When one of my friends starts dating someone new, the rest of us singles skip the unimportant questions, such as "What does he look like?" or "What does she do for work?" We cut right to the chase: "Where'd you meet him?"
There are so few common meeting grounds these days that trying to find the perfect partner is a lot like following the crumbs left by Hansel and Gretel, with one terrible twist. Cupid's crumbs are invisible, so no one quite knows where they're going. Perhaps that's why so many 30-somethings are still wandering around aimlessly. (See story.)
One new book on dating claims to have found the holy grail. Among the 10 best places to meet someone, according to the authors, are vacations, laundromats, the workplace, and quiet bars.
I ran this list by my friend Kurt recently. He and I have dinner once a month to dissect our latest dating disasters. I won't tell which one of us usually has the most stories.
"Have you ever heard of a quiet bar?" I asked him. "And how many people have you met in the laundromat?"
" 'No' to the first question," he said, shaking his head, "and 'none' to the second."
Granted, I do know one woman who met her future husband when she threw her panties into his basket by mistake. (Really, it was an accident.)
And another friend met a woman while he was standing in the checkout line at the Super Stop & Shop, waiting to buy sunscreen for a Caribbean getaway.
But for Kurt and me, the Top 10 - rounded out by the Internet, dances, bookstores, coffee-houses, and continuing education classes - have been 10 more dead ends.
I'm often tempted to throw in the towel, but Kurt reminds me that we are not alone in the search for true love. "There are millions of us out there," he says. "It's just a matter of connecting the dots."
In other words, we're back to those pesky crumbs.
Part of the problem is that Cupid likes to have some fun while he works - and he has a flair for the dramatic. He can't be satisfied with one angst-ridden path. That would be too easy. He likes to create a maze for each couple. That way, the rest of us can't buy Cliffs Notes.
Most of us will keep searching, despite our many wrong turns, because we still believe that the little gold ring is worth the arduous journey.
But if someone could find a foolproof system, millions of us would follow like lemmings. And we could trample those crumbs on the way.