Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back to Fall after Heating up with Summer

Well we are back into fall with hectic school schedules and streets. The students are back and my daughter is engaged in her senior year. (That means I am engaged as well, both at work and at home).

and yes Amherst has gone back to its usual concerns:
town meetings, school budgets, and UMASS issues

which have kept the pages of the Amherst Bulletin full (well not really full- but the slots have been taken) -

so my piece on a lighter and more social note was not published.

Here it is for those who want a peak at the activity on the dance, singles, and dating scene.

Over the summer I actually stayed clear of the Iron Horse as the heat-weather wise increased and I was busy engaging more heatedly in my relationship and with dance and school tours with my daughter.

So the cycle goes.

Heating up with summer

Jim Oldham recently wrote
"It's summer, mid-July, a quiet time for politics and town government. Or is it?”

Well, in Amherst and the Valley, summer may or may not be a time for heated political controversy – but it does seem to heat up on the social scene. And this begins in the late spring.

As the snow cover melts and the ground warms, many seem to shed their timidity along with their cold New England covers and venture out to find their mates or re-engage with them. Yes the Rites of spring begin anew.

What do we notice? Well first of all the bars and cafes fill up, especially during the weeks before graduation.

Heading into the Iron Horse on a Tuesday night in mid-May for salsa - of the movement kind - one could hardly find room on the multi-ethnic dance floor. Bodies beginning to sweat were still shifting ever more close, syncopating their rhythms, while the minds set on the hunt were sensing the smells and interpreting the signals of the pheromones released. Some nights seemed to get quite steamy.

Late night, when the Regaton began, a few young females backed their butts into their as yet un-introduced male partners. Even for older dancers, and by that I mean the over 40 crowd, the engagement intensified and the warmth continued to help break down barriers between generations and cultures.

With summer, and more space on the floor, the dances provide an inviting place to make connections and expand one’s repertoire, movement or other. A follower might rest her head intimately in the crook of her leader’s neck during a slower, more sensual and cooler, Bolero.

While activity in the local gyms may also quiet down after the initial spring rush to get in shape, the local ponds, hike, and bike paths fill up. These places provide a chance to cool off, burn off stress and pounds, and allow cruisers to meet. Dropping by Puffers, one is almost always able to dip and quip with some current, former, or future friend or lover.

The elements of earth, water, and air nurture our awareness of our sensual selves. If you add a little fire - of the elemental or personal kind - well passions may ignite, and they flare more evidently in summer.

Perusing the local and national online dating sites one can also see an increase in activity with old and new profiles. It is a yearly phenomenon. How do I know? Well I have observed and participated as one of the many almost hidden, older, singles in the Valley.

For many middle age persons during the school year the focus is on children, work, and home. One sees people engaged as couples, or in groups, at school and family events. By the late spring and summer, some of these couplings seem to fall apart as the children enter a new phase of schooling, or as the semester of undergrad, grad school, and teaching ends. One friend revealed to me that her husband of 20-something years just left with no warning indications, the day after her youngest graduated high school.

Those tired of the same old same-old seem to strike out anew, either publicly or clandestinely. On pages with 16 profiles each, local males ages 42-55, increase from about 10 to between 25 and 30. Approximately 200 out of 450 of these men are often ‘active’ within 24 hours. These are ones with photos, including updated pics with happier smiling faces in a natural setting, often along with dogs and motorcycles. The drab, disappointed looks of frustration and winter dreariness disappear, though some never seem to age as they resurface, year after year, seeking the ‘right’ one.

On the adult sites more men directly seek ‘discreet’ connections. These are ones not ready or willing to leave convenient or caring, professed 'loving', marriages for the seduction of sex that spring and summer sparks.

So are these searches successful? Well on the more erotic sites it seems the number of ladies looking is about 1 for every 17-20 men. Do the math. But in terms of ‘relationship’ seekers, more women are out in droves. On Match, about 140 out of about 385 local women ages 42 to 55 within 25 miles of Amherst are ‘active’ within 24 hours.

What I witness in the summer is greetings by numerous new couples on the streets and at places like Amherst coffee, Raos, Amherst Brewery, Fitzwillies, and La Cazuela. They hold hands on the way into Amherst Cinema, the Yiddish book Center, the Calvin, and Bishop’s Lounge.

Late spring, I glanced up over my weight training machine to notice a new face at the gym, and found a matching photo and profile online later that week. With the school year coming to a close, this academic family man, new to divorce and the dating scene, decided to emerge from his cocoon and check out the other butterflies. Luckily for me he also liked to dance and was willing to try out a new partner. I knew that I had to move quickly to invite him for wine and tango before the early summer rush.

With new romances budding like flowers, Amherst and the Valley are quite active in the spring and summer months. By fall these new relationships may be seasoned, and then solidified more privately over the long winter, or they may have bloomed and burned up with the intense heat. Either way the activity will likely wane and Amherst will go back to its usual concerns; town meetings, school budgets, and UMASS issues.