In 2014, I was single and looking for (Jewish) love online. No stranger to both singledom and online dating, reactiving my account on JDate was a familiar move for me; my on-off relationship with the site had stood the test of time. Having first joined in my early 20s, I knew the site and all of its benefits and stressors inside and out. If JDate had given frequent flier miles, I’d have had enough to buy myself a first-class round trip ticket to Australia.
JSwipe, however, was a handsome new prospect, a site promising ease of use and none of the cluttered paraphernalia of JDate. And JSwipe was, indeed, just as it promised it would be — quick, clean, and easy, especially when compared to JDate’s clunkiness, message requests from strangers I had nothing in common with, and pages of badly punctuated profiles.
When I first joined JSwipe, it was a pretty unpopulated site where I lived in London. It was, at the time, big on college campuses but not so much in North West London. I’d regularly log in while sitting on friends’ sofas in non-Jewish neighborhoods, wanting to show them this cool new app (“It’s the Jewish Tinder! If you match with someone, it tells you Mazel Tov and there’s a chair dance!”). But more often than not, only a few decent men would pop up in my area, and my friends would tell me that I should “just get on Tinder.” But finding someone Jewish felt important to me. I wanted the Mazel Tov of a match, the jubilant animated hora: What nice Jewish girl wouldn’t?
When I planted myself at a coffee shop in a particularly Jewish swathe of London, I started getting more matches. I loved that I could see who our mutual friends were before going on a date with a guy; it made the world feel a lot smaller; the connectedness felt reassuring. Even so, there weren’t enough men my age on the site at that time to make it worth my while. I went on a few dates but didn’t meet anyone special. Having exhausted my options on JSwipe at that point, I defaulted yet *again* to JDate.
In October 2014, the man who would later become my husband sent me a message on JDate. Our easy email rapport led to a fabulous first date, which led to many more, and we married 11 months after we met. After our wedding, we wrote a “Success Story” for JDate’s pages, our faces beaming out from the site in our wedding car.
Not that long after that “Success Story,” my husband told me, clear out of nowhere, that he’d changed his mind about wanting a conventional life, marriage, and children. We’d been married for seven months, and I was now contending with a brand-new life — a life without my husband. Our jubilant faces on JDate were now a lie; we were no longer who I thought we were.
By May of this year, I was divorced, having spent a year grieving the loss of one life and trying to get my head around starting over. My bubbe taught me that all we have is right now, and also that we must never stop trying. I was, even despite everything, simply not willing to give up on my hope of finding a life partner. So it was with a lump in my throat that I found myself once again registering for JDate and JSwipe this past summer.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that JSwipe’s population in London had grown since my last jaunt with it: No longer a desert with only a few wandering Jews, instead it was a heaving metropolis of singles, many of whom were my friends, ex-boyfriends, acquaintances, and friends of friends. JSwipe wasn’t just for millennials anymore. JDate, however, felt exactly the same as the last time I’d been on there (the only real difference seemed to be that now they had an app). Success stories grinned at me from the site’s header, and I couldn’t believe that some of the same men from the time before I was married were popping up on my screen yet again. To find anyone I liked felt like a real mission — evidently all the good men had abandoned Jdate in favor of JSwipe.
To my surprise, there was an abundance of men my age on JSwipe and I had to limit my usage of the site to mornings and evenings so that I wouldn’t be distracted at work: Messages popped up at all hours of the day, “matches” lit up my screen with that ecstatic, dancing Jewish star and the dancing couple in their wedding chairs. I was entertained and amused in equal measure. Who needed TV when I could be exchanging witty messages with Jon, 1.5 miles away from me, with his five-o clock shadow and gorgeous smile? After a few months on the site, and some interesting dates, I realized that the men I was finding on JSwipe fell neatly into categories that can only be defined as unique to the online Jewish dating world:
The guy who features his mom on his profile: My mother says I am a real catch. My mother and I really close. Here’s a picture of me with my mother.
Who am I to have a problem with a guy being close with his mother? I also am close with my mother, and this is a quality I like in a prospective mate. However, I was taken aback at how many men chose to make this a central feature of the text on their profile. While family is important, I worried that these men would be real mama’s boys, perhaps too enmeshed, maybe not having healthy boundaries. It also made me wonder whether his mother would be possessive over her precious son. Needless to say, I swiped the other way on these men.
The guy who wears Jewish stars: His Magen David is either his main profile picture (buried within his hairy chest) or one of his other pictures.
I already know this man is Jewish: He is on JSwipe. Of course, I have no problem with anyone proudly wearing a Magen David. But to proclaim his Jewishness at the expense of providing any other visual information leaves me with images of the dark curly hair on his chest against the metal of the necklace, and little else. It would have provided a fuller picture had I seen more of these men — a head to toe portrait, a smiling picture — anything but masses of chest hair and the twinkling of a gold star, again and again. So many men with gold stars and hairy chests, they all seemed to merge into one after a while.
The guy with all the mutual friends: I have six mutual friends in common with this man. But I’ve never heard of him, let alone met him.
I liked this about JSwipe — it connected me to the men I’d never met but who were, in fact, so close to my friendship circle. The best dates I went on were with men with whom I had at least one mutual friend. If nothing else, there were people in common and that was a good starting place for conversation. I had to wonder why my friends hadn’t thought to set me up with these men before, but I understand that matchmaking is less common than in my grandmother’s day.
So, JSwipe was my matchmaker for a while. It made me matches, so many matches. Some were good, some bad, but all were interesting. It felt reassuring to be swimming in a sea of so many other single Jewish men and women my own age, some divorced, some widowed, some never married. I wasn’t alone in my search for a life partner, even at my non-millenial age. On JSwipe, I was able to find my feet again, and laugh a lot, too — it was fun, something I needed after divorce. And, divorce or not, fun is something we all need, especially when we’re dating.
Image via Flickr/See-ming Lee