Amir the First, the Life Coach

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Caption: This is what I got when I google imaged “life coach.”

I’ve gone on numerous first-and-last dates with Israelis recently.  I haven’t fallen in love or even lust with any of them.  While at home I would consider this a failure, here it is sufficient.  I’m having interesting conversations with men of different perspectives, and getting introduced to cool bars/cafes/restaurants.  Falling in love would complicate life when I return to the States and falling in lust would interfere with research.

However, if I have more than one first-date per week, they become exhausting and indistinguishable.  You tend to cover the same material on any first date, and I often can’t remember if I said something already that night or a few nights before on the previous date.  Did I already tell him why I hate marathons?  Did I already tell him about that time I went to the Olympics?  It’s recycled, superficial chat, intended to charm and induce banter.

But one date deviated from the script.  He discussed sobering topics and asked intimate questions.  I never want to see him again, but at least our conversation was original.

His name was Amir the First.*  I met Amir the First on the street, while I was walking to another date.**  He started talking to me at an intersection, waiting for the light to change.  He was attractive and seemed not-homicidal enough that I gave him my number, before carrying on to the scheduled date.

*to distinguish him from Amir the Second, who I went out with the following week and confused with Amir the First in a text messaging snafu

**another date on which I pretended to be Jewish, but I’ll tell you about that in another blog post.

A week later Amir the First and I met at a bench behind my favorite juice stand in Tel Aviv.  As we walked to a bar of his choice, I started to recite my lines.

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Caption: yes, this juice stand (again)

“So what do you do?”

But he didn’t know his lines.

“What do you mean, what do I do?”

“For work.”

“Is work what I do?”

I couldn’t tell if he was being playful, argumentative, or just having trouble communicating in English.

“I mean, what is your job?”

“I coach.”

“Oh what sport?”

He winced like I was painfully naive.

“Not sports.  I don’t know what the word is in English.  I help people.  When they have problems I talk to them and help them.”

“Like a therapist?”

He scoffed.  “Not a therapist.  I help people with goals.”

I see.  A life coach.

“So do you have an office?”

“No.”

“A business card?”

“No.”

“A website?”

“No.”

“So how do people know about you?”

“It’s sort of word of mouth.”

An uncertified, word-of-mouth commissioned life couch.

“So—no offense—but do you make enough money doing this?”

He scowled.  “It is not about money.  It is about helping people and the happiness I get from helping people.”

“Okay…But you still have to eat and pay rent…Tel Aviv is expensive.”

“There is other money, let’s say.”

An uncertified, word-of-mouth commissioned life coach slash drug dealer, let’s say.

We finished our beer.  He insisted on going for dinner—again deviating from the script.  I am a firm advocate of the 2 beers first date.  It’s adequate time to relax and provide representative samples of your personalities.  If you’re incompatible, it’s over soon enough.  If you’re smitten, you can have a second date.  Dinner, on the other hand, is an endurance event with no escape.  You’re committed to 1- 1.5 hours together, smitten or not.

During the first course:

Him—“Pain is good.  It helps us grow.  This is why I go to Palestine every month to this group, and we talk about our pain on both sides.”

I consciously bore an expression of interested compassion—contemplative brow, serious lips, kind eyes—that I developed for listening to Harvard undergrad problems like “my boyfriend of 3 weeks broke up with me and I don’t know how to go on,” or “I really wanted to finish the problem set, but I got food poisoning after the Harvard-Yale tailgate.”

Me—“What kind of things do you talk about?  Is it productive?”

Him—“It is good.  Some Palestinian guy, he says how his brother was killed by my side.  I say how my friend was killed by his side.  We see that we share the same pain.”

He paused to chew and think.  “What about you?  What pain do you feel?”…

During the entrée:

Him—“I only have intense relationships.  All relationships, I mean, friends and enemies, and of course lovers.  Casual relationships steal my energy.  Do you have intense relationships?”…

And dessert:

Him—“I am inspired.  Inspired by the people that I coach.  I give them support but they inspire me, and that inspiring helps me support them.  Do you see?  It is like a circle.”…

After dinner, we stood on a main street, as I waited for a sherut, a public-transport van that careens along a set route and allows passengers to hop on and off at any point.

Him—“I am interested if we would be good lovers.  There could be something or maybe not.”

With perfect timing, a sherut approached and I hailed it.  I gave Amir a skittish closed-mouth kiss and climbed into the van.  It whisked me into oblivion just like Cinderella—if her pumpkin chariot was a dirty, shared taxi-van full of Tel Avivian riffraff.

During the ride I reflected.  Amir was an interesting dinner companion for one evening.  I didn’t think we should date, or see each other again.  I appreciated his heavy conversation, but I need companions whose topics range from frivolous (e.g.: Justin Bieber, breakfast sandwiches) to profound (e.g.: what we want out of life, the disappointments with which we cope).  I have not had very intense relationships with boyfriends, but I do have very intense friendships.  I have friends who support me through my pain and who will learn an acoustic guitar version of Nicki Minaj, “Starships” to play during my birthday party.

I don’t think Amir would do that.  No Amir, we should not be lovers.

A few days later he called.

“Annelia.  Hello.  It is Amir.”

“Hi.  How are you?”

“Fine.  How are you?”

“Oh it was a really stressful day.  I had a New Years Eve party last night and when I woke up my computer wasn’t working…”  I launched into a 10-minute sob-saga about the beer-induced demise of my beloved Macbook Pro and its potential salvation, pending if the repairs fall within the warranty.  I knew he didn’t want to hear this, but I didn’t want to talk with him, so instead I talked at him.

“I see.  So I called to see if you would like to meet again.”

I was exhausted enough to be blunt.

“Well, no thank you.  It was nice meeting you, but I don’t think we have enough in common.”

“Why not?”

“Well I just don’t think we have more to talk about.”

“I think we do.”

“Well, I disagree.”

“I see… Well I think it would be interesting to meet again, and you would share your impression of me and I would share my impression of you and this would help us grow.”

“I think that would be… not interesting.”

“I disagree.”

“Well I disagree with you disagreeing.”

“Okay.  Should I call you tomorrow?”

As the Jews say, oye.  This is why you shouldn’t talk to strangers on the street.

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