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it's beshert

Meeting the Professor—It’s Beshert

Being a Good Friend

“Oh, please,” Ruthie begged.

“I don’t know, Ruthie, I’m dating Bob, and I’m not really interested in meeting anyone new.”

“Well, it’s not as if you’re gonna marry Bob. Com’on. I’m really in a man dearth. Besides, I haven’t seen you in weeks. It’ll be fun.”

I really didn’t want to go to the Discussion for Singles that Friday night. I was dating Bob and barely had time for him. What would I do if I met another guy? Besides, I had been planning to work on my paper for my English 102 class. Still, Ruthie was my best friend. “Oh all right,” I relented.

“Oh goody,” she said as if she were a five-year-old who’d just been promised a visit to the zoo. “Let’s dress up.”

“Ruthie, it’s not Halloween. What are you talking about?”

“No, I mean DRESS up. You know how the women are at DFS—they wear old holey jeans and sweat shirts or worse—warm-up sweats! Men like women who get dressed.”

“Ruthie, they wear sweats because it’s zero degrees outside. They want to be warm”

“Pleeeeeeease!” Back to the five-year-old.

“Fine, I’ll get dressed. But you owe me one.” I had no idea what this meant. What was she going to owe me?

“Great. Let’s just meet there. It’s silly for one of us to pick the other up since we’re both about the same distance from the Columbia Town Center.”

“Fine,” I said. “What time?”

“Well, the doors open at eight, so let’s get there then. It’ll give us a chance to scope out the prospects.”

“And the competition,” I said. “Okay, eight it is.” I hung up the phone, curled into the couch and opened my Educational Psych book to chapter 9.

What to Wear?

After showering, I examined my closet. Raising two teenagers alone was costly, especially when their deadbeat father sent no money. I hadn’t bought anything new in over three years, spending most of my money on the kids and trying to get a Bachelor’s degree. Really, I’d have loved to wear jeans and a sweatshirt.

Oh well. I finally decided on a gray wool blend dress that had a thick, black cinch middle that looked like a belt. It showed off my one and only asset—my still small waist, considering my advanced 45 years. Also it had a high scrunch turtleneck look that helped hide my ridiculously long chicken neck. And the big plus was that it reached slightly below mid-calf giving it the lovely ability to hide my incredible elephant legs. Medium black heels and silver necklace with hoop earrings to match finished my outfit. Well, that was as close to an “outfit” as I got. 

I examined the coat closet, not that there was much to examine. I had my ratty ten-plus year old formerly black (now sort of a nondescript gray) winter coat. Probably should have worn it since it really was below 20 degrees that night. But I chose my down-filled ski jacket, newer and more modern looking but hardly right for my “outfit.” Well, I reasoned, as soon as I get there, I’ll scoot in and go right to the coat closet to deposit it, hopefully undetected. 

The Adventure Begins

When I arrived, I didn’t see Ruthie’s car, so I parked and waited. As soon as she drove up, I exited my car and was greeted by the February wind. I braced myself, putting my head down to avoid having dirt get under my contacts while my hair was blowing to Canada. Well, there is one good thing about curly hair, even Mariah can’t mess it up! I hugged Ruthie and wordlessly fighting the wind, we entered the church. “I have to dump this jacket,” I said as I rushed to the closet.

Together, we walked to the sign-in table. At DFS there are always two specific topics for discussion and one “wild card” where the group decides what to discuss. The first choice that night was something about ‘old baggage.’ “Ugh,” I told Ruthie. “Totally not interested in talking about stuff I’ve been working on forgetting.” She agreed.

The second topic was about raising children as a single parent. “Not interested,” Ruthie said. “I came here to be with grown-ups, talk to grown-ups, talk about grown-up things.”

“Wild card it is,” I said. As we wrote our names on our “Hello” stickers, Ruthie told the gal behind the table that we wanted to be in the same group. Since an average of about 100 people come to these discussions, there are usually about ten groups with ten people each which they try to arrange evenly with the same number of men as women. We got the same group number on our name stickers and began to scope out the scene. 

We both recognized acquaintances and people we’d seen there before. Ruthie engaged in small talk in a mini group while I looked around. I hadn’t been there for awhile but was struck, not for the first time, at the large yet somehow quaint church. It had high ceilings with rough beams that gave it a rustic look and many little cozy rooms where I imagine different activities took place for church functions. They probably rented this place twice a month to the DFS group to help defray some costs. 

