Happily Eva After: The one in which I acted the turkey

EVA ruminates on dating in the 21st century.

Painting by Pepe Fainberg (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Painting by Pepe Fainberg
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Growing up, I was always what you could conservatively call a humongous, massive fan of American Thanksgiving.
The food! The harvest feeling! The emphasis on all things delicious! Now add in the aliya component, missing my family and those crepe-paper pilgrims when the first hint of November rolls (crescent rolls!) around, and you have the recipe for an over-the-top preoccupation.
Luckily, for the past few years a friend with a talent for stuffing game birds has been hosting the occasion. We all bring something tasty and while the feast is expat in flavor, it doesn’t diminish the wonder.
Until this year.
OH, IT was wondrous, but in a different way than I had anticipated.
Anyone who meets me learns pretty quickly that I have an affinity for pies; multiply that times 1,000 on the last Thursday in November (T-Day!). So it was only natural that I would volunteer to make a pecan pie for the Great Turkey Extravaganza.
I gathered all my ingredients in advance – you try finding Karo syrup in Jerusalem! – but being of the Fresh Is Best/ Procrastination school, I opted to bake the pie on the same day as the grand banquet. And since this is Israel, I had to work that day, so this translated into a few hours before.
Naturally, I was a ball of nerves – wanting to get the pie right, finding it hard to concentrate with visions of be-marshmallowed yams dancing in my head. It didn’t help that my dang iPhone kept ringing – the universe seemed to have a sixth sense that it was prime time.
And that’s when I got into trouble.
DATING COMES in waves. Things had been quiet for the previous few weeks, but suddenly, I met two people at once.
I first conversed with Gavriel at the shuk. (Not a surprise, given that it’s my go-to hangout.) I had met a friend for lunch, then felt the pressing need for a toothpick (called a kasam in Hebrew; in a very Middle Eastern twist, I remember the word by reminding myself of Kassam rockets).
Anyhoo, the toothpicks were next to two dudes – one of whom looked familiar. Had I met him outside shul? They happily passed us the rockets, sizing us up in the process, and we went on our merry way.
Fast-forward a few days later, as I sweatily made my way on to the bus – the agora of Israeli society, everyone meets there – after a workout. There was the familiar-looking kasam dude! He definitely recognized me, peeking at me a number of times. Finally I piped up, “I think we met at the salad place?” “Yes!” We had a convivial conversation as the bus took its hairpin turns. He revealed he was from Eastern Europe and worked in the wine industry (yes!). Would I like to have coffee? He was cute and nice. “Sure!” He contacted me the very next day about rendezvousing, and we made a date for the following week.
Meanwhile, a guy I knew from Tel Aviv emailed that a friend of his, Daniel (pronounced Doniyel, rhymes with Gavriel), was moving to J-town. Could Daniel get in touch so I could show him the social ropes? “Sure!” Perhaps his friend was a dating possibility, too? Daniel emailed shortly thereafter, revealing himself to be a native Israeli. We met up a few nights later, yakking companionably over soup. While he was cute and intelligent, as an ex-haredi and now-atheist he didn’t appear to be the one for me, though I’d happily add him to my friends roster.
So that was that. Gavriel was a dating possibility, while Daniel was in the friend zone.
It was all clear to me, until I began baking the pie.
AS I was creaming together the oil and sugar (must’ve been 200 calories in every bite o’ that pie!), the phone buzzed again.
Sighing, I dashed over: Gavriel.
“Hello!” I yelped perkily. He had been texting me practically every day since we made our date, so I figured this was another check-in.
We proceeded to have a nice conversation, during which he asked what I was doing that night. I went into the whole Thanksgiving shebang, string bean casserole, yada yada.
“So you’re not free tonight?” he asked. I figured he was trying his luck, eager to see me.
“No,” I replied, “I’ll see you Sunday night in the shuk [surprise!] like we planned.”
“Okay,” he said, sounding confused. Sunday was fine, but where? “The shuk!” I answered in a flirtatious tone. “We’ll have drinks; it will be good.”
