A few weeks ago, I got an interesting e-mail.
"I need your help in a somewhat strange endeavor," my friend wrote. "I'm trying to find a 'mate' for one of my good friends. She is convinced that there are no good guys to be had in Memphis, but I think it's just a matter of looking in the right places.
"What she is looking for is a straight, single male who is mature and caring, has a job, a college degree, doesn't live with mom, and has some sort of plan for the future, such as family and children." Unfortunately, I knew exactly what her friend was talking about.
A few weeks prior to the e-mail, in a very misguided attempt to cheer up one of my gal pals, another friend and I started a list of all the single men we knew. We included ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands, friends, friends' brothers, and even people we had never met but knew in only the vaguest of ways (one entry reads "John's roommate").
There were caveats, many the same my friend's e-mail mentioned. The result? It wasn't a long list, and while there were some prospects, they were mostly dark horse candidates. The whole endeavor didn't inspire a lot of confidence (though it has, in the interim weeks, inspired a lot of jokes).
I'm no Candace Bushnell, nor her on-screen alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, but I wondered what other single women and men in Memphis thought. So I started asking.
People said Memphis dating was "difficult," "limited," "redundant," "incestuous," and "disheartening." In an informal online conversation, women said there didn't seem to be any good single men left, and men said that Memphis women were stuck up.
Which is, perhaps, not all that surprising. In his 2008 book, Who's Your City?, Richard Florida wrote that where you live is one of the greatest influences on the person you will share your life with. Using data from National Geographic, Florida published a map that showed the ratio of single men to women in major metropolitan areas.
And in Memphis, there are more than 20,000 more single women than single men.
Gillian Smoot, marketing director at a financial technology company, moved to the city two years ago after finishing grad school.
"I have my career started and plenty of friends, but I'm to the point where I'm looking for someone here on a different level. When you work all week and come home to an empty apartment at night, you realize that it would be nice to have a significant other," she says. "Maybe I should consider a dog, since they are easier to find than a nice guy."
She's not sure she can find what she's looking for in Memphis, and she says she would be more likely to date a person who isn't from Memphis.
"People here tend to go to college and get married as soon as they graduate," she says. "Many people from Memphis never want to leave, and people not from here see the world as more open."
Her friend Sonja Luecke agrees. A native of Germany, she says, "Everybody gets married so early here. ... There are a few leftovers."
One of the constant refrains, from both men and women, is how shallow the Memphis dating pool is.
"I know a lot of people who end up dating each other's ex-boyfriends and girlfriends," says Michael Flanagan, a 30-year-old Midtown resident. "It's the largest small town in America: Everyone has dated someone who has dated someone who is an acquaintance or friend of theirs."
That can be helpful for initial introductions, and it can also mean getting the full scoop on someone before you ever go out.
"It's hard to meet anyone who doesn't know you through at least one other person, and you've probably dated that other person," says Jim Duong, a Memphis College of Art graduate. "There's a lack of anonymity, which is part of the allure of the whole dating experience."
But if you do meet someone outside of your social circle, girl-about-town Melanie Miller says it can be very refreshing. "If you have lived here for any extended period, chances are, if you want to date someone, you already have," she says. "Or they've dated your friends."
Single Memphians said they meet potential dates at bars, through friends, at dog parks, churches, and through dating sites on the Internet.
"If someone new moves in from out of town," Flanagan says, "it's like high school when a transfer student comes in."
What I would say is this: All it takes is one. And "the list" is available to the highest bidder.