One traditional winter dating activity has always been ice skating.
In many ways, ice skating is a paradigmatic winter dating activity, since it takes advantage of a winter-only event that induces companionship, can spur conversation about memories of winters past, provides some decent exercise, not to mention that it’s one of few dating ideas that make you go outside instead of staying cramped indoors (a few of these points are to the exclusion of year-round indoor ice skating rinks, but the rest of the post will, keep reading). In the New York area, many guys will take dates to Rockefeller Center to indulge in this sport. One of ASoG’s friends once went on an ice skating date that lasted for 7 hours and enjoyed the experience the entire time.
However, there remains one major problem with this particular dating activity: What do you do if your date falls?
Gentlemanly Behavior 101 dictates that the guy should offer his date a hand and help her to her feet. The issur of having physical contact known as shemiras negiah says otherwise. Is this enough of a “dangerous” situation or one that lacks chiba (emotional closeness) that would give reason to permit such assistance? Or is the inconvenience of asking the nearest female skater a mandated course of action – wherein the girl (assuming she’s properly mitzvah-observant) would understand the need to forgo acting in as a gentleman in according to halachic standards?
One friend, while recently planning an ice skating date asked Rav Simon here at YU, citing the teshuva from Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:14, for those who want to check it out) about riding on subways despite the almost unavoidable contact physical with women as a possible source to be lenient. Rav Simon suggested it was probably better to avoid ice skating for this reason. The friend replied, “Well, what else can you do on a date in the winter?” Which drew a smile from Rav Simon.
As much as this is usually posed as a guy standing/girl fallen scenario, I’m sure the reverse could easily happen if the girl is the more experienced skater and the guy is a newbie, perhaps combined with some clumsiness thrown in for good measure. The only question that would make a real difference is if she were substantially shorter/smaller or weaker than the guy, thus preventing her from attempting to help him up unless she too wanted to join him sprawled out on the ice.
After discussing this with my friend, I remembered something I had learned in Rav Simon’s hilchos niddah shiur regarding harchakos. Among the rabbinically problematic activities for the husband and wife while she is a niddah, such as passing and throwing things (the latter for Ashkenazim only), is holding an object together. However, none of this applies to a man and woman who aren’t married.
Parenthetically, I remember first learning the details of these harchakos with Rav Simon during our one-on-one chosson classes. Afterward, I thought about what I had learned and came to a startling dilemma, wondering if I should have been observing these sorts of distancing behaviors to prevent further emotional closeness while engaged. I frantically asked Rav Simon the next time I saw him, and he replied that the harchakos apply only to a married couple, thankfully.
So, the good news is that I think I’ve figured out a solution to the falling-while-ice-skating conundrum. Namely, the guy should carry some sort of rod or grabber that would allow him to reach out and offer a means of support for the girl to get up. This indirect manner of contact would be totally permissible for a dating couple.
Then I recalled that there is already a jokey video about a fictional product called the Shomer Negiah Stick:
While the intentions of such a product are focused on finding a loophole to conduct some rather hashkafically (though not exactly) anti-halachic behavior, my idea would have a far more noble purpose and fulfill a practical need. The actual device would have to be modified a bit from the standard “grabber,” with reinforced construction that could support a person’s weight without bending or breaking – I know I went through a few of them in my younger years, presuming that they were stronger than they actually were.
Perhaps the device would come with a hand-like attachment and look similar to this:
Or better, it could be a wearable hand/arm extension akin to this:
I used to have one of these - they are SO much cooler than the pole-type grabber.
Anyway, back to reality for a moment. Has anyone gone on ice skating dates before, and if so, what did you do? I’d love to hear from both guys and girls on the subject. My aforementioned friend told me one practical solution, he inquired about his date’s skating abilities/experience before agreeing to go on the date. Turns out she is a veteran and has very little issues with falling or getting up on her own. I’m sure that not everyone lucks out like that.
Please tell me your stories in the comments!
Note: While this post is ostensibly practical , it was written from a theoretical perspective since I’ve never gone ice skating on a date before or since I got married - yes, married folks go out on dates, too, just with their spouses ;-) Aside from that, I'm quite bad at it, which probably explains why I never tried an ice skating date in the first place.