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Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

Unless you have a Yenta on your side… or you’re one of those disgustingly cute people who met your disgustingly cute soul mate at the age of four and have been part of a disgustingly cute couple ever since, you probably have an ex or two. This means you’ll have to answer a common question in the world of singledom: “Should I try to stay friends with my ex?”

To begin answering this question, let’s examine case studies of individuals who held polar opposite opinions on the subject (Ooh, aren’t we methodical and scientific!)

Opinion #1: Always stay friends with your ex, and don’t waste any time about it. In fact, you should introduce her to your current girlfriend right away because they will certainly be the best of friends!

My first serious boyfriend believed that people should always stay friends with their exes. A romance, he reasoned, is first and foremost a friendship. After investing months or years building that relationship, the thought of throwing it all away simply because you don’t work romantically seemed ridiculous to him.

And so, a week after we became an official couple, when his cell phone began to play “Tiny Dancer” in typical ring-tone fashion, the following ensued:

“Hello?” he said. “Hey you!… sure! That sound’s great! H­ang on a second…” Covering the mouthpiece, he turned to me and whispered, “hey, wanna come to dinner with me and my ex?”

That one sentence deftly obliterated my warm, fuzzy, new-relationship bliss, unleashing in its place a terrifying vortex of jealous-girlfriend insecurities that I’d never-before known lurked within me: Who is this man-stealing Shiksa trying to keep her claws in my guy?! That manipulative %^$! If I say ‘no,’ I’ll just be the “jealous girlfriend,” and have to tell my boyfriend I don’t trust him… maybe I don’t trust him…

My thoughts swirled and congealed into the words: “Um… sure?”

“Great!” he removed his hand from the mouthpiece. “See you tonight!” Then flipped the phone shut.

We didn’t go to dinner with his ex, but his insistence on maintaining contact with her led to some turbulence throughout our relationship. However, after our own breakup, his tenacity in maintaining contact with me (along with his shocking ability to weather the storm of my wrath) is a big part of why we now have a warm and caring friendship.

Opinion #2: Never Stay Friends with your Ex. Ever. In fact, you should find every possible reason to hate them, and take pleasure in the shortcomings of their new partner.

My best friend throughout the last two years of college believed that it was a bad idea to EVER stay friends with an ex. He felt, in fact, that it was healthy to reflect on their bad qualities after a breakup. That way, you would have no complicated attachments when beginning a new relationship.

And so, after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend, we spent lots of time talking about our awful exes, expounding upon all of their flaws, marveling that we ever thought dating them was a good idea, and laughing our way through the breakup pain.

Then we started having feelings for each other.

It seemed promising – we found each other attractive, and got along great. The problem was, the stakes were too high.

Turns out, it didn’t work, and our efforts resulted in a big, messy, pseudo-relationship jumble, which ended up damaging our friendship anyway.

Opinion #3 (aka the right opinion (aka MY opinion)): Take it on a case-by-case basis; just make sure your past relationships don’t inhibit your future ones.

After collecting a few exes of my own, I came to a conclusion for myself: there is no catch-all “always” or “never” answer. If you want to stay friends with your ex, it’s important to first ask: “Will the relationship I maintain with my ex get in the way of new relationships?”

If the answer is yes, then you’d better stop and really think about what you’re doing. That said, if your ex is someone you enjoy being around, and you can find a way to do so while being sensitive to your new romantic interest, then a blanket philosophy is no reason to throw away a valuable friendship.

Living the Chai Life

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

Summer is here, which means great weather and lots of activities for intrepid San Diego singles. Here are some suggestions for great dates that won’t put a strain on your pocketbook:

1. Dance ‘til dawn (or maybe 2 a.m. if they’re open that late). Many places regularly offer inexpensive lessons in all kinds of couples dances. The La Jolla Marriott, for instance, has salsa most Wednesday nights. Evenings typically start with lessons for beginners followed by several hours of “free dancing” with a deejay or live band. It’s a ton of fun, with one cautionary note: If you’re a novice, don’t skip the lesson.

2. Park ‘n’ watch. For $8 per adult, you can take a drive down nostalgia lane to the Full Moon Drive In, an old-school drive-in movie theater in Pacific Beach.

3. Take a hike! From Torrey Pines to Mission Trails, there are a bunch of fantastic hiking options for all levels.

4. See the sea lions at La Jolla Cove, and enjoy one of the most spectacular natural locations in the world.

5. Visit Seaport Village. This iconic San Diego hotspot has no shortage of dating activities, including free live entertainment daily from noon to 4 p.m., and more on most Saturday nights.

6. Wander around Old Town. Its historic (and possibly haunted) buildings include a blacksmith shop, the Whaley House and the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego. The 12-acre park also has numerous shops, restaurants and museums dedicated to Mexican lore and culture.

