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May 15, 2011

My First Singles' Shabbaton

Also, for y'all to know in advance, this is the story of why I harbor an irrational dislike and mistrust for Shadchanim/Shadchaniyot.

I have an older cousin who dragged me to a singles' shabbaton once. I was younger and most definitely not ready to date, but he managed to convince me, and I thought to myself "if nothing else I'd be his wingman."

The shabbaton was for sefaradim in particular, and I was on the lower end of the age limits, so my expectations weren't particularly high for finding someone. I mean, how could I compete with a bunch of doctors, lawyers, real-estate agents and other well-established men? Especially since many women are taught and told to look for established men? I did have a few things to my credit - I happen to be a very capable chazan (and I absolutely love singing zemirot) and even at a younger age I looked significantly more mature.

The program was actually well done. They had a multitude of speakers talking about tons of topics from dating etiquette to practical marriage advice. They had hired a handful of shadchaniyot as facilitators to help match people up.

Friday night, after teffilot and dinner, more divrei torah than I could count and my personal favorite medley of sefardic zemirot, there was a quazi-game that was aimed at forcing men and women to interact. I noticed how necessary it seemed, as the men and women both simply stood around in packs, looking over each others' shoulders and commenting about the pickings. I found it weird. Then again, I'm not much for conventions like that, I have no problem being myself and doing what I enjoy.

The game was, perhaps, well intended, but it didn't really do much to break the ice or soothe any nerves. So the shadchaniyot swooped in to rescue the day. I soon found myself the object of great interest to a particular shadchanit, who, upon approaching me and offhandedly asking my name, began rattling off her "credentials." This, of course, consisted of a list of all the people she'd set up who ended up married, her pending conquests, her deepest sympathies for the plight of the single Jews of the world and a declaration of her undying passion to personally do whatever it takes to solve the issue (and find me a spouse right there and then, of course!).

I was already impatient when she finally asked me the question I'd been expecting: So, what are you looking for?

After one word, I already saw her tune out. Her eyes were gazing, hawk-like, out to the crowd of women. I decided to test her multi-tasking listening powers, so I threw in some outlandish comment like "oh, and she has to love pinapple, because I'm obsessed with -"

"What about her?" She interjected my sentence before I could finish (I'd wanted to say "vegetables" for good measure).

"Uhhhh," I faltered, having no idea who she could be indicating to in the sea of headbands and straightened hair, "which?"

"The one in purple, right behind me" she stated. I began to peer around her, but she snapped baack in response: "DON'T LOOK!"

Good grief. I'm supposed to feel like she's going to put me together with the right woman? She's not listening to me, and won't even let me get a decent look at the young woman she's trying to sell -yes, sell -me. The lips are asking what I'm looking for, but the eyes are scanning me, trying to see what they can get away with.

I manage to answer her with a question: "how am I supposed to know whether or not I'm interested in her if I don't even know if I find her attractive?"

"Okay, follow me" she says, and then we walk in a wide arc around the room, giving me the distinct image of vultures surveying a carcass for viable feeding opportunity.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get some bit of information -anything that might perk my interest -so I ask, "do you know what her family is like? How old she is? What her interests are?"

Her response is halfhearted, vague and curt: "She's in her twenties, has a nice family, she's interested in having a family herself."

Well, duh. Thanks. We finish our arc. I'm not interested. We move on.

She introduces me to a freshly-back-from-Israel teen. I talk to her for a few minutes, during which time I find out she's looking for the perfect combination of yeshiva boy and doctor in his early or mid-twenties. Good luck, lady. 

So I change tactics, and try again to tell her what I'm looking for. Maybe she'll get the hint, or put more thought into a suggestion before cutting me off. And all of a sudden, I'm talking with a used-car salesman. I want something simple, a family car like the four-door sedan, something that'll fit into a compact parking spot and isn't too flashy. Meanwhile, she's pulling out the hummer and the ferrarri.

No such luck. A few more attempts and I'm more than fed up. While I tend to feel that I usually have a lot of patience, not for this. If someone is going to set me up, I think it's basic respect to listen and have some consideration. After this, I resorted to all kinds of excuses. Anything to keep the cheeky shadchaniyot off my case.

And this was my first real taste of the dating world. Needless to say, I wasn't eager to get another taste so soon.


  1. shame man, people have been suggesting to me to go to this single shabbaton, and after your description..yea not so excited about the prospect.

  2. I've only ever been to one, so my experience was limited. I was also under the age of twenty at the time.

    I was clearly not ready to date or assert myself as much in terms of dating, which I'm much more ready to do now (and that's a whole separate post in and of itself).

    I'd personally still encourage you to go, especially if you haven't been to one before. From my perspective, it's about keeping an open mind and just appreciating the experience.

  3. Thanks for the pineapple line. I'm using that one.

  4. I hated the only singles shabbaton I went on too. Especially since old dates were there. (Kill me!)

  5. Singles shabbatons are always a flop in my opinion. You just end up sitting with the people you know and don't really meet anybody new. Disaster

  6. @ Check Pleaseeee - I believe it is largely what you make of it.

    Those who sit with those they know, in their comfort zone, will find nothing outside it. Those who create opportunity to meet new people, even if there are only a few new people there, will find they meet new people.

  7. Hilarious. I salute you, fine sir for stepping up and being a male dating blogger, especially since a number of us got married in the last year. Thank you for sharing your writing and experiences with us.

  8. @Shades of Grey: "One is glad to be of service." -Robin Williams (in Bicentennial Man)