Shabbaton 2: Lost in New York
One of the more difficult things I've done in my dating life is attending singles' shabbatons. These are weekend trips where a number of like minded guys and girls (usually more girls than guys) gathers together to meet each other in a more casual setting than the if-this-dinner-doesn't-go-well-my-mother-is-jumping-off-a-cliff type atmosphere that permeates first dates.
If the idea of embarking on a weekend journey with a bunch of strangers, one of whom you may marry, makes you feel like this:
Trust me, you aren't alone. I viewed singles' shabbatons as a last resort. I am so far past last resort that I think I may have started over from my first resort. Hopefully one of these resorts is a Disney resort.
But, in my many, many years I have been on three shabbatons that I can remember. I have the nagging feeling that there were more but I think I may have blocked one out. One day I'll be 52 and wondering why my little toe is always shaking and some psychoanalyst will discover it is from the hidden trauma of the missing shabbaton.
Let's go through the shabbatons and see what worked, what failed, and what I thought of the experience.
Small group in Yeshivish community
This Shabbaton took place in a large, mostly Yeshivish community. It had about 25 boys and 25 girls.
The small group size meant that you met just about everyone
We stayed with local families, meaning you had a separate place to relax away from the group
High quality females
Each meal was designated and assigned so you met different people who the professional shadchans had determined were "your type."
Once I met all 25 boys (including the 2 I had already dated) it was clear there was no one there for me and I was finished-all by 9 pm on Friday night
This community has notoriously dark and winding streets and I ended up lost by myself because we were not given maps, even though some of our meals were a mile away. I entertained said Yeshivish community with my rendition of the entire Twilight soundtrack out-loud as I attempted to keep myself warm and find my way back to my host's house.
The boys were advertised to be modern yeshivish and career driven. Calling these guys career driven would be like calling the robbers from home alone career driven. Yeah, they do something with their time, but can it be called a career?
The great food meant I pounded. Hard. In front of eligible men.
If the shadchan didn't quite get your type, it meant you were at a meal with badly matched guys and you could not escape.
Overall, this was a nice shabbos and a good way to wet my feet in the world of shabbatons. My host was lovely as was my assigned roommate. I had arranged a ride back to my home with another girl who was attending the shabbaton, only for her to decide to stay Motzei Shabbos. The people running the shabbaton found me another ride-with one of the two guys I had already dated and his friend. I don't believe in making things awkward so I rolled with it. The boy was self-aware enough to ask me what I thought he (and his friend) could do to improve on their dating skills. I thought that was a very mature thing to ask an ex, and I was kind in my answer when I told him to vary date ideas to add excitement and to think more about the girl's safety on dates. (This boy had left me on the subway late at night without checking in on me that I had arrived home. He wasn't rude, he just didn't understand that safety is a whole 'nother ball game when a girl's HONOR is at stake.)
This boy also commended me on my smarts. He had gone to an Ivy League college but on our date, when we played board games, I destroyed him at Blokus. Destroyed, like Kevin McAllister destroyed those robbers. His dignity was gone. It was, to this day, my greatest achievement.
The boy's friend bemoaned the fact that all girls seem to be looking for a career guy. I pointed out that:
He pointed out that there are always tuition assistance programs.
Right, but are there international vacation assistance programs?
FYI: one couple that I know of was made on this Shabbaton for a 1/25 success rate.
Large Group in a Summer Camp
The next Shabbaton that had the honor of my presence was a large group of shadchans and singles at a summer camp, before the summer season began. The program was kind enough to hand out what one might call a Facebook if Facebook had been invented in 1957. In it were grainy, black and white photos of each boy and girl on the program and a short description of who the person was. Nearly every description had totally false information so it became a fun guessing game. Mine misstated where I was living and where I was employed. Only two major facts.
A LOT of people meant that there were probably friends of yours there and a huge pool of guys to look through
The book meant that you had everyone's name and some concept of who they were
The large crowd meant you could disappear easily if you wanted to skip some of the events
I didn't die?
