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The Art of Setting Yourself Apart – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 77)

jdateLet’s say we’re in a room full of 100 people.  Say, a GTJ happy hour… except that’s more like 300 people!  We look around, and everyone seems fairly different, right?  But before knowing a thing about anyone else, we are all basically the same… just people in a room together.  Now, what if we try to segment the 100 people into categories?  For example, we might ask the question, “Who likes to cook?”  Let’s say that 25 people raise their hands.  Now these 25 people are different from the other 75 who would rather be jumping into a pool of crocodiles than trying to decipher a recipe in “How to Cook Everything.”  Those 25 people, though, are now all the same – they like to cook.  So let’s delve a bit further by asking around to see what specific dishes these people like to cook:

Erika – “I love making my grandma’s kugel recipe with apricots and raisins.”
Betsy – “I make a flourless chocolate cake for Passover that people really like.”
Jonah – “I make one thing and one thing only – eggplant parm.”
Conner – “All I know how to make is a tuna melt.  But it’s a good tuna melt, if I do say so myself!”
Maxine – “I’m no gourmet chef or anything, but I love making summer salads with chick peas and beans.  I also make my own salad dressing.”

The five of us have now differentiated ourselves, first from the larger group because we each like to cook, and now from the 25-person subset because we have shared specifically what we enjoy cooking.  Who would you rather go on a date with: Someone who says he likes to cook, or someone who says he makes the best apple pie on this side of the Mississippi?  I’d venture to say the latter.

In your online dating profile, it’s very important to differentiate yourself to the point where people can see you for you and not assume you’re just like everyone else.  Let’s look at these two profile excerpts:

I love to laugh and have fun.  My family and friends are so important to me, and I always try to be there for them when I can.  I love to cook, run, and play with my dog.  

When I’m not chasing my dog all the way to the dog park every morning (trust me – he’s fast!), I love hosting family and friends for dinner.  It gives me great pride to make my late grandma’s kugel recipe for every Jewish holiday.  The best advice she ever gave to me was to use a whole stick of butter every time.  Maybe it’s a good thing I get my exercise by running every morning… even if I can never catch Scruffy!

The first profile doesn’t tell us much.  It lists a few hobbies, but on the whole, it’s pretty nondescript.  The second profile, however, really gives us a sense of who this person is – someone silly and family-loving who loves to cook and who has an abnormally fast dog.  That’s someone people want to meet!

So look around the room, and if you think you might be writing the same profile as the person next to you, it’s time to get more specific.  There’s an art to setting yourself apart, and now you’re well-equipped with the skills to do it.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article also appeared on JDate.

 

 

How’s Your Jewdar? – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 72)

SUS2D00ZFor most people on JDate, meeting someone Jewish is a top priority.  Maybe it’s because you felt inspired by your 5th grade Hebrew school teacher.  Maybe it’s because you love any excuse to get your hands on some homemade kreplach.  Or maybe it’s because you have a strong spiritual side and really value your relationship with G-d.  Whatever the reason, it led you to JDate.

Now, let’s say that you’re still that same spiritual, kreplach-loving person, but you meet someone in (gasp!) the real world – a happy hour, your apartment building’s pool, outside while walking your dog, etc.  You want to find out if your prospective new belle or beau is Jewish, but you don’t know how.  There are so many options.  Some are funny, some are clever, and some are just plain ridiculous.

1. Find out the last name.

This was the strategy my mom took when she met my dad.  My mom and dad used to live next door to each other, and my mom actually met my dad’s brother, my uncle, first.  (My dad was just the guy always sitting in the window studying.)  To my mom, it was important to marry someone Jewish, even though she didn’t grow up in a particularly Jewish area of North Jersey, so she asked my uncle his last name.  He told her that his last name was Ettin.  What he said and what she heard were two different things when she asked, “What kind of name is that?”  She thought she heard “Sicilian,” but what he really said was, “It’s silly!”  That got them to talking, then she met my dad, and the rest is history.  (As a side note, I sent my mom this article, and she said, “I went to great lengths to find someone Jewish, and I found a ‘silly/Sicilian’ guy right next door!”)

Another way to find out someone’s name is to ask for a business card.  I once briefly dated someone I met at jury duty (I was on the jury of a six-week murder trial!), and I was curious to know if he was Jewish, so I asked for his card.  The last name ended with “man.”  I was happy as a clam… ahem… happy as a kosher meatball.

