Jenna Cassell–The Single Mingle
It was Saturday night…again.
Dahlia and Jocelyn were determined to get themselves ‘out there’ to a singles event. But each time they made plans they ended on the phone at the last minute. “How about if we just go to a chick-flick tonight?” Sometimes, they’d say it in unison and break out laughing as if they were not only of one mind, but shared the same sixty-something working woman’s body that was just too tired to go to some meat market competition.
Tonight, however, might be different. Dahlia had found a large singles gathering advertised as the pinnacle melding of all the most popular online dating sites, dating services and singles meet-up groups. “Everyone who’s anyone ‘out there’ will all be ‘in here!’”
They agreed to give it a try. After all, it could be no worse than that ghastly New Years Eve singles dance. The two of them had sat parked in front of the building, watching as people arrived. At first, they sat in silence, watching with interest for potential partners as other singles, dressed in holiday clothes, arrived. There were pairs of hopeful women (not unlike themselves), about a dozen unaccompanied females, a few couples and … two men. One of the men seemed to be predicting a small tsunami, as he was sporting a pair of flood pants, hemmed well above his ankles. The only way to make this worse, which of course he did, was to wear white socks. After the door closed behind him, the two friends looked at each other and burst into uncontrollable laughter until tears ran down their collective cheeks. Without any additional hesitation, Jocelyn put the car in gear and they fled the scene as though Mr. Flood-Pants were giving chase.
It took some doing, but Dahlia managed to persuade Jocelyn that tonight’s “Single Mingle” would be different. There would be a great assembly of the most elite, cream of the crop, readily available men. It was agreed that they would attend without considering any other options for the evening. Dahlia declared, “No backing out!” and Jocelyn concurred. Dahlia insisted on picking Jocelyn up, to prevent premature escape.
Jocelyn had been married for nearly thirty years. She found it totally unfair that now, in her sixties, she was back in the dating pool. “It’s like I’m doing my life backwards,” she confided in Dahlia. “When I was in my twenties, I was married and rooted securely in my adult life. I never really dated in my youth. I met and fell in love with my husband as a young woman. Now, I’m in my sixties, and I have to dive in, head-first, to a strange new world. It’s full of silly, flirtatious games, and I don’t know the rules—if there even are rules. I just want a normal life. I want to be comfortably in love with someone, without having to go through all this fuss to get there. Who knew it could be so difficult to meet an intelligent, centered, confident, kind, financially secure, emotionally stable and authentically communicative man?”
Dahlia laughed, “Oh, is that all you want?”
Jocelyn shrugged as she snorted out a huge laugh. “Well,” she managed to blurt out, “I just need ONE!”
Dahlia was the chorus to which Jocelyn sang. They had been close friends for years and were amazingly on the same page and life path much of the time. Their love for each other was palpable.
They met as planned and drove to the address plugged into the GPS from the flyer. They landed in front of a decadent, high-class hotel. The event would be held in the extravagantly decorated bar. As they stood in the doorway, they saw the registration table. The sign said the event fee was $45.00. They froze in place, not unlike deer before headlights, and turned to looked at each other.
Jocelyn was the first to speak. “You know, we could go to the hotel restaurant and have a really nice, elegant meal for $45.00!”
It was Dahlia who kept her resolve. “Remember, no backing out! We’re here. We are both having a good hair day, we look fabulous, and we’re going in!”
Jocelyn realized she was actually holding her breath as they ‘dove in.’ As they paid the entrance fee, both women peered into the darkened bar, eager to get a glimpse of whomever might be in there. The large room was already buzzing with activity. There were many people socializing around the bar, drinking, laughing, and carrying plates of food. Dahlia and Jocelyn decided to sit at a small table with their drinks, the better to peruse the playing field. They started chatting with each other, sipping on their drinks as they relaxed. At least they knew they could count on enjoying each other’s company.
