Should I leave New York City before I turn into Christmas cake?
February 15, 2011 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Should I leave New York City before I turn into Christmas cake?

Tongue in cheek, but it's kind of a serious question.

Here's the deal: I'm an early-30s woman and I've been living in New York for five years. There are many things I love about the city, but I also never really imagined myself staying here permanently. Back in my mid-twenties, I always kind of imagined that I'd meet somebody and we'd leave here together. Two failed relationships later, I'm single and weighing the pros and cons of making a break for it solo.

I dream of moving to a smaller, slower, lower-budget city somewhere on the greater East Coast, buying a house (something I can't afford to do here but probably could elsewhere), and settling the hell in in the way that has seemed to be so elusive here in NYC. I want to live in a place where people sit on their porches and have groups of friends over for dinner. I want to be less overwhelmed. I've imagined eventually making a move like this for years.

But could I, should I, try to make this happen on my own? I realize that fantasies are cheap and the grass is always greener, etc. People my age in other places are already married. I recently went freelance, which is why I can leave, but there won't be a new workplace in the city I move to to provide me with a social network. I have a friend or two here and there, but no readymade community that I can join. If I feel disconnected here, will it just be worse in an unfamiliar place?

I have some really close friends here, and that's significant. But it seems like many of us are stuck in a state of arrested development that's somehow typical of NYC, and that bums me out. I feel like if I have one more conversation with a woman friend about how hard it is to find dateable men in this city and wringing our hands about whether we are ever going to partner up and settle down, I'm going to scream. (Though I admit to more than holding up my end of many such conversations.) The thought of staying and slowly turning into more of a New York single lady cliché is almost unbearable. Great friends notwithstanding, I still frequently feel lonely. I often wonder whether stepping out of the whirlwind that is life here will help me to find the relationship that I want. I do believe the line that dating is harder in New York—though feel free to step in and contradict me if you think that's a myth.

Helpful background? It's been just over six months since my last relationship ended. I've been dating some, online and not, but not too fruitfully: so far everyone who's turned my head has been unavailable in one way or another, and the people who have been into me, I haven't found as compelling as I'd want to find someone I was going to be with. Online dating seems like a tough format for finding people, but I've had relationships that have started that way before, and maybe I just need to give it some more juice.

So at bottom, I guess there are two questions here. One is about whether I'd have better serious-dating prospects elsewhere. The other is about whether I should leave New York because I want to, even though the idea of moving alone and, especially, starting over fresh by myself, is daunting.

Has anyone left a city they were iffy about under similar circumstances, and how'd it go?

Will anybody speak to the whole 'love is impossible in New York' myth complex?

Should I embark on a year-long voyage across three continents, eating and doing yoga all the way? (I kid!)

Just looking for fresh thoughts. Mine have all begun to feel so stale and circular.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I feel like if I have one more conversation with a woman friend about how hard it is to find dateable men in this city and wringing our hands about whether we are ever going to partner up and settle down, I'm going to scream.

People have those conversations everywhere.

I moved from NYC to SF last year. Everyone here agrees that the dating scene is terrible. If you ask the women, they're all like "these guys are all a bunch of Peter Pans who refuse to settle down" and then they blame the demographics, they say that too many of the men are gay and so the straight guys have too much choice. And then you ask the men, and they say "SF is full of 6s who think they're 9s" and then they blame the demographics, they say there are too many men because of the computer industry and so the women have too much choice.

I guess my point is that unless someone lives in a small town where there's genuinely little choice, their problems are most likely not "the men/women in this town."
posted by Afroblanco at 1:14 PM on February 15, 2011 [10 favorites]

I do believe the line that dating is harder in New York—though feel free to step in and contradict me if you think that's a myth.

Total myth, at least from my perspective. Before I met my husband, the only time I wasn't dating was when I didn't want to be dating. (I'm 30, and have been living in NYC since I was 23).

The part of your post that struck me was that you turned down guys who you didn't think were very compelling. How many times did you meet these guys, if ever?

If you want to move, you may as well do it now before you fall in love with a die-hard Manhattanite.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on February 15, 2011

I hear you on the stale and circular thoughts thing. But I gotta think, yeah, do it. Move where you wanna move. It sounds like you're good at getting out there and making yourself a friend of people, so go for it. I have a single friend who just bought a house in Pittsburgh, and she's pretty much loving it. It sounds like you're just wishing for someone to say you're rugged and great. You're rugged and great and it sounds like an adventure.
posted by lauranesson at 1:17 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I dream of moving to a smaller, slower, lower-budget city somewhere on the greater East Coast....I do believe the line that dating is harder in New York—though feel free to step in and contradict me if you think that's a myth.

