An original work of fiction
Dating in the 90s:Parity Error
|I think you need to change this name if Taz is to be a Jewish character.|
As I am wont to do, I decide to throw the idea out to my friend Tazanowski. I call him "Taz" for short. We're on the "Little Jewish Softball Team" together. We're tossing around a softball, warming up for a game. We do some of our best "girl" thinking that way. "So Taz", I say, projecting a nonchalant demeanor, "what do you think of hitting the Schul for a Shabbat service and doing some babe shopping?" I throw the ball to him. He drops my toss and my pitch.
"Shermie", he says, lacking all casualness, "you're out of your mind! No decent woman would be in Schul on a Friday night!"
I decide he has to be convinced of good advice. I barrage him with quotes from my self-help sages. I throw out a bribe of me buying the next round of beers (doesn't often happen). I rattle off the facts that: his parents would be happy; he'd be sitting home alone if he didn't go; he wouldn't have anything to lose. Taz knows he's experiencing a squeeze play with no way out. Taz finally realizes he'll never get to bat unless he acquiesces. "OK," he says grudgingly, "what do we DO next Friday night!?"
The Schul that we finally decide to go to is not the normal, run-of-the-mill Schul. It is the "Temple of the Performing Arts". This is a cool Schul, if there be such a thing. It's so cool; it only meets one Friday night a month. Now those people who know Judaism may think that Friday night Shabbat services come once a week. Nope. These "Performing Arts" guys have figured out that it only has to come once a month, and only on the first Friday of the month. This is so classy that the Schul gets SRO crowds every time it meets. We decide, yep, gotta be the Temple of the Performing Arts.
So we show, a little before game time. But there's a line to get into the Schul! This is unbelievable. Friday night Schul line? What could be going on in there? I'm looking at Taz, Taz is looking at me, and we're both walking all the way down to get to the end of the line. We're figuring that it must be a sin to cut line on the Shabbas. It's a good line though. It is a fashionable thing to do, to wait in this line. The women are all wearing heels and hose. The guys are wearing nice lawyer suits. I'm wearing Dockers. There are some small groupings of females in the line, talking quietly together. Taz and I make the most of our stroll to the end of the line, checking things out.
We're convinced we're going to be doing some major praying. So we got the ties on. We got the yarmulkes on. We grab the prayer books as we walk by the door. We're happening. It's like we know what we're doing. Responsive reading here, singing there, standing up, sitting down, sleeping during the sermon, scoping the congregation; we're fitting right in with the crowd. And, as an extra bonus, it is spiritually uplifting.
But we don't lose sight of our goal. Of course we're there for a cultural experience. Of course we're there because of nostalgia, sense of community, spirituality, expression of faith. And the chicks. We are complex, multi-dimensioned human heterosexual males who have a plethora of motives, youbetcha.
The service finally ends and we begin filing out in long streams of unorderly chaos. The little old ladies are elbowing their way to the front to get to the challah & wine first. Taz & me are straggling out. Was this it? Only a little bread to look forward to? What would Abbey, Ann and Joyce say? The blessings are said over the food. The crowd is mixing nicely. But it begins to thin.
From a couple of knowledgeable congregants, we overhear that all interested singles are supposed to meet at the Nibblers restaurant for cocktails. Unfortunately, I KNOW Nibblers restaurant. This is a restaurant that I have eaten at with my parental units. My parents are usually the youngsters at this place. You have to hobble out of the way of electric wheelchairs. The waitresses ask if you need them to cut your food. If they gave senior discounts they'd go out of business in a week. This may just be one man's opinion, but Nibblers restaurant is guaranteed to turn your hair gray by osmosis.
