Topics that I could have cared less about a few months ago. But there we were, sounding like we were in a scene from the TV show “Thirtysomething.” Oh wait, I am 30-something. How’d that happen?

But it’s even gotten weirder in other ways. I was watching a movie the other night and during an action-packed shootout underway in a woman’s home, I was distracted by the shades of paint throughout the house. I liked the yellow kitchen, not sure about the coral living room.

I guess it makes sense that you’re more observant about things that are directly relevant to your life. It’s like all of a sudden noticing how many red trucks there are driving around the streets of Phoenix – after ending a relationship with someone who drives a red truck.

On the first day of my search for a new home, I found a condo I really liked. I made an offer that week, received a counteroffer, and then the contract was signed. I thought it was mine.

But, when it got to the appraisal stage, there was a problem and the place was no longer an option. I was crushed – it seemed so promising and I had already entertained decorating ideas and pictured a little dog running around its rooms.

Imagine what the world would be like if dating was as regulated as the real estate industry.

First there’s the listings – with Internet dating and classified ads, that already exists. You scan through the listings and decide which location, age and special features you prefer.

Once you find someone you’re interested in, you set up a date, using a certified dating agent. This agent accompanies you on the first visit, and will later offer his or her educated impressions and advice.

If both parties are happy with the first meeting and wish to continue the process, they must sign a contract confirming their intentions.

Next is the appraisal. A professional appraiser looks into the value of both parties, evaluating such elements as financial worth, health, employment backgrounds and what kind of “upkeep” has been done, such as education or therapy.

The inspection follows – handled by family and friends who make their observances, conduct interviews and then sign a form describing their impressions.

If both parties are satisfied with the appraisal and the inspection, they may begin dating. However, only after signing a contract which lists which compromises will be made, how long they want the dating period to last before a mandatory engagement, how long the engagement should last, and what conditions will automatically terminate the agreement.

Sadly, this analogy can easily get out of hand. Already, when interest rates are low, people often start searching for something – or someone – new. However, with network TV shows like “Married by America” – where viewers choose a contestant’s spouse – maybe people would go for it. (Although people probably wouldn’t agree to live in whatever house America chose for them.)

All I know is, next time I find a place I really like, I’ll wait to choose shades of paint until the final papers are signed.
Public Service Announcement: JDaters visiting Phoenix for multiple JDates in the same weekend are advised to be upfront about it, as Phoenix is a small community and all your dates will probably know each other anyway.

This article first appeared in the March 14, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Day of candy, roses or the lack thereof

I wasn’t going to write about it. I was just going to let it slip by, unannounced and unrecognized. But it’s a difficult holiday to ignore and since it fell exactly on the same date this column was scheduled to run, it was unavoidable.

Valentine’s Day. A pink and red world filled with roses, candy and fluffy teddy bears. A barrage of radio and TV commercials warning men that without a gift of jewelry, the woman in their life won’t realize that they’re loved.

I never liked Valentine’s Day. Well, back in elementary school it was fun – constructing a colorful mailbox to tape to your desk and everyone was required to insert little preprinted valentines into each one. And, of course, there was lots of candy.

In college, I wasn’t a big fan. My weeks-long or months-long romances never seemed to stretch into February, so there were never any gondola rides or candlelight dinners. Occasionally there were flowers from a well-intentioned suitor, but that was about it. By the time I was married, the expectations were too high. Bah humbug, we decided – we don’t need Hallmark to tell us when we should be romantic.

And now that day is back once again. True to my dating style, I recently ended a short relationship so I have no valentine.

I guess my timing is off. Feb. 14 is the one day of the year when, if you’re single, all the hype can make you feel unloved, even if you’re surrounded by family and friends who have proven their love throughout the year by giving much more than a box of chocolates.

What is Valentine’s Day? According to the dictionary, it’s observed in honor of a martyr of the third century.

And who was this Valentine? A Christian martyr of Rome. Whew, yeah, that’s it – I choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day because it’s not part of my religion.

In India this year, one of the political parties wanted to invoke a ban preventing shops and establishments from selling greeting cards on Valentine’s Day, claiming it to be against Indian traditions.

“If Americans do not celebrate Rakshabandhan, why should we celebrate Valentine’s Day?” asked the party’s president.

Exactly! (Although I do think that the ban is going a bit too far. By the way, that holiday is a festival in India celebrating brotherhood.)

I think what bothers me most about Valentine’s Day is that it places the emphasis not on love itself, but on romance. Is it so important that you be involved romantically with somebody on that one day? It’s so arbitrary – why don’t we feel bad if we’re not in a relationship on May 3 or Aug. 21?

