Fellow New Haven Review contributor Nora Nahid Khan recently wrote an article for the New Haven Advocate about the futility of attempting to find romance in New Haven. (Link here: sorry, I can't seem to get the link function to work right now: http://www.newhavenadvocate.com/commentary/love-new-haven )
I know what she's talking about. I really and truly do. Romantic life in New Haven when you're in your twenties can be beyond frustrating. I assume it doesn't get any better or more fun when you're in your thirties or forties. But the fact that I am writing this from the perspective of a married person -- and, I might add, a pretty happily married person -- indicates that romance in New Haven is possible, does happen, and can even end in happy marriage. Don't despair, Nora.
That said, even with all my memories of romantic frustration (experienced primarily between 1993 and 1998), my own personal experience has left me littered with so many romantic memories of New Haven -- especially downtown New Haven -- that I can't help but say, "It's not that New Haven isn't romantic. It's that somehow people have lost their ability to notice romantic things when they're happening; because what matters isn't where you are, exactly, it's what's in your head, and what you are willing to do or say." The New Haven Nora finds so unromantic is the same New Haven where I had my first kiss (which was, I feel, a very romantic moment). Naples Pizza is where I had my (sort of) first date, which, okay, was not such a success (the guy showed up stoned, not exactly the way to win my heart). But matters did improve. Through my teens and twenties, romance was about walking around downtown aimlessly, looking into shop windows, stopping to sit and do nothing useful or noble on Beinecke Plaza or on the steps of a nearby secret society; going to Mamoun's at a ridiculous hour; sitting on the front stoop of my apartment on a sweltering August night, looking across the street to Rudy's, drinking a black cherry soda; sitting on the front porch of the apartment in East Rock reading and watching a massive rainstorm pass over us. And there were many public displays of affection. Many. I don't know where Nora's looking, but I see public displays of affection and romance all over the place. And I could tell you stories.
I will say that trying to find a viable mate in New Haven is difficult; this is a subject I've discussed ad nauseam with several people over the years. It is sometimes assumed that, since I am a local, I met my husband here in New Haven. My standard line on this is, "No, I had to import a husband." Though New Haven is filled with single people looking for mates, I apparently did not meet the elusive standards of the single men I chatted with, day in and day out, while working in a bookstore downtown. I suppose grad students are looking for more ambitious types than the type of girl who'd while away her time working at a bookstore the way I did. But it still stung, to be passed over, over and over again. I wonder if the people in their twenties looking for mates who Nora's looking at are people who are looking for mate, sure, but not (sorry) wholeheartedly, because they're putting more effort into looking for professional success.
It wasn't that long ago that I was, like Nora, bemoaning my singleness and wondering if I'd have to move across the country to find a boyfriend (I didn't). And I have lots of friends, male and female, who talk to me all the time about how it sucks to be dating in New Haven. I always say, "I know. I know." Because I do know. But I also think that things change; we change; and, New Haven being what it is, the available pool changes. Romantic life in New Haven is very, very possible, and can be more wonderful than you'd imagine. Give it time, and in the meantime, be grateful you're not paying New York rent while you suffer through your romantically-challenged years.