Singles get answers on how to beat the lopsided numbers game in dating

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BOSTON – A group of about 40 women and a few scattered men sat around modern white tables at the C-Space at 290 Congress Street in downtown Boston on a recent rainy night. The crowd, ranging in age from early 20s to 50s, came prepared with a number of questions to ask author Jon Birger.

“So what’s the deal with Boston?” asked a young professional woman. “I imagine it is very similar to Manhattan.”

“It’s marginally better,” Birger responded. “Which is probably not what you wanted to hear.”

For two and half hours, the author of “Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game,” and Ken Deckinger, from the start-up dating app Jess, Meet Ken, who are both married men, sat in front of the crowd and answered questions, most having to do with why the questioner was still single.

Backing up his remarks with a combination of demographics, game theory, and number crunching from his book, Birger explained that there are just not enough college-educated men out there to go around.

There are 35 percent more women with a college degree than men. That’s roughly 5.5 million women to 4.1 million men. The year 1981 was the last time the gender gap was equal, and it has become increasingly lopsided ever since. There are now four women for every three men and it is projected to be three women for every two men by 2025.

Once the women in the audience understood the situation, the question then became – now what?

“I do think John did a great job of answering questions,” said Heather, who is in her thirties. “All the information helps us better understand why the situation is what it is, but at the same time I’m not sure it’s clear that there is a whole lot we can proactively do to better our situation.”

During the session, Birger pointed to a few things that might help, such as being more aggressive, using a marriage ultimatum to get a man to stay, or broadening the scope of men you look for to include working-class men.

“Having a college degree doesn’t make you a great husband,” Birger said. Later, he added, “Try going to a fireman’s bar instead of a wine bar.”

For Marly, 32, who traveled to the event from Brockton, making the trip validated what was going on in her dating life, but she still wondered – where are all the quality men?

“You can get 15 e-mails but how many are of those are going to be quality men?” she asked.

Her friend Natalie, 30, from the South Shore, said, “One of the guys in the audience is going on multiple dates but I can’t even get one date.”

When it comes to using dating apps, concerns about the number of men just looking for hookups worried some audience members.

Deckinger explained that on Jess, Meet Ken, which is geared towards people who want relationships, there are more women than men who use the dating app but women tend to be far choosier than men, which evens the playing field.

“Humans beings are human beings and it comes down to the site and the app,” said Deckinger. “We don’t see [a guy who just wants a hookup] on Jess, Meet Ken.”

“The big secret is that guys like women who like them,” said Birger. “I think that’s the universal truth. People like people who like them.”