I wouldn’t describe my mother as a sucker for love, but the dangerous mixture of a Jewish mother’s matchmaking instincts and the year-long high she got off of planning my sister’s recent wedding have proven too hard for her to overcome.
Unfortunately, my mom’s already married. Which means that, as the oldest unmarried child, I’ve had to deal with her newest obsession. As a 21-year-old college student, still living in my parents’ house, whose unpaid internships have never provided me with financial independence to leave my Midwood, Brooklyn, neighborhood, I’ve always had to do what my mother asked of me.
And taking full advantage of that, my mother tries to set me up mercilessly. For her, looks, personality, even intellect aren’t very important. After I come home, befuddled, from a date, insisting that the person I was forced to spend the last two hours with was not for me, she insists I’m being shallow or not realizing his true potential.
“What do you mean you weren’t attracted to him?” my mother rhetorically asks of me. “Yes, he’s a little heavy, but just run him around the block a few times. Trust me, under all that fat is a very cute face. And every guy loses his hair eventually. At least with this one he’s already bald so you’re avoiding the shock that comes later on.”
“Socially awkward?” my mother would ask. “I’m sure it’s nothing a good therapist can’t fix. And he comes from such a wealthy family, you’re really missing the boat if you turn this one down.”
“Gay? He’s not gay,” my mother insists.
“He’s just very artistic and creative. And don’t you worry, if he comes out of the closet, I’ll shove him right back in.”
I had gotten used to putting up with my mother’s incessant set-ups. At worst it was a free dinner, and besides, it appeased her.
But it was a result of a recent date that had me turning down every future guy my mother tried to introduce to me.
His name was Jack. As a 28-year-old who worked as an accountant in a top consulting firm, I figured Jack must be nerdy. But from Facebook pictures, he looked pretty cute, so I decided to go with it.
Jack picked me up in his uncle’s car and, because he liked live music, I suggested we go to Spike Hill in Williamsburg.
After a 20-minute drive that involved him not paying attention to a word I was saying and interrupting me with one stupid question after another, came the kicker. He told me that ever since he found out how much his roommate spent on his fiancée’s engagement ring, he’d been saving up for the moment when he needs to buy a rock of his own. He’d also been saving up for his dream honeymoon, a trip to the Maldives. And then, within an hour of meeting this guy, the topic of weddings came up.
“I want to get married in the Plaza Hotel,” he said.
I brushed that comment off, thinking he had to be kidding. He wasn’t.
“Honestly,” he said, “between your family and mine and all of the people they know, I don’t see how a small wedding would be possible.”
Eek! One date and this guy was already formulating the guest list for our wedding?
He countered by saying that it would probably only cost about $250,000, a lot of money in theory, but when put into perspective, not that much. I don’t know whom he thought he was trying to impress or how much money he thought I had, but after countless references to money made and names of luxury cars and expensive clothing dropped throughout the evening, I’d had enough.
When I got home, I told my mother that the date was a disaster, rattling off the lack of interesting conversation, his inability to listen and the fact that he already planned our life out on the first date.
“Have you ever seen a celebrity?” my mother asked me.
Not knowing what this had to do with my date, I answered her with a confused, “Here and there, nothing too exciting.”
“Have you ever approached or spoken to a celebrity?” she then asked.
Still confused I told her, “No, what’s your point?” “If you saw a celebrity, you wouldn’t approach the person and start having a full-out conversation, right? And why is that? You’re too nervous, intimidated, whatever…” she said, moving her head in such a way as to suggest that I must realize what she was getting at.
I thought I did, but I wanted to see just how far she was going to push this, so I kept silent.
“Well Annie,” my mother said, “this guy saw you and, for him, it was like seeing a celebrity. He didn’t know what to do. He was probably a little nervous and intimidated and so you can’t blame him for his actions. He probably wasn’t being his normal self. Give him another chance.”
I wish I could say that when Jack called me two days later I handled the whole thing with a mature, “You’re really a great guy, I just don’t think we’re compatible” type of bullshit line. But instead I ignored his call and the subsequent text message and told my mother he never called back.
And just as my mother was about to tell me about the latest available guy she wants to set me up with, Greg, my imaginary boyfriend, came into my life. And the best part is that Greg will buy me a good six months until my mother tells me she needs to sit him down and discuss an engagement timeline.