A new year, a new chance at love. At least, that's what Andy Gromada figures.
True, Andy will spend New Year's Eve, the biggest date night of the year, with his roommate and several friends of both sexes at the Big Night Baltimore celebration at M&T Bank Stadium. When the clock strikes midnight, he will give out meaningful handshakes and kisses on the cheek. But despite some serious looking in the past year, Andy won't be with that one special someone.
Not that he's unique. There are 81.6 million adults in the United States who are single, census data for 2000 shows, and a staggering number are actively looking for love. According to comScore Networks, a Virginia-based Internet market research firm, 38 million Americans ages 18 and older visited a personals Web site in October.
Revenue from online dating services and personal advertisements was $214.3 million for the first six months of 2003 - a 76 percent increase over the same period in 2002.
Early last year, Andy joined the online singles community. Previously, he had depended on informal channels to meet women, but in 2003, he decided to sharpen his methods for identifying potential partners. And though he hasn't yet found Ms. Right, he's had a lot of fun - and remains upbeat.
"I've had great relationships in the past," he says, "so it's only a matter of time before I have another."
That probably won't happen by midnight tomorrow. But in the spirit of new beginnings, and for online daters everywhere, here's a little about Andy, off-line and in his own words.
Name: Andy Gromada
Residence: Mays Chapel
E-mail: getdrewmail@ yahoo.com
Hair color: Red
Eye color: Hazel
Body type: Fit and athletic
Marital status: Single, never married
Have kids?: No
Want kids?: Yes, with the right person
Education: Bachelor of science, Towson University, 1996. Business major with a concentration in marketing.
Employment: I work for an Internet security company.
Religion: Spiritual, but not religious
Political views: Moderate
Hobbies: Mountain biking, running, skiing, paint ball, art, painting, watching pro football
Three words friends use to describe you: Funny, adventurous, intelligent
Characterize your sense of humor: Sarcastic
Five qualities you seek in a soul mate: Classy, self-confident, career-oriented, warm, romantic
Write a brief headline about you and your ideal match: Searching for Ms. PacMan
Describe yourself and the person you're looking for:
In February or March, I decided that I was going to make an active effort to meet the woman I will spend the rest of my life with. So far, I've tried match.com and speed dating. I've had maybe 10 dates this year, but I haven't found anyone special yet. The point is, I'm out there, I'm meeting new people, and I'm having fun. That's an achievement by itself. The rest will follow. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
I've had three significant relationships that have ended. While they haven't led to marriage, I've dated three great women, and I love them all. So my standards are very high. I don't want to settle for less.
My longest relationship lasted six years. My last relationship ended a year-and-a-half ago. I had high hopes for it, and when we broke up, I was very taken aback. I decided I needed to take a little vacation from dating. After several months, I realized that I was having too much fun on my own. I can distract myself so easily. I had to remind myself: "I might not want to do this forever." That's when I decided to start looking again.
This is the first time I've ever had to make an effort to meet women. I don't date women who work for the same company that I do, but I would meet them tangentially through my job. I used to travel a lot for business, and I met women that way.
My hobbies, unfortunately, all are things I do on my own. I ride my mountain-bike in the summer, and I run in the winter, and I don't do either as a social thing. I go as fast and as hard as I can, even if it's 100 degrees. It helps clear my head. I need that time by myself; I wouldn't last with a woman who wanted me to spend all my spare time with her.
I'm also older now. Most of my close friends I've known for 15 or 20 years, and all but one is married. It's a different world, and although I love hanging out with them, it's not a good way to meet single women.
I tried the Web site match.com for three months. You fill out a form about yourself and about what you're looking for in a mate, and a computer matches you with people of the opposite sex. You can also search the site on your own. I posted my photo, and sent out e-mails to probably 10 or 20 women.
I got absolutely no responses. Zero. I thought: What's going on here? Later, I talked to a friend who met his wife through match.com. He told me that when she used the service, she used to get 100 to 200 e-mails a day, and that's typical for women.
Then, another friend told me about speed dating. In 8minuteDating, where I've had the best results, you meet eight people for eight minutes each. When the evening is over, you go home and fill out a form. If you're on the list of men she wants to date, and she's on your list, the service will exchange your personal information.
You are introduced to a lot of people you wouldn't meet in your everyday travels. Everybody is really nice, and there's a lot of energy in the room. I really do think that people who go to these things are serious about finding a good match for themselves.
So far, I've had seven dates, but nothing has come of it. We went out, and either the chemistry just wasn't right, or we didn't have much in common.
But I'm not discouraged. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I'm a very optimistic person. You know what they say - it only takes one date. That's true of relationships and everything else in life.