I had absolutely no expectations when I signed up with the singles shabbaton I was about to attend, I was a singles event virgin about to shatter my shatter innocence with regards to desperate singles events. I was about to attend my first singles event all by myself, without any moral support or at least some friends to talk to instead of growing some balls and going up to random folks who were much older than I was. All I knew was that I would the youngest and probably the oddest based on my living status- alone and probably based on my job-(which I am not at leisure to talk about)-go on a date with me and you can find out.
Many of the people that I asked to come or had told about what I had planned to do, warned against my actions, citing that I was in for an extremely humiliating and awkward time and I would surely come back totally turned off- I went against these peoples warnings and dived right in signing up three days before the weekend into the last opening for a male. 24 spots for men and 24 for women- a rather small cozy event- basically you are stuck with whomever decides to come and that’s it, no escaping to the back room for make out sections with the lone hottie that is always in attendance I have decided, and no escaping conversations with buck teethed girls- all is confined to those 48 people and you are screwed if they don’t suit your tastes.
I pulled up to the house I was supposed to be staying at and began unloading my stuff, I was dressed in my classic weekday gear, shlumpy dirty pants and a fleece- when a Lexus pulls up and two of my fellow shabbatonees hop out. The twilight zone music was playing as I saw they were dressed very yeshivish, I started swearing to myself that I had wound up on the desperate yeshiva singles circuit- all based on my first impressions of “sloppy yeshiva guys driving Lexus with Bluetooth devices clamped onto their ears.” Of course they turned out to be just yeshivish looking, could have even been 612ers for all I knew, but based on first impressions I started regretting the whole weekend based on two dudes already.
Since they were together I got my own room, I casually looked around the basement and tried to classify the people I would be staying at so I don’t say something that offends them. This made me think that all the judging and labeling has its uses. How else would I know that reading a secular book on the couch in the living room wasn’t breaking any rules or if I mentioned that I go to concerts wouldn’t break any shidduch thoughts my hosts had in mind. Well an immediate glance around the den revealed their hardcore modern orthodox machmirness. The den was filled with seforim- the most used ones being the normal chumashim, mesilas yesharims and siddurim, while on the bottom shelve were the ancient browning dusty sets of shas that haven’t been used since the couples wedding 30 years ago, they sat dusty waiting for one of the kids to come home from their year in Israel and whip out the shas to prove to his parents that he was serious about frumming out in Israel.
In the corner of the room was a medium sized flat screen television surrounded by stacks of DVD’s and VHS cassettes. It was interesting because the room did not contain any secular books besides atlases and some reference books, I was expecting to see the wall devoted to the classics and old works of philosophy, but they never appeared.
I began schmoozing with my fellow shabbaton attendees; I asked them about protocol- having never been on a singles event before and all. They weren’t too interesting to talk to though I did get to mess around with them a bit, over the weekend they would provide a bit more entertainment with their play by plays and women ratings scales- for now they sucked.
I rode with them to shull in their car- one of them never removing his Bluetooth as it was a second ear. We pulled up and immediately the Bluetooth guy whipped out a smoke- should have predicted that- what a hocker thing to do. We were standing with these other dudes and everyone seemed to know each other sort of. Kind of like they were following Phish and seen them at the shows- you know shabbaton roadies- once you are on the circuit apparently everyone sort of knows each other- which kind of sucks because it doesn’t bring any surprises. I actually knew one of the dudes brothers and this other guy used to work with my ex- so we had the awkward conversation about the wedding and how she’s doing and then shuffled feet as we realized we had nothing else to say- I did relish in the weirdness of it.
The shull we davened in, was way too warm, but it was quiet an interesting and diverse crowd. Kind of like a bunch of old time modern orthodox Monsey folks and their replacements congregating under one roof. You had the old guys without suites, sporting mustaches and the young chassids with streimels. It was different, and I would actually hear a lot from both of my hosts about how the frummies are forcing the modern folks out of Monsey. The shull for some reason had the tiring effect on me and although I tried to sleep on my hand I couldn’t. You see the chairs were awesome and comfortable, but the arm rests were just too short to get a solid placing of the arm- I think it was purposefully done to prevent a solid doze during the Rabbis speech. I also didn’t like the fact the women’s section was upstairs- this prevented any singles from checking out their counterparts before the meal- a most important thing to do.