TOO MANY PEOPLE. It was insanely overwhelming. I felt like I was on the verge of a heart attack the entire time.
The variety of guys and girls was a little too wide. You had a few chossids wandering around with no one to talk to, and some people on the far left, wondering what they were doing there.
It was in a camp. That meant shared rooms and bathrooms, bunk beds, benches in the dining hall, and more inconveniences that I thought I left behind me long ago.
There are free roaming animals at this camp. Do you know what free roaming animals create? Free roaming piles of shit.
The food was not good.
The camp was a solid 5 hour drive from any place worth being. After a long shabbaton when all you want is to be in bed, you don't want a five hour drive with 4 other miserable, probably clinically depressed single girls. This may have led to some moments I deeply regret where I verbally attacked the other girls in my car. In my defense: it was the worst day ever.
Someone decided at the last minute to invite a group of 20 year olds from Touro, even though the Shabbaton was geared at 23 and up. These girls were young, dumb, and nervous which meant the boys ate them like candy.
For some reason there were 90 guys and 120 girls. I think they were hoping for a Yaakov-Rachel-Leah situation, which is also known as Handmaid's Tale and is definitely where this shidduch crisis is headed.
This shabbaton started with the handing out of the holy books with everyone's picture in them. The first thing I did was count the boy:girl ratio, which as I mentioned above, wasn't great. The second thing I did was determine the number of guys on the shabbaton that I had already dated (6). The third thing I did was burst into tears because OVERWHELMED.
The program started with Mincha. The shul in this camp was two levels, with the women davening on on the upper level. This was great because there was a balcony outside that allowed us to watch all the men make their way to the shul and judge them on how they were walking, what they were wearing, and how early/late they arrived.
There is nothing like a good shul judging session.
It began to rain outside, which is natural because it was New York in April. However, this was not going to deter the shadchans who had made the program from insisting that we daven Kabbalos Shabbos outside in a sort of gazebo in case it inspired any of us to be like Liesl Von Trapp and fall in love with a Nazi.
Or just fall in love I guess.
Being a person of sound mind and body, I did not want to squeeze in to a gazebo with 300 others while it was raining. I was wearing white for goodness sakes!
The shadchans would not take no for answer. They proceeded to do the thing that definitely gets people to listen to you and follow your commands.
(Be a leader? LOL nope.)
Snap in each person's face and say "you have to go outside now."
As a Sagittarian I have major issues with unearned authority. When I was 8 it was perfectly acceptable for me to be herded from place to place because I was an idiot. Nowadays, I'm not nearly as much of an idiot. I hold a full time job, pay rent, taxes, health insurance, and get my teeth cleaned twice a year. Just because I am single does not give anyone an excuse to treat me like a child. If I do not want to daven Kabbalos Shabbos in a bronchitis gazebo on a shabbaton that I chose to attend as an adult, I do not have to.
This also earned the shadchans the distinction of me calling them Aunt Lydia to their faces for the rest of the shabbaton. Aunt Lydia is the character in Handmaid's Tale who shocks the Handmaid's with a cattle prod when they do insane things like having opinions.
I know. Opinions. From a woman. With a naturally softer woman brain!
We proceeded from there to dinner where they had seated us with guys who they had thought would be potential matches. Naturally this led to me being seated across from one guy I had already dated, and, in case I forgot that I dated him already, he was wearing the exact same outfit as he was on our date.
He might only own one outfit.
But this was fine because you couldn't hear a thing since the room was filled with 400 people. At one point during the meal they encouraged us to get up and meet other people. The result looked like a mosh pit at a metal concert, or Walmart on Black Friday.
The following day, I wore a green dress with blue accents. As I mentioned, the camp had free roaming animals, including peacocks, which also meant free roaming piles of peacock shit. I passed by a man on his way out of Shacharis, who thought the appropriate line to pick me up was: "Hey! You match the peacocks!"
