The Quest
Home Up Quest II


The Quest

Forward with Rick Archer

Although I wish I could take credit for this story, it is not mine.  A dance student gave it to me
25 years ago.  Back in those days I taught a course called "How to Meet People" for Leisure Learning.  One day the dance student took my workshop.  After class, she stayed behind to say she liked my class.  By the way, she had a story to share with me that contained themes that similar to my class.  Would I like to read it?   Sure.  Later that week, the lady handed me The Quest at the studio with permission to use it in my Dating workshop.  I read the story and liked it.  In fact, I loved it. 

I quit teaching the course in 1986 and forgot all about The Quest.  When I decided to begin teaching my "Meeting People - Dating Game" again in May 2012, by chance I ran across the story lying there along with the rest of my ancient notes.  I read it again.  While reading,  I came across a passage that was relevant to one of my topics.  I decided to read the passage to my class that evening.  My students were very impressed.  They asked if there was more.  I said yes and added I would be happy to share the complete story.   So here it is.  Prepare yourself for a very unique personal saga.

Rick Archer
June 2012


Chapter One - The Quest Begins

My editor Delores called me into her office.  I am fresh out of graduate school in Journalism and she has an idea for my first assignment.

“Cynthia,” she said, “sit down.  Take a look out the window.  What do you see?”

After I take my seat, I stare out the window.  This office isn’t quite high enough for a view of the skyline, so instead I see the enormous buildings surrounding us.

“I see lots of office buildings and windows,” I reply.

“Exactly.  Inside those offices are professional men, most of whom are college graduates.  Many of those men are married, but many of those men are not married.  My question to you is this – how does a single professional woman in Houston bridge the gap to find those professional men?  Where does she meet men like that in hopes of developing a relationship?”

I stared wide-eyed at Delores.  “You are asking me?  You realize I am from another state and have only been in Houston for a month.  I don’t have a clue!  I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Exactly.  That’s why you are perfect.  I want to send you on an adventure.  I want you to pretend like you are a young woman who is new to Houston and kind of lonely.  Where would a girl like you start to find a boyfriend?”

I half-smiled.  “You understand of course that I don’t have to pretend.”

Now Delores smiled. “Exactly.  I am so glad we agree you are perfect for the assignment.  Are you game?”

I remember swallowing hard.  I was excited and terrified all at the same time.  I didn’t even know where to begin.  But that was exactly why my editor had chosen me.  More so than her experienced writers, I could give her a perspective like no one else.

Delores wanted people to read her magazine.  Her target audience was young professionals.  Houston was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the oil boom of the early Eighties.  Many of these people were fairly new to Houston.  They would probably find this article interesting, maybe even useful.


“I’m in.  Tell me the details of what you want.”


Chapter Two - Kissing Frogs

“I think there are a lot of princes out there in frog’s clothes,” said my stockbroker friend Debbie.  “There are definitely men in Houston, but you have to know where to look for them.  Houston’s sidewalks are much too hot for street life, so you have find the holes where they hide to escape the heat.”

Debbie was replying to my question about how to find the right guy in a city like Houston.

I looked up Debbie when I first came to Houston.  Debbie and I had done undergraduate work together at the University of Colorado.  We are both age 25, both single.   However, that’s about to change.  Debbie is engaged.  While I have been immersed in academia ever since high school, Debbie has been out here in the Real World dating and learning.  Therefore, when it comes to men, Debbie is the expert, Cynthia is the neophyte.  I go to Debbie whenever I have a question about men. 

Before beginning my adventure, I took the time to look up the statistics.  I knew Houston had a population around a million, but were there lots of frogs here?  There should be.  Wasn't Houston was founded on a bayou?

Sure enough, Houston rates very high on the list of cities with eligible bachelors. Statistics was not my major, so I can’t imagine how they come up with these statistics or who bothers to figure it out.  However, there is it in the census reports.

Apparently Houston has a good reputation with women around the country as a modern-day Happy Hunting Ground for eligible men.  Well, good.  Maybe this assignment wouldn't be too much trouble.  

The Bayou City is considered one of the best places on Earth besides all the single men in China and Alaska where a single gal has a fighting chance at finding the guy of her dreams.  This reputation is due to the profusion of male-dominated professions here.

The bulge in Houston’s population curve is filled with young working adults 20 to 40 years old.  According to the last census, there are almost as many single men in Houston as women – 1.06 women to every man.

When you compare that figure with the disheartening situations in New York, DC, or San Francisco, single women are grateful to be here and not there.

Many of us women still believe the world is divided into two kinds of men – all the wonderful, interesting ones we can’t find and all the creepy, crawly ones who have found us. 

Before I started looking for men, I decided the place to begin was asking some of my female colleges and girlfriends what they thought. 

I have never seen a more cynical bunch in my life.  I got the sense that these statistics didn’t mean a darn thing to any of them. 

I gather there is a collective sensibility among single Houston women that there is no one for them.  The conviction is that yes, there are plenty of men out there, but no, these men don’t seem very interested in much beyond having sex and whatever it takes to lead to sex.

