New Straits Times - - Living - It was true that we hadn’t so much as held hands. When I was in London, we hung out pla­ton­i­cally. But through all our hours on FaceTime, we had built a con­nec­tion. In my seven years in Los Angeles, I hadn’t forged that kind of con­nec­tion with any­one. Los

WHEN you talk to some­one on FaceTime, there is a lit­tle square of your face in the cor­ner that gives you a self-aware­ness you would not get on a date. It’s as if you’re hold­ing up a tiny mir­ror in front of your­self dur­ing the en­tire con­ver­sa­tion.

He tells you a story, you re­spond and then think: “Don’t re­act too hard. Your eye­brow lines are get­ting deeper. Also lift the phone higher; you have a dou­ble chin. Oh hey, you should look as if you’re pay­ing more at­ten­tion.”

Af­ter a cou­ple of months on FaceTime with a guy I had hung out with in per­son only four times, I got to know both him and my de­vel­op­ing wrin­kles pretty well. We talked so of­ten and for so long that it would have been weird to go on a date with any­one else, so we ended up be­com­ing a cou­ple. Over FaceTime.

Af­ter all, when you are will­ing to hold up your arm for five hours ev­ery night to make sure you’re not putting a dou­ble chin on dis­play, you’re com­mit­ted. I built those tri­ceps for him.

We did this for three months be­fore Nick fi­nally flew from London to Los Angeles to visit me. This wasn’t easy for Nick be­cause he doesn’t like to travel; doesn’t like to stay with peo­ple (I had three room­mates); and doesn’t like change. But he liked me, and loved the idea of Los Angeles. So he threw Charmin to the wind and booked a flight. is where you end up if you think you are the fun­ni­est, hottest and most charm­ing per­son in your town and think the whole world needs to know about you. The city is ba­si­cally a col­lec­tion of ev­ery town’s big­gest ego­tists.

And I was on ev­ery dat­ing app try­ing to meet them, which made my sit­u­a­tion seem more hope­less. I had thou­sands of men at my fin­ger­tips and was unim­pressed.

Since my friends were all in the same boat as me in life, and that boat was beached on a desert is­land with no at­tempt to get it back into the wa­ter, I asked my ther­a­pist to weigh in. I was given a list of ther­a­pists, and only one, a Ukrainian woman, was avail­able. And even though I loved her, she didn’t have a lot of sym­pa­thy for me.

I told her the hot wa­ter kept go­ing out in our apart­ment, and she said, “It’s amaz­ing what you Amer­i­cans com­plain about.” And when I men­tioned I had trou­ble set­ting bound­aries, she said, “So does Rus­sia.”

So it wasn’t re­ally a sur­prise that she had no re­ac­tion when I told her I’d been see­ing a guy for months and we hadn’t kissed yet. “We’re, like, ex­clu­sive,” I ex­plained. “It seems to be pretty se­ri­ous. He’s com­ing to visit me, and we haven’t kissed yet.”

“So kiss him when he comes to L.A.,” she said. “Look at your par­ents’ mar­riage. They were ar­ranged.”

What’s the dif­fer­ence?

Though she did make an in­ter­est­ing point. My par­ents had agreed to spend the rest of their lives to­gether when they didn’t know each other at all. My fa­ther was liv­ing in Brook­lyn and de­cided he was ready to get mar­ried, so he called his fam­ily in Egypt, which in the ‘70s was quite a feat.

Eventually he got through and told his fam­ily he was ready to marry. They were ex­cited and spread the news among their com­mu­nity that their pro­fes­sional son in Amer­ica was look­ing for a wife. Any tak­ers?

A few women ex­pressed in­ter­est, so he flew back, met with them, thought one was cute and asked her to marry him. Three days later, they tied the knot. Just like that. It was enough that they had the same re­li­gious and cul­tural back­ground and were part of the same com­mu­nity.

That is the prob­lem with dat­ing today. We’re also happy to give no thought to our re­la­tion­ships, but in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. We have so many op­tions that we throw peo­ple away with our fin­ger­tips. We re­ject po­ten­tial soul mates within sec­onds and then cry over three glasses of wine to our best friends about how there is no­body out there.

That was me for seven years, until I fi­nally met some­one who was worth get­ting to know. So what if we hadn’t kissed? We had a con­nec­tion, which was way more im­por­tant. I was sure there was noth­ing to worry about.

And there wasn’t. Ev­ery­thing in that de­part­ment was fine. What I should have been wor­ry­ing about were crazy de­tails like how we turned out to be op­po­sites when it comes to deal­ing with ev­ery­thing in life.

Nick and I are now en­gaged. We started to plan a wed­ding but no­ticed that our lit­tle dif­fer­ences were be­com­ing re­ally big deals. My leav­ing the kitchen cab­i­net open is met with sighs so heavy you would think I left our baby on top of the car and drove off.

And for him that was the prob­lem: The cab­i­net con­veyed the type of per­son who would leave a baby on top of a car. Also, my debt was a prob­lem he didn’t want to take on. Stresses I was happy to ig­nore were giv­ing him panic at­tacks.

We ap­proach life dif­fer­ently, spend money dif­fer­ently; wake up in the morn­ing dif­fer­ently. So we post­poned the wed­ding and de­cided to go to cou­ples ther­apy. Af­ter about eight ses­sions, our cou­ples’ ther­a­pist looked at Nick and said, “She’s not go­ing to change.”

The ther­a­pist then looked at me and asked, “Where are your bound­aries?” I replied, “I know, me and Rus­sia.” He turned back to Nick and said, “If you con­tinue to re­sent her for how she’s liv­ing her life, I don’t see how this can work, and I don’t see a rea­son to book an­other ses­sion.”

And with that, our ther­a­pist dumped us. “What does that guy know?” Nick said later. “Just one man’s ex­pen­sive opin­ion.”

I agreed, both of us unit­ing in our de­fi­ance.

In one way, at least, my par­ents had it eas­ier. They didn’t have to ask them­selves if they were do­ing the right thing. They didn’t go to cou­ples ther­apy or oth­er­wise pon­der their life choices and re­la­tion­ship. They were bound by law. But they were also bound by God and, even worse, by so­ci­etal pres­sure, so they just got on with it.

I asked my Ukrainian ther­a­pist to weigh in. She didn’t even look up from her phone when she said, “Only fools marry for love.”

She is prob­a­bly right. If we do get mar­ried, it won’t be for love. It will be be­cause we stuck it out and built our­selves up as a cou­ple until we had huge re­la­tion­ship bi­ceps and tri­ceps from all the times we were there for each other.

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