“Some people are settling down, some people are settling and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies.””Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City”
The infamously single 30-something in the hit HBO series “Sex and the City,” Carrie Bradshaw, as played by Sarah Jessica Parker, eventually married in the movie version, but what made the show a phenomenon for millions of viewers were the friendships and fashionable life for singles looking for love in the Big Apple. But if it’s hard to find love in the “city that never sleeps,” what’s it like to fly solo in a city that catches its Zs?
After all, New York City took the top spot for 2009 Best Cities for Singles on Forbes.com’s annual list. While Oklahoma City didn’t make the list of top 40 cities, Howard Kurtz, a sociologist at Oklahoma City University, thinks the metro is fast becoming a contender.
Forbes’ criteria includes coolness, cost of living alone, culture, job growth, online dating and nightlife” all areas Oklahoma City civic and business leaders have worked on improving over the last decade.
“With the passing of MAPS 3, we are in line to become a better place for singles if we develop the central park and trails in a way that attracts more downtown single living, and the city’s restaurants and night spots expand around the park to create a ‘cool place’ to walk on in the evening, eat, have a drink andmeet others,” Kurtz said.
Oklahoma City is a far hipper place that it was at the turn of the new century, when Bricktown, downtown and Midtown were just taking baby steps to provide exactly those venues. With the city getting its own NBA team, “cool” actually may be part of its vernacular now.
“I think OKC is far better off in that respect than we used to be,” said Shelley Cadamy, a newly engaged business and entrepreneurial services coordinator at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. “Focusing on redeveloping downtown and Midtown has made a world of difference, and I applaud city leaders and residents for making those smart choices. However, our city is still not terribly tolerant of ‘different’ views, philosophies, religions, etc., and I think that’s its biggest current hindrance in welcoming and retaining young people. We have to be more welcoming.”
One program aimed to keep recent graduates and young professionals in the city is Greater Grads, a resource for finding internships and jobs and listing the reasons why Oklahoma City is a great place to live. The site reads, “in a city founded during a land run, that same sense of opportunity and optimism still flourishes along with a #13 ranking by Forbes’ list of
‘Best Places for Business and Careers.'”
Travis Caperton, a single dad of two children who owns Caperton Photography, believes the improvements, such as the downtown lofts, are nice, but really only benefit the independently wealthy without school-aged children.
“Don’t most of us live where we live because of our job situation and the circumstances of our family ties? Leaving OKC is not an option for me. But I do appreciate the good-looking condos going up near Bricktown that I drive by every day,” said Caperton, who wishes the city could sponsor more parties for single people.
Holley Mangham, a 35-year-old public relations practitioner with Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, echoed Caperton’s sentiments.
“I would like to see more housing that is affordable for single, middle-income professionals in the downtown/Midtown area,” she said. “I see all of these really cool-looking new condos and homes in that area that I can’t afford on only my own income. That being said, the Oklahoma City area is a great place to own a home, especially for singles. There are a lot of arts and charity events that are fun for singles “¦ like Chocolate Decadence, Fondue Fandango, Bricktown Rotary’s ‘Days of Wine and Rotary.’ Tweet-ups have also become a great avenue for me to meet people.”
Kurtz agreed that more activities, such as festivals and events aimed at helping people get connected, is crucial for attracting and retaining singles in the city. But these types of events are growing, and are more diversified than just a few years ago.
“There are all kinds of things to do now that weren’t as mainstream as when I first moved here,” said Amy Lamb, a single, 27-yearold freelance graphic designer who moved to Oklahoma City three years ago.
Online dating sites such as match.com and eHarmony have made technology an important aspect to the modern singles culture. Lamb, Caperton and Cadamy all have tried it.
“It’s now easier than ever to find and contact people online,” Lamb said. “Phone calls have been replaced with Facebook, Twitter, texts. I just think chivalry gets lost in these forms, unfortunately.”
Not that the technical can’t become personal and work in real life. Although Caperton recently let his eHarmony subscription run out, Cadamy found her fiancé on the site and is set to get married this spring.
