Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thinking twice

Got a message on Frumster.

Sorry for such a short message but had to ask a qualifying question. You indicate in your "looking for in a mate" section that you prefer guys who aren't overly tall or overly beefy. Do you mean heavy/overweight or broad muscular? I'm 5'11'' and 195. I work out regularly and am both muscular and broad but am not all ripped up. I'm a work in progress. Wouldn't be asking if I was scared off, but then if you prefer an ectomorph, I'd be a poor fit.

Let me know what you think and if appropriate I'll re-approach without a qualifying question. ;)

Trusting you are well, Jeff

If he thinks that's short, he must usually put a lot of thought into his communications. Impressive. A quick look at his profile told me he was divorced with 2 sons. Under "What Modern Orthodox - Liberal means to me" he wrote:

Observing traditionally with heightened spirituality while living in the modern, secular world. Shomer Shabbos, Kashrut home, more relaxed: modesty laws, social laws (bars, clubs, swimming pools, beach).

I can live with that. How does he describe himself?

I'm an energetic guy who works out three nights a week, goes to shul every Shabbos and a couple of nights during the week. I pray when I wake and before I retire. I love a traditional Jewish home and the importance of our calendar. I am quite curious and learn Torah periodically. Have been in a study group before but am not in one currently. I particularly like learning Jewish Philosophy, so Pirkei Avos is quite popular with me.

Grew up in a conservative home where mother was from an orthodox background and father was reform. Went to a traditional shul in Lakewood, NJ. Was active in USY and went to hebrew school in addition to my public secular education through high school. Spent 6 weeks in Poland and Israel summer 1987.

Became engaged in secular judaism in college and stopped doing so many things that were important to me. Didn't realize how grave of a loss that was until 10+ years later. Married a girl I dated in college who had less of a judaic identity than I did. We had two children and it was in the process of raising a family that our backgrounds in judaism/family clashed to such a degree that we began to grow apart. A year and a half later we separated and an additional 18 months later we were divorced both by civil court and the Beit Din.

I'm a very engaging dad and have always been good with kids. I'm the kind of guy that gets on the ground and has the imagination to play with young children. My two boys live with their mother in Long Island and I see them every other Sunday. Sometimes I get them for the weekend and then we spend Shabbos with my parents. Sadly, I see them so infrequently and that drives my desire to have more children that I can love daily.

I'm the oldest of 4 boys and highly value family and its importance. I'm adventurous and love to travel, hike, camp and scuba dive.

So he's frum, intelligent, in shape, articulate, thoughtful, and not afraid to admit he loves kids and actually has feelings. Promising. I wrote back:

I was trying to screen out men who are overweight. I'm not especially into very muscular guys -- I actually don't have a "look" per se -- but I'm not turned off by them. I'm also a work in progress, although I'm not really a gym rat. Two years ago a personal trainer blew out both my knees, and I'm still recovering. I do a lot of walking, but I don't think I'll ever have, nor do I particularly covet, six-pack abs. Ask all the qualifiers you like -- I'm an open book. Ayelet

Again, he sent a thought-out and entertaining response.

I like your name, Ayelet. It's quite pretty. How do people call out to you to get your attention... say if they see you walking ahead on the street?

While I'm complementing, the note I took down when I first read your profile was, "Witty".

Ouch on the knees! Were you doing squats or some kind of deep knee bends? Tore through both ACLs? *hurts to think about*

How did you decide to go into social work?

Please ask me questions too. I'm new to both this site and the frum dating scene and am a bit concerned about overstepping some boundary. I think your questions will help in that regard.

Impressive that he's concerned about not stepping on any of my toes. Most single Jewish guys aren't that self-aware. I wrote back, at a somewhat belated hour:

Thanks. I'm quite witty. Sometimes too witty. When I'm in boring meetings, I have to keep myself from making too many jokes.

On the street, people usually say, "Hey -- miss! With the long hair! Are you Spanish?" My clients call me "Miss Ayelet," it's very cute.

The inept personal trainer had me doing lunges, running stairs, squats, stepping up, you name it. All things I should NOT have been doing. MRIs didn't show any permanent damage. My acupuncturist says my knees have too much heat and dampness. He's working on it.

Questions for you....

Do you prefer skinny or curvy girls?

What do you like to read?

Do you keep kosher outside the house?

What kind of projects do you manage?

Why do you live in New Jersey if your kids live in Long Island?

Why do you love camping? I view it as punishment. I don't mind hiking and spending time outdoors and cooking over a fire, but at the end of the day I want a shower, a flush toilet, and a real bed.

If you overstep a boundary I'll tell you nicely. Social workers are very good at enforcing boundaries.

I'm very tired, I'm going to sleep.

Wittily, he styled his next subject line: "Are you Spanish?"

Fit curvy would be my optimal preference. I've never been attracted to very skinny girls and overweight typically indicates we would be very different in terms of health orientation.

I like to read a lot of different types of fiction. I've always like Robert Ludlum and Michael Chrichton as far as authors go. I like fantasy fiction as a genre and some science fiction. I've read some titles of late to better educate myself about Islam, typically written by women or critics of the extremism of the religion.

On Kashrut: I have a lot to improve on outside of the home. It's become much easier living in a community with lots of kosher choices. Biggest problem for me is lunch while I'm at work. Currently, I'll get a salad from one of 2-3 places near my office, but I know it's not kosher. That's a big improvement from where I was a year ago and my goal is continual improvement.

