POSTED ON APRIL 25, 2012:
Singles in the City
An insider's guide to the Tulsa dating scene
The Census Bureau identifies "single" as simply not married. But on, say, Facebook, "single" and "married" are just two options in a spectrum of commitment. "It's complicated" can mean anything from "We're about to break up" to "We're dating but fighting a lot" to "Someone misunderstood that random hook-up."
The solitary status is often reviled, but being single -- perhaps more than any other relationship status -- comes in a hundred different shades, with different reasons and stages.
Your single is not my single. Her single is not his single. But single is never static; it's a dynamic, moving, changing thing.
Post-painful breakup single has a vastly different vibe than say, casually dating around single or girls just wanna have fun single. Know where you are at all times. Know what you want -- or don't. And remember, do what Nicci tells you.
Last July, UTW went out on the town (it was research!) with Nicci Atchley. The social media maven, girl-about-town and Nicci 6 dating blogger (nicci6.com) took us out to see how single is done in Tulsa. She and her handpicked crew of six other single ladies hit up six hotspots in one night.
53.1 percent: Percentage of unmarried U.S. adults who are women.
Along for the ride were six other gorgeous singletons: Lot 6 Art Bar owner Vanessa Somerville, semi-retired Tulsa Ballet dancer Sher'ron Underwood (who was injured and had to head home after dinner at In the Raw), tanned fitness fanatic Tami Fisher, TCC students Marcela Guerrero and Christina Doty, and dazzling diva Viviana Gonzalez.
It's been 10 months since that fateful (research!) night last summer. Throughout that time, we've kept up with Nicci's dating twists and turns, identified with her hopes and obstacles. We found her this spring, sipping white wine on the patio at Doc's Wine & Food, contemplating a serious relationship, her club-hopping days sunsetting behind her.
On an unidentified night in the neon-orange peak of July 2011, six single ladies took on Tulsa. The Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band generously offered up their roomy tour bus, their kind company and designated driver status. The bandmates drove the ladies to some of their favorite T-town hotspots.
First stop, the heart of Brookside -- In the Raw Sushi, 3321 S. Peoria Ave. Since 1998, ITR has been a popular pre-partying option on Brookside. Their patio is a pretty first date backdrop, and their sumptuous sushi salon style in the bar and dining room are fun for flirting. The restaurant offers traditional and nouveau sushi, sashimi and nigiri creations in addition to a full menu of cooked cuisine.
Over cocktails and a few appetizers, the girls gathered around a curved booth in the front window.
Topics of discussion included the evening's agenda, a little personal history, and of course, a little gossip. And to start off a singles roundtable right, we asked these cuties' their signs. Marcela is an intuitive, friendly Aquarius; Tami is a fiery, outgoing Leo; Vanessa and Christina are independent-minded Sagittarians; Viviana is a fun-loving, thoughtful Libra; and Sher'ron is a put-together, energetic Virgo.
And then we have Nicci, also a friendly Aquarius. In the past year, the sex and dating blogger made a name for herself after she launched a thoughtful, deeply personal, no-nonsense, tell-all-answer-all website. Nicci is collecting and postin g her sexy, funny and frustrating experiences "on the dating front lines."
393: Number of dating service establishments nationwide as of 2007. These establishments, including Internet dating services, employed more than 3,100 people and generated $928 million in revenues.
Interspersed alongside her own dating successes and failures, Nicci posts answers to questions about love, sex and dating from her readers. Nicci, just now settling into a relationship after almost three years of casual dating, draws wisdom and practical advice from her own experiences with the opposite sex.
Nicci is sensible and realistic, and she encourages dissenting opinions and frank discussion. In one of her early posts, she offered the kind of simple observations that most of us pussyfoot around: "If he's not calling, he's not thinking about you;" "If he doesn't care who you're with, it's because he's probably taking out somebody else;" "If he wanted to be with you, he would be;" and "If you're not having sex on a regular basis, he's covering up an STD, on antidepressants, dealing with an impotency issue or he's getting it somewhere else."