7. Get multi-cultural. The International Cottages in Balboa Park hold free lawn programs throughout the summer. Each Sunday celebrates a different country with ethnic foods, song and dance.

8. Get fishy at the Birch Aquarium. For $17 per adult, you and your date can marvel at a myriad of fish … though the exhibits are sadly lacking in Gefilte.

9. Gaze at a different sort of skyline. On the first Wednesday of every month, the San Diego Astronomy Association sets up huge telescopes for guests to stargaze at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s “Gazin’ with the Experts” event.

10. Marvel in free museums. Balboa Park offers free admission to San Diego County residents and military (with ID) at certain museums on most Tuesdays. Visit BalboaPark.org for the schedule.

11. Catch a Concert – From Spreckels Park in Coronado, to Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park, San Diego summers are teeming with free concerts in every style of music. Visit blog.sandiego.org and type “Free Summer Concerts” (including quotes) into the search to find a comprehensive list.

12. Grab some grunions. On warm summer nights when the tide is high and the moon is full, you can run with the grunions — thousands of small fish that swim ashore to bury their eggs in the sand before riding the waves back out to sea.

13. Amble among the art. San Diego has no shortage of free art-viewing opportunities. These include Coronado’s bi-monthly Art-in-the-Park event, the monthly Ray at Night art walk in North Park, and Little Italy’s Kettner Art Nights. Love to stroll past sculptures? The downtown Embarcadero is home to numerous public sculptures, and UCSD in La Jolla boasts the Stuart Collection of contemporary sculptures all across the campus (plus a map for a self-guided walking tour available at the Gilman Drive entrance).

14. Cozy up with YAD. The Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation provides a bunch of great opportunities for single 20- and 30-somethings to meet and mix. YAD interest clusters offer fun activities from cooking to camping, which work great for a more social kind of date.

15. Mingle at Moishe House. Another fantastic option for younger Jewish singles is Moishe House, which provides fun activities and free dinners. These can make for great dates, with one caveat: Neither YAD nor Moishe House should be your first or second date, since activities are more about interacting with a group than just getting to know the person you’re with.

16. Find free food. San Diego is home to tons of eateries, and some offer samples! For instance, Basic in East Village serves pizza samples weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido offers free daily brewery tours, where beer lovers can go behind the scenes and taste microbrews. Farmers markets also make for a great daytime date, and happen almost every day all over San Diego.

17. Take a train ride. Old Poway Park offers train rides around the park for less than $3 on certain Saturdays and Sundays (you can find the schedule at Poway.org). When your train ride is done, be sure to stop by San Diego Pond and Garden across the street, which has dozens of beautiful koi fish. You can also grab coffee or tea and some panini at Café Lily, a delightful family-run coffee shop with delicious food, fun puzzles and occasional live entertainment.

18. End with a bang! SeaWorld has a fireworks show nearly every night throughout the summer… and you don’t have to go to SeaWorld to see it! Many of the surrounding areas — including Fiesta Island, the Mission Bay Boardwalk, and Crown Point Park — have views of the fireworks, making this a lovely highlight for an evening stroll or picnic.

Please note, I strongly recommend you call ahead when planning a date to confirm that schedules, prices and activities have not changed.

Why Are You Still Single? Part 2

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

A few days after my previous boyfriend and I broke it off, I created a new OKCupid.com profile (cursing myself the whole while for deleting my old profile because “I’d never need it again.”) I wanted to bounce back and start dating… or so I told myself.

Three months later, I actually checked my OKCupid inbox.

Buried among the “u r sxy, wan 2 chat?” emails, and polite but uninspiring contacts, I found a sweet message that made me laugh and sparked my interest. It had been sitting in my inbox for two and a half months, but he was not yet exclusive with anyone else (baruch Hashem!). Now, nearly a year later, I am still in the best relationship of my life.

In my last column, I talked about how all of us come up with reasons to either dismiss the people we date or to abandon dating all together. Looking back, my mind is still boggled at how many reasons I came up with to avoid reaching out during the three months between creating my profile and actually responding to messages; I was too tired, had no free time, needed to lose a couple pounds first. And all that time, there was a message waiting in my inbox from the best guy I’d ever meet. I just couldn’t see it with all the “reasons” in my way.

As I also mentioned last time, though, the “reasons” are there for a reason… We use them to protect ourselves. Those reasons allow us to feel like we’re putting ourselves out there, when in reality, we’re putting up a wall. “I’m too busy to date,” for instance, sounds a lot nicer than, “I’m too scared to seek out a relationship.” “This person I’m dating just doesn’t get that “I’m fiercely independent,” sounds better than, “I’m pushing him or her away because I’m afraid to let this go further.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. You may be genuinely too busy to date right now, or that person you’re with may be unsupportive and farshtinkener to the core. However, if you find yourself repeatedly struggling in one failed relationship after the next, or are unable to find someone at all, it would be worth your time to take a step back and do a little soul-searching. Try on the idea that maybe you’re not being fully honest with yourself about your own motivations. Maybe there’s a part of you that’s getting in your own way.