It wasn’t long before a man approached their table. “Would you mind if I join you?” He was a distinguished looking man, nicely dressed, tall and fit, with a thick foreign accent. His skin had a beautiful olive quality.
“Please do,” Jocelyn heard herself say.
After sitting across from Jocelyn, their suitor asked, “Can you guess where I am from?”
The women looked at each other, now remembering that they were in the land of flirtatious opening lines and goofy games.
Jocelyn thought he might be from the Middle East, but she did not want to guess the wrong country. She knew the Middle East was experiencing increasingly intense turmoil with cultural and religious conflicts, and didn’t want to risk offense. Deciding to be playful, she said, with a southern accent, “Darlin’, you sound like you’re from…Texas?”
Dahlia was on board instantly with a version of southern all her own. “Oh, no! I know an Okleeehoooma accent when I hears one!” All three began to laugh.
“I am from Iran. My name is Adil, and it is lovely to meet you both.”
Just then, a guy wearing a nametag identifying him as ‘Steve’ plopped down with a thud near Dahlia and began flirting terribly. “You come here often?” He leered, breathing loudly. She could tell from his breath that he’d been at the bar for a while. She had drunk just enough at that point to find him harmless, so she started flirting back.
In the meantime, Jocelyn learned that Adil had earned a Doctorate shortly after relocating from Persia. He had recently authored a book simply because he had things he wanted to say. Jocelyn was beginning to be impressed…and interested.
The only thing that came to mind as a potential issue was the cultural differences between them. She had been married to a man who was from a culture other than her own, and there had been values and cultural issues that could never be reconciled. She wasn’t eager to experience that great divide again.
Adil gave Jocelyn his card. “It would please me if you would call, so we could get to know each other better.” Jocelyn took the card, placing it in her wallet as if it were precious currency.
Adil left the table to bring back another round of drinks. Steve asked Jocelyn, “Do you want to be rescued? I can get him to go away very easily!” he boasted while sloppily throwing his arm around Dahlia.
Jocelyn said, “No thank you. I don’t really want him to go away.”
Dahlia said, “Steve, would you please do that for me?” After a few minutes of thinking about this, he seemed to finally get what she meant. Without another word, he got up and left. The two gals were laughing when Adil returned to the table with another drink for each of them.
“Hmm,” Dahlia said to Jocelyn, “This guy just may be a keeper!” Adil pretended not to hear this, but his eyes sparkled, and he smiled warmly at Jocelyn.
A few days later, Jocelyn called Adil and they decided to meet for dinner. On their next date, they took in a movie. They saw each other regularly for three months. They were taking a walk by the bay when Jocelyn had to visit the restroom. When she came out, Adil was waiting for her on a small hill. He was silhouetted by a sunset that spread liquid gold from the horizon to the shore, where they stood. He turned and looked back at her, smiling warmly, and she flushed, feeling his eyes on her.
“What is it?” Jocelyn asked thinking she might have toilet paper stuck to her shoe.
“You. It could be you. You could be the one for me.” He said unabashedly.
She was shocked. Flattered, but taken aback. For all the times she had tried to be someone’s ‘one,’ a park bathroom wasn’t exactly the romantic backdrop she had envisioned.
They began to walk in silence, hand-in-hand. He was smiling involuntarily. She was breathing deeply, trying to refresh her lungs and regain her balance. This seemed so fast. He was moving too fast for her to keep up. Part of her wanted to take the leap and get carried away in the romance of it all. But, she feared vertigo from this whirlwind pace.
What was she feeling? She owed him a response to his pronouncement. She looked past him to the bay. The sun had just dipped behind the water’s horizon, turning the sky into a slow-moving oil painting of bright reds and yellow above the purple water.
“Adil, I am loving getting to know you. I do enjoy the time we share. I just need to take this a bit slower. Let’s give each other a chance to really know one another.”
“I know you,” he declared. “I see how you are this caring, loving, beautiful woman. I want only to be with you. You know me. What more is there to know? In my country, we would have already been married. My father was a Sheik. He could have taken many wives, but he chose only one. He knew my mother was the only one. I, too, choose to take only one wife and I now know who that is to be.”
