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For the Unattached, a Fresh Batch of Anxieties at Holiday Time
Last weekend marked the official end of summer, and with it, we can bury the glorious excitement that accompanies the warm-weather season. Kids go back to school, and adults go back to work, knowing that the next three-day weekend won't arrive for months.
The eternal hope of summer romance -- the same topic John Travolta and Olivia Newton John exuberantly sang about in "Grease" -- is setting like the summer sun. As we ease into autumn, the nights get longer, the temperatures drop, and we know winter is just around the corner.
Last year, I spent Labor Day courting a woman who neglected to tell me she had a boyfriend. The year before, I spent the holiday coming to terms with break-ing up with a wonderful, but equally troubled and troubling, girlfriend.
A few years ago, I spent part of the weekend at a "Dirty Dancing"-era resort, which was so excruciating that "Baby" would most definitely have preferred to stay in the corner.
This year, I spent the three-day weekend working, reflecting and mentally preparing for the Jewish holiday season, which offers singles not only a fresh batch of anxieties but also some interesting opportunities.
For singles who gather with families, the stress of explaining why another holiday season is coming and going without a significant other in your life is tough enough. But it's even more straining on singles who live far away from family.
The hassles begin even before the holidays start for those who might want to attend services, but because they're single do not belong to a synagogue. It's not like scalpers are circling synagogues hawking tickets. Nor is it likely that an unaffiliated single without a ticket will be warmly embraced crashing services without one.
Before joining a synagogue last year, I relied on my close friend and mentor, Joe, who usually had a spare ticket.
A year into membership, I am on the membership committee at the temple, which recently discussed the topic of tickets and welcoming strangers, visitors or even singles. As one of the few young singles in the congregation, I mentioned that one of the only reasons why I even joined was because, years earlier, when I was in law school, the temple opened its doors to graduate students.
Likewise, without kids in the Hebrew school or the need for other family-oriented services, I told the committee that there were really few tangible benefits for me or any other single person to join, pay dues and hold membership. None of the area synagogues do anything for singles on a year-round basis. Other than a handful of major metropolitan areas, few do.
This is not to say that singles are totally out of luck when it comes to the High Holidays. Some believe this is the best time for people to meet. Could anything be more spiritual than finding your bashert at the beginning of the Jewish New Year?
And, if you already know someone, the so-called "temple date" is a nice way to get things under way. If religiousness is important in your life, the temple date is a good way to gauge compatibility.
Years ago, when I was in law school, my second or third date with my girlfriend at the time was taking her to holiday services. She didn't have a car, had no way to get off campus and didn't know the area. Maybe it wasn't a date after all, but it was a nice way to get to know her.
This is not to say the holiday temple date is always smooth sailing. Worshippers on Yom Kippur, for example, might not be at their best to make a good impression. Slipping into a haze or passing out from fasting all day probably won't help your cause. For some, there's no washing of the body or brushing of the teeth. Are you really going to look your best under those conditions?
Some of our other upcoming holidays raise interesting singles issues. I've been to a number of Sukkot events over the years, from building the structures to social mixers inside them. Rotting fruit and veggies falling from the ceiling is not exactly the most romantic thing in the world.
Perhaps the best of the upcoming holidays for singles is Simchat Torah, which is celebrated with wild dancing and partying. I'll never forget attending some festivities in New York City a few years back. There were so many party-goers that some major streets along the Upper West Side were shut down. There were so many single girls that I almost walked into the wrong side of an Orthodox synagogue.
I'm not Orthodox, but given the choice of going into a room packed with attractive dancing women versus standing around with a bunch of sweaty guys with beards, which would most men choose?
The prospect of a New Year is always alluring. So maybe this will be your moment. And if you strike out in the next few weeks, at least you can go trick-or-treating very soon.
Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.