If rumors are to be believed, Alaska is paradise for single women in search of a date.
With a male-to-female ratio of 10 to 1, the theory goes, legions of flannel-clad Alaskan men spend their Friday nights gutting fish or mounting moose heads on their walls - with nary a hope for a phone call or a date. So with women in short supply, those who venture into America's northernmost frontier get to pick the best men of the batch, right?
Maybe not. When the National Singles Convention came to town this weekend, the local women in attendance were more likely to bury the popular myth - broadcast across the country in magazines and TV talk shows - than to praise it. One attendee, who identified herself only as "C.A.," had her own advice for women considering a move to Alaska: "Bring your own man with you - and you'd better be good to him."
For C.A. and many like her in Alaska, the idea of the lonely Alaska bachelor has lost much of its charm. The only places where eligible men vastly outnumber women are at rural outposts and work camps, they say, and C.A., for one, isn't about to take to the Alaska backwoods in search of the perfect man. "I'm not lugging things to the outhouse," she declares.
Complaints about single life are universal, and despite Alaska's reputation, Anchorage is no exception, says convention organizer Rich Gosse. "Everybody tells me that theirs is the worst town in the world," says Mr. Gosse, chairman of American Singles, an organization based in San Rafael, Calif.
The city scene
In Anchorage, C.A. and her companions say it often feels as if the male-to-female ratio in Anchorage is more like 1 to 10 than the legendary 10-to-1 figure. Actually, both both figures are way off base. According to state demographer Greg Williams, Alaska's population is only about 52 percent male, a rate only slightly higher than in other states.
Asked why Alaska's rate is higher, Mr. Williams has a ready answer: The statistics reflect Alaska's high number of military bases and personnel and a relative scarcity of elderly residents. Asked why this ratio should be considered a beacon for single women across America, Williams is a little less certain.
"You can find a good mate anywhere in the country, and I don't know that we're anything special in that regard," he says.
Still, the myth persists despite all attempts to debunk it. "There's a lot of romance about a frontier, and that may be part of it - that there may be a lonely man out looking for a mate," he says. But he also says some businesses fueled the hype when they "came out with just wild lies about the ratio of men to women that they must have dug up from the 1890s or something."
Keeping the faith
But at least one business refuses to let less-than-dramatic demographics deter its faith in the mystique of the Alaskan man - AlaskaMen magazine. Susie Carter, founder of the magazine, insists that men in Alaska are a "different breed."
"They are pretty down to earth. They appreciate a woman. They treat you pretty special," says Ms. Carter, a mother of nine who has gained national celebrity with her mail-order-style publication and with frequent Alaska bachelor tours of cities in the Lower 48.
Not everyone is as complimentary. "Alaska Men: The Odds are Good, but the Goods are Odd," reads one T-shirt slogan popular among women here.
But Carter, who was at the convention to dispense advice and encourage matches, defends the state's bachelors. Some of those featured in her magazine are "homely," she concedes, and photographs in AlaskaMen display numerous untamed beards, bald pates, and protruding paunches. But the subjects are sincere and genuine, she pointed out. "I always tell women, 'Go to L.A. if you think that's odd.' "