(Editor’s Note: This post is part of a monthly feature in which Ryan takes an actual letter written to “Dear Abby” and answers it himself. For further background see the introductory post here, or maybe also here. Please note that however insightful and strangely arousing his advice may be, the views expressed below are those of him alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of The Wheelhouse Review, its parent and subsidiary companies, or its minions of unpaid and overworked interns. Ryan is neither a licensed lifestyle columnist nor fully housetrained. Also, even though he’s totally awesome and can do like a million push-ups, he definitely didn’t write this intro.)
This month’s letter was published on May 26, 2012, and quoted in full, reads as follows:
DEAR ABBY: My friends and I are women in our late 40s and early 50s. Some of us are married, some are single. Individually or as a group we have taken classes, volunteered, gone on cruises, gone to clubs and bars — you name it.
We have noticed that nearly everyone at these activities is either female or with a female as part of a couple. There are loads of single middle-aged women out there joining things and having fun, but there seem to be almost no single middle-aged men. Friends in various parts of the country report the same thing.
Where do the single men go? They rarely go out alone or with a male buddy. Our running joke is they’re all home watching bad cable TV. Middle-aged guys must be there somewhere, but where? You’d think that if they wanted to meet women, they’d go where women are, but we rarely see them. Can you solve this mystery for us? — WHERE THE BOYS AREN’T, NORTHERN WYOMING
Go ahead and read “Abby’s” advice if you want (same link, or maybe it’s this one), but basically she’s all: don’t go to clubs and bars because that’s where men go to pick up younger girls (duh), try not to “hunt in packs” because it can intimidate guys (partly true: depends on the size and attack formation of said packs), and maybe you should try online dating (gee thanks, Abby, I hadn’t noticed the millions of pop-up ads I’ve been barraged with for online dating and “adult chat” sites. If I click on one do you think I’ll win a free iPad too?). Talk about mailing it in. Here’s my much better, far more practical advice.
DEAR WHERE THE BOYS AREN’T: First off, in your original letter you misspelled “Ryan” as “Abby”. You got two of the four letters right–though they weren’t even arranged properly–but I’m a nice guy so I’ll give you a pass this time. Just know that this may explain part of your failure to find a single man. Misspelling or forgetting a person’s name can be a huge turn-off. Especially if you get the gender mixed up as you did. If I approached you and your pack of wolvettes at a Northern Wyoming bar and said, “Evenin’, gentlemen, can I buy you a round of brewskies?” wouldn’t that earn me a slap in the face. I thought so.
Second, like so many of life’s questions the answer to yours is right under your moustache. I want you to re-read your letter, and this time pay particular attention to the last part. No, not “Can you solve this mystery for us?” The last part. We’re going to play a little punctuation game with this. I want you to look at your sign-off, replace the comma in that last part with a question mark, and then add an exclamation point at the end. Now it reads, “Where the boys aren’t? Northern Wyoming!” Get it now? You’ve answered your own question!
This may come as a shock to you, Frank–it’s OK if I call you by your first name, right? I feel like we’re buddies now–but did you know that Wyoming is the second least densely populated state in all of America? According to The Wheelhouse Review’s crack team of unpaid interns–that reminds me, dammit Tommy, where in the hell is my coffee–there are 5.851 people per square mile in your state. Granted you’ve got Alaska beat by a landslide/avalanche with its measly 1.264 inhabitants per square mile, but those census forms always miss the sizeable and very eligible male Yeti population of Juneau.
I’m not exactly sure what the gender breakdown is in Wyoming since Tommy is in “Time Out” for his insubordination, but let’s just assume it’s 50-50. That means there’s only 2.9255 males per square mile in your state. Even that is an overestimate, since it doesn’t take into account whether these males are out of your age bracket, married, gay, or like .9255 of an actual person. So off the top of my head I’d say you have like half an eligible bachelor per square mile. Talk about slim pickings. That’s like going to Alaska and trying to find a polar bear blinking in the middle of a blizzard (artist rendering on the right).
Still, let’s say you don’t want to pack up your Wyoming flag and state flower–sorry, I literally know nothing about your home state, and without Tommy I’m like a Captain lost at sea without someone to steer his ship for him–and head over to a more densely populated state. How do you go about finding single guys? I’d suggest trying a little trick I employ if I’ve lost something. Whenever I lose my keys I always ask myself, “If I were a set of keys, where would I be?” And like that it hits me: under the couch cushion, hanging out with their loose change, metallic brethren, talking smack about my pockets. I know it’s linty in there guys! I’m trying a new fabric softener! Geez.
Sorry, let’s get back on track here. In order to find a single guy in your age bracket you need to put yourself in his shoes and try to think like him. Ask yourself, if I was a single, middle-aged man in northern Wyoming, where would I be? Exactly: curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor, weeping softly.
