Suburban suffocation

I've got a house, a car and a job, but can't get a woman. Is Sacramento, Calif., the problem?

Published March 21, 2003 8:38PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I am a 25-year-old professionally employed man with my own car, a roof over my head and a steady job, and I exercise regularly. I am not the best-looking guy in the world, but I'm definitely not the ugliest.

Despite these advantages, even getting a date is comparable to pulling teeth from an alligator. I have had a couple of dates with a few women but nothing ever came out of it. I haven't had a girlfriend in over four years, and before that I never had a girlfriend.

I don't know what's wrong with me or my surroundings. I live in Sacramento, Calif., a city that is devoid of any social life and intellectual curiosity. The clubs are filled with the newly turned 21 who are still enjoying the thrill of legal purchases of booze. A lot of the single women my age that I meet are women who go out of the way to show off their breasts. That's great, but I need a little more than a peep show. The only things that are hot in Sacramento are the months of July and August. I live in a town that seems to cater to people who are married with children.

Not helping me here is that I have a fear of rejection from women and calling a woman frightens me more than just about anything.

So, where do I find a decent single woman? What do I do when I find her? I'm 25 but I feel like a zit-faced 12-year-old in this process.

Stuck in Sacramento

Dear Stuck,

It sounds like you're sort of socially isolated up there in Sacramento. So rather than concentrate on finding one woman, you might benefit more by building ties with your community. I'm not saying finding a woman isn't important -- it is -- but a good way to find a woman is to broaden your overall social network. At the same time, while you're looking for a woman you're also building the kinds of connections that serve as a bulwark against general loneliness and isolation.

You say you don't know what's wrong with you or your surroundings. There's no doubt that your surroundings are not ideal. Hot, sprawling, fast-growing cities where everyone drives a car to and from work do not organically promote the kind of daily face-to-face interactions that build community. That's a long way of saying that living in the suburbs sucks. But the way you frame the problem is important, too. I notice that you describe yourself in terms of your job, your car and your house. You don't mention family or friends or the people you work with. If you're not making a priority of the people in your life, that's probably related to why you're not meeting women. Because women are people. You meet them and relate to them much the same way you meet and relate to other people. The skills are transferable, if you will: If you know how to talk to your sister or your mother, or a clerk at the grocery store who is a woman, you can transfer those same skills to talking with a woman you think is hot. That's why a general approach to broadening your social life is a good idea.

Along with that, I would suggest not going to bars or nightclubs, but to cultural events that interest you -- whether your interests are confined to your profession or are broadly aesthetic and intellectual doesn't matter; do things that interest you. If you like RVs, go to RV shows. If you like Bach, go listen to Bach. This is important for a couple of reasons. 1) You might meet people, men and women, who share your interests, and 2) it will make you more interesting to women in general. It will give you something to talk about. And you will be building the foundation for dates. Say you like classical music. So you start going to see some concerts. You get to know the parking lot, the box office, where to sit, where the drinks are at intermission. After you've done that for a while, then if you meet a woman and you want to do something with her, you can take her there. You might even already have tickets. It's much easier to take a date somewhere if you already know where the coat check is and how to find the balcony. Also, that way, you can seem like a guy who has a life. Women like that in a man. And it doesn't have to be classical music. It can be coins, or cars, or graveyards, or bluegrass. It just has to be something you're interested in.

So, in general, I'm saying concentrate on doing things to enrich your life and broaden your social contacts, talk to women just as if they were actual people, and try to mitigate the isolating effects of urban sprawl by frequenting social centers such as bookstores, cafes and the like.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.

By Cary Tennis

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