L.A. Affairs: I tried to take it slow. So I waited a month before I proposed
I had graduated from UCLA and was working for an accounting firm. I had passed the certified public accounting exam but still needed an additional seven or eight months of on-the-job training to meet the experience required to become an official CPA. I also had applied to law school on the East Coast and had been accepted. Life felt like it was on track, professionally, for a career in tax law.
My personal life was a different matter. I had been engaged to a woman in college, but we discovered we just didn’t see eye to eye on the things that mattered most. For one, she wanted to become a stay-at-home wife immediately after we got married. (I couldn’t afford that.) We broke it off.
So I began dating a few different women whose company I enjoyed, but I didn’t see any of those relationships going the distance, either. I would see one woman on Friday night and the other on Saturday night and then I might switch the days around the next weekend. Back then, a guy generally dated on the weekends only.
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In early December of that year, I was at an office Christmas party and ran into a former colleague, and as we caught up, he asked whether I was seeing anyone. I told him a bit about the women I was dating but said I was still looking for someone special. Besides, I would be heading off to law school the following fall.
Not long after that, I ran into one of my fraternity brothers at a UCLA basketball game and we got to talking about — what else? — women, and I told him the same thing. That I was dating around but not in a serious relationship. I wouldn’t mind meeting someone new, I added. He said he had a distant cousin — her first name was Toby — who had recently relocated to L.A. after graduating college in upstate New York. That’s about all he could tell me, because he’d never actually met this particular cousin. He just guessed that since she was new in town she might be looking for a date. He called me a few days later with her number and said he would let her know I’d be calling.
This is how it was done back in those days. A friend set you up on a blind date. Or you met at a mixer or a dance. Today, young people have dating apps on their smartphones or can go to bars. But it still seems that it’s much harder now, despite all that technology, to meet someone special.
We had so much in common. Our political and religious views were complementary too. That was some kind of miracle right there.
So back to my story. My fraternity brother said he’d tell Toby about me. But he didn’t. I found that out when I dialed her number and she had no idea who I was or why I was calling. So I had to do a lot of explaining. The phone call went well, though, so I asked her out on a date for that Friday — Dec. 30.
As I headed for her Miracle Mile apartment, I was a little nervous. I had no idea what she looked like. I didn’t know what to expect from the evening. I was pleasantly surprised when a very pretty young woman wearing a striking green knit dress and a pageboy haircut answered the door.
“Wow,” I thought.
We went to a movie and had a bite to eat, and when we got back to her place, she invited me in. We just talked and talked and talked, getting to know each other more. It was so easy talking to her. I really wasn’t ready to leave but when I looked at my watch and saw it was 2 a.m., I thought it might be time to go. But not without making plans to see her again, and as soon as possible. I’d already made plans for the next night, on New Year’s Eve. (It was a date, actually.) So I invited her to a party my brother and sister-in-law were having at their house on New Year’s Day, to watch the Rose Bowl game.
That’s right, just hours after meeting her, I was ready for her to meet the family.
If you asked me during the early days of my marriage, I would have told you our 20th anniversary would be spent at the Eiffel Tower with baguettes and romance, not in my dining room with pandemic takeout and bickering.
At her front door that night, as we stood face to face, I couldn’t decide whether I should kiss her. In those days, one rarely kissed on the first date. But then I saw her tilt her head up. So I tilted my head down.
Later, I told my brother and sister-in-law all about the pretty young woman I had just met, and how I had never been so comfortable on a first date. My sister-in-law’s advice? “Take it easy,” she urged. Don’t rush things.
The New Year’s Day date went great, and about a week later, we went on another date, to a UCLA basketball game. And who should we run into there? My old fraternity brother. So I actually ended up introducing him to his own cousin, and telling him that Toby was a nickname and that her real name was Tovia.
I was caught between feeling happy for her good fortune and feeling sorry for myself that I had not had such luck in romance. I continued to be single and swiping, while my Omama — German for grandmother — was falling lucky in love.
By this point, I was dating only one woman — Toby. Everything was just so easy with her. We seemed to agree on everything. Politics. Religion. Where we wanted to go to eat. I think liking many of the same things is important. If you disagree on fundamental things, you’re going to have problems in your relationships.
One night, about four weeks after we met, I just suddenly said, “I think we ought to get married.” Her response? “Well, you’ll have to ask my mother.” (Who just happened to be in town for a visit and happily gave her blessing.)
A couple of dates after that, we ran into that old work colleague, the guy I’d seen at the office Christmas party, when I said I was dating around but had yet to meet someone special.
You should have seen the look of surprise on his face when I introduced him to “my fiancée.”
We will be married 70 years in February, and to this day, I can still remember the moment when she opened the door of her apartment on Friday, Dec. 30, 1951, and I thought, “Wow.”
The author, who just turned 93, is a wills, trusts and estate attorney practicing in Torrance. He and Tovia have three children, two grandsons and one great-grandson.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $300 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.
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