Looking for Love

in All the Right Places

by Valerie James

If you're single and still seeking, you've probably found all the wrong places to look for love. While we can't guarantee true love, we can lead you to likely places where you'll find lots of like-minded singles - parents, sailors, book lovers, outdoorsmen and women, Catholic college grads or not-too-distant neighbors. The next move is yours ...

In ancient times - if the philosopher Plato can be believed - humans were self-contained beings. We reproduced on our own and were our own better halves. The gods envied our joy and independence, so they split us apart and cast us to the wind. Ever since, we have been searching for our long-lost other halves.

Indeed, all our lives, most of us have been trying to connect with that special someone. As toddlers, we crossed the sandbox to meet that other little boy or girl - even if that first step ended with a striking blow from our little shovel. In high school, we exchanged class rings to show that we belonged to someone.

In searching for the other part of ourselves, our soul-mate, the one we were destined for, no stone is left unturned. People seek love at work, in bars, blind dates set up by well meaning friends and now on the internet. But what's under a stone is not often love.

Work may not be a good idea for once the glow of infatuation wears off, you still have to work together. Blind dates? Too awkward explaining to friends why you didn't like their choice. Bars? The problems are too numerous to mention.

Don't lose heart: there may be more suitable stones. Singles confronting the same problems have organized. If you are a single parent, sailor, reader, outdoors person or Catholic and want to meet new friends, there's an organization for you.

The goal of these groups is to bring like-minded people together in a relaxed social situation. Most organizations of this sort don't define themselves as dating clubs. The idea is more spontaneous: if single people with similar interests get together, nature will take its course.


Single Sailors

Romance can be smooth sailing with Singles on Sailboats.

SOS - the group's double-entendre acronym - is a nonprofit Annapolis area organization of about 800 members. They range in age from early 20s to mid-80s, and live as far south as Florida, as far west as California and as far north as Vermont. What they have in common is that all are single and love sailing. If you are over 21, single and love to sail or want to learn how, you're eligible.

During the sailing season, mid-April to mid-November, sailing activities are held throughout the Chesapeake Bay. The off-season is just as much fun, full of social activities and training events.

Do single sailors really find romance - yes, even marriage - through their club?

Linda and Bryan Genez answer with an enthusiastic yes.

Bryan, a yacht broker and boat owner, joined SOS in 1989. "Newly single, I found SOS a great social outlet and a great way to find a crew for my boat," said he.

In fact, he became a very active member of the club serving as newsletter editor, commodore and a member of the board of directors. Best of all, with other SOS members as a crew, Bryan sailed as far as Nova Scotia and Bermuda.

Linda Lester crewed on one of the Nova Scotia trips. Also newly single, the IRS systems analyst wanted a challenge. "I wanted to try something I didn't know anything about," she explained. "I took horseback riding and sailing lessons."

She learned about SOS from an ad in a sailing publication. Soon, the club became her support system - not only in getting a sailing education but also in sharing life stories with other members. "I got involved in all of the activities and was rookie of the year my first year in the club," said Linda.

Linda met Bryan in December 1993. They married in September 1996.

"You don't have to be 20 to find romance and love," the sailing couple agreed.

Theirs isn't SOS's only success story.

Newly married in May, 1997, Bobbie Frey and Lindsay Courtney met through SOS. Both skippers and boat owners, they knew each other for six years before marrying.

"Lindsay was between boats so she came on a weekend sail with me. The rest is history," said Frey, gazing lovingly at his wife.

Still, you don't have to be looking for a spouse to enjoy SOS. You just have to want to sail.

Marilyn Sickels, a professional captain and sailing instructor, has been with the club for eight years. The educational programs and teaching opportunities are what first attracted Marilyn to the club. While she is doing what she enjoys, she is able to met other singles.

"Every boat has an experienced skipper, and club activities are very organized and safety conscious. Many women who join the club become skippers," said Sickels.

For Singles on Sailboats membership information call 410/798-4098.


Hearty Woodsmen and Women

If you'd rather commune with nature in a woodsy setting, the answer may be CHAOS - not as in great disorder or confusion but as in Chesapeake Hiking & Outdoors Society. The focus here is to get outside, meet people and have fun.

"Most people come for two reasons. They are new to the area and they like outdoor activities," said computer analyst Dave Ropiski who formed CHAOS in August '95. He had just moved to the Annapolis area from Colorado and brought this idea with him.

CHAOS got off to a slow start. The first outing, as Ropiski tells it, was a bike trip taken by one woman and himself. After eight hours of bike riding, the young woman fell to the ground, saying she just couldn't go any farther. Ropiski now explains the level of skill needed for CHAOS outings and makes sure everyone is fully equipped and prepared. Beginners are welcome.

Nowadays, CHAOS is growing, with an activity - either biking, hiking or ice skating at Quiet Waters Park - planned for every Sunday. There are two overnight camping trips per year and one three-day backpacking trip over Memorial Day weekend. On the first Wednesday of every month comes a pot luck dinner, a combination of social gathering and meeting to plan future events. The monthly planning pot lucks are, according to Ropiski, a good opportunity to get acquainted with the club.

Members are a mix of professions: teachers, engineers, investment advisors and environmentalists. The average age is 30-something, but ranges from early 20s to late 40s.

