I was always really nervous just before I met (any) him for the first time. I’d either spend hours selecting an outfit or buying a new one and often would have my hair done for the occasion. Add that to a manicure, shower, and taking-my-sweet-time applying makeup and general primping….by the time I encountered my date for the first time, my adrenaline was surely pumping. Most of my first date memories were in the lobby of my apartment building in midtown Manhattan. My friend, Ketti, and I would take turns cheer-leading while the other indulged in analysis and anxiety. Fun times.
My last first date, though, took place at the front steps of a large Flatbush home where I had resided for three months. My dear Ketti had met her soulmate several months earlier and I had since moved twice. In fact, I was becoming something of a lucky charm to single friends. One such single girlfriend and I planned to move in together only to have our plans change at the last minute since she too had suddenly met her husband during a trip to Israel.
I heard the knock at 8:04pm, a cold evening in December 2006, and I gave myself one final glance in the hallway mirror before flipping my head and tousling my hair. I opened the front door with what I hoped was a demure smile though I think now it must have looked more mischievous. He stood in the doorway in a dark coat and black hat looking very much the part of a polished yeshiva bachur (single guy in Jewish seminary). We had spoken on the phone for 20 minutes and I instantly liked his laid back voice and silly jokes. I giggled and babbled through most of the conversation until he cut it short so we’d “still have stuff to talk about” once we actually met in person.
To be fair, the first date had objectively awkward moments. We walked into a Brooklyn cafe on this particularly freezing winter night and my date, Daniel, chose a table in a dim corner. I remarked that it was a telling choice for someone to choose a corner table (I was being insightful and witty!) and he responded that he wasn’t a fan of psychoanalysis. There was also the incident when he couldn’t find his car keys at the end of the date and was practically running in and around the cafe in desperate search. Still, overall, he was the balance of religious, worldly, and many other Mr. Right List items I had taken pains to record.
He had driven from Baltimore to New York to meet me and we both agreed to go out for a second time while he was in town. This date went even better than the first. I found out that I loved being around him and he could make me laugh and laugh- a huge departure from my usual hyper-critical Is-He-Or-Isn’t-He-The-One mindset. Sense of humor was not something I considered important but it was a pleasant surprise that he had one (and a lifesaver over the years!). We bantered through the whole evening and I told my dad that night that if things worked out, this would be love at first sight (really at first sound since that original phone conversation was what hooked me).
Commercial Break: I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, dating within an orthodox Jewish system is kind of awesome. For a marriage-minded single, it is the gift of NO GAMES. I knew a lot about my husband before we even met. I had a sense of his values, character, goals, education, family, and background. Rejection- whether you’re dishing it out or taking it- is rough but it’s the only necessary downside to dating this way. Also, since the physical attraction and chemistry is only addressed after you ascertain if the person is stable and a good match, it’s a much more objective and safe way to screen suitors. But back to the program…
I went to Baltimore for our third date and chose not to rent a car but rather take a train (learned that lesson the hard way! see here for details on that). I’ll never forget the palpable excitement during the ride to my host’s apartment when Daniel picked me up from the station. We went out for Chinese food at the kosher David Chu’s restaurant and he had me in stitches with his jokes -some off color- like when we passed by an Asian man upon entering and he said it was David Chu. (Apologies for anyone who just took offense! Not my intention!) Between the laughter we did talk about ideas and life issues but I mostly just had a really great time.
For our fourth date, Daniel drove back to New York and we went to Times Square which was less entertaining than our car ride back to Brooklyn where he popped in his Brian Regan disc and I gasped for air, laughing so hard from the first clean comic I’d ever heard. During these first few New York evenings together, we mostly drove in circles completely lost, both out-of-towners and hopeless with directions but having a blast in each other’s company. After the date, Daniel asked me if I’d meet a family friend who he stayed with every time he drove to New York. I took this to be a huge step in the relationship, and though I was caught off guard and nervous, I quickly agreed.
Following that date and three more, Daniel brought up marriage. We had dated 3 1/2 weeks. Seven dates. I’ve had longer relationships with….well, pretty much anything else. Plus, choosing a marriage partner is probably the single most important decision a person can face. With other guys, I had always analyzed whether or not they were Mr. Right but with this guy, with Daniel, I just lived in the moment and took pleasure in being around him. I think my exact words were “where do I sign up?”.
This true dating story along with the marriage that follows is absolutely a gift. If you don’t believe in anything Transcendent, it was and continues to be pure dumb luck that things worked out so well. If you do believe in More, then God’s hand is with us every step of the way. While Daniel and I prepare to celebrate our seventh anniversary in a few days and gigantic, hard life decisions face us with variables we couldn’t have foreseen at David Chu’s….I am so fortunate to be partnered with the guy who forced me to live in the moment on my last first, second, third, and seventh date.