In my case, during those three months, I was working through some tough times. A sudden death of a friend, a health scare and some hard knocks on both my career and relationship fronts had left me reeling and uncertain of my own worth. I felt broken and beaten and couldn’t bear to face the terrifying world of dating.

The thing is, dating and relationships are scary. They involve opening up and making ourselves vulnerable to another person, and there’s a lot of risk that goes along with that. The main risk, of course, is that things won’t work out (for any number of reasons). The potential destruction of a relationship — be it your crush laughing in your face when you finally ask him or her out, or your spouse betraying you with an affair after 20 years — is a really frightening thought. It’s like the monster that used to live under the bed. We can’t see it, and we know that in reality, there’s probably nothing to be afraid of, but there’s always the “what if.” What if, when we take our flashlight and look, there’s something down there waiting to grab us and rip us to bloody, broken bits?

Beneath our rejection-driven reticence lies our real fear: the fear of being broken and of losing a part of ourselves that we can never get back. Just think about the vocabulary surrounding the end of a relationship: “breaking up,” “broken hearted,” “break down.” On some level, we worry that, by putting ourselves in another person’s hands, we are giving that person the opportunity to destroy us.

Thus, in order to move past our fear, we have to start by coming to a deep understanding: each of us, on a fundamental level, is unbroken and unbreakable.

That’s not an easy thing to wrap your brain around, so give yourself time. It took me three months and an intensive weekend self-help seminar to even begin to internalize the idea and get to a point that I was happy just being me. Once I started to realize that if my next relationship failed, I would be hurt but not broken, the prospect of putting myself out there became a whole lot less scary. It was still scary, mind you, but the risk of pain no longer outweighed the reward of reaching out and connecting with another person.

And once the reward outweighed the risk, I was able to take off my blinders and answer my farsholtn e-mail!

Why are You Still Single?

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

Since I began writing this column, people have started seeking me out for dating advice (they think I actually know something on the subject… haha, suckers!). One question in particular keeps coming up: “I’ve been single for so long. How can I find that somebody special?”

I answer with one of my go-to standards: shared interest groups like on meetup.com, online dating (OKCupid.com worked for me), community organizations and (of course) temple.

What follows next is a conversation I call the “reasons dance,” where the asker deftly parries each of my suggestions with a reason it couldn’t possibly work. Everything from “I’m just not attractive” to “There aren’t any nice Jewish singles left in San Diego” to “All men/women are jerks who only date jerks!” Around and around we go, until I have run through every suggestion and the asker has responded with a litany of reasons why he or she will be alone forever… “But seriously, Jennifer, why can’t I find someone to date???”

“Uhhh…”

The short answer is: your reasons are the reason you can’t find someone. Don’t get me wrong. All those reasons you just gave me are utter bubkes. It’s the reasons themselves that are getting in your way.

We are the authors of our own realities. Each of us knows the big, wide world only through the filter of our own perceptions. We see, hear, smell, touch, taste … and we interpret. However, it’s more than that. We don’t just interpret our experiences. Our interpretations shape our experiences and often blind us to anything that goes against our expectations.

In short, there are no nice Jewish singles in San Diego because you have invented a world for yourself wherein there are no nice Jewish singles. Maybe you’ll dip your toe in the dating pool, but when you enter expecting to find only jerks, then that’s what you’ll be looking for. No matter how nice a date you find, you’ll have that voice in your head saying, “yeah, he/she seems nice, but just wait.” Worse, this belief will lead you to settle for a real jerk, turning you into one of those people who only dates jerks and then bemoans the fact that all Jewish singles are jerks.

You’re not doing this deliberately; it’s a curse all human beings share. What we believe to be true exists to us as simple reality. Fortunately, we all have the capacity to take a step back and notice where our reasons are becoming self-fulfilling prophecy.

The only problem is, we really like our reasons. They are easy and comfortable, and instead of taking a step back, we cling to them. Don’t believe me? Stop a second and notice what’s going on in your head as you read this. Have you been arguing with every point I’ve made? Do you have all sorts of reasons going around in your head — why I’m completely wrong, or why this article doesn’t apply to you because you have different reasons for being single than the ones I mentioned? Did your little voice just grumble, “I haven’t been arguing with everypoint you’ve made.”

Yeah, we really like our reasons. But why? If those reasons are standing in the way of us finding love and happiness, why do we hold on to them so tightly?

