One of the questions David asked me on our first date was, “Are you looking for someone Jewish?” He didn’t waste time getting to the heart of the matter.
“I would prefer someone Jewish,” I said. “It can be easier because certain language is understood and doesn’t have to be explained. But for me, it’s not essential. Common values and extra communication can compensate for that.”
After two decades of dating, I’d honed my needs in a partner to three essentials: smart, funny and kind. I used to include appearance and career-related requirements, but I’d learned what was most important in my life—especially in the age of COVID—and these three qualities were hard enough to come by.
I explained my “three-legged stool” to my dates. I was more lenient with funny, as long as he laughed at my jokes (which David did). As for smart, I knew from past experience, it was absolutely essential, especially emotional intelligence. It didn’t take me long to evaluate intelligence.
Kind was the most difficult; I’d been easily seduced by smart and funny people when I was younger, only to discover that they masked biting or even cruel personalities.
On our first date, I watched David gallantly open the door to a café for me using his shirttails to cover the door handle prior to touching it. He listened as I ordered a smoothie and asked for the bathroom code. When the cashier insisted “no order, no code,” not hearing my order, David jumped in to defend me. When we failed to win the argument, David whispered the code in my ear. Gentlemanly, COVID-cautious and with a remarkably good memory—the date was going well.
As we continued to date and I learned more about David, he told me he watched how the women he dated spoke to workers who bagged their groceries, talked about people with disabilities and treated homeless people on the street. Though he didn’t use the word “kind,” his values aligned with mine.
To me, kind includes caring for the vulnerable members of society. I donate to civil rights groups and environmental causes, and knock on doors and phone bank for Democratic candidates. During our first months together, David and I talked extensively about politics and current events. We both followed the news leading up to the 2020 election almost obsessively, regularly texted each other links to articles and celebrated as Trump lost reelection. Kind and shared beliefs: We were all set.
In the year since our first date, I’ve spent a lot of time explaining Jewish culture, religious practices and Yiddish vocabulary to David. In turn, he teaches me about African-American culture, food, Christian practices and Jamaican phrases.
We talk about slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow laws, the Holocaust and the structures that exist today built from four centuries of American history. We deliberate over hate and the nature of white supremacy. We discuss wealth, housing, food, health and inequality. We discuss race and anti-Semitism in America.
At one point, David told me that when he first saw my profile online, my Jewishness had appealed to him. Both peoples shared a long history of persecution—Jewish and Black people both had been enslaved—so he felt we should have a foundation of mutual understanding. Our history in America of mutual support goes back many decades.
David grew up in a diverse neighborhood and attended diverse schools his whole life. I grew up in an almost completely white, Christian town and started traveling as soon as I graduated college; I’ve now visited 62 countries, and worked in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. From the time we were kids, we each took a keen interest in learning about and developing relationships with people from other cultures.
These attributes and our curiosity are essential to who we are and how we operate in the world. Our political beliefs and commitments to social justice is really what began our bonding process, as we sat masked on opposite ends of a bench for our first date.
The Saturday evening before Valentine’s Day 2021, David and I prepared to have a date night at his house. We were still self-isolating, now in a bubble together, and waiting to get vaccinated. I got out of the shower, put on my dress and started to apply makeup.
“Honey!” David called up the stairs. “My mother isn’t feeling well. We have to go to the drug store.” His mother was undergoing treatments for cancer. I yanked my dress off and pulled on jeans and a sweater to go out into the winter night.
On the car ride to the pharmacy, David explained that everyone in his large family always calls him or his mother when they need help. He and his mother always take care of each other. At that moment, I knew that David was the right man for me. If someone I loved asked me at 9 p.m. on a Saturday for medicine, I would run out to the store right away.
David and I are getting married this September. A rabbi we found from 18Doors and David’s mother, who is an ordained minister, will co-officiate.
We’re still learning about each other and we’ll have a lifetime together to do it.