Single Life is a weekly column about the pressures, pleasures and problems of being single in Orange County. According to the latest census data, singles--those who have never married or are divorced or widowed--comprise roughly one-third of the county's adult population. If you are one of the many singles in Orange County, consider this column your forum.
Orange County singles are looking for love in the usual places--singles bars, health clubs, even on the job. While local men tend to be upbeat about single life--one called the county "a great place to be single"--local women are hedging their bets. The search for Mr. Right, they report, is only part of a larger mission: looking out for No. 1.
"If I've learned anything about being single," said Lynn, 44, "it's that I've got to be my own best friend. As you get older, you learn that you have to entertain yourself and provide for yourself, rather than counting on someone else to come along and make it all better."
A Fullerton nurse with two sons from a marriage that ended six years ago, Lynn said she tried the bar scene shortly after her divorce but found it "boring and awful. In California, the women outnumber the men, and, believe me, the men know it. If you're not assertive enough to go ask a man to dance, or buy him a drink, forget it. They just sit back and wait for you to come up to them."
Lynn opted instead for "things to do so that at least I'd have a good time, even if I didn't meet someone"--including weekend horse shows and auctions, chamber of commerce mixers and volunteer work in her community.
According to Jenny, 41, "Orange County is a tough place to be single" because "it's so suburban and family oriented. You don't have access to the same number (of singles) here that you do in a big city."
A real-estate saleswoman from Irvine, Jenny said she went to bars when she lived in Chicago, "but they were the kind of neighborhood places where you know the bartender and you know three people sitting at the bar, so you can just kind of hang out." Here, she said, "there may be 300 people in a bar, but you don't know any of them, so from the moment you walk in, it's, 'OK, let's meet someone.' I'm not comfortable in that kind of situation."
That discomfort has kept Jenny away from computer-dating services, she said. And her desire to separate work and pleasure prevents her from dating men she meets in the real-estate world.
Her latest strategy?
"I just bought $200 worth of leotards," she said, "and I'm going to join a health club. That's supposed to be the big singles scene now, right? I figure, at the very least I'll get healthy, and if I meet someone that's the bonus."
Tony has been going to a health club faithfully for the past couple of years--working out, in fact, has been one of his few diversions. But he hasn't made any dates in the weight room.
"There are a lot of women at the club, but they all seem to have this funny little gold band on their left hands," he said, laughing. "Am I going to the wrong club?"
A lifelong bachelor and Laguna Beach resident, Tony, 40, said he hasn't had much time to date since he started a software marketing company 18 months ago.
"Right now, I'm in the never-ending battle to get the product to market," he said. "By the time I leave the office, it's 7 p.m. I hit the gym until 9:30, go home, steam some veggies, watch the news and go to bed. I try to take the weekends off, but I usually end up working Saturdays. . . .I just don't meet very many women."
When his schedule loosens up again, Tony said he'll be back out on the nightclub circuit, "albeit with great reluctance."
"The bar scene is a numbers game," he said. "If I hit a bar 'x' number of times, something's bound to happen. I hate coming home smelling like a cigarette. I hate trying to make conversation over the din of music and four vodka tonics. But what are my options? I figure I'll risk the dark dungeons of the bars, and one of these days I'll meet someone, nurture a relationship, settle down and breed. That's the plan, anyway."
Kerry, 29, said he has "no trouble finding people to date," but acknowledged that he's "not looking for a big heavy relationship."
A self-employed chauffeur from El Toro, Kerry meets most of the women he dates through his work--which often takes him to bars.
"If a group of girls rent the limo for a bachelorette party, or to go to the bars, that can turn into something," he said.
Penny, 28, also likes the single life, but that's a recent development. The Santa Ana therapist, who moved to Orange County two years ago after finishing her graduate work in Pasadena, said she had a "terrible time" meeting men when she first got here.
Describing herself as a Christian and "not at all the singles-bar type of person," Penny said her social life here at first revolved around her church--"which was fine, but it wasn't enough." So she joined the Sierra Club in May.