I don't think dating is any easier in Boston or Providence or Philadelphia than in New York, and the conventional wisdom is that it's significantly harder in Washington, DC than in New York. If by "a smaller, lower-budget city" you mean Raleigh-Durham or Dover or Charleston or something, I can't speak to that.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2011

Do it! The longer you wait, the harder it will be. Right now there's nothing tying you to NYC and you'll inevitably be moving someplace more affordable. Seek out the type of neighborhood you want to live in (you could even post here for suggestions!), head over there, and start trying to build a community.

I grew up in a NYC suburb and have lots of friends and family in the city. Their lives seem so much harder than mine, even though it's undoubtedly more exciting and resource-rich than where I live. I moved to a place with good job prospects, made an effort to set down roots, and have been happy. I haven't had to deal with dating, but I imagine that near any decent-sized city, your prospects won't be that much different.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:19 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go for that slower-paced town with affordable porches and neighbors to share them with if that's what you want, and do it because YOU want to. Don't hang all your hopes and dreams on some other person. You might end up waiting forever, either because the right person isn't in NYC or because the person you meet and fall in love with has different plans for the future. I don't live in New York, so I can't say anything about the difficulties of finding love there, but I do know that you're far more likely to attract the right partner if you're happy and doing what you love, not sitting and waiting at a metaphorical station, waiting for a perfect train.
posted by katillathehun at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

If you want to leave New York on its own merits, I'd say, go. Your dating prospects will not necessarily be better in a smaller East Coast city, but I can't imagine that they'd be substantially worse, either. If you're in your early 30s, there will still be plenty of single people of approximately your age in most medium-sized cities. And in general, I think it's the case that your romantic life is always going to go better when you're already in a happy, comfortable, stable life situation vs. one you're itching to move on from at some point. What if you met a wonderful guy tomorrow, and he turned out to be a lifelong NY-er who'd never ever dream of leaving?
posted by Bardolph at 1:26 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a smaller city you may be the interesting big-city transplant with neat stories and a glamorous past, thus more desirable. Also, you'll be a new, non-divorced potential date in a dating pool that is probably a little dull for everyone else. Even here in Large Midwestern City, dating after about 30 is tricky for straight women, but there is a definite "new in town" advantage.
posted by Frowner at 1:27 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, are you me?? I have the same question constantly...and dinners with friends having the exact same 'where are all the decent guys' conversations all the time. So, I guess I don't have the answer for you. I'm too scared to leave new york, my job, my friends and start over again (for the 3rd time...have been here 9 years). Actually 6mths since your last relationship with dating in between doesn't even sound that bad. Comparatively. The question I guess is actually twofold- which lifestyle would you prefer AND would it be easier to meet someone elsewhere. If it's the lifestyle straight up, then move for sure. If it's meeting someone...I don't think anyone can really say. In response to roomthreeseventeen though, there is a skew with the ages, I think even with online dating people in their early to late twenties get far more response than those in their 30's. (blame those nyc men! joking...kind of). Anyway, I'm here for now. I guess just keep thinking, and weighing up the lifestyle pros and cons. Those you can determine (for you). When and how you meet someone...not so much.
posted by bquarters at 1:28 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lived in NYC most of my life, with a stint in Philly, and, for the past three years, in Boston. I'm with you about leaving for quality of life issues--being able to afford a house, the slower pace, the elbow room.

But having lived in all three places, I don't think it's any easier to date outside of NYC. I actually think that it's harder to date in Boston--its really quite small. There are tight-knit groups that can be hard to get into, and there's a lot of dating overlap. Sometimes, it feels like college (or high school, gasp!). That said, I did find my sweetie here in Boston--but I wouldn't come to Boston (for instance) to meet someone. I'd come to be in Boston, or not in NYC.

Like Sidhedevil, I can't vouch for your prospects in other markets, but I would think it's even harder to find love in Chapel Hill than in Boston.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:29 PM on February 15, 2011

I do believe the line that dating is harder in New York—though feel free to step in and contradict me if you think that's a myth.

Total crock of shit. New Yorkers are just way, way more vocal in their complaining about it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:32 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you try? Could you perform an experiment?

