march / april 2007:
Riding the wild waves of the Jewish dating game
Jewish dating above the age of thirty in the 21st century, can be a complicated affair. It’s one part high-tech and several parts high school social etiquette, as our intrepid essayist found out during her Caribbean search for romance.
By Rachel Pomerance
Me: Hi there
Him: Hi. so, why are you IM’ing me from Atlanta?
Me: Curious. Thought I’d see what the boys in Seattle are like… ;)
(Code: I’m running out of options at home.)
Globalization has its perks. And using JDate to check inventory in other locales is a breathtaking achievement. Coy e-mails cross-country are titillating with possibilities. How often they are fulfilled is another matter. Still, one can cast the proverbial net much wider.
Because unless you live in New York where everyone is single and Jewish (and seems to stay that way) the choices for a thirty-something like myself aren’t what they were in the feverish days of synagogue youth groups. (Code: Giddy adolescents all eager to hook up with virtually anyone who will.)
Except of course if you happen to find yourself — as I did — among 166 single Jews during JDate’s Club Med Turks & Caicos Caribbean vacation recently. Then it’s pretty much exactly like USY or camp or take your pick of the Jewish youth group that plucks kids from the social disaster that is high school and inserts them into a similar group where they feel cool or comfortable enough to be potentially desirable. Add in time and relaxation among adults whose lives ordinarily squeeze such elements to a minimum and voila: like-minded people with time to get to know each other.
The average age of participants ranged from 37 to 42, likely a product of the trip’s expense at roughly $3000. But don’t let adulthood fool you — high school rules still applied. So when Alicia, 36, laid eyes on Alex, 39, at the opening night icebreaker and not long after held his hand in public, her girlfriends freaked. “What are you doing!” they gasped. “You’ll be marked for the rest of the trip — what if you meet someone you like better?!”
There is a JDate vacation calculus. According to Bari, 36, a graphic designer from New York, holding hands is a “big deal.” That’s because if you “get to first base you get a home run,” she says. So P.D.A. may lessen the mystique of one who wants to trade up later in the week.
The environment on this JDate vacation was not unlike New York, where a glut of prospects causes the affliction of wondering whether the single rounding the corner is better than the single in plain view. On the flip side, overzealousness has its casualties. Bari saw the fallout unfold — unlucky women whose initial flings went on to court others while they watched, bathing their anger in alcohol and dispatching friends to seethe in the paramour’s direction.
Then again, there were those couples, like Alicia and Alex, who never came unglued despite their early attachment. And despite the fact that she lives in Atlanta and he’s in L.A., they plan to continue their relationship, starting with a Colorado ski trip just a few weeks later.
Others likely enjoyed what one participant termed a “vacationship,” a relationship that ends with the vacation. Or a simple dance floor grope. And plenty considered romance an added perk while they took in a halcyon island getaway.
As far as resorts go, this one conjures camp. Rooms are nice, not extravagant. Beds are hard and sheets aren’t changed — at least not the handful of days I visited and regrettably smothered them in sand by day one. But guests are meant to be outside — for tennis lessons or salsa dancing or snorkeling on the catamaran. And even when activities are not organized, the activity directors on hand erupt in Club Med choreography of hypnotic responsive singing. These cheerleaders are called “G.O’s “ or Gentils Organisateurs as Club Med is French, and they are the tanned, ripped, Euro version of Catskill “facilitators,” encouraging guests to dance, swim, even trapeze.
Trapeze is its own subculture at Club Med, which was unfortunate for me. That’s because a girl who apparently is my twin performed in the trapeze show where she was rumored to have had a wardrobe malfunction, exposing one very well-endowed breast. I, who was nowhere near the show, was congratulated for my performance.
In any case, I had a terrific time. Let me be more specific: I got my mojo back. Maybe it was the salsa dancing or the disco dancing or the yoga at sunset on the pier. But I felt more energized and even remotely tan.
There were lovely men who expressed interest and the entire resort seemed friendly. So for the first time in a long time I realized a great sense of possibility. Perhaps it was past heartache or too many pareve dates. But I had begun to forget the excitement of dating. I was, in the dating realm, on neutral. More interested in bookishness and gal pals, I felt cynical about the prospects of lasting romance, let alone a fun one.
The city I live in, while burgeoning, particularly for young families, seems less prosperous in its numbers of Jewish singles in my age range. So to be surrounded by a large group of singles, all in vacation mode of happy-and-friendly, was a joy. It reminded me that eligible, interesting and talented singles with much to offer abound.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy or pleasant or guarantees anything but an adventure. However, Jewish singles all over the world today are only a click away, which is a very good thing since everyone seems to think their city offers slim pickings. So with a little ambition and a curious outlook, there is great potential.
In the meantime, we’ll see if the guy from Seattle writes back.
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