Happily Eva After: We shall overcome…the fear

Eva ruminates on dating in the 21st century.

Painting by Pepe Fainberg (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Painting by Pepe Fainberg
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Hola and happy spring! The flowers are a-blooming, the jasmine is a-fragrant, and one Eva is just trying to keep calm.
Why, you ask? Well, there has been a very interesting development in my life. I have wanted it to happen – nay, prayed for it – for a long time, but like everything else at this comparatively advanced age, it’s not so simple in practice.
Plainly put, I have been dating a guy I feel could be a really serious candidate. “That’s wonderful!” you (and my mom, savta, yenta neighbor and onion guy at the shuk) proclaim. So why the panic? Well, there’s this little nugget called fear.
I’ve been officially single for two years. Oh, as you’ve read, there were a number of dudes that coulda been contenders, but one way or another – being kohanim, agnostics or just not suitable – it never worked out.
But that was okay. After a divorce and then a traumatic long-term relationship with a scarily possessive chauvinist I almost married (but thankfully didn’t), I had built up one heck of a defense mechanism.
Each time, no matter how promising the guy, I never allowed myself to think it could actually be something real. So when the relationship inevitably fizzled, failed or went off the rails, I just moved on.
Oh, I felt a twinge or two, but I had built a life I loved – friends, career, apartment, the whole shebang. “The right guy, the cherry on top, had to come along at some point, didn’t he?” I reassured myself abstractly, not really wanting him to, since it might disrupt said life.
After all this time maintaining the status quo, I didn’t think much about it. I didn’t want to waste time fretting or, heaven forbid, being desperate. The best thing was just to go along and enjoy.
So I did. I really enjoyed my life. I also really enjoyed the fact that no guy could get to me to the point where I was feeling nervous or sad on my off-hours, wondering if he felt the way I did or would get in touch. I was free. Or so I thought.
I met Samuel through a dating website after an on-off dating break that lasted around six months (a new record). I scrolled through his profile, not paying much attention.
He seemed nice, I kind of liked what he wrote, his pictures and religious level were fine, and we were the same age. I’d give it a whirl. I really did need to date and tick that item off my to-do list.
Anyway, I’d be flying off to America soon for the Passover break, so the lack of time to get involved would keep it light.
Our first date was rather surprising, in a good way. He was really solicitous, insisting that I choose a restaurant for dinner (I was fine with just dessert, having stuffed myself before) and asking a million questions – which I love; and also humorous in a quirky way – which I also love. He is Sephardi, I am Ashkenazi, yet we seemed to agree on a lot of things. The time, rather than dragging, kind of flew.
The real kicker was right before he dropped me off. Accustomed to a somewhat stilted goodbye, I was surprised and pleased when he gave a little speech, summing up what he thought: “We’re from different worlds, but you’re a real hamuda [cutie]. I would like to see you again, if you agree.”
I agreed. Despite myself, I was kind of excited. But meh, I didn’t think about it too much.
The second date was the same way. We went out for what was supposed to be a lovely dinner, but the wait staff didn’t comply. Without thinking, I showed my true colors right off, asking sarcastically if they really thought we would sit at the table where they had shoved us (so great was my incredulity).
Such a patent Eva display, normally not revealed so quickly, might scare off another guy. But Samuel didn’t seem to mind. Might I say he liked my assertiveness? We talked like gangbusters. Conversation, so often elusive with others, seemed to flow. And so went our third date. He didn’t even mind my copious wine drinking, dubbing me “his little alcoholist.” (I’m not, I’m just a wine enthusiast – check my business card.) Soon I would be flying to the ancestral land of America; he offered to take me to the airport. I was a bit taken aback. Wasn’t it all a little fast? Still, it would be so much nicer than having to struggle with my luggage and a mouthy Nesher driver. I wouldn’t want to make “datey” conversation at 5 a.m. But might it also be… fun? I agreed. And it was fun. I laughed when the ticket agent asked what our relationship was (joking “Love of my life” didn’t seem appropriate, so I settled on “Haverim”) and enjoyed our little repast at the airport’s Arcaffe – and the snack package he had thoughtfully prepared for me. When we had a semi-emotional goodbye, I surprised myself by realizing that I would miss him.
Since I made aliya, there have been a few times that I started dating guys right before I left for a big trip. But I always felt unsettled, worrying if we would keep in touch and whether the distance would cause the ardor to subside.
It was different with Samuel. I felt more settled, I was certain he would be good about staying in contact, and I resolved that I would focus on spending time with my family. Whatever would be, would be.
And I was right. He stayed in touch, just the right amount. A few issues came up: He tried to use endearments, I never reciprocated, feeling it was too soon, but we talked it out over Skype. I had been hurt, I explained, and couldn’t just jump into anything without thinking. I needed to trust him, to know what he was all about, before I could truly let myself feel anything to the point where I could genuinely call him motek, mami or the like.
Samuel was really reassuring. I liked the way he responded, and I felt closer to him.
Still, when he offered to pick me up from the airport, I hesitated. Did he think we were going to have some emotional scene? Would it be awkward, would I be up to it after a (sure-to-be-nightmarish) long flight, when I likely would be looking a fright? Never mind – I wanted to see him (and I sure didn’t want to deal with those Nesher drivers). I said yes.
It went pretty well. I was a little ill at ease at first, but that wore off, especially when he presented me with a bouquet of roses in the car (both lovely and so much better than doing so in the airport) and considerately offered to buy milk before taking me home (black coffee being a horror I could never contemplate).
We’ve been dating ever since and growing closer. It hasn’t been super-long, but dare I say that things just keep getting better.
So why the fear? Well, things have been going well, and he’s been so persistent and our time together so nice, that it has to be too good to be true, right? And once he knows the real me, he’ll probably run the other way, right? And once I learn things about his life situation that complicate the honeymoon period, I’ll run the other way, right? And I’m not one of the “lucky ones” – I don’t really deserve love, right? And look at the past: Nothing has ever worked out, so why should this one, right? And if things do manage to somehow go well, it will change everything, and I’m not ready for that – right? All these thoughts, swirling around in my head when I’m alone and sometimes when we’re together, put a knot in the pit of my stomach and a bubble of fear in my throat.
It’s hard. I want so much to stay in the moment, to concentrate on the happiness of now and the possibilities of the future, to be hopeful rather than negative. But it’s normal to be fearful, having the baggage I’ve collected over these years of failed love affairs and relationships.
The fear can even be good, grounding me in reality rather than letting myself to go off on some dream cloud of the perfect life we will have together (nothing’s perfect).
So I’m going along, merrily yet cautiously, sometimes panicking, sometimes more tranquil. I’m trying to stay centered on the idea that whatever happens, this time has been a gift in my life, and that it bodes well for my future.
Now more than ever, based on this relationship thus far, I believe that my soul mate is out there – something I never truly allowed myself to believe before.
Is Samuel that soul mate? Stay tuned.