Crying my eyes out the morning after, I replayed over and over the events of the previous evening when Mr. Latest Flame had calmly stated that his fondness for me had flickered out.
Clearly, finding love was not in the cards for me. It was the mid-'80s, and at 31, I suddenly felt old and washed up, laden by baggage heavy with broken engagements and other failed relationships and even a brief marriage. This was the last straw. Whatever hope I still entertained for finding a soul mate was extinguished, and I just felt like locking myself in the divorce-settlement Toyota with the windows rolled up and the world shut out.
Like a passenger in a sinking boat, watching her life flash before her eyes, I reviewed the minutiae of every event, every conversation, every development in what I thought had been a promising new relationship over the previous couple of months.
All had seemed rosy as he bought tickets for "Crocodile Dundee." We had laughed, he talked about his work as a psychologist, we stood in line for popcorn and then it was the by-the-way-I-think-we-need-to-go-our-separate-ways bomb. He couldn't wait to share the news until after the movie?
As I stood there stunned and speechless, he noticed volleyball acquaintances waiting to see the same movie. Oblivious — or maybe just unperturbed by my shock and distress — he bantered lightheartedly with them as I struggled to hold back tears in public and wondered how I would survive sitting through "Dundee."
Although raised in the era when feminists began to declare one didn't need a man to be fulfilled, I still believed in Prince Charming. I wanted to get married and have children, though that was not a fashionable goal at the time and I dared not utter any hint of the dream in the presence of the intellectual high-achievers with whom I ran. No amount of career success would compensate for the one true love I had believed was out there, somewhere, for me.
The year before, against the advice of my girlfriends, I signed on with a match-making agency. This too proved no better than meeting men on my own. There was the graphic artist who told me on our first date that he went catatonic and mute for six months after his previous girlfriend dumped him. There was the eye surgeon who planned a lovely outing up the coast with an expensive wine and lobster dinner but — oops — he left his wallet at home. There was the dentist who, while we went grocery shopping for a picnic, held a salami in the air and compared it to one of his body parts. And then there was the Brit with the race car driving 115 mph on the freeway late at night, asking if I wanted to see just how fast his car could go.
They were all just too much. Too many disappointments, too many misadventures. I was overcome with grief at the realization I must be destined to endure a loveless life, and I didn't want to continue living. But I did.
After several weeks of struggling to get out of bed in the morning and to look presentable at the office, I made my bravest move ever: I signed up for volleyball at the Jewish community center, even though the ex-boyfriend still played there.
Before the first game, a tall, dark and handsome stranger approached me and said, "Didn't we meet a few months ago at 'Crocodile Dundee'?" I had no recollection whatsoever, consumed as I had been with anguish. He convinced me to go out for pizza after the game with his friends.
Next week I will have been married to this marvelous human being for 25 years. We are the parents of three wonderful young adults.
Life has had its challenges over the decades, but there has never been an iota of doubt that we are each other's one true love and we thank God for this gift every single day.
When I watch my husband play volleyball Sunday mornings on Venice Beach with his menschy pals, I marvel how I met the love of my life just when I was considering saying sayonara to the world.
Leslie Fuhrer Friedman is executive director of the Pacific Jewish Center's Shul on the Beach in Venice.