For instance: Take leave from work or hoard up jobs that you can do remotely. Then sublet your apartment and go live in Romanticville for some weeks or months.
posted by krilli at 1:33 PM on February 15, 2011

Isn't the guy who likes porches and dinner parties more likely to already be living in the place with porches and dinner parties?
posted by slow graffiti at 1:38 PM on February 15, 2011 [16 favorites]

Waiting to start the life you want until the right guy shows up is a fool's game. I lived in NYC for 5 years, from age 23-28, left to go to grad school in the midwest in a college town that had a lovely, relaxed pace of life, friends that would get together for dinner parties, sledding in the winter, and, yes, lots of sitting on porches. Being in grad school helped me make those close friendships, but it's not the only way to do it.

I always knew I didn't want to live in New York forever, hated the idea that I might fall in love with a native New Yorker and end up staying forever, and wanted pretty much what you want living-conditions-wise. I found it, first in Illinois, and now in the town I moved to after grad school. Both are sub-200,000 people college towns, and both have the pace of life and people that exactly suit me. I am still single, but it doesn't ever seem like a viable idea for even a fleeting moment that I should have stayed in New York just because it'd be more common to be single and 35. I have single friends my age here even in a town of 35,000.

But you should definitely put some thought into where you want to live that will maximize the chance of meeting people your age that you have things in common with. While my current town has worked out well for me so far, I can't say that I'd recommend it to a single person, and I don't plan to stay here forever. I pretty much had to come here to get my career jump-started and have hopes that I'll have more flexibility picking the next place. Though if I fall in love with someone and end up staying here, it doesn't seem like nearly the dire fate that living in NYC forever did!

My personal recommendations for places you should look into are the Charlottesville/Richmond, Virginia area, the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill Research Triangle, Madison, Wisconsin, and other large college towns, but if you have a couple of friends in an area that's always appealed to you, consider those as well. I'd also recommend looking into ways to connect with university faculty/grad students in your new area, because you'd find a number of other single people your age. Having just one or two friends to start out with who are also single and looking to meet new friends will help you expand your social network, and, while it won't guarantee you'll find Mister Right, it will help you be happy in a place that you want to live in.
posted by MsMolly at 1:44 PM on February 15, 2011

There's no guarantee that you will meet someone if you move to a new town, even if you move to someplace with a better M/F ratio (or rather, a better M/F ratio for men interested in women in your age range).

If your heart is set on living in a certain type of place, and that's the place you would wish you were even if you were in a great relationship with Mr. NYSE floor trader who couldn't find a job there, or Mr. NYC-best-place-evah, you should try to date people interested in living in that sort of place. Men who are currently living the porch-and-dinner life are hardly going to be moving to NYC hoping to meet a woman who likes sitting on the porch with friends.

Moving to a place with lower expenses may also allow you to work fewer hours and have more time to make a social network and date. If you rent, you could always move back or try a different smaller town.
posted by yohko at 1:45 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do it because you're ready to leave and explore, and because you've been dreaming about it, and because you aren't super-tied down.

Don't do it to find a relationship. In very general terms, it's not a really good idea to do anything with the explicit goal of finding a relationship, except for asking guys out or setting up an OKCupid profile. Do this for yourself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:14 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

New Yorkers defend life in the city the way Mefites defend LaTeX. But something is true of both things: They can be unnecessarily complicated and head-bashingly frustrating.

If you're unhappy in New York, there is nothing wrong with you. If you have the freedom to move somewhere else that affords a more appealing lifestyle--and it sounds as if you do--then make the move while you can.

Just one thing: People my age in other places are already married. Some are, some are not. There will be plenty of age-appropriate choices in just about any small city in the US.
posted by yellowcandy at 2:15 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I can not tell you where to move, what to do, etc but on one thing you mentioned I can:

you will not going to find a house with a front porch to sit on unless you move to a fairly old run-down area...front porch folks have moved to the back of the house--patio decks--for privacy or whatever.
posted by Postroad at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2011

I'm kinda sorta in your same boat. I have various things to say which might be conflicting or have nothing to do with each other.

First. If you're not happy in New York City, and you pictured yourself leaving eventually, and you're ready to leave now, just do it. There's no reason to wait around looking for some fantasy-based criterion or permission slip or whatever. If you want to live in a smaller town, go live in a smaller town, partner or no.

