Encounter on OOT Avenue

Walking through residential OOT with an OOT friend. We approach a corner and wait for a car to make the turn before crossing. The car contains two guys; the one in the passenger seat hangs out the window, smiles, and says, “Good morning, howarya?”

“Good morning, howareyou?” replies my friend.

“Really?” I ask, incredulous.

“What?”

“Whattaya mean what? He was flirting with you.”

“No he wasn’t, he was just being friendly and saying good morning.”

“Where I come from, getting all friendly like that is hitting on a girl.”

“Where you come from, the only guys who ever say good morning are the sleazy ones loitering on street corners who croon, ‘Good morning honey’ at you. ”

“Okay, so?”

“This isn’t where you’re from. People are just nice here.”

I was skeptical.

Naturally, she brought it up as a humorous point with some neighbors in shul when we arrived. They laughed. At me. “Of course he was just being friendly. People say ‘good morning’ around here.  It’s normal.”

I’m still not convinced. I mean, lots of people drive past without hanging out the window and saying good morning. Am I paranoid?

Where Have All the Posts Gone?

I have always envied those really great writers who seem capable of banging out n0vels about things they know nothing about. Floridians who write about surviving the Klondike gold rush, or Californians writing about being a woman in modern Pakistan, or the NJ housewife writing murder mysteries placed in Communist China.

How do they do that? I wonder. How can they capture the experience so well when they’ve never experienced it? Of course, I’ve never experienced it either, so I don’t really know. But it seems very realistic.

Myself, I’ve always been stuck writing about things I know, like learning to drive with your parents in the backseat, or solving Laplace transforms. (That last one went over like week-old sushi in creative writing class.) Being a single dater in the Orthodox Jewish universe was one of those things.

Was.

Because I’m not any more.

No, please. Don’t engage me. I stopped being a player in the dating scene when I moved out of town.

There are about four single males in this city, and we managed to size each other up in a couple of months. There were some good efforts at setting me up with a dentist in St. Louis and a firefighter in Boston, which fizzled after less-than-fascinating phone conversations in which the gentlemen made it clear that if I wanted a date, I’d have to go to them. (Did I just call them gentlemen? Misnomer. I’m a whole lot more in-town than St. Louis. Seriously–the nerve!)

Those were the enterprising shadchanim. The ones who said, “He wants to live OOT, she wants to live OOT, let’s bring them together!”

Some didn’t even try. Paraphrased quotes from emails:

Shadchan: “I received your resume [Call it a profile! – editor’s note] and I deal with the type of boy you’re looking for. I heard you’re moving back to New York soon, is that true?”

Me: “Maybe in a year or so. But I visit regularly.”

Shadchan: “Well, email me when you do move back, and I’ll see if any are still available.”

AnotherShadchan: “I received your resume [It’s not a resume! – editor’s note] earlier this week and noticed that you live in OOT. When will you be moving here?”

Me: [to self] “When? When? Does anyone else see an objectionable assumption there?” [in email] “Maybe in a year, but I visit regularly.”

AnotherShadchan: “Because, you know, it’s so hard to get boys to travel even to Philadelphia, let alone to Baltimore. It’s just a hopeless cause.”

Me: “Thanks, I guess.”

YetaThirdShadchan: “I have your shidduch resume [It’s not a farshtinkener resume! It’s a profile! – editor’s note], and I have an idea of a great guy for you. Are you willing to relocate?”

Me: [dismayed] “For the first date?”

So, since I’ve moved to this lovely town, I’ve dated (as in, met in person) a grand total of two people. This is not a sufficient quantity to sustain a dating blog. Hence, a drop-off in quantity of posts.

Want more BadforShidduchim? Send dates. Venturesome fellows, not afraid to feel the dirt beneath their tires or ask directions from someone drinking beer on a couch on their front porch watching the cows come home.

Seriously, guys. You need to get out more.

Or you could just make yourself available when I’m in the tri-state area. Is this asking too much?

Comparison Living

Last night I ran around to every supermarket in the neighborhood (there are no groceries) looking for Cortland apples. I skidded reluctantly into the expensive one at 8:29pm.

