Paul E. Schoen
September 28, 1996
This story, or maybe more accurately, this part of my lifelong story,
begins in early November, 1993. At that time, I was running the Single
Professionals' Network, as the club was then known, having inherited it
from its previous "owner" about two years before. One of the
club's long time members, Clint, called me and said that he had been contacted
by Mary Corey, a staff writer for the Baltimore Sunpapers, and she
was doing an article on single people. He suggested that I call her.
Thinking that I might be able to provide some publicity for our singles
organization, I called her, and left a message which briefly explained
my involvement with the Single Professionals' Network. When she called
back, she said she would like to give me an interview over the phone. I
had wanted to provide more written information on the SPN, but she said
she was on a tight deadline. We agreed that I could fax some of the material
to her, and mail the rest, then proceeded with the phone interview.
In the interview, I told her many things about SPN, and also a number
of personal experiences with dating services and clubs. She asked such
things as how much money I may have spent on such things, and what my worst
dating experience was. I figured that the dating services cost me about
$1500, but other expenses over the past 20 years or so of dating may have
totaled about $5000. She asked if it could have been as much as $10,000,
and I agreed that it was possible. After all, that represents just a little
over $40 per month over 20 years.
The phone interview was on Wednesday, November 3. I thought the article
might appear in the Sunday issue, and eagerly awaited its publication.
However, I was startled when my mother told me that her friend Margie had
seen an article with my name in it in the Friday morning paper, November
5. Her brief description seemed quite different from what I had expected.
I picked up a copy of the paper, and read the article with some incredulity.
It was titled "Paying the Price for Love", and started as follows:
In the pursuit of love, no one has been more devoted than Paul Schoen.
He's attended singles hayrides, singles hikes, and singles house parties. He's answered personal ads for athletic women (his preference) only to discover they considered shopping their most aerobic activity. He's hired a matchmaking company, revealing to strangers his marital ideal: a woman (ages 21-42) who loves nature, simple pleasures and friendship. And he said it again, while the camera rolled, after joining a video dating service several years ago.
The grand total so far:
- Lasting romantic relationships: 0
- Cost: $10,000
"Maybe it's worth it to other people," says Mr. Schoen,
44, a businessman who lives in Towson, "But at this point, it hasn't
been for me. It's expensive, and I'm still single"
The body of the article concerned the emerging and growing singles industry,
and quoted other peoples' experiences with various services and dating
in general. The last paragraph in the article was as follows:
Despite disappointments, Paul Schoen is still on the look-out for
Princess Charming. He's just decided to limit how much money he'll spend
on the search. "The money hasn't been wasted," he says. "It's
been an investment. But I feel my life would be fuller if I met the right
person, so I'll keep on trying."
My emotions were mixed after reading the article. I was somewhat upset
that there was no mention made about the Single Professionals' Network,
which I had wanted to present as a viable alternative to the more expensive
options that were highlighted. Also, when I showed the article to some
friends, they pointed out that it made me seem like a desperate loser.
There was not much I could do about it, since it was already printed, and
it was not directly slanderous.
Several days after the article appeared, I received several letters,
and a few phone calls, from people in the Baltimore area. One of the first
letters was from a woman who wrote a very nice letter describing herself,
congratulating me on my persistence, and offering her phone number so we
could talk. Another was a postcard from a married woman who was touched
by my description of my "ideal", and suggested the North Central
RR hiking trail, and "Nashville's" for C/W dancing. I received
a nice card from a 44 year old twice-married woman who had recently moved
to Washington, DC, and wished me luck. Another letter was from a man who
thought to himself, "Here's someone who needs help," and suggested
Single Booklovers. In all cases in which I responded to the communication,
I was able to explain a bit more about myself and the singles club; however,
no long term correspondence resulted.
For a while, I looked forward to checking my mailbox and answering machine.
After a week or two, however, there were no more letters or phone calls.
During this time, I wrote a letter to Mary Corey, as follows:
715 Warren Road
Cockeysville, MD 21030
November 12, 1993
Mary Corey, Staff Writer
The Baltimore Sun
501 N. Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21278
In your article of November 5, 1993, titled "Paying
the price for love", I was somewhat surprised by your interpretation
of my comments. I realize that some journalistic creativity must be allowed
to catch the readers' attention, but it seems that an erroneously negative
inference has been made on my dating experiences, and I would like to present
a more accurate, albeit less sensational, account.
