“I am a tortured soul of sorts. I am a songwriter looking for her muse.”
This is how I began my “Immodest Proposal,” a note I shared with 100 of my Facebook friends.
In it, I beseeched them to become my yentas, like in Fiddler on the Roof.
I implored them to help me find “all-encompassing, life-or-death, soulmate love.”
I enumerated what I was NOT looking for, such as “a die-hard Philly sports fan who eats McDonald’s French fries, a 9-to-5er who comes home every night to watch TV and drink beer, and a guy who only wants a romp in the hay,” among other disqualifiers.
What I DID want was an adventuresome spirit who yearned to travel. Someone who appreciated music and poetry. “An ambitious, well-accomplished, curious student of life.” And, “a man of immeasurable depth who relishes the sounds and flavours of words and speaks The King’s English.”
I wasn’t asking for much. I just wanted someone who was unique in the same ways that I was. Or at least complementary. I was sick of guys who spent their days at jobs they hated and their nights zoning out in front of bad television. I was bored with men who weren’t bored with staying in one place. I was tired of men who weren’t excited about a creative project, like I was. Most of all, I was fed up with potential suitors using the wrong homophones. Is it too much to ask for my future husband to know the differences between “their, they’re, and there?”
I closed the letter with, “After all, we make our own luck in this world. Here I am about to make mine.”
After I clicked “send,” I was surprised to see the responses rolling in.
Dan: “Absolutely. I’m in. Just to understand the ground rules, there are no French fries or hay allowed??”
Me: “Do you realize you hit reply all?”
Dan was a perfect fit. A Ph.D. candidate in journalism, we had met while writing for our local newspaper in high school. We had crushes on each other for years. But the timing never worked. He was on a Fulbright scholarship in Singapore for the next 6 months.
I clicked on to more responses, which made me laugh.
Amy: “You are NUTS. And that is why I love you.”
Lisa: “It is not a yenta you need, my dear, for yentas are gossipy blabbermouths. Instead you are in search of your ‘Bershert.’ I am signing on IMMEDIATELY.”
Some of the responses made me feel a little pathetic.
Marissa: “I have one guy who I think might be a good fit. I actually used to date him. He wasn’t very nice to me, but I hear he’s grown up a lot.”
Alexa: “Peace to you, poor soul, during these difficult days.”
And some of the responses were encouraging.
Mandi: “I will take some time and decide if any of my single friends are worthy.”
Farid: “It’s not going to be easy to recommend someone on the same caliber as you. You're one of the most intelligent, hard-working, and talented people I know.”
Fourteen viable candidates were presented to me. Amir, my friend Kira’s friend, was the first one I considered. She had met him on New York City’s notorious no-pants subway ride, facilitated by Improv Everywhere, a comedic performance group. Amir had liked Kira at first, but when he introduced Kira to Jose, Kira liked him instead, leaving Amir the odd man out. I was happy to be the odd girl in.
Born in England, Amir spoke the King’s English. He was also culturally Jewish and had a mystical nature to him, which I loved. We exchanged messages about our “favourite” books, dramatic irony, and how Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas is a painting of a scene of a painting.
When he met me in person at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, I had to look up to see him. He was 6’4.” His silky black ringlets touched his shoulders. His green eyes were bright and smiling. What followed was the best first date of my life, filled with silly stories from our respective childhoods. How, as a two-month old baby, he swallowed a screw, prompting an urgent visit to the hospital (and subsequently to the bathroom, apparently). How, as a newborn, I went from pale purple (the cord was wrapped around my neck) to dark yellow (severely jaundiced). How my oldest sister commented, “Why do we get the yellow one?”
Amir and I spent New Year’s Eve together. Soon after, his letters to me became less frequent. When I asked why, he said he was moving to Israel. Convinced that I could get him to stay, I frantically took the bus to meet him at Starbucks near Washington Square. I told him I was going to New York anyway for a yoga workshop. I lied.