“You just made it,” the guy at the door said. “We close at 8:30.”

“I just need a minute to grab some Cortland apples,” I explained. “Nobody else has them.”

“That’s because they’re out of season,” the guy explained. “You can only get them for a couple of months in the fall.”

I decided not to get all Magic-Schoolbus-Phoebe on him, but in my old city, you can buy Cortland apples all year round! (And past 8:30pm too. Heck, you can buy anything, even shoes, at midnight if you want. That was a shoe store, right? Right?)

Every now and again I run up against a comparison between life in New York and life out here in Mediumcity, USA. New York doesn’t always come in ahead. Sometimes it’s behind. Sometimes it’s a tie. Sometimes you just can’t tell.

Take the housing arrangements, for example. I’ve got my own apartment, which means if I ever decide to take up yoga I can twist myself into knots while loudly intoning “Ohm!” to zen music in the living room without disturbing anyone or eliciting any comments.  I can sing along while I do the dishes and nobody bugs me for an encore. I can pack the freezer to the brim with pre-made lunches and dinners, and the milk in the fridge is always mine.

But then again, when I feel in the mood to beat a real person at Settlers (instead of some German teenagers online), I need to go hunt people down via sms. And then I realize that I’m already in my pajamas and too comfortable to actually move, and the same probably applies to everyone else. So I stay put and have another go at those poor Germans.

In New York I’d just have to stick my head out of the hall closet where I’d be living and invite whoever is inhabiting the bathtub and the couch to join me in colonizing the island of Catan. They might have trouble hearing me over the zen music piping through their earbuds, but not over their timid, subsonic, don’t-mean-to-disturb-anyone “ohms.

Earlier this winter I conducted an empirical analysis to ascertain at what optimal temperature I should leave my apartment during the day. In New York, where the huge buildings generate enough internal heat to conduct bikram yoga in every apartment, even when you turn your thermostat down to frigid, there are only two temperature settings: window open and window closed. The great joy of filling a spreadsheet, best-fitting an equation to a scatterplot, and generating pretty graphs would have been lost to me. Then again, I wouldn’t be paying for heat. You gain some you lose some.

…and some things are the same everywhere. Like the gospel meet that goes on in the apartment over my head every 4th Sunday, complete with what sounds like 30 women and one pastor singing hymns between inspiring mini-sermons. That, I’m sure, would wind up above me anywhere.

The New Midterms

When I was in college, I would inevitably received a rash of redts during the most inconvenient times of the year: midterms and finals. When I graduated I worried that I would no longer receive any matches.

For a while it looked that way. Although I was driving in to New York City every 5 weeks, I inevitably spent those long weekends with friends and family, not with dates.

Then, with a long stretch of no major Jewish or secular holidays, I decided to just hang out in OOT for a few months, sans pilgrimage to the Big Apple. I booked a plane ticket for Pesach and planned to let my car grow fat on so little exercise as a daily commute.

Naturally, my phone started ringing off the hook. As did my Facebook account and SYAS profile. Three separate women who I’ve never even heard of called me up to say they had a guy for me. An old classmate sent me a FB message with the same content. And a rash of pre-accepted matches landed in my SYAS inbox. Naturally (and uncreatively), every one of these guys is located in New York. (Except for the Baltimorian being redt to me to for the third time.)

This is even worse than finals.

When you get set up during finals, you can play a scheduling game, where you space your dates conveniently between your finals. But when you’re planning to be OOT for four months, there’s really no two ways about it. Nobody can sustain a 4-month telephone relationship, so either you’re dating or you’re not.

And I’m not.

So what do you tell a shadchan when you’re in this position? Where were you two months ago? Come back in two more? Is he willing to travel?

Beats me.

And, it just occurred to me, it gets worse.

Because come Pesach time, all the eligible bachelors born and bred in this area of the USA are going to be heading home for the holiday. All the  shadchanim within 2.5 hours of my new town will be ringing my cellphone to set me up with them… and I’ll be in New York.

Probably dateless.

C’est la vie.

Too Many Fish in Your Sea

The natural reaction to the incident in yesterday’s post would be to move to Washington Heights. That’s where all the other singles are, and if I want to remain competitive, I’d better get up there with them. Follow the pack. It’s a standard business practice, and it works for many Fortune 500 companies.