I manage technology implementation and product development projects. Anything from deploying a new computer system to launching a new banking application on a cell phone. I'm doing a lot with mobile banking these days.

Jersey is nearly in the middle between my kids and my parents. 50 mins either way. I really don't care for Long Island. It's mostly the people and their attitudes that I've grown to steer clear of. I'd characterize them as being the most materialistic and rude of those I've met in all of the areas surrounding Manhattan. My ex knew I would never live there when she decided to move back there, as she grew up there.

What I like about camping is sleeping in crisp clean air, roughing it a little which makes you appreciate the accoutrements of life that make us so comfortable, and then looking forward to a comfortable bed and hot shower. =) I don't camp that often but have fond memories of doing so as a kid.

I've stayed up much to late and am retiring as well. Seeing as you'll get this tomorrow, I hope you had a restful night and I wish you a good day today.

So what do I know about this guy? He's funny. He writes well. He's not so fond of his ex-wife. And he's been shomer mitzvot for less than a year. Problem. Because someone who's newly observant might not stay observant. Or might decide to put on a black hat -- or shtreimel, or spodik.

Essentially, you've been shomer mitzvot for less than a year is what you're telling me. Can I ask how you know this is how you want to spend the rest of your life? I'm not a big fan of Long Island, either, btw.

He responded:

I wouldn't say I've ever been shomer mitzvot as I've been making changes all along, doing a little more all the time. Perhaps I'm interpreting the definition of shomer mitzvot incorrectly, but I understand that to mean "totally observant of all Jewish law". I consider that a goal, not where I am now.

When you are unhappy about your life's direction and make a decision to change, it takes tremendous courage and conviction. While there never is an absolute guarantee that anyone will maintain their standards, there is a high degree of likelihood that they will if they are happy and continuing to grow.

I divorced myself from my previous lifestyle, changing the negative people around me including a wife of 12+ years, changing careers, changing where I lived, etc. This was a gradual process over nearly 3 years, but things really started to change for me about a year ago when I found myself unhappy with the social focus of my then Conservative shul and started to attend a Chabad. At that point my growth rate increased, my desire to learn increased and it felt better.

I want to spend the rest of my life continuing down the path I am on. It took much struggle to get here and I'm not about to take steps backwards. My rabbi's shiur this past Shabbos focused on the importance of struggle and how Hashem greatly values the process we go through when we struggle. That's how I know.

I trust you'll be honest with me as I've been here and let me know if this doesn't sit well with your expectations of a potential husband.

He sounds sincere. I just don't know, though. I don't know where he'll end up. I realize there are no guarantees in life, but I worry about people who are in the midst of redefining themselves. Also, if you're not shomer shabbat and shomer kashrut, can you really call yourself "modern orthodox" -- even with the "liberal" qualifier?

I believe it's a little inaccurate of you to identify yourself as "modern orthodox -- liberal." As far as I'm concerned, that *is* "shomer mitzvot" because you're shomer shabbat and shomer kashrut. It's an admirable goal or aspiration for you to have, but I'm looking for someone who's there and secure that he wants to stay there. Trust me, I identify with your struggle. Not everyone in my family is shomer shabbat, and not all of them are respectful about my being shomer shabbat.

He took that kind of personally.

My intention wasn't to deceive. I referenced the Observance Categories in the FAQ to determine which category to select and believed modern orthodox-liberal was the most accurate reflection of me.

I apologize if I offended you and understand your perspective. If you have a suggestion for a better categorization for my religious orientation, I'd be open to considering it.

I assume you are going to close me out and understand. Lots of luck with your search.

Was I rude? What should I say to him?

I would recommend "Traditional & Growing." Like I said, I have the highest regard for the path you're on, but I'm not up for walking it at this point in my life. I wasn't offended, I just don't think we're at the same stage. Please don't view it as "closing you out." After all, for all you know, you might take one look at me in person and think, "Definitely not."

But I couldn't let it go. I kept wondering if I was doing the smart thing by pushing away someone smart, funny, honest, articulate, passionate, and not afraid of his feelings. (At least, that's the sense I got from his emails.) After wavering, I sent him another message:

Would you like to have coffee sometime? I spoke with some very smart people, and they said I was too judgmental about you, so I'm humbling myself and asking for a second chance

remember, it's Elul and a little forgiveness goes a long way ;)

Technically, I didn't speak with anyone else about him, but I had considered blogging about him, and I extrapolated what all of you would probably comment on my handling of the situation.

Before long I heard back:

I appreciate your sincerity and that you are willing to take the advice of others.

I don't believe you were too judgmental. You just know what you want and feel we are at two different stages. I can understand why you wouldn't want to get involved with someone at a different observant plateau. That's the same reason I don't have Conservative women in my search criteria.

I also recognize that it's difficult to be tolerant and since you're open to giving me a fair look, I'm open to having a cup of coffee. Bonus for Hodesh Elul.

Just might be hard to coordinate with me this weekend with Slichos tomorrow night and then I'm out on LI all day on Sunday with my kids. I'll get home late. If you don't hear from me until Monday, you'll know why.

Fair enough. He seems like a forgiving type, which anyone who would want to marry me would definitely have to be.

Okay, my # is 212-xxx-xxxx. I won't expect a call till at least Monday. (Nice mention of slichot, btw.)

I'll keep you all apprised.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Please do keep us posted! He sounds nice : - )

  2. Hey, some parts of Long Island are all right!! ;)

    And yes, there are some very rude and materialistic people on LI as well. But it's still a step up from Brooklyn!

  3. He sounds like someone with real potential. Good luck!