The match-breaker

The pickings may be slim when you're a hair away from 30, especially when the Tel Aviv dating scene seems to divide more people than it brings together.

swinger kissing 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
swinger kissing 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
One morning, I was tapping away on my computer when I heard the muted sounds of something between singing and howling coming from the bathroom. My roommate, Rinat, emerged a short time later, her hair wrapped in a pink towel. "Did you hear me singing?" she asked. "I'm practicing for my future husband. I want to sing to him on our wedding day... you know, at the end of the night, when everyone has had something to drink." Before you wish Rinat mazal tov, I should tell you that she doesn't have a fiancé, let alone a boyfriend. But she has had some prospects: There's the ex-boyfriend she never got over, mythological X - hooked on hash and terrified of being hooked into commitment. He has a young child, the result of a fling he had during his post-army travels in Australia. Rinat didn't have a problem with the fact that he'd fathered a little girl, but she did have a problem with the fact that he was a deadbeat dad. Then there was the musician Rinat met at a bar - a brown-haired, blue-eyed drummer who hailed, originally, from a kibbutz in the north. Kibbutzniks have values, I thought, and so I was hopeful. But my hopes were dashed - what she thought was a first date ended up being a one-night stand. And then there was the Brazilian immigrant who pursued Rinat despite the fact he had a girlfriend. She toyed with the idea of enjoying a fling with a guy from a far-flung exotic country, but in the end couldn't bring herself to play with someone else's man. Rinat began to question the conventional way so many Tel Avivians meet (in bars). She decided it was time to try a different approach, something more traditional. So we sat down together one Friday afternoon to comb the Web for her future husband. I figured it would be easy. After all, Internet dating is closer, in a way, to matchmaking. Everything is up front - you put in your search parameters, you read the suggested profiles, you decide if you are suited to one another, and that's it. It's the dating game boiled down to its essence - a list, some numbers, statistics... and some pictures thrown in for fun. Candidate No. 1 had chosen an army photo as his profile picture. He stood in his olive green uniform, his boot-clad feet spread wide apart, his semi-automatic weapon dangling from his arm. He wore the requisite mirrored-sunglasses, the mandatory unsmiling, serious expression. "Icks. I hate guys who put army pictures on their profiles," Rinat said, poised to move to the next potential mate. "At least read the profile," I said. She scrolled down, but there was nothing to read. He'd left it blank, save for the scantest details: he lived in Tel Aviv, he was interested in women. Welcome to the online meat market. We moved along. The next suitor was handsome, in my opinion. Black haired, olive-skinned. "He's a little too dark for me," Rinat said. "Let's see what he has to say," I insisted. She sighed and read his profile aloud in Hebrew - with my elementary knowledge of the language I could understand the essentials. "Hmmm. Not bad," she said after she read his interests - books, traveling, art and film. She considered the picture again. "I guess he's sort of cute. But let's see if I'm a match for him." She scrolled down. "Uh-oh," she said. "What?" "'I'm looking for a 'nice girl,'" Rinat made quotation marks with her hands as she read, "'from a good home.'" I didn't see the problem. "You're a nice girl from a good home," I said to her, in English, so she could correct me if I'd misunderstood something. "But you know what that means, right?" Rinat asked. I clucked my tongue no. "It means he's religious, or sort of religious. Good luck to him," she said. She told me about an ex-boyfriend who straddled the line between secular and observant. This was what eventually drove Rinat away. She seemed sad as she spoke about him. "I really liked him. I loved him. But I didn't want to end up with someone who might become more religious and expect me to follow him." She moved on to the next profile. "Too left-wing," she said. As we continued our search, which proved fruitless, I wondered if Rinat wasn't being too picky. Or was it just that the pickings are already slim when you're a hair away from 30? Either way, the dating scene in Tel Aviv is not at all what I expected it to be. Before I moved here, I'd had this fantasy, a picture in my head - something like the cheerful, communal images of kibbutz life, but transplanted to the bars. Instead, I found division after division, a microcosm of Israel itself.