My mom is one of the sweetest women I know — which makes her almost impervious to the harsh realities of the dog-eat-dog world of dating. For her, phrases like "give him a chance, you never know" and "the worst that happens, you make a new friend" are blithely uttered about men she's never seen, knows nothing about, and who most likely have zero compatibility with her darling daughter. Well, except for being Jewish. It was that ineffable qualifier that prompted her — without a second thought — to give my number to her friend Natalie for her friend Sheila so her daughter Cathy could pass it on to her friend Marcy for her brother, Morty.
My mom didn't get why I was annoyed. "You gave out my number?" quickly escalated to "You gave out my number to a guy named Morty?" What did he look like? How old was he? What did he do? Mom didn't know; it had never occurred to her to ask. Why would it? Morty was Natalie's friend's daughter's friend's brother. Why wouldn’t I want to meet him?
I have been on few blind dates, mostly because I quickly discovered that "Jewish" and "single" were pretty much the only criteria being applied, resulting in the disquieting realization that my friends obviously found me less attractive than I'd thought.
But with my mom, it was different: This came from out of the blue, from a woman who, though she had never previously betrayed any anxiety about my dating life, probably should have been a bit more interested in the qualities a future son-in-law brought to the table.
"Morty" quickly became "Morty, the Short Balding Accountant," because, after all, my mom couldn't disprove it. (It was at this point that she said, "The worst that happens, you make a new friend" to which I, a beleaguered junior lawyer at a soul-sapping Manhattan law firm, snapped, "I don't even have time to see the friends I have!") Still, she must have sensed my flexibility on that point, seeing as the bar for "new friend" had recently been satisfied by a guy I'd agreed to meet for dinner based on the fact that he'd seen me on a plane and eavesdropped enough information to get my phone number through my law school alumni office.
If Plane Stalker could get the nod, I guess I could make time for Morty, who may or may not have been a short, balding accountant. Besides, now it wasn't just about me, or my mom— now my actions had consequences for Natalie, Sheila, Cathy, and Marcy, too. For the sake of them, I figured it couldn't hurt. I awaited his call.
And awaited, and awaited—what, this Morty was too busy to pick up a phone?
A week went by, then two; thoughts of Morty were lost in piles of due diligence binders and all-nighters fueled by Diet Coke and take-out.
In fact, I was so close to the edge that when a long weekend suddenly opened up I impulsively decided to take an impromptu trip, just buy a ticket and get the hell out of Dodge. I was trolling Expedia, deciding between Palm Springs (where my Canadian parents flee every winter) and Sweden (where I used to live) when the phone rang.
"This is Rachel," I said, in my best lawyer voice.
"Hi, this is Morty," he said, snapping me back from daydreams of strapping blond Nordic men. Swedes are very attractive. "So, you're Cathy's friend?"
As it happens, I was not Cathy's friend; the last time I'd seen Cathy was in 1987 at summer camp, where she was the drama counselor. I remembered her yelling at me once during rehearsal when I ran offstage mid-scene because someone had walked in with a pizza. Was Morty was under the erroneous impression that someone in that crazy set-up chain actually knew me? Yikes. Maybe he didn't actually know that he was calling his sister's friend's mom's friend's friend's daughter. If so, he was already one up on me.
I explained the connection. Awkward silence. Somewhere in there floated the silent acknowledgment that our families thought we were really big losers. Change of subject. "So, you're working late." (It was 9:00 P.M.) "What are you still doing at the office?" Only now does it strike me that he thought he'd be able to just leave a message.
"I'm deciding where I should go tomorrow," I said. (It was Thursday.) "What do you think, Palm Springs or Sweden?"
There was a small silence, and then Morty made the mistake of asking me to elaborate, listening politely as I launched into detailed particulars ... and kept going. Somewhere during my near-monologue I remember thinking that, wow, Morty the Accountant seemed cool; I wish I could remember the three words he got in edgewise to give me that impression. I found out later that he called his sister immediately after and told her never to give his number out again.
I didn’t know that, of course, so when I returned from Palm Springs I called him, and we agreed to meet.
He offered to pick me up from my building (classy), where I made him wait in the lobby while I frantically tried on outfits (less classy). Maybe my mom was right, I clearly needed help.
As I rode down in the elevator, I felt that familiar bubble of pre–blind date excitement building, equal parts hope and possibility right before you meet someone, when they could still be anyone, including someone great. But over ten floors, I steeled myself: He seemed nice, sure, but the odds were slim that he'd be cute.
I stepped out of the elevator. There was a guy sitting patiently on the couch, waiting. He stood up and smiled, hand out. I shook it, saying hi, but inside my head I was yelling things like He's cute! He's tall! He has hair! After all that, Morty was a babe!