When my husband read an early draft of this essay, he asked, "Why doesn't her partner have to support our daughter? After all, they agreed to raise children as Jews." What does it mean to raise a Jewish child?Go To Parenting
January 29, 2010
If you asked me what my type is, "Catholic FBI agents from Kentucky" probably wouldn't roll off my tongue. I date artsy types who wear flannel and forget to shave. Guys who are Jewish, but not too Jewish. The kind of guys who are a little bit self-centered and unavailable, but as a writer, I get it, because I have my own ego to cultivate. They make up for it by being great kissers and having the ability to understand where I'm coming from and where I'm trying to go in life.
When I met Dan--I changed his name for this article--I was impressed that he'd flown all the way from Baltimore to Boston for our mutual friend's birthday. But the party was at a bar with the requisite dance music pumped up, and much was lost in group conversation when we were introduced. Later in the night, when he bought me a drink at the bar and talked passionately about his job as an FBI agent, I was rapt. For a Jewish girl from the Northeast, it was like meeting James Bond.
But I didn't take him seriously.
I thought nothing of spending the rest of the night talking (well, shouting) and dancing with Dan. But he was headed back to Baltimore the next day, and while I liked him ... Jews don't date men with guns.
Or do we?
Over the next few days, Dan was texting me, then emailing, then calling. He wanted to see me again, like, immediately. At some point, I put caution in the passenger seat and drove to Connecticut to simulate a "regular" date.
From the moment I picked him up at the Providence airport and drove us to the idyllic seaside towns of Connecticut, the day was easy in that nothing-can-go-wrong, conversation-isn't-forced kind of way. We wandered around like we were on vacation, like it wasn't our first date at all.
The next thing I knew, he was flying to Boston for a weekend. He knew that I was weird about the gun; that I was pretending it didn’t exist. "Where should I put all this stuff (including the gun, he carries about five pounds worth of crap on his belt) so that you don't have to look at it?" he asked. He's tall, I'm short (only one of our many differences), so he put it somewhere I couldn't see or reach. When we went to sleep, I wondered what happens if someone breaks in. What if he hadn't hid the gun and a robber got to it before he did?
The next day on the T, I wondered what would happen if someone were in danger and Dan had to pull out his gun. This is how people get hurt. In the Boston suburbs, you grow up learning that guns in the home lead to accidents. Period.
The weekend didn't go so well. Conversation didn't come easily this time. I didn't think Dan knew the first thing about my interests--writing and painting. I thought he was into me because he had a romantic notion about dating an artist, but would never really "get" me.
It's easier to assume these things than to spend the time finding out. And lucky for me, Dan called me on it.
At the end of the weekend, he confronted the situation and told me that our conversations had been difficult because I hadn't given him a chance. He was keeping his trap shut because I had already decided he was going to say the wrong thing. He was absolutely right.
If there's one thing Dan's job has taught him, it's persistence. In the following weeks, we started talking, learning and listening.
Dan was right. He was from Kentucky and he was in the FBI, and pretty much the farthest thing from being a member of the Tribe. And let's be clear about this: I feel strongly about marrying a Jew. How strongly? I have no idea. What I learned, once I gave Dan a chance, is that he totally gets who I am, or at least he's starting to. And I didn't give him credit for having layers that I am just starting to understand, which go way beyond his southern manners and well-trimmed hair. He enjoys sitting next to me in a coffee shop reading books. He wants to travel to the same places I do and he makes killer soundtracks of songs I've never heard for our trips.
Dan and I are embarking on God-knows-what. A relationship made up of visits back and forth to Baltimore and Boston, excursions to New York and Vermont. It's not rational, but it's heartfelt. Dan's the one who reminds me not to stress out, the one who is ready to hop on a plane at any moment without looking back, the one who makes it seem like life has no obstacles.
Life does have obstacles, and I'm the first to admit it. But for someone who considers herself open-minded and non-discriminatory, I found myself almost missing out on one of the greatest journeys of my 27 years. Eventually we will have to face real world problems, like, how long can we keep living in two places? Or, can I deal with the fact that he's not Jewish? But life is too short to miss out on December in Manhattan with someone who makes me smile.