Another question-and-answer blog post from July listed tips on how to handle casual, non-committed dating in Tulsa. Let's face it, if Tulsa had its own Sex and the City show, it would have a lot fewer episodes. There are only so many hotspots and people in your own personal dating pools. As Nicci wrote, "Chances are, if you're dating around (in Tulsa), there's going to be a run-in at some point."
So, are you booking dates three weeks out? Or considering a few different suitors? Here are a few tips from Nicci on "keeping it kosher when you're playing the field." She wrote, "Be honest, but not too honest.
"Do not purposefully attempt to make any of your dates or lovers jealous.
"View and treat each situation as unique.
"Don't text or call another person you're dating while you're out with someone else.
"Don't make it a game," she warned. "In every game, somebody loses. That's not a way to approach romance.
"Avoid any unnecessary run-ins.
"If both of you are dating around, don't let anyone you're dating walk on you or take you for granted." She wrote, "Let them know your time is valuable. If they don't respect your time or if they make you feel like second best, move on."
And finally, she ends her advice on dating around with the question of exclusivity. She said she's an advocate for letting men initiate that conversation. "Men really don't like to be pressured," she said. Her advice for the fellas? Just tell the lucky lady you're ready for more. "In the event that she isn't ready for it, she won't think any less of you for having asked. It takes courage, and that's commendable," she said.
Some of Nicci's more recent posts have tackled fun advice for cocktail party planning, as well as tips on how to get back into dating after a divorce. Plus, she parses readers' questions with her intuitive people skills, and helps readers understand why their favorite date is stringing them along or disappearing.
Townies and Southies
88: Number of unmarried men 18 and older for every 100 unmarried women in the U.S.
After the ladies finished off their drinks and edamame at In the Raw, they herded up the steps to our second stop, the now-defunct Ivey Rooftop Bar & Lounge. If you've spent much time in Brookside, you already know the stylish rooftop bar at 33rd St. and Peoria Ave. has changed names and hands several times over the past decade. Right now it may be closed and in-between owners, but we're sure that soon Brookside's best rooftop bar will be emblazoned with fresh branding.
On the Ivey's rooftop, the girls ordered mixed drinks and mingled with the mostly straight-laced clientele -- mostly a khaki- and polo-clad professional Happy Hour crew. While we're on the subject of T-town types, we should talk a little about the types of people we see out and about on a typical evening in Green Country.
Let's face it, though Tulsa has a population around 390,000, the downtown and midtown areas seem to fill up with the same faces each weekend. And our circles roll mad deep.
Check yourself: are you a "Southie" (or South Tulsan, one of those who generally live south of 51st St.), a "Downtowner" (one of those few thousand who live in the heart of downtown or the Brady Arts District), a "Midtowner" (a historic neighborhood denizen north of 51st St.), or "Townie" (just a general term for city dwellers who spend most of their time north of 51st St.)?
These differing factions have co-existed peacefully, each sticking to their own night spots and restaurants. A decade ago, most south Tulsans would have been too fearful of downtown violence to venture all the way to First St. for late night beers. But the reinvention of Brookside as a nightlife entertainment and dining district, the addition of more chic restaurants on Cherry St., and the explosion in downtown's popularity caused more and more Tulsans to venture deeper into the heart of the city.
Take a few people from each crew, shake and serve on barstools and sofas at any midtown spot, and you'll get a good representation of weekend nightlife in Tulsa. As the single ladies gathered on the busy sidewalk outside Ida Red Boutique, hipsters, Baby Boomers, young families and young professionals bustled past.
But things aren't all harmonious. Since Elliot Nelson's corner Pub, McNellie's, began to draw attention back to downtown, tensions have simmered between two rivaling factions -- the Southies and the Townies. Some dedicated Townies derisively call Southies "tourists." Richard Bielefeld, who works for midtown Italian restaurant Dalesandro's, said he uses the term because Southies seem "unfamiliar with the streets of downtown and constantly 'ooh' and 'ah' at things they've never seen in a city they claim to be from."
Bielefeld also gently pokes fun at what he calls "downtown girls," which he describes as women with eclectic fashion tastes who "you can guess in her spare time she makes jewelry and spends at least two hours a day on Pinterest."
Pinterest is a trendy social networking site, where users create boards dedicated to photos, links and videos of stuff they love. Think urban garden ideas, complicated knitting diagrams, organic food recipes, inspirational quotes and offbeat wedding ideas.
