Still, there was an acculturation process — particularly for Mr. Feldman, who is not really the dance-like-no-one-is-watching type. To begin with, Ms. Allison was immersed in a scene, centered on Burning Man, about which Mr. Feldman knew nothing.
“Many of Julia’s friends have jobs I didn’t know existed until I met Julia,” Mr. Feldman said. “One is a fire dancer. She also has a friend named Purple — he only wears purple, and his métier is bodywork.”
“Noah is learning how to have fun,” Ms. Allison said. “But he’s a fast learner.”
Ms. Allison took Mr. Feldman on several pilgrimages — acid tests, really — to make sure he could loosen up. First the pair went to the Indonesian island of Bali, where Ms. Allison lived for a year from 2017 to 2018 doing what she referred to as a “yoga and meditation sabbatical,” and which she said she paid for with earnings from her investments in cryptocurrency. (Mr. Feldman was familiar with the island in part through the work of the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, who wrote about the social dynamics at play in Balinese cockfighting.) Mr. Feldman was tense at first, but cycling the village roads north of Ubud, he began to feel himself pleasantly removed from the rigidly intellectual culture of Cambridge, Mass.
“It may be as far away as you can go from Boston,” he said.
Next, in the fall of 2022, came the final exam: Burning Man, the weeklong event where tens of thousands of people gather to camp and revel in the Nevada desert, and worldly accomplishments aren’t supposed to matter.
“To say Noah was having trepidation about Burning Man would be a major understatement,” Ms. Allison said. “He understood it was a requirement. If you’re going to be with me, you have to go to Burning Man. He was vibrating with anxiety.”
There, it was Ms. Allison’s turn to behold Mr. Feldman. The law professor had agreed to M.C. some events for Ms. Allison’s camp, which she described as a “matriarchy.” One session featured a woman in a large headdress leading the audience in a mind-body therapy that involved rapidly tapping certain points on the body. As Ms. Allison entered the tent, she saw Mr. Feldman in front of the crowd, tapping himself and repeating the mantra, “I love and accept myself unconditionally.”