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Being a Good Listener Left Me Alone on Valentine’s Day

Lior Zaltzman

Many people might be weirded out that their blind date took them to a two hour lecture on monsters and mythical creatures at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum. I loved it.

It was afterwards when I actually had to start talking to my date that things turned south rather quickly.

He had been talking a lot when he picked me up from work- a real gentleman I must say- to travel to Brooklyn for our date, but at first I didn’t think much of his babbling. He was a ball of energy — he covered everything from local NYC politics to his favorite childhood memory within our first half hour together.

This was my first time on a blind internet date, and I have to say, it could’ve been worse. Jordan, as I’ll call him, had a shadchan, an Orthodox matchmaker, contact me via Facebook messenger. Her message read that there was an eligible bachelor, Jordan, who had read one of my articles and was interested in pursuing a relationship with me. He asked the matchmaker to look for me on YUConnects and SawYouAtSinai, two Orthodox online dating sites, but alas I didn’t have a dating profile on either of them. She knew it was presumptuous, but she was wondering if I wanted to go out with him, or if I wanted to know more.

Rachel Delia Benaim

Intrigued, I asked to hear more. She sent me what I can only imagine to be some version of his shidduch resume, a resume enumerating a person’s religious education, family history, standing within the Jewish community, and references, and a two page letter from him explaining why he wanted to date me and why it was a good idea.

I was extremely flattered. Not only had he read some of my articles, but, as he said, he read them start to finish, word for word. What really sealed the deal for him was when he had read a personal essay I wrote about my broken engagement. Now, I thought this was bizarre— what guy is turned on by a broken engagement? — but he explained that the way I wrote the piece, with intense self reflection and analysis, while making it relevant for all of my readers was extremely thoughtful. He found that attractive.

I found his letter, overall sweet, thoughtful, and well written. Yes, it was extremely intense, and a little but much, but it was honest, and I appreciated that.

That eloquent intensity was definitely present on our date. Jordan couldn’t relax. He only seemed interested in talking about weighty topics — he expressed his politics on the entire Arab Israeli conflict on a first date! As if that wasn’t enough, he shared many anecdotes that were way too personal for a first date. Every topic he covered was significant. On the one hand, the frankness was refreshing, but on the other hand, sometimes it’s nice to just have a good time with someone as opposed to feeling you’re in a politics lecture, or a therapy session.

As he bounced from topic to topic, I was regretting my decision to drop the shadchan — color me modern. Generally, when a matchmaker orchestrates a date, they remain a middle man between the couple for the first few dates so that if one party would like to end it or has feedback about the date, the matchmaker does all the heavy lifting. Given that I didn’t know the matchmaker and that this situation was bizarre — I mean, how many shadchans contact women via Facebook messenger? — I decided to leave her out of it.

As Jordan babbled on about DeBlasio’s education reforms — bless his soul — I just kept thinking how I was going to get through the date. For the record, I should state that he was incredibly lovely, he just wasn’t for me. I figured my best course of action was to try to have a good time.

And I was really trying to — I was — but I was just so not interested in hearing about every article on his RSS feed from the past month. So I did exactly what all of my other journalist friends do on dull dates: I shifted into reporter mode.

What this means, plain and simple, was that I was a great and active listener. Think about it: reporters are trained to listen actively and ask precise follow up questions, all while making the speaker feel trusting and comfortable to open up. When I find myself disinterested on dates, I utilize this set of skills to entertain myself. In some respects, it’s a win-win: I’m entertained, and my date gets to talk about himself or his interests for however many hours.

The problem is when the fellow across the proverbial table mistakes my coping mechanism for boredom — #reporting — for chemistry or romantic interest.

I’ll be spending this Valentine’s Day alone, because I need to work on being a better dater. I keep making this ‘reporter’ mistake: I get bored on dates, I don my reporter cap, and instead of nixing the next date in the bud, I continue to go out with the same guys. And so it continues.

I’m told Valentine’s Day is all about love. As someone who is still searching for love in this grand ol’ New York City, I’d rather not spend Valentine’s Day counting the minutes until a date is over. I’d rather spend the day self reflecting about all the horrible dating and relationship choices I’ve made so that hopefully, one day, I can be on a date and actually enjoy the conversation.


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