Sunday, December 14, 2008

All first dates should be this nice

And I'm not just saying that because we split a bottle of Teal Lake Shiraz.

I finally heard from Jeff. He wrote to me back in September, and I wasn't sure how committed to frumkeit he was, being that he'd been observant for less than a year. I initially said I wasn't interested, then I backtracked and said we should go for coffee. And... silence.

On 12/11 Jeff wrote again:

Subject: the more I read your forum posts...

the more I learn about you and think about that long ago invite to coffee. Trust you are well.

Frumster has forums wherein people discuss a lot of issues, and since I'm an opinionated know-it-all, I make a lot of comments. Including one in which a guy (let's call him "Insecure Jackass with Bad Grammar" or IJBG) accused me of always trying to "ONE UP" everyone and speculated that I did this on dates, which would account for my still-single status. So I guess I re-piqued Jeff's interest. But what's with the disappearing act?

You're not afraid I'd try to "ONE UP" you? ;)

Seriously, though -- what took so long? Where have you been?

Kind of blunt of me, but I wanted to him to understand that he had a lot of splainin' to do.

You're doubt...but I've been reading how you've been "handling" IJBG. I can't quite always figure out what drives you to continue to educate. Perhaps it's persistence. Perhaps you carry that same sense of "right" that I tend to fight for. Want to rile me up... show me a bully picking on someone.

I took a 3 week break. Think I fell victim to being overwhelmed by a string of first dates that left me disappointed and confused, as if my profile was describing someone other than me. Maybe it's taking me longer to realize what I'm growing into or where I want to go?

Did some introspection, rewrote my profile and am back. Take a look and get back to me with your thoughts. My intention was to better explain what I'm looking for based on knowing myself better and the experience of the last 3 months of dating.

This is his rewritten profile:

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. I enjoy music (varied tastes but tend to listen to rock, enjoy jazz and blues) and dancing. I am not a sports fan but grew up playing sports: soccer, football and baseball. I like ping pong, foosball, billiards and darts. I enjoy good wine and I like good coffee...I french press a pot every morning.


"So...Avraham..." said Rabbi Yosef, finishing up sending an email on his blackberry.

The rabbi scanned the man approaching his desk. He was about six foot, dark hair styled short and neat and from the sheen looked like he used some gel, quite broad at the shoulder, average at the waist... muscular. He was dressed modern... black slacks and a lime green shirt. Overall... an atypical Yid on the outside.

Avraham attended his weekly Tanya course for the past 5 weeks and was a regular for minyan in the afternoon. They exchanged pleasantries with Avraham asking about the rebetsen and his children. The rabbi asked how work was in the corporate world of project management. With those aside, Rabbi Yosef got right to it.

"What brings you to my office today, Avraham?"
"Rabbi...I need some help."
"How can I be of assistance?"
"I need to know more about myself."

The rabbi tugged at his beard,squinting his eyes...contemplating the question. The rabbi adjusted his glasses.

"In what regard?", asked the rabbi.
"I've been coming here for 6 months and I think you know me better than anyone in this shul. I need some perspective as my dates of late are not bringing me closer to finding a bride."
"I see...well, let me rewind on what I know of you and perhaps we can find wisdom in the history..wisdom and perhaps some insight."

Avraham settled into his chair, eyes affixed on the rabbi.

The rabbi swiveled his chair so as to look out the window at the large oak tree, barren of leaves, quaking in the near constant blasts of the winter chill.

"During the course of your marriage which lasted some twelve plus years you and your ex-wife disagreed on matters of great import such as closeness to family, Jewish observance, raising the children, spending money, etc. I know that you progressively became more unhappy and perhaps somewhat depressed...never a good thing. When you decided to leave, it was with great pain...yet bravery. It was not an easy thing to disengage yourself from a wife and children...seeking to fill the void you felt and knew was there. You moved far away to extract yourself completely from the situation and then you started to explore changes. Slow, small steps that took you from a mildly knowledgable, yet non-observant Jew to the observant Jew before me today. Before your Teshuvah, you didn't keep kashrus, shabbos...didn't daven or wear tzitzit. You didn't learn. You were lost but seeking a path back to the road. Teshuvah is never easy and takes great fortitude. Hashem experiences great nachas from such struggle."

