Technology may have allowed long-distance relationships to become a lot more manageable, but how does it affect our everyday dating experiences? Various ways now exist to communicate instantly, without ever actually talking to the other person.
These days, we have e-mail, text messaging and instant messenger. I know couples who send more than a dozen text messages a day to their significant others -- and they live in the same city!
What happens if one night, you're out talking to your friends about an ex-boyfriend, when you receive a text message on your cell phone from your current boyfriend that says, "I love you"? So you respond with an, "I love you, too."
You continue talking when you get a text message from your ex saying, "Yeah? I've been missing you." You take a second to look at the messages in your outbox and realize that instead of sending the text to your existing boyfriend, you just happen to get your ex. What do you do now?
This dating scenario may or may not resonate with you, but for many, it could easily happen, and the fallout could go in a number of directions. After this type of a mistake, you'll have a whole new set of issues to deal with, since cell-phone communication is a two-way street that's rarely closed. We all make the occasional social faux pas; instant technology can make these worse.
After a conversation about technological dating gaffs, a friend of mine sent me this little story: "I was at a party and talking to this guy who was really cute. He got my number and said he'd call me that week. Then he left the party, and I started talking to this adorable British guy named Simon.
"One thing led to another, and he ended up staying at my apartment. After he left in the morning, I got a text message from a number I didn't recognize saying, 'Great meeting you last night!'
"Thinking it was Simon, I responded 'You, too. And you left your watch here.'
"Then, it dawned on me that Simon is from England -- and doesn't have an American cell phone! Of course, it was the first guy!
"So, I quickly wrote back, 'Oh, my friend stayed over last night and she left her watch here ... ha-ha-ha.' As you can imagine, I never heard from him again."
Bonnie and Clyde
It can get even worse. A Jewish friend of mine, Clyde, had been dating various women for the last couple of months when he met Bonnie. They had a few dates that went extremely well. On one, they stayed up talking for hours.
He had mentioned he was going to Israel on the Birthright program, and she was interested in hearing about it. Although she was not Jewish, he was smitten. They were out one night, and he looked at her foot and noticed what looked like a fish. He asks her more about that tattoo, and she responded, "I try to live every day of my life by the teachings of Jesus Christ."
Pause ... what?!
Now, many of my friends date and have married non-Jews, but it's still not a surprise that when someone makes a statement like this, it causes alarms to go off. Something just doesn't feel right.
There is nothing wrong with believing in Jesus. It is just that once Jesus was brought into the discussion as an active player, most likely no matter what Bonnie said afterward, Clyde knew immediately that the relationship was not going anywhere.
After the night ended, Clyde sent a text message to his friend Ben (who turned out to be right before Bonnie on his list of cell-phone contacts): "That girl I liked turned out to be a Jesus freak. That's done!!"
He hits "send," and then realizes he sent it to her by accident -- a texter's worst nightmare!
Clyde felt horrible because in no way did he mean to hurt her. He just didn't feel like seeing her again. He decided that no matter what she said to him because of the incident, he would be nothing but apologetic. He would say that she was a sweet girl who did not deserve his rudeness.
She responded the next day with, "I don't think that message was meant for me -- can you please explain." He apologized as he planned, and felt like a jerk for the rest of the week.
This kind of error happens so instantaneously that there is nothing you can do but deal with the aftermath. It's not even like in the movies, where a boyfriend can drive across the country to stop a letter sent to his girlfriend containing incriminating evidence or an impulsive breakup message.
Is there a moral here? I could conjure up a few. Have you ever heard the saying: "Don't send an e-mail that you wouldn't want your grandmother to read?"
Maybe this goes along with the signs you read driving home from the shore -- "Stay Alert," "Stay Awake," "Stay Alive." Maybe we all need to pay just a little more attention to what we're doing. Maybe we need to put our foot on the brake, instead of using cruise control.
There is a Hebrew term to describe this: lashon hora, meaning "evil speech," even "idle gossip." The Torah says that we're not to talk negatively about others, even if it's true. Our ancestors suggested that we refrain from speaking this way because it hurts the person talking, the person listening and the person being talked about.
Maybe if we just talked a little less negatively about one another, it wouldn't matter so much if someone did get an unintended message.
Maybe it's time we all started talking, texting and e-mailing with this principle in mind. It certainly couldn't hurt.
Dating, Jewish and gay in Philadelphia? Share stories at: firstname.lastname@example.org .