“So I’ll be in touch with you in a few nights to discuss,” he said. I wondered what was left to cover, we had a plan, but agreed.
“Yup!” I sing-songed. “Call any time.”
We hung up, and I felt unsettled. Gavriel seemed a little freaked out by my blatant “flirtery,” but this was the tone we had adopted throughout. I usually take the guy’s lead, and he was contacting me every day, clearly interested.
Had I done something wrong? The phone rang. Argh: Gavriel again.
“Hello?” I said tentatively. Was something really up? “Hey,” he said nervously. “I’m Israeli [I thought he was Czech?], and we’re into being straight up, so I’ll just be honest.”
“Yes…?” I prompted.
“While it’s been great to meet you, and I definitely want to hang out, getting together Sunday night won’t be a date, will it?” My mind was blown. I have good instincts. It was definitely a date.
“It can be whatever you want it to be,” I answered distantly, fervently chopping pecans.
“OK, since I think you’re great [that word again!] but we’re so different, I just don’t think it would work.”
Were we really that different? We had only met on a few short occasions but seemed compatible religiously, sense of humor-wise, etc.
While normally I’m a devotee of the “He’s just not that into you” philosophy and would never compel someone to go out with me if they weren’t keen, this guy seemed to be messing with my head.
A feeling I distinctly did not appreciate.
“I’m just having a hard time understanding what’s going on here. Is something wrong with me?” I demanded.
“Nooo...” Gavriel sputtered.
“And aren’t you in your late 30s? Don’t you want to get married?” “Sure I do,” G tried to get in edgewise. “But I saw us more as friends who could go to parties together, meet people.”
“You text me every day, ‘just to see how I’m doing.’ That’s not friend behavior! I am not looking for something ‘fun!’” I was really off to the races.
“I’m not looking for a stutz [one-night stand],” said Gavriel in a tiny voice.
“Well, I have tons of friends,” I assured him. “I do not need to add another male to that list!” Enough. Halas. I would not ruin my long-anticipated Turkey Day with this confused, unmanly, messing-withme foolio! “I have a pie to bake. Good luck making friends. I guess I’ll be seeing you on the bus!” I concluded, clicking off. (I would have slammed down the phone, but alas, that satisfying action is not possible on cellphones.) OMG!! I am not one to deride all modern men as jerks, but what had just happened? Had I somehow lost my “zazazu” with the opposite sex? My phone pinged with a text: Gavriel. “Good evening, how are you?” WTF?? I contemplated replying, “To hell with you buddy; you know how I’m doing,” but decided to take the high (pie) road. Besides, it was getting late, and I was due at Thanksgiving dinner.
Trying to calm myself and not focus on my disappointment over it all, I put the pie in the oven, then went on Facebook.
And here was a loooong message from Daniel! Poor soul must have spent half an hour writing it in English.
“I’m so sorry,” Daniel wrote. “I never meant to hurt you.
We met once, and you seemed so nice. I just wanted to get to know you as friends. Our values aren’t the same and I thought you realized that.”
Like a thunderclap, it came to me: Being distracted with pie-making – and the rhyming nature of the two lads’ names – I had mistaken Daniel for Gavriel, and had given a hardcore chewing-out to the wrong dude! I still had a date with Gavriel, but there was one guy new to the Holy City (Daniel, duh) who might be regretting his choice to move here.
I felt like the world’s biggest idiot. Immediately calling Daniel, I explained the mistaken identity situation as best I could – how I was so riled up about Thanksgiving, missing my family and gravy; how I was in the heat of pie-making, racing against the clock; how all girls from Jerusalem aren’t crazy; and how, of course, I’m fine with being friends! Daniel was super sweet and surprisingly understanding.
Although I had gone American Psycho/Fatal Attraction on him, he admitted that many of the things I had said in fury did sound like they were meant for another person.
I HAD wriggled out of this one.
Daniel and I stayed friends, and I went on a nice date with Gavriel.
The Thanksgiving banquet was as glorious as I had hoped, and the pie turned out spectacularly (if I do say so myself).
But at the end of the night, the fatigue I felt sure wasn’t due to tryptophan.