February 3, 2000
Dancing to Other Tunes
Last year, 44-years-old and still unmarried, I decided to take ballroom dancing lessons in Westchester. There were 100 other people there just like myself looking for a prospective spouse. We were all given name badges. I looked over the names and discovered that there were several Lukes and Peters, but no members of the tribe. Can it be true, I wondered, that Jewish men don't dance?
Not that that fact bothered me. I was born Jewish, but raised with little religious background. I figured that if the right dancer came along, I'd be able to drift away. Or so I thought.
I continued taking lessons and within a year I went from a rhumba novice to being able to cha cha in my sleep. I went to different dance spots and soon became familiar with the other dance die-hards around town. It was at a dance hall in Westchester that I became friends and dance partners with one of my classmates. Let's call him Christopher. We began to dance together and after a while it became clear to both of us we were having fun. Every week he would save a seat for me and when the music began we would fly across the dance floor, bodies joined, our movements a fluid whole.
Dancing led to harder stuff. Christopher began to share his most personal experiences with me. I learned early on that he was a devout Catholic and going to church every Sunday was very important to him.
Well-meaning friends and family had long told me that dating only Jewish men was limiting myself, that dating men 15 years and older would increase my possibilities in matrimony. Well Christopher fit the bill twice over: he was Catholic and 17 years older.
Christopher agreed to go to a holiday dinner at my mom's house, and I agreed to go to mass. Celebrating holidays in my household is a new phenomena. Since my mother became a grandmother, my brother and I have delighted in our mother putting on these great holiday dinners. During such occasions she has been known to stand and sing Jewish standards. Not long ago, I got to take Christopher to our sit-down Seder. My mother was very gracious to him. When she handed out the yarmulkes she noticed that he was uncomfortable. She quickly stated that the Pope wore a yarmulke and on this particular evening Chris could be just like the Pope.
Then it was my turn to go to his turf. I accompanied Christopher to church. Seeing statues and learning that there were two other masses the same day with there being 2,100 people in attendance made me feel like a grain of sand amidst the many. I reflected upon how few Jews there are in the world and on any given Saturday not more than 100 people could be seen in any average-sized synagogue. Christopher noticed that I did not kneel. I know he must wonder why. He is a wonderful man, but we have many differences.
I realize that having spent time with Christopher has made me appreciate my roots. My closest friend asks, "So what is going to come of Christopher? Are there wedding bells in the future?" I doubt it. But I do continue to see him. He is, after all, my dancing partner.