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Do you want to go on a date?

by Eric Ginsburg

It’s a common adage that Greensboro is too small, and while some people bemoan the city’s size due to a perceived lack of arts and entertainment, the complaint is more often about dating. When a friend of mine relocated to Greensboro there were a few things he didn’t like, but his disappointment could often be whittled down to the fact that he didn’t feel like he had really hit it off with anyone. At the time I was in a relationship and had been since college ended; I couldn’t really relate. Sometimes he made excuses, like that he was too shy to say anything to the cute barista, or that all the women he liked weren’t into dudes, or that he wanted to avoid college students. His grumbling made me wonder if it was really that bad here, and eventually I would find out for myself. Dating in smaller cities is kind of like dating in college. Small, interwoven friend groups mean it can be hard to escape people (Surprise! Your ex is dating your old roommate) and contributes to the feeling that there isn’t anyone new and exciting out there.In an article that came out recently in the Atlantic Cities, Amanda Hess drew the same comparison between college dating and Washington DC, which made me laugh because it’s one of the larger cities in the country and has more people than Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Asheville combined. “One friend in DC told me that the scene can be so claustrophobic that dating online means weeding through a selection of coworkers, friends and friends’ exes,” Hess wrote. “As my years in DC ticked on, friends from the furthest reaches of my social network circled one another, then paired off and retired for weeks-long Netflix marathons.”With such an incestuous dating pool, people often opt to settle down, she said. Yet sometimes here, as with my friend, the solution is to move.The intimacy of a city this size isn’t always a bad thing —’ after all, Hess’ article bemoans the overabundance of options in LA and New York that seem to increase instead of decrease the number of single people. Meeting people you genuinely connect with in bars or on the internet is such an incredible rarity (I can count the friends who pulled this off on one hand) that meeting people through a mutual friend can be a more realistic approach. While a lack of dating options may not be a reason to jump ship, the converse can be a reason to stay. Another friend was growing weary of getting to know guys who all seemed to be exes of a friend or who shared too many mutual friends leading to too much pressure and too many probing questions.Then somewhat unexpectedly, she started seeing someone and was able to avoid previous pitfalls. Now instead of talking about her plans to move out of town, she says dating him might tip the scales in favor of staying here.The equation is, of course, complicated by what you are looking for. Friends seem to agree the city lacks a sizeable number of young gay men, but queer women have less difficulty but friends say they are still limited in their choices. I remember reading in some report that Greensboro was rated highly for unattractive men, and it was a common complaint at my college that intelligent, attractive women greatly outnumbered men.Dating is a confusing and amorphous beast. Besides the difficulty of finding someone you connect with, it’s harder still to communicate clearly and be on the same page about what you want. Some people are so disinterested in — or incapable of — discussing their feelings that they just cease all communication, a move that’s a little harder to pull off in an insular place (see you at dollar beer night soon!).One friend told me that when he asks people out, he avoids the fluff and cuts to the point. “I don’t know if you’re seeing anyone and I don’t like playing games,” he says, “but I’m attracted to you and I’d be interested in going on a date sometime.”Being honest and direct is often difficult, but in a city this size where you aren’t a nameless face amongst the masses waiting for the R Train, it pays off.

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