Most dating and relationships books, columns and shows won’t go near issues of faith. Author, professor and speaker Dr. Christine B. Whelan assumes faith has some role, and tackles even the toughest questions.
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Pure Sex, Pure Love
Turn Your Cablight On: Advice for Catholic Dating from a Jewish New York City Dating Expert
Certain religions seem to be more interested in helping young adults date within their faith. Every synagogue seems to have a matchmaker. For those in the Mormon faith, every big city has a church dedicated to bringing singles together. But Catholics don’t seem to do as much of this sort of thing.
I live on the Upper West Side in New York City, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, and over the years I’ve been fascinated (and a bit jealous) about the number of ways local young-adult Jews have to meet others who share their faith. There are very active websites like jdate, frumster and sawyouatsini.com. There are dozens of married women who act as matchmakers and make introductions between eligible singles.
Dating a Drip
So it’s no wonder that when a café opened on the Upper West Side in the mid 1990s that was devoted to dating, thousands of people jumped at the opportunity. For Jews and non-Jews alike this was a great idea: It was the pre-online dating era, and there was nothing like it out there: you would insert a dating profile into a binder, peruse the other profiles, and check out possible dates who happened to be sitting at nearby tables. It was a bit of the Jewish-style dating scene, available to everyone.
The founder, Nancy Slotnick, called it Drip Café, because everyone feels like a drip when they are dating. But many of those awkward first introductions blossomed: More than 35,000 people entered profiles at Drip over the years, and Nancy and her team saw hundreds of couples get engaged and married after meeting in her café.
Nancy closed Drip Café in 2004 and is now a professional relationship coach. One of the things she tells women is to make sure they have their “cablight” on. In New York, a cab driver will turn his light on when he’s looking for a fare, so people don’t even bother trying to hail down an unavailable, unlit taxi. But what if the driver didn’t know his light was off? He’d drive around and no one would flag him down. He’d be giving off the wrong signal. She tells women that, just like a taxi driver has to make sure his cablight is on to signal that he’s available, a single girl has to turn on her “inner glow” to attract the right guys.
She has a new book out called Turn Your Cablight On: Get Your Dream Man in 6 Months or Less that captures her years of experience in the matchmaking business and tells women how to make sure they are sending the right signals. I spoke with her recently about how her advice and personal experiences within the New York Jewish dating community can apply to young Catholics.
BustedHalo: You’re Jewish. How did your faith and religion play into your dating relationships?
Nancy Slotnick: I always knew that I wanted to marry someone Jewish, but mainly because religion was very important to me and central to my life. I find that when it is the case that you value your religion internally, you often find someone with similar beliefs. However, if you are looking for someone of a certain religion just to make your parents happy, you might have a harder time. You need to do some soul searching and figure out what is for you and your inward beliefs and desires, and what is for outward appearances. It can often be hard to accommodate both, and occasionally they are in conflict, so it is good to be really clear on what you want for yourself and your life and future family.
BH: What specific advice would you have for young-adult Catholics?
NS: If you are specifically looking for someone Catholic, then try to go where Catholics go. Maybe you can meet a guy at midnight mass before Christmas, even though you usually hang out with your family at that time. Maybe you should try a keyword search for Catholic and your city on Google? Maybe, even though you wanted to skip your friend’s daughter’s first communion, you should go because there might be a single guy invited to the party? Be creative about seeking out Catholic men. Think of it like a scavenger hunt and be as resourceful as you would if it was for your job or a project that your boss asked you to do.
BH: What are some tricks to get a man to come over and talk to you?
NS: 1) Have open body language, i.e. face outward (as opposed to giving the literal “cold shoulder”) and make sure not to be too engrossed in your friends.
2) Branch out on your own throughout the evening; it will often be easier to meet a man. Also, positioning yourself in the right spot to make it easier for a guy to strike up conversation can open up the opportunity for the guy.
3) Keep in mind that guys have it hard, in that they are usually expected to initiate and thereby face rejection. Be sensitive to that pressure on the men. If all else fails, you can have the opening line. In fact, the guy probably won’t even remember who started the conversation, if he likes you from there. After the initial contact, let him lead, as far as asking for your number or asking you out. You shouldn’t take over the whole process, just get it started.
4) Use props and icebreakers. (We sell a Cablight Props Package on www.cablight.com) If you are wearing a t-shirt with an interesting phrase, or sharing a box of animal crackers, you create an “in” for a guy to approach you.
