Hotel lobbies were once the original social networking site. They were an opportune place to meet perfect strangers. Their transience and anonymity lent a convenient atmosphere relaxed enough to develop relationships with people you had never seen before and were unlikely to ever see again.
As an avid traveler, I’ve taken advantage of this ambience many a night, sipping local concoctions from the overpriced bars, chatting up sojourning strangers and people-watching from my perch high up on a velour stool.
I learned some invaluable life lessons from that perch. I learned to dress by watching fashionistas whisk through the lobbies of hotels in Paris, designer shopping bags in hand. I learned to appreciate the flavors of the world by snacking on tapas in Barcelona’s lobbies. I learned the art of seduction from Greek heartbreakers at Rhodes’ best five-stars… and again, under the tutelage of married financiers in New York City’s trendiest lobbies.
But all I know about first dates, I learned in the lobby of the David Citadel hotel in Jerusalem.
Anybody who has pushed past the glass doors leading to the majestic lobby of this hotel after 6:00pm might relate to what I’m talking about.
Like Noah’s Ark, come nightfall, eager Yeshiva boys and Seminary darlings, file in two-by-two for a new-age Orthodox mating ritual; or more colloquially, for a first date.
A first date in a hotel lobby? How presumptive and naughty, I thought the first time I observed this phenomenon.
I would quickly learn, to my disappointment that nothing even remotely naughty would happen on this date or on any of those to follow.
You see, hotel lobbies are a popular first-date destination for young Orthodox couples because they are neutral zones, with expansive, and in this case, stylish public areas. They level the playing field and reduce some of the pressure. Most notably, they provide seating arrangements that prevent physical contact, facilitating only one thing: acquaintanceship.
I was immediately captivated by how appropriate this was. Finally, a first date designed to serve its purpose- how novel!
Indeed, the unwritten rules of the modern Orthodox courting process moderate a deeper connection through polite conversation, and a series of pointed questions: none of which reference activities that might take place in the hotel rooms just an elevator-ride away. Topics traditionally touchier, such as religion and life goals are included early in the process to avoid any unpleasant surprises from presenting themselves once some kind of attachment is formed. Oh the heartache I would have been spared, had I followed this logic in previous romances!
That’s not all I learned in terms of “hotel lobby wisdom”: Hotel first dates are ideal because they don’t include any consumption of food or drink- thus entirely eliminating the age old debate of “who should pay.”
Sure, I’ve been on more than a few dates where cocktails could have been classified as an essential survival tool, but the benefit of Orthodox-style dating is that you are not engaged in any sort of committal activity, therefore you can jump ship as soon as you see a wane in the conversation, without relying on an alcohol-soaked buoy.
And let’s be honest, we’ve all been on our share of dates where alcohol was a terribly regretful choice. This is an easy way to avoid repeating that mistake and to keep it classy!
While we are on the subject of class, you should note that this applies to dress too. Every mentsch and maidele at the Citadel lobby dressed to impressed, with a modest dress code in full effect. Ladies, I saw living proof that you can be asked on a second date without having to show too much leg. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should ever be neglectful of fancy footwear. Remember, this date might be part of the first chapter of your fairy tale.... And Cinderella made a lasting impression with a great pair of heels.
I’m well aware that I have rattled off a series of prohibitions based on my observations of first dates at the Citadel lobby… but I stand by them, and they apply to you irregardless of your religion and religious practices. Don’t drink on a first date, don’t dress provocatively and whatever you do, don’t have sex. Like I said, hotel lobbies are the most opportune place to meet a perfect stranger.
Margaux Chetrit is the founder and president of Three Matches, an international dating agency. Her insights on love and sex are inspired by a career in diplomacy, a panoply of academic degrees and ex-boyfriends. For more of her musings, please visit: www.threematches.com or follow her at www.twitter.com/threematches and www.facebook.com/threematches