Dating Scenario 1: You meet a Ben Stiller look-alike at a friend's party. He's cute, funny and intelligent. You think he could be your leading man until he asks you out for Tuesday night bowling instead of Saturday night for dinner and a movie. You think he just wants to be your buddy. What you don't know is that he liked you so much he didn't want to wait until Saturday to see you.
Dating Scenario 2: You're an environmental lawyer working 80 hours a week. You're about to join the 'dateless in despair' until an activist whose screen name is eco-Babe responds to your online personal. Four weeks later, when the online romance moves offline, she confesses she's really just a secretary for a politician.
If these misadventures sound familiar, chances are you're out of touch with the latest rules on how to play today's dating game. Then again, your date may be a "Rules Girl" while you're a new-millennium kind of guy, taking your cues from "Kosher Sex," a book by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, JDate's matchmaker-in-chief, who has debated "The Rules" authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. And don't forget that TV addicts may take their dating tips from popular shows such as "Sex and the City" and "Ally McBeal."
Playing by two different sets of rules -- whatever they may be -- can generate some serious confusion and mixed signals. Things can get so mixed up that it seems as if you're stuck inside the "Twilight Zone" of love -- where one date is more bizarre than the last. In desperation to find someone "normal," maybe you've tried positive imaging. Unfortunately, when you think about your love life, all you see is a big jigsaw puzzle with a piece perpetually missing.
Whether you're searching for romance in cyberspace or at a SpeedDating event, the rules can be complicated and downright frustrating. Should you religiously adhere to the three-day waiting period to dial her digits? If the guy wants to go Dutch treat on a first date, will that seal his fate as a cheapskate? Or when you meet your match, do the rules suddenly cease to matter? Here's the scoop on no-nonsense rules that real singles have used to navigate this brave new world of dating.
Rule No. 1: If you think you've found The One, ignore the three-day waiting period.
On a Saturday night in October 1998, Gordon Schwartz, a Young Leadership Division (YLD) member, made a connection with Dawn Sidney (now Mrs. Schwartz). Dawn, a television producer, had just relocated to Chicago from New York and didn't know anyone. The first phone call she made was to the Jewish Federation. That same day, YLD's Mr. Social, John Schulman, invited her to a party at Liquid, a Chicago nightclub. She and Schwartz totally clicked. The big question for Schwartz, 33, was how long to wait to call. While some guys might wait a week, he waited less than 48 hours. "I like to think I follow my own book of rules," said Schwartz. "If you really know someone is The One, you don't want to let her get away. I really wanted to call [Dawn] the next day, so that's what I did. We talked for five hours. We got engaged after nine months."
"I was blown away," said Dawn, 32. "A guy in New York would never call you the next day. He'd wait a week. You wouldn't know if you had a good time with him."
Rule No. 2: Asking a woman out for a Saturday night date is a big deal.
If you ask some women out for a Monday or even a Thursday evening, beware. You could have the phone receiver slammed in your ear. "A woman takes it very seriously when she is not asked out on a Saturday night," said Dawn. "She has a different attitude. She thinks the guy doesn't think she's special."
Rule No. 3: Fools shouldn't rush in.
To Shawna Gooze, 23, a human resources assistant, it doesn't matter what day of the week a guy wants to see her. What happens after the date is more important. "I went out with a very good-looking, nice guy I met at a bar, but he started e-mailing me so much after the first date, it was a turn-off," she said. "In the beginning, it's better not to rush a relationship or come on too strong."
Rule No. 4: Give long distance love a chance.
There's probably another rule somewhere that says if you enter into a long-distance relationship, you must be meshuge. In May 1998, YLD board member Dan Lichtenstein, 30, saw Liora Gabay, 29, of Kiryat Gat dancing at the Israeli wedding of a mutual friend. When he returned to Chicago, he couldn't get her off his mind. Six months later when he returned to Israel for a Partnership 2000 site visit, Lichtenstein learned Liora was unattached, so he called her. They went on five dates during Lichtenstein's 10-day stay in Israel. "When some of my friends learned I was dating a woman from Israel, they said, 'Dan, are you crazy?'" he recalled. Not crazy, just head over heels and determined not take the little time he spent with Liora for granted. "When I dated people in Chicago, I followed certain procedures. I saw the movie 'Swingers' [the 1996 flick with the "cool guy" lingo] -- that's where I learned my lessons," he said. "They all flew out the window when I met Liora. I couldn't just drive 10 minutes to see her."
Distance made their hearts grow fonder. In June 1999, Liora moved to Chicago. She left behind her family, friends, a job as a social worker, and the Tel Aviv apartment she shared with her sister. On May 25, 2000, Dan and Liora tied the knot in Ashkelon, Israel. Almost a year after the move, Liora reflects, "I still miss my family, but my husband is worth it."
Rule No. 5: When you move an online romance offline, go public.
When trying to find a date in cyberspace, a set of unwritten rules applies, and some online daters simply make up the rules as they go along, according to Leslie Zimmer, 40, who works for a Lakeview synagogue and has tried several Jewish online dating services.
Zimmer, whose online dating odyssey has most been both frustrating and humorous, followed two main rules. First, she didn't disclose personal information such as home address, telephone number or work location. Second, she met an online date at a public place such as a coffee shop or restaurant. She also chose to have a few "phone dates" with an online dater before meeting him in person.
Hoping to attract a Jewish Travolta, she began her personal ad with, "Shall we dance?" One guy responded with a cute, clever message that discussed their common interest in dancing. For their first date, they agreed to meet at the 95th Aero Squadron to show off some fancy footwork.
"There was definitely a chemistry," she said. "We spent three hours dancing, talking and laughing. "After we danced, he just said, 'Goodnight.' I was dumbfounded. I happen to have a lot of moxie, so I e-mailed him. He e-mailed back that he just didn't feel any chemistry. I thought, when he finds someone with chemistry, it must be like an explosion!"
Rule No. 6: If you're a woman seeking cyberromance, don't be afraid to initiate the first cybercontact. The anonymity of online dating makes it easier to sever a bad connection, said Michael Slater, 25, a regional sales manager for MovingStation, a Chicago-based corporate relocation company. In other ways, it's leveled the playing field by making it acceptable for a woman to initiate cybercontact. "I know from several friends using JDate.com that women are e-mailing guys and asking them out," he said.
Rule No. 7: Seek advice from a trusted friend if you're stuck in the dating doldrums.
While it's clear the Internet has changed the rules of dating, some things never change. Singles still seek advice and support from friends and family, said Slater, who is currently attached. "Sometimes a friend will ask me what I think of a woman's profile, and I'll say, 'You're not going to know unless you try.' They just need an extra boost to click that "send" button," he said. "I don't want to be known as a yenta (matchmaker), but I just give my friends a push in the right direction. They've done the same for me."
Rule No. 8: Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast formulas that guarantee romantic success -- except maybe to love as if you've never been hurt before and to be yourself.
For helpful hints on the do's and don't's of online dating, check out the SephardiConnection (sephardiconnect.com), which features a discussion forum for Jewish singles.
Jennifer Brody is associate editor of JUF News in Chicago.