Second, and totally contrary to that. Yes, smaller towns usually have smaller dating pools, and yeah, it seems like this gets more difficult the older you get. I have no advice for you, as this is something I occasionally get neurotic about myself. New York is both an impossible place to date people and also a veritable candy shop of dating opportunities. Paradox, I know.

Third. Is this a grass is greener thing, or are you really unhappy with life in New York? Is this a "what I am supposed to want" or "what I said I wanted five years ago" thing? The New York City Exit Strategy is a lot to mull over, and it's hard to gauge whether you have done enough of it.

Fourth. What about relocating somewhere that is a smaller town but isn't too far from NYC? You could keep your social network mostly intact, and even still dip into the New York dating pool if you wanted to. There would be a better chance that you would find single men in a comparable situation, too. And you could always just give up and go back to the city if you found you didn't like small town life after all. Real estate would be more complicated than a comparable town in Arkansas or whatever, but then relocating into that different a lifestyle is a huge thing. Or, if you do want to leave the NY metro area and live in a place with cheaper cost of living, what about a college town, or somewhere else there are likely to be youngish well educated single people?
posted by Sara C. at 2:20 PM on February 15, 2011

Also, if what you want is a "slower-paced", more community oriented lifestyle with lots of dinner parties and hanging out on porches, have you considered moving to Brooklyn?

I have all of that stuff and, while home ownership is still pretty much out of the question and the dating scene is pretty much the same, if you live in Manhattan it might be a welcome change.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I used to live in NYC, now in SF, and I have the same conversations with friends as you and Afroblanco do with both sexes (New Yorkers blame it on something intrinsic to the city, people in the Bay blame it on demographics, but everyone bitches loudly no matter what the reason).

I have a bunch of friends in NC (Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte) who have the kind of life you say you want. They own houses and sit on porches and have parties and a (to me) an almost nonexistent cost of living. A good number of them are underachievers just going with the flow of what they know (because most people with bigger plans left for places like NYC). They date within an extremely limited, incestuous pool of friends and many got married very, very young and just as many are young divorcees. They spend more time watching TV and driving endlessly through suburbs and exurbs than they do having dinner parties.

I'm not bashing that life, because I see the appeal and every once in a while when the big city loneliness sets in, I think about what it would like to move back. The grass is always greener. I think after living in larger cities I couldn't handle the stagnant nature of it, the limited options of things to do and people to meet, and the general lack of movement. Then again, if the bustle of NYC is too much maybe that's what you need.
posted by bradbane at 2:34 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Everyone here agrees that the dating scene is terrible. If you ask the women, they're all like "these guys are all a bunch of Peter Pans who refuse to settle down"

This is (unfortunately) not unique to New York.
posted by medeine at 2:39 PM on February 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

What about relocating somewhere that is a smaller town but isn't too far from NYC?

I would approach this option with caution. I live in a smaller town (~20K) in NJ, about an hour from NYC by train, and most of the single people I know are not having much luck; it's more the kind of place you move if you want to settle down and have kids, so the demographics are not in your favor as a single person. Many people I know end up either moving to NYC/Philly or spending a lot of time in their city of choice on the weekend.

One data point, obviously, but I suspect you might be better off in a town that's a bit farther from the nearest city (Burlington? Ithaca? Amherst?) so that all the singles don't get siphoned off.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:48 PM on February 15, 2011

I moved to Pittsburgh in October after living in New York City for 2 years. I am so happy here and I cannot state enough how my low rent affects my quality of life. I pay $225/month plus utilities for one room in a four bedroom house that is just enormous, in a popular part of town. The rent is great but the best part is the freedom it allows me to do what I want with the money I would have spent on my couch in Manhattan.

Dating was fine here; I used OkCupid and had successes although I ultimately ended up with the guy I started dating (in NYC). People here are super nice. My new roommates are fantastic and we already have homebrewing and vodka infusion plans for the spring so we can all sit on the porch together. Plan your move! You can do it!
posted by amicamentis at 2:56 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The one thing people don't seem to be addressing is the online dating thing- continue to pour juice into it. I met my guy online, and we've been together for nearly half a decade. My best friend (who is 42) met a lovely guy who is also 42 on match, and they've been together now for two years, and are co-habitating happily.

Online dating used to get eye rolls (as did we, when were were first dating) but I'm increasingly thinking it is a great way for folks to find people. Only advice is: don't chat online endlessly, meet people who pique your interest in person, and anyone interesting enough to pique your interest is worth at least a 30 minute coffee date.