2. Make sly references to Jewish things.

Maybe you’re walking down the street with your date, and you casually say, “I sometimes make my grandma’s amazing kugel recipe” to see if there’s any recognition.  Or throw in some Yiddish for good measure.  “I can’t believe my ferkakte car broke down again!  It’s such a schlep to get all the way out to the Mini Cooper dealership in Virginia.”  Your date will either look at you like you’re a little mashugana (and maybe you are!) or with a sense of appreciation and knowledge.

3. Ask his or her family background.

Maybe you ask where his or her ancestry is from.  Maybe you ask if the family came over on the Mayflower or through Ellis Island.  Maybe you ask where his or her grandparents lived.  These are all indirect ways to get to someone’s religion.

But, of course, none of these is a surefire way to find out.  And some ways could be fairly ignorant and obnoxious.  The name may be Davis, for example, which could have any background.  Plenty of Jewish people have blond hair and blue eyes.  And with so many people of mixed heritage, it’s such a melting pot that nothing is certain until you ask.  Now, am I saying to ask someone outright on a date whether he or she is an MOT?  Not in so many words.  But, like any other potential deal-breaker – education or age, for example – you are allowed to ask before you become too invested.  Make sure you’re asking in a nice, open way, though.  Rather than, “Are you Jewish?  If not, I can’t date you,” instead ask something like, “What’s your background, out of curiosity?  I’m Jewish, but I have a hard time telling what other people are these days, and I don’t like to assume anything!”  Or just go out, enjoy the date, and focus on whether you actually like the person before you decide if you’ll be having Jewish babies together. 😉

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

The Dog Days of Dating – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 65)

puppyThis past weekend, I planned to adopt a dog.  This was a huge step for me since, as a young girl, I was bitten by my neighbor’s dog (and still have a scar to prove it).  So, after reading and taking notes on “Dogs for Dummies” and spending several months petting dogs to get comfortable, I was ready to bite the bullet and invite a pet into my life.  I searched the list and fell in love with little Bashful’s pictures.  She was just so darn cute!  I read her bio, and she seemed to have everything I was looking for – the right age, the right size, and a nice coat of brown fur.

On Sunday morning, I went to the adoption event, pages of notes in hand so I would know what to buy at the puppy store once little Bashful was mine.  When I got there, she was just as cute as her photos… maybe even more so.  And she was sweet, walking right up to me and sitting in my lap.  What more could I want?

So, I was told to buy a collar while they got the paperwork ready.  I opted to sit with her for another few minutes instead, saying things like, “I’m going to be your puppy mommy.”  (Yes – I’m a total sap.)  As the forms were coming my way, and I was really starting to bond with my new friend, a supervisor came over to me and said (while Bashful was still in my lap, mind you), “So, we decided that we’re not going to let you adopt this dog.  She can only go to a home with other dogs.  And by the way, she can’t live in the city, either.”  Had any of that that been in her bio?  No.  Had they told me that before I started to get excited and bond with her?  No.  Would I have even chosen her had I known this was the case?  Of course not.  So I left, feeling sad that I was not getting the new best friend I wanted and deceived that something so important (a deal breaker, if you will) had not been stated upfront.

As I walked away, I thought to myself that the situation sounded oddly similar to online dating.  I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where a profile says exactly what we want it to say.  We meet our date and everything seems to be going fine until…

BAM! – Your date tells you he doesn’t want children.

BAM! – She’s really just separated and not divorced… and still living with her ex!

BAM! – She has five kids but she only listed two.

BAM! – He said he’s not very religious and has no dietary restrictions, but when I ordered a pepperoni pizza, he almost disowned me.

In online dating, it’s so important that your deal breakers are out there front and center.  If you don’t want children, that’s fine!  Just make sure you check that box off in your profile.  If you’re extremely religious (or not at all), that’s ok, too!  Don’t underplay that simply to get more dates.  The last thing you want is for someone to go out with you only to be disappointed because you didn’t disclose something really important in your profile.  So don’t be bashful.  Be true to yourself.  You may go on fewer dates, but your dates will want you for the real you rather than for the person who is trying to appeal to everyone simply by not sharing the truth.

And this goes for searching, too.  As hard as it may be, try not to fall in love with someone’s pictures and profile (merely words on a page) before meeting in person.  I know I’ll keep that in mind when it comes to any future pets, too.  I want a dog who loves me for me – living in an apartment in downtown DC, having no other pets (besides Sir Quackers, my childhood stuffed duck), and just wanting to show him/her love and affection.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

Negative Nellies Need Not Apply – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 53)

Have you ever read those profiles where the person sounds intelligent and generally interesting… until that fateful last line?  I’ve seen them all:

  • Cowboys fans need not apply.
  • If you’re looking for a fling, look the other way.
  • No drama, please!
  • If you’re into country music, forget about it.
  • If you’re a cat-lover, move right along.
  • Don’t write to me if you’re not looking for a serious relationship.
  • Douche bags need not apply!  (Taken from someone’s actual Match.com profile… I can’t make this stuff up.)

