Shimon and I had four dates in Baltimore before we were unofficially engaged. The first was at Dave and Buster’s. The second I got in the car and he told me we’d be going to there, I freaked out inside. I have some major sensory sensitivities; I get overwhelmed from noise really easily. I knew that I’d have to tell Shimon about this if we dated longer, since it does play a big role in my life, but I wasn’t ready to bring it up. Yet here we were, driving to the noisiest spot in town.
At the counter of Dave and Busters, Shimon bought enough tokens to last a season, hinting at maybe coming back again. Entering the arcade, we found that we both loved the more old fashioned games, like basketball and pinball. At some point, Shimon put on virtual reality goggles to enter a simulated war zone. He hadn’t been out of the army even two years, and all his army moves came out. I thought he looked really funny, and made sure to take a video so I could make fun of him later.
After about an hour, we both got overwhelmed by the noise and decided to get something to drink from the bar. So much for being worried about sensory overload; we were on the same page.
Sipping ice water and soda at the bar, Shimon started telling me about his dream of moving back to Israel, where he had lived until he was 9. He told me that, when he goes back, he wants to make it as comfortable as possible, which meant making a good living and owning a car, and maybe even hiring someone to help with the bureaucracy.
If you read my past blogs, you’ll know I had a beautiful yet incredibly difficult time living in Israel on my own. Hearing Shimon’s vision of living there comfortably allowed me to dream about moving back, and I started crying. It felt really good to be vulnerable with him, and my connection to Israel excited him.
We weren’t yet ready to end the date, but it was past 10pm and Baltimore had already gone to sleep. The only place open was Walmart, so we headed there. I mentioned I was hungry and we wandered around intil we found some crackers and chummus. We spent an exorbitant amount of time looking at spices, with Shimon asking me about everything I liked and didn’t like on the rack. I thought this was funny, but it was his way of showing me his interest. Later on in our dating, he remembered what I liked and picked them up for me.
We ate our crackers and chummus in the car and headed back.
The second date was at a Thai restaurant, Ta’am Thai. Shimon had been raving about their food and was very excited. He said they had the best chicken fingers he’d ever tasted, but when I bit into them, I couldn’t help but think they were bland. That’s when I realized that all the rest of my food tasted bland, too.
As a precaution, I took a covid test. By the time the positive test came back, I didn’t need further proof that I was sick; I felt it.
I told Shimon, through our Shaddchan, Nechama Suffin, that I might not make it to our date on Sunday. However, Shimon had just gotten over Covid, so we assumed he was safe, and I wasn’t gonna let Covid get in the way of our dates. I did everything possible to feel better- an Epsom salt bath, teas, vitamins, exercise, and sleep. On Friday afternoon, a package arrived at my door. It included a teddy bear, green teas, a note, and a few other hand-picked items which, I found out later, Shimon had bought from THREE different stores.
The gift did more than make me feel cared for. I had been trying to figure out if Shimon felt something between us or if he was being so attentive and kind just because he was a really great date, regardless of our connection. The thought-out gift basket showed me that there was more to our budding relationship.
The rest of our dates, until I recovered from Covid, had to be outside. It was a chilly November but we enjoyed each other’s company.
On Sunday, we hiked a trail half an hour away. I was still sick and too tired to talk, so I closed my eyes in the car as he drove. It felt a little odd, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my hundreds of dates, it’s that you gotta do what’s good for you, even if it’s a bit weird.
The hike was sweet and calm, and we spoke as we walked. We stopped at the side of the road on our way home for Shimon to daven mincha (pray the afternoon services). As I sat in the car for warmth, I spied on him. I still had a small thought in my head that he might be a kind guy who was not as interested in me as I was in him. You’d think that after the past amazing dates, I’d know the answer, but dating trauma made it really difficult to believe that I could actually be dating “the right one.”
As I watched him daven, his sincerity and concentration touched me. I saw how genuine he was and felt that, if he was genuine with Hashem like that, he must be being genuine with me.
Our fourth date was a picnic at Quarry Lake. It was a funny location for a date; we were surrounded by joggers, shoppers, and teenagers since it’s not a very big place, but we found a place to sit on the grass in somewhat of our own corner.
