My close Manhattan girlfriend Sarah got married last weekend. She and her husband met in college and dated nine years. They're both avid football fans, extremely health-conscious, and kinda' Christian. I have faith their marriage will be a fruitful one.
Joe, my 24-year-old Jewish friend, was my date. Joe is a tax accountant in Midtown. Because of the extended deadline, he has been working hundred-hour weeks for the past three months.
Sarah's wedding fell on the last weekend of his busy season; he worked an all-nighter Thursday so he could spend the weekend with me.
"We should go apple picking tomorrow," he said at the reception Friday night. We were in Poughkeepsie and he wanted to do something outdoorsy.
"It'll be fun." He smiled naively. I cringed; unpleasant childhood memories flooded my senses. I remembered climbing into apple, cherry and elderberry trees, crouching over strawberry patches, pricking myself on thorny raspberry bushes ...
There was no way I was getting sticky and scratched and attacked by daddy longlegs for apples I could easily and cheaply purchase on my street corner.
So instead we hiked up a mountain and went to the drive-in.
Joe was the first Jewish person I met upon my arrival to New York. As my friend over the years, he has edified me on latkes, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, which was last Sunday), and why it wasn't kosher for him to watch Rudolph as a child. Although he is tall, dark, and extremely handsome, he hardly dates and has only had one serious girlfriend.
"I'm a picky Jew," he jokes. He is also hard working, which I've always admired.
Even though we have affections for each other, I'm still not emotionally ready to get into another serious relationship because of my recent breakup with Nick. "Plus, how would that work?" I asked Joe.
We were walking through the fruit aisle of Walmart, collecting a bag of Clementine's for the drive-in. "I could never give up my Christmas tree."
Nor his Menorah, he admitted.
Joe's best friend (also Jewish) is going through this predicament with his Puerto Rican, extremely Christian, girlfriend. After two years of dating, they finally had the "religion talk."
Unfortunately neither is willing to budge their beliefs. Subsequently they've found themselves at a standstill.
"They love each other. But these are major lifestyle differences,"
Joe explained. "What would you do?"
I thought back a few weeks. Joe and I ordered in dinner and watched the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002). The film is about a young Greek woman who falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity. At first her orthodox father rejects her fiance.
But after much persuasion and after he sees how much this man loves his daughter he accepts him into the family.
His wedding speech goes as follows: "The root of the word 'Miller' (the fiance's last name) come from a Greek word, 'millah,' meaning 'apple,' so there you go. And our name, 'Portokalos,' is come from the word meaning 'orange.' So today here, we have apples and oranges. We are all different now, but in the end, we're all fruit."
I told Joe that I think there is a lot of truth to this. Whether one wants to climb a tree for some apples or buy Clementines at Walmart, it all started in a garden.