The last internet date I was supposed to go on in New York City never actually happened. I had been talking to this guy who seemed handsome, intelligent, and interesting. After a week of chatting, he invited me out for a drink. It had been awhile since I’d had a date, and I was looking forward to it – until he texted me a picture of his penis two hours before I was supposed to meet him. Great.
Before that, there was the guy who, after our first date, would only text me after 10 pm, hoping we could “meet up.” During my eight years in New York I met drunk bankers, promiscuous bartenders, and men with lots of money but no time or desire for a girlfriend. It seemed like I knew a million amazing single women, but the single men I knew were few and far between.
Recently, I found myself with an opportunity to move to Honolulu. I thought maybe it was time to try something new. With the polar vortex looming in front of me, I packed my sundresses in a backpack, and found a reasonable flight out of Newark. As soon as I got off the plane, I was transported to a different world: a gentle warm breeze in the middle of December and ukulele music tinkling softly in the background.
My friend Christina greeted me by draping a lei of fragrant tuberoses around my neck and exclaiming, “I was at this party last week, and there were so many hot single guys there, and I realized I don’t know any girls I could introduce them too. Then you told me you were moving here, so I told them all about you. Basically, you already have a bunch of my friends ready to compete for your love.”
That was my first clue had somehow stumbled into a tropical version of The Bachelorette. I wasn’t in NYC anymore. According to Trulia, a real estate statistics company, there are 1.27 single men for every single woman in Honolulu. That is the second highest ratio of men to women in a major metro area in the United States (Vegas is #1). New York City skews the other way, with a single population that is 53% female. (And with the musical theater, fashion, media, and advertising agencies in New York, a huge chunk of the remaining 47% of single men are probably more interested in each other than me.)
There are two major pulls for single men to Hawaii. The first is the military. There are 11 bases in Hawaii and about 50,000 people are stationed here. Army, Navy, Air Force – I’ve been here for less than two months and I’ve met them all, and they all have one thing in common: it’s their job to stay in shape.
The rest of the men come for the proximity to outdoor adventures. Honolulu is bordered to the south by gorgeous beaches with palm trees, and to the north by lush green mountains. There are big wave surfers, SCUBA divers, and sailors. It might not always be their job, but they certainly have the sick bodies they get from their hobbies.
From my first night out in Honolulu, I was hit with the realization that outside of New York City people actually want to date me. I sat at tiki bars drinking mai tais with tiny umbrellas sticking out of them and had my drinks purchased for me by Lieutenants and swimmers. I went dancing with my friends at the bars on Waikiki and was surrounded by the most gorgeous men I had ever seen. Once they found out I was new in town, they all wanted to teach me how to surf. I was amazed at how easy it was to meet men.
My friend Natalya told me, “In Russia, it doesn’t matter how much makeup I put on, or how tight my dress is, now that I’m in my 30s no one will pay any attention to me. There, it’s all about the 20 year old girls. But here? I walk into a bar with my girlfriends and you see the heads turn as the men swivel around on their stools.”
My sister, who has been living here for three years, added, “[Meeting men] here as a woman is easy, the odds are always stacked in your favor. And the population is so diverse so you can really find what you’re looking for. Oh, and most men in Hawaii are pretty active. By that I mean they have awesome bodies.”
After a couple of days of hanging out on the beaches and hiking through rainforests, I updated my online dating profile to show I was in Honolulu. The messages started pouring in. Sure, there were a few of the standard “Want to bang?” messages, but a lot more of them were, “Want to go check out this hike with me?” “Want to go SCUBA diving?” “Want me to take you for a ride on my motorcycle?”
Within two weeks of arriving in Honolulu I’d been on three dates. A tall dark and handsome Navy Pilot (hello, Top Gun) took me to a new restaurant he wanted to try. We sat in Chinatown and slurped ramen noodles while he told me about the whales he could see as he flew over the Pacific. The next guy was really into mountain biking, so after a day of cycling through the lush forests populated with ferns out of Jurassic Park, we ended with a sunset cruise on his sailboat. You should have seen his arms as he worked the sails.
My third date was with a guy who ran his own business and worked part time at a surf school. He took me ocean kayaking through the sparkling turquoise water out to a beach on a tiny island. After playing in the waves and hiking around the tide pools, he suggested we try stand-up paddle boarding in the bay. The most elaborate date anyone planned for me in New York City involved going on Fandango to get the movie tickets ahead of time.
“Dating in Honolulu is so easy,” My new friend Alice confirmed over drinks, “As a woman you really have your pick of men. And they’re all really, really hot. The problem is that there aren’t a whole lot of career advancement opportunities out here, unless the guys are in the military.”
This was true, I was finding. Honolulu can be a transitory place – it’s hard to buy property because of the high costs, and many people only stay a few years before they move on. Guys in the military go on long deployments, or are transferred to other bases. It seemed that the prospects in Hawaii could be fit and fun and thoughtful and staggeringly attractive, but only for the short-term.
“Dating here is what you would expect from any party town with lots of tourists. If you’re looking for a one night thing, you can find it easily, but if you’re looking for more you can find that too,” my sister’s boyfriend told me when I asked about his experiences. “I found the love of my life.” He turned to my sister and threw his arm around her as we walked to the car.
In my pocket my phone pinged. It was an invite to go check out the massive 50-foot waves scheduled to hit the shores of Oahu the following morning.
“Pick you up at 8?”
Yeah, that sounds pretty good.