As for the $10,000 cost, it should be noted that I
have spent less than $2000 total on specific expenses such as dating services,
singles clubs, and personal ads. The remainder is based on an estimate
of all dating-related expenses over a twenty year period, which works out
to about $33 a month.
Although I am not presently involved in any serious
romantic relationship, it is not accurate to say that I have had a total
of zero over the aforestated twenty year period. Over that time, I had
one serious relationship that lasted three years, another that spanned
about six months, and perhaps a dozen more of lesser intensity that endured
more than a few weeks.
It was an accurate observation, however, that none
of these more durable affairs were the result of the specific services
for which I spent about $2000. In general, I have met women while enjoying
activities such as hiking and playing volleyball, and dating relationships
grew out of shared interest.
I had been under the impression that my interview was
in reference to my involvement with the Single Professionals' Network.
This is an active, growing organization which provides a variety of healthy
activities at which single people may interact in a low-pressure atmosphere.
We sponsor events such as hay rides, house parties, hikes, day trips, movies,
dinners, games, white water rafting, and karaoke. A nominal $5 yearly fee
provides members with a quarterly newsletter and discounts to events. We
rely on members to sponsor activities, and depend on the local media, such
as the Sunpapers, for advertisement. As a result of this exposure, our
activities are generally attended by a large percentage of newcomers, and
our membership has been growing at a rate of about 10% per month.
Speaking of advertising in the Sunpapers, our club
has been conspicuously absent from the "Singles Week" column
of the Sunday edition over the last several months, despite our repeated
efforts to send press releases to John Ketchum. It is difficult to complain
about advertising that is offered at no charge, but we would gladly pay
a nominal fee to have our activities included on a regular basis. Also,
I think it would be of benefit to the Sunpapers to be known as a comprehensive
source of information on singles activities.
As coordinator of Single Professionals' Network, I am very much interested in making the "singles scene" a rewarding one for those who have a professional and caring attitude toward relationships. I would be happy to receive any assistance from you and the Sunpapers in pursuit of this goal.
Returning to your article, I think it would be of great interest and service to your single readers to focus on the large number of non-commercial singles-oriented groups that serve the Greater Baltimore area. Many of those who contact me are unaware of these groups, or know little about them. I would be happy to assist you in putting together a definitive listing of such groups, and perhaps writing an article or series which features them individually.
You may be interested to know that your article has resulted
in my being contacted by at least five women who were
interested in talking to me about my experiences, and others who offered
support and encouragement. However, most people who read it agree that
it portrays me inaccurately as a "loser", and I would like to
have the opportunity to clarify this. I would prefer to be part of an article
on singles clubs, as mentioned above, but I may also consider sending part
of this letter to the Sunpapers as a reader editorial.
If you wish to talk to me concerning those things I
have mentioned in this letter, please call me at 555-1234. Thank you.
Paul E. Schoen
I never did receive an answer to that letter, although I think I raised
a few good points. After the letters and calls subsided, I just assumed
that the whole thing would simply fade away into my personal history. However,
a few weeks later, I got a call from a woman in Boca Raton, Florida, who
had seen the article in a Palm Beach paper. She gave me the numbers of
her two older unmarried sisters, one in Randallstown, the other in Columbia.
I finally called one of them, but there was not much mutual interest.
So, the article was on the "wire services", and was being
distributed at least along a portion of the East Coast. My next call, I
think, was from a woman in Kingston, NC, who saw the article, and was planning
to write something herself about singles. I also got a call from an older
woman in Raleigh, NC; she had lost her husband two years before to cancer,
and we talked for a good while. A woman in New York, who was looking for
someone to date her daughter, called me, and I got a letter from a nice
older woman in Atlanta, GA, who sent me a copy of the article from the
November 18 Atlanta Constitution. It had been edited down, somewhat, and
its title changed to "Looking for Love: It's no cheap date finding
Mr., Ms. Right," but my name was still there in the leading and closing
paragraphs. She offered to introduce me to some younger "Georgia Peaches"
she knew. I wrote to her, with some explanations, and thanked her for the
encouragement. She wrote back later, but the correspondence ended there.
I also got a call from a very pleasant young woman in Charleston, WV, and
one from a woman in Arkansas, who said (on my answering machine) something
like, "What you are looking for, you cannot buy."