The rabbi smiled, staring off into the distance out the window.

"That was, what, two years ago now?"

Avraham nodded, a look of consternation on his face.

"So you have returned to New Jersey some 9 months ago to be closer to your parents and sons after having been away some 15 months. A wise decision...also not easy, but you've found great friendship and family here in the shul and I pray for nothing but simchas for you."

"You are a very dependable regular for Mincha/Maariv minyan, attend my weekly Tanya class, always around for Shabbos and yes...I see how you always help around here with kiddush cleanup and what not. Your help never goes unnoticed. Rabbi Moishe shared with me that he saw you wearing tzitzit the other day. He was excited for you. You are always the last to leave the shul after Maariv, engrossed in Tehillim."

"There is always room for improvement however, and this you know. But today we are not to discuss this."

This is what I am looking for in a mate:

"If I were a shadchan, I would be looking for someone who was fit and into being healthy, who enjoyed exercise, who was looking to grow with you as your journey is not at an end. She would understand your situation with your children being raised in a non observant home and recognize the opportunity for Kiruv in that regard. She would welcome the Shabbos with the kind of zeal you do week in and week out. Such energy is contagious. She would enjoy being a part of the shul and participating in both tefillah and learning opportunities. She would be close with her family and would want to be close with yours. She would have to be energetic as I know you to be and either have children or want. And..."

"And?" Avraham asked, on the edge of his seat.

"And now to find such an Aishes Chayil...", thought the rabbi.

Hm. That's a little weird, but undeniably sincere. And shows that he's committed to frumkeit. But I don't know if I can claim to be the woman he says he's looking for.

What drives me to educate? I hate ignorance. I hate when people promulgate it as if it's pearls of wisdom. I always try to educate my classmates, clients, friends, or anyone else I think needs to know better, because I honestly think I'm trying to help. IJBG, I believe, is beyond help, but I'm not going to let him spew ignorance without rebutting it. Maybe I have too much time on my hands.

Your rewritten profile is certainly unique. I'm not sure I measure up to the woman you're looking for. Everyone goes through a bad dating run -- a string of bad first dates can certainly be discouraging if you let yourself believe there's nothing better out there.

While I was writing and sending this, Jeff logged on and sent me an IM. We chatted for about an hour. He seemed bright, sensitive, considerate, interesting. But he didn't ask me out. So finally I said,

A: It's late -- I need to go to sleep
J: where do we go from here?
A: well, either u ask me out or we wish each other the best of luck
J: you're still interested? I wasn't sure if you thought I was right for you
A: I wouldn't have spent an hour on IM with u if I weren't interested
J: are you free Saturday night for dinner?

Good. We exchanged phone numbers and he said he'd call Saturday night. I asked if he liked Darna, my go-to first date restaurant; he'd never been but wanted to try it.

I had a quiet Shabbos. Then he called Saturday night and said, "I'd like to go to the gym before meeting you, so how about a late dinner, say 9:00?"

I was a little annoyed. I knew he was a fitness fanatic, but I didn't want to start dinner that late.

"That's kind of late for me," I said. "I was thinking more like 7:30, 8:00."

We settled on 8. He decided to forego his workout, but between traffic and a call from his parents (who apparently are hard to get off the phone), he was delayed. And he kept me updated with a series of text messages:

J, 7:28 pm: running a lil slow, not dressed yes. Will tell when leaving. Sorry... I'm hustling.

A, 7:32 pm: I changed the reservation to 8:30

J, 7:33 pm: tyvm

J, 7:45 pm: dressed, will give ETA in car

(He has one of those GPS systems that estimates your travel time)

J, 7:52 pm: 8:14

Enough with the text messages, I thought:

A: ok if u get there & I am not there call me

Apparently Jeff thinks you can't have enough text messages:

J, 7:58 pm: GWB backed up

J, 8:10 pm: 8:22 now still not at toll

J, 8:21 pm: 8:26 on HH 125th

Gevalt. Enough with the text messages already!

