Alicia Ostarello was interested in what dating is like in parts of the country other than her California home. So interested, in fact, that she embarked on a project: go on 50 first dates, one in every state in the union. A Kickstarter project turned into a documentary, as well as a blog, and a journey that took her across the country and on many, many, many dates.
America is a big, rad place. Some days it can feel like the whole country has a lot in common – like on Super Bowl Sunday – and we’re living the melting pot dream together. Maybe this is just me, but sometimes it can also feel like we’re living in stew. A lot of ingredients, separate but together (and hopefully equal).
Geographical culinary comparisons aside, I noticed similarities and differences in America this autumn while traveling to all fifty states. Given that my goal was to go on a first date in every single state, what I noticed about the commonalities and differences of different regions was limited to the singles scene (and the men in it). Here’s what I discovered.
The place that filters forgot.
Think Oregon, Washington, Idaho and sometimes Wyoming.
Being overly open and in touch with their feelings means these guys also lacked boundaries and occasionally, a filter. Direct quotes: “Do you want to see the house I used to live in?” and “Are you sure you aren’t currently married?” and “Oh look, you have a little pot-belly!”
The place where the phrase “I’m an open book” rings true.
Think Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
I have to say, the Midwest is a hotbed of fantastic men. Overly polite, incredibly willing to talk about anything, and able to maintain a sense of decorum. Pulling out chairs, opening doors and simply be charming, manly, and artsy all at the same time. Direct quotes: “Let me get that,” and “My parents were pastors but I’m usually an atheist,” and “Let’s talk politics!”
The place where farm-boys still exist.
Think Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio.
Strong, silent types who seemed to have gotten their masculine cues from Varsity Blues. These men all really liked football, were often a bit reserved, and also talked lovingly of their dogs. Direct quotes: “Want to see photos of my chickens?” and “Would it be okay if I steal a kiss?”
The place hipsters get style cues from.
Think Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.
Oddly similar to the Middle, men here were strong (though less silent), and a bit less into sports. Brusque demeanors and a lot of five-o’clock shadows reigned, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the hipster movement had stolen their plaid, lanky look from these guys. Direct quotes: “I’ve got to pick up my daughter from my second ex-wife’s house in twenty minutes,” and “It’s impossible to find a pretty, funny girl who doesn’t already have a baby. Or any woman, really. ”
The place where being blunt is totally okay.
Think New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington DC and Delaware.
Chatty men with a lot to say were a bit of a shock after the less-to-say guys of the Middle and Northeast. Be prepared to hear exactly what someone thinks of you in a very non-emotional way, and where manners aren’t often a thing. Direct quotes: “Yeah, I slept with both my best friend’s ex-wives, but we’re still basically brothers,” and “I was thinking of buying a two-bedroom condo instead of a three bedroom. What do you think?”
The place where politeness never goes out of style.
Think Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
So polite. So so so polite. Put the Midwest to shame with their politeness here. Direct quotes: “Please,” and “Thank you,” and “You look fantastic in that dress,” and “Can I get you another drink?”
The place where relaxation comes into play.
Think Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana.
Grungy. Like, Original Grungy, not those Seattle-inspired clean-grunge shenanigans. With the grunge comes very relaxed men – a little filter lacking like the Northwest guys, but also just simply easy-breezy. Maybe there’s something in the water? Direct quotes: “Oh, I wonder if they’re hiring at this place. Let me ask,” and “I think I have the stomach flu. Does that mean I’m probably not going to get to make out with you?”
The place more diverse than you imagined.
Think Texas. All of it. Dallas to El Paso.
An incredible mish-mash of haves and have-nots, men here ranged from born ‘n bred ranch boys to second generation East-Indians who wouldn’t admit on camera they didn’t have a green card. One thing they did all have in common was being rather forward. In lieu of a direct quote, I’d like to tell the story of Mr. El Paso, who put his fingers on the back of my neck and when I asked exactly what he was doing he replied “Just looking.” Since he was a doctor I was worried he’d seen a lump and got upset, only to realize he’d been flirting with me.
The place where doing things is cool.
Think New Mexico, Arizona, Utah
Outdoorsy to the max! I wasn’t expecting a bountiful amount of men who wanted to go rock climbing and hiking and who seemed reasonably healthy. But there they all were, being down to earth and down with the Earth. Direct quotes: “Let’s tell each other something we’d never want a first date to know,” and “Oh, you didn’t bring a Nalgene? Have some water from mine.”
The place where wide-eyed, wondering men still exist.
Think Colorado, Nevada
Wow. Men here felt dreamy – not necessarily in a looks way, but in an “I’m floating through the world” way. They asked perplexing questions, were happy to have conversation that wound around but never finished, and were easily entertained. An impressive number of them seemed lost in the shuffle of their lives. Direct quotes: “I’m in between jobs. I mean, I have a degree in architecture but I just don’t love it,” and “Oh my God. You like Doctor Who too!?”
Back in California
The place where I still feel most comfortable.
Think San Francisco Bay Area, baby!
Yep, I’m back home for now and it’s oddly comforting. Admittedly, though I enjoy not being an anomaly (I feel as though there are many women here with my qualities), I do miss connecting with vastly different types of guys. Men here are quasi-laid back, often workaholics. They have energy that matches, though rarely rivals, mine. They are Jacks-of-all-trades, masters of one. Direct quotes: “I realized I’m just too busy to be a boyfriend and you deserve better” and “Want to wash our hands together?”
My favorite places? Yeah, I’ve got my eyes on the South, the Midwest and the Southwest, but I’m still holding out hope for California dudes.