That hurts because these same women were raised with the hope of loving and being loved by a man.  Collectively speaking, Houston’s single women are feeling pretty forlorn.

It is so tricky to make a sweeping statement like this provocative and have it be true for everyone.  For example, my married friends told me just the opposite.  No, their husbands didn’t just fall down from a tree, but by and large, Houston rewarded them with a more than adequate mate. 

Then there were the ladies in committed relationships.  Not surprisingly, they tended to be bullish on Houston’s dating prospects as well.

I quickly learned that I could predict a woman's response based on the marital or relationship status of who I was talking to Girls with men said Houston was okay, girls without men were pretty negative.

There are no statistics on the number of women who are looking. Hence I can't say whether things are better or worse on the Houston Dating Index today than say a year ago.  However I can say I have enough anecdotal evidence to definitely say there is a veritable legion of Houston women currently in despair of ever finding their Prince. 

One girl grinned at me ruefully.  "It's so bad out there I can't find any frogs either."


Chapter Three - The Women's Movement, Blessing or Curse?

While I was in Journalism school, one of my assignments was to write an opinion article on the Woman's Movement.  My personal conclusion back then was the Women’s Movement didn’t do us girls any favors when it came to harmony between the sexes I still feel the same way.

Not that I disagree with the main principles of the Women’s Movement.  While I was in school, I had the time to give these issues a lot of thought.  I completely agree that women should have the final say on reproductive rights.  We carry the babies.  We do the suffering.  It is our lives and our bodies that are disrupted by pregnancy.  And who ever heard a man dying during childbirth?   So who are men to tell us what's right and what's wrong? 

I also agree women should receive equal pay for equal work... assuming we produce the same results of course.  I like to point out to my feminist friends that a male logger can probably cut more trees per day than a female logger, so he should be paid more. 

And who is going to argue that sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual violence against women isn’t a major problem?   Of course men are bigger, stronger and faster than women.  Everyone knows that.  And of course men have used their superior power to ravage and pillage women ever since the Stone Age.  Just because men have the brute strength to take us at will doesn’t make it right.  The whole idea of ‘civilization’ is to teach us all how to live in harmony given our updated vision of what is right and what is wrong.  As man evolves, his moral principles are elevated. 

However, changes in values and principles are rarely graceful.  More often than not change is accompanied by violence.  Witness first the Civil War and then the Civil Rights movement as obvious examples that change in our society is often painful.

So it is no surprise that changing attitudes about women are met with opposition.

Unfortunately not everyone agrees that women should be the equals of men.  There is something known as a “Woman’s Place”.  A woman’s place is in the home.  A woman’s place is in the kitchen.  Real men don’t change diapers.  Real men don't make beds.  Real men watch football while women wash dishes.  'Honey, will you bring me beer?'

The Women’s Movement, ‘Feminism’ if you prefer, strongly challenged these ideas in the Seventies and threw our entire society into a tizzy.  Judging by the way the wind is blowing, now that we are in the Eighties, it seems to me the dust still hasn’t settled.

So what does this have to do with Dating in Houston?  Quite a bit as it turns out.  No one is sure what the new rules are.  No one is sure who they are dealing with.  Some of the men I would meet were quite bitter about the social changes.  Their idea of womanhood clearly did not mesh with the new ideas.  From that point on, I remember being cautious to feel a man's attitudes out upon first meeting.  Does this guy worship at the altar of Archie Bunker or is he a bit more enlightened?   If so, how enlightened?   

The men are equally confused.  Dealing with women has never been easy for men, but now they are less confident than ever.  They know how their fathers treated their mothers, but they have a queasy feeling that today’s woman expects something different, something better.  If so, what?   What does a modern woman want from a man?  I could write a book on this subject alone.

As far as my Quest is concerned, let’s just say that at the moment everyone is more confused than usual about the opposite sex.  That sums it up nicely.  Given all the uncertainty, I think it is the men who feel the most uneasy.  Men have always been a bit flat-footed dealing with women.  Legend has it that men don’t communicate as well as women and I have seen nothing to dispel that rumor.

Given that men don’t communicate well, given that most men are terrified of women anyway, and given that the Women’s Movement has shown images of countless angry, bitter women burning bras and screaming venom about the violence they have been subjected to, I think it safe to say that men sometimes approach strange women in the same fashion they might approach a porcupine.

Truthfully, all women really want is to be treated with respect and to be treated fairly.  If we do the same work as a guy, why shouldn't we get paid the same?  It shocks women that some men have the nerve to disagree with us on what should be cut and dry issues.

Meanwhile, the Women's Movement forces women to tiptoe a strange tightrope.  Women are trying to simultaneously stand up for their rights and be feminine at the same time, whatever the heck that means.  Should we be defiant?  Should we be submissive?  Should we keep our thoughts to ourselves?  Do we have the right to call men without losing our historic advantage of forcing them to make the first move? 

