When I began writing a column about single life, I expected an influx of press releases to hit my inbox. When you have a beat, people will pitch you stories on it and send you stuff to review. In my case, I get pitched a lot of data. It seems odd to pitch numbers and facts for the dating scene to an essayist. It’s so cold, corralling us into the confines of an Excel spreadsheet when what we’re talking about is human connection.
(Although, is it? Everything from food delivery to booking doctor appointments has been given the ones-and-zeroes treatment, and dating is no exception. Well, a more accurate description for apps that peddle “dating” is probably “swiping through endless faces matching messaging never getting responses deleting the app after a month then signing up again in the summer.” I’m a stickler for accuracy.)
I can let most of the emotionless dating data pass by with nothing more than a batch delete, but the pitch I receive more than any other is the one that claims to know which cities are best for singles. It’s standard stuff, really: You poll people around the country and find out who doesn’t hate Tinder. I’ve received many such studies, from all variety of random companies and products that have fuck all to do with dating, but my very favorite had this opening line:
Hi, Shani. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we’re gearing up for a slew of horror first-date stories and unexpected love-at-first-sight tales to go viral.
Let’s ignore how this sentence makes me feel like I need to wash my hands and instead notice how assumptive it is. “Gearing up for a slew of horror first-date stories.” Are you? I’m so glad you’re “gearing up” for the worst parts of my personal life to hit the internet so people can read about them on their phones during meetings. Pray tell, how many couple squabbles make the front page of BuzzFeed?
If finding love is so unexpected and destined for virality, why not put some effort behind figuring out what is actually happening when people date that causes the horror stories — or love at first sight — so that, instead of tallying how many people are getting laid city by city, you can address why dating sucks everywhere?
I can guess why these people thought I would be interested in this pitch; they saw the word “single” in my essays, examined nothing else, and thought, “omg, she’s perfect!” It is not unlike the criteria used to set me up on dates. But it’s mind-boggling to put man hours into yet another “great story” that tells singles what they’re doing wrong.
Where single people live is single-people business.
Singles already know dating is awful. Changing ZIP codes is not the solution. Let me offer a rebuttal:
First of all, we did not ask for your geographic suggestions for “best cities for singles.” Our chosen cities of domicile are, hopefully, our choice. Where we chose to live was a decision we came to in much the same way couples make their selections — based on things like employment opportunities. Proximity to family and friends. Favorable climate. Reliable public transit.
What we did not factor in when we decided where to set up shop was how fertile the hunting grounds were likely to be. But this shit is a bit obvious. Nobody moves to the most rural parts of the Plains and expects the dating scene to be poppin’.
Second, I question the mathematics. In the same pitch referenced above, I also received the following information:
In a bid to understand where those flying solo this year hope to find ‘the one,’ we uncovered cities where singles are most satisfied with the dating pool and those where the struggle is real. With about a third of Americans identifying as single, the number of dateable people in a city is often a big determinant for millennials on the move. Using survey data from over 9,000 single people nationwide across the U.S., we gleaned a few insights on today’s best and worst cities for dating.
One-third of Americans identify as single. That’s about 109 million people who are currently single in this country, but you know what — 9,000 people who needed an Amazon gift card will suffice.
The “leading” cities were Austin, Nashville, and San Francisco. Arguably, the “coolest” cities in the United States are also currently Austin, Nashville, and San Francisco. Who’d have thought that people in locales with amazing nightlife and culture would also be having sex on a regular basis?
Finally, what is the desired outcome of such a pitch? What are you really saying to single people when you publish a story with data like this? Apparently, if we don’t live in one of these cities, we’re supposed to get up from our desks at our jobs in these cities, toss the cat in the backseat, and relocate. Are the people pitching these stories going to finance my relocation? Find me a new job? A new doctor? A new manicurist?!
And what if I already live in one of these “best cities for singles,” but I still find the dating scene miserable? You’re saying this is one of the “best” cities for dating, but I hate it. It must be me; I am just always going to hate dating. I mean, the breakfast tacos are some consolation, but good lord.
It’s an act of insensitivity to suggest to single people that if they want to be happier, they need to move. Or that they’re somehow failing at happiness if they already live in one of the “best” cities for dating but aren’t thriving. Where single people live is single-people business. Where coupled people live is coupled-people business. And where inconsiderate pitches like “best cities for singles” live is in the garbage.
Why? Because there simply are no “best” cities for singles. There is no math or survey you could concoct that could opine on where we should live to find love. Love isn’t limited to a metropolitan area. It isn’t held within city limits, available only to those lucky enough to get a relocation package. We have the ability to find — and are certainly worthy of finding — love wherever we are, whenever we’re there, whatever our ZIP code.