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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

I did it! Three hours with 100 strangers!

I did it, just like I planned at the last minute. I went to the JCC Havdalah at the Lake. I knew nobody and went anyway. I had other options, I could have gone to see the 40 Year Old Virgin or gone to my upstairs neighbor’s party. Instead I put on lipstick (well lip gloss), chandelier earings (very heavy), high heels and got on the bus and went.

I was so nervous on my way there, like I felt before my first improv class at Annoyance. Here I am. On the bus with a bag of travel sized toiletries on my lap. My hands were sweating, my heart was racing. Then I thought, “Aren’t you 28? Can’t you walk into a room of strangers and do this? NO! NO I CAN’T! TURN THE BUS AROUND!”

But I did. I got there at a reasonable time–like 9:03. I still don’t have Jewish Standard Time down, still have to be on the dot. After I signed in, I looked around and SURPRISE! didn’t know anyone. I went to the bar and got a glass of wine and stood in the way until someone came up to talk to me.

Eventually I met a girl who also didn’t know anyone and together we stood boldy at a table. A few different guys came up to say hello. It is a great feeling to be in a room and have nobody question my jewishness. Except some confusion when I insist that I spell my name with an “H” and pronounce it Lee-Uh and not Lay-uh. I did tell Marla that I am a Jew By Choice, because I gave her my card with my blogged. She asked what I blog about. So we talked a lot about the conversion process.

While I didn’t know anyone, there were familiar faces from the Kehilla lecture I went to and from Shavuot. Some of the younger rabbis (including the chic rabbi that I offended on our way back from the minyan.) were there and some rabbinical students. But if you remember, I stayed pretty quiet at Shavuot.

Before the band played, we did do a havdalah ceremony. I was surprised that I knew the tunes to the prayers–they must be on one of the CDs I listen to. This was the first time that I’ve been at a prayers outside of my shul and felt totally comfortable. I realize it wasn’t a big service or anything, but to be able to follow & chant along with a room of strangers. I may not know anyone, but I know the prayers. Hooray!

After Marla and I split up, with the goal of meeting more people, I ran into a woman I worked with two jobs ago. She was on her way out, but passed me on to two other women for safekeeping. They pulled me into a conversation with two guys and eventually we were all laughing over co-ed bathroom tactics. You see, the women’s restroom was out of order and we had to do some serious gate gaurding to get our equal time in the john.

Can I say again, I think I said it after Shavuot, I love being in a room where the majority of the men are wearing kippot. Love it. I don’t need my jewish man to wear one all the time, but I love that there are men who do. (Including the Eagle Man’s son, who I met as well.) Here is the dilemma–while it is the most obvious sign that he should appreciate that I go to shul every week, it also a sign that he might not accept my conversion–since it is under the supervision of a Reform Rabbi.

I’m not going to not date someone because he wasn’t wearing a yarmulke, I’m just saying I love them. I also love seeing men who can pull off being hip and wearing tzitzit. Me? I have a star of david necklace, but broke the chain today–so I didn’t even have that.

After coming back from the men’s restroom, the two women and one of the guys went outside. Leaving me with the second guy. We chatted and then he said, “gobbledy gook going outside to check.” I didn’t know if he said, “I’m” or “Let’s” Since I didn’t want to be THAT girl who just follows, I stayed inside. Once again, alone, knowing no-one.

So I did what any self-respecting woman would do. I checked my voicemail and returned a phone call, because I am that important. Then I told my friend that I was going to make one more attempt at being social. Mind you, this was around 11:15 or so and I wouldn’t have to be social for much longer. I grabbed another glass of sangria (yummy) and stood at a table and checked out the room.

I’d like to report that I looked aloof, yet friendly. In between conversations and popular. I think I looked fear stricken. Here I am, full glass of sangria, nobody to talk to. I can chug it and leave. I can set it down and leave. I can try and lean into that group, when Mr. Mumble waved me over. Oh. He must have said, “Let’s go outside.” and thought I ditched him, instead of the other way around.

I went over and chatted. Met his sister’s boyfriend and later his sister (who was actually the very first person to talk to me three hours earlier.) As we got the announcement that shop was closing up, I passed him my card, admitted to being a blogger, and slipped out the door. Their group was planning a post-Havdalah outing and I didn’t want to be that girl, once again, who tagged along.

So I slipped out the door, hailed a cab, and made it home safe and sound. I didn’t have a heart attack or anything. Turns out that I can talk to strangers–Hooray! I’ll keep going to these things until I feel comfortable, promise.

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