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Operators are standing by….

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Josh Lipowsky toasts farewell to his old look.

Are you looking to meet somebody?”

I had been speaking with this new friend .for just a few minutes before the question came up. It was a sunny summer Shabbat afternoon at a Teaneck park. I had just finished playing chess with some kids and was speaking with one of the parents. He asked me my name, where I lived, where I davened. Then he asked if I was married, and after I assured him of my solitary state, he went into shadchan mode.

Being single in the Jewish community is apparently one of the greatest shandas imaginable. It is obvious why the Upper West Side, where hip young Jewish singles flock and shell out for extravagant rents, has become known as “the Jewish meat market.”

But living in Teaneck is a different story altogether. I can count the number of singles under 30 without even taking off my shoes. To put it mildly, this is a family town and singles stick out, earning the sympathy of the families who want us to know the same joy they have – and, of course, to make more Jewish babies.

So, here I am: An employed 26-year-old Jewish male who does not live with his parents, in an area meant for families, with the largest Jewish dating pool outside of Israel just a short bus ride away.

Yet I can’t find the right date. I’m looking for a Yiddishe maydele with chutzpah.

I’ve tried the dating sites – Frumster and JDate – and I’ve tried picking up babes in bars. I don’t particularly care for that route. Something about not being able to hear the other person speak without shouting above blaring thumping club music just irks me. And surprisingly enough, finding a compatible Jewish woman at a New York bar is not as easy as it sounds.

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Josh ushers in his new image.

Then there is the shadchan, or matchmaker, professional or otherwise. In my two years in Bergen County more than one grandmother has approached me at shul to ask if I would call her granddaughter – usually without the granddaughter’s knowledge. And lately I have tried a local network of shadchanim. In the immortal words of my 11th-grade history teacher, “Can’t hurt, might help.”

Back in November or so, when my parents asked me what I wanted for Chanukah, I asked for a surround sound system. Instead, mom bought me a three-month JDate membership. I guess she’d rather have grandchildren than for me to watch “Star Wars” in 5.1 surround sound. Go figure. But while perusing the various dating sites – an experience similar to window shopping – I found that the majority of the profiles were eerily similar. “I love to have fun!” “My family is the most important thing in the world to me.” “I work hard and play hard.”
Well, I’m not sure about these people, but I certainly don’t sit around at home hating my parents. In other words, “I love my family” and “I love to have fun” are clichés that should be accepted as obvious without being put into a dating profile. Instead, tell me how you like to have fun. Do you like dancing? (I’m not so good, but I can fake it.) Are you a film fanatic? (Great!) Are you a sports buff? (I’m in it only for the tailgates.)

My mother is not the only one pushing me toward “I do.” A good friend of mine (married with three children) has taken it upon himself to “prepare” me by giving me a complete makeover. His goal is to get me married (or at least engaged) by Rosh HaShanah. But first, he said, I have to make myself a little more presentable.

First on the list: My glasses. I last got new glasses about six years ago at the urging of my college buddies who thought my frames were too big. Remember those big aviator glasses of the ’80s? That’s what I had – in 2002. So I got a smaller rounder frame made of a super-cool and super-flexible material. I thought they were the bees’ knees, and my friends said they were a marked improvement. But apparently I failed to keep up with the trends and now I’m told yet again that my frames are just too big. (A 26-year-old in 2008 using phrases like “the bees’ knees” probably doesn’t help either, but I’m making baby steps here, so cut me some slack.)

My friends told me I couldn’t just go anywhere, though. So, with another “consultant” (a female, no less) I made the arduous journey to a glasses depot in Brooklyn that was reportedly the home of inexpensive-yet-ultra-hip frames. After trying on several – including a bright red pair of frames just so I could scare my mother with the picture – I settled on a set that made me look like a modern intellectual.

Next came the hair. I’ve used the same barber since I moved back to New Jersey two years ago. This was the same barber who cut my hair when I was 6 years old before I moved away from New Jersey. His haircuts, my friend told me as he pointed out how uneven my hair looked, weren’t quite as good as they were 20 years ago. So we found a new barbershop that gave me an all new ‘do that, remarkably, has stayed in shape even weeks after the visit.

Finally came the clothes. I have a certain style – or at least I did. My closet is full of blue shirts (different shades, of course) and several pairs of khaki pants. I have one suit and one pair of black pants. That just won’t do.

That “consultant” grabbed his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son and we went off to the Palisades Mall one Sunday. Have you seen the TLC show “What Not To Wear”? This shopping trip was basically like that. He instructed his children not to let me anywhere near the displays of khaki pants. He would later scold his daughter for allowing me to get close to the flowery Hawaiian shirts.

Despite my apparently dreary wardrobe, I earned some sympathy as my friend soon learned the reason for my limited wardrobe. I am 6’4″ with broad shoulders and long arms. Finding something that might look good on me is easy. Finding something that might look good on me and fits is another story. And that one size in Brand A fits doesn’t mean that size is going to fit in Brand B. So when I find something that does fit, to hell with what it looks like.

I managed to snag a couple pairs of pants and some new shirts. Not a bad haul, and it’s a definite start for redoing my wardrobe. And as long as I don’t wear my khakis on Shabbat or on dates, my friend has allowed me to keep them.

So now I’ve got the new duds, the new ‘do, and the new specs. But I’m still sitting here in my office at The Jewish Standard wondering just where to find my bashert. Well, dear readers, that is where you come in. The phone lines are open.

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