The meals were set up as follows, 8 host families would have 6 singles- 3 men and 3 women in the same age group to make them feel comfortable together. They called out our names and I ended up with an interesting dude, here is where I have to be careful not to offend any specific people. It happens to be that the ladies were much more impressive in terms of both looks an personalities compared to the guys I was eating at- so much so that if I were gay I would have contemplated switching orientations right on the spot.
So we made our introductions and busted into unmemorable conversation. The guys were both roommates on the upper west side- they kind of reminded me of Jay and Silent Bob- one of them was mildly talkative and the other kept silent unless it was to talk about food. The girls all knew each other and two of them were roommates as well on, you guessed it, the upper west side- are we seeing a trend here? Most of the people who go on these things I figured out bring their roommate or friend with them- I guess my disadvantage or advantage depending on how you look at things.
It is a great disadvantage because so many times especially at the Kiddush or oneg you wind up in unwanted conversations and have no way to escape- in a normal event with 300 people you can fake a wave and say “I am sorry my friend is calling me” and look off in the distance toward your escape. Without a fellow friend at a small event- you are stuck talking to someone for a long time after the conversation should have ended- because the only way to escape is to try and see if there are some pineapple chunks left and hope the girl takes a hint- though she probably wont and will instead proclaim her love for pineapple and inside her mind she is thinking it must be bashert.
So we sit across from each other at the meal and I am at ease- my personality is great for small events at which people feel awkward, I excel at talking to random Jews and making fun of my surroundings to put them at ease. The problem with that is that many women mistake my openness and laid back personality as being into the girl- thank God for shabbos because no numbers can be exchanged and by the time Saturday night rolls around she probably forgot about how excited I was to chat with her.
I also just love awkward singles scenarios- I love the madness that goes on. The crunching ice, shifting weight from foot to foot, crossed arms, gazing off in the distance to avoid eye contact and the playing with fingers- nervous body language is so much fun to watch and I could see it during Kiddush- when no one really wanted to look across at the opposite sex yet at the same time they really did- just without getting caught. I love it- legally sanctioned frum flirting and checking people out.
I told my fellow shabbatonees that we were in for a good meal- based on the fact the television was facing the kitchen and that meant she cooked a lot- the challahs were also homemade pull apart- which means that time went into them. They also appeared to be rather wealthy which means they could afford luxuries like olive oil and sun dried tomatoes.
My prediction was proven right when the main courses were passed around. The hosts had a bunch of kids one of whom had gone to my high school at one point during his career a sure sign of a dysfunctional family- or just weird. Only two of the bunch of kids were present including this rather busty tight shirted high school senior who was interesting and weird. For instance at the beginning of the meal she blurts out that one of her friends had just got engaged while she was in seminary. Now I do know she must have realized that seated before her were a table full of lonely singles who were ten years her senior and the last thing they want to talk about is her 18 year old friends who are getting married left and right. I personally didn’t care- I am not old nor desperate yet- but for those folks who devote so much time and money and are forced to pay exorbitant amounts of money for an apartment on the so coveted Key West or Westmont and MUST attend OZ on Friday night regardless of wanting to go there or not, just to stay in the scene- do not in my opinion appreciate this talk. I think she was screwing with us- and she was a but messed up.
She kept saying things that would probably have made her black hat parents cringe if not for the presence of 6 young adults- such as the cute police officer who she obviously flashed or hit on to get out of her ticket or her best bud that is a guy- unbeknownst to the parents prior to that night. For sure she was just showing off- but it did get annoying and I as well as my meal buddies realized that the only explanation was that this girl was pushing her parents buttons and was quiet hoey in real life.
