Dating. Depending on what magical combination of luck and appeal with which one may be blessed, most humans will suffer the slings and arrows of this common social convention. And generally, in our society, at least, most people view this dating as a means to an end.
At some point, usually somewhere in or near your 30s, there is an expectation to have met someone with whom you finally "settle down."
But what if that hasn’t happened yet?
Even without any outright pressure and regardless of one’s plans for a family or not, finding yourself still single in your 40s—past this purported point-of-no-return—does create (for many of us, at least) some cognitive dissonance. This is accompanied by varying degrees of self-reflection focused on trying to find the answer as to why it still hasn’t happened for us.
Is it me? Is it them? Is it bum luck? And then, once in a while, a whimsical little notion will prance by our eyes, and we will think with the confidence of Archimedes: “Maybe it is this town!"
Coming from San Francisco, a city commonly—if not frustratingly—known for its “Peter Pans,” and for embracing non-traditional relationships like polyamory and open marriages, it is easy for me to assume that dating anywhere else (especially the Midwest) would feel antiquated, if not downright repressive.
At the same time, for those such as myself who still cling to the romantic notion of someday finding their very own Person, it is tempting to dream that moving far away from San Francisco might just be the very answer to one’s fruitless and never-ending search for the right partner.
After all, wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that the reason you haven’t met your romantic match has little to do with your desirability or relationship skills, and everything to do with the fact that you are living in a city surrounded by juvenile, lackadaisical, superficial commitment-phobes? Could the answer to all my dating woes lie here, in Fort Wayne?
No matter whether a person is or is not on a particularly active search for “the one,” and even if they feel perfectly happy living their day-to-day life being single, the exploration of a prospective new city for most single adults is bound to include what dating potentials might lie therein.
My first thought before setting foot in Fort Wayne was that it was highly unlikely there was anyone over the age of 30 in Fort Wayne who wasn’t already married. As it turns out, my guess was not too far from the truth.
Apparently, Fort Wayne is one of the worst places in Indiana for singles
, coming in 59 spots behind Indianapolis, which itself already sits low at position 144. (Ironically this study didn’t even look at people over the age of 35. But let’s not add insult to injury.)
Where do Fort Wayne singles go to meet people?
But what actually constitutes a promising dating scene? In San Francisco, it is easy and common to live single and happy with little pressure to be anything else, and there are still quite a few single men to date. But those men also have a plethora of smart, independent, creative, attractive, down-to-earth women to choose from. And with so much choice, why would anyone focus on just one for any significant amount of time?
In a city where the desire for monogamy can sometimes feel like an almost prudish notion, the potential of meeting someone actually looking to commit is tantalizing. If nothing else, the men in Fort Wayne most likely would be of the more traditional mindset, and (even if boring, as my San Francisco mind is always sure to prejudge), surely it would be easier to find someone willing to commit there than in heretical San Francisco?
Yet, the truth still exists that in Fort Wayne the actual size of the pool from which to choose diminishes significantly. If I thought it was hard meeting single people my age in San Francisco, Fort Wayne must be a dating desert. Right?
Then again, having endured enough short-lived, shallow, non-committal relationships, and “lazy daters”—ones who can’t bear to utter the word “date,” and instead invite you to ambiguously “hang out,” could the opposite really be much worse? Really, the issue is not exactly how many available, interesting men there are in any one place, but rather where I fit in, either single or partnered.
The question for me is: Where do I feel the least lonely? How can I find my community? And ultimately: Would I be ripping myself from the last bastions of freedom as a happily single person in San Francisco and in the quest for true love, actually be dooming myself to a life of perpetual singlehood, now in total isolation with no community or place? What do I really want, and what am I willing to risk to get it?
Tinder is a popular dating app, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.
Ever vigilant in conducting thorough research, I considered the idea of going on some just-for-fun Tinder dates during my time here in Fort Wayne, but I simply could not bring myself to resubmit myself to that grief. Dating apps, whether here or in San Francisco, have never been my thing, to say the least. The impersonal, “shopping for a date” nature of quick swipes through a vast sea of faces and the awkward always-on-a-blind-date feeling to every first meeting simply goes against everything I am. It feels like a billion times more work than it is worth.