He was kind, but not too kind. I cried on the way home.
When I saw his current city on his Facebook page change from New York, New York to Tel Aviv, Israel, I revisited my “Immodest Proposal” responses.
Jeff, who played Peter in our high school production of Jesus Christ Superstar (I was Mary Magdalene), recommended his friend, David. I felt torn. I told Jeff to have David friend me on Facebook, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted a relationship. After the abrupt end with Amir, I was hesitant.
But I wrote to David anyway.
“Jeff says you’re nice and that I should talk to you. What’s your story?”
We wrote every day, about what kinds of bagels we prefer, bike riding, classical music, how he can’t wait to finish his doctorate in psychology, how I can’t wait to finish writing my musical screenplay. I divulged my fear of throwing up and he admitted his fear of being trapped without a nearby bathroom. We went on about how I sing funerals, how he wants me to sing his if he dies young, how his mother will accompany me on the harp.
After a few weeks of writing to each other, I took the train to his home in suburban Pennsylvania.
When he met me at the station, I didn’t find him cute. I thought his nose was too big for his face and that twenty-five years-old was too young for his hair line to have receded as much. His posture was horrible. Also, his feet turned out, which I learned in yoga, could lead to serious back problems.
Perhaps I started developing real feelings for him when his phone alarm rang, signaling it was time for Jeopardy! He led me to his living room couch. We didn’t say a word until the game show was over.
A couple weeks in, I met his mother for the first time at the animal hospital, where his three-legged childhood dog, Easel, was dying. Outside, the sun was hovering, beckoning the fourteen year-old German Shepherd with the most gentlemanly disposition, to enjoy one last walk.
A few days later, I sang at Easel’s funeral, with David’s mom accompanying me on the harp. That’s when I saw David’s green eyes burning with a sadness that could come only from a deep love. He was not unappealing, like when I first saw him. He was perfect.
Our relationship sped ahead. We spent most nights together. We went on vacation with each other’s families. We talked about our future children. David was there for me when I needed him most—after painful dental surgery, when I was confined to my bed from a migraine, when my grandmother died. Then he suddenly was not.
He said “something’s missing.” I desperately tried to figure out what that was, wondering if it was anything I did and if there were anything I could do. This excessive overthinking temporarily robbed me of my life. I couldn’t sleep, eat, or function. I no longer had my grandmother around to tell me that I’m talented, beautiful, and special.
Again, I summoned my Facebook friends.
I prefaced the old draft of my “Immodest Proposal” with this:
“As a result of last year’s email, I did, in fact find a real romance. And it was wonderful for a year. Unfortunately, it did not work out. So I am once again calling upon you, and hoping that this time, I find someone for keeps. Unabashedly, here I go again.”
Messages of sympathy poured in, along with photos and descriptions of my friends’ single friends. When I imagined myself meeting them, I felt ill. I missed David.
I started writing a manuscript and songs. I met a musician who helped me through the in-between, but at the same time, triggered that same pain of yearning for the very relationship he couldn’t give. I took a three-month-long job standing in on a television show that required my mind to be somewhere else.
That’s where I met Alan, a cinematographer.
When the job ended, we wrote to each other for over a year. Until our love of each other’s art turned into a love of each other.
When I let go — not of my hopes for meeting someone — but of trying too hard to control the outcome, that’s when the right outcome came.
Because of Alan’s job, we travel together on a moment’s notice. He hates McDonald’s French fries and bad television and wants a non-traditional wedding, like I do. He writes lyrics for me to put to music.
He does, in fact, love sports and beer. But I’ve learned that predetermining what you want in a partner can limit you from getting what you actually want.
I never guessed I’d be cheering beside Chileans in their country, “Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le!” as they won Copa América 2016. I never thought I’d enjoy baseball like Alan does until he took me to see his childhood team, the Cubs, play at Wrigley Field, where luminescent patches of pink brightened the dimming sky.
And it just so happens that his grammar is perfect.