The following story is what led to Bad Date Great Story finding its mascot, Elektra the cat…
It was 2008, I was six months out of my first serious relationship, and the closest thing to “dating” I was doing was two coffee gatherings with a writer (shocking) 14 years my senior, who never called again but did send me adorable slash mildly exploitative photos of his hospitalized cat (see: image). On top of this, word on the street (ie: facebook) was my ex was dating someone seriously, and I thought: well these times, they are getting pretty desperate.
When desperate dating times call for dating desperate measures, that desperate measure usually involves a computer, a supportive friend, and several hours scrolling your facebook profile pics. And this is exactly how it went. I thought I’d wade through, rather than throw myself, into on-line dating, so I started with a free site first: nerve.com. But I quickly realized that, though finding a date from a Web site containing articles like “True Stories: Sex Ed; I Slept with my Mother’s Best Friend…Who was Also my Fourth Grade Teacher,” might earn me some material, it certainly was not going to guide me towards my partner for life.
My mother, after listening to my complaints about the situation, suggested I switch my strategy.
“Why don’t you try that Jew date?” she responded.
“You know…that site. Where you go to meet other Jews. Jew date.”
I should have seen this coming. My mother was 61 years old, and she had one thing on the brain: Jewish grandkids. Many of her friends were collecting them like I used to collect Happy Meal toys…or pogs. And while some of them had six or seven, my mother would settle for just one.
“Do you mean J-Date?” I finally responded.
“Yes,” she said. “That one.”
I knew what she was doing. My sister and I tended to date non-Jewish men and for years, my mother had been trying to set us up with the sons of her Jewish friends. My mother was a smart cookie. This was a moment of weakness and she saw it.
“Just try it,” she said. “The guys you’ll meet won’t be like your ex. They’ll have jobs. They won’t live with their parents.”
“What if they’re Republicans?” I asked.
“This might happen,” my mother said. “But remember—the Republicans stand with Israel.”
And though I was unconvinced, cautious—and broke—still, I gave in. Jewish mothers can be difficult to say “no” to.
I decided to deviate from the photos I put up on nerve (T&A!) and carefully chose, for my main photo, a picture from a recent trip to Israel. There I was: covered shoulders; long skirt; the whole shebang. If this was what they were buying, this was what I would sell.
And it seemed my mother was on to something.
In my first two weeks on J-Date, I was taken out for drinks and dinner more times than I had over the course of an entire relationship. And yet, no sparks were happening.
And then I got a message from NYJEWLAW.
NYJEWLAW was—you guessed it—a New York Jewish Lawyer. He also was the only guy to make it past a second date. Tall, dark, and handsome, he was, in fact, everything my mother promised a nice Jewish boy to be.
After two dates in my current borough, NYJEWLAW and I decided to venture to my old stomping ground—Queens. We went to dinner, got a bottle of wine, shared a cannoli, etc. etc. etc., and the next thing I knew it was 1am and he was inviting me back to his place. I debated here for a minute, but New York City public transportation is a powerful thing, and after a bottle of wine, Harlem seemed really far away.
At his apartment, NYJEWLAW sat me down on his couch. He brought me a beer. He said, “I have something to tell you,” and my thoughts ranged from the obvious (STD!) to his sheets aren’t clean to this man has a wife.
“I’m not really a lawyer,” he told me.
“Ok,” I said.
“There is an issue,” he said, “with the bar.”
“You didn’t pass?” I asked.
“I passed,” he told me. “But I was arrested.” Pause. “There was an issue. With crystal meth.”
I remained unfazed. “Buying or selling?” I inquired.
“Neither,” he told me. “I was arrested for domestic violence while I was using.”
Now, common sense might show that this was the time to hightail it out of there. I was in a strange apartment with a large man with a very deceiving J-date screen name and a history of violence, who probably still thought he was going to have sex with me. And yet, I stayed. And then I did what I often do when I’m in an uncomfortable situation—I started spewing embarrassing stories.
“So my mom recently found an old vibrator in my childhood bedroom,” I told him. “She sent me and my sister an email asking if it belonged to one of us. It was mine. But I guess that was obvious.”
“Similar story,” he told me, and I could see some sort of kinship in his eyes. “The other day, my mother found my rider’s crop.”
“Oh,” I said. “Do you ride horseback?”
“Uh, no.” I still wasn’t processing. He brought his hand up and snapped his wrist. “You know, it can be really fun sometimes.”
And then I put it all together. I was in a strange apartment with a large man with a deceiving screen name and a history of violence…who also wanted to whip me. And then I thought: Oh, this might be time for me to leave. But it was close to 2am by then, and so I turned to an excuse utilized by generations of single women before me: “I’m sorry,” I told him. “That sounds really…awesome. But I have my period.”
And NYJEWLAW bought it. I even convinced him to let me sleep on the couch that night (his sheets were white) and in the morning I left for work, never to see NYJEWLAW again.
Or so I thought.
Because NYC is one big small town, 11 months after our date, I ran into NYJEWLAW while riding the Uptown 6 with a friend of mine. I walked into an empty car and there he was. After four stops of sideways glances he came up to me and we made small talk. Later, at my apartment, I checked my email. And there one was, from NYJEWLAW, subject line, “After That Awkward Subway Hello:
“I’m going to have to give you an awkward apology that I should have said to you a long time ago. Hell, I should have said it on the subway but I didn’t know what to do with your friend right there.
I’m sorry for blowing you off when we were going out. I’m not going to give you my head just wasn’t in it excuse, because you at the very least deserved that I tell you what was going on in my head at the time. I’m sorry. I should have told you straight up instead of just not returning your calls. And I’m sorry that its taken me so long to apologize. I hope everything else is going well with you and you are finding many things to write and laugh at.”
I laughed out loud as I read his email. History is what we make of it. Yes, NYJEWLAW, I wanted to tell him. Material abounds.
Part II (not to be missed)