Dating Games

So, I remember that time a guy brought a pack of cards on a date. It was from a board game, but the point was to ask people things you would never otherwise ask them. Like, personal questions. Sometimes nosy. The second one that came up for me was, “What’s the most embarrassing thing in your bathroom?”

“Uh…” I said. I could think of a lot of things in my bathroom that would be embarrassing to talk about on a first date.

Needless to say, that game didn’t do much for our date, which died in the water.

I’ve had a card game like that (The Ungame) be more successful later on in the dating, like, once you’ve actually got to a point where you feel comfortable discussing, at least, the contents of your kitchen, if not your bathroom.

Anyway, SYAS has entered the dating card game game.

Some of the essential questions it covers: “What do you think of a woman earning more than her partner?” & “What would you do if you had to entertain a 5-year-old for a day?”  & “Do you prefer meat, dairy, or pareve?” (What?) Well hey. If you don’t get any mileage out of the questions, you might get some out of making fun of the game.

Ungame - Jewish version

SYAS and Me

“You have a suggested match from YourFriend on SawYouAtSinai!” exclaims the flagged email at the top of my inbox. I’ve been staring at it a for a week now. So I unflag it, but refrain from deleting. I don’t know why. I have no intention of clicking through.

About five years ago, an identical email did get me to click through. I set up a profile just to find out who the guy was. I was disappointed, after all that effort,  to find out that I couldn’t see the guy’s name without plunking down cash. So i  logged off, but let my profile hang around a while. And that only got me more emails about matches being sent to me. Finally, I caved.

I signed up.

That credit card charge for 9 months of service could be described as the biggest instantaneous waste of money of my life, excepting the time I got a speeding ticket. My membership expired after 9 months without my having a single date to show for it. Somehow, I managed to refrain from renewing.

But my profile was still out there, floating around in Sinai-space. And not realizing that I wasn’t a Gold member, shadchanim would occasionally throw a match at me. But, as I explained to one shadchan, it never seemed worth $18 for just a chance at a date.

Things finally came to a head earlier this year when a SYAS shadchan  actually called me to ask what was up with my profile. “I see you’ve let most suggestions expire,” she said.

“I can’t exactly accept or reject,” I pointed out. “I’m merely a non-metallic member, restricted to hands-tied gazing at nameless profiles.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well would you like to sign up?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I can get no dates myself, without paying for the privilege. I can even get dates myself, often enough to keep me happy.”

“Well you’re lucky then,” she said briskly. “I recommend that you delete your profile.”

So I did.

But SYAS works on the candyshop principle. They keep dangling things in front of you until you give in and go inside. And the crazy part is, all the teasing and advertising and carrot-waving is done not by SYAS itself, but by well-meaning volunteers. All those friends and unpaid shadchanim who say “I saw this guy I think would be great for you on SYAS.”

You hear it a half-dozen times and it starts to get to you. Especially during dry periods when you start to doubt that you can find someone on your own, while everyone seems to know someone for you on SYAS, and maybe you’re going to die alone with cats because you’re too much a parsimonious curmudgeon to just sign up for what you know is an awful experience but which is also some kind of Singles Tax every woman must pay until she’s neatly stashed away in some man’s care.

Let’s be straight about this: The site isn’t exactly philanthropic. The singles can’t set you up with their discards, and the shadchanim aren’t allowed to bypass the website. Really, there’s no option but for you to bite the bullet and plunk down the cash.

But then my inner cat-lady says “No! I will not cave! I will not spend good, hard-earned money on a fruitless service with a debatable ROI!” And thus inspired, I straighten my back and stand strong against temptation. I can do this.

In fact, just typing that paragraph so inspired me that I think I’m going to delete that email. Thank you, YourFriend, for thinking of me, but I will stand strong.

Besides, I’d have to set up my profile again.

Stuff Marrieds Say to Singles

Oh you’ll find someone. It’s just taking a little longer because you’re very special and need a very special person.
That’s a segula for getting married.
*Crash* Mazal tov! It means you’re getting married this year.
Really? That’s your criteria for a husband?
Well what if a man didn’t have that?
You know, you might be saying no to a lot of great guys.
I’m not saying that you’re too picky, but… you might be a little too strict in what you’re looking for.
Have you tried shadchanim?