The dinner got interesting when someone mentioned something negative about ultra orthodox Chassidim. One of my fellow single guys started a whole argument about everyone assuming based on no facts and just because they have a bad rap and so on. That was great because suddenly the host who is a volunteer firefighter goes on a rampage about how unfortunately ignorant and holier than thou the Chassidim have become in recent years. He brought up a recent Friday evening call to a house that was up in flames in New Square, he arrived and saved the people inside – while on a lawn opposite from the house a group of kids and adults were screaming guy and shagitz at the hero who was risking his life and had interrupted his Friday night dinner to save some fellow Jews lives and house. Our dear friend the single guy who was severely pissed off at one of the girls could simply not believe it and brought up his own case.
He said he was in this traffic jam on Route 17 and all these Chassidim were helping people out- but the modern everyday Jews were just lazing around like nothing was wrong. Very good my friend and no one ever doubted that Chassidim have icredible ways to them, I think hey are like blacks- one or two families move in- its all nice and cheery- a little diversity never hurt. Suddenly the neighborhood is all black or all chassid and then the ill effects start to degrade the hood, until it eventually becomes a hood.
So we ended dinner on a peaceful note though it went much longer then I wanted it to. We left and headed off to the oneg. I always love onegs no matter what- I just love walking somewhere and then filling my stomach with more goodness. I was not let down- when I got to the oneg it was basically a big room of speed shidduchs. It was not speed dating- but it was more like forced conversations between people who had nowhere to go- yet didn’t exactly want to be talking to the person that was engaging them. I also noticed all the people who had no one to talk to and actually felt bad. The girls would roam aimlessly praying for someone to notice their misery and talk to them, while the guys took to a different strategy, they would stand just outside of a conversation between a bunch of people and try to naturally be included- it didn’t work most of the time and I felt extremely sad for these people- thanking God for providing me with a high self esteem and a free spirited personality. It happens to be that growing up I had the exact opposite personality ad never thought I would get over it- I stuttered really bad and cant thank God enough for letting me get over it- it has changed my life.
I did get stuck in one conversation that seemed to last to eternity and the girl or shall I saw women because she was at least 10 years my senior would not stop talking and she was a big giggler. She also was invading my space, I would step back and she inch up until I escaped by grabbing some soda, it took me a while though. This librarian girl was pretty interesting that I met at the meal and we spoke a bit and then I just sat around and watched the madness which might I say was supposed to be ending- but didn’t look to be ending any time soon.
On the walk home with my two house mates I discovered that just because your 33 ad single doesn’t mean you think any differently from a 19 year old single guy. These guys told me that this was dog pound status in terms of the girls looks- I personally didn’t think it to be that bad- I thought the personalities weren’t my type- but the looks weren’t all that bad. They told me the only singles event with multitudes of “jump able” girls is the Saw You at Sinai weekend, the problem is that it is one big clique and costs 10 times as much as this weekend would- it would be unlikely to meet anyone there. I asked them to explain “jump able”, you see the older one stated, when you are talking to a girl- you always have to have the thought that you would like to jump on them- if that thought circulates in the back of your mind the relationship can continue. Very interesting I thought, they mentioned several of the girls had jump able potential talking as if they were discussing PE rations on stock or something. No, guys never do mature and I was worried I would be a little young minded, ha.
Saturday brought the Kiddush another event in which awkwardness takes place though not as bad since you have a plate of food you can escape to if it gets messy. The shy people once again hover around waiting for some knight in shining armor, and the talkative people like myself shove food into their orphuses and rant about how good the cholent is. The Kiddush was actually salivatingly good, I could have drooled and foamed at the corners of my mouth if I wasn’t conscious of the ladies around me. The shull regulars stated that this Kiddush happened every week- good thing to jot down.
The cholent had this layer of amazing kishke at the top and there was this salad with amazing dressing and strips of pastrami inside- I was in heaven- not only was there good people watching- I could do it while pigging out to my hearts content. I finally got to meet the girl I had been waiting all shabbos to meet. There was this girl I knew through her blog and before that I had heard about her from the chabbad Rabbi in Alaska. This girl had hitchhiked by herself from Brooklyn to Alaska- yes my ,kind of girl and I knew she would be interesting- and she came up to me the previous night having recognized me from my blog pictures. You can read about her adventures here. So we schmoozed and ended up sitting at the same table for the meal. This other girl who I ate with at the night meal sat with us she wished to be mentioned and her name is S- (I’d like to send a shout out to my nigga S) at the meal she realized who I was and happened to be a fan of my blog being that she is white collar and just does nothing all day long at her desk. The blog is to office workers what solitaire and mine sweeper were ten years ago.
