“Are you interested in a set-up?” my friend emailed me the summer of my 40th year. I hesitated, yet she continued to play matchmaker.
"Smart. Son of a Diplomat. Funny. Not Jewish though, are you OK with that?"
“Sure,” I write back. What do I have to lose?
Being a world traveler with discerning taste led me to a life more single than attached, but when I turned 40, all bets were off. I tried, really tried to make all relationships work.
My date and I touched base in September. My school year was about to begin, Rosh Hashanah was around the corner, the timing seemed ripe with possibility.
We agreed to meet at a restaurant near my house. His breath was sour and his hair was a mess, so I was not instantly smitten. But as we dined and the conversation grew, we were both shocked to notice that hours had flown by so seamlessly.
He paid the bill and drove me four blocks home in his jet blue BMW, his midlife crisis purchase. I was proud of myself for working past the lack of initial physical attraction.
We emailed a bit, but he was hosting out-of-town friends, I was visiting with family and 6 weeks would go by before our next date, this time on his turf in Tribeca.
I had dyed my hair a new reddish brown color that for some reason was getting me a lot of attention. I can only assume it was the hair that led to not one but two men stopping by to ask my date if he was my boyfriend.
“She’s beautiful you know, is she with you?” a man asked and continued to the bathroom.
“I paid him to say that,” I jested but it seemed to make the diplomat ill at ease.
I managed to turn the conversation around, when once again a man came up to talk to us, this time it was a friend of the diplomat, who knew him and his previous girlfriend. We all chatted for a bit, when suddenly my date wanted to leave.
I knew something was wrong but what? He walked me to cab and we pecked each other on the lips quickly. I felt a tiny spark.
We emailed a bit and he wanted to see me again. We met in my neighborhood in Brooklyn for brunch and I still was not sold on his appearance. He wore a lavender tie and sweater and not the usual black T-shirt I was comfortable with. We ordered eggs Normandy and I sipped my coffee slowly.
We talked about our weeks, our jobs, and then he brought up the man we had run into in the bar on our last date. He wanted to talk about his ex-girlfriend.
“Um, that’s not really necessary, “ I said uncomfortably. He ignored me and plowed on through.
Apparently his ex-girlfriend convinced him to put a down payment on a house, and had somehow stolen thousands of dollars from him. His voice grew louder and louder with each anecdote.
“And well, her name is almost the same as yours and she’s Jewish,”
“Ok," I said, "and...?”
“I just can’t date another Jewish woman,” he said firmly.
“Wait a minute, you are telling me because my name reminds me of your ex-girlfriend's that you wont give me a chance?”
“It’s just too weird, and she stole from me, and—” he started spitting in his speech.
He then went off on a diatribe. How she wanted to quit her job. He even went so far as to say she had a lesbian sister that he was ashamed of. How he was in therapy. He was a hot mess.
I stood there in disbelief. I had been willing to give him a chance despite not being sure I was comfortable with his appearance, but he refused to date me because I was Jewish.
He left to go to the bathroom and I did not know what to do. I wanted to scream. To run. But I was calm. Instead, I grabbed the check and paid for it. No way was I going down as the stereotypical “cheap Jew.”
When he returned, he was annoyed that I had paid. I didn’t care. I told him I was ready to go. He insisted on walking me home and then emailed me a few times. I did not respond.
It’s ironic that the man who worked for the United Nations was the first anti-Semite I ever dated. Hopefully he'll be the last.