Quest III
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The Quest - Part III


Chapter Ten - Lorraine

After Walter, I was done interviewing my Magnificent Seven.  Now I wanted to talk with some more observers of the Houston social scene to get their opinion.

My exercise instructor Lorraine seemed like a good person to interview.  Lorraine had a vivacious, outgoing personality.  She was sassy and enjoyed insulting her students with good-natured barbs.  “How are you ever going to catch Dreamboy with all that flab?” or “Start moving that ass like a man is watching and not a taco.”

Deep down, we knew she was on our side.  We all accepted Lorraine’s goading because she knew this was her way of motivating us to push harder.  If it meant being reminded of our physical shortcomings, so be it.  This was a message we needed to hear.  If we wanted to look good, there was no room for complacency.

Lorraine gave me a few minutes after class.  As I studied her sculpted, beautifully curved 32 year old body plus her considerable good looks, I assumed Lorraine was exactly the sort of woman men were looking for.   I began our talk by stating the obvious. “I look at you, Lorraine, and I see a bright, energetic, confident woman.  I assume you have more men pursuing you than you can handle.”

Lorraine smiled and modestly confirmed my suspicions. 

“Yes, I get my fair share of offers.  Unfortunately these offers are not always from the men I am interested in.  The Book of Love has many chapters.  We all want what we can’t have.  I can have all these men, but I want the ones I can’t have.  I want someone who is my equal, my match, or maybe I can catch someone a grade above me.  Unfortunately the guys who I think are my match avoid commitment like the plague.  Women come so easily to them that they amuse themselves in a flurry of dating.  Why bother settling down?

Sometimes I wonder if the women of the Fifties knew what they were doing.  From what I have heard, they seemed to have a lot more control over their men than we do today. The world was separated into good girls and bad girls. 

Back then most of the
women had the sense to hold ranks.
They would make out, get their boyfriends all hot and bothered, then send them home sex-crazed out of their minds. Good girls simply did not go all the way.  "Do you think we could get married?"

Horny out of their minds, those boys were forced to get married or die of sexual frustration.  Next thing you knew, women were having kids left and right.  They didn’t call it the Baby Boom for nothing.  Those Fifties girls really knew how to close the deal. 

Heck, these days the good girls give it up almost as fast as the bad girls.  And if we don’t give it to them, they’ll just get it from the girl sitting on the bar stool next to us.  Things are all screwed up these days.  No wonder we can’t close the deal.  Maybe it’s time to close ranks again for our own good.  Maybe these no-commitment guys will come back to bargaining table.

The sad thing is that I don’t think men know what they really want.  They keep me at arm’s length saying they don’t want to get emotionally involved.  So I take them at their word and ratchet down my expectations.  If no one better is on the horizon, sometimes I settle for having a good time, but I still keep my distance.  Once they sense my aloofness, they get all excited and start to mumble out how ‘someday’ they wish they could have someone special ‘like me’ to come home to.  Or marry someone 'like me' and travel the world together.  When I casually ask if that ‘someone’ could be me instead someone 'like me', they jump back like I have a burning torch in my hand. 

They want the warmth, but they are afraid of the warmth.  The trouble is, women aren’t faucets.  We can’t turn our feelings on and off to satisfy the ever-changing moods of the dance away lovers.   I always find myself walking a tightrope with a man who can’t decide what he wants.  I want to care about someone, but I am afraid to.  I am sick and tired of getting hurt. 

I give up six months or even a year of my life waiting for this guy to pop the question, and then one day I get the "thanks for the memories, let's be friends" crap. 

Now I am heartbroken.  It takes me weeks, maybe even months to put the pain and disappointment behind me. It has happened three times now.  I get to the point where I am afraid to try again.

I have made one discovery and I am not happy about it.  No matter fickle men are, I can have practically any man I want the moment I show interest in other men.  All I have to do is feign interest in some other guy and the previously distant Iceman melts before my very eyes.  Frosty the Snowman turns to mush thanks to jealousy he has no control over.  Men want what they can’t have.  Men want the woman all the other men want so they can hold her up like a valuable trophy.  ‘Look at me.  This is the girl all the men want, but she’s mine so I must be quite a guy!’

The problem is, that’s not how I want to get a ring.  I want a man, not some puppy dog I can manipulate with a dog treat.  I usually don’t play dirty because it is beneath me.  Life is long.  Someday I will meet a man who recognizes my value and will want me as a companion to conquer the world with.”


