Shalom! I’m just going to go straight into it. I’m a newly single girl in my mid-30s, olah chadasha (for my Anglo readers, that’s a new female immigrant to Israel) living in what is not-so-fondly known as Katamon’s “bitzah” (the swamp – try to get out, if you dare!). I don’t really socialize very much in the neighborhood, so I can’t tell you how closely my life really imitates the hit Israeli TV series on modern Orthodox single life, Srugim. All I’m familiar with is my own drama, with Anglos and Israelis all rolled into one.
And what drama it is! For the longest time I was the go-to person if you wanted to be regaled with the adventures of dating. I was always happy li’zrom (to go with the flow) and had some crazy tale to share. My hairdresser at Tzomet Pat asked me out? Walla! The guy visiting from New Zealand needed someone to show him around? I’m not a licensed tour guide, but lama lo?
As fun as these (mis)adventures were, they got to be a little tiring. The hairdresser was, to put it mildly, a sleaze (although he did leave behind some delicious kubbeh) and the visiting Kiwi sent me into a romantic fugue that ended abruptly when he did (i.e. left), a month later. Without intending to, I was emotionally exhausting myself, and the time was flying by.
It all changed about a year ago. I suddenly found myself to be oddly (for me) relationship-oriented, and got into one long-term relationship with a guy in the merkaz. He was serious in theory – religious, older, liked to talk about marriage - but after a nice amount of months, we saw only each other around once a week. Emotional closeness didn’t seem to be his forte, and he once let four days pass without calling me. His rationale? He was away from his family during his formative years, and learned not to miss anyone. That included me, clearly.
It wasn’t that he “just was not that into me.” He just wasn’t that into anyone.
Plus, he liked to tell me how to speak and dress. (He preferred old time language such as “sha’nt” and a formal frock to oh, shorts, on the beach – don’t ask). Basically it was like having a somewhat elderly - and obnoxious - shadow boyfriend.
I couldn’t understand myself. I was not happy to be dating this Grandpa Grumperson, but I felt like I was stuck in goop – I just couldn’t move and get out of the relationship.
Finally, I serendipitously met a native Jerusalemite. He was younger, sweeter, more fun – everything the other guy was not. He liked the casual stuff I wore! He liked when I used slang! I told the other guy sayonara and went straight into a serious romance.
I hadn’t been in something so real in years. It was really wonderful; I loved his company and he made me laugh. Plus he was an amazing cook – which complimented my awesome cleaning-up skills (such a balabuste!).
The problem was that as an Israeli, he just didn’t get many of my American/Ashkenazi sensibilities – and I, for the life of me, could not get some of his Sephardic ones. You mean it’s wrong of me to be in touch with that guy friend? But I’ve known him since I was 17. I shouldn’t wear my New York-style chi chi dress to that wedding - and you’re wearing jeans?
With all the explaining we did in a true effort to understand each other, we just couldn’t make it work. I would make a little faux pas - like keeping my distance and not kissing a relative he introduced me to. I would be nice and smiley, but they found it cold. I found it normal.
Finally, after more than half-a-year, we just had to listen to our instincts and admit that all that love just wasn’t enough. We parted last month. I’m a little sad, but I thought I would be devastated. Instead, I feel light – almost feather-like! All the doubt, worry, questioning myself – it’s gone. All that’s left is myself.
I have always hated being alone, both because society told me so and because companionship is a normal human need. Plus I’m really talkative! But this is the first time that I’ve gotten out of a relationship and am really grateful to have some time to just be me - in silence, doing the things that feel natural to me. The quiet gives me time to think about what I really want, and no one is judging me when I make a really emphatic point in a café and raise my voice three decibels too high (apparently Americans can be too loud – imagine that!).
In fact, last night I went to my friend’s party in Tel Aviv, and rather than flirting my fool head off, I practically avoided the (admittedly cute) guys and focused on my girlfriends. We joked around! We had an 80’s dance party! It was totally tubular and so refreshing to not focus on finding an interesting man, and just enjoy the time with my close friends.
The upshot: I feel confident about not jumping right back into the dating pool with guns blazing.
Instead, I’m just going to go with my own flow. And it feels glorious.