Have you tried Saw You at Sinai?

Have you tried Frumster?
There are some very yeshivish guys on Frumster.
Well have you looked? So how do you know?
Sometimes I wish I’d been single for longer.
Enjoy being single! It’s so nice not to have to think about what your husband wants all the time.
You’re young! What are you so worried about?
You know, my daughter said the entire sefer Tehillim after each friend’s wedding, and now she’s married.
It could be worse – you could be in a bad marriage, or worse, ChvSh – divorced.
Don’t say that! Chas vishalom!
What do you mean you don’t want to get married?
You can’t imagine what it’s like to be married.
I thought I was happy too before I was married, but, it’s not the same.
You’re just not a whole person before you’re married. I can’t describe it, but, you’re just not able to fulfill your potential. I know I sound crazy, but it’s true.
I have to find someone for you.
My husband has a lot of friends. I’ll find someone for you.
So, my husband has this friend? He’s perfect for you! You don’t mind someone shorter than you, right?
I don’t know… my husband doesn’t have a lot of friends.
We’re really bad at setting people up.
Don’t give up; your turn will come.

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.

See No Sinai

I didn’t renew.

After nine months of trial, I let my SYAS membership lapse. In those nine months there was a grand total of one guy who I yessed who yessed me back, and he never called.

I asked some other people what their stats were for the site.  Most of the conversations went something like this:

Me: How many dates have you gotten out of it?

She: You mean like, actual dates? Um… two.

Me: So you’ve had phone calls?

She: Yeah.

Me: How many?

She: Oh, maybe ten.

Me: Over the course of how many years?

She: Um… [starts counting, stops] I don’t want to think about it.

Right. So, I’m batting a better average than that just sitting in my armchair waiting for people to call. And for this I have to pay? Not happening. See ya, Sinai.

Talking Point: Disabilities

I found this post about the “disability” question on SYAS intriguing because, well, it’s something I’ve never thought about. I disagree with the author’s fundamental premise that the questions on the profile are irrelevant. Yes, they can be narrow, personal, and even a little weird. But the point is to help shadchanim narrow down the possibilities, and until someone thinks of a better way, leave it.

Some of the questions are there specifically to prevent people from going out with someone they’d later find objectionable for reasons that could have been clarified beforehand. Like “are you a ba’al teshuva” or “are you disabled.” I’m not saying whether I believe it is wrong or right to discriminate based on these factors – merely that people do. And if those people found themselves on a date with someone who they discovered to be a BT or disabled, they would probably reject them immediately. The result is that everyone has wasted their time and the daters are frustrated or hurt.

But what about the people who don’t care or have never thought about it? Having to choose a box to check off means they have to make an impulsive decision, and, well, the very fact that the question is being asked suggests that one’s answer should be “no.” People who might have cheerfully gone out with either label won’t give themselves the opportunity.

So, good or bad? I don’t know.

Weigh in below.

About Profile Pictures

I’m finally really getting the problem with showing photos to someone before they go out. I reach this conclusion via SYAS, where the photo is the first thing to slam me in the eyes when I get a new suggestion. And yeah, I can’t seem to help mentally sketching the guy in my head based on superficial impressions.

“Whoa, look at that Adam’s apple… I bet he’s the tall, gawky, nerdy type. Ooh look, he’s a programmer. Who’s surprised, raise your hand. Probably a little socially awkward with a ‘hyuk hyuk’ laugh… okay, shut up, Bad4. You’re really being obnoxious. Who, me? I wasn’t being negative. Nerds are cute. I’ll be able to buy one of those “I love my geek” shirts from ThinkGeek.com. Look! He likes museums… and political events. What does it mean when someone says they ‘like going out to political events’? What’s a political event? Oh gosh, he didn’t use capital ‘i’ in his little personal paragraph. Or commas or apostrophes. Forget it. There are a lot of things I can take. Not txtspk in a dating profile.”

