The doorbell rings. No one rings the doorbell to our house unless they’re FedEx or UPS
“Ruchie, you ready?” It’s my mother. Her voice is calm. Always calm.
“Yeah, Ma, coming in a minute.” I like waiting until the last minute, enjoy being alone until I can’t anymore.
I can hear my father pacing in the living room. I smell the cookies my mother decided to make 20 minutes ago. So far, all is the same. I smile.
I take one last look in the mirror. I fix my smudged eyeliner and push back a few strands of hair.
Heels or wedges I text my friend Dina.
How tall is he?
Stick to the wedges, may as well be comfortable 🙂
Bless her soul. We’d been through this more times than I can count. Now it’s just me, but she’s still loyal and understanding.
That familiar tense feeling in my stomach is there. I take a deep breath, put on a brave smile. Here goes nothing.
I enter the living room looking relaxed. It’s just me and my parents now. Comfortable. So many unsaid words in the air, but it’s okay that way.
My parents are making a joke about what they’re going to talk about. I laugh. A superficial laugh. Not quite fair, I think. They have each other and I have to do this all alone. At least it’s my 53rd time and 23rd guy (who’s counting?) so I’ve got experience.
It’s a little chilly out. Good, I’ll need a coat. Don’t want a date without a pocket. I need my phone with me even though I won’t use it.
My friend Miriam texts me that she’s outside in her car. It’s like this unspoken agreement that we have to lighten things up. You okay? She writes.
Ya BH. Can’t wait for this before part to be over. I send her a selfie of how I look.
You look pretty! Good luck.
I go to my usual spot in the kitchen. 7:02. Okay, so he’s two minutes late so far. Fashionably late. I’m texting back and forth with Dina. Going to put the kids to bed, but hope it goes well! We’ll talk. Please give me advance warning if you plan on marrying him. I laugh, in a good way, and feel grateful.
The doorbell rings. No one rings the doorbell to our house unless they’re FedEx or UPS.
My father shakes his hand, Mom welcomes him in. All is going as usual. We’re good at this by now.
The three longest minutes of my life. Mom’s asking him if he knows our cousins who live in his hometown. He does. Wahoo. Now what? My father tells him he learned in the same yeshivah that he went to in Israel. That fills up a solid 45 seconds of conversation.
It’s coming. The conversation slowly dies down. There are a few more “very nice’s” and “wow’s,” and then my mother says, “I guess I’ll go get Ruchie.”
As though until then they were wondering why a nice young guy made his way into our house in Shabbos clothes and sat down to look at cookies my mother just made.
My mother comes to get me. “He’s cute,” she mouths. That’s code for he’s alive and breathing.
We walk into the living room together, my mother and me. Then we do the nodding game. He nods, I nod, he nods again, someone mumbles hi and bye, and we make it out the door.
Okay so he’s not six foot two but not five foot six either. Cuteish smile. Not DOA. Not standing really straight though. No judging. I remind myself, just relax and let it go. It’s not like you’re gonna have to come home and tell 12 people how you feel about him.
He opens the car door. Check.
I take a glorious deep breath as he goes around to his side. Starts putting an address into the GPS. Okay, so he doesn’t have a smartphone.
He names two places we can go to. Both lounges. Both nice. Been to both many times. I say either is fine, he says feel free to adjust the temperature. I turn the heat up. Why do all guys like their cars freezing?
“Your parents seem nice.”
“Yup, I agree.”
“Are you close to them?”
Dude, seriously? We met 120 seconds ago. Do you actually think I’m going to discuss the ins and outs of my relationship with my parents??
We make some small talk about my city. Play a little Jewish geography.
Okay, I’d give him an eight out of ten for talking while driving. I count my blessings; I’ve met ones.
“So why did you decide to teach?” Because I love kids, and when I can connect to them and make them feel good about themselves, or teach them something new, my heart is on fire. Today I actually had a hard day, probably because I was distracted by this.
“Oh, I dunno, I guess because I love kids and enjoy it.” Ugh, that sounds so lame. Yeah, but I’m not gonna get all passionate right now.
We move on to talking about family. So he’s the youngest. I’d put down money he’s a mama’s boy. Kinda cute, but also wondering if he’s manly enough for me. I push that thought away. Just stay present.
He asks me about my family. I tell him I’m the oldest. Then we get to my sisters right under me. I tell him they’re both married. “Oh,” is all he says. I can see the wheels in his mind turning. He’s wondering what that means for me. Part of me wants to describe the mixed emotions. What it’s like to not have a place. The worries. I don’t. I talk about my brother who’s learning in Israel. That leads to where he learned in Israel, the idea in general, and where I was for seminary.
We move on to a trip his family took and I respond with a trip I just went on with friends. Then he’s back with a trip he did with friends in Israel. Okay, so he seems to like traveling, but definitely not the rah-rah kind of guy. Looks out for the underdog. That’s sweet. Too sweet? Would he get along with my brothers-in-law? Ruch, not now, you need to answer the question he just asked about what kind of vacation you like.
We reach the hotel. He’s a decent parker. He leaves his hat in the car. Okay, so he’s not overly yeshivish. We walk inside. He gets full credit for walking next to me. That’s one of my pet peeves; when the guy is a mile ahead of you and you’re running to catch up. Like, are you in a rush to go somewhere?
We walk inside. I comment on how warm it is. He agrees. He asks where I want to sit. Don’t tell him about the place on the second floor that’s near a fireplace and you love sitting there because it’s so cozy. He knows you’re not 19, but you still don’t want him to feel like he’s the 100th.
“Really anywhere, I’m not picky.” We find our seats. He asks what I want to drink. Chilled white wine. “I’ll take a Diet Coke.” I get comfortable while he goes to get the drinks.
Alone, I allow the rush of thoughts and feelings that are oh so familiar. The analysis, the worry, the hope, the skepticism, the humor. I see him walking back and try to let my mind clear to focus on the present moment. But not before I allow myself the luxury of that last thought, and let its warmth wash over me.
Maybe, just maybe, this can be it. My last first date.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 715)
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