A really cute girl finally sat next to me at services recently. She was absolutely adorable and was eager to converse.
Unfortunately, "Gabrielle" was only 4 years old. She had broken away from her parents and older sisters, and decided the empty seat in the back of the synagogue's small chapel was the place she wanted to spend the Friday night service.
Gabby, as her parents called her, showed me her magic trick -- making her plastic jewels disappear. (She hid them in her coat pockets after I covered my eyes.) Gabby also frequently asked me what page we were on in the prayerbook. She then flipped through until she caught up. She knew her numbers, but I'm not sure she could read too well.
Then, she whispered to me, "Where is your wife? Shouldn't she sit in this chair with your children?"
"Where are your children?" she asked.
Louder Than You Think
A 4-year-old's whisper is really sort of loud. A couple of times, her parents turned around and looked back from three rows away to ask if she was bothering me. There were not many people in the chapel that night, either.
Though raucous kids at the temple usually get under my skin, Gabby did not. She was cute and harmlessly precocious. She pointed out the rabbi: "He's the one with the white hair," and her older sister, who lit the Shabbat candles. "She's 17, that's with a one and a seven," she told me.
Gabby's occasional Spiderman routine, climbing over and under the chairs, started to scare me, and I was not too comfortable when she nearly climbed onto my lap, either. "Stranger danger" must have been suspended for Shabbat. I guess I didn't look too scary all dressed up for services, nor should I be considered scary just because I have no wife and kids.
But my answers to Gabby simply prompted more questions. And I didn't have an answer to her follow-up question of why. "I just don't right now. Do you know any nice ladies?"
There's never a parade of single young ladies at services here, even during the High Holidays. But there is never any shortage of questions.
Recently, a friend invited me to break the fast with his family and friends, after he learned I had nowhere else to go. The room full of guests included four married couples, mostly doctors, and their teenage children. In addition to a wide-ranging and engaging intellectual discussion, the questions posed to me, an oddity in their circles, flowed, too. So did some advice.
One guest told me to do as he had done and "import a nice Jewish wife" from downstate, or someplace else where there are more single Jewish women, while another told me to enjoy my "freedom."
Caught Off Guard
My host, a well-respected local doctor, whom I met at the gym a couple of years ago, caught me in the kitchen loading up a bagel with lox and cream cheese.
"I know it's tough out there, but you're better off waiting than getting married for the wrong reasons or to the wrong person," he said. "You're better off."
I have no idea if he was subtly admitting some sort of personal dissatisfaction, but his advice resonated. I've had the opportunity to be miserable with a partner and, luckily, did not settle down with her for a lifetime of fighting over how I sliced the cucumbers. My last girlfriend also had a knack for blowing minor issues into calamitous battles.
Lots of Dating Tips
But dating advice comes from a variety of people and places.
Back to my Friday night Q & A: Although Gabby told me she did not know any nice ladies, she mentioned that "a boy has a crush" on her.
She also offered some advice, telling me that I might be able to meet a wife if I "go to coffee with a lady."
Is courtship so predictable that even 4-year-olds know about "coffee"? I don't even drink coffee.
At least Gabby didn't tell me to go on Jdate.
Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com .