Finding Mr. Right: A Journey through Orthodox Jewish Datingby Rachel Eden October 31, 2017
“This scar,” he pointed to a small white mark above his right eyebrow and licked his dry lips, “isn’t normally there.” He tipped up his hat, wiped his sweaty forehead, swallowed loudly and continued, “and I don’t have to wear my glasses. I do own contacts.” Pale, lanky, and nervous, his self-conscious remarks would turn off most women, but not me. I found something oddly endearing about them. First dates are tough. I could relate to that. This one was no exception. Poor guy wasn’t a natural conversationalist. He insisted on inquiring every 15 minutes or so, “Penny for your thoughts?” Surely he didn’t want to know I was thinking about how intensely awkward our exchange was thus far.
He took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, sat us down on a nearby bench, and pulled out a stack of “Loaded Questions” cards to fill our loaded silence. After the museum, we went out for lunch. I laughed when he accidentally flung melted cheese onto my shirt. I snickered (and cringed) when he announced that this was our first date to the waiter. He drove quite a distance to meet me in Manhattan and I appreciated that he invested the time. When our date was over, I told the shadchan (matchmaker) that his mother raised him well. I would go out again.
Our second date was similar to our first. This time though, he repeated incessantly that even though I agreed to date him twice, I’d end up breaking things off. That was how all his dates ended. He smiled cynically, “Let me at least pick my poison. Don’t break up to my face. Tell the shadchan.” He just shrugged when I warned him about self-fulfilling prophecies.
Still, I’m in the “date him ‘til you hate him” camp. I was highly conscious of his poor self-esteem, but I tend to root for the underdog and I wanted to see if things could go any further. For our third date, I agreed to drive to see him since he had traveled to me the first two times. I was a California transplant who moved to and worked in Manhattan. I hadn’t driven in ages and was nervous at the thought of navigating through unknown highways. I researched car rentals and found the directions that covered four states I had never so much as visited. Without a GPS or a clue, I realized it was time to call him and explain that I was lost, running late and needed help reorienting. “Okay,” he answered and then yelled nasally, “Maaaaa!” Now I know every Jewish boy has a mother, but at this delicate stage of courtship, I found myself turned off…and still lost. When I did finally arrive, I was four hours late. We took a walk, but I was looking at my watch the whole time since the car rental was expecting me to return by midnight. I explained that to him and we parted ways.
On the long drive home, I felt fairly certain we weren’t a good match. Later that night, I gratefully sank my head into my pillow and refused to think about the whole ordeal for at least a day or two. My cell phone rang early the next morning and I answered groggily. It was him and he wanted to talk. “Is everything okay?” I asked trying to shake off sleep. No everything wasn’t okay. He was upset. He was more than upset – he was angry. “Why were you late yesterday? We barely had a date.” I spent an hour with him on the phone as I apologized and tried to offer a “Gam Zu L’Tova” (everything is for the best). He responded, “You can only say Gam Zu L’Tova when you are the party wronged. Otherwise, it’s just offensive.”
I was emotionally exhausted by the end of our conversation and called the shadchan to give her an update. She was disappointed that our relationship had soured and the phone exchange was negative. With the clarity of hindsight, it’s plain to me that our chemistry was totally wrong. Still, I don’t regret our dates or the time I spent for our third and worst date. All part of the process of finding Mr. Right. Right?
Postscript: Do I think this approach to dating is superior? I think it’s the most effective system I’ve encountered. Both parties are clear on marriage being an end goal. Since Orthodox Jews don’t touch before marriage and don’t prolong the dating stage without cause, there is no physical or emotional attachment to color anyone’s judgment. Dating toads and kissing them are two different matters and avoiding touch keeps everyone at a safe distance until there is clarity and commitment that the relationship is forever. Orthodox Jewish dating is like the pasta primavera at an Italian restaurant: a substantial, at times surprising, and usually delicious way to dine. Best part is, you won’t hate yourself in the morning.A
Next Month: Orthodox Jewish Guide to Dating Part 3: And they lived happily ever after?