In the 1960s film classic The Graduate, a very young Dustin Hoffman gets one piece of career advice from an older neighbor: plastics. Today, you’re likely to hear another one-word injunction about finding a mate: online.
But wait! A lot of locals said they also try to meet at the bars of Hudson County, and sometimes they turn to local sports leagues.
Mike Ponte, 24, co-owner of the bar 3 East in Secaucus, is single and has a good view of what other singles are up to. He said men go to “other sports bars, clubs, all over” to meet women. If the bar is not busy, he himself will “spark up a conversation with a group of girls,” he said.
But he’s had some dating disasters.
“I went on a date with one girl,” he related. “She was very very attractive, and I thought I’d enjoy her company. I took her to a fancy restaurant in New York and wined and dined her, but she was more worried about herself and how she looked.”
She also talked too much about herself without listening to him, and worse yet: “I absolutely hate girls that smoke, and she took three or four cigarette breaks during dinner.”
In looking for someone to spend one’s life with – or maybe just a night – there are landmines everywhere, local singles said. With Valentine’s Day coming, they complained about various challenges such as being gossiped about when dating within their insular community (even in a big city like Jersey City), people lying in their online profiles, and various stereotypes they have of each other.
Ponte said that a woman who gets to know him will find out that he’s “not one of those juiceheads that find all that stuff attractive. I’m the complete opposite from that.”
He pointed to his love of family and respect for independence.
“I need a girl who is very involved with family,” he said, “has a good head on her shoulders, and doesn’t rely on a guy. I don’t want her trailing around behind me. I want her to do her own thing and not lose her friends because she has a boyfriend.”
Lying in their profiles
Some singles have “deal breakers” that they can’t seem to overcome – activities or qualities on the part of the other person that may disqualify them, things like smoking, height, or other issues. Then again, some of the bachelors and bachelorettes just want a little honesty.
Take Krista, 31, a hairstylist who’s lived in Jersey City for nine years.
“I had a date with a guy from Match.com,” she related last week. “He said he was divorced with no kids and lived on his own. When we went out on a date, he showed me a picture on his cell phone, which turned out to be his son.”
“Men get a bad rap about being superficial, but women are worse.” – Hoboken bachelor
That he had a son was particularly disconcerting for Krista because she’s not sure if she even wants kids, which was often a deal breaker for some of the guys she’d been dating. “I’m looking for a husband, not the father of my children,” she said.
She spoke of her preferences while sitting at a bar in downtown Jersey City early on a Sunday evening. She goes there not to hook up, but because she likes the people and the food — and that last one is a major point if you’re thinking of asking Krista out on a date.
“I’m a foodie,” she said, “and I can’t date a fussy eater or vegetarian. I love food. I love cooking. I love eating out. He’d have to be pretty adventurous with food, go to nice restaurants and enjoy himself.”
In Jersey City, Krista is caught in a bit of a catch 22.
“Jersey City is not an easy place to meet people,” she said. “It’s not like Hoboken where there’s a bar on every corner, but I appreciate Jersey City for not having a bar on every corner.”
Krista said she used to have a single roommate, “and we would ask a million times, ‘Where are all the guys?’ ”
How about City Hall?
Steven Fulop, the young reform councilman who represents downtown Jersey City, is “newly dating, and it is interesting,” he said last week. Asked for dating tips, he said, “Tips? I’m not the one to ask!” He went on to tell of one particularly humiliating story.
“I recently was asked to participate in two bachelor auctions to raise money for good causes,” he said. “One was for the arts and one was for cancer research. I figured this could be interesting, and what better way to meet people?”
Well, maybe dinner and drinks would have been better.
“I learned not only that my value is about the same as a main course at the Light Horse,” he continued, “but also I will never do it again in my life.”
One 32-year-old bachelor has been living in Hoboken10 years. The business owner gave a suggestion.
“I’d try to meet someone through an activity like dodge ball or kickball, something co-ed and competitive but not too physical,” he said. He’d look at Zog Sports, the local social networking site for sports leagues.
