I took Tali to the kiosk on Rothschild for the first time on Sunday morning.
Bringing a new girlie to the kiosk is no less of an ordeal or a statement than introducing her to your mother (not least because wake-up coffee is the clearest indication that you are no longer sleeping only with your dogs).
Avi “Borsa” (so-called because of his preoccupation with the stock market), who rarely descends from his stool once parked on it, made an immediate point of coming over to take a good look. Indeed, I was half expecting him, like an inquisitive child in Madame Tussauds, to reach out and touch Tali’s nose.
Anyway, by the following morning, when I was at the kiosk on my own, the news was clearly out – it was official: (to those not already cognisant of my formidable record with the ladies) I was definitely not now gay, celibate, or just incapable of pulling.
Dalia, a fifty-something mother of two, was disappointed, even frustrated, to have missed Tali the previous day (having departed her perch slightly earlier than usual). Avi, however, had already updated her.
“So, who is she?” Dalia enquired, before my bottom had even hit the stool.
“Just a girl,” I replied nonchalantly.
“She’s nice,” Avi interjected, and then repeated, providing the affirmation he believed I must have been waiting for.
“Thank you, Avi,” I replied, playing along as genuinely grateful to have received the green light to continue the relationship.
“Take her to a nice restaurant,” Dalia instructed. “To Pronto,” she immediately followed up, as if I was not capable, on my own, of identifying a nice restaurant.
Omitting to mention that Tali’s mother had invited us – and with an unjustified, therefore, air of self-satisfaction – I informed Dalia that we had already been to Idi, a classy fish restaurant in Ashdod. Dalia gave Avi a look as if to say: “You see. I told you. He is not such a clueless twerp after all.”
Having passed (even if by cheating) that test, Dalia moved onto her next piece of advice. “Take her away somewhere nice for the weekend.” Avi, 49 and single – though, on this showing, clearly not because he knows not the ways to woo a lady – nodded enthusiastically. I ignored them both.
“How long are you going to wait?” Dalia – on a now inexorable roll, and only just moving into fifth gear – continued, “Ilan and I got married after two and a half months.”
“We are just getting to know each other, Dalia!”
She rolled her eyes. My mother would love Dalia for all of this.
“Anyway,” I said, “I am too young to rush into anything.” Dalia doesn’t get my humour (or attempts thereat).
But how does an Englishman deal with such unbridled directness and complete lack of boundaries? Dalia and Avi are, after all, kiosk friends and no more.
The kiosk, however, is not unlike the kibbutz chadar ochel (dining room) – it is as if, by merely sitting there, one waives one’s right to a private life.
Perhaps, however, I waived that simply by making aliyah. Indeed, the Diaspora Jew’s guiding principle – “Don’t get involved” – could not be more alien to the Israeli. In fact, he likes nothing more: from advice on dating, to my current weight, my taste in clothes, to how I might better train the dogs (see Who the f*ck asked you?!)
The flip side, of course, of all of this is echpatiyut, Hebrew for caring. In England, no one gives a f*ck, often even about those close to them (never mind virtual strangers).
Anyway, perhaps it is it just that Dalia believes that a guy like me is not going to take the plunge without a little (or, in her case, not so little) push . . . and that it is her duty to inform me that, at 42, I must take whatever I can get.
I saw Dalia again yesterday morning, when even the seemingly imperative question of where I pick up my gas mask could not distract her.
“You have to take Tali to meet your mother,” she reopened the issue.
After all this, my mum is going to be a walk in the park.