How I Met My Beshert On The Dance Floor: A 1980s NYC Love Story

Photo: Denise Edkins, Your Day Photography
It was New York City in the 80s when Lisa met her beshert, her soulmate, on the dance floor.

A handsome man in a magenta sweater and black jeans crashed the 1983 end-of-semester party at Columbia Business School.

His enormous aviator eyeglasses were made of clear acrylic, which gave him a cool, downtown-artist vibe. I looked really good wearing a black jumpsuit. I just had to ask him to dance. We shouted our introductions over the pulsing disco music. 

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“I’m Lisa! I’ve never seen you in the B-School before.”

“I’m Jacob! I’m getting a master’s in architecture!”  

We danced exuberantly with silly moves, causing Jacob to split the seam on his pants.

His face turned bright as his sweater, which he quickly pulled over his head and tied around his waist. When the music ended, Jacob put his arm around my shoulder. “Thanks for asking me to dance,” he said. “It was fun to take a break and embarrass me on the dance floor.” 

“Can you walk me to my apartment?” I asked.

“Sure, I live on 119th Street in Butler Hall.”

“Me too! I live in 6-D.”

“I live in 6-F!”

This coincidence was only the beginning. When we arrived, I asked if he wanted to see my apartment which was colorful with Marimekko prints, books, mementos, and spider plants in bright pots. I didn’t show him my bedroom. 

“I’ve never seen an architect’s apartment,” I said. “Does your place look like one of those homes featured in those glossy architectural magazines?”

He laughed. “Hardly. It looks like a graduate student who spends twelve hours a day at his drafting table on campus and comes back to the apartment to sleep.”

His apartment was sparse with white walls, an unstructured gray couch, and a wooden table with director’s chairs. Several architectural drawings were propped against the walls, each stunning drawing fastened with clips underneath a glass plate.

“These are amazing,” I said. “Why aren’t they hanging on the walls?”

Then he said something that took my breath away: “I spend so many hours drawing and sketching that, when I come home, I need to see white space to clear my head.”

I invisibly swooned. I had never met an architect before. 

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Jacob invited me to grab lunch the following day and I happily agreed. We met at a local café and swapped stories. I told him about my upbringing in New Jersey. He told me he was from Canada.

“I’ve never met a Canadian before,” I said. “You’re so exotic!” 

He laughed so hard that he practically spat out his herbal tea. Then he said, “Let me tell you a bit about my family. My parents, Sara and Moshe, arrived in Canada from a displaced person camp after the Nazis decimated the Jewish community in Poland during the Holocaust,” he explained.

“Wow, that’s a heavy legacy,” I replied. 

“Believe me, I know,” he smiled a sad smile that made me feel even closer to him. 

“So you’re fourth-generation America,” he said, changing the subject. “Did your people come over on the Mayflower? My parents would call you a Yankee Doodle.” 

We both laughed and marveled at how different our experiences were, and how close we felt.

When we arrived at our apartments after lunch, we hugged each other goodbye. Months later, I prepared for graduation and my fabulous new job at Young & Rubicam, one of the top advertising agencies in the world. I ran into Jacob in the lobby of our building. He asked where I planned on living, but the truth was, I had no idea other than I was staying in Manhattan. 

“Why don’t we look for apartments together?” he proposed, and then blushed as he clarified, “Look together for separate apartments, I mean.” 

Jacob drove us around Manhattan in a brown Oldsmobile without air-conditioning as we looked at apartments. Everywhere we went, people assumed we were a couple. We’d quickly reply we weren’t — we were looking for two separate apartments. 

One evening, Jacob invited me to the movies at an artsy foreign film house.

It was pouring torrentially and we walked single file under our umbrellas with Jacob in front. Like everything else about him, I found his bouncing walk endearing. At the theater, all the seats were taken except for one in the front row and another three rows back. Jacob gave me a better seat.

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To this day, I can’t tell you anything about the film because I spent the entire movie staring at the back of Jacob’s head as I realized: I am in love with Jacob.  

My brain exploded as I realized that I was completely head-over-heels for this kind, gentle man. I wanted to sing, dance, and shout the news to everyone in the theater.

By the time the final credits rolled on the screen, I had hatched a plan for how to share this revelation with my beloved. Jacob was meeting friends after the movie. So, back at our building, I slipped a note under his door that read: Call me when you get home, L. Hours later, his phone call roused me from sleep. 

“Hello? Oh, it sounds like I woke you,” Jacob said. “Is everything all right?”

“Yes,” I whispered. “Can I come over?”

“Of course.”

I pulled a robe over my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and splashed cold water on my cheeks.

When I opened my front door, Jacob was leaning against the frame of his doorway, wearing a sweet smile and typical NYC hipster uniform: a black top and black jeans. My heart raced as I walked into his apartment. We lay on the couch and he held me as we gazed into each other’s eyes. Then, we enjoyed our first kiss.

I knew I found my beshert, the Jewish word for the person who is my soulmate. 

Our relationship blossomed and we knew we wanted to get married. However, some of our friends decided to ask intrusive questions. 

“You are from such different backgrounds,” they’d say, referring to his more traditional Jewish upbringing. “Aren’t you upset that you have to give up chicken parmigiana?”

“I’m in love with the man I want to spend the rest of my life with,” I’d reply. “I think I can give up chicken parmigiana.”

“Did you ask him how many children he wants to have?” they wanted to know. “I know Orthodox Jews have lots of kids.”

“We want a dozen,” I sighed, knowing that would end the conversation immediately.  

The adage “opposites attract” explained how this American extrovert was paired with an introverted Canadian.

I loved public speaking, networking, dancing, and singing. He relished leisure time painting, studying Torah, reading mysteries and non-fiction, and devouring The New York Times. Our wedding was elegant.

We decided not to see each other the week before the ceremony as is the Jewish custom. After getting my hair and makeup done and hours of photos, we arrived at the big moment.

Jacob entered the banquet hall where I sat in a large chair flanked by my mother, mother-in-law, bridesmaids, and the women's guests. Jacob and the men entered the hall singing and dancing for the ceremony called a Bedeken when the father blesses the bride and the groom places a transparent veil over her head.

When I saw Jacob, I was floating in air. Here was my beshert, the person who is intended just for me. My heart fluttered and expanded as if I were seeing him for the first time. 

Thirty-seven years later, I’m grateful that my love of dancing inspired me to find the love of my life on the dance floor. 

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Lisa Honig Buksbaum is the author of SOARING into Strength: Love Transcends Pain, a social entrepreneur, and a Positive Psychology thought leader.