It was a blind date that brought Kamala Harris together with her Jewish husband Doug Emhoff — a set-up arranged by her best friend, Chrisette Hudlin, a public relations consultant.
In her memoir, The Truths We Hold, Harris recounts how secretive she tried to be about her dating life, as attorney-general of California. “As a single, professional woman in my forties, and very much in the public eye, dating wasn’t easy,” she wrote. “I knew that if I brought a man with me to an event, people would immediately start to speculate about our relationship. I also knew that single women in politics are viewed differently than single men. We don’t get the same latitude when it comes to our social lives.”
Emhoff was a divorced father of two and an entertainment lawyer, living in Los Angeles, at the time. Harris described Emhoff’s courtship as endearingly awkward and eager. It started with a text, after Hudlin gave Harris’ number to Emhoff: “Hey! It’s Doug. Just saying hi! I’m at the Lakers game.”
Harris wrote back with a hello, and plans to talk the following day. “Then I punctuated it with my own bit of awkwardness— ‘Go Lakers!’— even though I’m really a Warriors fan.”
The morning after their first date, Emhoff wrote Harris an email. “I’m too old to play games or hide the ball,” it said. “I really like you, and I want to see if we can make this work.”
Emhoff proposed marriage to Harris in March 2014, right after she returned from a work trip to Mexico (focusing on transnational crime), and hours before the couple was supposed to fly out to Italy for a romantic getaway. As she described it in her memoir, she was packing her suitcase frantically for the trip, and Emhoff arrived with a ring — he had planned to propose in front of the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence.
The couple married in an August 2014 private ceremony that incorporated both their “respective Indian and Jewish heritage,” with Harris placing a flower garland around Emhoff’s neck and Emhoff stomping on a glass. Harris’ sister Maya Harris officiated, and her niece Meena read from Maya Angelou.
In the memoir, Harris describes their “modern family” as “almost a little too functional,” and makes a concerted effort to appear as an accessible, family-oriented 21st-century model American home: The hard-working Americans eating in seafood huts, who turn up Roy Ayers in the car, who plop on the couch with a bag of Doritos after a long day, and who sit down to a weekly Sunday family dinner of homemade Indian biryani and spaghetti bolognese.
How Doug Emhoff wooed Kamala Harris
Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt is the Life/Features editor at the Forward. She was previously a New York-based reporter for Haaretz. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and Tablet, among others. Avital teaches journalism at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and does pastoral work alongside her husband Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt in New York City.