She repeated the words in her head, ‘Sheik…could have taken many wives.’ There it was. The great cultural divide. The one trepidation Jocelyn had about this relationship. He was from a different world, with different ideologies about some of the most basic and prevalent cultural values and norms. Could people with two very different life paradigms share one life?
Wanting to change the subject before the sun set on their future, Jocelyn said, “I have an idea. I haven’t met any of your friends yet. Why don’t I join you and your hiking buddies on your Sunday hike tomorrow? I love that hiking trail, and it would give me a chance to get to know your friends.”
Adil seemed to stiffen with discomfort. “I don’t think that would be possible,” he said. Jocelyn waited for the rest of the sentence to provide some explanation, but Adil offered no more. He avoided her gaze by looking out at the now darkening sky. The deeper purpled clouds were silently moving over blackened water.
“Why is this not possible?” she asked looking up at him.
“I walk with three men. They are all doctors.” He explained.
She waited, but nothing more came.
“So, is the conversation only focused on medical issues? That doesn’t bother me. I would just like to meet your friends and go on the hike.”
“It is not the topic of conversation that is the problem. You would not understand anything said, no matter the topic. We do not use English when speaking to each other. We are all from Iran and we speak our Persian language of Farsi.”
It felt like a thick curtain had dropped between them. They were still hand-in-hand, yet Jocelyn envisioned a globe of the Earth and a red dot where each of their respective worlds were located. The chasm between them was becoming unavoidable.
Jocelyn wanted to explore this further, trying to salvage her hope for their future. “So, when I visit your family in Iran, will everyone be speaking Farsi?”
He stopped walking, took her by the shoulders and turned her toward him. His eyes gently smiled. “You would be my family. Here, in America. My Iranian family is not so important to me. I only go there once or twice a year. I would not be able to bring you with me. I cannot bring home an American, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl that is not a Muslim. But, we will be together here, and that is all that matters. No?”
“No.” she said sadly. “Family is very important to me. I have been thinking of how to introduce you to my parents. I’ve imagined the great difficulty with which they would even hear your name. I had thought I would introduce you as ‘Alan’ rather than ‘Adil.’ I’ve imagined navigating the conversation to divert attention away from the fact that you’re a Muslim.
“Well,” he laughed, “My name, Adil, means ‘wise and insightful.’ Seeing as I am so wise, it would not bother me to be introduced to your family however you see fit. As far as my religious beliefs, they are deep within me, so it is of no consequence as to what anyone else thinks of this.”
“So you do not care that my family would never really know you?” she asked.
“It is only in my heart to know you, be with you. Beyond that, little in the world matters to me.”
On one level, this was the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to Jocelyn, but on another, it was disturbing to the core. Did he want their relationship to be an island where only they dwelled? Was there to be no community, friends or family in their lives?
While she longed to have one person, her soul’s mate, on whom she could shower all her love, and share all things, she knew she also needed more to fulfill her longing for a meaningful life.
When they said good night that evening, Jocelyn had a feeling it would be the last time they saw each other. While she did love being with him, she knew he wanted to move forward and be married. It was futile to continue in a relationship that did not ultimately fulfill both their needs.
Jocelyn knew herself well enough to know how important her friends, extended family, and spiritual community were to her, and she wanted an ever-expanding role in giving back to society. She wanted someone who could walk that path with her. The life she wanted was large and full.
As much as she was attracted to Adil and what he had to offer, she knew she could not live on a deserted island alone with him. She would have to let him go, and make room for a man who shared her life vision.
Jocelyn realized that although this relationship did not get her any closer to finding a man with whom she could share a loving life, it did enhance her own self-knowledge. This was a great step in her ability to navigate this process with clarity and self-respect. Even if she did not succeed in falling in love with this man, she was actually beginning to fall in love … with herself.