Chapter Eleven - Lost and Confused

My talk with Lorraine shook me up.  This was too much to comprehend.  When it came to the conversations about Love, every person I talked to encouraged me in some ways, but more often than not I felt discouraged.  My optimism about the affairs of men and women began to rise and fall like the stock market.  I found my emotions and confidence level fluctuating wildly.  It all depended on who I spoke to last. 

I realized that I had come into this project far more vulnerable than I had ever imagined.  Surrounded by friends and responsibilities back at the University, I was never lonely.  It never dawned on me that I could ever be lonely.  I was that secure.

Now I found myself immersed in a painful crash course that revealed vulnerabilities and fears I never knew I had till now.  I had arrived in the Big City naïve and soft.  Now I felt stupid.  The huge supply of available men on campus tricked me into assuming the world outside the ivy-covered walls was full of good men as wellBoy, was I wrong!

Now the fact that an elite woman like Lorraine wasn’t having any better luck finding the right guy than the rest of us brought me despair. 

If a superwoman like Lorraine who had been around the block 15 more times than me was having trouble, was there any hope for me?  If Lorraine with her pick of the litter couldn’t land a good man, how could I?  All these obstacles!  All these barriers!! 

I think listening to the stories of the seven men upset me the most of all.

Lorraine was right.  These men were so attractive that they had a constant supply of women willing to audition for the position of girlfriend and potential wife.  The men would string them along for a year, then send them packing.  Thanks for the fun!  See you around!

Meanwhile Lorraine was a year older.  She had a broken heart and one less year on that biological clock.  Even worse, she was growing hard and cynical.  The school of hard knocks had robbed her of the cheerful optimism that makes a woman attractive.  Would she find the right guy before she got too bitter to trust again? 

Will Gary with his macho confidence ever make himself available?  Will Jeffrey ever put his college sweetheart behind him and try again?Will Malcolm meet the right girl and be willing to forgo his trip to the Nile?  Will the endless series of one-night stands ever grow old for Miguel?   Will Jacob spend the rest of his life on call?  Will Peter have the sense to ship his daughter off to a distant college and use his empty nest to fill the void in his life?  How will Walter ever find a woman as talented as he is?   Or will his fears of someone marrying him for his money force him to hide behind walls or live up in outer space for the rest of his life?

I had lots of questions.  I needed some answers.  Next on my list of interviews was Houston psychotherapist Patrick Smith.  Maybe he could cheer me up.

Patrick pointed out that being single isn’t necessarily a stepping stone to marriage.  One of the most important tasks in life is exploring relationships.  The best time for that is adolescence.  However thanks to imperfect parents, some people don’t make it out of adolescence emotionally intact.  Now they have to learn their lessons the hard way in college or in their early 20s. 

Patrick believed that romance is something of a miracle.  Problem One is that there aren’t a lot of people who fit together romantically.  Problem Two is the 'Timing' issue Gary had mentioned. 

Since finding the perfect match is so rare, the next question is whether to wait or to ‘settle’.  Patrick believes the high divorce rate can be attributed to the great number of people who grow impatient and take a leap of faith.  They give up hope on the thought of romantic love and settle for a practical relationship in order to have kids. 

It ain’t love, but close enough.  Sometimes that works but usually it doesn’t.  'Close enough' doesn't cut it in the long run.  Next thing you know, the parents are arguing whether to stay together for the kid’s sake.  Damaged children are the ugly consequence of bad matches.

Patrick said a lot of the same things that Walter had shared.  In Patrick’s opinion, the modern day confusion all started with widespread birth control, gained momentum with women’s liberation, and got crazier with so many women joining the work force.  

Thanks to daycare, now everyone is trying to find the new family model to replace Ozzie and Harriett.  Witness the success of the Brady Bunch, a recent example of two broken families using each other to mend. Sitcoms featuring single parents with kids are undoubtedly next.

Obviously the day of the little woman staying home to clean house, diaper the kids and cook the meal is over.  Most modern households need that second paycheck just to make ends meet and buy that house in the suburb.  Women’s economic power and sexual freedom bring them closer to the day when men can no longer call all the shots. 

