Dating in your thirties
What it’s like to be a single woman in her late thirties.
Apparently not, when compared to “Jane,” a 35-year-old single woman active on three dating websites. I’m on only one. “I tell everybody that I am single and I go on blind dates,” Jane says, since that’s how she’s met other boyfriends. While she agreed with me that dating is a second job, she thinks 2013 is her year.
“My New Year’s resolution is to talk to an attractive guy once a week,” she says, and explains that recently, she and her friend even chatted up a married guy at a bar, eventually becoming Facebook friends with him, because he might have single friends. I find this tactic interesting, as I tend to treat married guys as invisible, much like I would a pervert on the El.
Jane has even created a vision board, and though I didn’t ask, I assume there’s a picture of a hot, age-appropriate man pasted somewhere in the center. I’m not one to collage, but I give her credit. I work in advertising for a living. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that when you’re selling something, you need a strategy.
Which reminded me of something: In 2009, I heard a segment on public radio’s This American Life about a group of romantically challenged Harvard physics students who checked the population statistics for Boston to understand why they had a hard time meeting women. After zeroing in on the number of women in Boston in their desired age range who were single and college-educated, and then arbitrarily supposing they’d only be attracted to 20 percent, they had quantified their pool of datable women in Boston to 2,500.
Eager to see how Chicago’s demographics are working for me, I hit up Rob Paral and Associates, a Chicago-based consulting firm that specializes in the statistical study of human populations. His findings: According to 2009–2011 data from the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, my pool of datable men in Chicago is 43,439 (ages 35–44, single and college-educated). But if (like the Harvard guys) I’d find only 20 percent attractive, that reduces it to 8,688. In a city of 2.7 million.
And how many women am I competing with? Applying the same criteria, Paral found there are 50,386, which means for every 100 men, there are 116 women. Only a slight imbalance if all of these men are only seeking women their own age. Factor in women ages 25–34 and that’s an additional 89,852 women, which means for every 100 men, there are 323 women. Yes, I could level the playing field and also pursue men 25–34, but I’m not interested in dating down more than five years. I hit it off well with younger guys, but common ground and emotional maturity mean a lot to me in a partner. Plus, down the road, they may decide they want children after it’s too late for me.
So, now what? Are we single ladies supposed to get all Hunger Games on one another? Punch a girl in the ovaries if she’s about to hook the last eligible man? It’d make killer reality TV but, truthfully, there’s a great camaraderie among my single friends. When one of us gets a boyfriend (and it’s happening, in spite of all these stats), the rest of us are happy for her.
So until the future Mr. Ensign enters stage right, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, which includes Internet dating and being as social as possible—though I’m learning to trade my favorite dives for more refined haunts. And I’ve informed my wingwomen we’re getting sauced at the fancy Whole Foods in Lincoln Park and taking target practice in the produce aisle. Now somebody hand me a cucumber.