Remember, it could always be worse. Scanning the Web, I found an article that gave a brief history of how the holiday was first celebrated.

Although everything is rosy and chocolatey now, centuries ago, single women were flogged in the street with raw goat meat on Valentine’s Day, something to do with a pagan fertility ritual.

I wouldn’t have minded being left out of that celebration.

I think the people celebrating the holiday most joyously are those in the candy, florist and greeting card industries.

According to the Greeting Card Association, Americans will spend more than $937 million on one billion Valentine’s Day cards this year.

Last year in the United States, $1.09 billion of candy was sold for Valentine’s Day, according to the National Confectioners Association. More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold this year, according to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association.

That’s a lot of chocolate.

It’s difficult to ignore Valentine’s Day and it’s going to come around every year. If you don’t have a valentine, don’t worry, and there’s no need to become bitter – there’s plenty of chocolate for everybody.

This article first appeared in the Feb. 14, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

Astronomical musing: Friendships sometimes seem worlds apart

Greetings from Planet Single.

Sometimes it seems like we live on a different planet. There’s no sense of emotional gravity – floating around and never really knowing where you’ll land.

You tend to associate mainly with those in your hemisphere – when fellow single friends start dating someone, it’s like they breathe different air. All of a sudden, their weekends and evenings are taken up and they seem to disappear from the radar screen for weeks or months at a time. When those relationships start to fizzle, then you start seeing those friends around a little more. First little blips – maybe an occasional Sunday afternoon movie or a weekday dinner. Then all of a sudden they’re back, sending e-mails inquiring about your weekend plans.

Sometimes they never return from their relationship journey. Sometimes it extends into permanence, and now the random phone conversations focus only on wedding plans. Their world is filled with cake flavors and color schemes. You want to be a part of it, but they speak an alien language. You wonder if someday you will worry about things like that, but for now you just hope to be able to squeeze your paycheck to pay for one more sushi dinner.

In logical progression, next comes pregnancy. If you’re with two friends who are both in this stage, be prepared for a lunchtime discussion of weight gain, horse-pill vitamins and swollen ankles. If one of those friends is already a mother, try to block out the descriptions of painful labor as you quietly eat your salad. Don’t order anything with red sauce.

The next step is the baby shower. Get ready to ooh and aah over miniature outfits and tiny pink or blue socks. Not having had any babies in my family for several years, I’ve expanded my vocabulary as my friends have babies. Once I was in Target shopping with two baby register lists – it took so long trying to match the items on the list with the items on the shelves: What’s the difference between a bunting, a onesie and a gown? I bought bottles – at least I could recognize those.

Inevitably, after the baby shower comes the baby, and this is when the largest transition in friendships takes place.

These new parents fall into a whole new schedule of their own, and new topics of conversations arise, like what’s been appearing in their baby’s diaper.

I think it’s wonderful – babies really should be the focus of their parents’ lives, but, as I’ve been told, “you can never really understand it until you have kids.”

But here on Planet Single, it’s difficult to fully comprehend the impact that having children can have on your life, hence the reasons that singles often stick together. It’s not easy to grasp the concept of going to bed at 9 p.m. to grab a few extra hours of precious sleep. That’s when many of us are sitting down to dinner.

But the universe is a big place and it’s likely that throughout a lifetime, many of us will travel from one planet to another, gaining knowledge and understanding during these travels.

As we hear tales from other planets, sometimes we’ll look back upon our time there with fond memories and wish we could return. Other times, the stories we hear will make us grateful that we’re wherever we currently are.

This article first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

An eternal flame: What’s our responsibility?

Hanukkah 2002: At 33, I’m still sitting at the kids’ table.

I’m the second oldest “kid” – the youngest is 26. Diapers, rattles and strollers haven’t been part of our family celebrations for several years now.

But seven weeks ago, that all changed.

My oldest cousin – one year older than me – gave birth to a baby girl.

We had four generations seated around our Thanksgiving and Hanukkah tables this year – my grandfather celebrated his first Hanukkah in 1907, my grandmother in 1912. That’s a lot of candles burning throughout the years.

As my generation steps into the spotlight, it’s now up to us to perpetuate the next generation – and to keep the flames burning, so to speak.

It’s not an easy task.

It doesn’t seem like it should be so difficult. In our global world, we have the benefit of traveling internationally – both physically and online – and it shouldn’t be difficult to meet a member of the opposite sex who shares similar values and traditions.

However, according to the newly released Highlights of the 2002 Greater Phoenix Jewish Community Study, 40 percent of currently married couples in Greater Phoenix Jewish households are intermarried, up from 24 percent in 1984.