A: just let me know when u r there

That should stop it, right?

J, 8:23 pm: k

Apparently not. Finally he texted:

J, 8:32 pm: I'm here

I bundled up and walked the few blocks to the restaurant. When I walked in he smiled -- and we had a great time. We talked, we laughed, we drank some lovely wine, the food was delicious, and I felt very comfortable with him. He let me go on about topics I'm interested in, and he had plenty to say for himself. It was easy and comfortable, but also fun and exciting.

"Why were all those dates you had so bad?" I asked him.

"A lot of them would ask on the date if I wanted to go out again," he said, "when I already knew I didn't. I had to say I always felt I couldn't be objective during a date itself, so I'd need to sleep on it and call them back."

"Did you call?" I asked.

"Of course I called," he said, mildly shocked. "And then most of them lied about their appearance," he said. "Either their pictures were outdated, or they said something like they were 5'5" and thin, when they were really 5'1" and average."

I'm 5'1" and average. "You don't like 5'1" and average?" I asked.

"I don't like it when people lie," he stressed.

"I agree," I said, and told him about the Big Fat Liar. "I think that's the only other date I've had where I drank more than one glass of wine," I said. "I finished my glass, the waiter came by and said, 'Another glass, miss?' and I said 'YES!' But that was to survive the evening, not because I was enjoying the wine."

I took another swallow for courage. "I wasn't sure you'd think I was attractive," I said.

"Why would you think that?" he asked, startled. "Didn't you see how I lit up when I first saw you, when you walked in?"

"Well, you could have been being polite," I said. "And I'm not a gym-goer like you, I'm not in incredible shape."

"I'm not in 'incredible' shape either," he said. "I need to work more on my shoulders, my abs definitely, my delts..." Blah, blah, blah I thought, but decided to keep it to myself.

"I'm not working on any of those," I said.

"You're lovely," he said.

After Darna closed we went to a 24-hour diner for black coffee (decaf for me) and more talk. I just felt so comfortable with him, but also excited and tingly. Finally, we retrieved his car from the garage and he drove me home.

"This is my building," I said.

"So what happens next?" he asked.

"Well," I said teasingly, "I know you can't decide on the first date if you want a second date, because you can't be objective." He laughed. "So sleep on it, and then call me. And if you want to kiss me goodnight you can." He did. And I wanted to invite him upstairs. And I didn't.

I got one last text message from him:

J, 2:29 am: sweet dreams Ayelet

Today I sent him a link to the article I published. And said:

I had fun last night. It was a struggle to get out of the car, and even more of a struggle not to ask you to come with me.

We'll see.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. When you decided to leave, it was with great pain...yet bravery. It was not an easy thing to disengage yourself from a wife and children...seeking to fill the void you felt and knew was there. You moved far away to extract yourself completely from the situation and then you started to explore changes.

    I'm not judging him. I don't know his personal situation and what ramifications there were. But "disengaging" from one's children? That sounds a bit odd. A wife can become an ex-wife. But children can never become ex-children, even if it was only for 15 months. Children are the deepest responsibility one can have in life (and that responsibility includes personal attention, even more than financial support) and that he moved far away from them for 15 months to sort things out strikes me as odd. No matter what religious disagreements his ex-wife had with him. 15 months can be an eternity in the lives of children.

    I'm not trying to rain on your parade. He may be an amazing person and circumstances were out of his control or something. But I would ask him for more details on what happened before you get too involved emotionally or physically.

  2. Don't get me wrong - I'm very glad to hear you had a good time :-). I would just proceed cautiously.

  3. We spoke about it. Obviously, I'm only hearing his side of the story, and I've dated enough divorced guys to be wary of believing what they say without question. But he spoke of his children with affection and regret. His ex-wife is very opposed to him presenting any kind of frumkeit to the kids, and he's trying to stay on her good side so that he can still have contact with them. He moved away temporarily because he thought he could visit once a month and that would be enough. It wasn't, so he moved back and sees them more frequently now.

    Did I mention he has green eyes and amazing biceps?