My lunch with Omar Sharif by
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Prompted By First Dates

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Having been single for long periods of my adult life, I had a lot of first dates, most of which were entirely unremarkable. I didn’t even date until I was 18, and then it was all of two dates in my senior year of high school. My parents, whose immigrant background made them culturally more like other people’s grandparents, didn’t see the necessity of dating and were very strict. When I got to Brandeis, I found that people really didn’t “date.” The nice guy I met there eventually followed me to California, where I finished college and we were a couple until I graduated.

He said, "I look like Omar Sharif." I thought, "...yeah, and I look like Michelle Pfeiffer."

In graduate school, when I literally was a starving student, my focus was on getting a dinner date so that I could eat a full meal. During this time and for a few years after, I had an episode of boy-craziness, probably to make up for my lack of dating in high school.

The funniest experience I had at this time started when I met Fred at a graduate student group and really hoped he would call. A few evenings later I went to bed early and fell into a sound sleep. The phone rang, it was Fred, and he asked me out to dinner for the following evening. The next morning I couldn’t figure out whether the date was real or I had wishfully dreamed the phone call. So I got dressed nicely and waited, and couldn’t help laughing when Fred did show up (I explained why to him).

Fast forward to some more interesting dates when I was divorced and in my early 40s. This was still before online matchmaking. However, the weekly newspaper in Palo Alto, California, had a telephone personals section. You had the option of recording a short blurb about yourself and what you were looking for in a relationship, and/or listening to other people’s blurbs and then recording a telephone reply, and could connect “live” by phone if the other person liked what they heard. I liked this system because I could learn a lot by listening to someone’s voice.

One of the most hilarious dates I had using the telephone personals was with Steve. His profile was a bit different that what typically attracted me, but he rode horses, which was intriguing. He called me and said he’d be riding Saturday morning in Woodside, and it would be great if we could meet for lunch at Buck’s Roadhouse. (Note to those outside northern California–while it sounds rustic, Buck’s Roadhouse is one of the places where venture capitalists congregate to do deals). I asked Steve how I’d know him, and he said, “I look like Omar Sharif.” I thought, “Not resemble Omar Sharif, but look like Omar Sharif? Yeah, and I look like Michelle Pfeiffer.”

That Saturday I got to Buck’s Roadhouse on time and sat down to wait. Thirty minutes went by. The hostess and various waitresses began talking with me, and I explained that I was waiting for a man who supposedly looked like Omar Sharif. They rolled their eyes and said “Typical.” Finally, fifteen minutes later, a dark-haired man walked in and began to apologize for being late. The hostess, waitresses, and I all stared open-mouthed. Steve didn’t resemble Omar Sharif; he could have been Omar Sharif. The lunch went OK, but we really didn’t have that much in common. But boy was it fun looking at Omar Sharif across the table.

 

 

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. Suzy says:

    Marian, what a great story! I love the idea of telephone personals, I had not heard of that before. You’re right, you can learn a lot by listening to someone’s voice. And the part about Steve/Omar is amazing. To appear less vain (and more believable), he should have said “People say I look like Omar Sharif” rather than just “I look like Omar Sharif.” But then again, why would he want to appear less vain? 🙂

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Suzy, I had great experiences with the telephone personals, including one date that led to a two-year relationship. I couldn’t really blame Steve for appearing vain because he was Omar Sharif nearly incarnate (:-).

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    While your Fred didn’t work out (the polar opposite), Marian, you did get a chance to have dinner with almost-Omar Sharif. I love the concept of telephone personals, which I also would have found acceptable because listening to someone’s voice is so much better than reading a fake online dating profile.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great story, Marian. I agree that Brandeis was a difficult place to date (though I did manage and found a husband there). As had been mentioned, I, too, love the idea of dial-up personals! I agree, one can learn a lot from the sound of the person’s voice. And having dinner with an Omar Sharif look-alike sounds dreamy, even if you didn’t click with him.

    I was fixed up with someone over summer vacation after my first year at Brandeis. I was home in MI, working as a day camp counselor and the head counselor fixed me up with a college friend who lived in Windsor, Ontario. We talked on the phone, then he asked me out. My parents were out for the evening when he came to pick me up to take me to a concert version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (before it was fully staged, this was 1971). I opened our front door and I felt like I was seeing Omar Sharif (must have been something going around at that time…he had graduated from University of Michigan and was now in law school in Canada, but working locally for the summer. He had a brother who lived in a neighboring suburb, so would stay with him when we went out). He was super-handsome and we had a fine time that summer, though the relationship did not survive the summer. Omar Sharif look alikes are fun!

    • Marian says:

      Omar Sharif look alikes might start a trend, Betsy. Interesting how you navigated dating at Brandeis. I was fortunate to have met Gary there when I did. Although it didn’t work out long term, we stayed friends for many years. We need to get a campaign going to bring back those telephone personals, if the comments are any indication. Maybe it could be done over the internet now, with audio clips. Actually, I met my husband in a related way. I was in a Jewish singles group in my late 20s and early 30s, and on the planning committee for events. The women did all the work, of course, and the men needed an engraved invitation to attend the events. So, for one event we decided to split up the list of all the men who had previously attended, call them, and issue a verbal invitation. I called one of them at random, he was intrigued by my voice, and he came to that event. The rest is history, and the marriage lasted for ten years!

  4. So, Michelle, what are you doing later? I love your story and the concept of the telephone personals. I had never heard of them. Yes you can learn an incredible amount from an actual conversation and I would think there’s no way that one can falsify a real telephonic exchange. In contrast, the reality of the pitfalls of Match dating for women was brought home to me by the reaction of an early date when we first met: “Oh my God. You look just like your picture.”

    • Marian says:

      Ouch, Tom, too bad about looking just like your picture (I think, although yours looks fine here). Actually, I saw a bit of “From Here to Eternity” on PBS last night, and people have commented that I look (or looked) like Deborah Kerr, and that’s more accurate than Michelle. I do have a somewhat retro look, and could do a lot worse than Deborah (:-).

      • Suzy says:

        Marian, I don’t think Tom’s comment about looking just like his picture was ouch-inducing. I think the point was that most men post pix that are better-looking than they are, and it was surprising to meet someone with a realistic picture.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Marian. I especially like the twist of a guy saying he looked like Omar Sharif and then not looking like, say, Wilfred Brimley or Groucho Marx (first non-studly mustachioed actors I could think of). Too bad his looks were only skin-deep. In any event, shouldn’t you have said that you looked like Julie Christie?

  6. Jeff Gerken says:

    This story reminds me of the way we used to “shop” for possible dates by looking for hours at the Radcliffe “Facebook” as we called it then. (Yes, Zuckerberg stole the name.) The Cliffies were not included in the Freshman Register at that time, and we had to buy a separate book to see their names and dorms.

    One woman, N.B., stood out in particular. There were apocryphal stories about guys calling her for a date and being told that she would put them down for a couple of hours to walk around Cambridge Common two months out into the future. I did not even try, having heard these stories.

    At our twenty-fifth reunion, she happened to be sitting in front of me on one of the buses we took to various events. She turned around, shook my hand, and said “Hi, I’m N___ B____.” I said to her, “Oh, N____, every guy on this bus knows who you are.” She still looked like the woman I remembered from the Facebook.

    • Marian says:

      That is amazing, Jeff. I was aware of the Facebook but hadn’t known anyone who had actually experienced it. Would have been a real challenge for me because I don’t photograph well, but I really would not have wanted that many dates!

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