Saturday, September 02, 2006


(News-Herald, August 31) One of my summer projects was to look at the world of dating for Venangoland residents of A Certain Age.
I talked to some people I know and some people that I did not know. And I crunched some 2000 census statistics.
There are roughly 17,500 Venagolanders between the ages of 35 and 55; that’s roughly 31% of the population. Of the entire 15-and-over population, 4,300 are divorced, and 3,900 had a deceased spouse. It appears the talent pool for the over-35 crowd is shallow here.
I originally expected to separate male and female perspectives, but in fact there was no need—men and women tell pretty much the same story.
Common complaint: there’s no place to meet people. None of the over-35 crowd wanted to wade into the bar scene and “there’s only so much you can do walking around Wal-mart.” Traditional advice like “go to church” or “join a club” didn’t fly because of Venangoland’s slow turnover; “You meet the same people there that you ran into five years ago.” Some found churches less than welcoming to single people.
Hardly anybody had friends or family trying to “fix them up.” That may not mean anything. If they knew someone good at fixing them up, they would have been fixed up already and I wouldn’t have been talking to them. (Though, when you think about it, “fixed up” is an odd choice of phrase, suggesting as it does that the single person is somehow broken and in need of fixing.)
Nobody was very excited about on-line dating services. Results were described as everything from “geographically impaired” to “dirty rotten liars.” And the process struck some as unsatisfactory. It “takes away the initial non-verbal connection.”
People of A Certain Age appear to be somewhat more picky. I heard variations on “I won’t settle” several times. Now, sometimes that pickiness didn’t seem particularly extreme (“I want a man who has a job, no drug habit, and all his own teeth”). But if, for instance, you’re searching for someone with education or professional background, here’s some cheery statistics:
In all of Venangoland there are 5,000 people with a few college credits, 2,200 with associate degrees, and 5,000 who finished a bachelors degree or more (and those numbers include all the married folks).
Another large obstacle is life itself. Many over-35s are full- or part-time single parents. A small child trumps just about everything for some folks (and, really, would you want to date someone who said, “No problem; I’ll just dump the kid and pick you up at 7”?) Many are involved in various activities. Just setting up a simple interview with each of these folks was an adventure; in some cases I’m pretty sure it would be easier to get in to see my dentist. I know there’s a singles group that meets around here, but never at a time I could possibly go see what’s up.
Perhaps it gets easier if you become really dedicated to the process. I have a friend who made up his mind to find Ms. Right and went out with one or two different women a week. Of course, if you could pull off that schedule here, you might well get through every eligible bachelor or bachelorette in a year.
I thought I might collect some good horror stories about local dating. Nobody had any to share. I thought perhaps some patterns might emerge (as in “the problem with men/women around here is…”), but it didn’t happen. Much seems to come down to taste. “Too many women want to be rescued” rather than “These women were just too independent.” Choose “Guys these days are just too wimpy” or “These men were all just too controlling and pushy.”
These folks all shared one thing—the same thing that made writing this column difficult. My interview subjects were all absolutely clear that they did not want to be identifiable in the newspaper.
At first I was puzzled. What exactly did they not want people to know? That they’re single? I’m going to guess that cat is pretty much out of the bag.
Perhaps it’s that they’re looking. If you are single, but you’re not trying, you can still be cool about it (“I could find Ms./Mr. Right if I wanted to, but I’m fully devoted to my macramé now”). Or maybe it’s a matter of not looking too desperate.
So I guess what we’ve got here is a bunch of single folks of A Certain Age hoping to bump into one of the handful of eligible local matches in some sort of non-deliberate-looking manner. Macrame is probably easier, but stranger things have happened.


Condatis said...

Well, I have to say, just meeting and talking to people is much easier with a kid :) Not that I know about dating in Venango County or dating. But moving here and getting to know people has been much easier with the kid-friendly crowd.

Peter A. Greene said...

That's one of the catch-22's, I suppose. Children make a great connector to other folks when you're with them, but at the point you start trying to schedule things, like dates, around them, it becomes challenging.

kmm said...

I read your article in The Derrick and again on your blog, and I thank you for "exposing" the difficulties of dating for people over 35, but difficulty in finding a date, much less a significant other, in Venango County is not limited to the over 35 crowd.

I am a 21 year old college student, a senior at Clarion University to be exact. I have a good head on my shoulders (and that's what others tell me), I have a vision on how I want my life to turn out and somewhat of a plan to get there, I don't drink alcohol, don't smoke, and don't do drugs. People that I know point out my warm, loving, caring, yet driven personality. Furthermore, I pay all of my own bills (on time, and in many cases, ahead of time).

Despite these positive qualities, I have extreme difficulty even finding a woman who will even give me the time of day when it comes to relationships and dating. My problems? Some of the same as many of the people you talked to:

1) You're right, trying to find someone at "Wal-Mart" does not work. *smiles*

2) My family knows of no one who may be suitable for me (not even through their friends and acquaintances).

Unlike many of the people mentioned...

3) I am even doing the online dating thing. It gets a bad rap. A person can meet good and bad people just as easily on the street, in a bar, or a social event, as much as you can online. It just seems worse because there are a lot more people online than you would ever see in an isolated location. But I have been unsuccessful in finding someone on there too.

And here's a new twist...

4) I'm a "nice guy". Women my age don't see me as a challenge and don't pursue me because of it. (As in if I have feelings for someone, I will make no attempt to hide them, nor will I make a woman try to "win" me before I tell them how I feel). I know why the jerks constantly win the girl, but I am not stooping to that level to find someone.

I want to build a deep and intimate bond with the one I love. The problem is finding that special woman, as this is the typical pattern I have when I talk to a woman I am interested in...

1) I meet a woman, and try to talk to her a little.

2) I see if she is available to date.

3) I find out she is taken. And if she is not taken, she is not interested in me.

Unless there is someone out there in this area who can prove me wrong, I have come to the conclusion that, if I stay in this area, I will die a single man. And unlike some of the people you mentioned, I WANT to (and do) put myself out there as much as I can to find the one I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Peter A. Greene said...

Well, if i recall correctly, it's not very easy to date seriously in your early twenties. But you may indeed have more luck outside the area.

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