I had been set up on a blind date. Like most people, I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I went. You never know, right? Well, the woman, let's call her Rachel, turned out to be very attractive, and we actually had plenty to talk about. I was shocked. So, I called her to set up another date. I really wanted to do it right, so I went on Google Local and found the perfect place: a miniature golf course with a great review. (Great dates, miniature golfing. Take my word for it.)
I also washed my car, inside and out. And I bought her a book I thought she'd like. She had mentioned that she loved science fiction, but had never heard of Isaac Asimov. So I bought her a copy of "Foundation," a sci-fi classic. I was really trying to win her over.
Now, here's where things started to go wrong. I called up Rachel to tell her I'd pick her up, but she said she'd rather meet me there. I should mention now that Rachel is from a Sephardic country known to be very conservative. I knew that we should meet for the first date, but we'd done that already. She was 30 years old and I figured she should feel safe by now. I was a nice, hadn't touched her. I wore a yarmulke for gosh sakes.
And besides, the golfing place was in Manhattan Beach, a long drive. So, I brushed her objections aside. I knew I'd have to meet her folks; she still lived with them as is common in Sephardic communities, but I'd been through that before. It can be grueling, but I was ready ... or so I thought.
So, I showed up at her place -- in Beverly Hills, of course -- ready to meet Rachel's mom, who sat me down while Rachel went to get tea and cucumbers. Never did quite understand that one, but I was used to it. So I sipped my tea, ignored the cucumbers and waited for the usual questions: Where was I from? How long had I been observant? What did I do for a living? These came, as I knew they would, but then came the surprise. Mom asked where we were going. When I told her, she informed me, no, that was too far away. Hmmm....
"OK," I said.
Surprised is too weak a word to describe how I felt. Shocked would be better. The woman was telling me I couldn't take her 30-year-old daughter more than 3 miles away. Well, that blew my plans. I wasn't sure what to say except, "Yeah that's fine." But she wasn't done. She then told me that I'd made Rachel very uncomfortable by insisting on picking her up. Ummmm.... OK.
So, as this woman is laying down the law, I'm imagining my future life if things work out with Rachel: Shabbat dinners at their house every week, visits two to three times a week and always, always, mom's word would be law. You couldn't hear it, but there was a silent scream echoing through the deepest levels of my soul. A cry of pain and, yes, anger. Who was this lady to say I couldn't take her daughter golfing, that I wasn't trustworthy enough?
And I'm thinking, "Geez, I'm wearing a yarmulke here, a nice Jewish boy who's just vacuumed under the seats of his car for crying out loud."
Now, here's the thing.
I told this story on my second blind date. (The first, as you might have guessed, ended badly.)
Let's call this one Stephanie. She was also a set-up, also surprising in that she was attractive and interesting. Stephanie was also Sephardic, but she lived with her sister. I figured Stephanie might just be amused by my story. She wasn't. She tried to explain Rachel's culture, which was also hers. I got off the subject fast and we continued to chat. This was a first date, so the thing was to get in and get out on a positive note. And I did.
But when I called Stephanie back, she told me that she thought we were too different. Ummm.... OK.
It was the story. I knew it.
There's an old Jewish teaching that says that when you're dating, the point is to refine your character traits, and that when you are the best you can be, bam! Then you meet your destined match.
A few weeks later, after both relationships had totally and irrevocably imploded, I thought about that as I sat at yet-another singles function. Someone brought up disaster date stories. I opened my mouth, then immediately shut it. I didn't say a word.
So did I learn something from these dates? Is that the point? To have some sort of sitcom ending where you realize where you went wrong and resolve not to do it again? Yeah, as clichéd as it may sound, I think that is the point. First, I learned not to tell bad date stories. They may be funny to you, but to your current date, they could just be the kiss of death.
But beyond that, when a date goes wrong, there is something to be learned -- something that might actually get you closer to finding the right person. So, I guess what I'm saying is that life is a lot more like a sit-com then we have been led to believe. It may sound dumb, but I'm pretty sure it's true.
You can ask your rabbi if you want.
Matt Lipeles is a nice Jewish boy. Really, ask his mom. He's also a teacher and briefly was editor and publisher of Mensch Magazine.