I had, in fact, been on one other singles weekend sponsored by a different Jewish organization, and it wasn't torturous. That was my simple scale for these activities: excruciating, or survivable. I lived, through the mosquito bites and our cabin of 12, where it rained in the shower; the yoga morning, nature walk brunch, and arts and crafts afternoon; the study session with a famous rabbi who suggested we say one hundred blessings a day, making me feel more inadequate than ever; the bonfire, luau, and 50s dance, where a nice guy gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek, after which we emailed for a few weeks, but nothing more; and despite seeing a half dozen people leave in frustration, disgust, or tears before the retreat ended. I remained, surrounded by the emotional monsoons of middle aged men and women forced to act like they were in eighth grade, because it was for their own good. I even got a suntan.
So I figured I could make it through another, and satisfy my curiousity about this synagogue in the process. M. had met his current girlfriend, as well as a number of previous ones, on past retreats. He was sure I'd love it.
I got a little excited. Being M.s' friend was a good icebreaker, and I really could use some time away with nature, trees, and animals that weren't pigeons or rodents. I signed up. Then I got a phone call one afternoon at work saying I was on the waiting list; too many women had registered, of course. I was deeply distressed, to my surprise, and tried to convince myself that it wasn't meant to be. I became angrier and grumpier until one day, a day before the retreat, I got another call.
"You don't know me," she said, "but I hope you can help. I signed up for the weekend and can't go, and they won't refund my money unless I find someone to take my place."
I almost jumped through the phone to kiss her.