I’m aware that when a parent, relative or friend of the family tries to set you up with someone, the appropriate thing to do is roll your eyes, be patronizing and act horrified.
When I find myself in this situation, so as not to alarm people with potentially erratic blood pressure, I usually conform to this etiquette. Outwardly. Inwardly, however, I get kind of excited.
For one, in my case, chances are the person I’m being set up with is somebody’s idea of a “Nice Jewish Boy.” Which can go one of two ways. Often, somebody’s idea of a “Nice Jewish Boy” turns out to be a slightly mysogynistic jerk with decent table manners, strong ideas about European film and a dry, smart sense of humor. Which means I will definitely be attracted to him.
Alternatively, these “Nice Jewish Boys” may turn out to be more in line with what their adoring mothers think: academically focussed, painfully shy and with chivalrous intentions. In which case, I will probably not be immediately attracted but recognize that I should be, and make an effort.
Either way, they are likely to have some social awkwardness and an unhealthily close relationship with their mother–both qualities that I know, intellectually, to be problematic but find appealing nonetheless.
Also, I’ve basically gotten to the point where I think my parents–or at least, grown-ups who’ve been in my life since I was this high–might know better than I do. Lest it need noting, my own judgment when it comes to decisions regarding the opposite sex has not always been stellar.
This may sound slightly familiar: I wrote an essay about a year ago that was an only slightly tongue-in-cheek plea for a return to arranged marriage. In it, I confessed to a newly discovered interest in “Robert,” a boy I’ve known since around birth who definitely falls into the second “Nice Jewish Boy” category and whose mother might actually vote Republican if that’s what it took to bring us together.
For the record, I have not heard a word from “Robert” since publishing that essay and apparently, when his mother confronted him on the issue, his exact words were: “officially, no comment.” I like to tell myself that he is either gay or likes blondes or that I am really better off marrying someone who is also bad at math.
On another occasion, I allowed my grandmother–the young, hip one–to set me up with the son of her colleague and friend. Like me, he was interested in journalism, twenty-something and Jewish. I was living in Washington but habitually going on dates with men in New York, and agreed to meet him at a bar one weekend.
Really: I don’t want to sound like I’m not open to men who are short. Often, I have crushes on men who are short. But I am one of those women who cannot really accept a sexual partner who is smaller than me in every dimension.
This man was. We had a lovely time talking, but I made it rather clear that I had no interest in seeing him again. A few weeks later, my grandmother told me he’d thought we hit it off, but that I’d told him I was seeing someone else.
“I hope you didn’t just dismiss him because he’s short,” my grandmother counseled. “You shouldn’t dismiss all short men. Some of them are terrific.”
What can I say: the woman is wise.
“I know,” I told her. “It wasn’t only because he was short, I just wasn’t attracted to him.”
“Oh well,” she relented. “Worth a try.”
I knew that the appropriate thing to do would be to act horrified and patronizing and forbid her from ever setting me up with anyone again.
I probably said something to that effect, and then assured her I was only kidding. Because truthfully: I didn’t want to.