So men are being forced to adjust on the fly.  Unfortunately they can’t necessarily look to their own fathers or to television to find their role models.  Archie Bunker, the icon father of Seventies, was just as confused as everyone else.  His main value was showing men who not to do it. 

Today’s woman is freer and better educated than ever before.  No longer are women forced to find a mate to survive.  Most women can stand on their own feet and find a job.  Nor are they forced to “wait” for sexual gratification like the women of the Fifties.  If they desire sex, the pill says nothing is stopping them. 

These developments give single women far more latitude in choosing a mate than their mothers ever had.  Today’s women actually get to take their man out for a spin before making the final move.  Not only that, they usually have enough sexual experience to rate his performance.


Chapter Twelve - Is Commitment Really Such a Bad Thing?

The big question is if this is an improvement over previous times.  Is today’s woman necessarily better off with all these choices? 

None of the women I spoke to wished to go back to the days of Donna Reed and Harriett Nelson, but they admit they are conflicted about how best to take advantage of the abundant new options. 

That conflict is no more evident than women’s attitudes about sex.  After the sexual freedom of the Sixties and Seventies, women are forced to admit that sex doesn’t necessarily bring the instant intimacy they hoped for.  Far too often the initial heat between two potential lovers evaporated into one-night stands and no relationship.  Would things have worked better if they had waited longer?

No issue bothered women more than the controversy about living together.  The overwhelming consensus is that this gave most of the advantages to the men.  I asked several women if she felt short-changed living with a man.  Usually I would get a frown and a begrudging admission it didn't work out like she had hoped. 

My friend Elaine was adamant that living together was a terrible mistake. It gave the men all the benefits of a committed relationship without having to make a commitment. 

"I spent a year living with my last boyfriend. I did the groceries, did the cooking, washed the dishes, made the bed, washed the clothes, folded the clothes, vacuumed, and cleaned the toilet.  Plus I worked during the day and paid half the rent and half the bills.  Plus I gave him sex whenever he asked nicely enough.  He was so terrible in bed I actually felt sorry for him.  But we were headed toward marriage, so I gave in.  No point in alienating the future father of my children. 

But I wasn't happy. I rotated between feeling like a housekeeper who worked for free and a whore who worked for free.  One day Paul got a job in another city and said he would miss me.  Could we still be friends?

I felt sick to my stomach.  The pain was so great I actually ran to the bathroom and vomited.  As I cleaned up the mess, I was consumed by an actual desire to hurt the man.  I have never felt so deceived, so taken advantage of in my entire life.  Promises, promises.  I will never live with another man again.  If a man wants to live with me, marry me first."

As Walter pointed out, the herpes scare brought the Sexual Revolution to a grinding halt.  With everyone putting on the brakes, both men and women were suddenly a lot less interested in recreational sex if it carried the very real danger of getting infected. 

Out of nowhere, the age-old concept of being ‘faithful’ took on new meaning.  Suddenly sex between one man and one woman with no fooling around didn't seem like such a bad idea.  The pendulum began to swing back in favor of committed relationships.  

Speaking on behalf of the women I know, I can safely say most of us sighed with relief. Mind you, this is my own opinion, but most women would much rather return to the era of “Stand by Your Man”.  This meant Marriage... a husband and wife committed to each other, ready to raise a family and watch the stars together.  

Sure, sex without love can be satisfying, but I know very few women who prefer 'raw sex' as some call it to sex combined with romance.  Now maybe we could concentrate on the thing most women care about – intimacy and connectedness. 

Another psychotherapist, a lady who preferred not to be named, sent me back into a tailspin.  She stated her belief that for every ten bright, energetic, emotionally healthy women, there might be perhaps five men who are an immediate equal.  My jaw dropped with that statement. Seeing the alarm on my face, the same lady was quick to offer a ray of hope.  It is her belief that men have a great capacity to grow in a relationship. 

Calling it the ‘positive effect of finding a good woman’, the therapist said men who enter a committed relationship usually make all sorts of progress thanks to the nurturing benefits of a caring woman.  Yes, men mature more slowly than women, but most of them are not the total dolts of sitcoms.  They may not perfect on delivery, but if they make strides during courtship, this bodes well for similar improvement within a marriage.  As this therapist pointed out, men reap far more benefits in marriage than women.  One reason is that they have a woman exerting a positive influence.

Considering how most men would consider that statement an insult, I could certainly see why she preferred to stayed anonymous.  I wasn’t sure I liked it very much either, but for different reasons.

