I haven’t been feeling right lately. Definitely haven’t been myself. At first, my symptoms were nondescript. Lethargy. Apathy. Then I developed this awful taste in my mouth. The onset of my symptoms most often occurred when I turned on the computer, when I saw those smiling pictures staring back at me. Beckoning me. All of those “easy going” guys, the guys who have “a great sense of humor,” and the “hopeless romantics” who enjoy Broadway shows and long walks on the beach at sunset. After some research, I was relieved to learn my illness is not uncommon for people like me, people who are single and date online. Online Dating Fatigue (ODF) is the clinical name of what ails me. And, thankfully, there’s a cure.
According to experts, the course of treatment is simple. Turn off the computer, take a break from cyberspace, and get out into the real world to meet some real people in person. And that’s exactly what I did last Sunday.
Sitting (hiding?) behind my computer, I can be anyone I want to be, and so can the person with whom I am communicating. Yes, in my picture I can portray myself as a redheaded forty-something year-old seductress, as I type away on my keyboard wearing sweatpants and an old T-shirt, hair tied up in a ponytail, and shove Mallomars into my mouth by the fistful. But three days ago, I decided to do something different. On that day, I woke up a little earlier, spent an hour on the treadmill, a half hour in the bathtub, put on my dancing shoes (or boots, in this case) and went to a line dancing class through a Meetup group for Jewish singles ages 35-50.
I‘ve gone to Meetup events before, but only ones held in a Manhattan bar setting. And never with any success. I’m not really a “meet market” (or the even more pejorative, “meat market”) kind of girl. Standing at contrived social functions tends to make me uncomfortable. So, as a compromise, I found an activity in which I would like to participate, and where I could also potentially learn something, and RSVP’d I would attend.
Once I actually saw the venue, a small neighborhood synagogue (not in my neighborhood), I became pretty confident my efforts might have been misguided. Inside, I was immediately transported back to the 1960s, the last time the building looked like it had been refurbished. When I signed in and paid my $5 registration fee, I was informed the group was actually comprised of men and women ages 50 and up. Way up. But I reminded myself I was there for a dual purpose. I was there for self-improvement and to learn how to dance, not specifically to meet my beshert (Yiddish for meant to be; soul mate). So, I happily paid my money and went inside.
Admittedly, dancing has never been my forte. I don’t quite do the “Elaine Dance” from Seinfeld, yet I’m no Jennifer Lopez, either. But I’ve always loved to dance. So, I came to do the Wobble. I came to do the Cha Cha Slide. I came to do the Cupid Shuffle.
As the teacher turned on the Michael Bublé music, I knew this wasn’t going to be that kind of line dancing class. Instead, I learned to Rhumba, Mambo, and Waltz. I learned to Cha Cha and Swing. And did I have my work cut out for me! These dances are not easy, and I was very uncoordinated compared to most, if not all, of my fellow, older, participants.
The dance lessons were also infused with useful tips on how to prevent osteoporosis and to preserve my hips, so I would be less likely to eventually fall and break one. I rolled my eyes. But, out of everyone there, guess who got a foot cramp? Yep, it was the youngest person in the room. A nice gentleman did offer to give me a foot rub in the lobby, which I politely declined.
At the break, I spent a few minutes talking to a few of the 30 or so singles that attended the class. Some had never been married. Some were divorced. Some were widows or widowers. Some had careers. Some had changed careers. Some had just started careers. Everyone had a story to tell how he or she arrived, single, to class that day. I, too, shared my own story.
After kibitzing (Yiddish for conversing) for a few more minutes, we returned to conclude the rest of the class. I laughed, I stumbled, and, contrary to my original intention, I became even more Elaine-like by the minute. I wasn’t the only one. When the woman behind me complained she wasn’t doing the steps correctly, the elderly man next to her smiled, reassuringly, and said, “It’s okay, you’re dancing to your own music.”
And that was the lesson I was there to learn that day. In that old ballroom, in the lower level of a forlorn synagogue whose life seemed to have long since left it, I learned to dance to my own music, to live in the moment. I am single. This is my new reality. And I need to start living my life and doing things that I enjoy, not to meet someone, but just because.
As I said goodbye to the instructor, and thanked her for teaching, a 67 year-old woman from the class gave me her business card and informed me she runs a belly dancing class. I took the card and, you know, that just might be my next stop.
All in all, it turned out to be a very enjoyable morning. No, I didn’t meet the love of my life, but I met a lot of really nice people, people who reminded me that I still have a whole life ahead of me.
And, as with any good Jewish event, there was even a nosh (Yiddish for light snack or meal) afterward.