I'm not actually familiar with the history of the moniker swamp (Hebrew: bitza), used to describe those Jerusalem neighborhoods -- Rehavia, Katamon, and Baka among them -- populated by serious numbers of religious singles, many of whom are pushing 30, and then 40. Upon finishing up this post, I have waiting my neighbor's CD containing ten episodes of Srugim, some of which I have willingly spoiled for myself, either by reading Jameel and others (Jameel, I blame only myself) or by seeing the website previews. I have promised That Guy I Married that I will not watch all the episodes at once.
Instead of a swamp, I might have chosen to call it a forest (as in, getting lost in, or perhaps missing it for the trees), but I can understand the implications associated with getting stuck in a swamp. On Friday evening, walking back from Congregation Shira Hadasha (where, with all the women's involvement in public tefila [prayer], the fictitious but utterly believable Na'ama would probably feel extremely comfortable), I found myself stuck between the conversation of Abstract Potential, and that of Concrete Potential. Translation: the engaged thirty-somethinger in front of me was deep in wedding-and-marriage conversation with a female friend, while the pair of unattached single women behind me were engaging in a mutual status update regarding a guy they knew who had just broken up with his girlfriend that morning... from all appearances, they reported, he was ready to move on, igniting the question of whether one of them could make second-party inquiries at this early stage.
I felt left out, but not in a bad way.
Later at supper, a healthy mix of singles, marrieds, and almost-marrieds (including the above-mentioned single women and engaged couple), I sat next to the (married) hostess. We caught up on jobs and kids and learning and other stuff. We discussed life in the swamp from the standpoint of those no longer experiencing its singlehood swampiness. We agreed that were we to date now, after having been married for so long, we would be much better at it. After all, now we know what it means to have a long-term relationship, and we no longer care as much what guys think of us. In other worlds, we would finally feel free to be ourselves.
(Perhaps her husband could attest to this in both our cases, since a mutual friend set up the two of us on a date over a dozen years ago, after which, it was reported to me, he came home to his roommate and said, I don't know why I'm going out with your bashert!* His roommate? That Guy I Married, of course).
He and I (That Guy I Married, not the other one) still do make time to go on dates, though not as often as we'd like, which at least is a good sign. Being human, I sometimes wonder (don't we all?) what it would be like to be single again, going on all those dates, with all that unbridled potential. Thing is, I know it wouldn't be fun, at least, not at my age. The date itself, after all, is just a means to an end, and so packs with it that horribly heavy burden of expectations, unresolved hopes, and extreme pressure. For my married friend and me, talking about dating was easy... but we just as easily acknowledged that we're extremely relieved and thankful not to have to be doing it, and we don't envy our friends who do. She and her husband make it a point to invite singles of each sex to their Shabbat table on a regular basis... I'm not aware of whether these events have led to any long-term matches, but at least we know her husband has already earned a point.
(As for me, I'm happy to return to a certain youthful state via other means... later this Fall I'll be joining a new program of study at the university, in a field closely related to one I dreamt of as a child. I'm really excited. I can't wait to be myself... again).
Keep the balance,
* Bashert: Yiddish for preordained, "meant to be," usually used in reference to a spouse, but not necessarily.