As I mulled her views over, I did my best to find the positive side of message.  According to this lady, men are clearly less mature than women.  However, theoretically, the influence of a good woman will work wonders.  Does that mean modern woman is meant to be as much ‘mother’ as wife or girlfriend?   Or has that always been the way it is and no one told us when we were growing up?

The joke is that man is not complete until he meets a woman and then he is finished.  Humor aside, I would agree from my recent research that a lot of the men out there are not quite as well-rounded as most women would like them to be. However these men are certainly not hopeless.  The phrase ‘boys will be boys’ rattled around in my mind. 

It is a poorly disguised secret among women that we agree most men need to “grow up”. So maybe this therapist’s controversial statement isn’t something I didn’t already know to begin with.  For that matter, even some of the men I spoke to said that men are slower to mature.  Okay, so some men are more perfect than others.  Got it. 

All I know is that every woman I know enjoys the company of men… most of the time.  There is hope for the human race.


Chapter Thirteen - End Game

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.  About the time I finished my interview cycle with Houston’s most eligible bachelors, many of the seeds that I had planted in the first month of my Quest came to fruition in the second month.  I was suddenly besieged with offers to do things not just by men, but women too.

I had put myself out there in a powerful way; now those energies came back in a karmic explosion.  I would nearly kill myself in the next few weeks from frenetic activity.  I nearly keeled over from exhaustion.  My obituary would surely read “death by fun”.

In between phone calls and frantic spur of the moment dates with my personal ad pen pals and computer contacts, I traveled all over town and indulged in every sort of social activity.  As I pondered my sudden emergence as the “It” girl, I still managed to keep my eye on the ball. 

I was the woman in charge of finding men for the Sisterhood.  That was the whole point of the Quest.  

‘I know they are out there’, I told myself.

I got a hold of a valuable resource listing all sorts of clever places to meet men.  This list had surely been written by some enterprising woman who had probably learned about these places while blazing a trail similar to mine a few years earlier.  This resource was a veritable goldmine of good ideas to continue my Quest.

I went to Unity Church one Sunday and lifted my spirits with song.  At the conclusion of the service, I whispered a prayer, “Lord, let there be peace on earth and help me find where the men are hiding.”

I went to Galveston as a volunteer on the tall ship Elissa.  To my pleasant surprise, my prayers had been immediately answered.  There was a whole nest of cute guys.  Definitely a place for a girl on the hunt to check out. Good place to get a tan, too.

I ran three-legged races at a Jewish Community Center picnic.

I hobnobbed with intellectuals at the Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts.

I had lunch at the Houston Chronicle for a conference of Houston media representatives.  Many men.  Many many men.  Yes.  And very bright.

I met with fellow bookworms at a reading club at the Downtown Library.  To my delight, there were three men in the group I considered to be sharp guys. 

I attended a conference at Rice University on the future of newspapers.  Like the event at the Chronicle, I trembled at the abundance of attractive, intelligent men.  These men reminded me of the same guys I known back in college… bright, inquisitive, determined to change the world.  I smiled in the knowledge that all those Young Men from college really were still among us.   

Six women lawyers placed a group personal ad and invited me to their party at Café Adobe to stock the pond with extra women.  We were there to greet the men chosen from 200 respondents.

One night I joined two girlfriends for a night of dancing at élan, Houston’s fanciest Disco.  There was a score of handsome businessmen there, but they preferred to drink and watch rather than actually dance.  Too bad.  The three of us ended up taking turns dancing with a young man my age named Hank who could really move.  I chatted with Hank long enough to discover he was dirt poor.  He had used a friend’s pass to get in.   I was amused to see Hank was the one who got the girl.  My friend Pat left with him while the Fat Cats watched in disbelief.  Surely there’s a lesson here.

I went to an Amnesty International meeting, to a movie at the Jung Center, and to a macrobiotic dinner at the Yoga Center.  I even flirted with the men in my coed aerobics class.  

Slowly but surely as I established my network of contacts, the men were coming out of hiding.  Or maybe they had been there all along and I had been looking in the wrong places.

Whatever the truth, I engaged on a whirlwind tour of dating.  Some days I might have three different meetings.  I had breakfast dates at the House of Pies, lunch dates at the Hobbit Hole, dinner dates at Vargo's.  I had frozen yogurt dates, hot dog dates, book store dates, and jogging dates. 

