OnLove: Gary Fox and Rima Adler, Who Thought, 'Is This My Last First Date?'

This shy guy managed to make a busy career girl find some time to fall in love.
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rima Adler was busy. She was busy taking graduate classes in genetics at George Washington University. She was busy writing a dissertation and completing a PhD and starting a career she hoped would make some positive impact on the world. She was busy going to synagogue on Friday nights and the gym almost every other day of the week. Sometimes she was busy in the lab until 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning. And if she went home at all, it was only to return by noon the same day.

"I don't want to graduate you until you're on JDate." That was the decree of a professor worried about Adler's neglected personal life.

"He said, 'Get on JDate -- that's why I have grandkids. My son met his wife that way,' " recalls Adler, a 36-year-old who talks the way she lives, with bustling fervor. "I'm like, 'Okay, okay. I'm busy. Just graduate me.' "

Still, in 2005 she signed up for a six-month subscription to the Web site for Jewish singles. But after three weeks and a couple of so-so dates, she never logged on again. Her excuse -- naturally: "I was busy."

But over the next two years she found herself attending the weddings of several couples who met on JDate, and, at the incessant nudging of her friends, she joined the service again in the fall of 2007. Like the last time, she quickly lost interest and stopped checking messages that were sent to her through the system.

Among them were two from Gary Fox. The Texas-born construction project manager had been intrigued when he saw a photo of Adler, who has a full mane of raven hair and a ballerina's body, standing by an old Pepsi truck. Fox, shy by nature, e-mailed first just to say hello, and then sent a follow-up a few months later when he found he couldn't shake the thought of her.

In a rare moment of downtime, Adler pulled up the site in January 2008. She soon surfed away from it to look up directions on how to fix a sink and was surprised when her computer made a sound indicating someone had sent her an instant message. She hadn't fully closed the JDate site and Fox, 42, was logged on at the same time.

"How come you haven't responded to my e-mails?" wrote Fox, whose siblings were sure he'd remain a lifelong bachelor because he was so picky when it came to women. (For his 40th birthday, Fox's parents bought him a year-long subscription to JDate. He feigned disgust and told them to return it, not mentioning he was already a member.)

"Well, I haven't read them," replied Adler, who grew up in Binghamton, N.Y. They sent instant messages to each other for a few minutes until Adler's laptop battery began to die. But she gave Fox her e-mail address before signing off and the next morning woke up to a note asking if she had time for a date that week.

She replied that she could squeeze him in, but only on Tuesday after work and the gym, and only with some serious reservations about the rendezvous. Adler was hopeful about finding love -- just the week before she'd written a list of qualities she desired in a potential husband -- but frustrated by the work of searching for the right guy.

"I was like, 'Okay, I have to meet this guy; he seems different,' " she recalls thinking on the way to meet Fox at Zaytinya in Penn Quarter. "But if it's just, 'blah . . .' then I'm taking a year off."

As she approached, Adler saw a good-looking guy through the restaurant's window, but didn't want to get her hopes up that it might be Fox. When she walked in the door, though, he turned and gave her a smile.

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