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December 4, 2003

License to Date

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/license_to_date_20031205

When I went to the JDate Web site to sign up, I discovered that they had my profile from four years ago. For my preferences, I had checked single (never married), separated, divorced and widowed. But I'm older (48) and wiser now and "unchecked" single and separated. Such men do not carry a "license to date." Although our mothers wanted us to "marry Jewish," they had the wisdom to warn us that any Jewish man over 40 who has never been married is not "marriage material."

Phillip was 49 and never married, but told me, "There were women who wanted to marry me, who I didn't want to marry, and there were women I wanted to marry, who didn't want to marry me."

It sounded good, but as time went on, I realized that all he wanted was "companionship" (dinner and sex).

Then there are those who are separated, with no divorce date in sight. There's a good reason (at least they think so) why they remain separated and do not get divorced. Even if they "get a get," they're still married, at least in the eyes of the law. Michael was 51 and told me that he had just entered into an "amicable divorce phase." In actuality, he had recently separated from his wife and needed to maintain his legal rights to "spousal immunity."

Still, the Phillips and Michaels of the world are quite engaging. They speak the same Yiddish words that you grew up with, making you feel like you've always known them; same for their mishegoss. They've also cultivated certain charms. Phillip always planned great dates, called me every Tuesday like clockwork and cooked for me. Michael was handsome, had a "Statue of David" body, was affectionate and wrote me romantic poems. I got so caught up in the present that I forgot (or chose to forget) that there was no future. Even worse, I labored under a common misconception: "If he spends enough time with me, he will recognize how wonderful I am, and he'll create a future for us."

And pigs will fly.

So, I ruled out the single and the separated. However, I was unprepared for the recently widowed.

Alan found me through JDate. I like Jewish men who are intelligent and artsy, and the picture of him wearing a T-shirt with Albert Einstein and the Mona Lisa said it all. He is 55, has a doctorate (as do I) and was looking for a warm, intelligent and attractive woman. That sounds like me! However, his profile contained an interesting juxtaposition of intentions: "friend" and "long-term relationship."

When we sat down to dinner, he told me about the JDates he had been on and that he had signed for five years of Great Expectations. He had been widowed for seven months and dating for six. He expressed concern about hurting a woman, as well as a great deal of guilt -- more than just your "garden variety Jewish guilt." He was still reeling from his 31-year marriage.

We went out the following Saturday and, despite some "static" my antennae picked up, I enjoyed him. He opened himself up to me (and I to him), and I loved his quirkiness. He downloads schematic drawings of amplifiers from the Internet, studies them in the bathtub and builds the equipment from scratch. He's also an excellent photographer. The combination of his hobbies and his Ph.D. in molecular biology is indicative of his ambidextrous brain.

But his brain is ambidextrous in another way.

We had been seeing each other for two weeks. On Monday night, his right brain called me, and we had a great conversation. But near the end, his left brain told me that he needed "more alone time." I figured that the left side would shut down the right side for a while, and I was prepared to ride it out. However, Tuesday night, his right brain called and wanted to see me on Saturday.

On Wednesday, I again got right-brain Alan, although left-brain Alan told me that he's "dealing with a lot right now," particularly his "preconceptions" about relationships. However, by the end of the conversation on Thursday, the right side had taken over and wanted to see me Friday and Saturday.

We had a great time on Friday. Dinner, a movie and "dessert." On Saturday, we had breakfast at an outdoor cafe. I had just put a spoonful of granola in my mouth when his left brain said to me, "How would you feel if things didn't work out between us?"

I choked.

And so it went for the remainder of the weekend. It became increasingly clear that Alan needed to take both sides of his brain to a therapist and come to an agreement about what he wanted.

On Tuesday morning, he called me. The left side of his brain had taken over. I felt really bad.

Before I go out with another Jewish man, he will have to present me with more than a get. He will need a "Certificate of Readiness to Pursue a Relationship" from a board-certified psychologist. In other words, a license to date.

Sharon Lynn Bear is a researcher, writer and editor living in Irvine. She can be contacted at BearWrite@AOL.com.

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