My Journey at BJ
As I mounted the stairs to attend my first New Member Orientation, I had no way of knowing just how far my journey with BJ would take me. Gripping the handrail and reminding myself to smile, I asked myself how was this going to be easier than meeting one guy? I’d once been a Friday-night regular, searching for my bashert at services.
Twelve years later, I was back seeking community for two. My husband Stephan and I wanted to meet people with whom we both had something in common, preferably couples so we could double date! (Stephan and I, by the way, did not meet at BJ.)
I took a deep breath to calm myself as I took in the huge loft with rustic brick walls—the type of elegant-earthy brownstone that is featured in Woody Allen films. Several long buffet tables, laden with foil trays, were central. I helped myself to salad, crusty bread, and baked ziti. Then I sat down on a folding chair so as not to fumble-spill Diet Coke on the cream leather couch.
Balancing the plate on my lap and steadying my shyness, I exchanged greetings with Layla—a petite brunette with curly hair who was wearing an embroidered peasant blouse. Several of us started talking. I enjoyed being in the buzz of the chit-chat and thought: “This isn’t so hard.” I even reached out to a woman at the periphery of our cluster, who sat with her arms locked at her side. I offered her the olive branch of “Hello, I’m Debra.” She accepted.
What was I thinking? Shouldn’t I have had some sort of check-list? At least to find out who is married or in relationships? Then, surprising for a Jewish gathering, the program started on time but not before Layla mentioned that she would be ushering the next Friday night. I would know someone at services again!
The orientation was well structured; a thorough information packet was distributed. I found out how to become involved through volunteering. A highlight was when all 40 of us formed a long circle to say a bit about where we liked to travel. I should have anticipated this moment when I’d filled out my name badge, which asked this question. Instead, I tried to listen to the others while I rehearsed—my quickened heartbeat swishing in my ears.
Then Rebecca spoke: “My favorite place to visit is Paris, and we used to go often when I lived in Europe with my husband, Michael, who is British.” The Seine parted.
I acknowledged Rebecca when it was my turn, pointing out my Eiffel Tower earrings. “The man I live with, Stephan, is French, and my favorite place is also Paris even if it means staying with my mother-in-law. But Stephan is the lucky one who gets to go to New Jersey where I’m from!” I welcomed the laugh.
We separated into two groups; Rebecca was assigned to the other one. Two nice Jewish girls who’d found Jewish mates with sexy accents; I had to find a way to meet her! She actually approached me, and we exchanged numbers as we were leaving. “Michael and I are new to BJ and would like to meet some other couples.”
They have become our good friends. This time around, it was a match made in BJ.