Well, our reasons form a wall to protect ourselves from the terrifying world that is dating. If you know you’re not attractive, if you know there isn’t a nice single person left, if you know everyone’s a jerk, then you don’t have to really put yourself out there. Because dating is hard. Dating is scary. Dating means opening up to someone else, which means someone else can hurt you.

Or so you believe. Starting to see how this works?

I could fill this magazine with all the reasons we throw in front of ourselves every step of the way. Well, not really. My editor would make me cut it back to around 800 words, but the point is that we have an infinite capacity for coming up with reasons we won’t succeed. Fortunately, we don’t have to live as slaves to our reasons. Once we start noticing what we’re doing, we can practice setting those thoughts aside. The more we practice, the easier it gets.

“But dating is scary!” you cry. “What about the risk? What about rejection? Others can hurt us!”

I’m glad you brought that up. See the answer is simple, just… Oh, wait, ding ding! My time’s up. Figure it out yourselves.

Just kidding! I won’t leave you hanging too long. Check back next month, when I’ll talk about the one simple (yet not so simple) way to conquer your fears and really put yourself out there.

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

The food is delicious, and your date has supermodel good-looks and a personality to match. The light shimmers around you as you finish each other’s sentences and laugh at all the right moments on this romantic, moonlit night.

Yeah, that would be nice.

Of course, in real life, dates are usually not so pretty. Traffic makes us late, phones fail, we get stuff stuck in our teeth. Take your pick of the infinite number of practical things that can get our plans all ferblunjit (pardon my French, er, Yiddish). Fortunately, there are a few easy things you can do to vanquish the most frequent offenders:

Make a checklist

It was our second date. He had purchased the movie tickets ahead of time…only he’d forgotten to print them and didn’t bring the confirmation code. Not a problem. He could use his credit card to confirm the tickets…except he’d left it on his desk at home…

A date inherently ups our nerves. Since you know you’re going to be batting down the butterflies, make sure you’re all set before those butterflies start fluttering. Jot down everything you need to bring, and double-check that you’ve got it all ready to go well in advance. That way, when the time comes to race out the door, you’re all set to get up and go.

Print directions

Ah, the GPS. Technology to help us find our way. Only, in practice, it’s often a bit like having a mechanical Yiddisha Mama in the passenger seat telling you: “Oy! Go left here. Left!…or was it right?”

Plug your date’s number into your phone… and then charge your phone

This saved my tuchas on one date when my GPS decided it didn’t feel like going to the restaurant that I did (see item No. 2). A charged cell phone with your date’s number should be one of the top items on your checklist (see item No. 1). However, if you need to call or text, pull off the road! Seriously. If you don’t, I will hunt you down.

Be well rested

I remember one occasion at a little Greek restaurant. My date arrived and plunked his head on the table. He’d done a killer workout, he told me, and then spent the rest of the meal with his head on the table, too exhausted to hold a conversation.

There’s nothing wrong with working out, but when you know you’ve got a date later, don’t do things that will leave you physically incapacitated. That means get a good night’s sleep the night before, take any and all medications you require, and don’t eat a bunch of beans for breakfast.

Bring a little bag of essentials

I remember yet another date where I was meeting his parents. I was nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I started getting stomach cramps. I had an okay time, but what I wouldn’t have given for some Tums.

Learn from my mistake. Bring a bag of supplies, including: painkillers, antacid tablets, hand lotion, chapstick, eyedrops, a comb, dental floss and mints. For the gals, purses make this pretty easy. Guys, you may have to stash yours in your car.

Hide the unmentionables

Ladies, if you, like most women, carry certain “hygiene products” in your purse, be sure to tuck them away in a zippered compartment. Guys (and gals), if you’re one of those people who carries a condom “just in case” don’t put it in one of the credit card slots in your wallet.

Stay away from the sloppy joes

No one wants to look like a pig on their date (pigs are, after all, not kosher). That doesn’t mean you can’t order something delicious to nosh, but it’s a lot easier to avoid a mess if you order items that are not designed to get all over the place.

Say “No!” to new clothes

Wear something nice, but a date is not the time to break in a new outfit. You want to be comfortable and confident, which is a lot harder to do if you discover that your shirt is see-through, or your new shoes are giving you blisters.

Don’t overthink it

Ha ha! Right? After everything I’ve said, I tell you not to think so much. But here’s the thing: There’s a difference between preparing and overthinking. Trying to plot out and control every moment will almost certainly increaseyour stress and will probably irritate your date, as well.

No matter what you do, things can always go wrong, but those things don’t have to ruin your date. So do the prep work, but don’t let yourself get bent out of shape if you accidentally grepse (belch), or get a little schmutzon your shirt. Always keep in mind: The most important thing about any date is not what happens, but who it’s happening with.

Oy Vey! It’s Valentine’s Day!