Along the way, I got horribly confused about who was who and at what stage the relationship was at.   This wasn’t just an assignment anymore.  This had all become very personal.  One day I finally admitted the truth. I wasn’t just looking for a boyfriend; I was looking for the One.  After all this work, I wanted a husband.

My editor had chosen me for this assignment because I was perfect.  Fresh out of graduate school, new to Houston, with no bitterness towards men and totally unattached, who could possibly be better than me to send out on the Quest? 

Delores had a hunch I was in for more than I bargained for.   Her last words of advice?  “Guard your heart, child.”  Ah, famous last words indeed.  Did I listen?   Well, I heard what she said, but I had no idea she had envisioned the jam I would get myself into. 

Today I needed my beloved mother, may she rest in peace, more than ever.  Here I was, the gentle daughter, the bookworm who was too busy to date in college, now juggling four boyfriends with two more distinct possibilities on the way.

For the first time in my entire life, I had actually been forced to resort to fibbing to get through the day.  As each relationship moved forward, each man became more curious about my Quest or more specifically how I was spending my time and with whom.  I was besieged with an astonishing barrage of questions.  To my surprise, I had so many irons in the fire that even a smart girl like me began to have trouble remembering what I had told to whom.  This was ridiculous. 

Fortunately I had one ultimate shield and I used it whenever I got in a jam.  Whenever someone got a little too close to the fact that I was seeing half of Houston, I simply explained that these weren’t dates, these were “appointments” for my article.  Except that some were really dates with another man.   I idly wondered if my magazine had a Reporter Protection Program when this was all over.  I might need it.

My Life had become one long, endless date.  It was time.  I knew it and I suspected my editor knew it too.  Delores had called me.  It was time to come for a talk. 

On the morning of my scheduled meeting, my mind was so abuzz with stories, facts, and impressions that I could not calm myself down.  If I didn’t collect my thoughts, I would make a complete fool of myself at the meeting.  In desperation for sanctuary, I went to the Cheesecake Connection for a much-needed treat.  I intended to take my prize to a corner and organize my presentation.

Nosy by nature, one simple question revealed that Jack, the man who helped me, was the owner.  I could not resist asking.  It was practically a reflex behavior now. “Are you by chance single?” 

“As a matter, yes I am,” Jack replied, a little surprised by my boldness. 

I blushed.  Where was that shy, tentative girl who had demanded men slip their driver’s license under the door at the start of the Quest?I barely recognized myself any more. 

Nevertheless, the store was empty and Jack was curious, so I whipped out my note pad.  Now that I had discovered Jack was another single Houston man, I immediately began to pepper the poor man with questions.  Pretty soon I forgot what I had come here for in the first place – a little solitude.  Instead I had spent my precious hour of free time cluttering my mind with more information.   Plus I got cheesecake on my notes.  I am such a klutz when I get excited.

I can’t keep this up, I thought.  I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.

As it turned out, my talk with Jack would mark the end of my interview cycle.  My editor suggested it was time to put something on paper.  I heard the message loud and clear.  Stop flirting and get to work.  Yes, Ma’am.

My working title for this piece was “A Manic Depressive Tour of the Houston Mating Crisis” because I swung back and forth so many times between wild optimism and deep discouragement. 

So where did I stand at the Finish Line?  What did I have to show for all these dates and my hope chest full of file folders on the Houston man? 

I have talked with 100 men and gone out with 50 of them.  It made me busier than I have ever been in my life.  I had so much fun, and I did need that.  I have never laughed so much in my life.  Okay, so maybe our anonymous therapist is right.  Maybe only half of these guys have grown up.  Who cares?  They make me happy.  I had no idea boys can be this much fun.

Of the 50 I went out with, 15 are of real interest to me.  After the article, I intend to get to know all of them better, some as friends, some as, well, we’ll see.  I might even marry one of them after I travel up the Nile and down the Amazon. 

Of the 15, four men have already become dear to me.  I make a point of seeing them regularly.  I have had at least enough sense to keep each of these men at half an arm’s length with the promise that I will see much more of each of them when the project is over.  I dread being forced to choose.  

Despite my onset of stress-induced mental illness caused by an overdose of men, I consider my Quest a success.   Okay, yes, maybe I overdid it.  I am a nervous wreck thanks to too many men in too short a time as one friend cattily put it. 

