"Your oldest brother is married now, right?" Those seven words were the start of a conversation I never imagined I would have: one that involved a nearly 30 year old woman hitting on me.
"I used to have this life plan, see, and it's not gone at all like I thought it would, you know? If your brother wasn't married, I would so be--hey, old are you? You look great!"
It took a good few minutes of conversation before I really figured out the subtext of it all. I would deliver a witty line about the mystery alcohol in the punch I was drinking, and she would parry with a lament about how she wanted a man. A Jewish man. Preferably someone who looked like my eldest brother. I would retort that I thought the Montessori schooling philosophy discouraged things like tying one's own shoes, and she would reply that when she was behind the wheel of the classroom, her students could graduate high school by the time they had finished eighth grade. And also that it would be great to have a man in her life so she could talk to her students about her Jewish husband.
The ties of the tiny Albuquerque Jewish community truly bind. Jews love to teach their children that, when they're grown up, we need to marry nice Jewish girls. I used to wonder about that, and tried to picture myself marrying one my fellow classmates of the same age. Of the ten or so girls, none of them seemed like marriage material, never mind that I had no idea what qualified one as such. But really, how can you possibly want to marry someone you'd known since you were three years old and who already irritated you enough as it was?
I never considered the possibility of someone older (or younger) ever wanting to make me their suitable Jewish husband. But my innocent Jewish youth was shattered last Friday, at a graduation party for my girl-in-law, when a woman I'd seen three days a week for ten years starting when I was around three feet tall struck up a conversation that required an instant refill of Fruity Graduation Alchie Punch.
"I really admire how you've accomplished so much. I love that in a man."
I had no idea that my brother tying the knot last summer would suddenly make me such a hot commodity, especially to one so forward. The cheese tray materialized before me. Grateful for a distraction, I grabbed a handful of crackers and pawed a few slices of cheese from it. Any hopes of turning her off by stuffing my face, however, quickly vanished.
"I can't believe how much you look like your brother."
Forever betrayed by the strength of my family's genes. I switched gears and tried turning up the camp. Holding one of the crackers, I delicately placed a slice of sharp cheddar atop it. I brought it slowly to my mouth and took the daintiest of nibbles. "Exquisite!" I meowed. "You know, I think a nice light touch of garnish, maybe sour cream and chives, would really make this divine."
"Oh hah hah, now that I think about it, I nearly even called you his name when I saw you."
She wasn't even looking at me. I braved a look at her face, and it was as I feared: a chuppa, the traditional Jewish wedding canopy, stared back at me. I could see right through her skull, into her brain, and saw that her occipital lobe was clearly blocking the image of my limp wrists and neon watermelon-colored shirt.
So much for subtlety.
"That's so funny that all the girls at school thought you were gay."
So much for bluntness. And good listening skills.
She followed me around. The resident pet rat, while it repulsed her, could not keep her from me. Other people, mercifully, called my name.
"I would love to get in touch and chat more."
Not unexpected. "Of course," I replied silkily, before taking the rat with me to safer mingling grounds.
She may reflect later that she forgot to ask for my phone number, or an email address.
Breaking hearts. Something Pat Benatar and I have in common.