Single and Overexposed

singleoverexposed

Sometimes the world of JDate can make the Jewish community feel just a little too small.

by Lisa Seidel

Okay, so here it is, my most embarrassing JDate story. Oh wait, I have to back up and first tell you that some guy I totally blew off was nice enough to later write me and tell me that I left the ‘l’ out of public health in the “my education” line of my profile. But that is not even the really embarrassing part of the story. A friend “passed on” a guy she had dated, but with whom things had not worked out. She thought that he, David, might be a better match for me. David and I connected quickly and had great email and phone conversations followed by a nice dinner one night downtown. David was a doctor and I told him about my little typo, which he joked about a lot. He admitted to sharing the story with fellow JDaters, including his brother. The day after our date, David went to visit his family for the holidays and I never heard from him again.

Later that winter I had a solo business trip to New York and I recalled an intriguing profile of a guy there that I had read many months before. Having a free evening, I figured I would drop him a line. He wrote back saying that he had recently started dating someone and was giving the relationship a go. But he said he had a brother in Boston, a neurologist, who I might want to contact, and gave me what I instantly recognized as David’s JDate handle. After my initial shock wore off, I realized I had to email them both right away, making fun of myself and confessing that I was pubic health girl, and knowing for certain that the full date debrief had been passed on. Of the thousands of Jewish lawyers in New York, I chose to contact the one who was David’s brother. The degrees of separation in the Jewish community shrank yet again.

Well connected but overexposed

I moved to Boston knowing only my sister. I immediately contacted the Jewish young adult programs and started volunteering and making friends. My non-Jewish acquaintances told me they were jealous of the network I could create with relative ease. I have to admit I was proud and so relieved to know exactly where in the city I would be welcomed. I made lots of friends and quickly developed a pretty extensive community.
Where that community intersects with JDate—and, trust me, it intersects all over the place—is where the closeness can become suffocating. As my friend (who just gave birth to a baby JDate) put it, “it’s like everyone can see your underwear.” And so, every time I head out to a Jewish event I feel like I need to put on my impenetrable lingerie. At any Jewish event you will undoubtedly meet people you have already emailed or read about—or who have read about you—and that’s just weird. It is in this way that JDate sometimes makes me feel just a little more vulnerable.

We each have this intensely personal desire for connection. And so we go on JDate in search of it, marketing ourselves as well as our words will let us, in this incredibly public forum, intended for a finite (and, what feels like, shrinking) set of people in our community. When you are online it can feel anonymous, but it just isn’t. The guy you liked who never called, the ones you blew off in ways that make you blush, the guys you wrote who never answered, the guys you kissed and never called back, and the ones you treated just right—they all show up again. Sometimes they marry your friends. Some days it seems as if they are on every corner; often they are where you least expect them.

One of my philosophical friends (engaged to a woman he met on JDate) said he never felt exposed because if someone had read his profile it meant they were on the system too. He is right, but it never helps me when I walk into a Jewish function and it is like the people attending walked out of my computer and into the room. And it is extra weird when one guy dates half a dozen of your friends—or, as once happened to me, sent identical emails and virtual bouquets to me and my roommate on the same night.

I signed up for JDate with my best friend Andrew. We wrote our profiles together over beers in a bar in Montreal. We shared profiles of those who wrote to us and those we considered writing. It was fun. He went on a date first, no chemistry. I had a couple dates that I cannot even remember now. He went out with a second woman and two-and-a-half years ago, I was best (wo)man in their wedding. In keeping with tradition, though, another one of our friends had been on a date with his wife before they met. When Andrew stopped using JDate, about six weeks after we signed up, it became less fun.

I have no doubt that JDate can lead to wonderful relationships. But it can also cause claustrophobia. I recently overheard someone commenting that there ought to be a word coined for the feeling of thinking you know someone and then realizing that you’ve never actually met them, you just recognize them from JDate. More than occasionally I pass a “stranger” and it is clear that they recognize me; and while I know that they have not memorized my profile, for me, that familiarity can be a little discomfiting. Certainly the benefits of belonging to this community far outweigh the disadvantages, but I admit that I needed to be reminded of that the day I got the email from David’s brother.

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