On January 2, I swore off women. I felt that I chased them too much, that I bothered them. Women in general seemed to have better things to do than deal with me. So, says I to myself, I’m going to stop wasting everyone’s time by trying.
Also, on January 2, a Jewish woman going by the screen name “mono_no_aware” sent me a message on OKCupid to tell me I was fascinating and would I like to grab a cup of coffee sometime?
On her profile, she not only discussed mono no aware, but played with the English and Japanese meanings of ‘aware,’ and referenced mushin and do alongside Michael Chabon and Haruki Murakami…as if she expected you to already be familiar with Japanese philosophy and good books. She had pictures of her travels in Europe and spoke of her love of the French language and French culture.
And she was interested in me!
I was in a quandary – I had anticipated something like this, but considered the possibility so remote as to be not worth worrying about.
Announcing your plans is the best way to hear God laugh.
So I went to three friends (you know who you are) and asked, ‘you know that I have sworn off women, so I won’t bother them, but now this woman is asking me to coffee, should I accept?’ And these three friends replied, in order, ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ and ‘YES YOU FRIGGIN IDIOT!’
So we decided to meet for tea.
I was delayed in getting there by half an hour, and she, cross, texted her friend and kvetched…and her friend said, ‘trust me. Wait another ten minutes.’ I arrived, and we sat down, and chatted. We took a walk. She had worked in publishing and was working on a novel. She had taken a long slow route through France, and fallen in love with the people and the cities and the tongue.
There wasn’t really a spark, but there was some interest, so we met up a second time (just to make sure!), this time for lunch. And, when I found out she had a taste for craft beers like I do, for beers at Creekside afterwards.
She tells me she felt the spark when I jokingly poked her tummy as we sat down to our beers, to my spiced Belgian ale and her to her finely-crafted IPA.
Things progressed. We spend Valentine’s weekend going to her temple on Friday night and my meeting on Sunday morning, and, in between, dressing to the nines and ordering take-out pizza and eating it with champagne at home. We had so much fun being religious together we actually sat in silent retirement for the first time on Sunday night to get more of it, because we’re total dorks. As I went north to Sacramento to film a government meeting, my boss cunningly snuck her into the van on our way out…and she handled herself with joy and aplomb, doing the same work and suffering the same trials as we were.
For this woman, Melissa Weiss, is joy. I can see it in her prayers, in her lovemaking, in her eating, in her cooking, in her joking. With her, ‘the inner light’ is not a metaphor, but a plain fact. Her body feels like home, when she squeezes me in her arms after I’ve been gone. She has allowed me to take my dreams and hopes out from the vacuum-sealed places in the heart where I stowed them, because she shares them too.
When I told her I was joining the Peace Corps and going to Senegal, she asked to come. And I realized that, if the Corps wouldn’t let her, I would wait and try again next year, so we could go together.
She was the first woman to fearlessly offer to join me in the African bush. And she was the first one I was truly ready to stay for.
I purchased a used gold ring, in accordance with her tastes. Used gold is the most ethical, because at least no one had to suffer for her to wear it after the last person left it at Hamilton’s Jewelers. A plain gold band is Jewish tradition, representing the perfect union of marriage. And, of course, a used plain band is frugal!
This morning, as she finished davening and offering her thanks and prayers to God, I asked her to stand. Her tzitzit shivered as she stood, resplendent beneath her shawl and glowing with the in-breathing of YHVH that had just left her lips. I said, “I don’t speak much Hebrew, but I’ve been practicing.”
I got on one knee and opened the ring box. And I asked her to marry me in the language of Abraham and Sarah, of Jacob and Rachel, of Isaac and Rebekah.
She said yes, in English.
Then we hugged, and she cried, and we kissed.
My God, it’s a beautiful morning.