Maria, 31, is recently divorced and out of practice.
Maria claps her hands, her brown eyes wide with delight. “Yay, they have one of my favorite beers on tap!” As she sips an oatmeal stout at Hopleaf, she explains how the Andersonville bar played a role in her divorce: She met a woman there a year ago who is now dating her ex-husband. When the marriage ended in July, she wasn’t surprised—they’d been unhappy for a while. Maria looks down and fidgets with her leather cuff bracelet as her curly brown hair falls over her face. “We didn’t communicate well, and we felt disconnected from each other,” she says.
Like most people fresh off a breakup, she wants someone whose traits are the opposite of her ex’s: intellectual, physically fit, loves his job, has a curious mind and finds joy in life’s tiny pleasures. You mean like clapping when you find out a bar carries your favorite beer? I ask. Exactly, she says.
Maria’s slowly inching her way back onto the dating scene—she hasn’t entered the dating pool in nine years and worries not only that she’s rusty, but that her divorce carries a stigma. She’s gone out with a few people she met on JDate, but no one applause-worthy. She recounts one dud of a date, explaining that when she’s bored with a person she says outrageous things to get a reaction. She’d been telling this guy she lives on the North Shore. “You know what I’ve heard about Jewish women who live on the North Shore?” the guy asked. “What, that the sex stops after marriage?” Maria joked. “That’s true—you can ask my ex-husband.” That’s how she told him she was divorced. She seems proud yet slightly embarrassed about these outbursts, but when I ask whether she really just wants someone who embraces those quirks, she nods. “I have to be able to be myself.”
She scans the bar, attempting to show me the kind of guy she’s attracted to. Finding no one who fits the bill, she says, “Let’s play ‘Dweeb or Douche bag.’” Maria points out several dweebs, then zeroes in on a good-looking guy. She says his sculpted hair suggests douche bag, but his Three Floyds (one of her favorite breweries) T-shirt means he could have substance.
In search of fewer dweebs, we head to Delilah’s in Lincoln Park. She asks the bartender if she can sample several beers before she settles on a Goose Island Christmas Ale. Sampling best describes her dating agenda: She just wants to try out a bunch of guys and have fun. We scope out the sparse crowd for eligible men and come up short, so she tells me about leaving Moscow and coming to the States when she was nine. “At any time, the [Russian] government could knock on your door and that would be it for you. My mother didn’t want my sister and I to live like that.” She’s dated her share of Russian men, whom she describes as cocky and “all named Alex, Mike or Dimitri.” As we’re getting up to leave, a guy sits down at our table. He’s in culinary school, and he’s only 25. Maria seems to be enjoying him, though, so I slip out. She e-mails me the next morning to say they ended up going to Chinatown. “I felt like such a cool kid ordering salt-and-pepper shrimp at 1:45am!”
Steinmetz seizes upon Maria’s bored outbursts and suggests “flipping it”: Rather than say something provocative, ask a funny question. That way it’s more of a conversation and not that person just reacting to you. Maria asks when she should tell a guy about her divorce. “Say it right away if you’re 50-50 about a guy—his reaction will decide whether you want to see him again,” Steinmetz says. “If you like him, wait until the second date. You want to make sure he doesn’t look at you and just see divorce.”
LET’S TRY THIS AGAIN
Hoping to hook her up with some intellectual guys, I take Maria to Adler After Dark, the planetarium’s monthly after-work event. Turns out there’s less eligible-male life here than on Pluto, but Maria doesn’t seem to mind: She’s happy and refreshed after a solo trip to Costa Rica the week before. Has she thought about what the dating coach said? “Yeah, I have. That ‘flipping it’ thing could work. I also want her to look at my JDate profile.” Apparently, she hasn’t gotten many responses online. Maybe it’s the pura vida still in her blood, but she doesn’t seem troubled by that, either.
We head to Fat Cat in Uptown for a better beer (and male) selection. She’s overwhelmed with the brew choices. “Can I sample the ciders?” she asks the bartender. “I just want to try them all!”
Want to date Maria? E-mail email@example.com.
FAMILY & FRIENDS
“She is very athletic and driven. And has killer abs.” —Olga, friend
“Maria has a fear of being bored.” —Olga, friend
“Sometimes Maria does not filter out what comes out of her mouth. Some guys find it funny and some are put off by that.” —Anonymous friend
“There is only white and black for her; she doesn’t see a lot of other colors. She’s not very flexible in understanding behavior in other people.” —Sofia, mom
“She can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, anywhere, about anything. She’s flirty, easygoing, interesting and engaging.” —Julia, sister
JUMPING BACK INTO THE SINGLES SCENE
Before you start dating again, take a brutally honest friend out with you for a night and have him or her rate how you interact with people and carry yourself.
Try speed dating. Fast Life Singles allows you to meet 10–15 people in one night—it’s like a cram session if you’ve been out of the dating loop.
Go to nondating events to meet people, like the free author readings at Harold Washington Library. There’s lots of mingling before and after, and there’s no built-in pressure to find a date there.
On dating sites, say exactly what you’re looking for. Dating sites provide you with a way to weed people out, so take advantage of it.