I sat outside last night watching a DVD on my laptop. The weather was a little cooler. I couldn’t get my Star Trek Voyager DVD to play (my laptop DVD player is temperamental), so I watched Doctor Who instead. I started a re-watch of my favourite season, the 1978-1979 season, in my opinion the apogee of Doctor Who as science fantasy children’s series (thus, hated by fans who think Doctor Who is Serious Adult Drama… the fault line between fans who think Doctor Who is a children’s programme and those who think it is a Serious Adult Drama is one of the biggest in fandom). I felt quite happy watching it, despite the fact that I could hear my parents talking despite my earphones, that the security light kept coming on and shining in my eyes, and that the picture quality was not great (my screen needs cleaning and I kept seeing my reflection in it because of the ambient light). Normally when I watch TV, I try to immerse myself in it, but I was able to enjoy it without doing that 100%. I suppose it does show that I can be happy, and with quite small things. My Mum noticed I was smiling.
I had another unrestful night’s sleep. It’s a little cooler, but still too hot for me. There is a breeze, and around four o’clock the heavy rain we were forecast finally arrived, but only lasted a few minutes. It started raining heavily again just before seven, with thunder, to the extent I had to shut the windows, but, again, it didn’t last long. It’s still quite hot, with a bit of a cooling breeze, but very humid and I still feel quite uncomfortable. I can concentrate a little better than the last few days, but not brilliantly.
Last night I had the thought of logging on to JDate and seeing if there were many women my age and frumkeit (religiosity) level on there, but I couldn’t log on. I thought I still had a profile on there, but apparently not. I assume they delete profiles if they’re inactive for a long period of time as I don’t remember deleting it. I don’t think I could have used JDate since I met my first girlfriend on there in 2012. My experience at the time made me feel there weren’t enough frum (religious) enough women on the site for me, but maybe I would be willing to be more flexible on “frum enough” now. I think I probably have to be. It’s hard to tell what “frum enough” looks like, though, as I worry that I compromised too much when I was dating E. and that it would not have worked in the long-term.
JDate is probably better for me right now than its competitor, JWed. JWed, as its name implies, is a dating-for-marriage site, not a dating-for-dating site. It also asks users to categorise themselves religiously, offering them seven different types of Orthodox Jewish identities and several more non-Orthodox ones. Jews like pigeon-holing other Jews, you might have noticed. It also asks you to say how often you pray and study Torah, whether you wear tzitzit (ritual fringed garment) if you are a man and if you would cover your hair after marriage if you are a woman, all questions designed to further pigeon-hole religiously. These are supposed to be proxies to gauge religious devotion, but aren’t always in reality, but the problem of using them as such stretches far beyond the dating world, or even the frum world. JDate doesn’t quite offer such craziness, although if I recall correctly, it does still offer several different flavours of Orthodoxy (I doubt there are many Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews on JDate though even if there is an option for them).
My main concerns with JDate are that I can’t afford to pay the monthly subscription; and that there are more men than women on dating sites, so women tend not to respond to men on dating sites unless they appear amazing. I do still have some concerns about not “dating for marriage.” However, my biggest concern is how to talk about my employment situation or about trying to be a writer in my profile without having sold much, and while worrying that I’m not going to be able to make much of a success of writing.
I feel that E., like my first girlfriend, thought that I was a good boyfriend, but also that my emotional neediness and unemployed status was a lot to cope with, and eventually was too much to cope with. I find it hard to believe anyone else could see past that permanently, not just for a few months until the novelty of having an attentive and listening boyfriend wore off.
There is also the practical problem, of course, of dating in the time of COVID and social distancing. This may be less of a problem now, as I think we can stop shielding Mum soon as her chemo is finished. We have to shield around the time of her surgery, but I think not when she has radiotherapy after that.
I wrote to my rabbi mentor about this today and I look forward to reading his response. Writing it down did make me think that some of my concerns were due to anxiety or even a kind of ‘pure O’ OCD, in terms of taking the morality an action very seriously, paying more attention to it than it needs, in moral terms. I think dating at this time is probably not against my values, although I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a product of those values at this time. Whether it’s sensible is another question.
Speaking of being a writer, I’m feeling pessimistic today. I finished If You Want to Write, the writing book I was currently reading. It was kind of hippie-ish (although written in the 1930s), all about doing what you want and finding your own truth, which is true, but the opposite is probably true too. I wasn’t surprised by this, as the book was recommended to me by a hippie-ish friend who I fell out with, someone who described himself as being all about empathy and compassion and then treated me quite badly. I don’t think I can internalise the “rules” of writing from the books I’m reading, not even this one, which just says to be honest (and is against genre fiction). I feel a great writer wouldn’t need to internalise rules, but a merely competent one probably does need to do so. I certainly feel my book could do with more structure and more vivid characters. But, as I’ve said before, I oscillate between thinking that there are no rules for literature and that there are rules for it, like any other skill, if only I could learn them.
I did half an hour of research for the novel, reading a rape survivor’s statement, which was understandably depressing. I struggle to see why some men find the concept of “consent” so difficult to grasp.
I also spent twenty minutes or so working on my list of things that I want to add or change in the next draft of my novel, so overall this was a reasonably productive day for the novel.
Other achievements: I spent an hour on my devar Torah (Torah thought), getting it mostly sorted to my satisfaction, although I had a vague sense of not having explained it clearly enough to myself, let alone anyone else. The sense that I sort of understand what I’m saying, but not quite perfectly. I spent another hour on Torah study, so it was quite a productive day from a religious point of view too.
It’s funny how my feelings writing my devar Torah every week mirror my feelings writing my Oxford tutorial essays: the initial blank incomprehension with nothing to write, the slow research and analysis, the gradual revelation of what I’m going to write, then the actual writing, followed by relief, but a feeling of not having really nailed it.
I also finished re-reading Healing from Despair: Choosing Wholeness in a Broken World. I didn’t get much from this except to recall that I didn’t like it much the first time I read it. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t like it. I think maybe its use of biblical and historical models for healing from despair was too simplistic.
Incidentally, I have finished three books in two days, although as I was reading them concurrently and not consecutively, it’s not such a notable achievement.
Sometimes I just stand, staring into space, completely lost in thought. My parents invariably then ask if something’s wrong or what I’m doing. This completely breaks the chain of thought. (This happened today.) I’ve never been sure if this is “normal” behaviour or “autistic” behaviour or just a personal quirk. I do find it frustrating that I can’t just stand and think without someone thinking I’m ill. I guess if I get married, I’ll have to tell my wife to ignore me when I do this.