November 22, 2011
Ian grew up with two much older sisters, but “I was kind of like an only child … good life, good childhood, maids … I even had a wet nurse.”
He was a very bright kid —“not like jerky smart, but like an old soul.” In second grade, his parents moved him to a Jewish day school. “My friends went to shul, my parents didn’t.” He taught his parents about the Jewish laws, though they never got them right.
He went to Vassar College, where he was dating women, but secretly fooling around with guys. “I went to the quintessential perfect college, and it would have been perfect to come out, but AIDS hit, and I said, ‘I’m sticking to women.’ It was one thing to deviate from the norm, but, at the time, it went so hand in hand with an emaciated corpse with lesions, and it was sensory overload. So I stayed with women, and got loaded and got high.
“By senior year, I couldn’t do it anymore. I got sober. My legacy at college is I founded the first continuous AA meeting at Rockefeller Hall, Monday night.” After graduation, Ian moved to Israel with his girlfriend — “to avoid real life and to delay the inevitable.” He started drinking again. It was 1990, and he was taking classes in an ulpan to help Americans who want to join the Israeli army. “We’re handing out gas masks, because Saddam is threatening to send out Scuds. I’m thinking, ‘Who am I? I’m probably gay, I have a drinking problem, and I’m about to go in the army. I get a letter from my mother on beautiful embossed stationary. It reads, ‘Ian, I know why you’re doing this. It’s because you found your adoption papers.’ ” He was thrown — adopted? “My first thought was, ‘I’m not Jewish. Get me the f—- out of here.’ My second thought was, ‘How do I protect my mother?’ I knew I loved my family, and my identity, and in that one letter I had nothing — or so I thought. And it afforded me the opportunity to create my destiny. I came home, got sober, came out of the closet, and here we are today.”
I ask him about the kind of guy he’s looking for. He says, “They have to be smart. I want someone opinionated, with passions and beliefs. I love a good argument. For me, the most important quality in a guy is kindness, and ‘kind’ holds more than the basic definition that he’s nice. Kind goes to the soul — empathetic, nurturing, helps a stranger. And if they value themselves, they value the world. I’m a social worker. I work with the poor, I work with the downtrodden. With all the advantages I’ve had in my life, I’ve had my share of crap — more so than most — but I was lucky I had a foundation where I knew I was loved. I don’t get depressed. I barely get upset. When people are upset or aggravated, I look at them and say, ‘That’s a choice.’ A lot of that comes from my sobriety and working the program.”
I ask him if he dates a lot. “It’s just easier to be single these days because I have such a full life, so I have to put the energy toward bringing love in my life so at the same time I don’t feel any void or anything lacking. I’m certainly open to it; I’m not closed off to it, but I’m open to making it richer. I’ve become very wise. I’m an old soul, but at the same time I’m incredibly immature and silly, and I love that balance. It’s who I am.”
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Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.