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In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Singles Turn to Online Sites for That Elusive End-of-Year Date

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 31, 2004; Page B01

Thirty-six hours before one of the biggest date nights of the year, Ken Sutton was striking out.

On Tuesday the 38-year-old Alexandria resident posted an ad with Craigslist.org, a network of community bulletin boards, seeking "that special woman to share this New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and BEYOND with."

Dane Rauschenberg questions the need for a New Year's Eve date because "except for those last 10 seconds, it's kind of a bummer of an evening." (Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

He got two responses. One woman already had plans, and he traded messages with the other but then never heard back.

"The search continues," Sutton wrote in an e-mail yesterday. Sex is not the objective, he said. "I am just looking for someone to share the night with . . . . "

Sutton is not the only one who wants to end the year in a new relationship. By yesterday afternoon, his ad was competing with about 200 others, variously titled, "Taking a Chance on New Year's Eve," "It's almost 2005 -- what are you waiting for?" and "Dinner and Drinks NYE?"

This is what Kristin Kelly, Match.com's vice president of love, calls the "New Year's resolution phenomenon," when many singles use the turn of the calendar as a chance to turn around their love lives. It starts Dec. 26 as the number of new users on the site generally surges by about 12 percent. Many have suffered through Christmas dinners marked by their mothers pining over nonexistent grandchildren and older siblings lecturing them about settling down. They then have just one week to find someone to kiss at midnight tonight while the champagne flows and the confetti drops.

Success is viewed as a good omen for the year ahead. Failure can mean the start of the long, lonely trudge to Valentine's Day.

According to a survey by Match.com, one-third of singles feel extra pressure to be in a relationship during the holidays, with men citing Christmas and women citing New Year's Eve as the most stressful time to be single.

"If they're dating at New Year's, it's like, 'Great, I've started the year off right,' " said Dane Rauschenberg, 28, an attorney from Arlington. "So what if by Martin Luther King Jr. Day they've broken up?"

Rauschenberg, who also posted a Craigslist ad, had received one response to it but did not plan to meet the woman until after the holiday. Tonight he intends to run a 5-kilometer race in Alexandria and then head to a few house parties. If he is flying solo when the clock strikes 12, no biggie.

"I think New Year's Eve is highly overrated," he said. "It puts a lot of pressure on a lot of people. . . . Except for those last 10 seconds, it's kind of a bummer of an evening."

Sutton has not had a date on New Year's since his divorce two years ago. Most of his friends are married or in relationships, he said. They have tried to set him up a few times, but it never clicked.

On Christmas, he went to a couple's house for dinner and left thinking, "What am I going to do for New Year's?"

So Tuesday morning he slowly typed an online personals ad with two fingers while he was at work: "We can spend the nights by the fire . . . the days laughing with each other."

But as the minutes ticked by yesterday, there were still no sparks.

All hope is not lost, however. Greg Bland, founder of Things To Do DC, has been throwing New Year's Eve blowouts for years with his friend Michael Karlan, founder of Professionals in the City. They have seen their share of last-minute dates and lifelong relationships; a couple who met at their New Year's Eve gala last year recently got engaged, Bland said.

This year, they have sold 1,200 tickets for their party at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Washington. About a third of those attending will be couples, another third big groups and the remainder individual ticket sales, Bland said.

"Anyone who wants to meet anybody will have a 95-plus percent chance of meeting somebody who is also single and looking for a New Year's Eve kiss," he said.

Besides, said Howard Kitrosser, who works with Bland, having a date is no guarantee that the night will end as planned.

"There's plenty of people who go on dates and end up kissing someone else anyway," he said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company