That's the way to a girl's heart. Telling her she looks like the nearest animal.
Eventually I started talking to this one guy who was skipping mussaf in favor of the quickly established kiddush club. It wouldn't be Judaism without the kiddush club. I was still mid heart attack and very much overwhelmed so I enjoyed his highly sarcastic remarks and ended up hanging out with him for the rest of shabbos.
Reader, this was a bad call.
My feelings of overwhelm, desperation, and sadness blinded me to the fact that this guy had almost none of the qualities that I admire and many of the ones I abhor. This experience led me to conclude that I cannot find my partner on such large shabbatons, because the feeling of overwhelm will trick my brain into discovering exactly the wrong type of guy for me.
Side note: to this day (2 years later) this guy still reaches out to me on Facebook on every occasion he can think of, including Flag Day. He also once saw me when I was on a date with someone else and used that occasion to reach out to let me know that if it didn't work out with the guy I was dating, he was still available.
One rabbi began his speech by saying the reason that there are too many single girls is because girls are too picky. I was going to insert a gif here but I want to be serious for a second. How. Dare. You. While I know you are a holy scholar and you probably meant well with this comment, you are speaking to a room filled with vulnerable, hurt people who are all desperately wanting to get married. No girl is on that shabbaton because she's rejected thousands of appropriate suitors for silly reasons. Any girl you talk to has a difficult time getting dates, and when she does get those dates, she will often find that emotionally, socially, and intellectually the boy is years behind where she is. We wish we could be picky. At this point we're settling for boys we know need a ton of work because that's all there is.
On another note, one rabbi told us that Hitler killed 1 million children in the Holocaust and if we could all just started producing babies really fast, we could make up for those children with the couples made on this shabbaton. Assuming that some of the men have two wives, this means every woman would need to produce 8,333 babies which is a normal family in Lakewood.
It also insinuates that if I never settle down then I am basically Hitler. Which, fun!
Eventually I did find my true love, books, which I had packed 5 of just in case. Turns out, reading on a shabbaton only makes guys want you more. I was interrupted dozens of times to ask what I was reading and what it was about. Next time, I'm bringing a sign so I don't have to deal with that silliness.
I did hear of 2 couples made from this Shabbaton though, so I guess it wasn't a total waste?
Success rate 2/120 or 2/90 depending who you ask. Unless one guy married both girls.
Smallish Group in a Modox Community
My most recent shabbaton (and probably my last ever because #corona) was about 40 guys and 40 girls staying in a Modern Orthodox community.
The group size was perfect, it had variety without being overwhelming
We stayed with local families, meaning you had a separate place to relax away from the group
High quality females
Great food for one of the meals
Ok food for the other meals
Short walk to all hosts and a map was provided
No guy I had dated previously was there, although there was one guy I knew from a summer trip, and one I had been suggested to before, and one I was supposed to date that Tuesday-See Burning Out for more information.
One meal with whomever Shadchans determined was your type, and one meal where the seats were switched between courses so you met nearly everyone at some point
Some of the boys were quite clearly special needs which meant playing let's diagnose! whenever the conversation stalled (so do you have difficulty making eye contact? Do people who aren't there talk to you ever?) which is a fun game at parties.
Some of the boys were quite clearly special needs.
The security guard was the most charismatic guy there which meant all the girls were hanging out with him instead of the boys. We had a talk about abortion. I don't remember why.
It was in a school and the school was freezing
This was a really well run and fun shabbaton. I brought books so I always had something to do. I made some great friends on this shabbaton, even if I didn't meet any guys who fit my profile of being religious and making more than 50K a year. Sigh. I ask for so little.
I did meet one guy who introduced himself by saying "I'm a therapist," to which I responded "What a coincidence! I'm in therapy." That's right, peacock boy, I can be smooth too.
No couples that I had heard of came out of this Shabbaton.
They also forgot to give us salt for our Challah. That's cause we didn't need to salt the Challah/Karbon.
Because the girls themselves are the karbon.
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