But I have so much to show for my adventure.  My contact with 100 different men helped my self-confidence around guys grow dramatically.  I had not dated much in high school and college, but this whirlwind crash course definitely brought me up to speed.  I can safely say that I now know every trick in the book and every line backwards and forwards. 

I can even hold my alcohol a little.  Along the way I learned the meaning behind “Tequila – helping women lower their standards for years”.  Yes, another valuable lesson learned. 

I smile knowing that when the time comes to make my choice out of the Final Four, I will do so with some experience under my belt.

And what else have I learned that I can share with my reader?  I was disappointed to learn that the Houston dating and mating climate is not as hot and heavy as I had expected it to be.  Among the Under 35 crowd there is a pervasive pessimistic attitude that love is too much trouble. 

Given the tendency of marriage-eligible men to retreat to the safety of their jobs or jump to the next best offer anytime a lady gets too close, many women literally give up for months and years at a time just to recharge their batteries for the next crusade.  Some women I met have been unhappily celibate for so long they worry that they have rusted shut.  Working late or working out, there is an entire army of women sublimating like crazy.

And yet later this summer I have six weddings to attend listed on my calendar.  That is all the proof I need to conclude that despite all the fears and all the social upheavals, men and women have been connecting for eons… and continue to do so even while our world is changing so fast.  Men and women need each other too much.


Chapter Fourteen - Strategies for Finding the Right Guy

Delores liked my article.  She said I touched on a surprising number of hot topics with insight.  However could I do her one more favor?  Given my recent experience, would I mind writing a short cookbook with some practical recipes for meeting men? 

I smiled and said it would be my pleasure.  My first suggestion would be to develop a Starting Point, but don't limit yourself to just one.  Choose several and be willing to add and delete your choices after you explore a bit.  Don't rest until you find one or two Starting Points you are confident have a chance to pay off.

While selecting a Starting Point, pick a couple of activities you would enjoy pursuing that also carry the potential for meeting men.  It can be something like jogging. If so, I would say find a jogging group and join it.  Or find an organization that you are interested in and volunteer.  One good example would be the Houston Rodeo.  Get on a committee and help plan something.  You will instantly meet more businessmen than you can ever imagine, but they will wear a disguise.  If you see men wearing jeans instead of a business suit, don't let that fool you. 

I would suggest that within these locations you choose to pursue your interests and activities, develop friends, both male and female and not necessarily potential boyfriends. This network of friends – both women and men - will pay off in ways you might not expect. As you get accepted at your chosen location, your new friends might just lead you to various networks and inner circles that are "invitation only". 

In my opinion, too many people believe in the power of Serendipity.  They think some random meeting at the zoo or the grocery store will magically pay off with the love of their life.  Maybe so, but the odds aren’t very good.  It is difficult to bridge the social barriers you will come up against in these situations.

In my opinion, the Serendipity approach is like trying to hit the Lottery.  The math is simply not in your favor.  This quick fix strategy involves clever pickup lines that have little chance of success because people - especially women - are inherently afraid of strangers who come on too strong or show too much interest.

Thanks to my experience, I no longer believe in trusting luck or 'Fate'.  Very few women I spoke to found their men through accidental meetings in unexpected places like sitting next to some cute guy at a movie.  The meetings themselves might have been unexpected, but the women pointed out they were in that place to begin with because they chose that spot in advance.

One of my favorite stories involved a lady named Vickie who volunteered to work for free at a friend's booth at the Texas Renaissance Festival.  She said there are parties galore at the closing of each day.  Vickie said she would come in the afternoon, give her friend a break, then stay to experience the crazy world that comes alive after the public goes home.  At one of these parties, Vickie met the man who would become her husband.  In other words, it was a chance meeting, but at a deliberately chosen spot.

Yes, I was irritated in the beginning that women can't just sit there and be pursued like we want to be, but I got over it.  If I were to do this all over again, I would develop a long-term strategy based on linking my interests to three or four recurring locations.  It is all based on finding a Starting Point, so don't limit yourself to one spot.