There’s a certain guilty pleasure in being the one doing the judging, but it’s mostly guilt, very little pleasure.  I don’t want to be shallow. And my father, who disapproves of anyone seeing pictures of anyone else before dating, is quick to point out that photos are often a poor representation of a person.

“Remember the guy you said looked like a middle-aged burgomaster in his photo? Well, he was a lot better in person, wasn’t he?”

Yeah, totally true. Good thing I hadn’t judged him by his photo.

“So don’t look at the photos,” my father insists. “At all. And take yours down too.”

“I can’t take mine down!” I protest. That would look like I had something to hide. Who would go out with someone who doesn’t have a profile picture?

“My friend’s neighbor’s daughter didn’t have a picture on her SYAS profile,” my mother informs me. “And she got married through it.”

Okay, score one for the anti-photo crowd. I’m still not convinced. Yes, I might be more willing to go out with someone if I had no photo instead of an awful one, but…

Are my pictures awful? I have no idea. This is not because I didn’t scrape up the best photos available. It’s because, I’ve noticed, people tend to be poor judges of their own photos. You know like those photos people put up on LinkedIn, where they are solemnly gazing off into the distance? The subject means to look visionary, but generally they just look like they have a stomach ache.

In my opinion, nobody should put up a profile picture until they’ve taken an extensive poll of all their acquaintances and a few random strangers to ascertain that the snapshot both resembles them and is also flattering (if possible).  I have not done this. Making such a fuss over a profile picture would be distinctly uncool. Also, I’d need to take more photos.

So, pictures up – or pictures down? I don’t know. But til then, I will try to squinch my eyes shut and not look too hard at the pictures. Cuz judging by the pictures would be shallow. But those lowercase “i”s? Sorry, they’re still a dealbreaker.

Top Six (Male) Profile Picture Genres

When I saw the “upload your photo” option in SYAS it never occurred to me to upload anything beside a standard smiling headshot. But after picking through a number of male profiles, I can see that I’m missing quite a lot of the wisdom that goes into picking a profile picture. For the men out there who are wondering what to put up, here’s a rundown of what your fellows are presenting to us. And if anyone can do a rundown of what female photos look like, I’d appreciate that too.

There are about six major categories of profile pictures.

The Thinker:

This subject is gazing solemnly into the distance. If he’s turned a moody quarter profile to the camera, he is trying to look like a visionary. In reality, he usually looks like he needs an antacid. If he’s turned away from the camera, then you can hardly see his face at all. In this case, chances are he just wants you to notice that he’s looking over the Old City walls into the sunset, which is his way of showing that he’s a sensitive, inspired man, with a love of the Land of Israel.  Or else he thinks his profile is his strongest side. Women: beware of that.

The Natty Dresser:

This photo was taken five minutes before his family left for a cousin’s wedding. His father straightened his tie, his mother brushed a speck of lint from his lapel, and his sister took the photo against the wall in the front hall. Alternatively, it was taken at the simcha itself. In this case, the background is cluttered with tables and bottles, his face is flushed from dancing, and there might even be a disembodied arm around his shoulder. Point is: he cleans up nicely. Women: this is probably what he’ll look like on your first date and never again for the rest of your mutual lives (excepting the occasional wedding).

The Family Man:

Every woman wants a man who is good with kids, right? So, it follows that if he puts up a photo of himself cooing at his niece or throwing his nephew in the air, it can only score points. (Er, they are his nieces and nephews, right? Not his? What was that marriage status again?)

Alternatively, he’ll put up a photo of him with his entire family. The sheer quantity of siblings should assure you that he’s not spoiled. Or the quantity of sisters will assure you that he knows a ceramic hair iron from a diffuser, among other essential items. Men: avoid this one if you have a brother around the same age as you.

