This is column 20 in a series I wrote for Red Deer LIFE, the Sunday edition of the Red Deer Advocate, beginning in February 2004. This column, published in LIFE on October 31, 2004, examines the lessons learned by the six participants during the six-month challenge.
What is it we were supposed to learn?
Photo and story by Faye Bayko
We’ve come to the end of this experiment and it’s been interesting. As with any project, the results are a mix of expectations and surprises.
The original idea for the column came in response to a need I kept hearing from single acquaintances: Where do you go, other than the bar, to meet a potential mate?
The idea to explore the answer from the viewpoints of five women born in different decades came from my anxiety over the splintering of our society by age. What is that division doing to us as human beings?
Not long ago we lived in multi-generational communities, or tribes. Knowledge flowed in many directions. Today, we rip our children from our wombs and toss them in their own bedrooms. We are told not to answer their cries for fear of spoiling them. We build walled neighbourhoods based on age where the very act of such a separation instills fear in all generations.
Our youth and our elders are taught that it’s only natural that they have nothing to say to each other.
When I came up with the idea for the column I had hoped to include men. My editor felt the space available would prevent me from exploring both viewpoints on the subject covered by each column. He was right. The 800-word restriction allowed only a light touch on each subject.
The women who signed up for this experiment did so with no thought of gain other than the chance of meeting their future mate. There were no cash or product prizes given for completing this challenge, although I did purchase a copy of Kathy Freston’s book, Expect a Miracle, for each of them as a sign of my appreciation for their participation.
Identities were to remain confidential but Red Deer is a small town and some successful guesses were made. However, there will be no big reveal of identities at the end.
There were glasses of wine and dinner when the women met to review their experience.
“A friend told me about it and said that if I didn’t do it I was never to talk to her again,” said Suzanne, 51. “She told me she didn’t want to hear any more whining if I didn’t!”
Lynn, 32, said it was like pulling teeth for her to join. “I was going, ‘What am I doing? How desperate am I?'”
Desperate or not, the women stayed with the experiment, confronting issues, struggling to move forward even when the bi-weekly meetings ended due to my job commitments.
Each woman was expected to try at least three different ways to find a mate but as the challenge advanced this was relaxed.
Michelle appreciated the relaxing pace. “You didn’t push us,” she said. “It allowed us to move at our own pace. I didn’t know if I could do the speed-dating but I tried the Internet. I would never have done that on my own!”
In a recent interview, psychologist Kathleen Kelly said that time was needed for people to recognize the need for change. “We do the same patterns over and over until we start to wonder, ‘Where’s the boundary?’ Where do we start to say, ‘No’?”
Learning that the change had to come from within, rather than from outside, was part of the process.
Suzanne found Freston’s book especially helpful. “It consolidated everything I was thinking. (Love) is an inside job.”
Each of the books recommended in this column gave participants and readers a chance to gain greater insight into themselves and through that attract better relationships into their lives.
“It can happen for you if you have a real good understanding of who you are,” Michelle said.
Kelly cautioned that self-help books were tools not crutches. “Don’t get hooked on them.” She suggested action should follow reading. “Find a book that challenges you and then start living it.”
This was an experiment. I began it hoping that the column would encourage the participants and readers to get to know themselves and to gain enough confidence to go out into the world. The surprise was how well it worked in such a short period of time. It was difficult to believe the women laughing and bantering in my home last weekend were the same nervous, shy individuals I had met less than a year ago.