A "location" is defined as a place where you like to play.  If you like books, then the book club you settle on becomes your location.  We assume, of course, that you have scouted this club and have noticed at least a couple of interesting men, hopefully even more.  Now you make a firm commitment to attend these meetings frequently enough to make friends.  Hopefully current members will take you under their wing and introduce you to other possibilities that were not previously on your radar.  Give it at least a month, but don't be afraid to move on if the prospects seem dim.

If you volunteer to work for the Texas Renaissance Festival, let me know and I will join you. I would love to work one season at the Renaissance Festival.

While it is true that many women find their soul mate in the most unexpected places, I don't believe in sitting around waiting for Destiny to happen.  I would definitely investigate every one of the traditional places to find men.  Here is a list of the tried and true places people have used since the beginning of time.  What you need to keep in mind is that these are only "Starting Points".

Once you get established, then a random encounter might take you in an entirely different direction.  But you have start somewhere!

Finding the Right Location

1)  Your Interests.  Find some place where you can learn to cook or dance or learn public speaking.  Find a book club, a coed softball league, a running club, or a sailing club.

2)  Seminars.  Every professional meeting that involves other people in your field is a prime opportunity to meet a wide cross-section of individuals who have something in common with you.

3)  Work.  Yes, we all know that dating someone at your place of work carries great risk, but if you have developed a friendship where you work that carries the potential for a real romance, then think it over. Before you accept that offer of a date, remember that workplace romances may not pan out. If so, before you make your move, ask yourself what's harder to find, a good man or a good job?

4)  Friends.  One of the things I learned during the Quest that I did not know previously is that a good friend has the ability to introduce you into large circles or networks of people you previously had no knowledge of. For example, they can invite you to parties or gatherings you would have never known about otherwise. Let me add that a good friend is also important when your spirits lag during your own personal Quest. A couple times I nearly went off the deep end only to be rescued by my girlfriends.

5)  Parties.   Like seminars, parties carry a much higher chance of a useful random meeting than say trying to approach an attractive stranger at a doughnut shop because people are naturally more receptive to meeting new people.  Furthermore, once you get established in a circle of friends, throw a party of your own.  Ask everyone to invite someone new.  The Hostess always has the advantage.  

6)  Church.  Church socials and church singles organizations are very productive places to look.  If you are cynical, try different religions on a rotating basis.  When you discover the best religion for meeting men, be sure to say a thank you prayer, then settle down and begin to make friends.

7)  School.  Night school has some potential, but what I mean here is adult education classes.  Whether you sign up for a Spanish class, a film appreciation class, a kayak class, or a photography class, you are sure to meet new people.  If you stick to things you are interested in, even if you don’t find any prospects, you will still find the time well spent.  Using the art of the innocent question, be sure to talk to everyone about other classes they like.  You never know where that will lead you.

8)  Volunteer.  One woman I met said she found a legion of eligible men by volunteering to help organize events for the Houston Livestock and Rodeo.  Another woman volunteered to help with fund raising at United Way and met her future husband.

9)  Bars.  Clubs and Bars are generally a mixed bag.  Definitely not a place for the faint of heart. Let me warn you a lot of angry people hang out in bars. Furthermore, in my conversations, I gather more women have gotten their hearts broken by men they met at bars than all the other environments combined.  At the same time, several women told me they met their husbands in a bar.  If nothing else, except for the wolves who take their rings off before entering, at least most of the men are theoretically single.

One suggestion – if you are going to hang out in bars, do four things.  First, develop the ability to make conversations with total strangers.  Second, learn to dance.  Third, learn how to handle rejection without losing your confidence.  Fourth, stick to the same one or two clubs so you can begin to make a circle of friends.  If you go to different clubs all the time, you will be always be a stranger. But if you pick one you like, you can become a regular.  People will greet you and begin to let down their guard. Think “Cheers”. 

10) Exercise class.  Few women ever get a man by being out of shape. Yes, it is true that few men take exercise classes. However, aerobics classes are awesome places to make girl friends who can introduce you to new circles.  If you are good at starting conversations with strangers, then a health club or gym will put you in more contact with men. Side note - if you like going to bars, don't forget that bars favor the beautiful. If you are out of shape, avoid clubs like the plague until you get in shape. If you have a thin skin, the rampant hostility in clubs will eat you alive.

11) Dancing.  No clean-cut activity known to man puts you in the arms of a man faster than a dance class.  Dance classes are also a very simple way to make friends over a period of time. Few people have the ability to learn to dance overnight, so you will have built-in opportunities to make friends of both sexes in a relaxed setting.  Plus a dance class carries the opportunity to visit bars in groups which is much safer.

