Spring has come late to the Yukon, but that plaintive query that heralds the arrival of a new season still rings out loud and clear: “Where in God’s name are all the single men?”
Gone are the days of the old adage “The odds are good, but the goods are odd,” where a pioneering single lady had any number of hard living men to choose from.
The balance has shifted. Yukon went from Ladies’ Night to BYOB — bring your own boyfriend — otherwise, you might just join the legions of intelligent, attractive, successful, and generally awesome single women in Yukon, many of whom are in my social circle.
In truth, there’s no actual shortage. According the Bureau of Statistics, there are over 600 more men than women in the territory. Leaving aside factors such as age distribution, homosexuality, and double-dipping (you know who you are), there’s roughly an equal number of cowboys and cowgirls.
So what’s the real problem? In my first foray into investigative journalism, I consulted the seemingly overrepresented cohort of single women about why it’s so darn hard to find love in the Yukon.
There’s the “size” issue, compounded by the “access” issue. But I’m not talking about winter underwear, rather the population of Yukon — small and remote.
One informant, H, points out that “Dating in Whitehorse feels like being in high school. You can know a person’s entire relationship history before you even meet them.” She adds, “It’s like being in an STD ad: you’re not just dating the person, you’re dating everyone else they’ve ever dated.”
It’s the old problem of living in a small pond, but unlike small ponds in southern Canada, there are no other little ponds within easy swimming distance. Ponds where you could, say, go to a multiplex cinema on a date and not run into half your book club seated in the row behind you.
Another informant, B, who is a 30-year old professional, was amazed to find herself making plans in Toronto with a friend of a friend who, in her words, “was perfectly nice and had not slept with a single one of my friends.”
Knowing someone’s relationship history may require carefully navigating a close network of exes, children, and resentments ranging from acrimony to alimony.
As P says, “I have to think hard before I decide to date my co-worker’s ex-boyfriend. We have to be very careful with each other and the situation.”
This brings me to a second factor in the Great Bachelor Famine. Let me first express my utmost respect for all the single and sometimes single men I know in the Yukon — what I’m about to say is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you: there is perceived to be an issue of quality among Whitehorse men.
As Informant L observes, “The odds are not so good, and the goods are still odd.”
We all like to think that the Yukon attracts people that are hardy and resourceful – who dance to the beat of their own drum. For some men, that drum beats a little louder than need be in a conventional relationship. Call it what you want: individuality, independence, hoarding.
B calls it too much choice.
“Lots of men have it easy up here, and I think it can make them reluctant to commit,” she says. “They know that if something gets hard, they can just move on to the next casual thing.”
In other words, yes, the goods are odd, but they’re still getting a ride in the shopping basket of love.
Which brings me to a third, related point. Reproduction.
I am not going near any evolutionary theories about why men and women behave the way they do. All I want to say is that if men are root vegetables and women are tomatoes.
Root vegetables stay fresh for ages. I once had a sweet potato in my fridge for six months.
Tomatoes, on the other hand, well, there comes a time in every tomato’s life when they have to stop ripening on the counter and move either into the salad bowl or into the spaghetti sauce.
Neither is better or worse, but if you’re the kind of tomato who wants to be a part of a salad, you have to find the right lettuce and dressing – before you turn into a tasty sauce.
Unfortunately many tomatoes in the Yukon are the independent type. They get busy building careers, running dog teams, and paddling through pristine watersheds. Before they know it, the biological clock is ticking and into the sauce they go.
All this is to say that things can be rather pressing for women when they’re looking for love.
There might be no supply issue, no quality issue, just poor timing.
So, what’s a gal to do if she’s given it an honest shot and still hasn’t struck gold?
According to P, “Move out or move on!”
There are certainly good reasons to leave any place, but I’m guessing that some of the women who leave here think that they if they stay, they just aren’t going to find a good carrot and make a nice salad.
If you do stay, P says, “You just have to get over the fact that you might not meet someone. You have to psychologically move on and focus on other things that are important to you.”
But do you ever give up hope of finding love? According to E, no.
“It doesn’t mean you don’t love your life and your community, because otherwise why would you live here, but you still hope that someday you’ll find someone.”