Going the Distance for Love

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

Features Department

The Baltimore Sun

501 N. Calvert Street

Baltimore, MD 21278

Dear Mary,

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.

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