In the gay Jewish community of West Hollywood, dating Gentiles was frowned upon. They would push you to abandon your customs and traditions, and maybe even try to convert you to Christianity.
At the same time, Gentiles were stereotyped as wild, barbaric, sexually voracious, and gifted beneath the belt.
So when Lane and I started dating in 1989, some of his friends grumbled in Yiddish Voz is er azoy gut?, Why is he so great?
Others squeezed his shoulder and whispered "Congratulations!"
Gershom was one of the shoulder-squeezers. He was in his 30s, tall and slim, with curly black hair, thick eyebrows, sensual lips, and a scraggly beard. He always came to Shabbat services at Beth Chaim Chadashim, the gay synagogue, in a suit, even in L.A. heat, and wore a prayer shawl for davening.
One Friday night after Shabbat services, he approached me at the refreshment table. "Boomer, vi geyt es du?" he said. "Ken ikh fregn ir epes?"
Sometimes people spoke to me in Yiddish to feel me out, see if I was one of them. But Gershom knew I wasn't Jewish. What was going on?
"No comprendo," I said in Spanish.
"Sorry, sorry." He grinned. "I go back to Yiddish when I'm nervous. Let's take a walk outside, ok?"
Curious, I followed him out onto bustling Pico Boulevard. "What's up?"
"Well...you know Bernard and I broke up a few weeks ago."
I didn't know, but I nodded.
"We started dating almost the moment I got to West Hollywood. Eight years we were together, and totally monogamous, no sharing."
Where was this going? Was he cruising me?
"Well, there are lots of cute guys at the synagogue," I said. "As soon as word gets around that you're available, they'll be knocking on your door."
"That's the thing. At work there's a new guy, Nathan, a blond angel, so cute I can't stand it! And smart -- he speaks five languages. And he's cruising me constantly. And yesterday he asks me out! I'm thinking, 'my first date in eight years!' Where should we go? What should I wear? And then I get all ferblunjit."
"Sounds great. What's the problem?"
"The problem is, he's goyische -- a Gentile!"
"So what? You're not prejudiced, are you?"
"Well -- you see I'm not very experienced. I've only been with four guys before, other than Bernard, and none of them were Gentiles."
How was that possible? But, I figured, he grew up in Brooklyn's Hasidic community and now lived in the heart of L.A.'s Jewish neighborhood. He had a job in a travel agency that specialized in flights to Israel. His entire social life revolved around the synagogue and the Gay Jewish Alliance. How would he meet anyone non-Jewish?
"We put our pants on a leg at a time, just like you. And take them off."
"Well, that's the problem... you don't get a bris, you're nischt mie -- uncut, right?" He looked down at my crotch.
I instinctively covered it with my hand. "Right, I'm uncut, but circumcision is pretty common for Americans. I wouldn't worry..."
"Boomer, Nathan isn't American, he's French! From Marseilles!"
"Ok, then, he's probably uncut, but what's the difference? It's still a penis."
"What's the difference, oy -- what if seeing one makes me sick? Or I gag on it? Or the foreskin gets caught in my teeth? The date will be ruined!" He looked down at the sidewalk. "Nu, I was wondering, if Lane doesn't mind, could I...well, could I practice on you?"
I was surprised, but not unpleasantly. "Sure! We can all get together tonight, if you like."
"Oh, no, I don't have sex on Shabbat. And the date is tomorrow night!"
Wait -- no sex during the 24 hours from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, and then the date begins? "How will we have time? Sharing on the first date is a really bad idea."
"No, no, not sharing," Gershom said quickly. "I have it all figured out. I invite you and Lane over to have dinner with us. Then they sit down in the living room to watch a movie, and I say I need help in the kitchen, with dessert. Nu, while they're busy, we practice in the kitchen. Then I'm ready for Nathan. Simple, es iz ams?"
As simple as an episode of Three's Company. "What if Nathan catches us together during his date with you? He'll be furious!"
"That won't happen, I promise. Please -- I really need to practice."
Lane, always up for an adventure, agreed to the plan.
Nathan was a Cute Young Thing, tall, svelte, in his mid 20s, with blond hair and a handsome, clean-shaven face. He was new to West Hollywood, a flight attendant who visited L.A. for the first time last month and decided to stay.
"I have not met a Juif before Gershom," he explained. "Your religion, it is so fascinating. I want to know everything! Tell me why you do the circoncision of boys. And how you know when food is kosher."
And indeed, he asked so many questions that the dinner seemed more like a Judaism 101 lecture. But eventually we moved into the living room, and Lane took over the answers. Gershom asked me to help clear the table and get the dessert ready.
We went into the kitchen and shut the door.
Gershom tried to unzip me right away, but I said "We have to kiss, or I don't get in the mood."
So we kissed and groped for awhile.
"Feels like an ordinary penis," he said in a strangely disappointed voice. Had he been expecting some diabolical pointy thing?
After a few minutes, I dropped my pants, and Gershom fell to his knees and got to work. He did an excellent job. I finished very quickly.
"Was I ok?", he asked, rising to his feet again.
I zipped up. "Yeah, great, but we'd better get back out there, or Nathan will get suspicious."
We both stared. I cleared my throat.
Nathan pulled away and jumped to his feet. "Désolée, désolée, Gershom. I know it is our first date. But I was worry. I have never before been with a gars who was circoncis, and I wanted to be nice for you later."
"It was my idea," Lane said with a grin. "Why should Gershom be the only one who gets to practice in advance?"
We had our desserts and left them alone, to finish their date without any distractions.
They only dated twice -- apparently they didn't have a lot of erotic interests in common --, but Nathan's fascination with Judaism continued. He began coming to Shabbat services. Soon he was inquiring about conversion.
By the way, Reform Judaism does not require its converts to be circumcized, so he remained uncut.
See also: Scandalizing the Orthodox Cute Young Thing; Lane's First Trip in the Straight World; The One Thing Kerry Wants in a Guy