In November 2007 I received the following email from a friend who had recently moved away (the subject line read “Blind Date?”):
Hi Elisheva, How are you? So nice to see you last month. Question: are you interested in being fixed up? My good friend’s brother is a 40 year old architect in sf. Cute, nice, great family. What do you think? All the best, serena
Soon after replying in the affirmative, I received the next email:
Greetings, I am Karen’s brother who is friends with Serena, who I understand to be your friend as well, and it seems as though the two of them are trying their hands at match making so it seems like the only polite thing to do is for us to get together and test their match making skills. Other than the fact that you know Serena the only other thing I know about you is that you are a member of the tribe, might be a teacher and that I don’t know how to pronounce your name. But I suppose that what first dates are for.
What do you think dinner? Drink after work? Let me know what your schedule looks like or if you have a questionnaire you would like me to fill out first.
It made me laugh. There were a few grammatical errors which I overlooked. And even though he might be a super nerd, it was worth at least meeting this brother-of-a-friend-architect-single-guy-in-San-Francisco.
So I replied:
I’m very pro-dinner, generally speaking. Usually on the late side. And company is always better than eating alone.
So, yes, I’ll take you up on the dinner offer.
No questionnaire for you to fill out (though it sounds like you’ve had some … uh… ‘experience’) I’m sure I could think of some deeply important questions to ask online, but probably the most relevant would be when and where?
I am indeed a member of the tribe– and often I say about myself that I’m the Jewish Yahoo, in that I’m pretty connected to the “Jewish” part of my identity.
We can discuss this more in person (or on line).
I continued the reply, sharing how I knew our mutual friend, joking about the questionnaire—even asking a question (if you could meet one person in history, who would it be and why?) and finished the post…
As for my name, it’s pronounced like this: Ellie-Sheh-Vuh (and rhymes with “whatevah”)
I look forward to meeting you, Bob.
We can tilt our glasses to the matchmakers, whether they are on to something or not.
And charmingly, his response to the “questionnaire” began:
So if you weren’t free I would have to choose Albert Einstein as my dinner companion. . . .
Our first date “didn’t happen.” After spending an evening in a bar thinking I might be stood up, I left thinking that he’d better have a good apology or excuse.
In my version of the story, he stood me up. In his retelling, there was a miscommunication about the date and he believed it to be the following Sunday. On Monday I received a very sweet, very apologetic voice mail (and email), saying that if he hadn’t blown it, he would still like to get together.
An older friend, twice married, once told me that if one paid good attention in the first three dates, you could learn everything you needed to know about a person. I’ve tried to take that advice and to be objective in my dating, taking a person for how he presents himself and listening closely to what he says and how, rather than trying to figure out if he is the person whom I want him to be. It helps me to stay very present in conversations.
We met shortly after Hanukkah, and this was the beginning. While I don’t remember everything we talked about, I remember Bob talking about his family on our first date—his parents, his sister, his nieces and nephew. He told me about his parents moving from the house he grew up in, into a condo that he designed. He may have talked about Jewish Youth Group. I was looking for someone who had good familial relations. I took this as a good sign.
Another jump in time:
On our way home from sharing Thanksgiving 2008 with his family, we decided to move in together. I remember seeing him soon after he’d told his parents the news.
“Were they excited?” I asked.
He hesitated. And started to say, “well… they are kind of traditional…”
“. . .and they’d be more excited if we were engaged,” I finished his unspoken report back. And I continued, somewhat self-righteously (I now realize) saying, “I don’t care much about getting married. That’s really not so important to me. I’m more interested in a good relationship. I think they’ll just have to accept that.”
And that was all we said to each other about a wedding. Or marriage.
However, we did move in together and we did muse about the future names and Jewish education of our unborn children; we did joked growing old together. We enjoyed cohabiting and had no intentions of breaking up.
So one Shabbat afternoon I came home from visiting with some friends, planning to change clothes so we could go to dinner and a movie. Bob was sitting on the couch doing something with his computer as I walked into the living/ dining room. “Hi” I said, as I whisked by, thinking I was on my way to the bathroom. I noticed an envelope on the table hand-addressed to me.
I picked it up and said aloud, “It’s a letter for me. From you!” Then I sat on the couch, next to my boyfriend, and began to read:
My dearest e,
This is a long overdue response to the beautiful letter you sent me months ago. Writing to you like this feels like some ancient ritual; familiar, seemingly simple, yet such a monumental act when actually carried out. I am basically writing to tell you that I love you. . . .
It made me cry. And laugh. I sat beside him on the couch, so filled with the sweetness of the letter.
. . . I think it is appropriate that our first date was at “Lucky Lounge.” I think back to how life changing that night was for me. I think about our San Francisco adventure in those early days and how we have relatively so little behind us and so much ahead. This of the adventures we will have!
So, Elizheva, queen of the desert, with all of that said saving so much more for a rainy day, the next time we are alone, make sure to ask me about your gift. I have something for you that I could not send with this letter.
Yours always – b
I looked at him, tears rolling down my cheeks, and asked, “you mean I get this letter and a gift?!” (I didn’t quite get what was about to happen.) He nodded. And then, in what seemed like a slow motion act, he reached into the lower pocket of his cargo pants & pulled out a white box. I remember observing and thinking, also in slow motion, “Bob is pulling out a little box from his pocket. Bob is opening the box. Wait… there’s a bag in there and it’s sparkling… is that a ring? Bob is handing a ring to me….”
He sat beside me on the couch, casually handing me a sparkly diamond ring and asked me to marry him. I was somewhat shocked. In fact, I was not quite sure what to say, so I asked, “Aren’t you supposed to get down on your knee to ask me that?” “Do you want me to?” “Yes,” I replied, realizing that I could say the word.
So he got on his knee, placed the ring on my finger, and repeated the question. I leaned over, gave him a big hug, and cried some more. He joined me on the couch and asked, “I think I know the answer, but do you have a word to go with it?”
In my mind, one voice was actually kvetching already with “I don’t want to go through all the hassle of planning a wedding….” And another voice said clearly, ”Elizheva, that is not the right answer. The answer is….”
“YES!” I said.
I was stunned. And delighted. And learned more about the antique diamond ring (formerly his grandmother’s), and his plans, and the letter he’d mailed from his office three days earlier, wondering when it would arrive and who might be in our home when I saw it.
Now, seven months, 17-site-visits, a few excel spread sheets, a few shopping days, and a ring design later, we are happily engaged, planning our Northern California wedding for next summer. I really look forward to sharing the fun and foibles of planning our wedding with others!