Trying to Find My (Jewish?) Soul Mate in the South

It was shortly after Obama won re-election in 2012 that I transplanted myself from New York and hung a mezuzah on my doorpost in Georgia. As soon as the mounting glue dried, I changed the location settings of my JDate profile from New York City to Atlanta. My goal was to find my beshert — Yiddish for soul mate — in the Peach State. He’d be a feminist, Jewish boy who appreciated a girl from Long Island. With this narrative in mind, I started exploring the Georgia JDate market.

After four years living in the Bible belt, I’d convinced myself that I met every Jewish single man between 22 and 67 within a 100-mile radius. Nice people. But nobody there was my beshert. And as I was approaching my mid-30s, the already small pool was shrinking to the point of virtual nonexistence. I aged out of the Jewish-grandmother matchmaking service at my synagogue. My 5-year-old JDate narrative for finding my beshert was simply not working. I was told that dating is a numbers game, so it was time for me to majorly increase my odds for finding someone. I felt I needed to take a break from JDate and get on those apps that everybody was talking about.

I downloaded Bumble, the app where it’s up to the female to make the first move. I assumed that type of model would attract a guy who would be cool with the woman in the driver’s seat. I could still find a feminist beshert that way.

I started my game swiping left and swiping right on dating potentials (which should really be considered digital gymnastics). I suddenly had an entire pool of potential mates of all religions to choose from. People I would not usually meet in my usual Shabbat dinner-going existence. It was a whole new universe.

I soon “matched” with a man named Trey who lived 0.6 miles from me and was originally from Tifton, Georgia. He was holding a bass in his picture. He described himself in his bio as open-minded and adventurous — traits that fit into my now nondenominational idea for a beshert.

I immediately messaged Trey to introduce myself. I told him I’m Amanda, a New York transplant. He wrote back, “hi Amanda from New York, I’m Trey.” He explained that his name was really Charles, but he went by Trey. In the South, the third-born male is often called Trey or Tripp. Good to know.

As Trey and I planned our first date for the following Wednesday, I started to wonder if my beshert was really a good Southern boy who could make a killer chicken-fried chicken. There had to be a reason besides my inability to drive in snow that I ended up in the South.

Wednesday finally came. We met outside a local Tiki bar at exactly 8 p.m. We shook hands hello, and he held the door open to what seemed like an urban tropical oasis. He pulled out a bamboo chair as we got to the bar for me to sit in. A true Southern gentleman. I was instantly attracted.

He ordered me a plate of Hawaiian-style calamari along with a flaming shot of 151. This was way more fun than my usual Starbucks JDate routine. Maybe the master plan all along involved a volcano shot. I could hear myself dictating to the New York Times reporter writing our wedding announcement about how Trey and I met at a Tiki bar in Atlanta on a random Wednesday night and bonded over Bacardi.

Trey told me more about fly fishing and hunting — the equivalent of space travel for a Jewish girl raised in malls and movie theatres. It felt exotic and mysterious. I knew I needed to get outside more — perhaps I could cancel my reoccurring order of Vitamin D supplements if I joined Trey on these expeditions.

I’ve always prided myself on being open.

The conversation shifted to favorite movies. I told him that my favorite movie of all time is Dirty Dancing and how much I love the “Hungry Eyes” scene. We then bonded over what a train wreck the remake of Dirty Dancing was last year. “Tough times call for a bit of nostalgia,” I said.

“What do you mean by tough times?” he said. “I think things are pretty good right now.”

I wasn’t sure if “right now” meant literally 8:26 p.m. that night in the Tiki bar, or right now in the general sense. Almost on autopilot, I started complaining about Donald Trump.

Trey’s blue eyes stared at me blankly. There was dead silence for five seconds. The only sound in the bar was the bartender igniting flames.

The truth came out. Trey, or Charles III, was a Trump supporter. I, a bleeding heart liberal, was on a date with a Trump supporter.

I was in Georgia now, I reminded myself. I was no longer living in the heart of the East Village. In my new home state, more than three quarters of white, college-educated men who voted casted their ballot for Trump. My neighbors, colleagues, and people with whom I competed for an elliptical at the gym were likely Trump supporters. It was an exercise in pure probability that I would end up on a date with someone who casted his ballot Republican on that fateful November day in 2016.

There were a few awkward moments of silence. I told myself that 63 million people voted for Trump. Trey was no anomaly. I hadn’t explicitly told him that I was Jewish and liberal yet, though I assumed my Dirty Dancing references gave it away.

“Yeah, I’m sick of Obamacare,” he returned. “It’s killing my business.”

“But it ensures that you are covered in case you get sick,” I said, trying to appear rational, informed, and socially conscious — traits I believed were important for attracting my beshert.

“Why should I have to pay for health insurance? I never get sick!” he returned.

I contemplated my acne, chronic migraines, and other litany of issues that keep Blue Cross in business. Wow, a guy who doesn’t have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Never needed Prozac? Has no acid reflex? He’s so not Jewish!

“It’s good you are healthy,” I said lightheartedly.

Dead silence.

“We’ll have to agree to disagree on Obamacare,” I said desperately seeking a change of subject.

We ate for a few silent moments. “Wow, this calamari is really good,” I finally said.

“No it’s not. This is cheap Humboldt squid,” he replied which made me feel like I was some sort of philistine to think we were eating good food. “It’s just the torso. None of the good parts,” he elaborated. “They dumped the arms, tentacles, and head back into the water.” Trey was clearly speaking from firsthand experience.

“Oh, what does the head taste like?” I asked somewhat obsequiously.

“You’ll just have to try it and see,” he said, raising his eyebrows.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to try it. It didn’t seem like I was exactly going to fit in with his fishing crew.

“What are you doing this weekend?” I asked, thinking that we battered the already-fried calamari to hard rubber.

“Gun show Saturday to see the new 9mm in copper. Church Sunday with my family. Normal weekend routine.”

“Oh, do you say a prayer for your gun?” I asked trying to establish some sort of sequential order between those seemingly disconnected activities.

He laughed nervously as he told me about the new compact that was debuting.

I quietly contemplated my newfound knowledge of calamari and firearms. This information wasn’t taught to Jewish girls from the homogenous Long Island suburbs. I had to move to the South and get off JDate to learn about mollusks and pistols.

I finished my volcano. The waitress came over and asked if I’d like another round. I politely declined. It was almost 9:30 p.m. and I wanted to catch the last few minutes of Rachel Maddow.

The check came. I motioned towards my purse. “No way,” he said putting his hand in his pocket to take out his credit card. I didn’t argue. I thanked him and said goodbye. I then got my phone out to summon Uber.

When my Uber arrived, I heard the familiar cadence of NPR playing on the radio as I got inside. In what seemed like serendipitous timing, the story was about a new app in Britain called Better Together Dating. It was described as Tinder for the 48 percent who voted against Brexit. “I wouldn’t want to date a Leave voter,” said the woman being interviewed who just registered on the app.

“I don’t want to date a Trump voter,” I said laughingly to my driver Muhammad.

“I hear you girl,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to date one either.”

It came to me as Google Maps was telling Muhammad to make a left turn that while I’m still open to new experiences and dating people outside my own culture, one thing was clear: my beshert may or may not be Jewish, but he is certainly not a Trump supporter.

Amanda Doreson

Amanda Doreson is a writer, public health analyst, and doggy momma who recently relocated to Washington, D.C. She has affinity for puppies, yoga, stand-up comedy, and sticky, gooey babka. She is tone deaf, yet still loves music. She mostly “sings” camp songs.

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