I've said this before, and I'll say this again: the guys who have been most important in my life are both men who don't fit precisely what I thought I wanted in a mate. I thought I wanted a certain height, a certain background, a certain set of interests, a certain ideology...I was all wrong. I am happier than I've ever been in my life with a guy who doesn't fit anything on that fictional list of criteria. If I had to look again, I would be considerably more expansive in my dating pool, simply searching for a bright guy with a sense of humor. Everything else is fluff. So what I'm saying is...give the guys that you might otherwise not be interested in a chance, if you haven't been doing that, and see where things go from there.

Good luck! I'm sorry you're lonely. And incidentally, I agree with everyone upthread: move, buy a house, and start having dinner parties and hanging out on your porch! Who knows who will be hanging out on the porch next door, hoping to be invited to your next dinner party?
posted by arnicae at 3:05 PM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I lived in NYC for about six years in my 20s-30s and never imagined myself staying. I want(ed) the same things you want: porches, a house, friends, quiet, a yard, etc. I know exactly what you mean about the arrested development thing. I was desperate to get out by the time I left, and I (mostly) don't regret leaving, although I do miss the city. I moved to Boston at 31 and found myself miserable because I couldn't make any friends there. I was in a relationship there, so dating wasn't an issue, but I was so, so unhappy because I couldn't find new friends and I had left a city where I had many close friends I saw all the time. Everyone my age had friends already, and/or had babies, and basically wasn't interested in new friends. I don't know if that was just Boston, or what, but it's something to think about when you decide where to go. I have since moved to a new city where I have close female friends, and am so much happier (I had some friends here already and have made more since I moved). If having a social life and feeling connected is important to you, don't discount the importance of either already having friends in your new location, or having an easy way to make new friends. Dating and love is important...but if those relationships with women friends are the thing that keeps you sane (as mine are!), definitely factor that in when you decide where to go. I've found I don't need a lot of friends in my city--but having one or two I see every week is really key.

I'm definitely not saying don't leave NYC! Just that your concerns about loneliness and feeling disconnected are real and should be taken seriously. I'm happy to chat about this more if you want to memail.
posted by min at 3:31 PM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Joan Didion wrote "Goodbye to All That", an essay discussing her time in NYC and the sense of "staying too long at the fair". I think it's still pretty fresh, and I've been thinking about it w/r/t my own city lately.
posted by momus_window at 3:49 PM on February 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I lived in NYC for 9 years--college through age 27. I decided to go to grad school in NOT_NYC partially because I felt I had to get away for similar reasons. I didn't want to turn into a cackling Sex-and-the-City harpy, brunching my way through my 30s with nothing to keep me company but a closet full of shoes. I had relationships and breakups and everything felt very immature and unsettled, while facebook friends who lived in other places posted pictures of their husbands and kids. I thought that maybe NYC wasn't for me and I couldn't do it after all and I had to leave. So I moved to Philadelphia.

Almost 2 years later, it's all oh my fucking god I want to go home. Philly's nice, but. If you love New York, you love New York, and nowhere else will really do. And, yes, I guess dating can vary place-by-place, especially if you move somewhere very different, but most people have their own little baggies of issues that they carry everywhere they move. I know I did. Dating here actually turned out to be worse for me than NYC. Not that I moved here to date. Grad school was good.

People do get married and settle down in New York. It's just that you're not an outcast in New York if you don't. There is value in that. Living in a place that is more sanctioning of a married lifestyle won't make you any more married or settled down. It won't do anything for core issues in your baggie of issues. It will just make you feel more frustrated that you haven't done those things.
posted by millipede at 4:23 PM on February 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

You know, I was in the same place you were, left at 29 and moved back to Tennessee, where I met my husband. Because I love my husband, I don't regret the decision, but honestly, I miss New York all the time. I wish we could move back (we now have dogs who need space, so it's not an option right now).

I think if I had stayed, maybe I would have found a mate, or maybe I wouldn't have. I am not making any more than I made in NYC, and my social life is less interesting than it used to be. Partly that's because I'm married and boring, and partly because after three years I've still not made any close friends that are not also my husband's friends. My best girlfriends are still my New York friends, but of course we only see each other once a year, if that, so those relationships have begun to fade. It's sad and I regret it.