Shappened to be one of the hotter girls on the shabbaton and there was this hocker guy trying to garner her attention who sat with us as well. I actually guessed his profession by just looking at him. I am a good judge of person- I can tell a lot about people by talking to them for a few minutes. Then there was this other girl who’s sister I had gone on a date with a month or so ago.
At lunch something very shocking happened, Rabbi/Dr. Twerski the famed psychologist and author spoke. The problem is that he spoke about something that I would never bring up at a singles event- maybe an AA meeting or for folks trying to cope with being sexually abused- but to talk about low self esteem to a group of awkward older singles who devote a good chunk of their lives to navigating the harrowing scenes of the Heights and the upper west and trying to appear self confident, it was quite asinine if you ask me.
You see the whole point of the shabbaton was to “end the madness” – part of the madness in my view is that at regular run of mill singles events they always have these all knowing lecturers who preach to a crowd of old singles about why they are single in the first place. Instead of saying something sensible they use catch phrases like “not knowing ones self” or “being stuck in a rut” or “being to set in life” or of course the classic excuse of “low self confidence and feeling inadequate”- Now did it ever appear to some of these psychoanalysts that some people actually don’t start dating until they are ready- instead of hopping on the fresh-out-of-seminary and brainwashed bandwagon. Has it ever occurred to some of these preachers that some people just cant seem to find the right one?
Well I was shocked to be hearing a good but highly uncalled for speech about low self esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Now heres the kicker- it may have been passable if the only people in the room were singles- but also present were several other families, who like the speaker, probably deep down thought that sitting before them listening to this speech with small pieces of chicken stuck between their teeth and taking periodic swigs of bier mayim seltzer, were 48 singles that were just way too picky- that is the classic excuse by the way when someone tries to explain someones single status without telling too much loshon horah. The speech was good- but I felt that at a singles event meant to change the status quo- it was uncalled for and probably offensive to many of the people in the room.
The entire weekend I was greeted with shocked and bewildered expressions from people ho thought that Albany was light years away. I have never experienced the geocentricness of New Yorkers to such a degree. They have proved to me that most New York Jews think that the earth ends after Rockland County and that the only time to pass the ice floes of the northern regions is when they go to Woodbourne to eat pizza in the country. Everyone was shocked to learn that Monsey is nearly the same distance to Albany as Monsey is to Boro-Park. Still people asked about my social life and how am I supposed to get married if I live so far away and that sort of thing- I held myself back, but every time someone would ask me about my social life and hard dating situation- I wanted to blurt out this:”oh I see living on the upper west side has really worked out for you” but I refrained. I began to think how living on the upper west actually hinders your dating life since everyone just talks about everyone and everyone is so set and comfortable that getting married would mean leaving the scene that they had gave up so much to live in. I figured that in order to merely live there- one would have to make a lot of money just to pay rent. Based on all the upper west side stories(hmm…maybe that will be a singles play someday) I would never want to take part in the gossip and backstabbing that apparently goes on.
So the motzoi shabbos event rolled around and it was a melave malka featuring a frum standup comedian. I figured it would be interesting so dove on down- I immediately went back to my care to change out of my jeans into something more frummy based on the amount of dressed up people I saw entering the Yeshiva of Spring Valley. T he comic was this guy Yisroel Campbell- who was a catholic that converted a bunch of times to Judaism- he talks of his life and it was funny as hell. The Rabbi of the shull we davened at also got up and did some Rabbi classics and was quiet funny. I chatted with some other people- saw one of my buddies cousins and chatted some more. I did enjoy messing around with the gullible people who did understand my sarcasm and I appolgize to any of you whom I may have offended- though I try to be a happy and positive cynic.
I must compliment the organizers of this event and say that contrary to my initial expectations and friends telling me not to come- I had an awesome time, met some great folks, ate some rocking food and got to relish in the madness. May we all be zoche to end the madness. Yes I was trying to pull one of those frummy lines you see on only simchas comments- no it didn’t work.