Things aren't as dire as many of Baltimore's singles think

November 10, 2007|By MARYANN JAMES

Online, on the street, in the bars, there's one sentiment that I hear more often than most: Where are the eligible people in Baltimore?

Last Sunday, while brunching with my cousin in Fells Point, I was faced with the question as he started to grouse about how hard it is to find dateable women (especially dateable black women) in the city.

That was the last straw.

At that moment, I decided once and for all, to see if Baltimore really was as down on the scene as it seems. And if so, why?

Dustin Smith, 27, has lived in the Baltimore area all his life, but says he finds it funny that he never meets women from here. His girlfriend, who just moved in with him in Fells Point, is from Arlington. Most of his previous girlfriends were from D.C. or Northern Virginia, he says.

"I always find it a little more difficult to meet people here," he says. "I can't pinpoint a reason for it."

Smith loves his city, he says, but he finds the population in general a little standoffish. And there are fewer opportunities to meet dateable women, partly because there is less variety of things to do here than in Washington, he says. Especially since he doesn't drink.

"In D.C., at night, there were a lot of things to do that didn't revolve around the world of drinking," he says. "Here, definitely not so much."

His friend, Carrie Jones of Pasadena, says the events here are geared toward a different crowd.

"It depends on the type of person you're looking for," she says. Many spots like the Greene Turtle in Fells Point seem more geared to college students, she says. And for people like herself with more unique tastes -- she digs European music and "darker metal" -- that makes it even harder.

Katey Kratz and Jamie Kaley, 23, of Baltimore both agree that many of the people in Baltimore are not dateable because of their mindset.

"Because it is a young city, a lot of kids move here after college, in their 20s; it's very frat brother-ish," says Kratz. "It's totally like you're at a frat party."

Kaley moved to Baltimore after college and "was on the dating train for six months" before she settled down with her boyfriend.

"The only people I met were at work," she says. "Because everyone at the bar was too intoxicated to have an intelligent conversation."

But c'mon. Is Baltimore really that bad? Surely it can't be if all of these people are no longer single. (Jones has had the same boyfriend for five years.)

LaDawn Black, host of the Love Zone on 92Q and author of the relationship guide Stripped Bare, grew up in Washington and moved here three years ago.

She says Baltimore and D.C. come from a similar place, but Washingtonians have a rosier outlook.

"D.C. is like, 'Yeah, there's not a lot of people out there, but we're still hopeful,'" says Black. In Baltimore, it's more like, "Yeah, there's nobody out there, and I'm going to be single for the rest of my life."

And that dour attitude isn't just limited to one group, she says. "The hopelessness is across the board," she says.

Which is sad, she says, because she knows there are plenty of eligible Baltimoreans out there; they're just blind to each other.

Maybe it's in the water. Or the air. Black says it's in the approach.

"We're relying on college dating," she says. "People are still saying, `I'm gonna be at the gas station pumping gas and I'm gonna meet him or her.' ... That doesn't happen. When you become an adult, you don't really have that casual hookup as much."

Instead, people need to be proactive. Internet dating is good, says Black. Try speed-dating. Or go to lock-and-key parties, where each man is given a key, each woman is given a lock, and you spend the evening searching for the key to your heart.

I've publicly scoffed at the lock-and-key events, but I'm a shade cynical at times. And perhaps that's most Baltimoreans' problems, too.

Instead of sitting in the same old neighborhood pub, complaining about never being able to meet someone and scoffing at other people's attempts to meet people, perhaps we all should get off our duffs and do something.

Be proactive, says Black. Even if it isn't a singles event, join a club. Go to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Go to the symphony. Join an outdoors group and go hiking in Cromwell Valley Park in Baltimore County.

"It's not the city," says Black. "It's changing the way we approach dating. It's dating for the 2000s."

So, next time someone asks me where the good people are, I'm just going to tell them it's simple: The problem is all in your head.

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