At 8:30 the DFS coordinator called for everyone’s attention. “Welcome to Discussion for Singles. Let’s get started. All the #1s meet in the kitchenette,” she said. “#2s in the classroom. #3s in the pillow room” and so on until each group knew where they would meet. Ruthie and I were #8s, which was meeting in the loft. The loft is my favorite room. It’s at the top of about a 16-step, winding staircase that overlooks the large open space of the church. It’s surrounded by a spindled railing and feels like a mysterious secret place where children would love to play. The top of the loft is rectangular shaped and large enough for about 15 people, and we sit in an oval around the perimeter. 

When Ruthie and I arrived at the top of the stairs, there were only a few places left to sit, and they were not together, so I sat on one couch and she on a perpendicular sofa. While we waited, I took inventory. Sigh, the usual assortment of men and women ranging in age from early 40s to late 50s, no one of particular interest, certainly no outstanding men! Poor Ruthie. When everyone was settled, a rather boyish looking woman about 40-years-old said, “Hi, my name is Mary, and I’ll be your moderator for tonight. How about if we get acquainted by going around the room and stating our name and our favorite color. I’ll start. Again, my name is Mary, and my favorite color is _______ .”

Well, I didn’t know what her favorite color was because I wasn’t listening. For the third time I was feeling that kindergarten thing. I mean really! Your name and favorite color? Are we not adults? How about why you like that color; or a story about the color? Oh, I don’t know, almost anything else would do. How do you get to know someone by knowing their favorite color?

I hardly heard a single person’s response as I was in this reverie until, “My name is Ruthie, and as you can see,” said my best friend holding her dress in a curtsy, “my favorite color is purple.” Of course, that is her favorite color, and she was wearing a fabulous deep purple dress, a crystal necklace and black pumps with an ankle strap. (She has Betty Grable legs—I’m so jealous). At least her answer added some pizzazz to the mundane. But when it was my turn, I was as banal as everyone else. “My name is Linda, and my favorite color is red.” BOR-RING! I left all my creative juices in my story for my writing class. Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m stickin’ to it!

Finally, it was the last person’s turn. A tall, lean, professor-looking man said, “My name is Stuart, and my favorite color is …” He paused as he looked around the room and then down at himself. He pointed to a maroon stripe on his gray shirt and continued, “…this color.”

it's bashert that we're together

Now I became attentive. Here was a person who was not going to play this silly game. Here was a creative (and amusing) man. Suddenly there was someone interesting in the group. I no longer remember what topic we discussed that night, but I do remember some things Stuart contributed. He was a professor (am I perceptive or what?) of psychology at Towson University. He loved nature, old music and had male friends he bonded with other than when playing sports. Not only was this a sensitive, intelligent man, but he was teaching at the school I would be transferring to in the fall! I made a note to find him after the group meeting ended at 9:30 and people would be milling around, visiting and partaking of the refreshments. 

A Bit of a Letdown

As people were getting up to go downstairs, Stuart, who was sitting right by the steps, remained seated. It was easy to sit in the vacant chair next to him. “Hi, I’m Linda. I was interested to hear you teach at Towson. I’m graduating from Catonsville Community College this year and will be transferring to Towson. Maybe you could give me some tips for registering.” As lame as this was, he was very kind, and we continued to chat for a few minutes about our mutual interest in collecting old music. Then he said he needed to find his friend Lillith.

I found Ruthie at the wine table. “What did you think of Stuart? She asked.

“At least he isn’t an idiot,” I replied. “I talked to him for a few minutes upstairs. He seems nice. But he was meeting some woman here. A ‘friend’ named Lillith. Do you know her?”

“No, but I want to find him and talk to him anyway. Maybe Lillith is just a friend. He’s the first interesting guy I’ve met in months.” 

“A friend. Yeah, right,” I said.

But a few minutes later, he found us. 

“Where’s your friend?” I asked him.

“I don’t know. She was supposed to meet me here, but I don’t see her.” Ruthie raised her brow and met my eye. We chatted a bit, and then he excused himself and joined another group.

Some people we knew were going to a local watering hole and asked us to join them. Ruthie found Stuart and invited him to join us, but he declined with some lame excuse I no longer remember. He didn’t ask either of us for our phone number, and Ruthie was disappointed. This is mean, but I was sort of glad because I liked him too, but I was dating Bob and was there for Ruthie. But this guy, unlike Bob, had potential. And oh, it’s just so complicated with girlfriends and men. 

