I finally broke down and joined JDate. After months of looking at the first page of people who matched my criteria—as many as you can see without joining—I decided to take the next step. I mean, the lady who’d be the horseradish to my gefilte fish could be waiting for me right at the top of page two.
So I joined. And I clicked. And there was no page two.
That’s right. All of the non-smoking women seeking women between the ages of 24 and 35 fit right there on a single page (to be fair, five months later there are now two whole people on the second page). And none of those ladies were quite what I was looking for. Or at least, I don’t think they were; it’s hard to tell when half of them don’t bother to either put up a picture or answer the profile questions.
About six weeks after joining, I discussed my JDate frustrations with a recently-engaged Irish Catholic friend. “Well, are you really surprised?” she asked. “I mean, you’re already throwing out any semblance of tradition or social norms or values by dating women. So it’s a little weird that you’d be so stuck on the more traditional, kind of passé practice of dating only Jews. I’m sure that’s why there aren’t lots of women on JDate.”
Perhaps she misspoke. Perhaps she didn’t mean values. Perhaps I misunderstood what she was saying altogether. Perhaps she was saying that members of the queer community are generally intelligent, open-minded individuals who will live their lives in a way that makes them happy, even if it breaks the mold of what Bubbe, Zayde, and Uncle Milt always pictured for them.
For as much as my friend’s comment upset me, it also got me thinking. Is it important to me that I find a “nice Jewish girl?” Or are “nice” and “girl” enough? Mostly I’d signed up on JDate because I had a bunch of friends who had had some success with it, and I know of a handful of “JDate weddings.” But was there something more subconscious going on there? Did I pick it over, say, match.com, because of the Jewish factor?
I decided to rethink my dream date. I come from an interfaith family, but consider myself Jewish. It is safe to say my brothers and I were the only triple B’nai Mitzvah in Hyde Park in 1995, and I even taught at my childhood synagogue for a number of years. But we also had Easter baskets and a Christmas tree growing up. I never cared about those holidays, though, beyond getting excited that I got to hear pretty music, get a few gifts and eat a big dinner that usually ended with pie.
My parents successfully raised us in one religion while exposing us to another, so why do I need to worry about whether my partner knows the story of Passover without reading the CliffsNotes version of the Hagaddah or the Rugrats’ “Let My Babies Go?” Plus, I didn’t want to offend my father by deciding that people from his faith weren’t somehow good enough for me.
That’s when I joined match.com. I was fed up with the small number of women on JDate, and I’d decided that in choosing a profile worth responding to, someone’s answer to the “what’s the last book you read?” question might be more telling than her religion. As my pool expanded from fewer than 20 to over 200 profiles—way more than one page of results!—I met some great people, and was feeling pretty good about the dating scene.
Then a nice Jewish girl emailed me through match.com, noting that my Judaism was something that drew her to me. We found that we had a lot in common, and could turn a quick call to say “hey” into a three hour conversation that kept this Oy!Chicago sleepyhead up past her 10 o’clock bedtime. One of the things we shared with each other for close to an hour on the phone and in lengthy paragraphs in emails? Passover stories. What our seders were like this year, what we did to break Passover (pizza, both of us), what our families’ holiday traditions are and so much more.
And I loved it. It was fun sharing that part of my life—my own special brand of Judaism—with someone else. I’d hang up the phone or sign out of my email still smiling, knowing that there is someone else who appreciates where I’m coming from, where I hope to go, and what the issues along the way might be for me as a young Jewish lesbian.
I think I understand now why I was drawn to JDate rather than match.com in the first place. Having shared experiences can make the whole dating thing a little easier. It gives you some common ground to start from on a first date; and anyone who says first dates don’t need to be easier is a liar. And I probably owe JDate an apology for badmouthing it to my friends. Sure, it may not have gotten me a date, but it did give me a better understanding of myself.
At this point, I have no idea when the matzah ball to my chicken broth will come rolling along. And I know a Jewish partner will likely come with a Jewish mother-in-law in tow. But if sharing a Jewish life with someone else can make me smile the way I have just by sharing some stories with someone new during the past few weeks, it’s worth the wait. And the in-laws.