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

Ah, February 14: Single’s Awareness Day (S.A.D.) … more commonly known as Valentine’s Day. This holiday — which originated as a Pagan fertility rite, was named for an obscure Christian saint (or saints), and has been commandeered by secular greeting card companies — has found its way into many a modern Jew’s love life. How this holiday became the hearts-and-flowers kissy-kissy-goo-goo celebration it is today is a mystery to me, but it involves a great deal of chocolate, so I really don’t have anything to kvetch about. That said, here are a couple tips to get you through this notoriously challenging romantic holiday — or to help you recover after the fact.

Survival tip No. 1: Lower the stakes.

So, you don’t have a valentine this year. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be alone the rest of your life. Likewise, just because you have a date Feb. 14, it doesn’t mean he or she is “the one.” Take a breath, take a moment and take off the pressure.

Survival tip No. 2: Make it about them.

If you want to have a great date, you have to take the other person into account. If she likes things simple, a single red rose and dinner at her favorite restaurant may be better than filling her apartment with bouquets and cooking a soufflé. If he’s a snarky sort of guy, a funny card may be better received than a touchy-feely romantic one. Only you can know what’s right for your Special Someone, and if you aren’t sure, then I have a crazy suggestion: Try asking your valentine!

Survival tip No. 3: Adjust your frame of mind.

Valentine’s Day, as with anything, is just a day. What it means to you is entirely your choice. For example, I just got back from a ski trip with my Almost-Certainly-Going-to-be-My-Valentine-Barring-Major-Unforseen-Circumstances. At one point, my ski boots caused me so much pain that I thought I might have fractured something. I had tears in my eyes all the way down the slopes… and we both had a fantastic trip. Likewise, you can have a fantastic time curled up alone, eating ice cream and watching chick flicks (I’m talking to you, too, Male Readership). You can also have a terrible time out on the town with Mr. or Miss “Right.” As much as it may seem otherwise, the exact events don’t have anything to do with how much you enjoy yourself. What matters is your frame of mind. So don’t worry if everything isn’t “perfect.” Plan to have a good time, and it will be wonderful no matter what.

And now, some tips to recover after the fact.

Recovery tip No.1: Lower the stakes.

Oh no. Everything went wrong! Or maybe everything was perfect and it was the most magical date and … Oh no! How can real life live up to it, and what if we can never capture it again and our romance is doomed to a downhill spiral!? Relax. It was just one day. Let it be what it was, and don’t add all sorts of crazy meaning. If it went wrong, it’s no use crying over spilled borscht. If it went right, it’s no use crying over the fact that you’re eating borscht.

Recovery tip No. 2: Make it about them.

Oops. You goofed! Yesterday (or last week, or two weeks ago) was Valentine’s Day, and you (a) forgot, (b) did something wrong, or (c) don’t know what you did but know you must’ve messed up somehow. What do you do? Well, there are belated holiday cards, and you can always re-create a Valentine’s-esque date at a later time. But just remember, no amount of gifts can replace a sincere apology and taking action to make sure you won’t mess up again. So, right now, this very second, take out your smart phone and plug in a reminder for Valentine’s Day 2014. While you’re at it, plug in his/her birthday, your anniversary and Mother’s Day (for good measure). I’ll wait for you to finish before continuing…

Recovery tip No. 3: Adjust your frame of mind.

Most importantly, don’t let yourself get stuck on what went “wrong.” Take a step back, look at the big picture and focus on the aspects that make you happy. If you had a date with someone you care about, even if it wasn’t perfect, you still got to spend time with someone you care about. If you stayed home alone and ate ice cream and watched chick flicks — well, ice cream and chick flicks can make for a great evening. In dating, and in life, there are always a million reasons to feel terrible. There are also a million reasons to feel great. It all depends on what you look for.

Most importantly, remember, Valentine’s Day is a celebration. So stop gnashing your teeth and tearing out your hair, put away your sack cloth and ashes, and go have a ton of fun!

Recent Breakup: Rest, Recuperate… Rebound?

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

They say: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s a lovely sentiment. Sometimes it’s even true. Of course, usually it’s utter chazzerai (look it up). A more medically accurate phrase would be: “What doesn’t kill you leaves you wracked and weakened, prone to secondary infections and reinjury until you have had time to recover.” This is one reason I have a (kosher) beef with the concept of rebound relationships.

Think about it. You’ve just gotten out of a relationship. You’re feeling down, lonely and vulnerable. So what do you do? You jump right back in. It’s like saying: “Hey, I’ve just sprained my ankle. I think I’ll run a marathon to recover.”

Now, sometimes, it does help to “walk it off,” but take a few breaths and assess where you’re at before you get back out there. If you aren’t up for it, jumping back into the dating scene can actually slow down your recovery process and make it take longer for you to find what you’re really looking for. To be clear, I define a “rebound relationship” as a relationship you enter into either to get over a past relationship, or because you can’t stand the thought of being single. A rebound relationship can happen days, weeks, or sometimes even years after the previous relationship ended. The motivating factors are what matters, and are the difference between you finding love or wasting your time and causing heartache.