Shimon had brought along snacks, two notebooks, and pens. Earlier that week, I had a dream, which I shared with Shimon. In it, we were at an event together. Suddenly, he walked away and I couldn’t find him. After searching for a long time, he came back, clueless about the stress he had caused me, and I felt upset. I can’t say I’ve had dreams about other guys I’ve dated, but this one was especially interesting since it was filled with anxiety. I had developed a connection with him, and I was afraid of the anger or sadness I’d feel if he left me. The dream also brought up fears about what I would do in a conflict with him since our dating had been going so smoothly, and we’d barely disagreed on anything.
Shimon, with the help of Nechama, had created a way for us to explore our fears together. But, before we did any exploring, I had something to give Shimon. I reached into my bag and handed him two notebooks; my journals from 2019 and 2020.
Now that our dating was getting deeper, I felt that it was really important for Shimon to know about my ups and downs. While I am generally a stable person, my highs and lows can sometimes be very dramatic, and I had just gone through some very challenging years. If we were going to date further, he needed to know what he was getting into.
I gave him a few minutes to read a page or two, but he couldn’t hardly read my messy handwritingS, so I read it out loud to him. Instead of being afraid of my large emotions, Shimon was moved and full of admiration. He related to them, and was not at all scared off by them. In fact, he felt that he could not date someone who lacked these strong emotions, because he’d been through a lot in life and needed someone who could understand.
Shimon then gave me a notebook and pen, and instructed me to write down anything I was afraid of regarding our relationship or dating in general. He did the same, and then we each read ours out loud. Together, we discussed. His had more to do with financial stability than emotional interactions, though we overlapped a bit. As we spoke, we both felt more reassured. I told him about my fear of conflict, and we tried to simulate conflict, but of course, because there wasn’t anything we actually needed to work out, that fell flat.
As far as I was concerned, nothing was in the way; despite my fears, I wanted to marry this man, and although it had been only a short period of time, I had a clarity that I’d never had about anyone or anything else. Shimon was my soulmate.
I looked at Shimon and asked, “Now that we’ve gone through our fears, what other boxes are you looking to check off?” He looked back at me and said, “None. I’m crazy about you.”
And that’s how we became unofficially engaged. We couldn’t seal the deal because I still had Covid and Shimon had family members who were immunocompromised and wouldn’t be able to make it to an engagement party. Besides for that, Shimon hadn’t asked my parents’ permission, and I told him he’d have to do that before anything could happen.
My parents didn’t exactly make it easy for him. A couple days later, Shimon showed up at our house at the proposed time, nervous beyond belief. I was in the basement on a college class, aware of what was going on but too responsible to leave class.
An hour later, I heard Shimon’s voice call to me from upstairs.
It turns out, my parents had seen enough of Shimon and I to feel that we’d be great together. In the past, when I dated someone seriously, they were able to gauge how the relationship was going based on how genuine I was while dating. With Shimon, they’d seen how I embraced myself and maintained my needs and personality, and they could see that he brought out my best.
That didn’t stop them from putting him on a group whatsapp call with all my 7 siblings to receive their approval. The poor guy had to sit there with my whole family, some in person and some virtually, waiting for approval to marry me. (You can see my sister, Neshama, in the background. My parents sat in front of him as he made the call.) Luckily, they all said yes. Phew.
And there we were, engaged!
Thank you, Hashem!
The following Wednesday, Shimon surprised me with a helicopter ride over Baltimore city, and the got proposed in the Mt.Washington arboretum, a quiet garden with a setup that my sister had set up beautifully.
Our engagement party was that night. This is my favorite picture – Shimon reading a note from me.
After the party, we played piano together. Shimon did a great job even though he didn’t know how to play.
Our dating was nothing short of miraculous, and was the biggest bracha (blessing) I’ve ever experienced. I thank Hashem every day for allowing me to have my soulmate in my life.
Now that we are married, the drama of dating engagement is over and we have settled into a peaceful rhythm. However, engagement was no piece of cake. I shouldn’t have expected it to be, considering how many people I’d dated and how much baggage I had attached to my dating life. But that’s for another blog… maybe 🙂