“When I got on eHarmony, I expected to meet a few men that I could have dinner with, go to the theater, etc. I never expected to meet a husband,” she said. “So, having this wonderful family handed to me, albeit in not a terribly traditional way, is just magical, in a very real, ‘I’ve been around the block and don’t care to be Cinderella’ way.”
In addition to getting married, Cadamy also decided to adopt three children through the state foster care system, even before she met her fiancé. Mangham and Lamb have both tried speed dating, but in Mangham’s case, the event was a bust.
“The event I attended had nine women and four men. One of the men was about 75 and had yellow teeth,” she said. “I can’t knock speed dating, though. One of my good friends met her husband there.”
Amy Newman, a marketer at Paycom and single mother of two, said, “Online dating has definitely changed the playing field for singles. You can make a checklist of what you’re looking for, hit ‘search’ and get a list of men that meet your criteria. The downside is, even if everything is legit, what’s perfect on paper doesn’t mean it’s going to work in person. You just can’t discount the importance of chemistry. The plus side is, it’s heartening to see there are at least single men out there that do meet your criteria and you can start the dating process on your couch and not a nightclub.”
Newman joked that she “recently met a man offline, and on our first date, I facetiously asked if he could fill out a Match profile so I could get to know him better.”
Kurtz, who has taught a family class at OCU for 15 years, emphasized that singles fall into many categories, and that as society changes, so does the singles culture.
“We have placed so much emphasis on education that young people are preprogrammed to marry later and have fewer children. This seems to be most true of upper-income groups and the upwardly mobile,” he said. “Sociologists have long believed that marriage and the family are social constructions that still make sense, but their form can and will alter over time in response to societal needs.”
Those changes can be seen in U.S. Census Bureau data for Oklahoma City comparing past decades to the most recent estimates in 2008. Overall, the city has grown from 506,132 in 2000 to 551,789 in 2008. Estimates show that half of all people 15 years of age or older are married, yet 32 percent of OKC households are people living alone. Unmarried households ” people living together, but unmarried ” comprise only about 4 percent today. No big surprise, there are four times as many single moms as single dads with primary custody of their children.
The economy also plays a role. In a depressed economy, Kurtz said people are more likely to stay single or become that way. Looking into his sociological crystal ball, he believes we could see more people choosing to co-habitate or stay single rather than marry.
“If the economy does not improve, we will see more stress in relationships, married or not,” Kurtz said. “Single women will have to consider marrying men with less education than they have, and more single men will have to consider agreeing to be ‘stay-at-home parents.'”
He added many singles are waiting longer to marry because they are “looking for their soul mate or true love.”
Mangham, for one, doesn’t feel pressure to be married.
“I definitely don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. But just last month, the lady at my polling place asked me in kind of a snarky tone why I still had my same last name,” she said. “I have old-fashioned views about marriage: I want to get married once, to the right person. That still doesn’t mean I would change my last name, though.”
Improvements are great, but Newman isn’t sure what OKC could do to keep or attract singles.
“The bottom line is, this is the Bible Belt and everything is very family oriented/ couple-centric,” she said.
Lamb wishes people would stop branding “single” as a negative status. She said there are many positive benefits to being single, “but my favorites include doing whatever I want and being super-spontaneous day to day.”“Malena Lott
Being single isn’t as solitary as one might think. Sociologists have classified four different types of singles:
Voluntary temporary singles are open to marriage, but place lower priority on searching for mates.Voluntary stable singles include people who have never married and are satisfied with that choice. Involuntary temporary singles are those who would like to be married and are actively seeking mates. Involuntary stable singles are primarily older, divorced, widowed and never-married people who wanted to marry or remarry, but did not find a mate and now accept their single status. Some of the reasons people choose to live alone include:
They can afford it Values emphasize individualism Living alone varies at different stages of life Americans are living longer and healthier lives There are more options that include singlehoodSource: “Marriages and Families: Changes, Choices, and Constraints” by Nijole V. Benokraitis