Now, I never say “never” (except when saying “never say never”), but if you want to go for the rebound, you need to do some serious soul searching. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to “walk off” a broken leg.

First of all, there are very few good reasons to enter into a rebound relationship, and a lot of bad ones, so really examine your own motivations. If you’re thinking of this as a “palate cleanser,” are you really, honestly just looking for some fun, or is this because you don’t think you can get over your ex without it? If you’re thinking of this as a long-term thing, are you actually interested in this new person, or are you afraid of being alone?

Likewise, there are very few good reasons for the other person to be your rebound, and (you guessed it) a lot of bad ones. For example, they might be massively insecure and don’t see another way to get into a relationship. They might see this as an opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerability. Maybe they are so desperately into you that they don’t care how they wind up being with you. Maybe they are on the rebound themselves. Or maybe they aren’t aware that this is a rebound (if this is the case, allow me to fill in for your bubbe and say “Oy gevalt! You haven’t communicated this fact to them??? I could just smack you!!”)

The bottom line is, rebound relationships probably won’t end well, and when things go wrong, you’ll likely find yourself worse than before. You may even find yourself moving backward. My one foray into rebound territory nearly sent me skittering back to my ex.

Okay, now let’s say things don’t go horribly, terribly wrong. Let’s say you stay with Mr. or Miss Almost-well-sorta-but-no-not-even-a-little-Right for several months, or even years. What happens to that great relationship you could’ve had if you had just waited a little longer and let yourself heal? Worse still, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to be single. I don’t mean “staying out late downing martinis and Manischewitz” single. I mean “being whole and complete as just YOU” single. Before you can be a member of a happy and fulfilling couple, you first need to be a happy and fulfilled single. If your impulse to jump into a rebound relationship comes from feeling incomplete on your own, you will be doing yourself, your potential rebound and your future special someone a huge favor by walking away. Being out of a relationship can be an opportunity to reflect and be really solid with yourself. That way, instead of bringing half a person to your next relationship, you and your future someone will both bring a whole and happy person to a happy and whole partnership.

I know it’s hard. But seriously, give yourself time to heal before jumping back in. After all, a broken heart is like the common cold: When you’ve got it, the best thing to do is take a little time, let yourself recover and take plenty of advice from your bubbe. So, whether you choose to walk it off (or dance it off, or party it off, or schmooze it off…) with friends, or to curl up in your Snuggie drinking tea and watching sitcoms, just remember to recuperate, and don’t go running after rebounds.

My Goyfriend: What to Do when your Date is Not a Jew

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

There is a story in the Torah about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and what (or, rather who) befell her in the land of Canaan. Long story short, she had relations of the biblical variety (probably not of her own consent) with a Canaanite prince. He fell madly in love with her and wanted to make her his wife. His father, the Canaanite king, said, “Heck yes” (I’m paraphrasing) and approached Jacob, saying, “Yo, let’s all marry each other’s women and live in peace.”

Jacob loved the idea, but there was just one problem: Hebrews couldn’t marry outside the faith. So, the Canaanite king agreed to convert his entire kingdom and have all his men circumcised. Thus, Dinah and her prince were all set to live Happily Ever After… until her brothers raided the city, slaughtered the recovering Canaanite men and dragged their sister back to camp.

Nowadays, it’s pretty rare for our relatives to slaughter our non-Jewish significant others and all their kinfolk, but modern interfaith dating is not without its complexities and controversies. As the Jewish child of an interfaith marriage (my dad converted when I was in college), I have no qualms about dating non-Jews. However, my previous boyfriends were all at least culturally Jewish. So, as much as I enjoyed my parents’ stories about the foibles of interfaith dating, I didn’t fully understand what they were talking about… until now.

My folks have all sorts of great advice on what to consider before getting too serious with a non-Jew: How religious are they? How will you raise your kids? What holidays will you celebrate? How do you both feel about circumcision/b’nai mizvah/having a Jewish wedding? But seeing as I’ve only been dating this guy for a few months, I’ve only really experienced one major difference between dating a Jew versus a non-Jew: the awkward “She’s Jewish” conversation.

The first time my dad told my great-grandma Nana (may she rest in peace) that he was dating a Jew, it went rather well… considering Nana was a Southern Baptist. The way he describes it, it was like watching a computer freeze and reboot itself. She went silent, her eyes glazed over for a moment, and then she carried on with the conversation as though he hadn’t said anything.

