2012-01-12 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Casting a wider net

I’m pulling my hair. I’m rending my clothes. I’m raising an angry fist to the sky. But what I really want to do is grab the lonely hearts out there and give them a good shake. If people saw how they’re hurting their own opportunities in love, the world would be a much less lonely place.

I went out to dinner recently with two male friends, men I adore who are handsome, funny and smart but chronically single.

“If I meet a woman and she tells me she went to Harvard and she has a good job,” one of them said, “then I know we’d be a good fit.”

I cocked an eyebrow. This man writes poetry and talks to his cat. He wears his hair in a mop that falls over his face. When he speaks about the future, he speaks of a wife and children and a house in the country. He’s kind, compassionate and nurturing, and I was surprised to hear none of these qualities topped his list. Instead, he’s looking for bullet points on a resume.

The problem with this kind of preconceived list of qualities is that it often acts as blinders. We narrow in on specific attributes so much that we miss a range of possibilities.

“You never know who your soul mate iis going to be,” my friend Susie says.

Like my male friends I was dining with, Susie is a great catch who is inexplicably — and perpetually — single. She and I talk endlessly about relationships and trade old boyfriend stories like baseball cards. We read the same books on datingating and dissect tips over cocktails.

John T. Molloy’s “Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others” is in heavy rotationon these days. In it, Mr.  Molloy presents statistical evidence gathered from interviews with just-married women. His findings are telling. The women who get married, he says, are the women who put a concentrated effort into finding men. They skip the art museum and head for the sports bar instead. Married women are also willing to give a wide range of bachelors a shot, he tells us. In fact, the women who are most successful in the mating game are the ones willing to date a spectrum of men.

Which makes sense.

There’s no formula for the precise blend of physical and mental chemistry needed to spark romance. Love involves a mysterious, complicated alchemy. When we cast a wide net, we open ourselves to the possibility of partners we never considered, some with qualities we didn’t even know we were seeking.

Which is why I was so disappointed to overhear Susie on the phone with another single friend this week.

“He’s an assistant manager at Home Depot?” she said, laughing into the phone. “You can totally do better than that.”

I’ve spent so much time preaching to this particular choir that her words felt like a sudden betrayal. Isn’t that exactly what we’ve been talking about all along: trying new people, casting a wider net?

I gnashed my teeth. I thought about shaking her. I wanted her to know that true love doesn’t wear blinders. And it might be wearing a tool belt. ¦

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