BALTIMORE — Wanting to meet someone doesn't make it happen, as war-scarred daters will tell you. Obstacles ranging from age to long working hours, fear of crime and geography keep singles away from parties, gatherings of family and friends, cultural events and other common avenues of socialization.
For many, leisure time has decreased, according to Joe Collins, a founder of Special Times, a date planning service. What daters say bears him out.
"It is more difficult to meet people. People are working more, and suddenly they are wanting family and some balance to life," says Kurt Morrow, co-owner of the Baltimore-Washington franchise of the Great Expectations video dating service.
Among those who find dating more difficult are people who work long or odd hours.
Tim Carroll, operations manager for Metro Traffic Control, has a work schedule that leaves him little time for sleep, let alone going out.
"I get up at 3:30 a.m. and work at least 12 hours, getting home anywhere from 4 to 8 p.m.," Carroll says. "Work has forced me to not actively pursue dating as I would if I didn't have a crazy work schedule."
Karen Harris, an office manager, works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and her fiance works from 1:30 to 10 p.m. for the U.S. Postal Service, Tuesday through Saturday. They snatch evening hours to see each other and reserve Sunday for going to church and other quiet, relaxing activities. Monday night is the only "date" night for dinner or movies.
Young singles may complain about the pressures of work, but many older singles feel isolation brought on by their years away from the dating scene. Middle-age and elderly people are often swept off balance after divorce or the death of a spouse. By the time they work up the courage to think about dating, the prospect looks insurmountable. Women outlive men, generally, so most senior singles events are dominated by females. Such women also find that the men in their age group often want to date younger women.
Julia Miller, a 68-year-old widowed grandmother, found Pikesville Senior Center a place she enjoyed volunteering, meeting friends, and ultimately her new husband, Irvin, 75.
They met when he approached her in the sewing room and asked her to mend his shirt.
"I usually don't fix anything for men, but I said to myself, well, he looks good to me," Miller says. "I fixed his shirt and he invited me to breakfast at Big Boy's. He kept coming back to the sewing room and asking me out, over and over. It took about six weeks, and the romance started."
Another obstacle to dating is the fear of crime. Incoming college freshmen women around the nation are routinely warned about the problem of date rape. Overall, violent crime against women is reportedly up 50% in the past decade. One reason for the increase is more women are reporting such crimes.
"Mary," a 45-year-old divorcee, always arranged to meet the men she was sent by a computer dating service in a busy, well-lit bar in a suburban hotel. She drove herself to the dates and never stepped into a man's car or allowed him in her house. Her caution arose after a friend was almost assaulted by a man she met through a magazine's personal ad.
While using a computer dating service, Mary was keenly aware of her need to protect herself while dating strangers.
Worries about crime aside, Mary was disappointed with the computer dating service, which led to a series of mishaps that makes her laugh now. The computer dates the service sent--a succession of meter readers, plumbers, janitors and other blue-collar men--were resentful of her status as a stockbroker, she says. "Tell them you are a secretary," the dating service advised Mary. And although she had asked for someone within five years of her age, all of the dates looked to be her father's age. The exception was a Tom Selleck look-alike, who was instantly disqualified when he wanted to go to bed on their first date--despite the fact she had pneumonia. Mary saw 15 men over a year's time and not one worked out.
"The men I met were nice people, I just knew they weren't somebody I could spend the rest of my life with, or even another hour," Mary says. "They were sweaty--desperate. They all wanted to get married again immediately, to find a caretaker."
She has since retired from actively looking for dates.
"I think if you are over 40 it's really difficult to meet somebody. You have friends and families and that's enough. . . . My life without men is fairly comfortable, though it's not exciting."