51 Dates in 50 Weeks

In the search for love, most single women are willing to go on an awkward first date or two. But Los Angeles writer Kristen McGuiness went much further than that to find “the one.” She decided to go on 51 dates in 50 weeks, and chronicle the results in a book, 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life. Here, she reveals how she did it and whether or not she found love.

Q: Why did you decide to go on 51 dates in 50 weeks? What were you looking for, and why did you think this would be the answer?

A: I was laying in bed one night, crying to myself out of loneliness, wishing my life would change, when I realized, “Hey, if I go on a date a week over the next year and write a book about it, maybe it will.” I was looking for love, I was looking for someone to be my partner, but I was also looking for something, anything to be different in my life. I had gone from the most-likely-to-succeed star of the party to a single, celibate secretary living in a very small studio apartment, and I was not happy about it. Also, I had just turned 30 and I think that’s such a butterfly moment in a woman’s life. We are emerging from the cocoon of the 20s and we are ready to fly. It was like, it’s either now or never. I figured by the end of the year, I would either have a book or boyfriend, but either way, I wouldn’t be laying in bed at 1 AM anymore, crying to myself.

Q: How did you find these guys?

A: Thank God for the Internet. I should say, not all of the dates were with men. Some were with my family members, some with a spiritual healer I began working with over the course of the book, some with the cities of L.A. and New York, but the men were for the most part found online. I started out trying to ask friends to set me up but by 10 dates in, either my friends had run out of eligible men or they didn’t feel like sending them to me. Either way, I used the Onion personals which actually funnels into a database of other websites including Nerve, Salon and others. It’s an amazing stockpile of interesting, creative professionals. I was really impressed with all the great men I met.

Q: Can you describe some of the highs and lows of this period?

A: The lows came when I would find myself working so hard, both at my job at a non-profit and on myself through meetings with my spiritual healer Lidia, and yet I was still single and still lonely. But then Lidia told me that some people get to do all of their personal work in the space of a relationship, while others have to do it all before they can even get into one. That was really powerful for me. I stopped looking at that time as just me being a lonely secretary and I started making some real changes. I started horseback riding into the hills of Griffith Park. I asked for a promotion at work. I began to get really honest in all of my relationships and suddenly I wasn’t living in fear anymore, I was living in faith.

Q: What did you learn? Did this exercise change your idea about what kind of guy you were looking for?

A: I learned so much. My father was an incarcerated drug smuggler and throughout the course of the book is released from prison and begging to be a part of my life. But the tough thing was every time I let my dad in, he would disappear. And that was pretty much my modus operandi with men, too. Once I started feeling something for them, they were gone. Throughout the course of the book, I started standing up to my father, to the men in my life. I began to find what kind of man I was really looking for. Not some counterfeit Romeo who couldn’t be there, but someone who wanted to be my partner, who loved me unconditionally, but who I was also wildly attracted to. I needed someone who lived adventurously, but still saw marriage and kids in the future.

Q: So did you find love?

A: It’s a funny question because I did but not how I expected. I think it’s always that way. It’s not when you least expect it, It’s how you least expect it. We had been friends for years — I was actually really good friends with his ex-girlfriend when they were together. And then they broke up; she married someone else and we got together. If it was four years ago, we wouldn’t have. I don’t think either of us would have been ready for each other and though we both still have growing to do, we are learning to do that work in the space of a relationship, which is a whole other magical adventure.

Q: What’s your advice for any single woman on a similar search?

A: Date, date, date!! There is no better way to meet a man or even to just find out what kind of man you want than by going out on dates. I also think at a certain point, the dating became the cure for my loneliness. I wasn’t sitting at home alone anymore thinking about what a loser I had become. I was out there going to dinner, to baseball games and gun clubs and the Griffith Park Observatory with all these men who were looking for the same thing that I was: love. I wasn’t lonely anymore, and I don’t think they were either. Even if it didn’t end in romance, it gave us both the opportunity to get out and enjoy our city and to have, for a moment, a partner at our side.