BH: One of my favorite pieces of advice in your book is to really act yourself — and “embrace your dorkiness”. What does this mean and how does it work?
NS: One of the reasons that I called my dating-café “Drip” is because everyone feels like a drip when they are dating. Even the most attractive, and put together people are vulnerable in the dating scene. So it is best to admit that you are nervous and flawed. It will make you more endearing to others who are also flawed and nervous. For example, if you trip by accident, you can make a joke about it instead of running away in embarrassment. Appeal to his chivalry and you will get more of it. One of my favorite lines that a guy ever used on me that relates to this topic was when we were in my apartment for the first time at the end of a date. He said to me- “On an awkwardness scale, how would you rate this moment?” It totally put us at ease and broke the tension.
BH: In your book, you write: “Resolving to meet someone the ‘natural way’ is nothing more than a rationalization to be passive about your love life.” Tell me more.
NS: It is very hard to put work into something when there is no guarantee of a payoff. Dating is the best example of this. In order to protect themselves, single women and men will tell themselves that it should just “happen” without effort. Somehow a lot of married people perpetuate this myth, perhaps to console their single friends. But it doesn’t work that way.
You have to keep yourself in the game if you want to win. That doesn’t mean that it should be grueling work. Just that you have to take the bull by the horns and put in the time and kiss a lot of frogs. I have a theory called “Running for the Subway.” Around the streets of New York City, you see people running for the bus, because they see it coming and they don’t want to miss it. But when those same people are walking to the subway station, they don’t run, because they can’t see the subway underground. With a relationship, you have to foresee it coming, and approach it with a sense of urgency as if you know it is there, even if you haven’t met the person yet.
BH: If your faith is important to you, when should that come up in a relationship?
NS: Good question. If your faith is important to you, you should be mindful of that in your search. Try to go to Church events, if you are Catholic, or look for your faith in an online search. You can even have sneaky conversational ways to find out if someone is of your faith, by telling a story about communion or confessional or a movie that you saw about religion.
But, as a woman, you should NOT bring it up directly on a date for the first several dates. The reason why is that men will often view discussion about religion on a date as a pre-marriage topic, and you will come across as interviewing him for the job of husband instead of just seeing if you are compatible.
The other reason why it is good to hold off on religion discussion is that there are many examples of people converting religions when they meet the One and are interested in his/her faith. If this were going to happen, it would most likely happen after you have already fallen in love and are ready to discuss a serious commitment. Talking about faith should happen sometime before getting engaged, but after you have entered into an exclusive relationship.
BH: You list “he must be intimidated by my beauty and/or success” as one of the top five excuses women use to explain why men don’t like them. Do successful, smart women intimidate men?
NS: I think that successful, smart women often expect to intimidate men and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Often those women do not truly have their “Cablight” on, and they are not giving the guy enough of a break; making him do too much of the work. As a result, these women come across as intimidating when they are often shy and insecure. I saw a report about former Miss Americas and it turns out that most of them are single, perhaps for this reason. Hearing that men find you intimidating is the worst thing. It is sort of like being overqualified for a job-you still didn’t get the job!
BH: You have a section on courtship rituals. What are the modern ones-and why are some ground rules and boundaries important?
NS: Courtship rituals help both men and women to evaluate someone new. There are relationships that I call “Crash and Burn” where two people ignore the boundaries and the rituals and get extremely close extremely fast and then they can’t sustain it. They realize that they were in love with a fantasy and not a real person. This can happen with online dating too. If you share your whole life story with someone online, before you even meet, you might find it very awkward when you are face to face with the real person. So it is best to respect certain rules of courtship, to best evaluate a new man without getting hurt. These rules are not strict like the book The Rules, but rather guidelines to have great strategy in dating. In my book, I describe in detail the boundaries and courtship rituals that are important to follow, and how to adhere to them best. Surprisingly, gender roles and courtship rituals have not changed that much over the last few generations, even though many thought that the Women’s Movement would change everything. Women like to be pursued, men like to be the pursuers. Women like chivalry, men feel potent when they are chivalrous. And so on.
BH: Do you have any advice for men?
NS: Be bold and confident. Be yourselves, even if that means being crude or silly or improper. Women want the bad boy and the good guy all rolled into one. If you are the good guy most often, then show a little of your wild side on a date and see how the woman you are with responds. If you do it right, it will be a turn-on for her to see your bad boy side and a relief for you to know that you can let your guard down and still make a good impression. (Warning: it may take a few tries to get this one right, but do keep trying.)