Author says women can pursue men

By Stephanie Allmon

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Dateless on V-day?
This story's for you!

Yes, it's that time again. Come Monday morning, flower delivery guys will parade those prickly little suckers to the pathetically unsurprised cubicle next to yours.

An overly eager young co-worker will flaunt her French manicure and babble on about the hypothetical engagement ring that will accessorize it tomorrow.

And the office secretary, an old woman who's been married since Cupid's arrows were considered weapons of war, will decorate the office windows with pink hearts, red roses and other vulgar Valentine's vomit. 

If you picture any of these scenes when you think about Valentine's Day, chances are you're among the 33 million single people in the world. And chances are, you're dateless on "the most romantic day of the year."

The "single" dilemma
For some singles, like Temple resident Sandra Havins, being dateless is no big deal.

"Valentine's Day, right now, at this point in my life, is just another day," she says as she shoots pool at Crickets Bar and Grill with a married friend. "I'm just out to have fun."

Robby Miller, a 19-year-old premed student at Baylor, says Valentine's Day would be an unneeded addition to his schedule and subtraction from his wallet.

"I'm not entirely too worried," he says. "It doesn't bother me because dating somebody isn't a priority for me."

In fact, an informal survey by American Greetings (yes, the mushy card makers), says that many single people will use Valentine's Day to pamper themselves or to relish their friendships.

But that sounds like baloney to other people.

Melissa Langford, a 34-year-old Waco resident, isn't looking forward to spending Valentine's Day alone.

"I'm so lonely," she says. "I would love to meet somebody on Valentine's Day, but if it happens, it happens, if it doesn't, it doesn't."

What are the dateless to do? Call an ex? Write a sad country song? Go to bed early and hope Cupid's arrows find a trajectory to their hearts next year?


A new attitude
How about firing the chubby cherub and shooting some arrows of your own?

That's the advice of New York fashion designer-turned-dating-expert Jennifer Bawden.

"There's no reason ever to be alone on Valentine's Day, once you learn to take control of your dating destiny," she says.

Bawden's first book, Get a Life, then Get a Man, is a newcomer to the bookstore shelves and sits in the relationships section - one already filled with more guides than a tourist bureau and more playbooks than a coach's office.

What makes hers different? She calls it a "guide for dating in the new millennium."

And listen up, fellas, because Bawden's putting women in control.

With advice like writing a date criteria list ("You wouldn't go to the grocery store famished, would you?") and exercising your God-given brain cells ("Don't lost your IQ because he's gorgeous or great in bed,"), Bawden's book is intended to wake women up to the fact that developing their own lives will make them more attractive to men.

"Men run away from needy, clingy women," she says. "The last thing a man wants is a woman who is gum on his shoe. Men want to see women who have goals, dreams and accomplishments."

Remember Melissa Langford, who was going to be lonely on Valentine's Day? That's not for lack of a fulfilling life.

Valentine's Day used to be her favorite day of the year. In fact, she got married on the day. Now divorced for three years, this mother of two is concentrating on other areas of life. She's a full-time culinary arts student at Texas State Technical College with aspirations of being a restaurant manager and health inspector.

If she's lonely, it's because she hasn't found someone with the same interests and values, she says. Not because she needs someone to take care of her.

"(Women) need to learn that we rely on things that aren't there - fantasies. And we get disappointed in the end," Langford says. "How can we rely on a man if we can't rely on ourselves? The reality is we have to take care of ourselves first. If we fall, we don't need a man to pick us up."

That's exactly Bawden's attitude.

"It's not only OK to develop your talents, it's what life is all about," Bawden says. "When anyone is out reaching their passion in life, they're going to be that much more fun to be around and much more dynamic than someone who lets their goals fall to the wayside."

What do men think of this take-control attitude?

Miller, the Baylor student, says he is turned off by women who want a man to depend on. At Baylor, he says, there are rumors of a certain finance class that omwn take to pick a husband.

"Ever heard of an 'MRS degree?'" he jokes.

Another of Bawden's modern dating tips: Women should hunt for men like men hunt for women. This is contrary to many women's ideas, including the authors of another dating book, The Rules, which characterizes men as the hunters and women as the hunted.
Well, it's time to break the rules, Bawden says.

"There is some sort of deep cultural shame that is associated with a woman approaching a man," she says. "Where did it come from? Our grandmothers? It's absolutely crazy, and it's time for the shame to be dissolved."

Langford says she loves to ask men out.

"I don't think we should feel ashamed at all," she says. "I think it should be a woman's choice, too. If you like him, talk to him. If you get cut down, you get cut down."

But Havins, a health-care professional at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, says asking men out can be scary if you don't know them. However, that doesn't mean she won't approach them, she says.

Hunting in Waco
Bawden admits being in New York helps her meet lots of men. In general, she says, as long as you know where the singles are in town or hang out in places that interest you, you'll meet other interesting single people.

But let's face it. Waco's no Big Apple.

In fact, when it comes to labeling the dating scene here, some local singles classify it as "a wasteland," "a bore" and "a parking lot because all the good ones are taken."

The hot spots? Graham Central Station, Cricket's and Baylor classrooms. 

Delores Ward has one more idea. As an officer of the Waco chapter of the Texas Association of Single Adults, she organizes group outings for singles. The group of mostly 35- to 50-year-olds has dances once a week and has activities for those who like to stay away from bar scenes. Everyone in the group is widowed, divorced, or never married. But not everyone in the group is looking for a potential mate. 

"I can see where it's hard to meet people (in Waco) unless you meet somebody at a church or at a bar," she says. "These people are not bar-type people, they just come most of the time for fellowship and the social part of it."

But occasionally, couples do emerge. Ward, herself a 64-year-old widow, met the man she calls "definitely my boyfriend" at a singles association dance eight years ago. It took a few phone calls on his part, but she finally went out with him again. 

He has since moved from Gatesville to Waco, but they don't plan to get married.

Dating is different for older singles who have already experienced a lifetime of love, she says.

"If you've had a great love in life and have lost it for whatever reason, you hope in some way you can get it again someday," she says. "But I think probably even the younger people (in the singles association) have a feeling of been there, done that, now I'm in this stage of my life and everything's OK."

Until you get to that point though, Bawden says to approach dating in 2000 with an entrepreneurial spirit.

"Be more proactive," she says. "Make a commitment that next year you won't be alone on Valentine's Day."

Who knows, maybe you'll even need the manicure next year.