My Grandma Phyllis always told me to “Stick to your own kind” when it came to dating. But to her disappointment, I’d never dated another Jew. I had, however, dated other women. I figured that was a good way to follow Grandma’s advice – weren’t women my kind, too?
In 2010, after finishing my Ph.D., I moved to Norwich, England, where I knew almost no one, for work. That’s when my long-distance girlfriend suddenly dumped me. Bereft, shocked and alone, I just stayed in my flat or went to work. I did a lot of crying.
Then I went to lunch with a male friend, thinking I should get out of the house. I’d heard there was an afternoon tea party for lesbian and bisexual women later that day. My friend told me to go, to cheer myself up.
I walked in, saw people I knew and began chatting with a work colleague. As we talked, I saw a beautiful woman across the room. She had bright blue eyes, thick, short brown hair with a tiny quiff at the front, and gorgeous arms that looked both soft and strong. She ran her fingers through her hair and her bicep rippled. Our eyes met. I felt drawn to her in a way I had never experienced before.
I forgot all about my recent break-up in my eagerness to work my way around the room toward her. I didn’t know that she was also trying to make her way to me.
Finally, near the end of the party, we met. I thought I sounded stupid and awkward as we talked and I cringed inwardly, but I managed to ask for her phone number. A few days later, she came to a lecture I gave. Soon after, she came over to help put together new furniture for my flat.
Soon it was our flat.
Fi is very different from me; she is calm, philosophical, and even-tempered. She’s happy staying home while I get itchy feet and need to travel. She’s amazing at crafts and DIY, and I love to watch her work, but I couldn’t even name a tool.
Fi is not “my kind” in the ways my grandma expected. I’m a Jew from the U.S; she’s English and was raised Christian. I’m an academic in literature; she’s getting a master’s degree in computer science.
But Fi is so “my kind” in all the ways that actually matter. We’re both completely devoted to our two children. We both prioritize education, charity, volunteering and chesed (loving-kindness) in our family. Fi pampers and supports me in countless ways every day, from making hot chocolate for me most mornings to encouraging me to make time for self-care and try new things, such as hammering in some nails or doing art with our older child. I try to help her reach her goals, including becoming a full-time student again. I appreciate her fantastic, loving parenting and partnering, and I admire her as a person.
So, in the end, I took Grandma Phyllis’s advice to stick to my own kind, just in my own way. It was beshert.
B.J. Epstein, Ph.D. and Fi Woodstein had their civil partnership in 2012, and converted it to a marriage in 2014. They live in Norwich, England, with their two young children and two cats. B.J. is a writer, translator from Swedish to English, and senior lecturer in literature and translation at the University of East Anglia. Fi is currently working towards an MSc in computer science. B.J. loves Fi more each day.