Fortunately, I’ve had an easier time of it, but I’ve discovered that goyim are fascinated by the fact that I’m Jewish. My non-Jewish friends joke that I have super Jew-powers — from the ability to network faster than a speeding bullet, to simple telekinesis. My non-Jewish boyfriend often introduces me with: “This is Jenny. She’s Jewish!”

His friends and family have had a variety of reactions to this information. Ideally, it’s simply noted with an “Oh, how neat!” and the conversation moves on. Then, there are some who get so worried about saying the wrong thing that they wind up walking right into it: “I’m great at econ! I’m practically a Jew, too!… Wait, was that too far? Oh jeez, that was too far, wasn’t it?” Finally, there are some who deliberately walk right into it, like the gal who, upon meeting me at a party, raised an eyebrow, and said: “So you’re the Jew?”

At first, I was upset by these kinds of conversations. There was always that fear in the back of my mind: “Is this anti-Semitism? They see me as different. Are they thinking of me as a stereotype now?” I talked about it with my boyfriend and asked why he felt the need to introduce me as Jewish. His answer surprised me: “I like to celebrate differences. I love everything about you, and the fact that you’re Jewish is really cool.”

Yeah, it was a pretty good answer. I still asked him to tone it down a bit, but I have come to realize that even when people respond awkwardly to finding out I’m Jewish, they’re just doing their best to get through their own nerves at meeting a new person. The fact that they know I’m Jewish is actually a great way to promote tolerance. I like to think that I’m not just enjoying their company, but that I’m also giving them tangible proof that Jews are pretty darn cool people.

So, when my new acquaintance asked worriedly, “Was that too far?” I smiled and said, “Hey, what’s the ultimate Jewish dilemma? HAM ON SALE!” He looked utterly stunned, then burst out laughing and said: “Okay, that wasdefinitely too far!” When the girl at the party said, “So you’re the Jew?” I cracked up, and said: “Yes! Yes I am. I like your style, madam!” And when my goyfriend introduces me with: “This is my girlfriend, Jenny. She’s Jewish!” I smile, hook my arm through his, and say, “Nice to meet you!”

How to Create the Perfect Date (when Everything Goes Wrong)

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal

My date and I lay on the sun-kissed sand, listening to waves lapping the shore. We cuddled up, enjoying a well-deserved rest after a game of Frisbee toss. Two of our fellow beachgoers made stunt kites dance across the sky, and a flock of pelicans soared overhead in a graceful V formation. I looked at my date’s contented smile as he gazed up at the sky… just in time to see his smile transform into a look of horror. He cried out, rolling sideways, but he was too late. The pelican projectile hit him squarely on the cheek.

In that one date, he scraped his ankle on a rock, a billiard table ate all of our quarters, and, of course, he got poop-bombed by a pelican…and we both agree that it was one of the best dates of our lives. No, it’s not because he and I had never been on a decent date (I know that’s what you’re thinking, you snarky people). It’s because he and I made it wonderful.

He could have spent the whole time sulking about the pelican poop. I could have wasted time feeling terrible that things had gone so wrong. But instead, he reacted as gracefully as anyone could when they have a large bird turd on their bare skin, and I laughed and found a clean napkin in my purse to help him wipe it off. As we made our way back to a nearby coffee shop to wash up, rather than kvetching, we rehashed our adventure: me marveling at his quick reflexes (which had saved him from taking that turd in the eye), and him animatedly sharing what went through his head as he watched the bird-crafted missile fall right toward his face.

You see, the secret to having a great date is summed up by a delightful Yiddish phrase: “A bi gezunt,” which translates loosely to “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” A date is not about having everything go perfectly. It’s about spending time with another person you enjoy. If you spend your time worrying about everything going exactly according to “plan,” you won’t be focusing on the important part: the person you’re with. In that case, even if everything is going perfectly, it’s probably not actually going as well as you think.

To illustrate this phenomenon, let’s contrast the date of “The Pelican Incident” with another date from back in my college days.

We’d met in ballroom dance class and bonded over adventures at Hillel. So, when he asked me out three weeks after my first boyfriend and I had broken it off, I gave a whole-hearted yes. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach as he made his way up the driveway on the night of our date. Then things started to go terribly, horribly… right.

He’d baked me two heaping plates of chocolate chip cookies, insisted on holding every door, and always walked street-side (proving that chivalry is not dead, but can be rather annoying when used to excess). We had an incredible sushi dinner, returned to his place to watch “When Harry Met Sally” (to be fair, this was my idea, not his) on his massive 150-inch TV, and danced a rumba by candlelight (his idea, not mine).

An hour or two after this perfect, magical date, I sat on my sofa crying. My roommate came out, put an arm around me, and asked what was wrong. My response: “I think I made a huge mistake breaking up with my boyfriend, and I’m probably failing all my classes, and I’m pretty sure I’m dating a serial killer!”

