The Dame Drain

🕔Jul 16, 2009

Here’s a fact that might surprise you: If every unattached woman in northern BC suddenly found love locally, there would still be enough single men left in the North to fill a town the size of Vanderhoof.
Clip it, tuck it in your back pocket, and take it to the pub with you to settle once and for all the raging debate of whether there are more available men or women living in the province’s northern half.

There are, according to the last census, roughly 17,180 available women living in northern BC, compared with about 21,665 single men.

“Where the heck are they?” says Karen Berezon, from her new home in the Comox Valley. It’s a cry that can be heard echoing across the North. Despite the herds of fabulous single women seen roaming ski hills, bike trails and local social hangouts, the eligible single male willing to commit appears almost as elusive as the famed Kermode bear. And the result—a phenomenon we’ll call the dame drain—could have devastating impacts on northern communities.

Berezon was 48 when she moved south last year after spending 11 years in Smithers. Ironically, she’d come to northern BC for a relationship. When the relationship ended two years later, she found she had fallen madly in love with the community and decided to stay.

“After we split up, I never dated anyone locally again,” she says, pausing for a moment to wistfully remember a guide she once brought home from a kayaking trip in Haida Gwaii. “After 11 years of living in the North I found it challenging and difficult to meet men. Most of it occurred through friends introducing me. Unless you want to hang out at a rodeo.”

With only a dial-up connection available at her rural home, an attempt at Internet dating was short-lived. “I tried it once. It took five minutes to load one photo of one person. I thought, ‘This isn’t going to happen.’”

Berezon isn’t alone in her quest for love. Across northern BC, there appears to be a trend in fantastic single women leaving in search of romance, with tragic results: single, middle-aged women are some of the biggest contributors to a community. They have the time, energy and enthusiasm to volunteer and organize events. To say that their departure is a loss is an understatement.

“Single women who are childless or have grown children, we play a really specific role in the community. Women have amazing creative energy,” says Berezon, whose local contributions included being a dance teacher, music festival volunteer and founding member of the local choir. “I see it as a responsibility to channel some of my creative energy as a woman into the community.”

Where are they?
So, again we ask: where are all the single men?

Well, if you take the 2006 provincial census, assume the best and choose only from the “not in a common-law relationship” column, and tally everyone divorced, widowed, separated or never married between the ages of 20 and 49, it appears that northern BC’s single population is 56 percent male, compared with 52 percent province-wide.

If you think that means you’ll only get a date by driving to an abandoned-looking trailer north of Dease Lake and batting your eyelashes at its buck-toothed inhabitant, think again.

The Stikine, Skeena-Queen Charlotte and Fraser-Fort George regional districts have the lowest incidence of single males at 53 percent; Kitimat-Stikine and Bulkley-Nechako have 56 percent single males; and, if you’re really looking to increase your odds, the Peace River and Northern Rockies regional districts have 60 and 62 percent males, respectively, in their singles population.

To put it into perspective: if you are a woman living in, say, the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District and everyone one of your single girlfriends (all 2,130 of them) found someone within the region, you would still have more than 600 single men to choose from locally.
And here’s some encouragement for single 30-somethings: although the dating pool decreases in your 30s, the number of singles increases again in the 40s. Well, this is true for northern BC, anyway. In the south, the single 40s category is one of the few where women outnumber the men. Maybe they all moved there from the North.

The only other place where women outnumber men is in the “widowed” category. (Note to men: if you’re looking for a date, try staking out funeral parlors or attending bereavement group counselling.)

Obviously, these statistics don’t allow for details. The numbers don’t indicate whether these are “open” relationships, or if they’re “complicated.” We don’t know if the respondents are gay, straight, prefer blonds or are into kinky leather antics, but we can safely assume that at least some are eligible, able to feed and dress themselves, and are interested in commitment.

Good odds
So, is it just that, as some have remarked, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd”?

In an online survey targeting single northern females, 74 percent of respondents answered that not only are they fabulous and single, but so are all their single girlfriends. When asked if they were currently dating anyone, 58 percent answered no, while 37 percent responded, “I’m not sure. Ask me when the paddling/skiing/climbing season ends.” Only five percent said they are currently dating someone regularly.

Encouragingly, more than half said they met their last date in the North, at venues ranging from local paddling clubs to work sites, the pub, Internet dating, the Safeway checkout and in the woods. (Note: we don’t advocate wandering alone in the woods in search of a man.)

However, it’s disconcerting to note that, while 88 percent said they felt the region was lacking in eligible single men, a total 44.4 percent—nearly half!—said they would leave the area within the next five years if they didn’t find a man. Only one third said they would rather die sad and lonely in northern BC than go searching elsewhere for love.

“What dating scene?” one respondent asked. “I’m sure there’s a man out there who: 1) works 2) has no addictions 3) can still see his toes 4) is single, available and between 35 and 45—but how do I go about finding him?”

A few optimistic single females—though sadly in the minority—advised their counterparts to lower their expectations or rearrange their dating priorities. Others suggest cozying up to the shy guy and a few conversely encouraged the men to just step up to the plate and ask a girl out. Another blamed the complexities of dating in a small community: “We all know far too much about each other, see each other all the time, and being discreet is rather difficult.”

So, to answer the question, “Where are the single men?” Well, they’re, uh…out there. But where? Well, if I knew that, I’d be making millions with a dating service. But they do exist and, apparently, outnumber the many beautiful, fun, athletic and intelligent women roaming around the North.

So, ladies, best to keep skiing, biking, being your fabulous selves, and maybe take up a little fishing in the meantime because, as another survey respondent pointed out: “Catching a man in the North is probably a lot like steelhead fishing. It’s not easy, takes special gear, takes a lot of patience, takes a LONG time to reel them in, and at the end of the day, most likely all you’re left with is a good story.”