Single in the Suburbs is Back!

Welcome back to my Single in the Suburbs blog! I’m reviving this series after more than three years of living and dating in the suburbs of Chicago. Over these last few years, I’ve had too many conversations with friends about how hard it is to meet anyone when you’re in your 20s or 30s and living in the suburbs. Everywhere we go, there are couples and families — and I think it is fair to say that families make up most of the suburban population. For those few singles that are living out here because of work or other circumstances, you’re left wondering, “Where are all the young singles like me hanging out?” Or, like some of us ladies, you’re wondering “Where do the good boys go to hide away?”

I’ve tried speed dating, singles events, networking events, meetup.com, and dating apps over the last few years. I dated some people I met online and some people I met organically. But even if it seems like the odds out here aren’t as good as they are in the city, I believe that there are many of us in the suburbs…it is just a matter of knowing where to go and what to do if we don’t want to travel to the city every weekend.

I will sometimes post about general dating issues and other times I will review events or locations in the suburbs (and I may even start a podcast). As I revive the blog, I’d like to kick it off with my first location review: BaseCamp Pub & Eatery in Lisle, located at Four Lakes. For many western suburbanites, this may already be a go-to spot, but I made my first trip there this past weekend. I happened to be with some girls who also had never been there before, and one of them turned to me and commented that this is the most guys — and cute guys, at that — that she’d seen at a local bar in a long time. I had to agree. Most suburban bars might have one or two groups of young single guys hanging out, but this time there were several. Not quite up to the level of the former Toby Keith’s in Rosemont, but the most I have seen at a bar in the western suburbs.

90sNightIt certainly helps that you can see live music and there is a large bar. Us ladies had come out that night to listen to boyband hits from Hot Sauce Committee, and it had to be one of the most fun, true nights out I’ve had out in awhile. And by “true nights out” I mean one that involves drinks, dancing, and live music, which is something I only tend to do at bars in Chicago. Sad, but true.

Whether or not I’m going to actually meet a guy I want to date there, it is definitely worth returning to for the music and dancing. And hey, at least the proportion of men to women there is better, and that’s enough to push it to the top of my list!

 

Single in the Suburbs: Must Love Books

It has been awhile since I last updated my Single in the Suburbs series, but I assure you it’s because I’ve been busy networking, meeting new friends, and attending plenty of singles events and mixers. And I’ve learned one thing during this time: the next guy I date must love books.

A couple of months ago, I was set up on a blind date. I figured I might as well give it a shot. Besides, what else would I be doing? Likely sitting at home and watching a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress. So, I put on one of my best date outfits and headed to the city.

Within the first hour of the date, my love for writing and books had come up as a topic of conversation. My date’s response was, admittedly, disappointing: “I haven’t read a book since college,” he said.

Having just completed a graduate degree in writing, the idea of not having read a single book in four to six years was completely foreign to me. How would one spend their free time, how would one pass the hours on a airplane, on a train? In that moment, I realized my date and I likely had little to nothing in common. My life seems to revolve around and be consumed with stories, and here was a man who didn’t really make time for it. Sure, he probably watched movies and received stories in other ways, but clearly the passion for it just wasn’t there. How would he understand how I chose to spend my time?

I’ve learned since then to look for men who not only appreciate literary culture, but who have stories of their own. At a speed dating event, I was talking with a man who, once he heard I was a writer, asked, “So do you tend to like men who have a good story?”

After taking a moment to think, I admitted that actually yes, I like a man with a good story behind him. In fact, the story might be what first attracts me to someone. I’ve developed crushes on men simply from reading their writing, reading their stories.

But let’s be clear on one thing: I’m not talking about the kinds of stories some men tell me — the time he got super drunk, got super high on a drug, got caught in the middle of a knife fight or spent the night in jail. I’m talking about the stories that require taking real risks that matter, stories that show some vulnerability and are worthy of admiration: starting his own company, writing his first book, changing careers. What is his story — or does he just go to work from nine to five and go home to the TV and a beer?

My love for good stories consumes more of my life than I realized. It isn’t just in my work and my hobbies — it’s what I look for in relationships. It may seem like strange or harsh criteria, but it could be the key to me finding someone with whom I’m truly compatible. What can I say? I love a good man with a good story.

Using the Internet to Network

On Tuesday night I ventured out to the city again, this time to do some networking.  I found a group called Chicago Filmmakers, which hosts a networking meetup about once a month.  Since I’m currently working on a documentary, I wanted to meet others out there doing the same types of projects.  If anything, I could meet a new group to talk shop with or commiserate with.

The first hour was spent doing speed dating, but for networking.  We wandered around the room talking to each person for five minutes until a whistle was blown, telling us to switch.  For the most part, I was able to talk to others for five minutes about our projects and interests.  Others seemed to get some details then wander away when they realized I might not be able to help them — or maybe they wanted to maximize their networking time, I’m not sure.  While that was a little off-putting at times, it was overall a good experience, and I left with a stack of business cards and a few new contacts.

