(August 6, 2012 / JNS) SOUTH KENT, Conn.—It was not beautiful Jewish maidens who greeted me at JDate’s recent Club Getaway weekend in rural Connecticut, but a couple of guys from New York who raised dust and kicked gravel as they flew into the parking lot. They joined another fellow who was sitting in his idling and air-conditioned orange Camaro as they kvelled over each other’s cars. But when one started flinging a Frisbee around, I knew that my skills—honed at a liberal arts college in nearby Massachusetts—would make me look pretty cool, and that did help sustain me for the weekend.
I came alone to meet over 200 Jewish singles and relive those lovely summers I enjoyed at camp in West Virginia 40 years ago, under different and adolescent circumstances. While Club Getaway also had a lakefront, organized events and sports, its air-conditioned cabins were a new thing to me and instead of “bug juice” we got beer, wine and frozen drinks.
I joined a crowd of new faces gathered for an informal evening buffet by the waterfront clubhouse. Little by little, first impressions became second impressions (if we so chose) as we eyed each other in the humidity, lubricated by the lovely setting and for some, by alcohol.
Everyone was trying to look their best, and in all candor, I’d have to say that I came out looking okay. A little boldness and self esteem never hurts. It was de rigeur to introduce yourself to others, and it was refreshing and comfortable to be around fellow tribesmen—and of course, tribeswomen!
As darkness fell, we crowded into the dining hall for a surprisingly tasty—albeit noisy— dinner. I was in the middle of three younger ladies, all in the New York fashion “industry,” who arrived together as a highly bedecked, made-up and bejeweled package deal. Sex Outside of the City? They were too young and too materialistic for me, but when the three fashion bugs started discussing Justin Beaver (or was it Bieber?) I realized that precious time was being wasted. I had to mingle with more purpose and had at least a few spurts of extreme flirt alerts.
Loud techno music that night made my ears ring, but no wedding bells were ringing yet—if that’s what you’re in to, of course.
After a hike in the hills the next morning, I played volleyball, swam in the lake and played on all the inflatable rafts under the watchful eyes of a half-dozen lifeguards and many JDaters. We had another lovely lunch and I played ultimate Frisbee, but with a full belly, I fizzled rapidly in the heat so I went to the wine tasting seminar in the shade. The wine flowed, the conversations became a bit more unfocused, and I got sleepy—but did manage to blurt out at least one yiddishkeit joke about “decanter.”
Speed dating paired off some 30 men with 30 women for two-minute exchanges of perfunctory greetings. It was way too rushed, they did not have enough pencils, and it was little more than an icebreaker. It was disorienting and disappointing, but I did put a “perfect” next to Joanne’s name.
Another lovely evening meal under the big tent was quieter and more relaxed than the night before. That was followed by a marvelously talented singer-comedian belting out loud music, to which I and others danced the night away. We also enjoyed singing around the campfire by the beach.
I enjoyed early-morning coffee on Sunday with a handful of guys, and we found ourselves in an impromptu morning men’s club. It turned out to be a highlight of the weekend. More or less strangers, we male-bonded over separation, divorce, ex-spouses and, of course, the JDate scene. We knew we shared a commonality but were also soon going our separate ways, back to our respective and distant cities. There was little expectation and little concern about being together or getting together again. We had a refreshing conversation in a situation that I, and maybe the others, found lacking back home.
All told, I had a weekend of good weather and pleasant and physically challenging fun, with good people and good food. However, I had no idea how there would be any follow-up without scribbling lots of notes, and the weekend seemed to end in a rushed blur, even before the New York-bound buses were loaded. Even though I met great people, I was disappointed that JDate seemed to overlook effective ways to facilitate mixers or icebreakers or future contact. It was up to each camper to figure out how to meet others and form more lasting connections.
The short and very active weekend could be described as a two-day speed dating session. It had all the promise and opportunity of speed dating, but also with all of its distractions due to the variety, the multitude and the whirlwind nature of it all. There were great people to meet and many activities from which to choose, but all you can really hope for is to meet and connect with but a small number of people in the vast crowd.
On the other hand, sometimes one is all you need, or all you want, so I’d urge JDate to make that more likely by holding activities geared toward being introduced to and meeting people—perhaps everyone, if only for a few seconds. JDate could potentially arrange that by age group, with a wide range from 20-somethings to empty nesters and even grandparents. Such events could be held in place of or in addition to the extremely loud music that made it impossible to talk.
JDate could have also had some activities such as music and dancing designed to attract the younger crowd in one venue and “boomers” such as yours truly in another. Additionally, it would also have been nice if there had been more “yiddishkeit,” at least lighting candles and making blessings on Erev Shabbat.
And the speed dating—well, that was so fast that I never met up with “perfect” Joanne again. Joanne: Are you there? What happened to you?