That works fine if what you’re looking for can be filled by sheer numbers. Sheer numbers of available singles. Sheer numbers of eyes noting your existence. Sheer numbers of first dates with sheer numbers of first daters. It’s like being at an expo. Companies hand out samples, hoping you’ll come back later for more. Get brief face time with enough people and some of them are bound to remember your sparkling personality and chase you down for a date.

But does it work that way?

Every marketing strategist knows that you have to differentiate your product in the minds of the consumer. How many “Just another accessory” ads have you seen recently? How about “this shampoo will clean your hair,” “this jewelry is sparkly,” “these shoes will protect your feet from the concrete,” or “this car will get you from point A to point B”?

You are more likely to hear “this shampoo will clarify your hair without drying using a patented amino-acid based formula that will make you look like the model in our ad.” Or, “this car is manly, has the smallest turn radius in its class, is so safe you could let your kid drive it, and speaking of kids–they never ask ‘are we there yet’ when you drive this baby.”

So, in a sea of singles, what makes you stand out?

If it’s not your good looks, dazzling charm, and incredible personality, you may want to steer clear of the school.

It’s well known that too much choice overwhelms people. Given the option of two shampoos, most people can make an intelligent choice after analyzing the options to determine which best meets their needs. They may consider sulfates or parabens or additional moisturizing ingredients. They may consider the greenness or reputation of the manufacturer or the apparent value offered. But given an aisle full of shampoos, most people gravitate toward the classiest packaging or the most appealing price or some other very simple criteria.

A recent study shows that when it comes to choosing dates, people aren’t much better at dealing with overwhelming choice. Given a ream of eligible bachelorettes, a guy is justified in tossing some out based on their photograph. Or height. Or hair color. Or whether he actually knows one of the references. Hey – -he has to narrow it down somehow. Maybe none of that actually has anything to do with whether a potential would make a good mate. But this stuff counts too, right? And you have to shave down the pack somehow.

So, what’s a girl to do? It’s obvious, I think. Move out of town. If you’re one of very few fish in the sea, you’ll get more individual attention and deeper scrutiny by local bachelors. After all — from where you are, all those people crammed into Washington Heights are currently geographically undesireable. All the more reason for a guy to consider you seriously, based on more than just your height, weight, and hair color.

I’m a Real Person!

“Hi, this is Avital. As you know, Brocha and Chaim had a baby (Dovid) two weeks ago. I’m organizing meals for them for the month. Can you do next Monday?”

I stared at the phone, affronted. I mean, I was just some random single girl who’d moved in a few months ago. Why was she calling me?

Then I shook my perspective and waited for it to resettle. I was an independent woman with an income who could cook and was a friend of the family. Why shouldn’t she call me?

“Sure, no problem. I’d love to! Put me down.”

I hung up grinning. I (not my mother) was going to be making dinner for a pair of new parents. How cool is that? I’m a real person!

I’m Not as Pathetic as You Are…

One really nice thing about being OOT: it’s no longer your fault that you don’t have dates.

Oh, obviously it is. I mean, you’re OOT instead of IT, which is a terrible mistake on your part which you should remedy immediately by packing your bags and moving into a closet somewhere in the tri-state area.

But if you’re dateless in IT, you begin to wonder. Why is the whole world going out…except me? Why does my friend have a new date every night but I have to wait for midterms before I’ll even hear about a guy? Is there something I’m not doing or something my parents aren’t doing? Something somebody isn’t doing?

So you languish alone at home on long evenings reading your favorite shidduch blog and feeling sorry for yourself because nobody tries to set you up, and those who do try it with guys who don’t want to go out with you.

But OOT it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. Nobody is setting you up because there’s nobody to go out with. It’s that simple. Any deficiency shifts to the location, which simply lacks a male population sufficient to support your dating habits.

Me? I’m fine. But this town is kinda short of singles…

It was a good theory, anyway, until a spat of engagement among local single people went and ruined it. Now everyone is getting engaged and I haven’t even been set up yet!

Oh well. C’est la vie.