Last weekend, four friends and I sat on the futon sipping homemade sangria discussing whether my roommate should go on a date with a 40-year-old pilot she had sat next to on a flight back to Boston. I discouraged the idea, as did most of the people present. There was one dissenter, however. “Do it,” he said. “Just meet in a public place. You’ll always have a story to tell.”
I knew the truth in that. I met Jacob over a year ago, on Christmas Eve at The Matzo Ball. Held every year, the Jewish singles event is a rite of passage of sorts for Jews in their 20s, or 30s, or (for a select few) 40s. Jacob wasn’t 40, thankfully, but he was around seven or eight years my senior. The idea of the event is that you meet your soul mate by the bar or on the dance floor, and join them for traditional Christmas Day Chinese food the morning after. My friend and I went on a whim, purchasing our tickets at the door.
I had survived the awkward event for four or five hours, and was just leaving at the end of the night when Jacob introduced himself. He told me he was from Belgium, Antwerp maybe. He was cordial—“I respect women and you look like a woman to be respected”—and he hailed a cab for my friend and me. He asked for my number, and, to my surprise, I gave it to him. Ten minutes later, he left multiple messages, one of which proposed that we make plans to cook dinner together.
It’s not that I’m not spontaneous. The previous summer I had backpacked through South America, and had gone snowshoeing through a national park with two French university students we met at the hostel. But my spontaneity has its limits. Cooking dinner with someone I had met for five minutes rested safely outside my comfort zone. For one thing, there was no way I would go alone to his house. For another, I tend to avoid talking to strangers without a clear exit route in mind.
I’m still not sure why I said yes. Maybe I was bored watching daytime television (“You are not the father!”). Or maybe I wanted to be able to tell my mother that I’d gone on a date with a nice Jewish guy, a potential mensch. Jacob seemed sweet, genuine, upfront. I suggested that we go to a restaurant instead.
It was a date of the old fashioned variety, until it wasn’t. He walked on the side closest to traffic. We shared an umbrella. He gave me his jacket when I got cold. And then the date took a turn for the worse. Within minutes, he was telling me he could get me a job at the store where he worked and inviting me to a concert that night, and another one the night after that. When I told him I would be returning to school in Cambridge, he decided to plan a visit and invited me to travel to the French countryside with him and his family over the summer. The next morning, I called and said that we wouldn’t be seeing each other again. “But we were just getting to know each other,” he replied. I felt that we had gotten to know each other plenty. He was clearly looking for a wife. As far as I can tell from online searches, he has since found one.
Back to my roommate’s conundrum. She didn’t make her final decision that night. She did, however, rip out a sheet of paper and scrawl the words “Bucket List” on the top. Rather than including clichéd senior traditions (which we’ll probably do too), the five of us listed off-the-wall, why-the-hell-would-you-do-that items. We came up with around 20 on the spot. I may or may not have signed up for a 10k, which may or may not be twice as far as I have ever run before. But we agreed that before the end of the semester we would each have three Matzo-Ball-Jacob/40-Year-Old Pilot stories to tell.
One could say that lists and spontaneity are contradictory. Lists being our specialty, we were planning on making spontaneous decisions in advance. At least we were trying. We hung the list by the mini-fridge and left a pen beside it. Now we can add to it when we are most inclined to do so. Chances are Jacob is not reading this. I really hope he is not. If he is, though, my roommates and I would like to say thank you.
Beth E. Braiterman ’13, a former Crimson Magazine Editor, is a History and Literature concentrator in Mather House. She plans on getting more spontaneous the further into senior spring she gets.