According to the survey, it’s recent marriages that have raised the intermarriage rate. Only 25 percent of couples who were married prior to 1980 were intermarried; it increased to 57 percent between 1980-1989 and then shifted to 55 percent between 1990-2001.

Of the 9,200 children currently being raised in these intermarried Jewish households, 50 percent are not being raised Jewish.

(Of the remainder, 26 percent are being raised Jewish, 18 percent are being raised as “Jewish and something else” and for 6 percent of the children, the families are “undecided.”)

What is our personal responsibility to make sure the next generation is raised as Jews? I would assume that most single Jews would prefer to marry somebody Jewish. But if they meet somebody not Jewish and get along really well, then that often supercedes the importance of whether the person is Jewish or not.

What is it about our generation that has caused this to happen? Assimilation? Lack of Jewish education? Political correctness? A greater widespread acceptance of intermarriage within the Jewish community? Too much idealism with finding “true love?”

Is it selfish for us to seek happiness, at whatever cost, instead of specifically seeking a Jewish mate? Do we tend to live in the moment rather than thinking about the repercussions?

To some people it seems to come so easy – even if they don’t only date Jews, they end up marrying one. Others travel a longer road – one of my aunts married three non-Jewish men, then the last one converted to Judaism and now they live an observant Jewish lifestyle in Israel.

Some intermarried couples observe a more traditional Jewish lifestyle than two Jewish partners. Each story is different.

I really can’t see the statistics improving. After all, if the national intermarriage rate is over 50 percent, it implies that there are fewer eligible Jews than ever before.

According to the study, there are 4,300 singles under age 40 living in Phoenix. If things continue at the current rate, 55 percent will intermarry, leaving 1,935 to marry Jewish. If it continues into the next generation, it follows that the numbers will dwindle even more because there will be fewer Jewish families.

In Hanukkah 2059, will my grandchildren be lighting a menorah?

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

Theme park wisdom: Learning life lessons from a tourist destination

When you first arrive at a theme park and unfold the smooth, unwrinkled map, the day is full of possibilities.

By the end of the day, as you wearily exit the gates, you toss the torn, crumpled map into the garbage. You’ve already experienced the map’s promises and have formed your own opinions about its contents.

Such is life.

After spending a week in Florida – and four days in theme parks – with my dad, sister and brother-in-law, I learned that you can learn a lot about life from theme parks.

Don’t follow the crowd.

Theme parks draw thousands of people on any single day. If you adopt the mentality of the masses, you’re going to spend a lot of time standing in long lines. Following alternate routes out of show areas or dodging tourists posing for photographs in the middle of our path provided an adventure of its own – and saved a lot of time. Planning an off-season trip also minimized the size of the herd.

Family is important and each person has his or her role.

In our party of four, we tried to make the best use of our numbers. When waiting in line for lunch, two people stood in line, while one scouted a table and the fourth picked up napkins and utensils and served as the go-between communicator. A few times, two of us went to save seats at the show or a space in line while the other two took bathroom breaks or bought a snack.

Spontaneity is good, but it’s better to plan and be flexible than to leave everything to chance.

We used “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World” to plan our days, which gave helpful tips, including a touring schedule to help avoid the busiest times for various rides. On the days we followed the guide, we barely stood in line and we managed to see everything on our list. However, we weren’t too rigid with our schedule and when my sister wasn’t feeling well, we were able to switch a theme park day with a relaxing afternoon at the beach.

It’s good to plan, but you can only plan so much.

Even with all of today’s technological advances and medical miracles, apart from manufacturing snow, weather is still beyond our control. Even Disney hasn’t yet discovered a way to provide its guests with ideal weather on a daily basis. On a day with a 10 percent forecast for rain, we were caught unprepared in a downpour, while a day of predicted extreme thunderstorms only produced a few minutes of drizzling. (Disclaimer: Yes, my dad’s a meteorologist, but remember, he was on vacation.)

Find pleasure in the simple things.

With theme parks designed to stimulate and entertain, down to the smallest detail, sometimes it can be easy to overlook simple pleasures. While sitting in our seats waiting for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney-MGM Studios, a discussion with my dad about his family’s vacations when he was a child – during a time before Disney – is one of the trip’s memories I’ll savor. Also, despite all our time as guests of the world’s foremost entertainment provider, one of the things I think we’ll remember most is driving in our rental car on Daytona Beach’s white sand and then wading in the ocean’s warm, translucent water.

Back to the map.

When you enter a theme park and look over all the rides and shows spread out colorfully in front of you, you still can’t completely predict your day. Just like when you enter a new endeavor in life or a new relationship, there’s no guarantee that everything will pan out as expected. It may all look good on paper, but be prepared for surprises.

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

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.