One morning, I went to my computer and did something that would make most of my friends gasp: After two years, I logged onto my OKCupid account and deactivated my dating profile. And it wasn't because I had a new boyfriend or I was giving up on the dating institution. I just did.
I started this profile about a month after my divorce. My best friend encouraged me to make one. This girl knows me well enough to know that if I don't get back into doing something I'm scared of, like dating, I'm going to make it into a bigger deal than it actually is and never do it. Hence, the profile went up pretty quickly.
In two years of growth, I went on plenty of dates and made several meaningful, albeit fleeting, connections. Those were rare compared to the rest, ranging from the guy who yelled at me because I called Del Taco "drunk munchies" to the one who spoke mostly about chronic brain injuries from football. I also received thousands of messages from guys I never even bothered to respond to, my iPhone dinging with every one. These messages taught, among other lessons, that if I got an email with an OKCupid message where it wouldn't show the text to expect the worst.
Although many of my friends met their partners there, I had always sensed OKCupid was good for me to get some dating experience and funny stories to tell, but not much more. Meanwhile, there was pressure to start accounts on other dating sites. After all, how else was I going to find love?
As I watched my friends in Los Angeles spin themselves in circles of fright wondering how they were going to obtain a spouse, I felt separate from them; I already had a husband, but it was a terrible marriage that ended disastrously. Did I want to get married again? Yes, but knew it wasn't the be all and end all; love and a healthy relationship were.
In March, I left my Los Angeles world and hopped a plane to Israel thanks to Na'amat USA, a charity for women and children I began working with shortly after my divorce. Before I left, I made the decision that I was just going to have an amazing adventure with no worries about dating. When I came home it would be time to settle down and start thinking about my future -- including a real relationship.
As I crossed into a new country, the iPhone I cherished suddenly became nothing more than a music player, camera and occasional Facebook checker with wifi. My rented phone was an old flip Nokia that could barely make phone calls and had zero texting. It was a huge adjustment to have no Google maps, constant Internet or messaging.
My prehistoric electronics, however, forced me to shift my sight to the people throughout Israel who I was bumping into. There was the rabbi in Tel Aviv on Purim that, when I told him I was lost, gave me directions to my hotel with a smile, shot of vodka and bag of sweets. I watched strangers throwing candy at bar mitzvah boys in Jerusalem and begin encouraging me to do the same. I prayed with spiritual adventurers in Tzfat on the Sabbath, banging on tables while singing at full blast.
My loving friends who had moved to Israel made it their sacred duty to constantly feed me while in their possession. I met the women and children that I fundraise for back in the U.S. with Na'amat, including a little Jewish girl hugging me at a daycare center in Sderot and the deaf Muslim students in Nazareth who communicated with me simply by spelling out "I love you" with their fingers. Then there was that glorious night I walked up to a juice bar in Jaffa and ended up blissfully dating the beautiful man behind the counter while I was there. No matter the language we all connected, with no cyberwalls between us.
As I came home and reclaimed my iPhone as a working mobile device, I felt awkward trying to go back to online dating. But the first night I saw all my friends after Israel and we sat near the Pacific Ocean, played songs on the guitar and sang, I realized the truth: For all the hours I spent by myself plugging away on OKCupid, I could be forging human relationships in person, with real laughter instead of "lol."
We have learned to hide behind our screens and withdraw, to block the intimacy that is basic existence to the point where boys can barely ask you out in person anymore. It has made us feel lonely and disengaged from life itself, not only in the romantic sense but also from friendships. The last thing I want to do is go into any relationship with a stifled bond. We just need a little courage to get away from our barricades.
So, once again with the encouragement of my best friend, I shut down my profile and decided to enter a new mode of thinking. After all, the world is filled with endless possibilities and beautiful people to connect to. And if lifetime love came as a result? Well, that would be just dandy.