More and more I’m realizing that using the internet is a great way to build your networks — professional and personal.  Today on Career Girl Network, I talk about how women are using the internet effectively to build their networks in real life.  While people tend to believe we are spending too much time on the internet, there are ways we can use this tool wisely — and in a way that is meaningful.  The main thing to remember with social media is to not just observe, but participate.  Share your insights and attend events with those networks you meet online.

Single in the Suburbs: Untraditional Speed Dating

On Thursday night I had the chance to attend an event with the local group Mingle Around Chicago.  I have been following this networking and social events organization for almost two years now, and have been fascinated by its growth.  I am also impressed by the founder and owner, Jill Jackson, who I first met at one of her Singles Nuts and Bolts parties in May 2011.  She took the time to greet each person who attended her party when they walked through the door, and she was there all evening to make sure her guests were interacting.  A big part of these parties is having a good host or hostess — single parties where no one knows each other can be awkward, and even worse if no one is there to lovingly prod you along.  More importantly, Jill seems to genuinely care about her customers and their experience.

Since I plan to write a feature about Jill for Career Girl Network, I wanted to attend another one of her parties and witness how she works firsthand.  Once again, Jill hosted a great event where everyone felt comfortable and welcome.  Even better, she created an event that was not the traditional one-on-one speed dating.  Instead, she hosted a “Night of Laughter” in which singles speed dated over board games.  On Thursday, the game was Telestrations.

I sat the whole night at a booth with three great women, while the men rotated to play a round of the game with us.  I never go into these events with the mindset that I will leave with a new boyfriend or even a date, but I was very pleased to have hit it off with the women I was sitting with.  The environment was such that the women didn’t feel as if they were competing each other, but as if they were all just making friends.  By the end of the night, I was at a table with the girls continuing our conversation over drinks, while mingling with some of the other guests.

Of course, since it was a speed dating event, we each had cards and numbers.  At the end of the night, we had to sneakily mark yes or no for each of the men we had met.  I was so busy talking that I didn’t have a chance to mark the card until an hour after the event had ended!  I was amazed and pleased with how many interesting and friendly people really are out there when you simply get out.

So, even if you are like me and extremely nervous to attend an event like this, it is worth it.  Everyone else is there for the same reason as you: to meet more people.  You really can’t go wrong.  If there’s someone you don’t like or who makes you uncomfortable, you simply don’t interact with them — though I have found that the event organizers are very good at making sure everyone is comfortable.

I’ll continue my adventures in the city and suburbs over the next few weeks.  I am signed up for networking events, social outings, brunches, and parties.

Check out Mingle Around’s Meetup page.  You can also visit the Mingle Around website to become a member.  If you don’t want the pressure of a singles party hanging over your head, you can also check out Mingle Around’s sister site, Venture Around — a group for those who just want to meet new people and explore all Chicago has to offer.

Single in the Suburbs: Marcy’s Social Challenge

In January of 2011, I moved back to Chicago after a two-and-a-half year absence.  I had some friends from college still here, but all of them lived in the city.  I felt isolated in the suburbs and made a lot of effort to stay downtown on the weekends.  Gradually, my friends all found themselves in relationships and I did, too.  With me in the suburbs and them in the city, I began to see less of them.

I recently found myself once again single.  All of my friends remain in the city and in relationships, and while they are most certainly still there for me and support me 100 percent, I am still living what feels like a separate life in the suburbs.  When I want to go to the city, I have to calculate train times and have extra things packed in my bag in case I need to stay overnight.  Planning to go out requires 24-hour notice, since I do not own my own car.  Rather than sit and mope about this, I wondered what I could do to change my situation and maybe learn something in the process.

Before I was in a relationship, I frequented Chicago Meetup Groups.  While I didn’t have great success in finding dates at meetups, I always managed to meet new people.  I thought there had to be other girls in the suburbs like me, looking for more friends in their area.  I logged on to meetup and joined the groups that interested me.

My new challenge for myself will not be just about finding the right career: it will be about finding a solid network, about pushing myself to do things on my own and meet people I would not have otherwise met.  I intend to do this in the city and the suburbs.

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting some awesome women at a Beer and Burger night (anyone who knows me knows I love both beer and burgers).  With the ladies of Not Just Another Chicago Suburbs Women’s Group, I realized there are other women out there who want to make friends and hang out in the suburbs.  I plan to attend more events with this group and others, and I’ll write about my experiences.  My hope is that I can help any other girls (or guys) out there looking to revitalize their social life in a time of transition, whether that transition is from city to suburb or in a relationship to single.  Or maybe you just want to meet more people — either way, I hope this helps!