This is a guest post from Liz.
I have my doubts about online dating, but every so often the e-harmony commercials featuring those good-looking, happy, compatible couples inspire me to foray out from my pseudo-celibacy and post a profile.
As a Jew, I choose JDate as my medium for this hazardous exploration of the dating world. In my mind, it seemed to be a nice way to winnow down the options and find someone with some sort of moral compass, or so I told myself. I’ve had bad experiences before, but as a glutton for punishment, I ventured out and posted my profile once again.
It took about a month but I met someone. He seemed handsome, athletic, mature (read = older), and lived in another state which seemed intriguing, if entirely unpractical. But he contacted me, and I flirted back. Before I knew it, I was handing out my phone number and he was calling.
He was a talker, and would call and want to chat for hours. I was flattered. He seemed smart, outgoing, ambitious, and interested in a serious relationship. He had been married previously, and so have I. To me, the experience of getting married and then having your faith crushed mercilessly by a divorce is hard to understand unless you have been through it yourself, so to me, another divorcee on the upswing was a definite plus.
After our first conversation, he was ready to jump on a plane and fly to meet up. However, his gusto spooked me and I was less than warm to the idea. We talked more. The inevitable conversation about the whys and hows of our divorces came up, and boy, did he have a story. In his mind, he had married a demonic woman, full of venom and lies who had even attempted to poison him shortly after they were married. He insisted that she was a sociopath and was out to destroy his life simply for the fun of the kill. He certainly was not wealthy or connected enough for her to have any other motivation for her vicious mistreatment of him.
Having been in a thoroughly abusive marriage followed by a nasty divorce, I was open and sympathetic to his plight. Once my compassion kicks in, I become blinded by the desire to soothe and nurture and he definitely had my fullest sympathies. We talked for hours that night, and the next day, I received a series of urgent texts.
He was driving to see me immediately. We needed to meet. I was flattered and curious.
I was nervous. He was nervous. We were both trying to impress each other. He put on the charm, telling me I was beautiful, begging me to spend the night with him. He got a room at the most expensive hotel in town and I couldn’t resist. I stayed with him.
The next day, I needed to go home – to get some clothes – and he insisted on not only going to my home, but also meeting my parents. He sat and talked to them for a couple hours. I was charmed. We talked on the ride back about him moving here and renting a house with me. It all sounded so good.
In the haze of emotions, I was willing to overlook three major issues:
Number 1: He had no job.
He said he had his own business, which I have learned can also mean “unemployed”. He had a webpage and a faux-company that seemed to indicate he had done some work at some point. But, at the moment, his days were filled with skiing and smoking pot, and not much else.
Number 2: He was incessant and pushy about anything he learned about my life.
Despite the fact that I was divorced, had moved on, had overcome tremendous anxiety, and was rebuilding my life successfully, he poked and prodded at the details. It was as if he was making a list in his head and one-up-ing me on each issue.
He paid his divorce attorney less than I had, he finalized his divorce faster than I had, he left his wife sooner than I had left my husband. Our conversations turned into crying confessionals, where he insisted on dragging out the details and then mercilessly re-examining them with an eye on improvement. It felt cathartic, but confusing. I was willing to tolerate it with the intention of spilling my guts, and then closing the divorce-files for good.
Number 3: He had been living as a religious fanatic.
At some point in his 30s he became completely radicalized. He quit his job, moved to Israel, studied Torah, and spent time as a protestor against the Palestinians in the occupied territories. He returned to the US and began to live as an Orthodox Jew.
The lifestyle of the Orthodox Jew is a beautiful, highly ritualistic, and extremely structured way of living. You keep kosher, which means your eating habits are vastly limited. You cannot work, use electricity, drive in cars, or use phones from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. You celebrate a plethora of Jewish holidays that the general Reform population overlooks. You start and end your day with prayer and trips to the temple. You wear special undergarments. You don’t spend time alone with single women. You cannot touch a woman or sit where she has sat because she might be on her period – and since you can never tell if she is or isn’t, you avoid women in general.
Outside the Orthodox community your habits can often be perceived as strange and very rude. Although the Torah does not encourage it and there are some incredibly powerful Orthodox women, Orthodox Jewish men are also known for being exceedingly sexist, as women play a secondary role in the important matters of faith. Although he insisted he was no longer Orthodox, he definitely had endless opinions on matters of Judaism. I thought I could learn from him, but was wary of what I saw as his tendency towards judgmental extremism.
Our whirlwind weekend ended, he left. Our phone conversations continued. I felt less and less excited by the prospects of a relationship, but I was somehow committed to at least a visit to him. I had already purchased my ticket and so I departed with some apprehension.
All of my anxiety was compounded the minute I stepped out of the jet-way. He did not meet me inside the airport, despite the fact that I was hauling skis, ski clothes, and luggage. I drug myself and my stuff out onto the street, and when he pulled up, he did not give me a hug. He barely made eye contact as we drove to his house. However, as is his style, he did talk incessantly and nervously, spiraling through radio stations. He asked me how my week was, and I mentioned a tense situation at work. My admission about a pretty normal work annoyance gave him an excuse to accuse me of coming to visit weighed down with more than just my luggage. He suggested that if I was having an issue, I should have stayed at home, blowing the issue way out of proportion.
We reached his house, and he had made me an elaborate dinner, so I tried to push my frustration aside. However, as we sat down to eat, he did not touch me, did not hug me, and did not even make eye contact with me. I was completely astounded by his behavior.
We went to bed. He was taking me skiing early the next morning and insisted that I go straight to sleep. He had two twin beds in his bedroom, and got into his bed and assigned me to mine, and without so much as a peep, fell asleep.
Let me explain about the twin beds. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to make any physical contact with their wives the week during her period and the week after menstration. The couples usually have two twin beds, so they can separate themselves to ensure they do not accidentally touch. The woman must undergo a ritual bath a week after her period ends before she is pure enough to engage in sex again. He had told me about the two beds thing – a leftover from his Orthodox days, but seeing it in action seemed more than a little absurd.
I woke up the next day furious and unhappy. I asked him what was wrong, and without looking me in the eyes, he said coldly, “You are on your period.”
I was miserable.
The day drug on awkwardly. I drank too much to alleviate my agony. We went to sleep, and he pushed the beds together. I suppose his libido overcame his self-righteousness. It was quick and passionless.
I feel asleep, longing for my return home and planning to never ever set foot near him again. The next morning, he was in fine form, and decided to tell me at length why I had ruined the trip.
I had come on my period. I had had a bad week at work. I listened. He continued - telling me how I had not chosen a good divorce attorney, had not gotten divorced efficiently enough. I listened. He then began talking about how special and profound he was. He insisted that he was closer to God than others. That God had chosen him. He called himself a prophet who would lead Jews into a newer understanding of their faith. He talked and talked. It became a nearly 4-hour-long monologue. I listened.
Angry tears rolled down my face. I was angry that I had trusted him. Angry at the way he treated me. Angry at myself for crying in front of this maniac. Finally, the time for my departure arrived. He took me to the airport, but before we could get in the car, insisted on taking a picture of my puffy red face, as if to document his cruelty.
When I stepped out of the car, and away from him, I burst into tears of relief. I cried so hard that the TSA people gave me a hug. When I got home, I immediately removed my JDate profile, deleted his number, and felt the comforting sanctuary of singlehood surround me.
And it felt so good.
Interested in writing a guest post about your own Dating & Other Bad Habits adventures?
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