On Sunday, November 28, I answered the phone, and was greeted by the
rather distant sounding voice of a young woman whom I will refer to as
"Marie", and she said she was in the Los Angeles, CA area. She
saw the article in an L.A. newspaper. We talked for quite a while, and
she seemed very interesting. She asked for my address, so she could write
me a letter, and asked about the age range of SPN, and the age woman I
was looking for. I told her, frankly, that I was most interested in younger
women, and she said, "Oh, like me?" She was 27. I found that
she is originally from Northeast Ohio, went to school in California, and
planned to go to Harvard for a PHD and MD. She has her own business, as
a "creative consultant" in art and music. She asked if I go skiing
- then said that the best part of skiing is afterward, making love in front
of the fireplace! She gave me her address and unpublished phone number,
and I was filled with anticipation of receiving her letter. Well, my article
had finally made it all the way across the country, and had sparked the
interest of someone absolutely fascinating.
Although I was excited about this latest prospect, I fully expected
it to fade away like all the others. However, she called again two days
later, and requested my business card. We talked a bit longer, and she
asked what my background was. When I told her I had German ancestry, she
said she was part Slovak and part North Italian, and then said that I should
be glad to know that, because they make the best lovers! She also said
that she had a genius IQ, and looked something like Jaclyn Smith. Now my
interest was really heightened, but I was still doubtful that anything
long-lasting would develop. I reasoned that she was probably interested
in me as a subject for her interest in Psychology, or perhaps thought that,
as a 44 year old businessman, I may have lots of money.
Meanwhile, one or two more responses came in, but none were remotely
as interesting as my California contact. Over the next several months,
I became involved with a woman I will refer to as "Lori", who
lived literally across the street, and we had a lot in common. We saw each
other several times over the Christmas holidays, New Years Eve, and through
January. Actually, there was one more very interesting response. Sometime
in early January, I received a call from a man named Chris. He said he
was a freelance writer who saw my article on file, and wanted to phone-interview
me. We talked for awhile, and he said he might call back. A few days later,
he called, and asked me if I would be interested in getting letters from
several thousand women who would like to meet me. My first thought was
that he was pushing a dating service thing, but he explained that he wanted
to write an article featuring me and my experiences in searching for a
mate. At the end of the article would appear a section saying, "Would
you like to date Paul? Send letters to this publication." It sounded
good, initially, but then he said that the magazine was the National
Enquirer! I basically gave him a tentative "NO", but he called
back, saying that all I had to do was look through some of the letters,
pick one, and go out with her on an expense-paid date. They would also
pay me $500. I was almost ready to agree, but I learned that my full name
would be revealed, and I was afraid that there were too many crazies reading
the magazine. He urged me to buy a copy, which I did, and found it to be
not as sleazy as I had envisioned it to be, but I decided to let this dubious
opportunity pass by.
"Lori" also urged me not to accept the offer. During that
time, I was under a lot of stress, and it aggravated a back problem I have
had for some time, to the point that it was painful to walk, or even sit
or lay in most positions. This continued into late February, and of course
it created difficulties in the relationship. By late March, it was essentially
over. Actually, one factor in its dissolution was my continued interest
in "Marie", who had since moved to Redlands. I had some tentative
plans to travel to San Diego for business, and naturally hoped to be able
to meet her in person. Of course, being the honest person I am, I had told
"Lori" a little bit about my conversations with "Marie",
and she even encouraged me to meet her. Ironically, about this time, "Lori"
and I watched "Sleepless in Seattle," and both of us may have
seen the parallels. By sometime in April or May, my "back was better,"
I was "off my back", and "Lori" was "better off
back" with her ex-boyfriend from "way back" when.
"Back" to my continuing story. By August of 1994, I had made
plans to fly to San Diego in order to service a test set in Mexicali, Mexico,
and had even purchased tickets. However, it did not work out, and I had
to change my trip to late January, 1995. During my visit there, I called
"Marie", but she was ill and I was unable to visit. We continued
to correspond by phone, and I even called her during a second visit to
California in March of 1995, but again we were unable to meet in person.
The story continues; we speak to each other from time to time. I am planning
another trip to California in early 1997, but by then, she will probably
have moved back to Ohio. However, that represents only a day's drive, and
I'm certain that there will come a time when we will be able to see each
other. The end of the story is not yet written, and I cannot guess the
eventual outcome. Hopefully, the story will not even have an ending. Good
friendship is an enduring process. As long as we live, and continue to
communicate, our lives are intertwined, and the story continues.
"Not quite" THE END...
Copyright (c) 1996 Paul E. Schoen
Permission is granted to
copy and quote all or portions of this story for non-commercial purposes,
providing that context is preserved and proper credit is given to the author.
have read this since October 22, 1996