Do we still have to let men beat us at cards, Scrabble, and ping pong in order to keep their fragile egos intact?    Must we still pretend to be helpless and weak to make a man feel strong?  Or has the day arrived when we can we bravely stand up and shout ‘I am Woman, Hear Me Roar!’ without men running in terror?

What is the right way for a modern woman to behave? 

Let’s face it, girls, we are often just as confused as the men are.

Women’s Movement or not, there is one thing most women still agree on.  Most of us want to be married and have children “someday”.  Eons of natural selection favoring the genes of women who are good at reproduction have created an entire planet of women ready and willing to give birth given the right opportunity.  Women’s Movement or no Women’s Movement, we all understand that the drive to find a mate is programmed into our DNA.  

At this moment in time, the recent social upheavals seem to have caused a rift in the larger scheme of male-female relationships.  Every woman I know is dismayed by this turn of events. My generation was led to believe that our enhanced emotional and economic independence would enlarge our capabilities for loving and being loved.  We were raised ready, willing, and able to meet our future spouse.  Now where is he? 


Chapter Four - The Hunt Begins

I spent my first week on the Quest talking to every woman who was willing to share her opinions on men, Houston, and dating.  Not surprisingly, most women were more than happy to help.  Finding men and keeping them happy is a topic near and dear to every woman's heart. 

I asked a beautiful, sophisticated 44 year old woman named Rita how things looked from her perspective.  This is what Rita had to say.

“There are a lot of amusing, entertaining, attractive men around, but most of them are not interested in anything but a short-term relationship.  There are good fragments but very few whole men.  Men younger than 35 at least have a prayer.  They are lucky because they’ve been bought up in a different era.  

However the Boomer Boys are a mess.  Most of the men I know between 35 and 50 are going through a delayed adolescence.  They act foolish, making up for lost time.  There is a whole group of older men who have been so emasculated financially and emotionally by divorce that they are virtually impotent. 

These are men who used to have money and now they have little.  They used to have a career full of promise ahead of them.  Now most of these guys are clinging to their jobs by a thread and wondering about social security benefits.  A woman with her own money and career needs to watch herself so that a man doesn’t latch onto her as a meal ticket.”

I was depressed by that appraisal.  I went back to my stockbroker friend Debbie for consolation.  As I hoped, since Debbie was about to be married, she had a rosier look on things.

“I think Rita occupies a far different life space than you and I.  Rita hangs around guys whose sun is setting.  Naturally she is going to get a different slant on things.  However I bet she is right that the under-35 crowd sees women differently. The bottom line is that the younger Houston men are entrepreneurs who are really impressed with women who are go-getters, women who are in business and can demonstrate equal skill to what men can do. 

In my opinion, most of the guys my age are decent, kind human beings who care.  My peeve is with women who walk around with these huge lists of what they expect in a man.  I think too many women think they know in the first 15 minutes who is right for them and how isn’t. 

I think this is the wrong approach.  You’ve got to give a man room to grow.  Many men behave awkwardly at first because they think they need to put on a big show to impress a woman. However, once they settle down in a relationship, they really begin to blossom.”

I agreed with Debbie that women can be picky and hasty at times.  However, giving a man room to grow is the least of most women’s worries.  First she has to find one!! 

My friend Frankie had another take on it.  Frankie explained her biggest mistake was graduating from college without a wedding ring.

“I never knew what I had in college.  Here I was in Austin surrounded by 25,000 single men and I was too young to understand they would all disappear the moment I graduated.  Where the heck did they all go?” 

Good question.

So where have all the young men gone indeed?

I decided in this giant city a woman has to be enterprising about meeting the men she’d like to get to know.  What would happen if we threw ourselves into finding a man with the same passion that we previously pursued our education and jobs?  

That night over margaritas and shrimp enchiladas at Café Adobe, two girlfriends and I discussed that exact topic.  They understood that I was paying on the condition that they took my project seriously and would help with strategy.  To their credit, they allowed me to guide the conversation all night long. 

The first thing to bubble to the surface was our disgust that we were in this position in the first place.  Damn it, aren’t men supposed to be looking for us?  The ancient rules dictate that the man makes the first move.  What the hell were we doing here plotting out ways to find men?   This was wrong.

Deep down, we felt angry.  We shouldn’t have to go out looking for men. We agreed that we weren’t alone.  Many women rebel at this thought.  And why not?   I am pretty, I am kind, and I have master’s degrees in English Lit, Art, and Journalism.  Why aren’t the men knocking down the doors for me?  

Well, maybe they would chase me if they knew I existed.  But they aren’t finding me and now I am reduced to finding them instead.   

Yes, it galls me no end that I am doing the hunting.  It makes me feel like a tart on a heroic quest.  But I am also a practical girl.  I have gotten into every college program I’ve ever applied to through a combination of organization, enthusiasm, and timing. 

How can I use these skills to find a man in Houston?  What are the mating rhythms of Houston? 

Surely there are more tricks to this than learning how to get in and out of the car in the Texas heat and still managing to look cool in the process.

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