I was in my mid-thirties and single when my fate was sealed. A report in Newsweek announced that an unmarried woman over 40 was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than find a husband.
That left me precious few years to find a mate or prepare for a rendezvous with a bearded guy with serious anger management issues.
At the time, I was in no rush to marry. Like many women of my generation, I was in love with my career, had a cool apartment and no shortage of bedmates. If anything, I was enjoying a more active sex life than my married friends who gushed about window treatments and episiotomies. Whenever my biological clock started ticking, I just hit the snooze alarm.
It isn’t that I didn’t want to “settle down.” I just didn’t want to do it yet. Besides, the men in my life were not the kind you bring home to your mother. Or to mine. They were “interesting.” But they all had the shelf life of chicken salad. After three dates, they caused indigestion or a trip to the ER.
On a certain level, I found the Newsweek prediction to be appealing. I had a thing for men of Middle Eastern origin. My junior year in Israel had included a makeout session with a Palestinian medical student. (But, Mom, he’s a doctor!) I was crazy about hummus. And, come to think of it, in my family, an untimely death was more socially acceptable than sitting at the singles table at Cousin Chava’s Bat Mitzvah.
Rather than live in fear, I embraced my destiny. I gave my terrorist a name—Achmed. I imagined him to be swarthy and charismatic, with piercing ebony eyes and a PhD in plastic explosives. In other words, a young Al Pacino. We would meet on a plane, not on JDate. I even came up with an opening line: “Is that a pipe bomb in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”
Since this was my fantasy, I threw in a hook. Achmed secretly had the hots for Jewish babes. So before he screamed “Allahu Akbar” and diverted our flight from West Palm Beach to Kingdom Come, I would show him what 72 virgins can’t (and won’t do) in the last row of Economy. Achmed would experience a glimpse of kosher Paradise and rethink his allegiance to his self-imploding brotherhood.
On the ride to my parents’ condo, Achmed and I will discover we have much in common. For one thing, we’re both over thirty and single! And our mothers are sick and tired of telling their friends that we just haven’t met the Right One. Naturally, Achmed will have to massage his employment history for my parents’ sake. (When you get right down to it, what’s the difference between a suicide bomber and a chemical engineer, aside from a degree from MIT?)
The mustache and beard will have to go. Otherwise my parents will think Achmed’s an Orthodox Jew, a category they would find more troubling than his being a terrorist. And we’ll have to stop off at the mall and do something about his wardrobe. That vest with all the wires is way too grunge for Sunday brunch in Boca.
Naturally, our marriage will have its share of problems. Achmed won’t eat pork and I’m obligated to eat Chinese on national holidays. Will we raise our children Jewish, Muslim or Unitarian? And where will the kids, Nicole and Omar, spend their summers: Camp Ramah or Camp Ramallah?
In retrospect, I had mentally disarmed Newsweek’s threat by turning a ghoulish statistic into a Lifetime channel movie. My instincts were on target. As I have since discovered, the research on which the article was based was deeply flawed. While it’s true that many women of my generation delayed marriage until their mid-thirties or later, they eventually met Mr. Right before they met Mr. Have Gun, Will Travel.
So, if you’re a single woman, the next time you board a plane, don’t worry if a swarthy, bearded man with piercing eyes sits next to you. That’s not a bomb in his pocket. He’s happy to see you.