I have been out on some bad dates during my long and not so illustrious dating career. I went out with a girl who talked so much that she wouldn't even pause to take a breath. She would continue telling her incredibly long stories even while she was breathing in, which made her voice sound like something of a cross between Bea Arthur and a Prairie Dog.
I went out with an Austrian girl who was nice enough, but her accent was so thick that everything she said sounded like she was yelling at me. At one point my instinct was to run up to the attic and hide in the secret compartment under the bed.
It's hard to keep your spirits up while going through the seemingly never-ending journey of dating. That's why I was skeptical at the last blind date suggestion that I received.
I went to Edmonton, Canada for my cousin's wedding and I stayed with the rabbi there for Shabbat. As I was leaving his home, he suggested I get in touch with a girl he knew in Toronto named Talia who spent some time studying sign language in Edmonton.
"Why do you think we should go out?" I asked.
His response was, "Well, you wear pants and she wears a skirt, so why not try it?"
With all due respect to the rabbi, if this was the criterion that I used for dating, I would have married William Wallace from Braveheart years ago.
It wasn't until my return home to Toronto that I reconsidered the rabbi's suggestion. Upon arriving in my apartment I turned on my computer and saw an email from my friend Malkie (a part time shadchan or matchmaker) who wanted to set me up with some girl named Talia who was a sign language interpreter. I was immediately intrigued by the strange coincidence so I decided to give this Talia a call and we set up a time to go out.
A few days before our impending date, I started having second thoughts. How much did I actually know about this girl? Come to think of it -- not much. I didn't even know what she looked like! I called Malkie and expressed some of my concerns -- mainly that I didn't know what she looked like -- which for some guys can be, let's admit it, the main concern.
"Well…" she said, "she actually looks a little like you."
"She actually looks a little like you." Now I was really worried. The last date that I had with a heavyset six-foot-tall religious man ended in disaster.
Great! Now I was really worried. The last date that I had with a heavyset six-foot-tall religious man ended in disaster.
I drove up to Talia's house expecting the worst. I approached the door with that last second feeling you have when going on a blind date: if the girl who opens the door looks like a linebacker, say that you are collecting money for the local Hare Krishna, get the door slammed in your face and run like the wind.
Talia opened the door and my fears disappeared in an instance. Malkie was totally wrong. Talia was beautiful!
We went to a piano bar and I had the best (and thankfully last) first date of my life. Within days I knew that Talia was the one for me. She was caring and warm and generous and thoughtful and fun. We shared common values and goals, both spiritual and otherwise, and just enjoyed spending time together. Things were going so well…almost too well. It was time for a reality check; it was time to "Meet the Parents."
Talia's parents invited me over for dinner. Not being someone who is shy around people, I was confident that I could handle myself. At dinner, Talia's father Joe attempted to engage me in conversation. "So, I went to your website," he said in his distinct Israeli accent, making reference to a satirical cybermagazine that I was writing for at the time. I was impressed that Talia's father was taking an interest in me -- it made me feel welcome.
Joe continued, "I did not like it."
Talia and her mother rebuked Joe immediately. "What?" he retorted innocently, "I don't like his website. It's not very funny. He thinks he's funny, but he's not so funny. Let me tell you something: Jackie Mason --- funny. Bill Cosby -- funny. Richard Rabkin -- not so funny."
Our first meeting with my father didn't go as planned either. My dad had some business in Toronto and offered to take the two of us out for dinner. After about five minutes of small talk, for some reason my dad decided to pick up the intensity a little bit. "So Talia," he began, "what is your political affiliation?"
Talia, not being politically minded. was surprised by the question. Perhaps only hearing the word "affiliation," she responded, "Well I grew up conservative, but now I am orthodox."
After the evening was over, Talia was very upset and wanted to know how she could better prepare for my dad's second visit. I told her that if possible, she should show him that she is a cultured and worldly person. So in preparation for my dad's next trip to Toronto Talia went out and got herself a French manicure. Not exactly what I had in mind.
My mother's first visit to Toronto was altogether different. At this point, Talia and I were still dating, but my mother was marching up and down the streets of Toronto announcing to everyone that Talia was her future daughter-in-law. She came down to my office and told everyone I work with; she told the gas station attendant; she even told my Slovakian neighbor Bella that Talia was her future daughter-in-law. Bella doesn't speak English but she seemed pleased with the news.
So what ended up happening with Talia and me? No doubt you can guess, but you'll have to tune in for the next installment of this series to be sure.
One thing that you can be sure about is the fact that dating is not easy. There are times when many of us feel like giving up the search and buying a few dozen cats instead (my roommate and I had contemplated adopting an Ethiopian boy and raising him as our own, but after concluding that he would find Canada too cold we decided against it). But you have to continue believing that your soul mate is out there somewhere, because that really is the case! It's just a matter of time before you find each other. If I didn't believe that, I never would have found Talia, my soul mate.