Married . . . at last!


I got married for the first time at 50. The groom was 51. Yes, we are both Jewish. We met online.

I am tall, thin, blonde, green-eyed, and have a little turned-up nose. My
father-in-law’s first comment, across the Thanksgiving table, was, “Doesn’t she look like a shiksa?”

My husband is an inch shorter than I am and round. He is also handsome, smart, funny and very logical. But I married him because he is a good person and I love him very much.

I decided when I was about 46 that I really wanted to get married. The question became where to meet men who really wanted to get married, too. I decided to try online dating. I had already done everything else.

It was not love at first sight. It was interest. It was let’s see what will happen. We both had dated enough to know the difference between passion and real caring.

It took three years, but we did it. The short version:

We met in November of 2000. The cats and I moved in with him in 2001, and I gave him an ultimatum. We got engaged in June of 2002 and were planning to marry in December 2002, although I had yet to see a ring.

Thirteen weeks before the wedding, he fell and shattered his shoulder. We postponed the wedding. I told him he had until my birthday, in August, to do the ring, or it was over. This was it.

It took him eight months, but he did it. Three days before my birthday, he took me to dinner, and proposed a second time, this time with ring in hand.

This was August 2003, and we were going to get married August 2004. We would have a year to arrange the wedding. That was the plan. The next month, my then-91-year-old mother fell and wound up in the hospital, so the wedding was moved up to December.

I had three months to plan the wedding. I was crazed, to say the least. It turned out that my little, humble then-83-year-old aunt knew the owner of a hotel, which shall remain nameless, kayn ayin hora, poo poo. It was a fabulous hotel, famous for its weddings. We had a place. Then we had a date, invitations, a dress, a menu, a klezmer band and a dance band, and a lot of tuxedos.

In addition to planning a wedding in three months, a full-time job, I was also working and taking a class. How I did it, I don’t know. But I was almost there. We divided the wedding planning, sort of. My husband chose all the food and liquor. I handled the cake and flowers, the logistics of the day, the arrangements for out-of-towners, the rehearsal dinner, the auf ruf and half of the visitor packets. (My husband did the maps and the sites of interest.)

The day finally arrived. Hair and make-up call, 6 a.m. Both my husband and I have backgrounds in the entertainment industry, but this was the biggest production either of us had to pull off. He had produced and directed theater, and I had produced and directed reality TV. But this was something else.

I was drugged out of my mind the morning of the wedding. Not serious drugs, but Advil combined with terror can have a mind-numbing effect.

I had only my maid of honor, my cousin Patty, in the suite with me as I got ready. The ketubah signing was done privately with the rabbi in a separate room with only my two attendants and the two male witnesses present. It was beautiful.

It was getting scarier and scarier. Patty and I retired to the bridal suite to await the final call. The hotel’s coordinator lined everyone up, then called up to the room. They were ready for me.

Patty and I took the elevator down. We stepped out. I looked back at the mirrored elevator doors as they were closing on 50 years of being single. I looked at myself and affirmed, “I’m doing this.”

I just wanted to get through the chuppah. I got into line, at the end, next to my then 84-year-old father. This was a dream. This was unreal.

The music started and the bridal procession began. The coordinator was counting the beats. The aisle was 80 feet long. My father and I had rehearsed this, but there was no need. He was a natural. The music changed. I heard, “Now,” and I said to my Dad, “Right foot.”

Talk about a deer in headlights. I saw my cousin Jenny smiling. She stood up first, and everyone followed suit. All these people were standing up for me! I was the bride!

The ceremony was great, I thought. I loved the rabbi’s words of wisdom, although I had to watch the video about four times to remember what he said.

It was an awesome wedding, filled with Jewish rituals — the hora, the chair dance, the brachot over wine and bread. Then, after the first course, the mezinka, the dance honoring the mother upon the marriage of the last child. I am an only child, my husband, the last of four. His mother was deceased. We danced around our three parents, unbelieving that their “old” children were finally married.

In case you are wondering, married life is great. It is not a sitcom, it is not a romantic comedy — it is real life. Whatever you were before, you bring to marriage. Marriage is not a date — you see each other in the morning, someone takes out the trash, and you pay the bills.

But you do it together. At last.

Mierel Verbit is a writer and teacher who lives with her husband and cat in Santa Monica. She can be reached at mierelverbit@yahoo.com.

Milken Dances Into Bid for Nationals


Jews can dance a mean hora, but when it comes to hip-hop, they aren’t known to hold their own — until now. The Milken Community High School Dance Team swept the open regional Dance Team Competition in Las Vegas and earned a bid to the 2004 National Dance Team Competition of the High School.

When the Milken team qualified to compete in just one category at last year’s nationals, they were the first private Jewish school to earn such an honor. By sweeping last month’s regionals in the hip-hop, lyrical, medium dance, jazz and officers categories, Milken enters this year’s nationals as one of the teams to beat.

“People don’t expect a bunch of Jewish girls to be good dancers,” said co-captain Tannis Mann.

With hard work, determination and talent, these Jewish dancers have defied expectations.

“When we started out five years ago, no one in the dance community had even heard of Milken. Now everyone knows Milken,” dance team coach and choreographer Ralinda Clayborn said.

Clayborn began teaching dance at Milken in 1999 and the team sprang from her desire to continue working with a core group of students.

“Milken had a dance squad, but the girls didn’t have a coach, and weren’t dancing at a competitive level,” Clayborn said. She approached the school’s athletic director and together they restructured the dance team.

Today, the Milken dancers take pride in their success, but also in their friendships.

“We are a close-knit group of Jewish teenage girls who share a love of dance,” 10th-grader Rachel Ward said. “We’re from different grades, and have different friends, but we bond during rehearsals and games and sleepovers. It’s great that we have so much fun, because we spend so much time together.”

The Milken dance season begins each May with weeklong dance team tryouts. Current squad members reaudition alongside approximately 40 hopefuls, all competing for the 11 highly coveted spots. Over the summer, the team members attend two in-school dance camps led by Clayborn, a weeklong dance camp held at UC Santa Barbara and spend the last two weeks of August rehearsing for eight hours a day.

During the school year, the girls practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30-6:30 p.m., perform at men’s and women’s basketball games, school open houses, town meetings and special events. The team, which dances to music ranging from Portishead to Missy Elliot to Outkast, has even performed at local bar mitzvahs. Team members must excel at academics as well as dance and maintain a 2.5 GPA.

“This is an amazing group of girls,” Clayborn said. “They are extremely tight-knit, talented and dedicated. And these girls can really dance.”

Last summer at UC Santa Barbara, the squad consistently won team dance and spirit competitions and, as a result, were asked to perform in this February’s NFL Pro Bowl half-time show in Hawaii.

As a sport, high school dance is highly competitive and pressure-filled.

“You can even feel the tension between dance teams from different schools at basketball games,” 11th-grader Mann said. “Nationals will be really intense, especially when some teams practice eight, not just seven, days a week,” she said, noting that the Milken team doesn’t practice on Shabbat.

The All-Star Nationals, to be held March 26-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center, will bring together more than 100 dance teams from schools across the country. Most of the competing schools are public, many are nonreligious private institutions, and a few are religious-affiliated private schools. Milken will be the only Jewish high school in competition.

“Camps and competitions give us a chance to be in the secular world,” said Warner, who will also compete at Nationals in the soloist category. “We get to spend time with girls who aren’t Jewish but love to dance as much as we do.”

“It’s a little intimidating, because we aren’t just representing Milken,” Mann said. “People look at us as representing all Jewish schools. But representing Jewish schools gives us a real sense of pride.”

For more information on the event, visit rclayborn@mchschool.org .