The dues are $12 a year to cover the cost of the newsletter. But before you invest, you can give it a road test, get together with the group, drive it around the block a couple of times and kick the tires.

For the next adventure call Dave Ropiski at 410/867-0183.


Bookish Singles

You needn't read alone. Book-loving singles can read and talk together at either of the region's big, full-service bookstores, Barnes and Noble or Borders Books.

At Barnes & Noble in Annapolis Harbour Center, the Singles Book Discussion Group meets monthly on the second Wednesday in the cafe - but only for a half hour, from 7:30-8. Seems to us that's hardly time to get started. You might bring that up to leader Jason Higgins.

For next month's book, call Barnes & Noble at 410/573-1115.

At Borders Books in Bowie, the Singles Book Discussion Group meets the third Wednesday of each month. They're nick-named the He Said/She Said group because much of the discussion touches on male/female issues. Imagine finding someone who is interested in effective communication with the opposite sex.

There are really no requirements other than showing up at this staff-lead group. "It's a lovely place to meet," says store manager Carol Bowman.

For next month's book, call Border's Books Bowie at 301/352-5560.


Single with Children

Find friends, fun, support and educational discussions on parenting at Parents Without Partners Inc., a nonprofit, nonsectarian, educational organization devoted to the welfare and interest of single parents (with or without custody) and their children.

"Whether you're single, divorced or widowed, Parents Without Partners is a great support system and a wonderful place to build friendships," said Michele Leonhart, spokesperson for the regional chapter.

Regular activities include a wine and cheese party the second Friday of every month, a dance the third week of every month and a pot luck every fourth Sunday. Members get together for many family activities: bowling, baseball, going to the zoo or an amusement park. Special events are planned, particularly around the holidays, and groups get together for coffee, conversation and support. Members also throw holiday open houses from three weeks before Christmas through New Year's Day.

Meet other Parents Without Partners Feb. 17 at 7pm at the North County Community Library across from Harundle Mall in Glen Burnie. For more information, call Cheryl Lehmuth: 410/969-2316.

Single and Catholic

"Sparks can ignite and nature takes its course. If you do meet someone, two big questions are already answered: they are single and they are Catholic," said Michael Coogan of his organization, the Catholic Alumni Club of Washington, D.C.

With branches in both Washington and Baltimore, the Catholic Alumni Club is broader than a dating club. It's a social club to encourage friendships. Still, marriageability underpins the by-laws. To join, you must be not only a graduate of a four-year college but also a person free to marry in the Catholic Church.

Making friends is harder than it seems, according to Coogan, in large metropolitan areas. At the Catholic Alumni Club, people of similar backgrounds meet people in a relaxed social environment. Friendships grow over time and in different social settings.

The male/female ratio is about 50/50 among the 400 members of this 45-year-year-old social club. Ages range from 20s to 60s. "It's a nice blending. The younger members bring enthusiasm to the group while the more mature members bring wisdom and experience," said Coogan.

Activities are as varied as membership, including dances, sports - the club fields its own bowling and softball teams - parties and potlucks, vacations and cruises.

Dues of $35 a year include a subscription to the monthly newsletter, discounts on dances and other activities, an invitation to a hospitality party for all new members and opportunity to attend regional and national conventions with members of other Catholic Alumni Clubs from across the country. Because all-volunteer organizations are always looking for new workers, membership can easily give you a chance to develop your leadership skills.

Seek, perhaps find, a friend at Catholic Alumni Club's Valentines Day Dance, Sat., Feb. 14, from 8:30pm to midnight at Holiday Inn, Ballston, 4610 North Fairfax Dr., Arlington, Va. Members $8, non-members $12. To learn more, call Gary: 301/262-4828. Hook up on the Web at http://www.caci.org/cac/cacw.html.


Single around Baltimore

You're none of the above? As long as you're mobile, there's still a stone for you to turn: the Baltimore Singles Network.

To join the Baltimore Singles Network, the only other qualification a single adult needs is residence in the Greater Baltimore area. What you'll find, according to spokesman Paul Schoenand, is 200 members of varied backgrounds, with men and women evenly mixed, plus lots of inexpensive, enjoyable activities and a low-pressure atmosphere to meet friends - maybe even that special someone.

That's what happened to Helene Roehm and Jim Kobe. She'd been involved in Network activities since its inception in the late 1980s. Jim joined about two years ago. Helene fell for him in her own kitchen. That's where she saw him first, chopping vegetables for a pot luck.

The couple continues active in the Network, nourishing the friendships they have formed through the group.

"Maintaining friendships and group activities helps to keep our relationship fresh and interesting," said Helene, who advised that the two most important phrases in a relationship are "I love you" and "yes dear."

BeBop with the Baltimore Singles Network on Valentine's Day at a classic 1950s' style record hop featuring Buddy Dean at the Jarrettsville VFW Hall. Admission is $15. For more information on the network, Call Paul Schoenand at 410/825-2054. Hook up on the Web at http://www.smart.net/~pstecg/bsn/.


So, if you're leaving no stone unturned in your search for love, turn up at one of Chesapeake Country's singles social clubs. It is, after all, much easier to open up a conversation with someone wearing a name tag.

Contributor Valerie James last took New Bay Times readers behind scenes at the Annapolis Opera.

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VolumeVI Number 6
February 12-18 1998
New Bay Times

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