I was invited for lunch last Shabbos (aka Day 2 Shavuous) to a family I went to but once soon after arriving in Brooklyn. The reasons for my only going the one time were that 1) their lunches are a bit of a social scene, complete with many older singles, 2) I had already met and then subsequently married my DEH sooner after the single chow down, 3) they're located pretty much at the other end of Flatbush. Quite the schlepp any time that the weather isn't temperate, which as you all know means basically ALWAYS in New York.
Anyhow, one of my friends recently suggested that I should be socializing more, so I figured a good place to start was a lunch that would contain 50 people. Given that I like to refer to myself as an extroverted introvert, such lunches aren't generally my cuppah, but I decided that there's no time like the present to try to branch out, right?
The first snafu began when I arrived early. Lunch was called for 12:30, and I made it there by 12. I had been banking on someone being there within half an hour prior to the meal, since with such a large number of guests preparations would surely be underway by then. Alas, such was not the case. I knocked a few times, and then resigned myself to standing on the stairs (there was nowhere to sit, at least nowhere that I could sit without being unlady-like in my suit) and waiting for signs of life.
Just when I was about to give up and head home to eat a nice meal of matzah and cabbage, a neighbour very kindly came over and asked if I wanted to wait inside her house and/or have a drink. I will admit that she restored my faith in Flatbush, which had begun to really flounder with each long, hot minute that I was standing there waiting. I politely declined, and after she reiterated her offer a second time and departed, I reckoned it was time for one final knock before deciding what to do. This time, the hostess's mother swept open the door and ushered me in.
I was quite perturbed to see that the family had been home for quite a while, but had deliberately let me wait outside because they weren't ready yet for guests. Given that right inside the house they had a nice couch available, I found their decision quite rude, albeit understandable. I offered to finish setting the table (my favourite Shabbos activity), and that's when the circus began.
One by one men arrived and I was introduced to each very eagerly by the host. It wound up that the lunch was a bonafide singles event, in which the women were vastly outnumbered to the tune of 3 to 24. I was appalled. The lunch wound up being a very depressing affair, since the majority of the attendees were 1) regulars who knew each other and broke out into cliques, 2) insecure or rude, because most refrained from speaking to us women at all, 3) late 40s or older, and obviously very much stuck in their bachelor behaviour. Compounding the atmosphere was the choice by the host family to sit by themselves at the head and mainly ignore their guests. The end result was that I felt like they were offering a venue for people to socialize, not that I partook in a fun meal with a bunch of people- including the host family. The cherry on top was the joke that the host made when the meal was breaking up: that there was still time enough time left for us to book a hall for a June wedding.
There were many other troubling parts to the lunch, but I will spare you all the gory details. On the one hand, I understand that my hosts see themselves as offering a valuable service to older singles, and I certainly applaud their efforts. They are doing much more than most people, who love to say "Meretz Hashem by YOU" without taking action to help their well-wishes come to fruition. That said however, I went away with a sour taste in my mouth. But I felt that the experience was worthwhile, if for no other reason than I was reminded of an important lesson: Don't listen to well-meaning friends who give you advice, because in the end, you know yourself, and what's right for you, better than anyone else. Period.