The Savvy Singles Guide to Connecticut

 

Courtesy of the Connecticut Science Center, Hartford

I eagerly accepted the assignment to write this “insider’s guide” to being single in Connecticut. I figured I’d solicit tips from my friends and colleagues, ask for input via Twitter and Facebook, and my story would practically write itself.

Except nobody called, tweeted, or Facebooked back.

For a pathetic moment, I wondered whether that’s in a nutshell what single life is all about. Sitting home alone with my computer and silent phone, waiting.

Then I realized that I had to get out there and make more of an effort. When I became more resourceful and less passive in my search, I found all kinds of places to go, people to meet, things to do. Lesson learned: Single or not, when you’re looking to connect with other people, you can’t just sit back and wait for someone to contact you.

Once I figured that out, being single in Connecticut started to seem like a lot of fun.

According to the 2010 U.S. census, 28.5 percent of females over age 15 in Connecticut and 34.2 percent of males over 15 have never been married; another 11.4 percent of women and 8.5 percent of men are listed as divorced.

Even if you discount those youngsters between 15 and 18 whom the census oddly includes in its tallies, those numbers add up to hundreds of thousands of single people living in the state (whose total population is 3,574,097).

The census doesn’t reveal whether those single folks are seeking to meet a mate or are single by choice. But other sources suggest people are choosing to remain single in droves these days.

In his much-talked-about book Going Solo (The Penguin Press, 2012) sociologist Eric Klinenberg documents a trend in which people are increasingly opting to, well, go solo through life. Klinenberg, whose book is subtitled "The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," explains that rather than fueling isolation and loneliness, many single people these days are crafting highly satisfying lives, creating human connections in ways that married people may not, and building strong communities through those connections.

Singles in Connecticut seem to be on board with that, finding ways to meet up, party down, take a hike and have a ball. For many, the first step toward getting together is to go online.

Even the least savvy singles know they can look for dates via dating sites such as Match.com and eHarmony. But working your way through the one-on-one dates generated through such sites can be exhausting, intense and not always productive.

As an alternative, many singles turn to Meetup.com, an online service that that helps groups of people get together to enjoy activities in which they share an interest. Googling “meetup” yields troves of listings for things to do with other people; hundreds of Meetup groups all over Connecticut have formed around interests as diverse as hiking, biking, bowling and bucket lists (bucketlistbunch.com).

Meetup pages provide detailed information about the events they promote—and give you a sense as to who else might attend. Many include photo galleries featuring pictures taken at past events. These are invaluable: They show how people dress for events, whether they seem to be having fun and how old the participants are. (Tool around on Meetup for a while and you’ll find that some groups are populated by young professionals, others by the over-50 set. That’s something you want to figure out before you show up.)

Not all Meetup groups cater to singles. The 1,500-member New Haven Collective, for instance, is buzzing with singles-friendly fun, from movie nights at a New Haven theater to happy hours at various venues. But the group pointedly does not consider or refer to itself as singles-oriented, preferring to make everyone feel welcome.

Still, Meetup’s a great place for singles to get started. Even the Collective’s Meetup page features links to other Meetup groups—many of them singles-oriented—to which its members also belong.

Several of those groups are run with the help of Ronnie Ann Ryan, a leading figure in Connecticut’s singles world.

Not that Ryan’s single herself—any more. “When I found myself still single on my 40th birthday, I knew I had to change things,” says the Vernon native. “I dated 30 men in 15 months before I met the one who is now my husband.”

Ryan parlayed that experience into a career as a dating coach for women over 40. “I think there’s a very rich single life here—if you look for it,” she says. Having been single in Colorado and California, she notes, “The only difference I see in Connecticut is that people here are a little bit more reserved, a little more isolated.”

But that changes with the season, Ryan says. “Summer is by far the best time of year for singles,” she explains. When it’s hot out, people spend time outside, where there are “fewer barriers,” she says. Also, she adds, “people have less clothing on. People are much friendlier when they’re warm.”

But warm weather isn’t enough to help people forge connections with others. “You have to push yourself past your comfort zone,” Ryan says. “It does require making an effort and deciding you’re going to take some social risks. Get out, talk to people, be friendly!”

Noting the number of singles groups, dances, Meetups and other activities available to Connecticut singles, Ryan says, “There’s no excuse that you can’t find things to do—there have never, ever in the history of the world been this many things for singles to do.”

Ryan’s male counterpart and frequent collaborator is Ira Wet­ten­stein, who or­ga­nizes events via his website, theirassinglesevents.com.

In some ways, he’s Ryan’s opposite: Formerly married, now divorced, he’s been single for 20 years. For the past 7, he’s been organizing events for singles. Testimonial comments on his site note that he’s skilled at making sure people are greeted upon arriving at an event and introducing them to other attendees. “I love being a host,” Wettenstein says. “I’m great at it.”

His events, which range from bowling outings to riverboat cruises, can attract hundreds. And he’s adamant that his gatherings stay singles-only affairs. “It’s terrible when a single person goes out on a Friday night and it’s 10 couples,” he says. With a singles-only event, he says, “No matter who you talk to, you know they’re single.”

Wettenstein, who lives in Windsor Locks, thinks people are “getting tired of online dating,” largely because of the profiles. “They’re finding that the people they meet in person are far from the profiles” that they posted on dating sites.

So Wettenstein has made it his mission to create opportunities for singles to meet in person and get to know one another by participating in fun activities together. In planning those events, he maintains a few criteria: Everyone wears a name tag, everyone gets introduced around, and 20 or 25 minutes of each gathering is devoted to mandatory “mingle time,” forcing people to get out of their comfort zones and chat with others. His motto is “Come alone, but never feel alone.”

Wettenstein acknowledges that at his events, as with other singles events he’s aware of, “The challenge we all have is that there are a tad more women than men. But it’s getting better.”

“We’ve had a lot of success,” Wettenstein says. “Couples have formed.” But meeting a mate isn’t the be-all and end-all of his events. “Many or most people are coming with the intent of meeting somebody, but not necessarily for marriage,” he says. “Every single person wants somebody to do things with and have fun.”

As for his own prospects, Wettenstein says, “I wouldn’t say ‘no’ if my perfect soul-mate came into my life.” But he says he’d keep right on organizing singles activities, even if he were in a relationship. After all, he says, “Who would want to give up on a passion?”
 

Here are a few areas to check out:

Hot Spots

Bar •  New Haven
Baang •  Greenwich
The Spotted Horse Tavern •  Westport
Bartaco •  Stamford
Rooftop 120 •  Glastonbury
Match •  South Norwalk
Shrine •  Foxwoods
Cuvée •  West Hartford
Butterfield 8 •  Stamford
Red Lulu •  South Norwalk
 

Other sites worth checking:

  • The Hiking Group for Singles and Friends (Connecticut/New York) Weekly weekend hikes, of various levels of difficulty, for singles only. thehikinggroup.com
  • Singles CT. Offers numerous activities for single people. singlesct.com
  • CT Sports Social. Lots of listings for active singles. ctsportssocial.com
  • ConTacts dance parties. Weekly dance parties at one of 12 Connecticut locations, mostly for 40s+. ctcontacts.com/index.htm
  • Appalachian Mountain Club, Connecti-cut chapter. Not a singles group per se, but lots of single people show up. ct-amc.org/CT/index.shtm
     
The Savvy Singles Guide to Connecticut

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