About a week later, the phone rang, and it was Stuart. I was shocked! First of all, he did not seem all that interested when we spoke at DFS. Second, he did not ask for my number. Third, how did he find it? My name was Goetz (pronounced Gets—believe me, few people could spell it and even fewer could read it). Well, he was even smarter than I thought. Figured it out, looked it up and voila!

So we made a date to go to the Vagabond Players, a tiny theater in Fells Point, to see a play called “The Country Girl.” It was a good play (much better than the Bing Crosby movie version), but it ran rather late, and we didn’t go anywhere after. Our conversation was limited to the 20-minute ride each way and ten minutes before the show plus about a ten-minute intermission. I can’t remember a single thing we talked about, but apparently he wasn’t enthralled since he didn’t make a follow-up call.

“Ruthie,” I said when I called her the day after the date. “Stuart called, and we went out last night.”

“What? I thought he didn’t get your number,” she said with more than a hint of disappointment (or was it accusation?) in her voice. 

“He looked it up. Anyway, we went to a play downtown.”

“I can’t believe you. There’s a guy I like that you’re not interested in, and he calls you. I don’t get it.”

“Me neither. I guess it’s that things always happen when you’re not looking. Maybe you should stop looking.”

“Well, she said, “I’m glad he called one of us, anyway.” I was so relieved. The last person I wanted to hurt was my best friend. Since Ruthie wasn’t mad, I decided to call Stuart. He seemed a bit surprised to hear from me (it’d been over two weeks since our date) and after we chatted for awhile, he asked if I’d like to go to Towson on Saturday and he’d show me around the campus. Well, it was obvious he was just being nice. He had no intention of spending any more money on me. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up the offer to roam the campus. Plus, it would give me a second chance to make a better impression. 

A Surprise Outcome

He picked me up about two o’clock. Providence was smiling on us because it was about 40 degrees that day (practically a heat wave for February) and very crisp and clear. We walked and talked. He took me not only on a tourist walk but also into some of the beautiful, wooded areas of the campus where he did his own walking and bonding with nature. When he put his arm across my shoulder, my heart beat faster. After a few hours, Stuart said, “Linda, I’m not ready to end this day. How about having an early dinner with me at Mykonos? It’s my favorite Greek restaurant.”

“I’d love to,” I said. Actually, after all the walking in the brisk air, I’d worked up an appetite. It was a short walk to Mykonos. I chose something not too expensive—no sense turning him off when I could tell he was turned on. After giving our order, this very genteel professor with a perfectly straight face, told me a story about his brother who had been married to a woman who was allergic to cats. Whenever his brother visited her cat-owning parents, he had to wear his ‘cat suit.’ When he’d return home, he would have to be vacuumed before he could enter the house. As I pictured a grown man in a Halloween cat costume being vacuumed, I laughed hard enough for them to hear me in Pennsylvania! 

If this less than genteel behavior did not deter the man, nothing would. But I tempted fate anyway. After dinner, I said, “You know, I don’t think I’m ready to end this day either. I’m meeting some friends at Little Ditty’s later. Would you like to join me? He agreed not knowing what he was getting himself into.

Little Ditty’s is a sing-along bar where two piano players are positioned in the middle of the room and sing silly songs and pick on people in the audience (it’s never a good idea to sit in the first few rows). Of course, the audience joins in the raucous fun which includes singing the “chicken” song, where everyone flaps their arms and wiggles like a chicken. As he looked around, Stuart mentioned that he hoped he didn’t run into any of his students! He was a very good sport about this, though he did comment he could live the whole rest of his life and never miss going back there.

It’s Beshert

Apparently, he was not put off by my less than refined self (or my friends) and called the following week for a Saturday night date. I already had a date with Bob, so I said in my most apologetic voice, “I’m so sorry. I’m busy that night. How about Friday?” He agreed. There were several more attempts on his part for Saturday night dates which became Friday night dates until I finally told Bob I’d met someone and had to end our relationship. 

Stuart and I were married in May of the following year. That summer we decided to go to the Carroll County Farm Museum to watch the fireworks on Fourth of July. Of course, it was packed, and the young man who was directing parking said to Stuart, “Park over there, Sir, behind the red car.”

Stuart did not move and appeared to be looking around. “He wants you to park behind the Mazda,” I said thinking he had not heard the directions.

“That Mazda?” he said pointing to the red car in front of us.

“Yes, honey. That’s right.”

“But he said the ‘red’ car,” Stuart said, obviously confused.

“That IS a red car.” Now I was confused.

“Are you sure? It looks green to me.”

That’s when I discovered my new husband is color-blind!

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Linda Miller.

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