But there’s one date he really would have liked to bench. “I took a girl on a date seven years ago,” he said, “and she talked about her mom as if they were dating. I’m so relaxed, I let people talk, and then I thought, ‘Holy shit; Is this what I would have to deal with the rest of my life?’ ”
He said he was honest with her, telling her, “At what point are you going to make your own decisions?”
He added, “She was very insecure. That’s how her mother got into the mix.”
Girls’ night out
Nicole Puzio is 36, 5-foot-7, with short brown hair, green eyes, and a good job. She’d be a catch for any woman.
“Ever since I came out, I’ve dated straight girls,” Puzio revealed. “I rarely go to gay bars, and when I’ve been taken to one, I’m uncomfortable, out of my element.”
The chef at the former Ox restaurant in downtown Jersey City, Puzio met her ex at the restaurant’s bar. “In my career, that’s the only way for me to have a social life,” she said.
“I absolutely hate girls that smoke and she took three or four cigarette breaks” – Mike Ponte
Why straight women? “I like the challenge,” she said. “I have more in common with them because I’m not huge on the gay scene.”
The way she likes to find a partner is “to network through friends, become friends first, and then become more than friends.”
For the record, she likes blue-eyed petite blondes with athletic builds, in their 30s and 40s.
A turnoff for Puzio is a woman who cheats, but she acknowledges it’s hard to figure out on the first date if a woman is a cheater.
“I’m all about monogamous relationships,” she said. “Any hint of not wanting to be monogamous is a deal breaker.”
Not surprisingly, a nice date for her is to go to a great place for dinner and order a good bottle of wine.
“You know whether you have that chemistry with a person and you take it from there,” she said.
But she doesn’t jump right into physical intimacy. “It depends on the situation, but for me personally, I would want to wait and know what I’m getting into,” she said, “and it leaves something to look forward to.” Otherwise, she said, it’s like “What’s left, alright great, now what?”
As for the dating scene in Jersey City? “It’s a little incestuous,” she said. “If you do hook up with somebody, it gets around town very quickly. It’s sort of like dating on a college campus. I only live three blocks away from my ex. It’s a little strange and uncomfortable.”
She continued, “People are very gossipy, like ‘Look who made out with Nicole last night.’ ”
She also wishes there were “a few more options for gay people in Jersey City.” She said the bar scene “is male-oriented, and lesbians get a bad rap for being unattractive.”
She fantasizes about opening her own place. “For professional gay people,” she said, “not for kids and clubbers.”
A 40-year-old Hoboken bachelor describes himself as an “experienced dater.” A director at a prestigious international company, he’s lived in Hoboken only two months, but he’s hopeful he can find a woman.
“But,” he joked, “based on the 50 percent divorce rate,” maybe there’s not a right way.”
He’s got a lot to work with. “I’m good at striking up conversations,” he said. “I’m social and outgoing. Meeting new people is not a problem, and I’m an attractive guy.”
But there are a couple of things he would like to avoid. “Women with horrible breath” for one. He also echoes others’ disgust with online prevaricators: “People who look 10 pounds heavier and 10 years older than their picture,” he said. “If you say you’re fit and go to the gym, and then you find out they’re heavier than you.”
He disclosed that he is 5’7”. “It’s a funny thing,” he said. “Men get a bad rap about being superficial, but women are worse. They don’t want to date a guy who’s short, tall, or x, y, z.”
He also doesn’t like women who are negative or have poor manners. “If I buy them dinner and they don’t say thank you, that’s a big turnoff,” he said.
In Europe where he often travels, he said, “Women will not let you buy dinner, but it’s more accepted to go back to someone’s home and fool around. Here that’s frowned on – but it happens all the time.”
He’s also noticed that New Yorkers look down on New Jerseyans when dating, which he finds “hilarious.”
“They live in a 300-square-foot box,” he said, “but they think they’re cool because they live in New York.”
This available bachelor said he “looks really young and would look funny with a woman his own age.” He likes women in the 26-36 age range who “value a healthy lifestyle, have things in common, and don’t text me every 10 minutes.”
Though he’s tried speed dating, he said, “It’s a bit awkward because it’s so quick but it is another way to meet people.”
“In closing,” he said, “there is no recipe for success other than to be yourself and have fun on a date.”
Kate Rounds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.