I was a senior in high school having the typical boyfriend-girlfriend conversation: What religion would we raise our children? His perfectly normal 17-year-old response, “You can take the girls and I’ll take the boys.”
It was at this point that I decided that if for some bizarre reason this relationship didn’t work out, I would only date Jewish. It didn’t work out, and I started on my quest for my perfect Jewish guy.
I found that guy my first week of college. He was a year older and wanted to be a lawyer, just like me. Eight years later, as we graduated from law school and were settling into our careers, he proposed. I, of course, said yes.
Three days later, during a phone conversation, he informed me he needed to call the engagement off. He wasn’t ready to get married. He didn’t know what would make him ready, but he wanted to continue dating. I told him if he wasn’t ready now, he never would be, and I ended the relationship.
I secretly hoped he was simply having cold feet and would call me saying he was now ready, but the call never came. I hadn’t dated since I was 18. I needed to learn all the dating rules, but my No. 1 rule was that he had to be Jewish.
I moved on to a new job in Orange County with high hopes that a new environment would help in the search for my perfect Jewish guy. I placed an ad in the Jewish Journal. I attended Jewish singles events. I signed up for Jdate. As my 30th birthday approached, I felt as though I had exhausted the entire Jewish dating pool in Orange County.
To avoid getting depressed I kept myself socially active. I strongly believed that if I wasn’t happy with myself, I couldn’t be happy with someone else. I had a great group of friends, and I tried to keep my weekends full.
I also started up a friendship with Mike, a Vietnamese guy who worked as a probation officer in the courthouse. My friends told me that he liked me, but I explained that this was ridiculous. He knew that I dated only Jewish guys. We were just friends.
We went to Angels games, tennis matches and dinner. One evening he mentioned doing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I thought, sure, why not?
When he came to pick me up, he had a huge bouquet of flowers and picnic dinner he’d cooked and asked a passerby to take our picture. This was the first inkling I had that my friends might be right.
We already had plans to attend a Depeche Mode concert (he claimed to have an extra ticket) the following week. I didn’t want to ruin the concert for him so I decided, after the concert, I would have a sit-down with him and make it clear we could only be friends.
At the concert he put his arm around me. On the car ride home he held my hand. As soon as we got home I told him we needed to talk.
I looked him in the eye and said, “You know I only date Jewish. I want to raise my kids Jewish.” He responded, “I’m OK with that.”
I was shocked. I then threw out the sure relationship killer, “And I don’t want to change my last name.” He responded, “I’m OK with that.”
I had no other excuses to stop this from happening so I said, “I guess we can try dating.” He then said, “OK, so we’re exclusive, right?”
Not what I had in mind, but I wasn’t dating anyone else, and I could easily end it when my perfect match was made on Jdate. I never found that perfect match.
Seventeen years after our “date” to the Depeche Mode concert, there is a mezuzah on our front door. Every December, Mike helps me put up our Hanukkah lights and decorations. He stays calm while I stress preparing for our Passover Seder.
As our oldest son’s bar mitzvah approaches, I think about all the years I spent searching for my perfect Jewish man and realize just how lucky I am that the right man found me.
Barrie and Mike live in Orange County with their three Jewish Vietnamese children Jake, Hayden and Brady
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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