Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends, & Letters, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Peninah Schram, reveals a whole range of stories about couples and their paths to romance and loving partnership. Sample the stories and art:
My old friend Bruce always said, “There is a lid for every pot.” Mine must have gotten lost in shipment, because by the age of 31, when the biological clock went off with a resounding gong, I gave up looking for the semi-perfect man, and decided to short cut it to mommyhood. Solomon was welcomed into our extended family, and I felt pretty darn complete.
Then my best friends had a big 35th wedding anniversary party and I found myself talking with this man. About 10 years my senior, he fulfilled every general demographic qualification I’d ever assembled for a potential partner: He was taller than me (so embarrassing that this counts!), funny, smart, politically left, no wedding ring, Jewish (a veritable miracle), and gainfully employed. He was, however, a jerk. He spent the entire conversation telling me how famous he was, the many places he’d gone on his book tour, and the TV shows he’d been featured on. I was tempted to finish the joke: “Then he said, ‘But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?” How can one be so potentially perfect and yet so humanly flawed? Sigh, no big deal. Thank goodness I felt pretty darn complete.
A year later the same couple invited me for dinner. The day before, my friend called and mentioned in passing that they’d also invited someone for me to meet. I hissed over the phone wire, “I don’t need to be fixed up.” This was a lie. With rain coming down like it did on Noah, I ran from the car to the house and there he stood. The tall, smart, funny, jerk from the party. Well, it was just dinner. I nibbled hors d’oeuvres. My mother’s admonishment to never eat heartily in front of men still resonated like a recurring nightmare. He ate like famine victim. How charming, he loved to eat! I once dated a beautiful, politically correct man, who couldn’t have cared less if he skipped dinner. It just didn’t work. This big, funny man loved to eat! Also, something had shifted. He actually asked questions. “How old was my son?” We discovered that our children were different animals, his musicians, mine an athlete. He admitted that since his divorce a little over a year ago (my brain calibrated; he’d just stepped out of 30 year marriage when we first met), he’d become a better father. By not relying on his ex for contact with his grown boys, they were actually getting to know one another. I shared my excitement/terror at being the new voice for the Pop Warner B football team, and my premier in the box calling the upcoming game. “I am the only woman who has ever dared entering ‘the sacred box.’ There are guys who have been calling these games since the first Calvinists booted out the first drunken atheists who settled my hometown.”
“How well do you know the game?” he asked. Since the kid decided that rather than be a Jacob, a man of tents, a cook, poet, and momma’s boy, his proclivities ran to assaulting others in a legal arena, I had been self-educating. There were, however, many fine details of the game that still eluded me. He set the glasses and hors d’oeuvres in a shot gun line up and we were off and running…so to speak.
When Linda, our hostess, couldn’t get a jar open, she handed it to him and, as he whipped it open, he noted, “My strength is as the strength of 10 because my heart is pure.” The derisive laugh that followed was a perfect punctuation. OK, I could like this man. At the evening’s end, he chased after me through the deluge to get all vital communication data.
Two days later, as I sat in the sacred booth above the playing field, the men, whose behinds were by now immortalized in the seat impressions, assessed and found me sadly wanting. They were not shy to offer “help.”
“Hey, each play, you don’t have to tell them each kid’s name!”
“No jokes over the system.”
“You don’t promote the hot dogs till the end of the half.”
“Oh Jesus, it’s not the 24th yard line. It’s the 24!”
I was dyin’ up there when the sound of a motorcycle engine filled the air and a few seconds later, leather clad, two helmets in hand, Michael, smiling, ducked into the booth. “Can I apply for the assistant job?”
There were no words for my multiple responses, but here is the Rorschach version: Biker-tough-cool-smart-helper—OMG I was in love! Plus he was bigger than me!
OK, I am not an Amazon, but at 5’8 1/2”, and always on the healthy/round side of our cultural model, I infrequently found men with whom I felt…(there is no feminist-friendly way to say this, and I am a diehard feminist) safe, protected, and (something that almost never happened), small. I know that this very ancient, amygdala or brain-stem-based response is what keeps the species multiplying, and that I am in the fat part of that bell curve. That’s all good, but he’d better be a feminist!
I had most of the plays right, but he was able to check names and feed them to me, stop egregious errors (“It’s not intermission, it’s half time,” he said with an appreciative chuckle), and make the whole thing fun. He came with an extra helmet, and so when the game was over, I wrapped my thighs around his hips, and pressed my front to his back. Despite your raised odds of becoming an organ donor, it is easy to see why men love to haul women around on these things.
The rest is history, ours at least. We felt like a couple from early on and, even though we’ve had our problems, I am sure glad that the jerk showed up again. When proposing for the 8th time, he kept saying, “Life is better in pairs.”
When you have the right lid to your pot, it certainly is.
Judith Black has for 40 years created and told stories, and taught the art of storytelling around the world. She is the recipient of the NSN Circle of Excellence, mother of Solomon, founder of Bridging Lives. www.storiesalive.com, www.tellingstoriestochildren.com.