Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young

Gabrielle Zevin



y dear friend Roz Horowitz met her new husband online dating, and Roz is three years older and fifty pounds heavier than I am, and people have said that she is generally not as well preserved, and so I thought I would try it even though I avoid going online too much. Roz’s last husband died of colon cancer, and she deserves her happiness. Not that this new husband is anything special – his name is Tony and he used to be in the auto glass business in New Jersey. But Roz fixed him up and took him shopping for shirts at Bloomingdale’s, and now they’re taking all these classes at the JCC together – Conversational Spanish and Ballroom Dancing and Massage for Lovers and Creative Soap and Candle Making. I don’t particularly want a husband. They’re a lot of work, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone either, and it would be nice to have someone to go to classes with is what I’m saying. I thought online dating was for younger people, but Roz says it’s not. “Even if it is,” she says, “Rachel, you’re younger now than you’ll ever be.”

So I ask Roz if she has any advice and she says don’t put a picture that makes you look younger than you are. Everyone on the Internet lies, but ironically, the worst thing to do on the Internet is lie. And I say, “Roz, my love, how exactly is that different from life?”

The first man I meet is named Harold, and as a joke, I ask him if he always had that name because it seems like an old man name to me. But Harold doesn’t get the joke, and he gets huffy and says, “Haven’t you ever heard of Harold and the Purple Crayon? Harold is a child, Rachel.” Anyway, this date goes nowhere.

The second man I meet is Andrew, and he has dirty fingernails so I can’t notice if he is nice or not. I can’t even eat my brown sugar and butter crêpes because, oy gevalt, I’m so distracted by these fingernails. I mean, what was he doing before he came on this date? Competitive gardening? Burying the last woman he dated? He says, “Rachel Shapiro, you eat like a bird!” I think about packing up the crêpes, but what’s the point? Crêpes don’t keep. Reheat them, and they end up eggy and rubbery, and even if you force them down, it’s a tragedy because you’re thinking of the crêpes they might have been and all that wasted potential.

Andrew calls me a few weeks later to ask me if I want to go on another date, and I very quickly say, No thank you. And he asks why. And I don’t want to tell him the thing about the dirty fingernails because it seems petty and maybe it is. My ex-husband was meticulous about his fingernails, and he still turned out to be a piece of garbage. While I’m thinking of what to say, he says, “Well, I guess I have my answer. Don’t bother making up some lie.”

And I say, “Honestly, I think we lack chemistry, and at our ages” – I’m sixty-four – “it doesn’t make sense to waste time.”

And he says, “So you know, your picture makes you look ten years younger than you are.” A parting blow.

I know this is the insult of the insulted, but I show Roz the picture anyway, just in case. I had thought of it as recent, but upon closer consideration, I determine it’s from the end of the second Bush administration. Roz says that I do look younger in it, but in a good way, not so much that it’s ridiculous. She says if I pick the right restaurant, with the right lighting, I’ll look exactly the same age as the photo. And I say that’s starting to sound like Blanche DuBois putting scarves on the lamps. Roz takes a new picture of me with her phone on my balcony, and that’s that.

The third man I meet is Louis, and he has very nice glasses with titanium arms. I like him immediately even though the first thing he says is, “Wow, you’re prettier than your picture,” which leaves me wondering if I’ve swung too much in the other direction with this whole picture foolishness. He’s a professor of Jewish-American literature at the University of Miami, and he tells me he ran marathons until his hip started bothering him and now he runs half marathons. He asks me if I work out, and I tell him yes, I teach Pilates for Seniors, as a matter of fact – maybe I could help with his flexors? He says, I bet you could, or something like that. Then, to establish we aren’t bimbos, we schmooze about books. I say I love Philip Roth, even though that’s probably a cliché for a woman of my background and my age. And he says, no, Philip Roth is wonderful. He once gave a public lecture about Philip Roth’s books and Philip Roth came to it and sat in the first row! Philip Roth sat through the whole thing, nodded occasionally, crossed and uncrossed and recrossed his long legs, and when it was over, he left without saying a word.

“Did he like it?” I ask. “Was he offended?”

Louis says he’ll never know and it’ll always be one of the great mysteries of his life.

I say, “Philip Roth has long legs?”

He says, “Not as long as mine, Rach.”

It’s a nice thing to flirt.

And then he asks me if I have any children. And I say, I have a daughter, Aviva. And he says, Aviva, that means springtime or innocence in Hebrew, what a beautiful name. And I say, I know, that’s why my ex-husband and I chose it. And he says, I haven’t known many Avivas, it’s not a very common name, just that girl who got into trouble with Congressman Levin. Do you remember that whole mishegoss?

“Um,” I say.

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