So do you move? I don't know. Perhaps you could sublet your apartment and try a new city for a year? I wish I had done that instead of moving (except for the husband part. But you can't plan on that sort of thing).
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:30 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

First, I'm a guy, so already I'm on the opposite side of the fence. Second, I love NYC. But I live out in the burbs (small city called Long Beach on the south shore of Long Island, by the water, just like it sounds, though fairly dense and quite walkable) because though I love NYC and love that whenever I want to it's a 45 minute train ride away, I don't want it 24/7. I love quiet. I'm an introvert (though there is something pleasing about being alone on the crowded streets in that no one really wants to talk to you) so having my own space is wonderful.

At the risk of offending the aforementioned die-hard manhattanites, have you thought of an outter borough? Well located and you could be just as far from work commute wise and instead live in a community that will afford you a dining room that will fit half a dozen people in it. Trust me, I get that NYC is not like most anywhere else, but if it's not for you, why do you insist upon staying there? Instead of moving to a smaller slower city somewhere, try moving out to Queens or something.

As for romance, in a city this big, there's a dozen someone's for everyone. If you really want to settle down with a Korean guy who likes the ballet and is into swinging, you're more likely to find one or two or more of those here than any other city thanks to sheer numbers. Do people marry later in NYC and have kids later in NYC? Sure. If your biological clock is ticking, that doesn't mean it won't happen thanks to living here, it just means you're less likely to find someone at the same age point who wants those things like you do. (And chances are if he wanted out of NYC, he would have left, too.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If there's something you want to do, but you're waiting until you meet The Perfect Partner and get married and sail off into the sunset before you do it? My standard advice is a very vehement DO EEEET.

I was pretty much in your position at one time. I lived in Seattle for fifteen years, and always imagined I'd get married and move to the country and keep pet chickens. Circumstances conspired to move me out of the city sort of by accident. So here I am, living in a cabin in the woods and keeping pet chickens. It's pretty awesome!

It's a lot more difficult to find a partner in a rural area. Partly because it's a numbers game. Partly because cities tend to be magnets for single folk, for all the reasons you mention. Personally I'm fulfilled enough by my current life that I guess I just don't really care. So take that as you will.
posted by ErikaB at 4:50 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Heh. Actually, I really gotta agree with millipede. My days in SF are numbered, and I think all I'll have to show for it is a re-ignited appreciation for NYC and everything that can be found there. Although I guess that in and of itself is worthwhile; I know that towards the end, I was blaming a lot of my problems on NYC when in reality I think I just needed to find a new job and a new group of friends. If anything, I'll just enjoy NYC that much more once I (inevitably) move back.

Also, one thing you may not have thought of : I don't know if you do online dating or not, but it's all about numbers numbers numbers. Smaller city == smaller dating pool. You WILL get fewer interested people, just because there are fewer people who live there.

Of course, places like SF compensate for that a little bit because people are a little friendlier to strangers and more likely to talk to you in a bar, but I think that's more of a East Coast/West Coast thing and not a big city/little city thing.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:55 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you've done NYC, try getting in touch with a country boy.

No, really. All that time you spent in that culturally complex urban incubator, where dreams go to die, was time some guys far from there were spending building rural equity, and developing businesses in agriculture, that you might well give your well valued and wanted heart to, now, with them. After all, if you can admit that your life plan has "come a cropper," you're on your way to welcoming someone else's vision of a future, perhaps even one where crops are a mainstay.
posted by paulsc at 5:09 PM on February 15, 2011

Go for the adventure of moving to a new town on your own, buying a house, and making the life you want there, on your own. You will never regret it, and later when you've met, or not yet met, someone you want to commit to, you will look back on it and view it with pride that you can't even conceive of right now. I honestly think it's one of the best things to do in life, almost more for single women than for single men. It's so important to build your own space and follow your own instincts.

By the time I moved to New York, as a single, adventurous, freelancing, subletting 37 year old, I'd had a few turns at that move-to-your-own-new-place adventure, in small-town Vermont, in the Bay Area, and in a Rocky Mt college town, and I moved to Brooklyn/NYC for career more than dating reasons. The 1 year stint I initially envisioned turned into 5 in what felt like the blink of an eye. Part of the reason it was so great was that single, smart, fun, engaged women were a part of the mix, and dating/settling wasn't the only objective for them or me. I was just about packing my bags for a new life on my own in Ashville, NC, when I met a guy who I really liked (and who, like arnicae, was NOT the type I had on my mental list, partly because he was 11 yrs younger than I was/am), and I got married at 42. We now live upstate in a sort of staid, predictable town, have a child, and dream often of our NYC days. Didn't make it to Ashville. All just to say, life is strange. You never know what will unfold or who will cross your path and when. The here and now is really all that matters.
posted by oneduck at 5:45 PM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

The 1 year stint I initially envisioned turned into 5 in what felt like the blink of an eye.

