Fishing Local Seas

In Bellwether, Connie Willis mocks fads in dating. One of the dating fads subject to her acerbic scrutiny is that of “geographic compatibility.”

Let me state it now: I understand the desire to date someone within driving distance. I know of one person in San Fran who found a great guy via an online dating site. Unfortunately, he was located in Sydney. Her company had no Australian base, his had no American base, and neither was quite willing to uproot their entire lives for someone they’d barely seen off the webcam. Sometimes, our globe is deceptively villageish. It’s still really quite large.

But in Bellwether, the daters are looking for someone within the right neighborhoods. They aren’t willing to hop on a train to date. They want someone they can meet at the corner coffee shop for a quick bite.

I rolled my eyes at the exaggeration in Bellwether. Satire is no good if you’re going to depart from reality that way. Then I got set up with a guy who objected only to my geographic location.

My geography at the time was absolutely prime. I was in Brooklyn, center of the Jewish universe. If you’re a nice frum girl and you want to date, there’s no better place to be. So when I heard that a guy was reluctant to date me because it was too far to travel, I wondered where he could possible be from. Here are excerpts from my email exchange with the would-be shadchan.

Would-Be Shadchan: “…But the Brooklyn trip sort of made him wimp out (he recently had had a short-lived, schlep-a-thon, dating experience with a girl living in Brooklyn).”

Me: “When guys schlep in to town for me I wind up feeling guilty, so where’s this fellow coming from? If it’s Washington Heights, then he can go jump in the river.  If it’s Georgia, then I hear his complaint.”

WBS: “In defense of [this gentleman], it is very time consuming to borrow a car, drive to Brooklyn, go on a decent length date, then drive back and expect to get enough sleep to be totally functional for seder/shiur or teaching. He’s also an OOTer, so I can understand how even the simplest trip to midtown can be a schlep, let alone a lengthy excursion to Brooklyn. Heck, even though [I’ve] done the drive many times, [I] still finds it annoying. No offense to you or any Brooklynite.”

Me: “Defense met with a raised eyebrow and a very skeptical look. According to that theory of distance, nobody would date anyone outside their own neighborhood. Yet, guys drive from Queens, Long Island, and New Jersey to date girls in Brooklyn all the time without complaining. And the reverse, of course. “Far” is defined as “Baltimore.” Just FYI. ”

WBS: “Point taken. Maybe it’s more due to the very common YU guys date Stern girls mentality, which just requires a convenient hop onto an intercampus shuttle, colloquially called the ‘shidduch shuttle’.”

Okay, so who is nuts? Is it me, or is it this guy?

Or is it simply a result of availability: since there are plenty of fish in the Bronx River, why drag yourself down t0 the mouth of the East River?

More on that tomorrow.


Are We in Kansas Yet?

I once did the math and calculated that, on average, over the last five years of my life, I’ve dated four men a year.

It makes sense when you think about it. If you date only during midterms and finals of a two-semester year, you get four dates a year. It’s kind of fun that the statistics bear out my observation, but not surprising.

So, I mused, curled up in my papasan chair in my very own vermin-free one-bedroom apartment in a pleasant, crime-free neighborhood with a large grassy park in view of my window: would I swap this OOT quality of life for four dates a year?

Yes, I know. Every guy has the potential to be the one guy I need. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. But the truth is the quality hasn’t been so great either. A third of those dates were OnDs. When the arcade screen of my NYC dating life blinks “Continue? [2 tokens]” I feel little inspiration to pursue it, and a strong urge to use my tokens on the pinball game instead.

There’s another appealing thing about the OOT dating game. When OOTers visit New York, they date four people in four nights—if not in three or two nights. Now that is efficient. Instead of spreading my four guys over 12 months, I can bang them out in a week and can spend the rest of the year happily pretending to be a contented single—and sometimes even fooling myself.

There’s only one problem: lining up those guys. Because I’ve been in Brooklyn since Tuesday night and haven’t even seen an unpaired human with a Y chromosome, let alone dated one. Clearly, there’s more to this OOT-style dating than just sporadically visiting from OOT.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I kept hearing about guys who wanted OOT girls. But it seems that merely living OOT doesn’t imbue you with the OOT mystique that brings the gentlemen flocking to your NY address.

Granted, I still lack that country charm. I still walk faster than anyone else in my new town. But I have gone native in some other fundamental ways. And I can prove it.

Just the other day, I was walking down E 13th Street near Avenue J when I happened to make eye contact with a fellow pedestrian. And would you believe what I did? I’m a little embarrassed to admit it. But I greeted him. He gave me a blank look and continued past while I blushed at how I’d completely forgotten myself.

But a few blocks later I did it again. Same response, understandably. I was mortified by my gaucherie and disregard for the local customs. What next? Chatting with the checkout girl? Welcoming strangers in shul? Cow tipping?

Or maybe (just maybe) four dates in a nights?