Writing left handed

“The Science of Single” by Rachel Machacek

A block from Meze, where we’re meeting, I see him.  Forget that he took it upon himself to disprove my height-calculating formula by rounding up not two, but three inches; I can tell by his uncertain stance that he’s actually not The One.  He was so good on paper, but that’s the unfortunate circumstance of dating online; you aren’t privy to the nuances that make a person who he is: the confidence—or lack thereof, the chemistry—or lack thereof, the hair—or lack thereof.  There was no full head of thick, spongy waves.  Nope.  He had a monk spot—a white beacon of bald capping off his dark curls. (The Science of Single)

And so begins yet another disappointing date in Rachel Machacek’s The Science of Single: One Woman’s Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love.

Rachel Machacek

Needless to say, “Dr. Dreamy” was not the end to experiment that Machecek feared he’d be but this doesn’t stop her from trying her luck at Match.com, eHarmony, speed dating, singles events, self-help books, a dating coach and even a $1,300 subscription to “It’s Just Lunch” (a dating service that arranges lunch dates for mutually compatible busy professionals of the “single” variety).  Nor does it stop her from enduring a full three-hour date with Dr. Dreamy and a bumbling cast of misfits during her year long quest to discover “What happens when you use all the resources you possibly can to meet the opposite sex.  Are chemistry and love inevitable?”

I can’t tell you how many times Machacek’s tales of woe left me myself shouting, “Just get out of there already!  He’s perverted/cheap/fill in the blank” but if there’s anyone who should understand the difficulty of mid-date extrication, it’s me.  (Remember Date #14?  Date #14 was the most boring man in the entire city of Philadelphia, complete with tell-tale “uncertain stance” and yet I was too polite to simply turn on my heel and leave, which is what I should have done— and probably would have done if I hadn’t spent so long trying to work my Kandinsky scarf into my outfit for the evening…  You know you’ve got a real dud on your hands when even the best sangria in Old City can’t save the situation.)

I didn’t learn of Machacek’s experiment until I was already halfway through my own.  Naturally, my first reaction was, “Wait a minute!  Someone’s already done this?”  My second reaction was “Did it work out for her???”  My third reaction was, “Hmm… maybe I should buy the book and find out.”

I’m glad I did—especially because the D.C. journalist-cum-serial dater is a real cynic so there’s none of that sappy let-love-in nonsense.  She’s got a great sense of humor and it was good to know that I’m not the only person out there who’s crazy enough to take such a diligent approach to dating (aka the advancement of scientific knowledge).

Even though Machacek is no scientist (“I don’t have a degree in psychology, sociology or chemistry, and words like methodology and structure make my ears bleed from the inside out”) she did a lot of research to write The Science of Single—and not just research of the “Hmmm… are lawyers good kissers?” variety (which is, admittedly, the sort of “research” to which I’ve limited myself thus far).

She provides readers with all sorts of data and statistics pertaining to online dating and the growing epidemic of women who missed the “shoo-in-college-boyfriend-turned-husband love boat.”  (Did you know, for example, that as of 2006, there were 92 million single adults in the US?  I didn’t.  Nor did I realize that singles comprise 42% of all US residents; now at least I know I’m in good company.)

The historian in me wasn’t entirely convinced her summation of dating in the US (to me, if you’re going to footnote the science stuff, you should footnote the history stuff too and yes, I took an entire course on the history of sexuality in college so I’m bit of a stickler) but I had to laugh at her take on modern gender politics: “Then came the Pill and women’s liberation and a woman needed a fish like a man needed a bicycle.”

I’d have to say that Machacek is the iced coffee of serial daters: strong, serious and sufficiently cosmopolitan, devoid of both artificial sweeteners and pretense (unless you count that soy-milk splash of her tree-hugger tendencies, which I must admit, I kind of love).  If you’re getting fed up with the lack of vicarious-dating-opportunities here at After I Quit My Day Job now that I’ve met Date #7, The Science of Single is just the ticket.  I won’t tell you whether or not Machacek finds “The One” but you can check out her blog and her book at www.rachelmachacek.com.

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