Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Sense of Community, Perhaps

Recently, we have noticed an interesting phenomenon when talking to some of our friends who are single. It is not necessarily "new", but it has raised some questions and ideas that are worthy of more discussion.

One of Serach's best friends has been planning a move to the New York area, and was discussing various options with us. Her most important desired quality wherever she goes is that there be an "established community" - she does not want to be part of a "singles scene", though having some singles around is nice, but prefers to be around an actual community. She wants to be around families, she wants there to be shiurim and the like available to attend and be a part of, and she wants there to be a sense of stability among the people there.

Meanwhile, a really good friend of mine who is single recently finished his schooling, and decided that rather than move back to the tri-state area, he was going to move back to his hometown and work there (and only three and a half days a week to allow for travel among other things). He is living at home for now, and calculated that even if he moved out and got his own place, his cost-of-living savings would be enough for him to afford to fly into New York every weekend if he so desired, and still come out ahead. As he put it, "Why should I move to New York? So I can live near [Shul X] and be one of hundreds of singles there in the same stupid meat market and kill myself to work and sit in annoying traffic or on dirty subways and have no money left? I'm much happier this way, thanks."

More recently, another friend interviewed for a position in Cleveland. She, too, is single, and asked if there was anyone "young and single" there. I replied "Young, yes; single, some". After spending a weekend in the area, she's apparently considering it strongly enough that another friend tonight was asking me what I thought about her moving there as well. Interestingly, we had just spent the weekend at the Lander Alumni Shabbaton with a lot of friends, and there's a decent possibility that some of our closest friends will be moving to Cleveland soon - on top of the ones that are already there.

I replied to the friend tonight that Cleveland is a great place to live. That said, you don't go there as a Single to be a part of a Singles community, but you go there to be a part of the community. For a single concerned about dating, there is almost certainly a large negative impact which is obvious that comes from moving away from the central hub of New York dating; there's possibly a small positive impact that comes from exposure to new people, to people with different mindsets and approaches to dating and life in general, and just the way those people may be able to help you with dating when they can. Certainly overall from a strictly getting dates perspective, though, moving away from the tri-state area would seem to be a net negative for most people.

But thinking about these various friends and how they would be impacted on a personal level by living away from the tri-state area, I couldn't help but wonder if it still would make sense for them, even as it pertains to dating. There's something - a lot, really - to be said for being happier and feeling more accomplished, and it seems obvious that those traits would positively impact a person as they date. Particularly for those who maybe feel a bit lost in the sea of singles in the New York area, living elsewhere and saving up some money and moving up in life a bit can help someone stand out a bit more both in the world of shidduchim and more importantly, on dates themselves. Rather than being viewed and viewing themselves in the lens of just another guy or girl being stacked against the dozens of people around them, they are able to think of themselves differently, which in turn lets their dates see them differently.

Every time I start to think about this, I can't help but think of my good friend and how he would be viewed versus how he is viewed. If he were here, he'd be just another Jewish guy who does pretty well and you may remember meeting him once. But where he is, he's not just another guy - he's a guy who "everyone knows" is hilarious, who "everyone knows" is tight with his family and great with kids, who "everyone knows" is really personable and on top of all that, "everyone knows" he's also successful and putting away for the future and has a real leg up on life. And "everyone knows" this because everyone knows him. He's a part of the community, just like everyone else.

Perhaps there's something to be said for community; perhaps it's not so crazy for singles to move away from the hubbubs of single-dom and into established communities (whether in New York or outside of it, though I believe it is easier to integrate away from large groups of singles). As another friend said recently, the "shidduch crisis" can affect you regardless. Perhaps having singles who are happy and fulfilled is the best solution of all - after all, even if it's no better than now, at least you're happier and more fulfilled in life.