This is very apt and part of why I was wondering whether your plans to move on were something you said you'd do when you originally moved here, or whether that's how you really feel now. It's really hard before you've lived in New York to grasp how quickly life moves here, how much there is to do, and how fast a year turns into five, or five years turns into a decade or more.

A good friend of mine who is of our same basic age range moved here two or three years ago. She's always been the opinion that she and her spouse would live here for a few years, then go home to New Orleans to start a family. She might still do that, of course, but I was thinking recently when she mentioned it that, well, she's already lived here for "a few years", yet she's still talking about leaving New York like she got here a week ago and it's still in the distant future. In other words, I have a suspicion that she, too, is a lifer. Whether she knows it yet or not.

You might be a lifer, too, OP. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by Sara C. at 5:52 PM on February 15, 2011

My thinking on this is: settle where you'd want to settle down. If you stay in NY to get more dates, who's to say that the guy you might end up with there would want to move to East Bumfuck with you? Why not just go to East Bumfuck and find an East Bumfucker who loves the place too?

Dating is going to be hard either way. You might have better selection in New York compared to small towns where most of everyone is married off, that's true. But if you can at least enjoy the rest of your life being the way you want it, then you're doing pretty well. Who the hell knows if you'll find a guy in either location, really, but I wouldn't recommend basing your life ONLY on how you can get dates.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:38 PM on February 15, 2011

The thought of staying and slowly turning into more of a New York single lady cliché is almost unbearable.

You need to directly combat this completely noxious and destructive prejudice that devalues women terribly as they age. Being a feminist, I'm not sure why it took me so long to really, truly internalize this, but: the pressure on women not to be "Christmas Cake" (or turn into a "cackling Sex & the City" single lady) is COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY SEXIST. It's a cliche that says that the only value we have is being attractive to men (and also falsely suggests that you're never attractive to men over a certain age.) So fight the power, darling! Keep dating, keep living your life, but don't let the sexist and ageist culture get you down. Move if you really want to move, but don't do it because you fear becoming a cliche. This isn't to say that taking the dating pool into consideration is a bad thing to do when considering a move but... you have to separate out your desire to settle down and your desire to move to a new city from the evil forces of grody sexism out there.

Anyway, you're in a really lucky position: you can move to a smaller town then move back to NYC if it doesn't work out. Just don't make the mistake of buying property; that would tie you down.
posted by yarly at 9:56 AM on February 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Eh, let me go against the grain and say that big cities where single-living is so easily facilitated because it's the culture have their downsides, too. The situation lends itself to the attitude that staying single is A-ok. And it is, if that's what you want. But, of course, this means that many people who want to stay single are drawn to these cities. So the proportion of men in LA or NYC who want to settle down in their 20s and 30s is smaller than it is in midwestern cities, or more suburban settings. The difference between living in San Francisco, CA and Mountain View, CA (45 minutes drive) is overwhelming in terms of the people's attitudes toward marriage. LA and Orange Country, too (not that I'm advocating Orange County in any way). And of course, even within LA, there are huge differences whether you live in Hollywood with hip entertainment types, or in Pasadena, dating nerdy Caltech postdocs (ahem). So I guess my point it, I believe location matters.

I've been advising single friends frustrated with the LA scene to get out of here for years. In some ways, it's a numbers game, as unromantic as that may sound.
posted by namesarehard at 9:56 AM on February 16, 2011

To me, this sounds like it might be two different issues:
  • You aren't happy.
  • There are things that you want out of your life that aren't happening.
Maybe getting happy requires a change of venue, and, in that vein, I'm a big fan of "you only get one life", and "what the hell".

In my experience, with a sample size of me, I've had the best success working on the more...existential problems (where am I going with my life, what do I want out of a relationship, do I need a relationship) when I've been contented with where I'm living on a day-to-day basis.

The key phrase for me in your question was "I want to be less overwhelmed". It sounds like living in New York is contributing a lot to that overwhelmed sensation: maybe living somewhere else will decompress your life enough for you to tackle some of the other things.

