Several months ago I interviewed Anthony Adams, creator of The Love Game, a card game designed to bring people closer together through a series of personal questions. I talked to him for about 10 minutes before posing the question lingering in the back of my mind: “But … how do you meet these people?”
He paused and calmly told me that if you see someone in a bar, bookstore, or dog park, and think he looks, “amazing,” you should tell him that you feel this way. I don’t know if I audibly murmured, “bullshit,” but it was certainly on the tip of my tongue.
I appreciated Adams’ enthusiasm, but I didn’t think that spouting “you’re amazing” to strangers would get me very far in the dating game. The hypothetical human connections he spoke of made for a good story — just a story, and nothing more.
I thought about my conversation with Adams last week, when a co-worker showed me this headline, “Young, attractive, educated, female — and single,” from The Times, a UK publication. The subhead made me cringe; it read, “These young, professional women are all well educated, fun-loving, attractive, talented — and starved of a boyfriend.” Starved? Give me a break.
But then I started thinking a little bit more. I thought about how I don’t currently have anyone to play the Love Game with. I thought about how I’m very single — like the kind of single where I don’t even have a guy that I drunk text, “Hey wanna hang out?” The kind of single where I get my kicks by yelling “hot!” to attractive guys I pass in my car.
So, I decided to do a little research. The past few years have seen a rash of articles about the off-kilter ratio of educated young, single men to educated young, single women. More women are attending college while fewer men finish or even start college, and educated women are less likely to date uneducated men, a fact Jon Birger discusses in his book, Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game.
This kind of research seems to have started way back in 2011, when Kate Bolick wrote “All the Single Ladies” for The Atlantic. In it she questions whether or not she made the right decision to “not settle down” with a guy she loved a decade ago. At 28-years-old she thought she was living the life her progressive mother — one who quoted Gloria Steinem to her elementary school daughter — had wanted for her. Ten years later she wasn’t so sure.
I turned 25 last week, which feels like a turning point in my dating life. I’m halfway to 50, ya know?
After reading Bolick’s piece, a VICE interview with Birger, and Erin Coulehan’s “This is why I’m still single?: Men think smart women are sexy — but only from a distance,” I kept returning to Adams and The Love Game. I believe that Adams may have been onto something with the stories he told me.
I asked Adams, “Well, what if you tell a married person that he or she is amazing? What then?” He explains that in meeting a so-called amazing married person, you’ve grown your circle by two people — you can’t date either one, but maybe they have similar friends.
I cringed then, and I cringe now, at the vulnerability of the moment he’s describing — at the openness one would have to possess to befriend two nice strangers — but just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. I say that I have trouble meeting single men, but I’m talking about the lack of eligible guys on dating apps, or the already-married guys I see at bars. I’m not opening myself up to the possibilities of introducing myself to someone, saying, “You seem cool.”
I’m searching for a reason that I can’t find a single man, when I should be looking at how I’m searching in the first place.
I have layers, and so do most people, and it is in this realization that I can only conclude — humans are humans and dating is hard. I’m far too in love with moments, conversations with bartenders, eye contact with firemen, gentle nods to small children — to worry about finding love at a certain time and at a certain cost. That’s what statistics can’t show — how and why we find love. I’ve dated perfectly great guys who looked really good on paper. We just didn’t have any chemistry.
There are men out there, according to the 2010 census, over 130 million of them. Dating can be a numbers game. But it can be something messier and more complicated — wonderful and terrible, whether you’re experiencing it with one person, many people, or all by yourself. It can be a really good story — nothing more.