I don't think Taz knows this yet, or he would be turning on me. And then, another rumor makes its way over to me. Mattie, a long-time friend of mine, gives me a nice Shabbat hug and greeting. "Shalom, Shermie! We're going to the El Torrito restaurant! You coming?" "Maaaaaaatti" I say, drawling out her name in our traditional fashion, "what are you talking about? Everyone is going to Nibblers. The Rebbi practically announced it." Mattie replies, with a disdaining sniff, "No way! That's only for the alta cocker singles group. Anyone without a pacemaker is going over to El Torrito. And they're leaving now!"
Sure enough, the crowd is really thinning. The challah is almost gone and all the little chocolate things are history. Taz is on his way over to me with a puzzled look on his face. "Shermie, did we come here just for services? What up? I've been hearing bad things about Nibblers!" So I clue him in. "Taz, not to worry. WE'RE going to El Torrito 'cause it's the happenin' place!" Sotto voce I say, "Mattie says so!" How can he argue? We both love my cool, collected decisiveness.
Did I mention that Taz is a lawyer? We head out and go for our respective cars. Taz heads to the parking lot connected to the building. I hang a right, walk one block, turn left, walk two blocks, and cut right again for the final one and a half blocks. Where street parking is free. I drive over to almost within walking distance of El Torrito. When I finally arrive at the restaurant, I notice that many of the people from the temple are congregated in the patio area. I enter the patio and look around to scope out the open-air arena. "Hey Mattie and Melvin," I call, spotting them sitting at a table near the entrance. "Yo Feldman", I greet the local tennis organizer.
I see a few buds, but I can't get a bead on Taz. I know there's no way I could have beaten him here. Unless he stopped off for dinner and a shower. Finally I spot Taz. He's sitting at a table with three other people. There are five chairs surrounding the table, leaving one unoccupied. There are some drinks on the table. The empty chair is not next to Taz. My brain notices the empty chair, but my mind is otherwise occupied.
I gotta say, Taz is a great guy. He's the best softball player on the Little Jewish Team. He's a sharp dresser. He's a great Salsa dancer (he tells me). And he plays a mean game of poker. But he's no Mel Gibson. He's no Tom Sellick. He's no Kevin Costner. He's like me. We're cute. We're more the huggable types. Women like to tweak our cheeks on the way to the Sylvester Stallones of the world.
Sitting around "Taz's Table", as I am beginning to think of it, are two women who are looking marvelous. And one who is merely looking very good. I feel gravity attracting me towards "Taz's Table". The earth seems curved in "Table Direction". I think, "Ok, I'm missing something--where's the catch?" This is like the old tale of a guy walking into a bar filled with nothing but women, thinking that he has it made. He orders a drink and finds out that males aren't allowed in the bar. The bar in the tale is usually located in San Francisco. But this is Beverly Hill Adjacent. Could this be a women and Taz ONLY table? The curvature of the earth seems to be accelerating me towards the table. Sometimes you have to trust gravity.
Fortunately my mom didn't raise any specially challenged children. Except for my brother and sister. So while my mind is examining the gravity of the situation, I scoot into the empty chair at "Taz's Table". It feels like smooth slide into second. I beat the dust off my Dockers. I notice smaller details as a Happy Smile splits my face. The woman in the chair to my left is wearing a short, professional dress, perfect for business or Temple. Black hose. Heels. Low cut blouse. Brunette. And she's just finished making a cutting remark to a guy behind her.
As far as I can tell, Taz is devoting 110% of his attention to the woman on his right. I'm devoting 110% of my attention to the babe on my left. Fortunately, that still leaves me 10% to say "huh?" when the woman sitting in-between the Taz and I asks me if I just came from the temple. Then Taz comes through with shining colors. He introduces all of us at the table, and even adds a summary of important characteristics.
First, the woman on his right, "This is Rose, she plays soccer, "Taz relates. I say "Hi." Next, the woman in the middle, "This is Dawn, she lives in the valley." I say "Hi." Third is the woman on my left, "This is Leah, her name comes from the bible." I say, "You are the most beautiful woman I've seen in a month of Fridays and if you are as nice a person as you are beautiful, you must be very wonderful indeed," in my mind. Out loud I say, "Pleased to meet you," hoping that she would grasp the world of difference between that and just a "hi". Lastly comes me. "This is Sherman," Taz says.
