In Internet Dating Gone Wrong Part 1, I had Chinese food and “intimacy.” Now, I’m hooking up with Jews from New Hampshire via JDate.
First, a story. We’re in Israel. We’re in the Old City. There are teenagers (Israeli soldiers) with assault riffles slung over their shoulders and cell phones pressed to their ears and cigarettes dangling from their mouths. They are young and beautiful and immortal. The wailing wall is segregated. Men and women visit separate sections. Old women sit on folding chairs. The walk to the wall too much. My son, inside this moment of awe striking history says, “Mom, you’re hot in the Middle East.”
“What?” I look at him in disbelief. This is my boy who doesn’t notice if there is smoke coming out of the stove. He isn’t the most observant guy. And looks? He could care less. Vanity is not one of his vices. He truly doesn’t concern himself with such frivolity. I’d be surprised if he knew the color of my eyes. And yet, he continued.
“You’re like the type here. You’re hot.” After that pronouncement, he wandered off to his side of the wall. His full shoulders and loping gait made my throat close. And I tried to suppress my worries about bombs going off at any moment. Any moment my children were out of sight. There was a sense the entire place could explode. The Middle East.
So, when we got back to the U.S.? I signed up for JDate. The Jewish Dating Site. I’m not observant unless randomly made honey cakes for Rosh Hashanah one year and forgetting the next, count as such.
Furthermore, because my mother is not Jewish, I’m only recently, in a biblical sense, officially Jewish. My half-breed status meant my children would not be fully Jewish. And that mattered. At that time, to the “us” that made up my marriage. So, after my son was born, I had a shot-gun mikvah. I was dunked in a warm bath inside a temple in Sharon, MA. I repeated words I did not know, to a bench of rabbis while I swam around with my baby. A sheet barrier hung between the rabbis and me. I was butt naked and so was baby Gabe. I had waterproof foundation caked on my tattoo. I had heard that if a person had a tattoo they were not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. I did not want my tattoo to bring the shot-gun mikvah to a screaming halt. I was offically dubbed Jewish after treading water for an hour. And therefore, my son and any subsequent child, was as well. Through and through. How I agreed to such and what possessed me to go so far as to cake foundation on my tattoo, is another story all together. I am, no matter how you slice it, Jewish. If through name alone. Or, as my son pointed out, my Semetic appearance.
Back to JDate:
1. The guy from New Hampshire (there are Jews in NH?) had recently been widowed.
2. We met for dinner in a dark Italian restaurant. He is wearing a suit. I was glad I hadn’t gone casual.
3. After he had a glass of wine, I had left mine untouched because on a date I like to keep my wits about me, he told me about taking care of his wife. She had died suddenly and swiftly from pancreatic cancer. One day she was weeding her flowerbeds and pruning her lilacs and the next she was dying.
4. My eyes welled up. I saw the Hospice retractable hospital bed, easy to pack up after his wife died. The bed sat where a coffee table had been. A nightstand topped with a jumble of prescription bottles occupied a corner and vases of wilted flowers from friends and relatives crammed the room. Right there, after the wilted flowers, I wanted to excuse myself and run away from the sadness of the man. But, that’s not what I did. I did what women do so well: I listened empathically.
5. He told me he had sat shiva. I recalled, somewhere in my limited Jewish education that sitting shiva is done after a person dies; a weeek of reflecting and settling around the reality of loss.
4. Did I have a bat mitzvah? He asked over his non-kosher scallops. I squinted and thought about whether or not I could roll the few I had attended into one I’d had– whether or not that was a blatant lie or just an interpretive memory. I settled on no, I hadn’t. I had not.
5. Did he have a bar mitzvah? He had. In fact, he had been educated in a Yeshiva. I shuffled though my Jewish cliff notes and settled on a Yeshiva’s equivalent being a monastery. I wondered if eating scallops had been his teenage rebellion. If scallops had been like smoking pot. I stopped short of asking.
6. He wanted to know about my job. I tried to explain that I’m a writer. Did I have many books published? Nooooo… and I haven’t made money yet. Per se…I tried to save my floundering sense of self, by sharing that I had once been a social worker. “They don’t make a good living either,” he said. Correct. I nodded and looked at his grey eyes. I tried to figure out if I detected contempt or boredom. “Wow, you have the life…” was how he closed the conversation about my work.
7. He took a deep swill of wine. He did not believe that I worked. That was okay. I am accustomed to deflecting that sentiment. From my ex, my nephew Lenny who wants to grow up and not work like Aunt Miriam, and anyone else who doesn’t mind trampling atop my fragile ego.
8. The New Hampshire Jew ran a company. Let’s pause here. All the men I met while internet dating owned companies. Every single one of them. The Jewish man from New Hampshire was no exception. He was a CEO or CFO or VP or some such acronym. There were a lot of stocks mentioned and options and trading and market driven parts to his work. Wow, you work hard. I feigned interest. But really, I was listing his pitfalls as a potential partner: His hands were soft and pale and his nails were buffed. I had also not appreciated looking at pictures of his dead wife on his IPhone. I felt that had been manipulative. And, finally, his preoccupation with bike touring and working out did not bode well for eating ice cream in bed together.
9. He asked about my children. I lite up. My children are delightful, I gushed. He nodded with a look of patient indulgence. I stopped after I told him about my daughter’s dance skills and he grabbed the floor.
10. It turend out that after becoming a reformed Jew, he and his wife had joined Population Zero. They had decided not to have children as an earth-friendly act. I recycle, he had a vasectomy.
11. When the waiter asked if we wanted desert menus, the CEO or CFO or VP, whatever he was, said he’d pass. He had a long ride planned for the morning and he “didn’t want to have a sugar hang over.” He said that loudly with a self-righteous verve that was shaming to anyone eating creme brulee. I really wanted the brownie with the molten dark chocolate topping. I have never, ever had a sugar hangover. The more sugar I eat, the better I feel immediately and the next morning. But I decided that I had disappointed the man enough. I had not been Jewish-Jewish, I had not had a bat mitzvah, I had polluted mother earth by procreating and I did not work.
12. We had been brave. We had come out and met each other. He was a sweet man. Truly. I am a reasonably nice woman. But, we were incompatible and we both knew that. We parted ways with a handshake. I got lost on the way home. My GPS had died and my son had thrown a party at his father’s house. I got a call that he had been busted by his father’s girlfriend. I rushed to pick him up. I drove in the direction of what I thought was home.
Eventually, after a conversation about the disrespectful act of throwing a house party, without asking the homeowner, I crawled into bed with If the Buddha Dated. If you have not read the book and you are dating or trying to date or thinking about dating, it’s a great read, tucked between a beatific cover.
Image: Zachi Evenor