The Israeli and I have been going out for five months now. If you look at our relationship developmentally, we’re still in the baby stage. We’re barely sitting up; we’re just beginning to trust. But there’s something about the way we look into each other’s eyes now.
So far, Yossi seems to be a good balance to my sensitive, moody side. He doesn’t carry around a lot of heavy baggage or any debts. He’s very close to his 82-year-old mom, a Holocaust survivor, who lives on a kibbutz in northern Israel.
When Yossi calls his mom on the phone, his voice launches into the most delicious pitch: “Mommmmeeeeee.” I think it’s funny that he calls her “Mommy” in English, instead of “Ima.” But every time he calls her, my insides soften.
It’s obvious that she adores her son, the youngest of three siblings. His older brother and sister both have kids. Whenever Yossi goes to Israel, he packs gifts for his nieces and nephews. After Yossi explained to his mother to that he was dating a single mom, she started to refer to my daughter as “the little girl.” I was so touched when his mother sent my daughter some very old dolls that belonged to her.
When Yossi’s friend who set us up — through this very column — sends me an email, it dissolves me:
“Yossi is so excited about you! This is the first time I’ve heard him this enthusiastic about a relationship. (Mind you, it’s in his typical tempered style.) He’s happier than I’ve ever seen.”
Good thing. There’s quite a bit of happiness on this end, too.
When Yossi rings our doorbell, Mae flies down the stairs and right into his arms. This melts me every time. We walk around the marina, the three of us, with Mae perched atop his shoulders.
Yossi meets everyone in my family: my mom and stepdad, my dad, my sister. They all like him.
“He’s very smart,” my dad says. Who doesn’t adore a smart Jewish man?
I can say undeniably, however, that not everything with Yossi is perfect.
He wants to have a baby. ASAP.
While he’s tough, he’s also full of estrogen — I’ve never heard a man long for a baby like this before.
What am I? A walking uterus?
“I have a child,” I tell him. “I don’t think I want another baby. I’m done.”
“You’re only thirty-four,” he says. “How can you be so sure?”
“I’m sure.” And then I ask, “Would you consider adopting my daughter?”
“Yes,” he says. “But I need to know that you want another child.”
“I might be open to it at some point,” I say. “But not now.”
“If you don’t want another one, tell me now,” he says, “and we’ll go our separate ways.”
This is the Israeli in him, unforgiving and obstinate. The Baby is his deal-breaker, and there’s no wiggle room here.
This makes me wonder about our cultural differences. Although Yossi has lived in the Bay Area for two decades, his upbringing was a world apart from mine. He was raised on a kibbutz in Israel, where having kids was a highlight.
“I have given a lot of thought on the subject of inter-cultural relationships, as I used to be in one myself,” says Tamar Larsen, a local Jewish Ph.D candidate at the University of San Francisco. She was married to a Norwegian and lived in Norway for eight years. “While I do think they can work, I feel strongly that it is a path fraught with more than the usual share of misunderstandings and drastically varying expectations.”
So, is there any hope for us?
“In order to survive as a couple through the often stormy waves of intercultural dating and marriage, both people in the relationship must be oriented to reaching new understandings of each other,” Larsen tells me.
Our stormy wave is still storming.
I tell Yossi: “Hold on here. I can have a baby when I’m 40 if I want.”
“I don’t want to wait that long,” he says. “I’m 45. I’m old.”
“But you’re a man,” I say. “Your clock isn’t ticking.”
“It is,” he says.
The Baby is coming between us, and it freaks me out. Can’t he come to a “new understanding?” Can’t I wait and see if he’s daddy-material yet?