• February 2011

Understanding "The Science of Single"

By Hope Katz Gibbs

Single? You aren’t alone.

But instead of signing up for an online dating service, or looking for her true love on Facebook or at the local bar, journalist Rachel Machacek opted for a different approach. She wrote a book about life as a singleton.

“The Science of Single,” hit bookstores this month. For only $15, singles everywhere can read about her insights, which she refers to as, “One Woman’s Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love.”

“I am always asked what made me dive in and write this book,” says the 30something, who is a contributing editor to the Washington Flyer magazine and has written for The Washington Post. “The truth is that I found myself still single after years of dating without so much as a love connection. I wanted to know why.”

With a journalist’s curiosity, Machacek began her experiment by making dating her job for an entire year.

She met men online, attended singles events, had professionals and friends set her up, read self-help books, hired a dating coach, and even traveled to numerous cities to learn how to meet men. She chronicled her experiment in the 246-page book, published by Riverhead Trade Paperbacks.

Part “Bridget Jones Diary,” part “Eat, Pray, Love,” Machacek traces the origin of the book to the night she went on a date with Mark, a man she’d met online.

“There were omens that could have predicted that the evening, with a razor-sharp breeze in the dead of January, would end the way it did,” she writes in the introduction. “Omen 1: Mark was shirtless in one of his profile pictures. He had a hunky chest, but the fact that he needed to show it to the world right off the bat smacked of overcompensation. Omen 2: On the way to our rendezvous point, I ran into a guy I’d broken up with in a heated email exchange a few months before.”

Needless to say, the date didn’t go well. In fact, it ended with Mark barely saying goodbye at the end of the evening.

Machacek writes: “I’d been dealing with mostly passive rejection up until then, so this was a sharp, stinging slap across my already frostbitten cheek. Men were now, quite literally, running away from me.”

And so her odyssey began.

In seven chapters that she calls “Experiments,” Machacek shares her insights and experiences from her year spent looking for love online, at singles events, speed dating, and communing with dating coaches. Here’s a taste of what you’ll find.

Experiment 1 — Online Dating: A Lesson in Keeping Great Expectations in Check. “There he is, leaning against a pergola, on the rooftop deck at the Reef, awkwardly looking down at his cell phone as you do when you’re waiting by yourself at a bar for someone you met online. He must be hoping that I’m not crazy, I posted reliable pictures that were of me, not taken before I gained 100 pounds, and that I show up.”

Experiment 2 — Singles Events: A Lesson in Learning Not to Judge. “I’m doing another awkward post-date shuffle, this time at the base of my front stoop. I make a circle on the concrete with the toe of my silver flip-flop. Anything to avoid eye contact with The Bolivian. I met him earlier that night at a pupu-platter singles event … and then we went out on our own date right after. And now The Bolivian is about to kiss me.”

Experiment 3 — Blind Dates: A Lesson in Being Open to the Possibilities. “I have 20 minutes to decide what I’m going to wear before I’m late to meet Lorenzo. At this point, you’d think I’d have a trusty date outfit established that I could pluck out of my closet at a moment’s notice.”

Experiment 4 — Matchmakers: A Lesson in the Business of Love. “Now that I’ll be paying for services rendered and not just relying on friends with their own lives and kids to raise, I have a mountain of expectations for my matchmakers. For instance, when I go to plunk down my $1,300 for a year and / or 14 dates at the It’s Just Lunch offices downtown, I’m expecting a spa environment with celery-colored walls, bamboo plants, maybe a water element, and of course a glass of white wine. What I get is an empty, sterile room and a paper cup of water.”

Experiment 5 — Dating in Other Cities: A Lesson in Changing Scenery (It really can do wonders.) “Supposedly, it’s not where you are but who you’re with. But you can’t not take into account the factors that draw certain types of people to specific locales. People and cities are woven together to create a culture and sense of place. Perhaps that could explain my general disinterest in the guys I’m dating. It’s not a fear of intimacy or that there are no good men. Maybe I’m living in a city where there are no good men for me.”

Experiment 6 — Dating Books: A Lesson in Ditching the Ideal. “Fragile pink bunches are bursting all over town. Cherry blossoms. It’s officially spring in DC. The air has gone from a bone-chilling, clammy thud to a delicate tiptoe almost overnight. The scent is sweet and expectant, and it always evokes those random memories of things and people you hadn’t thought of in ages. This spring, it’s Jonah and a morning the year before when he and I got up before work to walk around the Tidal Basin under the peaking cherry blossoms. It was perfect. At least the memory is.”

Experiment 7 — Dating Coach: A Lesson in Confidence, Extroversion, and the Art of Self-Promotion. “‘Man, this pineapple is so good. Hope you don’t mind that I’m eating while we chat.’ Rex, my new dating coach, is starting off his day in Seattle, slurping on his breakfast during our first session. Rex is in charge of training me, so to speak. Wouldn’t it be so perfect if, at the end of my dating experiment, I fall in love with my coach?”

Machacek’s Dating Advice

Be open to possibilities. I’ve heard people say dating online is only for 30somethings (and ages beyond)—presumably a last-ditch effort. Not so. Try it, as well as all the other means of scoring a date: single’s events, set ups, talking to the cute guy (or girl) at the coffee shop. Don’t be above the process, particularly if your current process isn’t working.

Have a go-to date outfit. Said outfit should fit well, flatter you, and feel comfortable. I follow the rule of removing at least one item before walking out the door. Avoid too-revealing clothing, too much cologne or perfume—basically anything that requires “too” in front of the main descriptor.

Be upfront about what you’re looking for. And be upfront about it from the beginning. It’s okay to simply want to date around because you’re just out of a relationship, new to town, or leaving town. Just make sure the other party knows because they might be looking for something more.

End things with class. If you’ve determined you’re not feeling it, say so. Don’t get caught up in the “how,” though my guidelines are this: Email is acceptable if things stayed casual. A phone call is preferred for anything more—emotionally or physically. Texting feelings that have cooled is feeble. Be bigger than that.

Want more? Click here: rachelmachacek.com, and follow Rachel on Twitter: @rachelmachacek.

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