My fellow Brooklynites, I come to you today in anticipation of the world’s 616th Valentine’s Day. It’s not a holiday created by Hallmark, or a cruel joke played on single souls by all the happy couples of the world. It’s a tribute to love that was first observed as a romantic celebration in 1400. It’s historical, dammit.
Though some couples choose not to celebrate it, the importance of the holiday is certainly not lost on the singles of Brooklyn, who are often left feeling lonelier than ever on Feb. 14. For them, it’s a time to reflect on the past year of dating, the ups and downs of the grand Coney Island Cyclone of love. I’ve already shared my own noteworthy experiences spent looking for love, so this time around I turned my lens on the masses to get a broader picture of the state of modern romance in this fine borough. Is dating in Brooklyn truly harder than it is elsewhere? And is it as beautiful and romantic as the Brooklyn Bridge, or does it suck as much as seven years of suspended L Train service? Ladies and gentlemen, the state of dating in Brooklyn is not strong.
The state of dating in Brooklyn is akin to cleaning up the Gowanus: depressing, pointless and disgusting. After polling my network of single friends, posting queries on Twitter, and circulating emails, I found only one person who has a positive outlook on the situation, and only one other woman who wanted to talk about it at all.. The singles who contributed their opinions and experiences to this post have a number of different explanations as to why dating in Brooklyn sucks so hardcore.
Many factors combine to form the poisonous cocktail known as the Brooklyn dating scene. My own opinion is that two main problems are at fault: cowards and commitment-phobes. Cowards are not just those afraid to take dating risks or make a move (though that’s certainly part of the problem). No, the true cowards are the ghosters, the people who drop the person they’re dating after several dates or even several months with no explanation. They don’t bother to break it off, they just vanish. Our apps and all the technology that makes us bad at interpersonal communications have enabled this; now ghosting is a pandemic on the Brooklyn dating scene. My fellow Brooklynites, if you’re not mature enough to have the guts and courtesy to break up with someone, don’t bother dating.
Commitment-phobes are arguably a subset of Cowards, but there are plenty of reasons why someone may be hesitant to commit other than just not wanting to take the risk. I’ve also learned it has nothing to do with age, as I’ve dated men in their 20s and men in their 40s who didn’t want to commit. A lot of it simply comes down to emotional availability — and boy oh boy, do I have experience with that. Let’s just say that if Waldo were emotionally unavailable, I’d find him every damn time.
I have almost no single friends outside of the city limits, which speaks for itself. In a borough of 2.5 million people, you’d think the chance of finding love would be even greater. But let’s break it down: of those 2.5 million people, 52.6 percent of the population is female, versus 47.4 percent male, according to a 2014 census. How many of those men are (roughly) my age and looking for women? Of those men looking for women, only a fraction are looking for a long-term relationship. Keep dividing: not all of those men want children. And if they do, not all of those men want to raise children with the same moral code and belief system that I would want to instill in my children. And within that sliver, not all of those men want to raise their family in Brooklyn.
This is all assuming, of course, that they might be attracted to me, and vice versa. How many are left, now? Four?
I already dated those four. Next.
While the dating pool may appear small for me, men face a different problem of choice in a borough where they’re in the minority.
“Trying to signal interest in a way which is simultaneously enticing, nonthreatening, light, funny, smooth but not too smooth, polished but not slick, clear but not blunt, natural and spontaneous yet artful and dexterous, which indicates the willingness to be turned down and take it in good humor but also suggests that it would be disappointing…”
“The paradox of choice is a real thing, and it’s exponentially more so now that hundreds of other potential partners are a swipe away,” explained Sean Swift, a 37-year-old straight male. “I’m 5’5″, which eviscerates my dating pool right there. I don’t want children, so there goes another large percentage. Even if those barriers are scaled, you have a remarkably small window of time to make an impression, because [women may have] a whole queue of other matches ready to go.”
Swift was quick to add, “That’s not a criticism, by the way. Women are just as entitled to play the field as men are.”
Even though an earnest search for “the one” shouldn’t qualify as “playing the field,” singles are certainly more hesitant to settle down, now that potentially a sexier, smarter, and funnier match (like a Waffle House) is only a right-swipe away. Even people in happy relationships may maintain secret dating profiles since there’s so much potential, and they want to know where it’s at in case boredom strikes (n.b. this is a real thing that happened to a friend).
“[Dating in Brooklyn,] you meet tons of interesting, sexy people with the most unbelievably impressive resumes,” said Daniel Rosenfeld, a 26 year-old straight male. “Who knew there were so many Ivy League-educated, hip Brooklynites giving mice cancer (to cure it) and writing their theses about the intersectionality of intergalactic erotica and ’70s Black Power?”
Brooklyn doesn’t want for interesting personalities, that’s for sure. But even though it would it be fun to date a guy whose sole source of income was collecting change while playing the accordion on roller skates and balancing a bowling pin on his head, would I want to settle down with that guy? Ehhhhh…
Maybe we would do better swearing off dating entirely, relegating ourselves to the lives of eccentrics, mad geniuses, and hermits. Sometimes it seems that way, and maybe it even seems that way more often than it doesn’t. Mary, a 32-year-old straight female, summed up her Brooklyn dating experiences thus:
“[It] was bad enough that I gave up on it entirely, and haven’t looked back.”
Should we just skip town and cast our nets in a different pond?
“I keep threatening to move to Europe, and I wonder if I might have to just to get a chance from someone,” Swift said.
Another issue is how past dating experiences have molded us into untrustworthy creatures. Dean, a 31-year-old bi dude, offered this:
“I think the city makes you a lot more distrusting of strangers in general, and then trying to wade through that sea of strangers is super intimidating, even with app filters.”
A 34-year-old bisexual guy from Brooklyn (who wished to remain anonymous) offered up his slightly more poetic, if still jaded, view of the city’s dating scene:
“Two people who never quite met. That’s love in New York to me. So many almosts, so many things that might have gone a different way, so many times the time wasn’t right. It’s always bittersweet in Brooklyn, wistful in Williamsburg.”
For him, the city’s biggest obstacle in dating one another is our inability to communicate.
“Trying to signal interest in a way which is simultaneously enticing, nonthreatening, light, funny, smooth but not too smooth, polished but not slick, clear but not blunt, natural and spontaneous yet artful and dexterous, which indicates the willingness to be turned down and take it in good humor but also suggests that it would be disappointing, which demonstrates confidence but not arrogance, which is complimentary but not creepy, individual but not invasive… Ultimately, to be forthright but not hurtful.”
Each person we date shapes us. There have been times when I felt that the pain at the end outweighed the good while it lasted or the lessons learned. But I’ve come out of every relationship and every date a stronger, better person. Some of these men were aggressive, sexist pricks (here’s a reminder) and some of them were brilliant, hilarious guys I happened to date when, as per my favorite Dire Straits lyric, “it was just that the time was wrong.” So many almosts…
“We don’t all get to be loved,” concluded the anonymous 34-year-old. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t find something beautiful in offering love where and how we can.” Amen.
“But if Brooklyn says it wants serious relationships,” he added, “Brooklyn is either lying, or very bad at this.”
Good people of Brooklyn, thank you for your time and attention. It’s a hard fight but we must remain calm and remember that we are all in this together. Couples, congratulations; stay happy. Singles, may Cupid bless the United States of Finding Your Holy Fucking Grail of Love.
For updates on the State of Margaret’s dating follies, follow her on Twitter at @askmemargaret.