Sick of the hunt

Chat at 1.

Hey Meredith,

I'm 32 and I live in rural New England. I moved here for a job after completing a master's degree. The job is great and the area offers lots of outdoor activities that interest me. The problem? A man shortage. And from talking with friends who live in more populous areas, this "shortage" isn't necessarily unique to my rural life -- so we're not thinking that moving is necessarily the answer. I travel enough for work to mingle outside of my local network.

I'm very social and have a large network of friends. I'm out and about in many clubs, from alumni activities to athletic organizations. I've spent plenty of time dating online and am open to these opportunities. I'm not shy at all! Blind date? Sure. Want to set me up? Go right ahead. Speed dating? Done it.

I've been in several long-term relationships, including a five-year romance in my 20s that I thought would lead to marriage but didn't. It ended over three years ago, so it is safe to say I've recovered and made it out to the other side wiser and more confident.

I've made sure not to live by a "check list," which resulted in spending two years dating a ski bum who lived with his parents. The relationship was fun but you can guess where it led: nowhere. I'm old enough to realize that at this point, I may find love with someone who is already divorced, has kids, or has some other situation that at one point would have been on my "deal-breaker" list. And yet, where are all the educated and employed men? Am I asking for too much? (I'll even make concessions for employment, given the economy.)

I know I'm not alone: I have plenty of female friends (both gay and straight) who are well-educated, many of them own their own homes, and live independently and yet yearn to share their lives with someone. The seven-weddings-a-year pandemic has passed us by and we're now all invited to baby showers and wondering when it is appropriate to consider freezing our eggs (no joke).

So here's my fear: while my dream is to find true love that eventually leads to marriage and kids, the last thing I want to do is go "munting" (man hunting). Everyone knows that husband hunting gives off a whiff of desperation. And yet the alternative is to "give it time," "be patient," and "let fate do its thing" while the biological clock keeps ticking.

Is this a lose-lose situation? Who's better off: the single ladies who put their name in their hat online or those who refuse to submit to the (somewhat justified) stereotype that we’re all munting and wait it out? I'm turning to you because advice from married friends is exhausting and not helpful. And the rest of us haven't figured it out.

– Munting Season, Vermont

I'm going to blame your problem on television, MS. I know I've said it before, but television shows make us think that we're supposed to be dating all of the time. Like, every episode.

Life isn't "Sex and the City." Life isn't even "30 Rock." If it were, I'd date Jon Hamm or Matt Damon at least a few times each season -- with hilarious results.

In real life, there are lulls. Sometimes long ones. You had a significant relationship in your 20s and have dated around in your early 30s. You haven't met anyone fantastic, no one episode-worthy. That sounds about right to me.

You're telling us that you have a big community. You're telling us that you're doing what you need to do to meet someone nice. I guess my advice is to keep doing that -- and to stop thinking of it as your desperate search for a husband. It's really your search for love. That's got a better ring to it, doesn't it?

And take the pressure off yourself to speed this along. Again, only fictional characters have awesome and interesting partners all of the time. I know it's exhausting and that your clock it ticking, but love isn't easy to find and maintain. Even the marrieds have to work like crazy to keep it going.
Readers? Advice for this single person? Is she underestimating the role of her hometown in all of this? Should she be freaking out at 32? Is this a female issue? Am I right about the role of TV? And the lulls? Discuss.

– Meredith