In 2005, I went to an Upper West Side singles event that took place in a sukkah. And this article, which previously ran in the Jewish Week, is the result. Since I've been so busy with the packing that blogging has become impossible, I thought I'd revisit this event in honor of Sukkot, which starts Monday night. Have a festive holiday, and enjoy this trip inside the temporary walls of the singles sukkah...- EDK
Sandwiched between the Yom Kippur break-fasts and the Jewish geography competition known as Simchat Torah is Sukkot. During this festival, Jewish singles hope to harvest a bumper crop of social opportunities, by attending events that do double duty, masquerading as holiday celebrations, but functioning as a “meet” market. Here’s an inside look at one such event—a reconstruction of the dialogue and environment of what it’s like to be there, searching for one singular single.
[INTERIOR: A SUKKAH, BEAUTIFULLY DECORATED, UPPER WEST SIDE]
The lighting is slightly dimmed. Heineken, red and white wine, and soda are being served. At buffet tables, the food is completely obscured from view by the swarm of surrounding singles. The band, a group of clean-cut, non-rock star type men, cover every song genre the 20s-40s might expect to hear. People sway, hum and unobtrusively bop along, but whether by religious edict or lack of rhythm, there is no dancing.
The women cluster; the men weave through the crowd, searching for interesting conversations in attractive packages. The occasional approach or interaction aside, it’s mostly window shopping. Conversations, slightly disembodied, emerge from the cacophony, becoming clear and audible—if a little random in content--as the chatter fades to murmur.
Woman #1: Sorry I’m late. It was because of Ramadan.
Woman #2: Doesn’t matter. I just realized I’m wearing round-toed shoes. And I never pick up men when I’m wearing round-toed shoes.
Woman #1: We’re all wearing round-toed shoes, but we’re also wearing heels. That’s bad: Jewish men are afraid of heels. [looks around the room] Why are we so short anyway?
Woman #3: As a people? Maybe it’s an evolutionary mutation, so that during periods of anti-Semitism we were able to pass, unnoticed, beneath non-Jewish radar. Like someone would say “Hey, was that a Jew?” and someone would respond “What? I didn’t see anything.”
Israeli Guy #1: Hi, I’m Dani.
Israeli Guy #2: And I am also Dani.
Woman #3: You’re both named Dani? Did you come here together?
Israeli Guy #2: No, we just tonight met, so now we are the two Danis!
Woman #3: So, are you in real estate, or do you work for a moving company?
Dani #1: How did you know?
Woman #3: A lot of Israelis work to find people homes or help people move into them. I think it’s because Jews have so much experience wandering, that we’re really good at moving. [Silence. Everyone stares at each other blankly. More silence.] OK, I should go.
Woman #1: See that guy over there? I see him everywhere. Jdate, singles events, synagogue—everywhere.
Woman #2: I think he’s saying the same thing to his friend about you.
Woman #3: Maybe you can be ubiquitous significant others who don’t ever speak or interact.
Woman #2: He’s your ubiquitous guy, you’re his ubiquitous gal. It’s bashert.
Woman #3: Did you really just ask that woman if she’s shomer negiah?
Man: Sure. Isn’t it important to know?
Woman #3: I guess, but I didn’t know that was a question one could ask within the first five minutes of meeting someone.
Man: Did you notice JDate’s site redesign? All of the women’s profiles defaulted to “does not want children.”
Woman #3: You’re the third guy to mention that tonight. As if Jewish continuity didn’t have enough problems—now everyone thinks that Jewish women don’t want to procreate. In JDate’s last redesign, they reset all the profiles, so if you said you spoke Hebrew, it now said you spoke Vietnamese. Or Tagalog. What is Tagalog, anyway?
Man: [fiddles with BlackBerry] “Tagalog is one of the major languages of the Philippines.”
Woman #2: Huh. At least we learned something.
Woman #3: Yes, that JDate is still JDate.
Woman #3 leaves alone, arriving at her doorstep as another date concludes: the girl steps up toward the door, the guy stays on street level. “I didn’t clean my apartment,” she says. “That’s okay, I have to get up early,” he says. As she turns the key in the lock, Woman #3 feels like she has all the answers. She knows what the simultaneous excuses and clear body language mean: sometimes the chemistry’s just wrong. In the morning, all three of them will dive back into the dating pool, waiting for the next holiday or weekday or payday. Which is fine, because singles will always find another excuse to mingle.