In order to get married, one usually has to date. As an orthodox Jew, my dating process was all blind… with my eyes wide open. That is, I solely relied on family, friends, and community members to set me up on blind dates where I knew what the dating candidate’s name, background, age, schooling, family, values, future aspirations, and basic personality were like but we needed to meet to establish a physical and emotional chemistry.
That said, here’s my first installment (not sure yet if there will be a second) of meeting one such bachelor. Happy Reading!
“This scar”, he pointed to a small white mark above his right eyebrow and licked his dry lips, “isn’t normally there”. He tipped up his hat, wiped his sweaty forehead, swallowed loudly and continued “and I don’t have to wear my glasses. I do own contacts”. Pale, lanky, and nervous, his self-conscious remarks would turn off most women but not me. I found something oddly endearing about them. First dates are tough. I could relate to that. This one was no exception. Poor guy wasn’t a natural conversationalist. He insisted on inquiring every 15 minutes or so, “Penny for your thoughts?”. Surely he didn’t want to know I was thinking about how intensely awkward our exchange was thus far.
He took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan which was a good choice because at around 20 years old, I discovered that perusing through Post-Impressionistic works was pleasurable. I’m not especially cultured, artistic, or even musical but during my gap year learning in Israel (which extended into years), I tapped into those creative parts of myself and had the leisure time to get mildly acquainted with a variety of interests for the first time. I also appreciated that he thought ahead and brought a stack of “Loaded Questions” cards to fill the loaded silence.
And he was a gentleman. He paid for our lunch and he paid me compliments. I laughed when he accidentally flung melted cheese onto my shirt. I snickered (and cringed) when he announced that this was our first date to the waiter. He drove quite a distance to meet me in Manhattan and I appreciated that he invested the time. When our date was over, I told the shadchan (matchmaker) that his mother raised him well. I would go out again.
Our second date was similar to our first. This time, however, he repeated incessantly that even though I agreed to date him twice, he was certain I’d end up breaking things off. That was his dating history after all. He smiled cynically, “Let me at least pick my poison. Don’t break up to my face. Tell the shadchan.” He just shrugged when I warned him about self-fulfilling prophecies.
Still, I’m in the “date him ‘til you hate him” camp. I was highly conscious of his poor self-esteem but I tend to root for the underdog and I wanted to see if things could go any further. For our third date, I agreed to drive to see him. I was a California transplant who moved to and worked in Manhattan. I hadn’t driven for a considerable time and was nervous at the thought of navigating through unknown highways. I researched car rentals and found the directions that covered four states I had never so much as visited. But this is the price one has to pay to find Mr. Right.
My friend agreed to hop in the car with me so I could turn my commute into a road trip and we did our best with the directions I had written down but, trouble was, neither one of us had a GPS or a clue. I called him to explain I was lost, running late and needed help reorienting.
“Sure”, he answered and then yelled nasally, “Maaaaa!”. Now I know every Jewish boy has a mother but at this delicate stage of courtship, I found myself instinctively repelled. When I did finally arrive, I was four hours late and having spent most of the day in a stuffy car, just wanted to take another shower. I didn’t look or feel my best. He came out to greet me as I pulled up, and I forced a smile. We took a walk but I was looking at my watch the whole time since the car rental was expecting me to return by midnight. I explained that to him and we parted ways.
At this point, I felt fairly sure we were not a good match. When I returned home that night, I gratefully sank my head into my pillow and refused to think about the whole ordeal for at least a day or two. My cell phone rang the next morning and I answered groggily. It was him. He wanted to talk. “Is everything okay?” I asked trying to shake off sleep. No everything was not okay. He was upset. He was more than upset- he was angry. “Why were you late yesterday? We barely had a date.” We spent an hour on the phone as I apologized and tried to offer up “Gam Zu L’Tova” (everything is for the best) but that just fanned the flames. “You can only say ‘Gam Zu L’Tova‘ when you are the party wronged”, he complained. “Otherwise, it’s just offensive”. Okay, he had a point but: Oy.
I was emotionally exhausted by the end of our conversation and called the shadchan to give her an update. She was disappointed that our relationship had soured and the phone exchange was negative. With the clarity of hindsight, it’s plain to me that our chemistry was totally wrong. I don’t regret trying a few times and even putting the time in for our third and worst date. All part of the process of finding Mr. Right. Right?