Looking for love in the last frontier

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Legend has it that in Alaska there are two or three eligible bachelors for every single woman.

You know, bearded guys in flannel shirts waiting by the fire at a cozy cabin in the woods for an independent, intelligent, outdoorsy women to come and be their partners in pioneering.

But a closer look reveals that it's really the other way around. Here in Haines, there are more single women than men.

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What these Alaskan women want is a house husband - someone to keep the fire going, watch the kids, and share the cooking. He should also like to dance, be well-read, funny, kind, fit, and independent. If he can fix the truck and put some siding on the new sauna that would be great, too.

My friend Mary Ann (not her real name - all the names in this story were changed for privacy) looks with longing at guys like that - and there are plenty. I'm married to one.

But most single Alaskan men, Mary Ann says, are a little too independent, a little too stubborn, and maybe a little too well-traveled. They have, she says, "a lot of baggage." Even if there are more nice guys in the rest of the state, she thinks the old Alaskan adage "The odds may be good but the goods are odd" is true.

Mary Ann lives by herself in a pretty, homemade house in the woods with no neighbors. She likes the solitude, to a point, but says being single is hard, especially with all the chores like wood splitting, gardening, and snow shoveling.

Also, long, dark, winter nights are easier when you have someone to share them with. "There's no paradise in being a single woman in Alaska," she says.

Dating, Mary Ann says, doesn't exist. "Guys don't actually call you up and invite you skiing or over for dinner. Instead they meet you at a potluck or whatever."

My other friend Debbie admits to going six years without a meaningful relationship. But she kept busy, building her own mountain-view cabin and starting a business. She could have chosen anywhere to live, but picked Haines, for the beauty and the community. She says there are lots of great people here "but when I think of the single guys...hmm."

She recently placed a personal ad in a lower forty eight paper and ended up finding a beau.

Before they live happily ever after, they still have one big thing to work out. He needs to move here, because she isn't leaving.

"I've weighed it a lot," she says, and Alaska is still first in her heart. "I'd love to be in a place where it doesn't rain in the winter, but you know, I'm just not ready to go anywhere."

Mary Ann's been here all her adult life, and her bond with Alaska is secure. "I'll never leave " she says, although she has considered looking elsewhere for the perfect partner to bring back to the cabin. "Hawaii might be a good start - at least you get to see a little more, they're not all covered in winter clothes."

James has only been in Haines a year, and has the zeal of a convert for all things Alaskan, including the women. He says they are "broad minded and enlightened" in addition to being intelligent, strong, and capable.

Well, it's pretty easy to tell that he won't be single long.

As to the stereotype of the tough and tender Alaskan homesteader waiting for a soul mate, it seems that's truer for women than men these days. Which is just fine with James. "Although," he says, fiddling with the buttons on his flannel shirt and stroking his beard "any kind of stereotype is dangerous in this world."

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