Having dated 73 girls since I made aliyah two and a half years ago, I thought I had it down. Ten minutes before a date, I hit the shower. Five minutes 'till, I slipped into the already-pressed "dating shirt" and "dating slacks" hanging in the closet. Two minutes to date-time, a quick shot of peppermint schnapps to make my breath fresher, my jokes funnier, and the girl prettier. Sixty seconds till date time I was out the door. Crossing the street, I slipped into Cafe Hillel, my first-date location of choice, at just the right second.
Afterward, the shirt and slacks went back on the hangar, and I waited. The girls usually dumped me after the first date or two. Maybe one in ten was gracious enough to give me three before yanking the plug. Some weeks I went out with three girls in a row. Date, dump, date, dump, date, dump, it became regular. Like a beating heart. Why, oh why, couldn't I find someone with whom I could just be?
But after my third date with S., when she actually agreed to a fourth, I knew something was up. Of course, it wasn't like what you see in the movies, the sort of love at first sight. I had my doubts and fears, but I also felt like on some level this person on the other side of my slice of pizza was quietly absorbing one small piece of my soul at a time. It wasn't the intellect, though she's quite bright, and it wasn't the looks, though she drew my eye. It was something else.
Of course, I would sometimes seize up and panic, but I had made a decision that I would never again end a relationship without talking the matter through. And while I felt a growing interest in her, I could never quite perceive whether she was in the same place I was. On the phone with her after our eighth date, uncharted territory for me having never made it past the fifth date, I finally spoke. "I just feel," I told her, "like every date is still our first date. I'm never comfortable. Maybe that's why I'm 30 and still single, but I don't know if I can handle this."
"Love," she responded, "isn't' something you fall into. It's something you grow into. We have the same values, the same ideas."
Well, yes. She was learning full-time at a seminary across the street from the yeshiva where I had studied.
"I can't stop you from going, and it's your decision. But you'll always wonder what could have been." Then I heard her quietly sniffling.
If she felt that strongly, I decided we should go out again. We went to the shuk (outdoor market) at night, looking for a special garment for someone in my family. Unfortunately, most of the stores were closed, so we only checked a few, and later wandered about in boredom. The date was mediocre, but the creeping fear I had was returning. After the date I tossed and turned trying to sleep. Why hadn't I had the guts to end the relationship when the time was right? Perhaps I should do it by email. I began composing a letter. Then next day I was perfecting the touches of a letter which would, as gently as possible, let her down. The phone rang.
"Hi, this is S."
"Oh, uh, hi. How are you?"
"I'm good. I just wanted to wish you a Shabbat Shalom (good sabbath) and let you know that I went back to the shuk. I went back to all the stores that were closed last night in order to find that garment for you."
Wow. In two and a half years, after all the eight dozen girls I had dated talking about their law degrees and their traveling experiences, themselves, themselves, themselves, nobody had ever done a thing like that.
"Uh. Thanks. Shabbat Shalom."
I deleted the letter I had been writing. During that Shabbat, I went to some singles events I had signed up for, and standing there watching all the girls yack on and on about themselves, all I could think of was, "Where's my S.?"
After that, I got really interested, and so did she. As our dates progressed, we found that we were just getting over with the dinner or bowling in order to get to the best part, the end. I would bring her back to her apartment, where on our early dates I used to just say, "I had a good time and I'll call you tomorrow," sat back and wandered through hours and hours of conversation. Or we would lean back and silently watch the clouds pass by. I had finally found someone with whom I could just be. Finally, I decided to tell her, "I want you to know that the fear I had earlier is gone. I feel very confident about us and I think we're moving in a good direction." The look of relief in her face was immediate.
I began introducing her to my Israeli family. We even Skyped my family back in the states. After thirty or so dates, I was ready to propose. On Monday, I brought her up to Kever Shmuel, the grave of Samuel the Prophet, which overlooks Jerusalem, for a lunch.
I gave her a small gift, and wrapped inside was a scroll, reading, "Marry Me?"
She said yes. After the flurry of phonecalls to friends and relatives, we finally called it a night at 12 AM.
The next day, she and I were discussing our plans. In the course of the discussion, I began discussing an issue which we had discussed while we were dating. At the time, I hadn't grasped the depth of this issue, but after having discussed it further, I realized that we have to figure out how we are going to approach it before we can set an official date and make the rest of the arrangements.
But I won't let that distract me from the good news: I'm engaged to a great girl! Who would have thought it possible? Halleluyah!