Take My Son... Please Take Him!

I gave my son Aidan, who is now 24, a Valentine's Day gift that keeps on giving.

I've done a horrible thing.

Well, maybe not horrible. I didn't break any of the Ten Commandments. I did nothing hateful, harmful, illegal, or immoral. In fact, to be honest, if given the chance, I'd do it all over again.

On Sunday February 14, egged on by my husband, I bought our son a Valentine's gift: not a normal present, like a box of Godiva chocolates, or a new red scarf -- a six-month subscription to JDate. They were running a special for Valentine's Day. It was just too hard to resist. Before pressing the button irreversibly processing our credit card, I proposed that we call Aidan, who was then 23. Being both highly discriminating and reserved by nature, he was having less than stellar success meeting a girl in New York. Then again, he hadn't asked for any help. I wanted to make sure he'd accept our generosity.

"What, are you crazy?" my husband countered. "Don't call him!" He was bound to talk us out of it. I realized he was right.

Right after paying, we did phone Aidan to break the news. No big surprise -- he was not AT ALL pleased. More like irate, with top notes of homicidal wrath. But the fact is that just a few days earlier, he had called and mentioned, apropos of nothing, "I hate to say it, but some of those girls on JDate are pretty cute!" We'd offered to pay for it then and there. He'd declined. Still, as far as I'm concerned, HE ASKED FOR IT! 

OK, I know almost everyone thinks we butt in far too much with Aidan and his sister, who is 21. Even we believe that we do. But in this case, I think we had reasonable justification. Just consider this:

A few months ago, I persuaded our son to take a look at the site. I'd checked out all the girls in his age group in NYC, and, although many were surprisingly attractive, most seemed too conventional for him. They all said things like that they enjoyed spending time with family, going to the movies or staying in to watch a video, and that they "loved to laugh."

So many employed this last phrase that I began to suspect it was a secret code for some sort of sex act, much the way that kids advertising for roommates on Craig's List often state that they are "420 friendly." (I'm told this is the international shorthand for "I smoke pot.")

Aidan loves jazz and has a deadpan sense of humor, but he can also be a fun and really romantic guy.

There were two girls, though, who seemed almost perfect for Aidan. One began her personal profile saying something like, "I hate to laugh. I hate to go out to a movie. I also hate to stay in and watch a video." She was the anti-JDate. She was distaff Aidan! Reluctantly, he agreed to log on and just look at her. "That girl's awful!" he exclaimed. Then he looked a bit more closely.

"No, actually, she's pretty cute."

Then he looked at my second find. "All right," he said, sighing in surrender. "Maybe I'll contact those two." I explained that you can't converse with anyone on the site without paying for the service first. Unfortunately, frugal is his middle name. "Well, forget it, then," he said.

Ever since, he'd been complaining that most of his old friends didn't have time to hang out with him anymore because they had girlfriends. Two met their matches on JDate.

He also admitted that he would prefer to date a Jewish girl, if only he could find one he liked. I relayed to Aidan a friend's remark that if Jewish organizations were so eager to perpetuate the religion, then they should subsidize JDate, or maybe even PAY kids to join. "I'd be happy to join if someone paid me to," he said. To which we responded, "We'll pay!"

"No thanks," he said. "I meant someone I don't know."

It truly was my husband's impulse to sign him up without consent. I merely did the dirty work, being more Internet savvy. Now, normally, when someone says no, I take them at their word. There's no part of "No" I don't understand.

In this case, though, ignoring my son's expressed wishes was, in my mind, in no way equivalent to a college frat boy taking advantage of a girl by saying, "Her lips may be saying no, no, no, but her eyes are saying yes." Rather, I pictured him as someone who sees a pair of warm winter boots on sale in a store window and thinks, "I really need boots. There's snow everywhere, and my feet are freezing! But I hate to spend the dough. It's already mid-February. I guess I can get through the rest of the winter without them. Oh... but they're so CUTE!"

It was in the same realm as parents persuading a reluctant child to go away to summer camp or remain in college. We do these things for their own good. Someday, they'll thank us.

Aidan was far from ready to thank us for our "gift" that Sunday. But late that night, before going to bed, I logged onto JDate, just out of curiosity. We'd taken the liberty of filling in some basic information for him -- his age, what he does for a living, activities he enjoys in his spare time. I'd even downloaded a photo of him. I wondered if he'd altered these entries, or perhaps deleted the profile altogether.

Au contraire. He'd spent considerable time composing a lengthy profile essay about himself and filling in every category in their questionnaire, from his favorite kinds of food and music to what he seeks in a mate. He'd changed only one of our answers, identifying his religious affiliation as not Reform, but "culturally Jewish, but not practicing." (I wondered if he genuinely believed this, or only wanted to convey negativity.) He'd even added more photos.

OK, so his essay was a colorful, caustic diatribe about how his pushy mother, whom he compared to The Titanic, had taken the liberty of signing him onto the service without permission. Seething with sarcasm, it stated things like, "I've always wanted to be an Internet predator, but I've never known how to start." (I couldn't wait to see which girls, if any, might be attracted by lines like that.)

But if he were that annoyed about it, wouldn't he have taken his name off? Or at least waited a few days before choosing to play along?

Recently sentenced to six more months... of meeting girls on JDate.

Fortunately, within a few days his anger dissipated entirely and he revised his profile to sound straightforward and approachable by simply describing himself: 

 "Let's see. I work as a production assistant for 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent,' I'm a freelance jazz writer for The Village Voice and JazzTimes, I play the bari sax and clarinet in a swing-era big band, and I'm a producing associate at an off-Broadway theater company. I graduated from Brown in '08 with a degree in English. I love the movies, all kinds of music, and I do my best to take advantage of all the city has to offer. If you're ever bored here, you don't have your eyes open! I'm a fun guy with a deadpan sense of humor, but I can also be really romantic."

And then the dating began.

So to me, this episode fell into the realm of "I think the gentleman doth protest too much." As well as parental duty. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that Aidan didn't seem nearly as annoyed when I surprised him again recently by renewing his JDate membership for another six months.

So in the end, if I could turn back time, I would do it all over again. Only I'd do it sooner. 

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