I don’t care how many people have met their spouses online—after having given it several earnest attempts, I am 100 percent certain I’d rather meet someone in real life, or not at all.
How fortunate it was, then, to happen upon a particular “porch party” going on in the Lakeside neighborhood one late Thursday afternoon. Having scoured my Facebook account for announcements of anything I might possibly find cool and interesting, I had marked this “porch party” event page. Never before had I heard of a porch party, but I love parties, and who doesn’t love porches? I figured it had to be worth checking out.
This is what a porch party looks like in Fort Wayne.
My San Francisco friend here who I came to visit joined me, and much to both her and my surprise, we had a fantastic time! This intimate neighborhood-bonding event turned out to be my most favorite experience I have had here in Fort Wayne so far, as well as one of my most memorable experiences ever, in general.
That strange sense of anxiety I mentioned a couple of posts ago? I realized after hanging out and meeting people at this porch party that the anxiety I had been feeling was coming from a deep sense of loss of connection. It suddenly occurred to me that in a denser city such as San Francisco there are small things so easily taken for granted—things like newspaper headlines that I might catch as the people around me read theirs on the bus, or overhearing any number of different conversations as I walk down the street. These are the things I take for granted back in San Francisco, but that I now understand give me a certain sense of connection to the rest of the world around me simply because I am aware—in an almost covert way—of its existence. It was the lack of these ordinary, urban elements that had been causing my unease.
Fort Wayne is not a walking city. This is a shame if you ask me. You have such beautiful green parks here.
Outside of downtown, sidewalks in Fort Wayne are scant.
I did my best to live as I normally live in San Francisco, and walking as transportation is a major part of my daily life. I walk almost everywhere in San Francisco. But try as I might, my treks through Fort Wayne usually ended up with me walking on a grassy mound of dirt along the side of the road, most likely receiving odd looks from the people speeding by in their cars wondering what the heck some lone woman was doing traipsing along the dirt beside the freeway.
Here, everyone drives everywhere they need to go, which, by default, creates physical isolation from other people around you. Something as simple as driving instead of walking or taking public transportation means you’re not exposed to many outside thoughts and opinions. You’re sheltered from overhearing some news you were not aware of, or prevented from getting wind of some event just from passing a flyer or bumping into someone who might tell you about it.
People can miss a lot when most commuting is done in a private car. Simply being in the presence of a diverse group of people on a regular basis naturally lends itself to a sense of connection to those outside your own personal bubble, and to the rest of world around you. Standing underneath the beautifully vast, expansive sky of Indiana—it all felt isolating.
There's a lot of greenery in Fort Wayne, but not many sidewalks.
However, these feelings of isolation were aptly squashed at this amazing porch party affair. Though it became clear once as we arrived that it truly was a neighborhood event—aka, for and by the people in the neighborhood—my friend and I were given a warm welcome nonetheless and immediately handed plates of food and cups of sangria, (which, by the way, was hands down the best sangria I have ever had).
Soon we were mingling like locals. The people there were lovely. Amidst a small mixed assembly of different ages, colors, and orientations, I held some fascinating conversations with a few brilliant characters. I was especially charmed by Laura, the retired ex-car-racer whose great grandfather built the house she lived in just down the road and who talked convertibles with me as she chain-smoked and regaled me with tales of racing cars in her stilettos.
I was touched by the friendliness expressed by everyone that evening, and I was truly impressed by the fierce individuality exhibited by so many and the warm inclusion that was openly given to us all.
Did I meet my future husband? No, of course not—not even close. But this sense of inclusion and respect for people’s individuality was also what gave me a glimmer of hope for life as a single, 40-something woman in Fort Wayne. Would I be able to find the needle in the haystack? Who knows—but the warm, fuzzy feeling I felt in my chest as we said our goodbyes and headed toward the car tells me there’s always the possibility, wherever you are.
As elusive and mysterious as love can be, what does anyone really know about the secret to finding Your Person? Truthfully, my dating life in San Francisco has been what can only be described as vehemently inauspicious, so whatever demographics might statistically be more strongly in my favor, they are clearly not helping when it comes to finding love.
Who’s to say that in Fort Wayne—regardless of the demographics—I would fare any worse?
Statistics are great and all, but when it comes to matters of the heart and soul, the answer is always far more complex.