In doing a quick search of Match.com for men ages 25-40 within 20 miles of 20001 (my zip code), I found that 36 men used the expression “need not apply” somewhere in their profiles.  And women?  Over 100!

You might be thinking, “Is it really so bad to tell someone what I don’t want?”  The short answer is: Yes.  Let’s take the cat statement above, for example.  While I may not love cats, I’m definitely not into negativity, so I’ll be turned off by a line eliminating a whole group of people for one trait.  Instead, it’s better to show people what you do want rather than what you don’t.  So in this case, rather than calling your cat hatred to everyone’s attention, just write about how you’re looking for a dog-lover because perhaps Fido is the main man in your life right now, and you’d like to change that.

By including one of these lines in your profile, you come off as negative, or even bitter.  “No drama, please” screams, “My last relationship was full of drama, and I am SO over that.”  “Douche bags need not apply” is not only a pretty disgusting expression, but also says to someone, “This girl’s been burned one too many times and she is jaded about this whole dating thing.”

Take a moment to reread your profile, and if something comes off as negative, try to turn it into a positive.  To take two examples:

Negative: Cowboys fans need not apply.
Positive: I love football, but be careful because I may have to tease you about your team sometimes.  (This line also serves as “e-mail bait,” enticing the reader to ask what team you like.)

Negative: Don’t write to me if you’re not looking for a serious relationship.
Positive: I’m looking for someone who is ready for a meaningful relationship.

When people read about you, they are likely to remember the last thing you said, so make sure the end of your profile comes across as confident, intelligent, and, most importantly, positive.  Negative Nellies need not apply!

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  Check out her interview on NPR here. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for JDate.com.

 

 

Helpful Tips for a Great First Date – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 52)

There are some surefire ways to turn off a first date – having your cell phone out on the table, drinking excessively, or being rude to the wait staff – to name a few.  But just as important as knowing what not to do is knowing what to do on a first date to increase your chances of making it to the all-important second date.

1. Ask questions

Before I met Jeremy, I went on so many dates where the guy talked the entire time.  Even if I tried to get a word in edgewise, the conversation somehow had its own way of settling on him again.  I know the art of asking questions, but sadly, some people don’t.  I remember one date in particular with a guy we’ll call Paul.  It wasn’t until the check came for our drinks that he said, “Oh, so tell me about you.”  At that point, I was already turned off.  Conversations are a give and take, especially on a first date, so remember to ask some thoughtful questions.

2. Be optimistic and happy

It’s important to have a good attitude on a date, even if your happy face is only covering up the fact that this is your third date this week, and the rest have been, well, sub-par.  People smell negativity, and it creates an unpleasant aura on a date.  In other words, try not to be “J-Jaded,” and if you are, fake it ‘til you make it.  (Or, take a Guyatus, or Girlatus, from dating until you’re really ready to get back out there.)  A simple smile goes a long way.

3. Discuss issues that are important to you

I’m not talking about politics or anything, but if there’s something that you’re passionate about, it’s going to come out sooner rather than later, so it might as well be sooner.  A lot of my female clients worry that a guy will judge her for her interests.  One in particular takes a pottery-making class.  She was concerned that a guy might find that lame and grandma-like.  My response: Who cares?  It’s what you like to do, so own it.  If a guy couldn’t handle that I like doing my daily crossword puzzle, religiously watching Glee, and reading the occasional US Weekly (ok, ok – I read it every week), then he wouldn’t be getting the whole package.  (Lucky for me, Jeremy doesn’t mind… and he even helps me with the last few clues of the puzzle when I can’t get them.  As for Glee, I’m on my own with that one.)

4. Walk her where she’s going

Generally, it’ll be dark out by the time you end your date, especially as we enter fall and winter.  Men, it’s important to walk your date to where she’s going – her car, the entrance to the train station, or home.  Even if it’s not a love connection, let chivalry be alive and well.

Much of a first date is less about the actual words you say and more about your attitude.  Are you listening, being nice, and making the effort?  These things go a long way.  Even if you’re perfect for each other on paper, the attitude makes all the difference.

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  Check out her interview on NPR here. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

This article was also posted in JMag, the online magazine for JDate.com.