I was definitely wrong about the first two statements, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a serial killer. He was just a sweet guy with a misguided notion of how to create the perfect date. The problem was, he didn’t really take meinto consideration. I felt like I was playing out a rehearsed script that had very little to do with who I was. He must have told me I was beautiful a hundred times, but we had very little real conversation. Nor did he stop to think about my need to recover from a recent breakup, or the fact that I had expressed a desire to take things slow. So, when he told me he wasn’t seeing anyone else until he knew where this was going, my answer was (though I didn’t tell him in that moment) “this is going nowhere.”

I never went out with Ballroom Dance Guy again, but I am still seeing the Battler of Bird Turds. We’ve been on many dates since, including some that went exactly according to plan AND were incredible. But the date of “The Pelican Incident” will always hold a special place in our hearts. Because when you’re really there with the other person, even pelican poop can’t ruin a perfect date.

Taking the “Oy!” out of Online Dating: Part 2

Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.

“I love lattes,” I said, nervously sipping my tall hazelnut beverage and admiring my tall, hazel-eyed date.

“Oh, I can’t drink them. I’m lactose intolerant,” he replied.

As we say at Passover, “Dayenu.” That would have been enough. Unfortunately, he didn’t stop there.

“If I have even a tiny bit of milk, I can’t leave my apartment for 10 minutes or it’ll be messy, let me tell you!” he said. And then, he told me, in enthusiastic and excruciating detail. I nodded politely in numb disbelief until his colorful and juicy story came to a close. A silent moment passed, and he took a sip of his tea.

“And then this other time,” he began, ”I accidentally drank, like, a gallon of milk…”

Thus ended my first date through an online dating service.

As I mentioned last month, online dating has everything that goes with meeting potential romantic partners — from the sweeties to the creepers — but at the speed of light and in mass quantities. Once you set up a profile, your chosen dating site will almost instantly begin showing you potential matches. After going on 15 to 20 dates ranging from nice but no connection to “Holy schnitzel! My date is having a vodka-induced nervous breakdown outside the movie theater,” I realized that, as with regular dating, you have to sift through a lot of frogs (or in my case, frogs, toads and mutant amphibian slime-monsters from Chernobyl) to find a prince.

Fortunately, after much trial and error, I have a few tips that may make for smoother sailing on the ocean of the Internet:

1. Don’t ignore the warning signs

Unless a potential match has hired someone to write his or her profile (which was probably the case with Lactose Intolerant Man), the red flags that pop up won’t go away when you meet. That guy who talks about drinking with the boys every Friday night will drunk-text you five times in a week and only remember three of them. That gal who goes on about how sick of drama she is will assume you’re cheating on her if you forget your phone for a night.

If you read carefully, you can also have a good idea of your long-term prospects with a person before the first date. I’ve had some serious and semi-serious relationships with great guys that ended because of compatibility issues I’d noticed but ignored in their profiles.

2. Be picky

When I first started, I tried to respond to every message I received. But as a woman whose age, height and weight put her smack-dab in the middle of the search criteria for most men 18-38 (and an unfortunate number of men 39 and up), it became impossible to keep up with all incoming messages, “quick-matches” and “winks” that flooded my inbox. So, I came up with a system.

First of all, the guy has to match my basic criteria as far as age, religion, lifestyle choices, etc. After that, it needs to be clear he’s read my profile, which eliminates 80-90 percent of incoming messages, including the, “hi hw r u?” messages and the “I WILL HIRE U $$,$$$,$$$!!!” e-mails.

Next, what he chooses to say about my profile must tickle my fancy. For instance, “That’s cool that you like cats” would get deleted without a response, whereas the message that began with, “A cat person who owns rats, eh? Not sure if that qualifies as ‘ironic,’ but it’s certainly amusing!” got me to visit his profile.

When I check out a guy’s profile, if I like what I read, I will allow “three strikes,” i.e. things that aren’t terrible but that give me a negative impression. These can include not using capital letters, a shirtless picture as the main profile shot, egregious and regular spelling and/or grammar errors (though after a couple mortifying realizations that I’d mixed up “your” and “you’re,” I’ve been a lot more forgiving), and excessive swearing.

Tough system, yes. But I take pride in the fact that, in my most recent foray back into online dating a few months back, I responded to only ONE of the 300 messages I received (the guy who made the “cat person who owns rats” comment), and two months later, we’re still seeing each other.

3. If you’re interested, do some schlepping and meet in person ASAP

Even if the person you’re messaging seems like “the one,” you really need to meet and get to know each other before getting in too deep. Email is no substitute for in-person interaction, and many people misrepresent themselves on dating sites. Have lunch, have dinner, have coffee. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re meeting them face to face…in a public place… to which you drive in separate cars…after telling a friend or relative exactly where you’ll be. After all, this is online dating, and the Internet was not made so people could sit at home being antisocial!