Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Orthodox Singles Scene on the Great Lawn

Sing it with me, kids: "Saturday (ba-doww), in the park, think it was the Fourth of July the Upper West Side..." That's it, no more JACK-FM for me. I've read this article three times now. I'm kind of surprised that the Times covered it, actually. The article doesn't tell you that much about the people at the north end of the Great Lawn (or as one of my friends called it, "shul"). Plus, each time I read it, for some reason, it makes me a little more nauseous. Maybe because the park scene is very 20s, and most of them are already bemoaning their fates as twentysomethings who are "still" alone and getting ready to greet spinsterhood. That's something a thirtysomething like me has precious little tolerance for. But I also remember what that scene is like--it seems like a good place to meet people, but it isn't. Instead, it's a good place to gaze at, judge, and not approach people. Unless you have friends in non-concentric circles which you can somehow manage to cross-pollinate, it's the same people, week after week, and more upsettingly, the same policy of non-engagement, which (logically) leads to no (or at least few) engagements. One friend of mine, in her mid-thirties, recently told me a story of having met someone in the Park one Shabbat afternoon. She and the potential suitor were talking and having a pretty good time, until he asked her age, and she told him. He immediately shut down: "you're probably going to want children soon, and I don't, so it was nice meeting you." All the previous moments meant nothing, it was a merciless "you're too old, game over." Nice, huh?
And this speaks to an essential truth about the scene. Tidbits of gossip often outnumber pick-up lines, in part because if flirting is what you desire, not even a modicum of privacy is to be had. And since religious laws prohibit writing on the Sabbath, it is also impossible to ask a potential date for her telephone number.
Great. Another excuse for men. These days, if you can't remember a seven digit phone number (and believe me, I don't give anyone a hard time for not being able to remember numbers), try an email address. Most people have cutesy handles (talmudboy613) or can be tracked down on the internet. If you are lucky enough to go to the Park or an event, or anywhere else, and meet someone moves you, be creative. Find a way. I don't care how you get there. Just get there.


Anonymous said...

I have to tell ya, I saw the article in the NYTimes and just glossed over it, until someone sent it to me. What stands out about this "scene" is that it's all based on superficialities. It's a place to see and be seen. If anyone goes expecting more, you know, like to make a "meaningful connection," then I agree with you -- they will be disappointed.

That said, it's basically a good place to meet up with your friends and talk about the awesome shabbos meal you just had at fill in the blank's house (maybe someone will actually wax poetic about my own deadly chocolate trifle?). So the best strategy is to just go and have fun, with no expectations. Because you'll probably see the same people at MJE, JC, Aish or OZ. Or you can email your matchmaker from SawYouatSinai on motzei shabbos.

Dr. Janice

Anonymous said...

Well, what I've started doing is making social calling cards (I order them for free, paying nothing but shipping and handling) from vistaprint.com with my name, e-mail address and phone number on them. I take them with me basically everywhere I go (including on Shabbat - and if there's an eruv as there is on the UWS, this shouldn't be a problem). This way if someone wants my number I can give it to them without breaking Shabbes.

One can think of it as the revival of a genteel, old Victorian tradition.

If everyone did this, it would greatly improve the singles scene, especially amongst the frumster set.

Daniel said...

The concentric circles reminds me of Shabbat afternoon social hour in summer camp.

Lyss said...

I've seen that!
I was walking through the park on my last visit to NYC with my cousin and a friend. It was amusing...like some sort of meat market.