Rita Plush (New York, NY)
When my husband died after our 50-plus years of marriage, I tried to make a life for myself. But a year of lunch with the ladies, my book club and yoga could take me just so far down my road less traveled.
I wanted a man in my life, that zing, that frisson I couldn’t can’t get from a broccoli-and-cheddar quiche, a best- seller or Down Dog. But where to find a kind, intelligent, caring male who would be interested in a creative, book-reading, arts-loving, 70s-something Jewish woman?
I let my rabbi, lawyer and accountant know I was interested in meeting someone (people know people). When they failed to raise a posse, I took the reins. Shaving five years off my age, I downloaded a flattering photo, whipped up a profile and joined the other 750,000 Jewish singles looking for love on JDate. I worried in equal measure that no one would contact me, and that somebody actually would.
After a lifetime with my husband, it seemed bizarre to have another man in my life. And how would my children react? Not that I needed their permission or their blessings but their opinion of me mattered. I wanted them to think well of me, to be proud of the independent life I’d carved out. Little did I know that along with their acceptance came an abundance of unsolicited parenting. Don’t meet him alone! Don’t give him money! Don’t let him in your apartment! Take your own car. CALL US IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE!!
They needn’t have feared. I made quick work of a “kissy huggy type” who let me know right off what sexual positions he preferred. Actually, one was… never mind. Before we even meet, you’re giving me your faves? Thanks for sharing, fast boy! Buh-bye. And the big spender therapist who never married (not a good sign for a man his age), and sold his car for the winter so he wouldn’t have to pay for a garage. I saw myself as the designated driver in this twosome. I was looking for a partner, not some free-ride Freud. He never made it to a cup of joe at the local diner.
And there were those who had:
Sixty-four, shorter than he’d claimed online; I said I was younger, considered it a wash. He liked older women (you came to the right place, junior), and had the habit of repeating the last words of almost all his remarks. And humming. “My Bar Mitzvah was in a hotel in the mountains, in the mountains. Humm….” was the first thing he said to me. That event was still uppermost in his mind? A small life had he. Always single, no siblings or relatives to speak of (including nothing interesting to speak of), few friends. Talking to him: 45 minutes of boring. He wanted to meet for dinner next time. I mumbled something that must have sounded like yes because he called the next day—oy vey. Said I was busy with work and family. Mercifully, he got the hint and didn’t call again.
There was a well-mannered Yiddish-accented gent in a handtied bowtie, jacket from one suit, pants from another, right out of an I. B Singer short story. He brought newspaper articles about his sons to show me how authentic he was and gifted me a framed picture of myself he had taken from the JDate site. A sweet man, he asked if he could call me now and then to see how I was doing. I thanked him, demurred and suggested a site for Yiddish speakers.
Things started looking up with Leonard. A well-dressed antiques dealer, active in synagogue life; an ardent reader, he enjoyed the theater and museums. He was me in a suit! We went to the Met. Another time he suggested the new Neue Galerie in NYC to see a Klimt exhibit (I thought I died and went to Art Nouveau heaven). But alas, it turned out he liked his armoires more than he liked me; breaking dates for business became a habit. Or was it monkey business; had he found another?
Would I date a married man? Separated and getting a divorce? No and no.
Would I date a non-Jewish man?
One found me on the site—You don’t have to be Jewish to be on JDate. It’s a known fact that Jewish men make the best husbands. But gentile men looking for Jewish women? Listen up madelas,
He had the nicest dimpled smile. He was kind, I could tell. Here was my chance for a Christian boyfriend—a sheygets, a shander (a non-Jewish boy, a scandal), the bane of my early dating years, I dared not confess to my mother. My father? You’re kidding, right. I’d be out on the street with my crinolines and saddle shoes. But my parents were gone; it was up to me. I could date whomever I pleased. Could I though, having just about prohibited my children from dating outside the faith? I could hear them. How come it’s okay for you, but it wasn’t for us?! I could not date a gentile man no matter how gentle he was.
So, there it is and here I am. Lunching with the ladies, keeping up with my reading, and Down Dogging for all I’m worth. But wait! Social distancing is getting less distant. Who knows what eligible gents have signed on to JDate since my furlough? I’ll spiff up my profile and take another crack at this blood sport known as online dating. My age? That needs no update thank you very much; don’t confuse me with the facts. Spring is in the air, a season of new beginnings, and I’m optimistic that my new Ralph Lauren leopard print sheets from Home Goods won’t always be the most exciting thing in my bedroom.
Rita Plush is the author of the novels Lily Steps Out and Feminine Products, and the short story collection Alterations. She is the book reviewer for Fire Island News and teaches memoir at Queensborough Community College and the Fire Island School, Continuing Ed. Her stories and essays have been published in The Alaska Quarterly Review, MacGuffin, The Iconoclast, Art Times, The Sun, The Jewish Writing Project, The Jewish Literary Journal, Down in the Dirt, Potato Soup Journal, Flash Fiction Magazine, Backchannels, LochRaven, Kveller, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Broadkill Review, Avalon Literary Review, Jewish Week, and The Best of Potato Soup 2020.
If you’d like to read more about Rita and her work, visit her website: https://ritaplush.com