Playing with Matches

by Jennifer Garstang May 1, 2013


By Jennifer Garstang

Since I began writing this column, people have started seeking me out for dating advice (they think I actually know something on the subject… haha, suckers!). One question in particular keeps coming up: “I’ve been single for so long. How can I find that somebody special?”

I answer with one of my go-to standards: shared interest groups like on, online dating ( worked for me), community organizations and (of course) temple.

What follows next is a conversation I call the “reasons dance,” where the asker deftly parries each of my suggestions with a reason it couldn’t possibly work. Everything from “I’m just not attractive” to “There aren’t any nice Jewish singles left in San Diego” to “All men/women are jerks who only date jerks!” Around and around we go, until I have run through every suggestion and the asker has responded with a litany of reasons why he or she will be alone forever… “But seriously, Jennifer, why can’t I find someone to date???”


The short answer is: your reasons are the reason you can’t find someone. Don’t get me wrong. All those reasons you just gave me are utter bubkes. It’s the reasons themselves that are getting in your way.

We are the authors of our own realities. Each of us knows the big, wide world only through the filter of our own perceptions. We see, hear, smell, touch, taste … and we interpret. However, it’s more than that. We don’t just interpret our experiences. Our interpretations shape our experiences and often blind us to anything that goes against our expectations.

In short, there are no nice Jewish singles in San Diego because you have invented a world for yourself wherein there are no nice Jewish singles. Maybe you’ll dip your toe in the dating pool, but when you enter expecting to find only jerks, then that’s what you’ll be looking for. No matter how nice a date you find, you’ll have that voice in your head saying, “yeah, he/she seems nice, but just wait.” Worse, this belief will lead you to settle for a real jerk, turning you into one of those people who only dates jerks and then bemoans the fact that all Jewish singles are jerks.

You’re not doing this deliberately; it’s a curse all human beings share. What we believe to be true exists to us as simple reality. Fortunately, we all have the capacity to take a step back and notice where our reasons are becoming self-fulfilling prophecy.

The only problem is, we really like our reasons. They are easy and comfortable, and instead of taking a step back, we cling to them. Don’t believe me? Stop a second and notice what’s going on in your head as you read this. Have you been arguing with every point I’ve made? Do you have all sorts of reasons going around in your head — why I’m completely wrong, or why this article doesn’t apply to you because you have different reasons for being single than the ones I mentioned? Did your little voice just grumble, “I haven’t been arguing with every point you’ve made.”

Yeah, we really like our reasons. But why? If those reasons are standing in the way of us finding love and happiness, why do we hold on to them so tightly?

Well, our reasons form a wall to protect ourselves from the terrifying world that is dating. If you know you’re not attractive, if you know there isn’t a nice single person left, if you know everyone’s a jerk, then you don’t have to really put yourself out there. Because dating is hard. Dating is scary. Dating means opening up to someone else, which means someone else can hurt you.

Or so you believe. Starting to see how this works?

I could fill this magazine with all the reasons we throw in front of ourselves every step of the way. Well, not really. My editor would make me cut it back to around 800 words, but the point is that we have an infinite capacity for coming up with reasons we won’t succeed. Fortunately, we don’t have to live as slaves to our reasons. Once we start noticing what we’re doing, we can practice setting those thoughts aside. The more we practice, the easier it gets.

“But dating is scary!” you cry. “What about the risk? What about rejection? Others can hurt us!”

I’m glad you brought that up. See the answer is simple, just… Oh, wait, ding ding! My time’s up. Figure it out yourselves.

Just kidding! I won’t leave you hanging too long. Check back next month, when I’ll talk about the one simple (yet not so simple) way to conquer your fears and really put yourself out there.


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