JDate, the font of so many colorful dating adventures for me, graciously let me contribute an essay related to the book to its JMag section. The title is “Headlights on the Driveway and Other Awkward Dating Moments.” The essay covers some of the excruciating encounters that the risk-tolerant dater must at times endure, ranging from the short and sour to the endless “Twilight Zone” interludes. Here’s the mood:
You’re out there emotionally, revealing hopes and fears and your brightest smile. Do it long enough and you get a thick skin that still bleeds easily. Sure, you want to leap into the great romance of your life, but that electricity doesn’t always strike. More often, you’re drenched in a chill drizzle of encounters that range between wryly amusing (in retrospect) to heartbreaking.
“A Kosher Dating Odyssey” becomes properly available today. I’ve had friends already email me that Amazon has sent out the paperback version. I’m waiting to hear about the Kindle version. I’ve had some gratifying congratulatory calls, including from my friend referred to as Chloe the Oracle of Romance in the book. She’s soon to get her copy. The references to her could be a great ice-breaker in her online dating activities.
I have no idea what coming days will bring, although at least one article is set to run about the book and I continue to alert editors about it. Who’ll find it interesting as fodder for a review or just as a good read is anybody’d guess. The essays I’m doing in support of the book could turn in to excellent material for a revised edition down the road; one essay is evening inspiring me to write a short story for a contest being sponsored by the Texas Observer newspaper.
What comes next creatively? I have some ideas. I always have ideas. Execution remains the issue. To goose up the competitive spirit, I attended a panel presentation by three romance novel writers at the Ridgefield Public Library today. Hearing other writers always inspires me, and now that I have one real, honest-to-goodness book to my credit, I can keep thinking about what comes next. Surely this can’t be the peak of my writing career — have keyboard, will travel to distant lands and write about topics that have been bubbling in me for decades.
All I have to do is turn off the Internet and get back to banging out what’s already in me, just waiting to burst out — a little later than I expected in life, but the only present I have is right now.
I cover a lot of ground in the book, but one topic I mostly avoid is how-to. By the time you’re in your 40s and 50s, you don’t need my advice on how to present yourself or appeal to men or women. Then again, why not some ideas from a guy who spent years out there knocking around and getting knocked around? I’m compiling a list of pithy, good-hearted guidance, initially for women. As ideas come to me, I’ll add some for men out there who are working the websites and wondering how to make them work better. So:
- I like self-confidence in a woman, especially on appearance issues. Of course, our bodies changes as we age, and a woman’s sense of satisfaction and self-acceptance is very appealing. Put your best foot forward and save the neuroses for your girlfriends.
- When going out to dinner with a man, take plenty of time to find a restaurant you both like. Once there, select what you want to eat with a minimum of agonized consideration; long discussions about the pros and cons of different dining options exhaust and confuse men. We like to decide on what to eat and be done with it. Save the food fetishes and phobias for girls’ night out.
- If you had an enjoyable time with a man and think the feeling is mutual, surprise him with a hand-written thank-you note. Everybody likes to get real letters yet nobody sends them. Break that pattern and surprise a man with your communications flair and elegant handwriting — you will make a BIG impression.
- When using an online dating site, remember that men are intensely visual creatures. Use as many profile photos as possible, selecting those that focus on YOU in a favorable, put-together light. Let men’s imagination wander and envision themselves with you via evening wear, business wear, fresh at-home ensembles. Avoid blurry cell-phone and webcam photos, photos with sunglasses (what are you hiding?), travel pictures that make you look tiny (men don’t care that you visited the Eiffel Tower), or group photos with your arms draped around Uncle Fritz and Aunt Gerdl. Show that you care enough to get appealing photos.
- Don’t let strong political views overly color dating profiles, since that can turn off men who don’t share those values. You may think “Republicans make me vomit!” and “Rush Limbaugh is a war criminal!” but saying so brands you as a political crank rather than a caring progressive. I found profiles with such intolerant views and they were a major turn-off. Men and women are more than their political views so it’s better to agree to disagree rather than dismiss an otherwise compatible man just because he does not think exactly the way you do. (In my experience, liberal women are far more adamant and unyielding in their politics than conservative women.)
- While on a date, you may see other friends. It’s perfectly acceptable to stop and chat with them and introduce your date of the evening. Beware, however, if the conversation with the friend turns into a one-on-one discussion that leaves your date feeling ignored and isolated. This could especially sour an early date in a new relationship when people feel vulnerable and want to stay connected with the romantic potentiality. Save the deep discussion for later (post-date, when you’ll want to dish about the date, anyway) and keep the focus on having an enjoyable time with the man/woman of the evening.
- GUYS: This is for you. Based on conversations with women, such as my dear friend, mentioned in the book as Chloe the Oracle of Romance, show some common sense. Chivalry is still popular: Hold open doors, stand up when a lady enters the room, push a woman’s chair in at a restaurant, observe good grooming at all times, be attentive to a woman’s interests and questions. Don’t drone on about your obsessions, be they sports, World of Warcraft, the “Saw” movies, your prostate, or anything else that could be a conversation-stopper. Keep the focus on getting to know your date and let her know about you — but not everything about you. Sure, you’re interesting — but she is, too.
Readers of the upcoming book may want to keep some dictionaries handy since I throw in words from several other languages. Sometimes a phrase from Hebrew or Spanish just sounds right. I write about this linguistic side of online dating — how a little learning can go a long way — in a post at the Times of Israel, where I’m also contributing these days. “Judaism is for (Language) Lovers” is my maiden voyage there:
Once I graduated from college and moved to New York, I started dating Jewish women and found many excelled at languages. They inspired a lifetime of studies that often overlapped with whatever was spoken by my love interest of the moment. If she spoke Hebrew or Russian or Portuguese or Dutch, then I wanted to speak it, too. For the past 30 years I’ve diligently cycled through languages, including several rounds of Hebrew. While I can’t speak anything but English, an ability to call a woman “motek” (“sweetie” in Hebrew) or close an email with “beijos e abraços” (“kisses and hugs” in Portuguese) sure can smooth the flow of a promising new romance.