Thursday, June 09, 2005

For single women, numbers a negative

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Shanna Flowers is The Roanoke Times' metro columnist.

Shanna Flowers

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Among single women, the dating dilemma is a universally shared experience.

"There's nobody my age out there," said Robbie Claytor, a 35-year-old law school student working in Botetourt County this summer. "They're either too young or married with kids." "It's not even worth it," shrugged Pamela Page, 40, a customer service specialist at Anthem.

The refrain is common: Unmarried women complain about not being able to find Mr. Right. This is not to paint single women as spinsters pining for men. Many, in fact, are smart, independent women with rich lives.

Yet, the dating dilemma is out there, and I wanted to quantify it in the Roanoke Valley in actual numbers. So I asked my colleague Ray Reed, newsroom census analyst, to pull some census data for me.

What he found in the 2000 census numbers was not surprising, of course, but it more clearly quantified the frustrations of women throughout the valley. I asked Ray to break the numbers down by race because many of us largely still date within our race.

In the Roanoke metropolitan area - comprised of Roanoke, Roanoke County, Salem, Botetourt, Craig and Franklin counties - there were 4,714 black women with "some college" or more, compared with 3,002 black men. Among whites, the numbers were 40,840 men compared with 47,198 women.

In the workplace, a potential place for meeting Mr. Right, 1,821 black women are in management, compared with 805 men. The gap was much closer for white managers, with 20,412 women holding such positions, compared with 19,253 men.

Numerically, women are at a disadvantage, because there are more of us than there are guys. Educated women seeking someone with similar educational credentials are increasingly at a particular disadvantage. This graduation season, the nation's colleges and universities are handing out 200,000 more degrees to women than to men.

Still, that reasoning does little to assuage single women.

Claytor, whose best friend is a guy, said she hasn't been on a date since "the late '90s."

"It's slim pickings for the single professional," mused accountant April Parkins, 38. She has landed some dates through the Internet, she said, but "it's still slim pickings." For people who would tell Parkins to consider a blue-collar Romeo, no dice. Been there, done that, she said, and it came with its own set of issues.

I couldn't resist bouncing single women's concerns off - who else? - a single guy.

"Go to places where a person matches your lifestyle," advised Kurt Williams, a 34-year-old high school teacher who is happily involved. "If you like to read, go to a book store. Be approachable."

To his fellow bachelors Kurt implored, "Women like chivalry." He added that "stability - job, house and good credit" are pluses.

Heidi Ewald, 32, has been dating a steady for two years, and she shares the secret of her success: Go young - her Romeo is 23.

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