I’m single in Seattle, which means the dating scene is all beanies, pinball machines and weirdly polite text exchanges that leave you unsure whether you’re buying insurance or flirting.
If coupled people fantasize about dating other people, single people fantasize about dating in other cities. So in that spirit, this is my list of the nine best U.S. cities for dating, according to my imagination.
1. Provincetown, Mass.
When you date in Provincetown, you’re an artist. You make collages from materials found in scrapbooks gathered from long Saturday drives into the country, where you scour abandoned farmhouses and garage sales. One night, there’s a knock on your door. The newest artist has just arrived at his cabin next door, and he can’t find matches to light his wood-burning stove.
You pick up your lantern. “Here,” you say, “let me light your fire.”
There isn’t any electricity in Provincetown.
2. Aspen, Colo.
In Aspen, a young ski bum/aspiring stand-up comedian comes into your bakery each morning.
“Haven’t I seen you on the mountain?” he says. “You’re very good.”
You nod and go back to kneading dough. You’ve seen him, too, showing off. He skis in sweaters and those silly ’80s overalls, as if he can’t afford proper outerwear, but he has a trust fund. Your friends keep begging you to go to one of his parties — his cabin supposedly has an original, if minor, Jackson Pollock painting. But you get up at 3 a.m. to bake every day and can’t keep those kinds of hours.
You look up and see that he’s watching you with mocking blue eyes. “We should race sometime,” he says. “Loser cooks dinner.”
“You don’t cook,” you say.
“I’m not going to lose,” he says.
3. New York City
In New York, men wear jackets to dinner. You wear heels on first dates on Tuesday nights. They wear watches. Not giant digital sports timers, but watches with hands that sweep around the face as gracefully as their hands rise to the small of your back as they escort you into restaurants where they have reservations.
Those restaurants are small, homey places started by their grandfathers’ grandfathers, where the kitchen makes something special “just for you.”
When you get bored with handsome, kind and well-dressed men, you go out dancing.
In Chicago, you date Bill Pullman’s character from “While You Were Sleeping.” Your other choice is a young Peter Gallagher, but he just isn’t meant for you. Even though they’re brothers, it isn’t awkward.
5. Portland, Maine
There’s no dating here, because you married your high school boyfriend after you spent college and your early 20s apart. (He dated other people and lived in the city; you traveled the world and had whirlwind romances with men with accents.) Then you realized you had grown up into each other, not apart, and you returned home to build a life together.
Now you have two children. He’s a stay-at-home dad and you’re the principal of the middle school. You can eat whatever you want and never gain weight because the fresh air and daily beach walks keep you trim beneath your loose but surprisingly attractive flannel shirt. And your husband seems to be aging in reverse, except for the gentle laugh lines around his eyes.
6. Boise, Idaho
“I think Boise is where people go to fall in love,” one woman said in BuzzFeed’s “Best U.S. Cities According to People Who Have Never Lived There.”
It’s true. What she doesn’t say is that you can shop for love there as easily as you can shop for local varieties of sweet, crisp apples and artisinal hand-blown water glasses. It all happens at the farmers market. Take a basket with you. You’ll definitely like what you see. Men in Boise call to ask for dates instead of texting.
When you date in Wyoming, you don’t date a city. You date an entire state, an entire sky.
You date one rancher and cowboy after another, two-stepping your way across the landscape like a wild horse that can’t be tamed. Your butt looks great in your jeans and you know how to birth a calf, change a tire and set a dislocated shoulder. You never wait for anyone to text. You’ll either see him when the snow thaws or you won’t; either way you’ll be fine.
8. Key West, Fla.
In Key West, you date a marine biologist who does research with dolphins during the day and likes to salsa at night.
Sometimes your dates consist of you swinging in a hammock while he plays guitar nearby and sings soft lullabies before making you lemonade fresh from the tree in your back yard. He constantly asks you to marry him, but you’re so happy with the way things are that you keep putting him off.
9. Minneapolis/St. Paul
One night you meet a man in a bookstore. He looks like a young Bruce Willis, and you’re surprisingly attracted to his bald pate and thick glasses. He’s a researcher who has just discovered what might be an easy and effective male form of birth control.
The next week you’re at an opening at the Walker Art Center, and an artist-in-residence sporting work boots surprises you with his take on Miley Cyrus’s evolution as a young feminist.
How will you ever choose? You don’t. You have your homemade apple pie and eat it, too. Nothing more delicious than a good old-fashioned bake-off between two smart, handsome and progressive men vying for your heart.
Correction: An earlier version of this post placed Provincetown in the wrong state. It has been corrected.