September 18, 2019

The Forbidden Food

I was casually walking through the meat aisle at the local supermarket yesterday morning looking for kosher chicken when I saw her holding a package of frozen shrimp.

Her hair was long and sun-bleached blonde, and her eyes were blue like the sky. I knew she wasn’t Jewish. My heart was racing like a klezmer band on speed, and I wondered what the kosher chickens might have said if they knew how badly I wanted her. The son of a rabbi, they’d probably quip. It figures.

A few months ago the story would have probably ended there. I’d have picked up my kosher chicken, a few 12-packs of Diet Coke, some Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and been on my way. I’d have forgotten her by nightfall and remembered her the next morning when I sat down to write. How many shrimp could fit between those glossy pink lips? I might have wondered.

Okay, truthfully, I’m still thinking about it now. Four? Maybe five? Not since the bar mitzvah incident with Debbie have I been able to fully get shrimp out of my mind.

Debbie was one of the popular girls in my Hebrew School, and I had a big-time crush on her. Although we rarely talked, she accepted an invitation to my bar mitzvah party. As the night waned, I did the unthinkable: I asked her to dance. She agreed, and I did my best to hold her tight. I was a man, I imagined, and my luck with girls was sure to change.

So I looked into her eyes and said, Do you think, maybe, probably, a girl like you, I mean not you, would ever think about going out with a guy like me, I mean not me?

She batted her eyelashes and said, Of course not. You’re too shrimpy. A moment later she realized the potentially lasting effects of her words and added, I didn’t mean that in a bad way.

I was devastated. I remember crying on my mother’s lap later that day. Am I really too shrimpy? I asked her.

She smiled and said the same thing millions of mother’s have said to their less-than-perfect sons: Just be yourself Danny. That’s all girls really want.

Pish posh, I thought. No girl wants a shrimp. But I was wrong. The hot blonde apparently liked shrimp just fine.

Even a few months ago, I was afraid to indiscriminately approach beautiful women. I imagined that even the pitter-patter of my heart and my distinctly Jewish sex drive didn’t give me license to say hello. And if I did say hello, I was sure she’d look at my scrawny frame and say something like, Scram.

So late one Shabbat night in early June, I took fate into my own hands. I called my father — the rabbi — and told him my plans. I’ve decided to make a movie. It’ll be called: ‘A Sensitive Guy on the Road: Fifty Dates Across the States.’ I’ll date one woman in each of 48 states and Washington, D.C., and hopefully find true love.

That’s a bad idea, he said.

It gets better, I promised. I won’t kiss any of them for 49 dates.

Then I will ask one of them on a 50th and final date, and hopefully, you know, give her the big smootcheroo.

A reality show without sex, he said. That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

It’s not a reality show, I promised. It’s a critique of reality shows. I want to find out if women are willing to give a nice, sensitive, albeit short guy like me a try.

It’s still a terrible idea, he said.

The hot supermarket woman walked towards me. Closer. Closer. Eyes squinting. Still closer. Shrimp in hand. Inspecting me, judging me, making my heart flutter. Touching me with a treif hand. Sure, she touched just my shoulder. But her hand was treif nonetheless. And I liked it!

Excuse me, she said. Weren’t you on the front cover of the newspaper last week? You’re that sensitive guy, right?

I blushed. She smiled. My heart melted. Yep, I responded. I knew I should have said something funny or profound like: I’m sensitive, but I swear, I’m no shrimp cocktail, Or maybe: Sensitivity can mean so many things. Instead, I just stared at her smile. I was at a loss for words.

Yep, I said again.

That’s so cool, she said.

Wow, I thought. She thinks I’m cool.

And in that moment of pure stress and elation, I forgot about all the heartache that girls, mostly ones at Jewish sleepover camp, had caused me. I put aside my ego and my insecurities, put down my kosher chicken, swallowed hard and went for it: I really like your thighs …I mean, I mean your eyes. I like your eyes. They’re blue like the sky.

She smiled. Do you want my phone number? she asked.

I was speechless. But before I knew it, she had copied her number onto a gas station receipt and handed it to me. It was that easy. I had spent 22 years thinking I had to be tall and Scandinavian to get a goddess like her. Twenty-two years believing that short Jewish guys just couldn’t do crazy things like that unless their names are Woody Allen or Philip Roth. And all this time, it was simple: let them know I’m sensitive. Just throw it out there.

Dan Jacobs currently resides in Western Massachusetts. He will soon return to Los Angeles to live. You can learn more about his journey on his Web site: