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  • Writer's pictureGary Gruber

At a Loss for Words

I have never been at a loss for words during my life. Whether it be an answer to a question, a snappy comeback, or a quick-witted response at the wrong time, I have always had something to say -- except for this one time…

Growing up Jewish was rather difficult for me. While my grandfather was a pious man and tried to instill in me all of the wonderful aspects of our faith, my parents were of the ilk that attending synagogue twice a year was sufficient to satisfy the requirements of being a Jew.

Jewish girls were difficult to be around for me -- when I started to get the itch to spend some time with the opposite sex. I just found the room to be stuffy, a little pompous, and quite contrived. When I was 16 and made friends with David -- which turned out to be a lifelong arrangement, I was introduced to the other side of the tracks.

The ambiance in Christian homes was easy going, welcoming, and at the least, quite invigorating. Christian girls were easier to get along with and far less prissy than what I had been accustomed to. To be accepted as a human being by their parents rather than be judged on the basis of how much money my father made and what kind of job he had created a relaxed atmosphere that was easy to accept.

I met Pixie (real name Florence) through my friend Dave, and we hit it off quite well. She would become one of the Catholic girls that I dated ad infinitum until I met the love of my life Phyllis. Pixie really was a pixie! she had an impish way about her that was both affable and welcoming. Making the trek out to Dallas on my Honda Sport 50 to see her was always an adventure.

Naturally, my parents objected, solely on the grounds that she was not Jewish. The more they objected, the more I hung on to her tightly. Leaving home in the fall for Duquesne University for my first year of college was a difficult separation for us. While I have not known many long-distance relationships that flourished, I tried my best to make it work. I would write her almost daily, something like the blogs that many people formulate today.

She didn't really care for my letters about ‘what-I-did-today’. I tried phoning her every Sunday so we could maintain some form of contact but the $1.25 charge was a bit much for my 7 dollar and 50 cents per week allowance. I accidentally happened upon a malfunctioning phone booth that would refund all of my quarters at the end of the conversation, and diligently used this in order to communicate with her.

Those first couple of months we really did want to be together, and we made a surreptitious plan to do just that over Thanksgiving vacation. My mother had sent me a plane ticket to fly home with, but I concocted a different strategy. I told her that I had a massive amount of work for my chemistry class that had to be accomplished quickly. She hemmed and hawed but I held firm and she finally gave in.

I did use that plane ticket, but it was Pixie’s parents who picked me up at the airport and ferried me back to Dallas for a gala weekend at their home. Pixie's father was a big deal in the business community and their family was featured on local TV commercials frequently. I got to be the fly-on-the-wallpaper that weekend, watching them being filmed eating frozen fish sticks – and pretending to enjoy them!

While both her parents were out of the house on Saturday afternoon, we took advantage of the quiet for a little romance. Pixie strenuously objected to my oversized belt buckle which had been pressing heavily on her belly. Trying to be as accommodating as possible I removed my belt and tossed it on the floor near the couch. We were going hot and heavy when her mother returned home unexpectedly. There was no time to re-loop the belt in my jeans, so I tried in vain to kick it under the couch.

Pixie’s mom saw through this sham immediately, noticing the end of the belt sticking out from between my feet like some kind of a large, brown snake. The stern look she gave me required no explanation. She pulled Pixie aside and burned her ear verbally for several minutes while I replaced the belt on my pants.

Her mom's hawk eye followed us for the rest of the weekend, and I managed to be a good boy, at least for a little while. It was probably my first lesson in humility, and I realized that being tongue tied at that moment was more of a good thing -- sometimes saying nothing speaks volumes.

While our relationship didn't survive to Christmas that year, I did learn one important thing -- from that point forward I bought belts with smaller buckles.

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