I went to my gynecologist’s office. “At 39, I’m afraid I’ll never get married or have children,” I told him.
“Make sure you freeze your eggs,” he said. My eyes widened. It was 2009 when egg freezing was “experimental” and felt like science fiction.
When I left his office, I was full of regret. I was a 4-foot-10, 180-pound woman who had started being a virgin when I was 35. How could I ever catch up?
I was concerned that my problems with men were caused by my father’s traumatic suicide when I was 17 years old on the eve of Yom Kippur. My mother Marcelle was a Holocaust survivor and I was their only child. After my father died, my mother and I made an unspoken pact to take care of each other. But we danced around my father’s ghost and seldom talked about it. Feeling unkind, I escaped as a VH1 reality TV producer on dating shows that were about other people who found love, but never me.
After a lonely Tokyo harvest festival where a Mariah Carey documentary was being made, I decided it was time to change. Still, I had the romantic wisdom of a 16 year old “Like A Virgin,” my theme song. Normal events for other women, like radio silence after appointments, put me on a tailspin and hit my cancel button. I looked at pictures of myself and looked for what was going on. Why didn’t men like me? I had hardly been kissed. But I kept going: therapy, speed dating and even a dreaded singles cruise “Fireworks of Love” on July 4th.
At 37 I met a man with kind eyes and a big smile. Then I found whips, chains and a pink feather under his bed. Could it be his Halloween costume? I naively asked myself. The relationship lasted longer than it should have, but at least it made me feel important. However, I was more “When Harry Met Sally” than “50 Shades of Gray”.
Just before I was 40, I used my savings to freeze my eggs. It kept my dreams of a family alive while I played dating catch-up. I had just given up hope of finding a partner when I met George Talbot, 46, a handsome 6-foot-3 software engineer and self-described “professional nerd”. He took my hand as he talked about our favorite 80’s videos, his Van Halen’s “Jump” to my Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”.
“I’d like to take you out on my motorcycle,” George said as we got up to leave hours later. I barely reached his chest, even in heels.
“I’m a lifelong pedestrian, what never rhymes with?” I said. We both laughed.
I felt comfortable and grounded with George. Instead of faking it or waiting for the “right moment,” I was being honest with what I wanted: a serious relationship. A month later, lying in bed, I confessed to George how I’d frozen my balls, something I hadn’t admitted to a man.
“What a beautiful story of love and hope,” he said, rocking me.
Seventeen months later, I returned to the same fertility room that I had visited long ago. Waiting there with George when my thawed eggs met his sperm was surprisingly the most romantic day of my life. Shortly after, while sitting on the Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk, George suggested holding my grandmother’s engagement ring during the war.
Like a reality competition show, we received a report every week on how many healthy embryos survived the delicate fertility process. The last call resulted in: only one. That very long shot became our daughter Colette.
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“Why aren’t you married yet?” asked my 86-year-old cousin Marcia the following year. I told her I had anything I wanted with George and Colette. But do i have? Marcia was right, it was time for me to update my thoughts about myself. When Marcia suddenly died, I knew I didn’t want to wait any longer.
“I officially want to be your wife,” I admitted, curling up next to him on the couch. It was four years after our first date.
“What kind of wedding do you want?” he asked.
“I want my mother and Colette to lead me down the aisle to you,” I said to him.
As a TV producer, the most important thing was to know who the star was. For this production, it wasn’t me or George. It was our almost two year old daughter. The wedding was set up around them: a ceremony at 11:30 am in the precious hour before nap on a Sunday when our sitter was free. We just needed a place that was affordable and walkable so she could bring Colette home after her performance as a flower girl.
“What about Frankies?” Asked George. The legendary Brooklyn Italian restaurant, Frankies 457 Spuntino, near our house was a favorite. During my only years, I’d walked past Frankie’s after bad dates, looked at his intimate garden weddings, and wondered what it was like to be the bride. At 48 I would finally be.
On the morning of June 30, 2019, I was holding Colette’s hand in my right hand and my 88-year-old mother’s on my left. I never had empathy for the younger me. But in that moment I sent her all the love I could to take risks and give the future a chance.
As we walked down the garden corridor, I saw all the faces we loved. My friend Liza gave a thumbs up. She’d informed me about my first date years ago and then jumped up and down when we found my score for a $ 120 flower wedding dress, as did “Say Yes to the Dress.” Then there was our guest of honor, Dr. James A. Grifo of NYU Langone Medical Center, the fertility doctor who helped us give birth to our beautiful daughter. And of course my amazing mother who kissed both of my cheeks as I put Colette in her lap. Most of the time I saw George with tears in his eyes and a huge smile waiting for me under the pink and orange blooming Huppah.
We are married to Judge Alan Marrus, a retired Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice. He had the gravity of someone clearing away criminals, but the humor to create a ceremony that told the story of our first online date. My friends, who have spent 15 years as my collective “love coach”, proudly praised each other when George and I said “I do” and then kissed.
We all howled at the photo embedded on our Carvel wedding cake, a symbol of life’s unexpected twists and turns. “It’s the only time I’ve ever ridden George’s motorcycle, wearing my bike helmet around the block at 10 mph and screaming my head off,” I said as George bowed and raised his glass.
Not even a reality TV veteran like me could have imagined such a fairytale ending. I was far from the days of “Why Am I Still Single ?!”
Danielle Gelfand is a TV producer. She is also working on a treatise on late blooming love and family.
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