The gap between suburbanites and Midtowners has only grown over the past decade. According to Census Bureau numbers, the city of Tulsa's population dropped very slightly while suburban areas grew.
Since 2000, the populations in two of Tulsa's biggest Southie suburbs, Broken Arrow and Bixby, increased with double-digit gains. Broken Arrow grew by more than 30 percent, while Bixby grew nearly 60 percent in 11 years.
All in all, Tulsa County has grown a little more than 7 percent in the past decade. So how do these numbers and cultural differences affect downtown businesses?
Open Letters and the Neo-Outsiders
31.4 million: Number of people who were living alone in 2010. They comprised 27 percent of all households (up from just 17 percent in 1970).
As a general rule, a packed restaurant is the key to success. But one Blue Dome bar started to lose some of its Downtowner patronage once suburbanites and Southies discovered it. Downtown hipsters began avoiding the Max Retropub, 114 S. Elgin Ave., because it gained popularity among Southies. So five months ago, media savvy District 4 City Councilor and local restaurateur Blake Ewing wrote an open letter to hipsters in an effort to bring them back into his pub.
Five months ago, this letter ran as an advertisement in local papers. In part, Ewing wrote, "As our downtown area continued to grow and attract new and different types of people, the Max's crowd started to change. Friday and Saturday nights brought a world of unique personalities to the Blue Dome District.
Some of those personalities didn't mix well with our hipsters. Often times on a Friday night, we'd see some sort of class war between the Chads and Ashleys and their hipster counterparts. Other nights, south Tulsans wearing extra medium Affliction shirts would enter the Max, causing the once comfortable hipsters to flee."
Ewing described downtown hipsters as enjoying "independent music, thrift store clothing, facial hair, tattoos, Vans or Chucks," while shopping locally and rejecting labels.
Sundays through Thursdays are now deemed "Hipster Days" at the Max. The pub offers specials throughout the weekdays -- like free arcade games on Tuesdays and Wednesday Mac & Cheese buffets -- plus half-price "hipster hookups" every day. If you show off your "three or more tattoos, piercings other than the ears, bicycle, full beard, Vans, Chucks, skinny jeans, cardigan sweaters or mustache," well congratulations, you get half-price Pabst Blue Ribbon (the hipster beer of record).
Once Ewing's open letter ran in late November, a miffed anonymous Downtowner wrote an open letter of his own. On Dec. 5, he published the letter on his blog, Project Thought, which was supposed to represent the perspective of the "downtown kids, the hipsters, the artists, the punks, the progressive youth, the bohemian college grads and the perpetual students," as well as the "bike bashers, the indie kids, the audiophiles."
In the Downtowner's letter, he described the battle between Southies and Townies as similar to the tensions between Tulsa's The Outsiders-era Greasers and Socs.
The anonymous letter writer insulted the Max's retro chic and spendy classic arcade games as "perfectly mimicking lucrative market trends that left the West Coast in '04 and landed in Wicker Park in '08." He also pointed out that true Downtowners "packed out warehouse shows at Curly's," and frequent inner-IDL dives that have a more "authentic" look and feel. (The IDL stands for Inner-Dispersal Loop, a highway loop that curves around the boundaries of downtown Tulsa.)
The writer scoffed at the weekend-warrior Southies, and wrote, "You can bring your fellow Philistines downtown on the weekends to spend their money and fight each other in our streets, but we expect them to go home afterwards. This is our truce, our turf war in the park. Our side of the tracks will keep the arts and culture alive downtown just like we always have."
The single ladies in our crew would hit up the Max Retropub that night, but first -- Elwood's and Enso.
The VIP Lounge
61: Percentage of unmarried U.S. adults who had never been married. Another 23.8 percent were divorced, and 14.4 percent were widowed.
Though most of midtown nightlife takes place inside the IDL and midtown, there are a few reasons to venture out toward the Arkansas River. Namely, two reasons: Blue Rose Café and Elwood's Bar.