12) Sports.  Men love sports the way women love dancing.  If a gal has an ounce of athletic ability, I say join a coed volleyball league, a running club, or a coed softball league.  You will find men galore.  And for you guys who are cheating by reading my article, read my suggestions in reverse… join a dance class or join an aerobics exercise class.   These two activities are very popular with women.  You won’t regret it.

13) Apartment projects that cater to singles.  Do some research.  If you find an apartment project that has a social schedule… pool parties, Sunday afternoon volleyball, dance parties in the recreation room, bingo night, wine tasting night, and organized group trips to a nearby club… you might be on to something.

Bridging the Gap

Few things in the Quest are more terrifying than approaching strangers.  Most people are so afraid of rejection that they remain rooted to their seat even though they know full well this may be their only chance.  Women in particular are phobic because they have so little experience, but I learned that many men are just as reluctant to risk rejection.

I discovered that practice makes perfect.  When it came to making phone calls and talking to strangers in the beginning, I had one case of cold feet after another.  A few of the early rejections really got under my skin.  However, by the end of my two month of interviews, I realized I could approach anyone and strike up a conversation. 

Rule Number One is to study a person's signals.  Have the two of you made eye contact?  Has the person smiled?  Do they look tense or do they seem at ease?  Are they talking to someone or are they free for you to make your move?

It helps to have a modus operandi.  I had the advantage of saying, "I am writing an article.  Can I ask you a few questions?"  However, if I had that luxury taken away, I would simply fall back on the approach of the Master, our friend Miguel. He started every conversation based on the one single thing that connected his customer to him - the food.  If the initial conversation produced a smile, he then moved to "Where are you from?" and played off the response to that simple question. 

Therefore I say the best approach is to keep it simple.  Initiate a conversation with a comment or better yet a question based on the reason why the two of you are in this same spot together right now.  If the person helps a little, then be sure to have your second question ready.  If the person doesn't help, then bounce off and move on.  You can always try coming back to them later.

If the conversation has been warm, be sure to conclude with a request for a phone number or, if you are feeling particularly bold, a chance to meet again.  "I've enjoyed talking with you.  I would like to do this again sometime.  Would you mind if I called you?"  Memorize that.  Say it a thousand times. Then practice smiling while you say it.

If they say yes, then great. Good for you. If they say no, take it in stride. Don't immediately assume there is something wrong with you. They may be in a committed relationship. They may live in another state.  They may be gay.  What difference does it make what the reason is?  You did the best you could, so bounce off and move on.

Most people immediately begin the self-criticism. "I'm ugly. I'm fat. I'm too nervous. I'm boring." Just stop the self-criticism. Stop it now!

Every person in sales learns to practice their approach and not to use too much pressure.  Just be friendly, do the best you can and vow to yourself you will try again if it doesn't work the first time.  Approaching strangers is never going to be a sure thing.  Remember that even the best hitters in baseball rarely average better than .333.  And what's their attitude when they strike out?  Keep swinging.  Rejection is part of the game. Get used to it and you will find the sting diminishes dramatically with practice. 

Once you aren't afraid of the sting anymore, it gets a lot easier.  Once the fear in your voice disappears and you begin to relax, you might just surprise yourself one day and hit a home run.

The Butterfly Philosophy

I firmly believe in the long term approach.  This means developing a strategy and sticking to it.  Most important is picking the right locations based on their potential for meeting single men.  I call it the “Butterfly Garden” approach.

No one can force another person to be attracted to them.  Attraction is like a butterfly – very pretty and very elusive.  You may be attracted to a butterfly, but you have no control over the situation.  I say the smart approach is not to pin all your hopes on one butterfly, but rather find a spot where lots of butterflies appear on a regular basis.

Assuming you get my drift, I suggest you put yourself in situations where there is a good potential for meeting men and just relax.  Once you have found your particular butterfly garden, get involved.   Water the plants and pick the weeds.  Plant some flowers and bring cookies for the butterflies to munch on.  Help make the garden a friendly place.

It is all based on the odds.  The more butterflies you come in contact with, the better the chances that one day a beautiful butterfly will come sit and sit on your shoulder. 


Quest Part I Quest Part II Quest Part III Advice to Men


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