Jewish Journal


September 20, 2007

‘Tis the season to be sorry


Just so you should know, the reason I did it the way I did was because I didn't want to get into it. Really, what was the point? It's not my job in life to change people or tell them where they've gone wrong. Besides, people don't really want to hear about their faults anyway.

So that's why, seemingly out of the blue, I ended it with Josh with no explanation, save the vague, "I just don't feel we're exactly right for each other."

And I did it on his voice mail.

Before you say anything, let me tell you that this guy was mean. He'd said some questionable things on the first date ("I found your writing amusing"), elaborated on it on the second date ("What did you want me to do, lie? Did you want me to say that I fell on the floor laughing? I mean, we all have dating stories!") and was too critical to merit a third. But it took me a while to figure this out, so when he first called me after to tell me what a wonderful time he'd had (with whom?) I said, "Me, too."

I lied.

Then I called back and left that vague message on his answering machine. Another lie -- maybe a white one, but what was I supposed to say? "You're a critical idiot with a Napoleonic complex, and your money doesn't impress me!"? Still, I feel bad. I feel bad that Josh thought it was going so well and then this.

I'm sorry for that.

I'm also sorry I said I wouldn't write about him, but I am.

It's the season to be sorry. It's that time of year when we go over all of our deeds, things we have done to others, to God, to ourselves and ask for forgiveness -- and grant it to those who need it from us.

What does it mean to forgive someone? "Let it go," is the big New Age mantra. "If you don't forgive someone, it's like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person," these Zen people proclaim. And it's good advice in relationships to forgive our loved ones. But in the dating world -- in this modern day of fly-by-night, I-can't-remember-your-name, didn't-we-go-out-once-already? dating -- miscommunications, slights, insults and downright mistreatments can pile up in a year.

So how do you repent with people you'll never talk to again?

Sometimes you just talk to them.

For example, Jon tried to contact me a number of times in the year since we split, but I avoided him; he'd lied to me. But when he wrote me an e-mail beginning with, "I really hope you'll read this," saying how he was really sorry, and he knew he messed up, I said it was OK.

And it was. Somewhere along the way, I'd realized he was only being his messed-up self and wasn't doing anything to me. I was just in the path of his tornado.

But forgiveness has its limits too; I absolved Jon, but I wouldn't date him again.

Eric, on the other hand, I not only forgave, but became his friend. He'd never lied to me or anything; just sort of neglected for a while to tell me we were breaking up, hoping I'd get the message the passive-aggressive way. That stung pretty bad, too, but after a couple of weeks of wailing to friends about the crappiness of it all, the hellishness of dating and whether or not I lost weight in the ordeal, I realized it was just Eric's way of being.

OK, I'm not really that centered. What happened was that Eric called me and said he really, really wanted to be friends, and I went out with him with the hopes that maybe we'd get back together. Somewhere during our téte-a-téte, I realized he wasn't interested, and that I was OK with that. It was the rejection, not the loss of him, that had bothered me, and besides, there was someone else I was involved with who was about to reject me.

I'm joking. Not everyone rejects me. I do my fair share of rejecting, too. If I am going to be honest -- and you can't really lie in during the Days of Awe -- I also do my share of rejecting, insulting, snubbing, avoiding, flaking, slandering and (white) lying, too.

And for these things, I ask forgiveness. Just as I will search inside myself for all those petty hurts that have built up over this year of dating and release them, I hope others will do the same for me. And while all this chest-beating over my past is cleansing, the most important step is the future.

Because teshuvah -- real repentance -- means admitting what you have done wrong, apologizing for it, and vowing never to do it again.

Of course I have little control over how others behave toward me. Nevertheless, this Yom Kippur I vow to behave better toward them. And hope that it will be my last year of dating.


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