Blue Rose, 1924 Riverside Dr., is a riverfront restaurant known for their big portions of American eats and the best river patio in town (hint: a great place for a sunset dinner date). Elwood's is a small outdoor bar close to Blue Rose that features live music on the weekends and views of the river (perhaps better for casual get-togethers).
While local musicians, the Fiddlebacks, finished a set that July night, we asked the girls for their own ideas about dating and single life in Tulsa. Viviana said, "Go out with your dolls and definitely don't date anyone you meet out on the town." She said she likes to hit up Gray Snail, a Cherry St. nightclub.
Marcela said she also likes dancing at Gray Snail. She has a casual, fun outlook on playing the field. She said getting to know people "is what dates are for."
If you're interested in adding a little love (and fun) to your life, consider some of Nicci's top picks for dating on the cheap any night of the week in T-town. In a special post for Tasha Does Tulsa's popular blog, Nicci recommended $5 pizzas from White Owl and a RedBox flick on Mondays; Tuesday Trivia Nights at SoundPony; a stroll through downtown on Wednesday evenings for a McNellie's $3 burger (this killer deal is only available on Hump Day), followed by $2 gelato at Mod's Coffee & Crepes; luchador wrestling nights at Elote Café on the first and third Thursdays of the month or salsa dancing at Hibiscus in Brookside; for Fridays, she recommended Desi Wok (for their cheap, yummy dinners), and Circle Cinema, Cain's Ballroom or Ida Red for eclectic movie choices or a live show.
For the weekend, Nicci suggested the Cherry Street Farmers Market, the Philbrook Museum, or River Parks.
After all the girls hit up the restrooms and piled back into the Mid Life Crisis Band's black tour bus, we headed back downtown for a round of drinks at Enso, 230 E. 1st St. This stylish bar doesn't charge a cover, and features a copper bar and European lounge seating with a low-key atmosphere.
Enso is one of three bars under one roof at this location; Electric Circus (a loud, laser-filled dance club) and IDL Ballroom (a more conventional reception hall with spacious bar) fill out the space at the corner of 1st and Detroit.
The ladies were ushered into a VIP lounge tucked away at the back of the bar. The private room has well-appointed furniture and a flat-screen TV along with personal door security, seating for up to 15, private bathroom and personal cocktail waitress.
The lounge would be perfect for birthday or bachelorette parties. But after posing for photos, joking and talking for a little while, and investigating all the offerings in the VIP Lounge, the women chose to move their drinks back to the front of the house. It's hard to people watch from a private room.
On the Dance Floor
25: Percentage of unmarried people 25 and older who held a bachelor's degree or higher in 2010.
They didn't stay anywhere for long. The girls were on the hunt. Rather than piling back into the bus, they walked two blocks to check into the Max Retropub. The Max focuses on bar snacks and arcade games, as previously mentioned. But these girls were ready to dance. After shakin' it in front of the vintage Skee-Ball ramps, the group collectively decided to head over to Gray Snail Saloon, 1334 E. 15th St.
The Gray Snail is a smoky, packed-out saloon with one of the biggest dance floors in town. It was our last stop of the night, and the girls went all out. Nicci, Marcela and Tami worked the dance floor and found multiple interested fellas within moments. Meanwhile, Viviana and Vanessa relaxed in the adjoining non-smoking lounge area (which also features another bar as an alternative to their crowded main bar).
After dancing and chatting until they could drop, the girls figured out the rest of their night. Some went home to bed, and others decided to talk and play into the wee hours of the morning.
Since that fateful night last July, Nicci decided to take five months off dating to spend more time on herself and her family. When UTW caught up with her this spring, she said she felt more focused, happier.
A funny, wonderful thing happens when you decide to take some time off from obsessing about the dating world. You begin to realize that everything you need is already within you. You begin to respect your choices and your time.
You realize you are the only one who can speak for you; no one else. When you clear away the doubt and the uncertainty and the fear, you are the lone voice in your mind and for your body. You are uniquely messed up, flawed, one-of-a-kind.
So however you do it -- out on the town with your girls, or dancing, or making drunken proclamations of unconditional love, or pondering art shows, or bobbing your head at Cain's, or tilting wine glasses -- celebrate the funky mammal you are. Single or connected, win or lose, get out there. Tulsa can be a pretty interesting place to be single.
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