It turns out that the three women are girlfriends. This is very significant. According to the current rules of singles etiquette and Hoyle, a single male must NEVER show interest in more than one girlfriend, simultaneously. It's OK to be politely friendly, but a distinct male-female type of attitude may only be directed at one. Dear Abby was quite adamant about this.
Fortunately, this is not even a small problem in my mind. It may be a big problem in my neck, though. I think about shifting my chair so that I am facing Leah instead of craning to my left. Nah, too gauche, and it's never safe to turn your back on old Taz; he IS a lawyer.
Leah and I discuss the Jewish service that night. There had been some Israeli music played during services. Israeli music always leaves me with a headache. Not a safe topic. The Rabbi, Tolushkin, is known for his insightful sermons. I had fallen asleep. Not a safe topic. We segue to other topics. I mention that Taz is the best player on the Little Jewish Softball Team. I am not sure that Leah is impressed. But she is not unimpressed. She shakes her head and says "I don't usually play competitive sports. I am on a softball team, but I usually just flirt with the umpire."
"Ahhh", I give as feedback.
She continues, "My legs may be too muscular right now. After running the marathon in New York, my knees were hurting, so I've been doing exercises to build up the surrounding musculature."
It's almost all I can do to gasp out "Ahhhhhh" again. All my life I've waited for a Jewish woman to say something other than "I have to workout because I have Hadassah thighs." I steal a glimpse of Leah's muscular legs. Am I too obvious? I blurt out "I have bad knees too!!" Leah looks at me kind of funny. In fact everyone at the table looks at me kind of funny. I think my volume is a little high and my voice sounds squeaky. But still, recovery is possible. "Yeah, most of the guys on my old track team developed tendonitis problems in their knees."
Taz, although he really is a great guy and normally very quick on pickup, says, "I thought you played tennis in high school."
But the conversation continues. Never let it be said that Taz and I are not masters of small talk. We consider small talk to be an art. And we usually do not partake in serious, in-depth conversations unless we are baited into them by the opposite sex. I find out that Leah has a dog. I happen to be a dog-person with my own mixed breed. She was once an aerobics instructor. I happen to have a thing for aerobics instructors (duh!). She works as a social worker. My father retired from a career of social work. She lives in Manhatten Beach. I frequently visit Manhappening Beach because the sand feels cleaner there, the water looks clearer, and the sun shines brighter.
Right now I am basking in what seems to be sunshine emanating from Leah. Occasionally women will attract my attention. On the order of three or four a day. But I can tell this is special. I am receiving vibes that feel like sweetly plucked harp chords. Or maybe I am just purring to myself; I can't be sure. I am sure that I have to overcome my overt shyness and take the next step.
"So Leah", I try to ask casually in the time-worn, stereotypical, yuppie way, "would you like to trade business cards?"
It is hard to tone down the enthusiasm in my voice. I sound like Daffy Duck, or maybe Tweety Bird, asking for the exchange. Am I blowing it? Am I timing it right? She is considering my offer carefully.
I leave the restaurant about fifteen minutes later. I had said my good-byes and am looking forward to the exercise of getting to my car. I have to work off my jitters. I asked for the card. I got the card. I have the card. QED. YES! I *AM* the dating conqueror!
I start checking off the things that I have learned about Leah while walking to the car. Like most guys, I keep a mental scorecard of certain activities, meeting a nubile female being one of said activities.
Time to add up the score. OHMIGOSH!! It's a perfect score! This has never happened before! And my standards keep on getting higher, in direct proportion to my age. This is incredible. It's the Perfect Babe! Yikes. How traumatic will it be to actually call her up on the phone now? How long do I wait before making the call? What do I say to her?
End of First Installment