Nearly 20 Years Ago I Sold My Soul, Attended a Jewish Singles Event, and Met the Woman of My Dreams.
For those of you, regardless of religion or culture, similarly reluctant … lean on me.
I swore I would never attend a Jewish singles everything. Though I was in my mid-30s, single and desperate, surely I was not that desperate …
Bullshit. Hell yeah, I was that desperate. I just didn’t want the world to know, as if my very presence would have been featured on the 11:00 News or something.
No, I was not “self-important” in truth, and my ego wasn’t all that big (according to me). I just sincerely never saw myself sinking to those depths.
Speaking of, a peek at my lower regions verifies I’ve long been Jewish. I did not closely follow the religion, however, so that didn’t quite sell me.
“Hey Joel,” my imaginary friend said, “what are you doing tonight?”
“I’m going to synagogue.”
And so … I went. Just that once but the visit changed my life. What follows are the none-too-sordid details.
It was my 36th birthday. January 14, 2000. I had broken up with someone six months earlier — thank God — and I had absolutely nothing going on romantically.
Truth is, I was picky as hell and refused to settle. I also didn’t want to waste time with dates that went nowhere. (Obviously I created my own Sturm und Drang, but my stubbornness did me favors in the end. Read on.)
I took stock. There was a massage parlor about 20 miles away … No, wasn’t going to happen. I’m one of those rare carbon-based life forms who has never so much as toked a joint in his life. I was a “good Jewish boy.” Soliciting a “happy ending,” though I believe sex work should be legalized, licensed and regulated but that’s a story for another time, just wasn’t my bag.
It was Friday, though. My saving grace. On Fridays I usually met some friends for Happy Hour in Beverly Hills. I was the one who didn’t drink (I’m that guy), but I ate. Constantly.
Prior to leaving my apartment I logged onto my new computer, waiting 16.2 minutes for the modem to boot, and searched if there were any singles events going on later that evening.
There was. “Friday Night Live” they called it, at Sinai Temple in Beverly Hills.
Fuck all, I thought. Of all things.
There was no way I was going alone. I called my single Jewish friend, Joe. “Listen,” I said, “there’s a single Hebe event going on tonight — ”
“What’s a Hebe event?” asked my overly-analytical friend.
“A Jewish singles event, sorry.”
Why didn’t you say that?”
That was a damn good question, one of which I still can’t answer. “Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Want to meet me there?”
Jews are generally big on Jewish things. We agreed to meet at 6. The event started at 7.
I didn’t tell him it was my birthday.
First, though, Happy Hour beckoned.
My buddies wouldn’t know it was my birthday either.
We did the Happy Hour thing. Just myself, and two old buddies. I told them I had to leave early this time, as I had an “appointment.”
They didn’t fight it.
“You may want to put some mozzarella sticks in your pocket though in case you get hungry,” one of my buddies said.
They laughed; I left. They knew my truth — not that I was headed out to a Jewish singles event on my birthday, but that I was always hungry after Happy Hour.
I found a parking space on the next block from Sinai Temple. I was never big on underground garages; my neuroses prohibited me from parking anywhere alone as a claustrophobia risk. Regardless, I arrived early.
The doors to Sinai Temple had already opened and I walked inside.
I couldn’t wait to leave.
Single Jews as far as the eye could see. No exaggeration. And the chapel didn’t even open yet.
I began to sweat. I HATED scenes like this. I was a writer, an introvert, and way too self-conscious to be in this setting.
Joe arrived five minutes into my panic attack.
“Finally!” I blurted. “What took you so long?”
“I’m early,” he said. “How long were you here?”
“Almost an hour!”
He ignored me, and changed the subject. “They’re not letting anyone in the chapel yet?”
“Look,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’m leaving. This isn’t my bag. I think I’d have more fun seeing a masseuse — ”
Joe turned to me, showing real emotion for the first time in … like, ever.
“Listen,” he whispered, close enough that he could kiss me. “You got my ass all the way over here, you’re staying for at least the service.”
He won. We checked in, and minutes later entered the now-open chapel.
Another 15 minutes passed, and nearly 2000 single Jewish men and women — about equal in proportion — now nearly completely filled the interior. There was room remaining here and there, but for the most part the benches were entirely full.
10 minutes thereafter, the service began. I was distracted by a latecomer looking for a seat. I thought she was profoundly attractive, and the way I thought back then I was confused as to why she would need to be there.
She took one of the few remaining spaces — the one to my immediate right. She smiled at me, and I felt immediately awkward.
“You come here often?” I actually asked.
She just smiled.
The service went on and at one point the Rabbi asked the congregation to “sway to the Shema,” a Jewish prayer in song. We were asked to “take hold of the person next to you” and follow his directive. Joe held my waist; I held his, and that beautiful woman to my right and I did the same.
We all swayed …
The service ended an hour later. There was a mixer after, and I wanted — no, I needed — to get to know this woman. I asked Joe to scram.
He got the picture. My request was well-received; he was smiling.
Lorie and I talked at the mixer. And then ... the coincidences. I admitted that night was my birthday; it was also her parent’s anniversary. They were seven years apart in age; Lorie and I (yeah, it came up but I forgot who from) were seven years apart in age. I lived in Glendale; she lived down the block from my old apartment in Hollywood but had jury duty two blocks from my Glendale apartment beginning that Monday.
It went from there. We both expressed a love of theater, movies and music. However, just as everything seemed to be going tremendously well … I lied. I told her I had to get back home.
She seemed puzzled, but was very pleasant. We exchanged numbers and I promised to call.
No games. I called the next day. We scheduled a lunch. I also admitted to her something that she’s been teasing me about ever since: I left because I didn’t want to get boring.
We’ve been living happily ever after. In a little more than a year, Lorie and I will have been together for 20 years.
Once upon a time, she literally walked into my life. The Jews — my people! — have a word for the phenomenon: “bashert,” meaning the meeting of my soulmate was meant to be.
I love my tribe.
P.S. The morning after Lorie and I met, I called my parents in Florida. My mother answered.
“So, I went to a Jewish singles event last night — ”
“Are you kidding me? You?” That would be my mother.
“I shouldn’t even ask, but did you meet anybody?”
“I think I did — ”
“WHA!! Rich, Joel met somebody at a Jewish event yesterday!”
“Leave him alone,” I heard from the background. “I’ll grill him later.”
“So you like her?” my very Jewish mother asked. “You think she’s the one?”
“I just met her a few hours ago!”
“Oh, I see. So what’s wrong with this one already?”
I couldn’t win. Still, my parents were very nearly in disbelief on our wedding day. My brothers were nearly in disbelief. My friends …
Oh, I almost forgot. Joe met a fine woman years later who he married, and one of my brothers, inspired by my success, eventually met his own wife at the same event.
Life is strange …
Thank you for reading.
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