Actually scratch that. The cognitive role reversal strategy may not be the best idea in your situation. To use my key example again, another strategy I use in the rare case that I can’t find my keys under the couch cushions is that I retrace my steps. For example, let’s say it’s a Sunday morning after a long night out, and I wake up curled in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, eyes puffy and red from crying, with both my keys and short-term memory nowhere to be found. What I do then is think hard–but not too hard because I have a serious headache–about the last place I had my keys. I definitely had them on me when I got home because I had to get in here somehow, and the window shows no sign of drunken entry. Plus I remember pulling them out and noticing my gym’s keychain swipe card, and deciding I needed to get back in shape. After that I did a bunch of push-ups, tried to do some chin-ups on my shower curtain rod until it snapped in two, and then got really mad at the sink for calling me fat and threw my keys at it in disgust. That’s where it is! Wedged behind the medicine cabinet! See, works every time. And for the record, sink, the color white makes you look hippy. So there.
Now I want you to do the same thing, this time with single men. Where’s the last place you remember seeing them on your journey through Single City before you started noticing the signs for Spinster Junction? There were definitely some single guys at the clubs and bars you speak of in your letter, but those are located squarely in the Swing City/”@#$% Mountain” district, so if you’re looking for a keeper you need to look elsewhere.
The “classes” you and your friends have taken is a decent idea, but riddle me this, what types of classes are you taking? Yoga? Stroga? That really hot, gross version of yoga? No single guy in their right mind is going to go to one of those. And if they do it’s probably going to be some moustached-fellow wearing yoga pants and a dark trench coat, so I’d advise you to steer clear of him and his creepy van. Instead try thinking about what types of classes normal guys would go to. I’m a decade or so away from your age group, but as a single guy let me offer you a few suggestions: beer-making classes, beer-tasting classes, or maybe beer-chugging classes. Actually yeah, guys don’t go to classes unless we’re dragged there by our significant other or its part of our terms of parole. So scrap that idea too.
Frankly I can’t speak to the presence or absence of single men at the type of “volunteering” things you reference–seriously, I don’t think you could pay me enough to “volunteer” to do something. And then with cruises you’re just way, way off. Cruises are for three types of people: 1) couples, 2) seamen (heh), and 3) all-you-can-eat buffet enthusiasts. Those in the first type are clearly off-limits, in the second are predominantly gay, and in the third are theoretically available but probably not what you’re looking for. Plus, you’re probably not what they’re looking for either, unless you live in a gingerbread house on lollipop lane. So to quote a wise man with a serious with depth perception issue: “you’re close but you’re way off.”
The one thing I like about your cruise idea is that you’ve picked an enclosed location with no way out save for a lifeboat or possible enchanted dolphin ride. See, that’s one of the main problems with meeting people–men and women alike–in places like bars, clubs, and maybe even your so-called “volunteer” activities. You work up the nerve to approach them, ready your best pick-up line, and go in for the kill. If all goes according to plan, pleasantries, phone numbers, and mutual lies of “honestly I never do this but…” are exchanged and everyone is a winner. If it doesn’t, you get awkward avoidance of eye contact, semi-obvious signals to friends that this unwanted interaction is fast approaching the danger zone, and then the eventual “I’ll be right back, I just need to run to the bathroom” excuse, and they’re gone like a fart in the wind (yes, with you downwind of that, too).
So with cruise ships you’re on the right track, but those things are still pretty massive. You still run the risk of the girl or guy you’re approaching telling you, “oh wait, I just realized I left my room key on the poop deck,” or, “Who the devil let you in here? These quarters are for the Captain and his seamen only!” But at least you’ve narrowed down possible escape routes until the next docking or iceberg collision.
Since you’re on the right track with your cruise idea I’ll let you in on my secret, fool-proof location for meeting singles. Ready to have your mind blown? Two words: bus stop. Here’s why:
- Fact #1: at a bus stop you don’t have to worry about a pick-up line since you already have something in common you can talk about as an ice-breaker (“so, you’re waiting for the bus, huh?”).
- Fact #2: if the initial small-talk goes well, you can offer to buy them a bus pass, which is much cheaper, and more intimate, than buying them a drink (“no I insist, this $1.35 is on me”)
- Fact #3: if you wear a nice suit to the bus stop, you can totally lie about where the bus is taking you (“I’m on the way to receive the first ever award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence today, but have to take the bus because my limo driver is sick at home with stigmata”)
- Fact #4: even if none of that works and the man or woman you’re working on is utterly repulsed by you, they still have to stand there with you and wait for the bus! Ha! No “I have to run to the bathroom, I’ll be right back” excuses for them. Unless they just hail a cab or decide “it’s a nice day to walk to work.” In that case, not to worry. There’s always the next bus. Plus you know part of their daily commute, so head back home, work on a new line for tomorrow (e.g. “so, waiting for the bus again, huh?”), and maybe get some paper-mache and sparkle paint to make a fake award you can impress them with.
So all you need to do is find your own bus stop. Preferably ones that attracts single men in your age bracket, and not the tumbleweeds that I’m sure outnumber the male population in Wyoming by a significant margin. Given the population density of Wyoming you may want to bring a survival kit with a few days worth of MREs wherever this metaphorical bus stop is. And if you see Tommy out there–he’s from Wyoming, if I recall–tell him to get the hell back to the office. My shirt isn’t going to lint brush itself.