The Sportsman:

These photos are almost invariably taken at the top of a mountain. The subject is wearing a backpack or skis. Sometimes he’s even wearing goggles. The point isn’t for you to be able to see him. It’s so you can see that he’s healthy, fit, adventurous, and good at something. (Hey, he made it to the top, right? So what if it was via ski lift…)

A subset of this genre is the Traveler photo. In this case, again, the subject is dwarfed by his surroundings, which can range from huge sand dunes in the Gobi Desert to a coral reef underwater. Point being, he’s been around, you know? Seen the world a bit. Not one 0f those boring types who have never been out of NYC in their lives. You can be he won’t take you to a lounge either. Probably.

The Cool Dude:

The cool dude photo is often posted along with the Natty Dresser photo, lest you get the wrong impression. In the cool dude photo, the subject is wearing shades, a snug black t-shirt, and a self-satisfied smirk. Yeah man, he’s cool. Fingers crossed that coolness is as important to you as it is to him.

The Homeboy:

Don’t think this guy has no friends. He does. And he’s fun to be around. Just to make sure you know, he’s posting a photo of himself playing his guitar at a kumzitz with his friends. The friends are mostly cut out so you don’t confuse the subject, and the subject himself is looking down at the frets, so you can’t really see his face. But you see the guitar. What girl doesn’t like a guitar? And those disembodied arms on the side. See – other people like him. Why wouldn’t you?

With all this apparent thought going into male profile pictures, I can see that I’m playing at a disadvantage. Time to dig up a photo of me climbing some sand dunes. I think I might have been wearing sunglasses that morning, which is a 2-in-1 score. Or are the points categories different for women?

With thanks to Relarella.

And a hat tip to the Curious Jew for pointing out that, coincidentally, SoG posted about profile pictures just a day and a half ago.

B4S Sees You On Sinai

I signed up.

I don’t know why.

It all started when a match appeared in my inbox. The email explained that a friend had suggested the guy for me. In order to see his info I needed to set up a basic account and fill out a profile. It was only after I put in all that effort that I discovered that I couldn’t accept or decline the match without a paid membership. Sheesh.

Of course, once I had the basic membership, matches started bonking into my inbox like spam into a Yahoo account. I read them with mild amusement. There was the happy chossid, the guy whose picture showed him in a black t-shirt and sunglasses, and one fellow whose list of his ideal wife was so long and so far superior to me (“chein, temimus, sweet, kind, sparkling”) that I wanted to hit “accept” just because I enjoy a good challenge. My favorite was the guy who looked quite portly in his picture but described himself as slim. Probably I set my tolerance parameters too wide.

I described my experiences to the friend who catalyzed the entire reaction. She was shocked.

“You don’t have a SYAS account?”

As if, at my age and stage, it was requisite. As if I’d admitted to not having a bank account. Trusting my life to friends, relatives, and a plastic pig with a slot in the top.

Well, she might have a point there.

It’s been observed that I need to broaden my circles a bit, so…

I checked the rates and did the math. I shook my head and did it again, and then I multiplied the monthly rate by the 33,000 singles supposed to be using the site. I was immediately overcome with envy for the site founder. Add advertising revenue… someone is sitting on a Caribbean island somewhere sipping Shirley Temples and checking their matches.

I bit the bullet and punched in my credit card number. First thing I went straight to the guy with the demanding shopping list and hit “accept.”

He rejected me.

Oh well. No shocker there.

Next I informed my shadchan that if a guy puts down “TV, weightlifting, and billiards” as his hobbies then he’s not for me.

Then I went to the home page and divided the 1,000 matches made by the 33,000 single members. I got a 3% success rate. Of course, if you consider that each match takes care of 2 members, I guess it’s more like 6%. I wonder if that’s a statistically significant number.

I mean, as far as I can tell from my experience so far, SYAS is the names-on-a-dartboard game on a grand scale. The shadchanim throw suggestions at you, you catch or parry them and wait for the other party to do the same. At some point two people actually like the sound of each other and agree to go out.

I’m still waiting for that one.

For the readership: how often does it happen? Give the rate on a per month basis please.

Oh, and the original suggestion that started it all? I have no idea who he is. He timed out before I forked over the cash.

Cartoon credit to Stupid Inventor