So for Date 9, I finally listened to the nagging - wait no, "considered advice" - of a large number of my female Jewish friends, and put myself on J-Date.
For those of you goyim not in the know, J-Date is the most popular dating site among the chosen people. It's as much of a rite of passage in the community these days as your bris or your bar mitzvah. Once you reach adulthood, once that university relationship with the shiksa breaks down, your Uncle Levi sits you down, tells you a long rambling story about your great-great grandparents fleeing their Shetl in the snow, & says "Oy veh, Willard, why not try J-Date?"
As the preceding paragraph of outrageous clichés attempts to demonstrate, J-Date is exceedingly Jewish. One of the questions on the profile asks if you are Ashkenazi or Sephardi. Another asks if you keep kosher. They even have a Rabbi of the month, for goodness sake.
To quote a friend, "I bet the Rabbi of the Month gets all the pussy."
There's only one problem. I'm not really *that* Jewish. My answer to the Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi question (basically "Eastern European or Spanish descent") is, "errr, which of those is more likely to come from Kent?" .
I'm from your classic, totally-lost-touch-with-the-culture, atheist, British Jew. The kind of Jew that has to hide the bacon if strict relatives come round. I have been to a synagogue maybe twice in my whole life. It's not just me, my whole family is incredibly anglicised. To give you an example of the sort of thing I mean, there's often a point in conversations between Jews where you compare notes on how your family has been persecuted.
My family have lived in the UK for hundreds of years. Other people will tell you harrowing stories about what happened to their families during the Holocaust; my family, well, we read about it in the Times. The pogroms in Russia? Errr... we, errr, read about it in the Times. Basically, if you want to spot Jews who had it easy, aristocratic British Jews is where it's at.
You basically have to go back to the English Civil War in the mid-17th century before I can join in, and even then it's very much, "Yes, it was really hard for us to get invites to all the best parties in the late Restoration period", a tale which is unlikely to inspire a weepy Spielberg picture anytime soon.
Oh, I mean I'm Jewish enough that the Nazis would kill me, but frankly, that's not especially Jewish. I'm more sort of well, Jew-ish than "Jewish". My first worry was that the women I'd meet on J-Date would be looking for the sort of man who wears a yarmulke, asks "Meat or Dairy?" when going out to a restaurant & supports Tottenham Hotspur. My second was that, as I'm sure my Great Uncle Mordecai would point out, compared to many other dating sites, it's not cheap. Would it all be for nothing?
Well, Great Uncle Mordecai need not have worried. Within a few minutes of logging on, I had started to get messages from quite a few stunningly attractive women, most of whom were moderate British Jews of the same sort of stripe as myself. I can't decide whether there is an imbalance of men to women, or whether Jewish ladies are just more forthright, but either way, it's great.
One indicator of how forthright ladies on the site can be was an American woman, whose profile picture was her naked, wearing nothing but camouflage paint and an Israeli Defence Force cap at a jaunty angle. She messaged me and immediately started asking me about my sperm count and talking about her "relentless urges". This presented me with a quandary. Should I date one of the lovely normal ladies? Or this, erm, feisty specimen?
I asked my friends; while the overwhelming democratic response was "YES, DATE CAMOGIRL, THINK OF THE STORY", my actually sensible friends suggested I shouldn't waste my shot on J-Date with someone I probably wouldn't want to be with. I am really looking for romance, after all. A hard choice to make. The story or the shot at true love?
Well, readers, I decided to steer a middle path - date all the girls, and then write it up counting all three dates as one. Having my latke and eating it, so to speak. I'm sure Uncle Mordecai would be proud. Now, there was a certain moral qualm to doing this - dating more than one person still feels weird and a bit wrong. But still, that's the norm on online dating. So, in one busy week I dated three lovely Jewish ladies.
J-Date (or, at least the corner of J-Date I was in), is full of bright stylish young professionals, and the first lady was no exception. Once I'd got the initial "I'm not that Jewish" chat off my chest, we settled down to a lovely evening over cocktails. She had a fascinating and secret job I can't tell you about, but trust me, it was amazing. By the time we'd discussed our mutually interesting jobs, the bar staff were turning down the lights and making subtle hints that maybe we should go.
We decided to be stubborn, and stayed in the bar through all the chair-stacking, until they sent their sternest and most matronly waitress to tell us they were closing in two minutes, and then we left, giggling. Three hours had passed in what felt like five minutes. We then walked to the tube and bid each other goodnight.
The second date was Camogirl, although "girl" may be pushing it. She said she was 28 on her profile, although as my housemate said, carefully scrutinising her pictures, "If she's 28, I'm about 12." We met up at a nice vegan place in North London. She was very pleasant in person, from Minnesota in the USA (yah). She freely admitted she wasn't really 28, but told me if she used her real age, men wouldn't date her. Men - we are bastards, aren't we?
She worked in finance, and knew quite a bit about a few big investigations I'd done, which was flattering. She brought me a tin of Loam-coloured camo paint as a gift. We had a laugh about her profile picture - she gets some "pretty cool" messages as a result of how OTT it is.
We chatted a great deal about Israel, having both travelled there extensively. We agreed it was a beautiful country, although she was a bit surprised I didn't fancy living there. Having grown up in snowy Minnesota, she was astounded anyone wouldn't fancy living somewhere hot. We both had a love of hedgehogs in common, and she was thrilled to see the litter of baby hedgehogs I'd seen earlier in the week.
We went our separate ways, and later texted each other to say we'd enjoyed the date, but didn't really feel a spark. Happy ending though - I introduced her to an Israeli friend, and they've been on a couple of dates since. See? There's someone for everyone :)
The third and final girl was your typical hard-working North London Jewish lass. She was in charge of a very down-to-earth business, and had a sideline in hand-making beautiful jewellery. I'd never met a woman with her own Oxy-Acetylene welding torch before. We talked about our experiences of online dating - she told me her pet hate was men who still lived with their mothers, which apparently are all over J-Date like a rash. Maybe living independently explains my success?
We went out for drinks, stayed on for dinner and then I walked her to her car. Just before we got to the car, we had a lovely kiss, which was memorable partly because a man was trying awkwardly to reverse park around us as we stood there.
So, there you have it - J-Date is officially brilliant. I've met a ton of the kind of strong willed, ambitious women I'm really attracted to, and found possibly the one place on the Internet where I'm hot property. If, by some dreadful mischance I don't find true love on this adventure (and hey, I've been on second dates with both the welder and the woman of mystery, so fingers crossed), then it's definitely a site I'd come back to - if only to keep my mum happy.
This post originally appeared at 28 Dates Later. Next time - Guardian Soulmates & Cougardate.co.uk (!)