So I'd say go for it: go live someplace new. You can always come back to someplace you've been before, but you only get to go somewhere for the first time once.
posted by scrump at 11:14 AM on February 16, 2011

Where do you live? I feel like that matters a lot in terms of the relationship climate. My friends in the Villages, Williamsburg, and other more party-oriented neighborhoods tend to be less settled than those of us in the less hip "Neo-Victorian" hoods like Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park, Sunnyside, and Woodside. Seriously, seems like everyone around me was in a LTR in the Slope and it's the same in Sunnyside where I live now. Why not move to a new neighborhood and join something local? I know a bunch of people who have meet SOs at the Coop, for example, or at supper clubs or cooking classes. A bonus is that some of these neighborhoods are probably much cheaper than the "hip" neighborhoods.

Also, your who your friends are really changes things. I've made a lot of friends that are married or in LTRs, which has oriented me towards doing things that well...people with good relationships do. And one thing I'll also say is that when online dating make it abundantly clear you are not interested in flakes/messing around. Yes, you will get fewer messages, but you'll waste less time.

My life in the two neighborhoods has not at all been like Sex & The City. It's been all about brunch, farmer's markets, sipping a cocktail on the porch in the summer while grilling local grass-fed sausages I made at a cooking class, learning how to tan leather and make pickles, gardening, raising bees, attending garden parties, double dates at the soda fountain...damn, my life is more idyllic than when I lived in the country! My SO and I, however, have made plans to eventually leave because of the expense of raising children here.
posted by melissam at 12:23 PM on February 16, 2011

I lived in the city from 2003 - 2007 for college (ages 20 through 24) and I can remember the same dilemma of moving away that nothing could be like New York. After speaking with friends who are still there, and friends who have moved there for Grad School, it seems that everyone who lives in the city has this same dilemma of it just beating them down tired.

I ended up moving away to Portland, OR (and LA for a year) and after a few visits back I can't imagine ever moving back and miss out on space, money, dinner parties, and all kinds of other things that you simply can't do in the city.
posted by wcfields at 12:57 PM on February 16, 2011

or turn into a "cackling Sex & the City" single lady

Please note that I didn't say "or turn into a "cackling Sex & the City" single lady." I said harpy. I never equated all single ladies of a certain age with harpies. I just could see myself becoming one. I am probably still going to become one. I am probably one right now. Luckily I now embrace it.

Also, I'm really amused by the posts that tell the OP to move to Brooklyn. How do you know she doesn't live in Brooklyn already? She said she lives in NYC. Brooklyn is part of NYC. I lived in Brooklyn when I was still harpy-phobic.

My life in the two neighborhoods has not at all been like Sex & The City. It's been all about brunch[...]

Hahahahahaha. Sex and the City brought brunch to the forefront.
posted by millipede at 2:25 PM on February 16, 2011

NYC and London are very different, but nevertheless both are big cities with a lot of single women having the same issues you are describing. I was one of them until very recently, having lived nearly ten years in London.

You sound like someone who is in dire need of a change. I know the EatLovePray approach seems a terrible cliche, but why not go and see a different part of the world...? It sounds like you would have the resources to do so. The beauty of being a freelancer is the flexibility and with the web, your location doesn't matter so much.

If you feel like things are going nowhere in NYC, why don't you leave for a a while. You will not lose your friends. If it doesn't work, you can always come back to your old life.

It is not always easy to change your lifestyle and get out of our comfort zone and as you say, yes it is daunting! But having done it three times before, once you've done it and assuming you've organised yourself properly, i can be a lot of fun!

Like others said above, ultimately the only person who can change your life and is reponsible for your happiness is YOU. If none of the things I have said help, just think that life is way too short to be spent in a state of arrested development.
posted by heartofglass at 3:52 AM on February 18, 2011

The reason I suggested Brooklyn without knowing if OP lives in Brooklyn (or ever has, or what) is because a lot of the things she's looking for outside of NYC exist in spades in Brooklyn. While, yes, Brooklyn is a part of NYC, NYC is big and a lot of Manhattanites don't know the benefits of leaving the Manhattan rat race and living in a slower paced part of town. Aside from cheap real estate, everything OP is looking for can definitely be found in the outer boroughs.

Which isn't to say that's definitely what OP should do. But it's an option.
posted by Sara C. at 3:59 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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