The Ch’ai Life Britta Lokting Gets JSwiped
In the wild, wooly world of online dating, our heroine finds that the obvious isn't as obvious as you might think.. Part 2 in a series.
Recently, at a friend’s house party, several men and women stood at the kitchen island. They huddled around one guest, looking at his cell phone. Everyone was laughing heartily in that notso-flattering drunken manner. I figured something humorous was happening on the man’s screen, but I couldn’t squeeze in to see. He was sitting on a stool, his cheeks flushed from beer. He was a friend of a friend’s boyfriend — one of those — and I sized him up. From his fiery hair, pinkish complexion and aptitude for storytelling, I guessed he was Irish. Then I picked up a familiar word in the conversation — “JSwipe.” Apparently, this man was swiping through potential matches as some kind of performance for the others. He also seemed to be crafting messages to women, with input from the group.
The next day, after the party had died down, I was helping my friend clean and I mentioned this guy. “I’m surprised he was Jewish,” I said. “Oh, my God, what? Ha-ha, no, he’s not Jewish,” she said. “He has red hair.” “But he’s on JSwipe.” “Yeah, he created an account because he’s into Jewish girls.”
I think my jaw dropped a little. How genius. And a little creepy, like some sort of fetish. I wondered if any of the men I had seen on there were pretending to be Jewish.
Weeks later, I couldn’t stop thinking about this guy’s scheme. Women had responded to his passes, and now, when I think back, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of vetting process to make sure someone is truly Jewish. Maybe it’s lax because the founder himself, a self-proclaimed “post-affiliation” Jew, has some vague definitions of “Jewish.”
How would JSwipe check users anyway? Make them upload bar and bat mitzvah photos? Scan a receipt for synagogue dues? Record a song from sleepaway camp? I would pick the parody “Harvey and Sheila” to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” a camp classic that will be sung in raucous chorus at my wedding.
As a Jewish girl looking to date a Jewish boy, whenever I meet a man in the flesh (or IRL, as the kids say), I use my knowledge about stereotypes to gauge whether this man might be Jewish. Does he have dark hair? A Jewish-sounding name? He’s possibly on the shorter side. Lawyer? However, I log into JSwipe precisely so I don’t need to do this. It’s presumed that not only are all the men Jewish, but also that the user can sift through to find the exact “level” of Jewishness desired.
One Jewish man I met on an app, and briefly dated, tested this ideal. Let’s call him Ben. In my mind, Ben was the perfect Jew. He was in a Jewish fraternity, had gone to Jewish summer camp, and suffered through a bar mitzvah (I found photos online like any good journalist). He seemed culturally Jewish, like I am, but not necessarily religious. One night during our short-lived fling he canceled our plans so that he could sit shiva for his friend’s grandfather. I gave him a pass and remember thinking, “How cute!” Turned out Ben didn’t want to see me seriously and broke it off. On paper, he had been the quintessential Jewish boy, but not so much in IRL.
I recently met someone else on JSwipe, who I am about to see for dinner on a second date. He’s pale and lanky with blond hair and an Anglo-Saxon first name. I did, however, discover via Google that his surname has Sephardic roots.
On our first date we had a pleasant night talking about our favorite television shows, restaurants and our college experiences. He acted like the Nice Jewish Boy, but I couldn’t be sure. He placed my wine order at the bar, graciously paid for the drinks, picked a convenient location and seemed genuinely curious about my life. But these are all niceties perpetuated by non-Jews too, and probably by internet trolls.
That redheaded non-Jew from my friend’s party may be on to something. As long as he plays the part of the Nice Jewish Boy, Jewish girls will probably still date him. We’re apt to believe anything if it fits our fantasies. Still, I’m going to sneak in a Jewish-related question on my second date with the JSwipe man. Maybe I’ll even slip in a Yiddish word. This is the problem with online dating: You never know what sorts of skeletons people are hiding. I could be a shiksa for all they know.
To be continued.
How would JSwipe check users anyway? Make them upload bar and bat mitzvah photos?