Single in YMM
Dating in Fort McMurray is, for the most part, just like anywhere else. You have the same players to wade through – the cheaters, liars, drama queens - and kings - and gold diggers. There are older men looking for younger women and younger women looking for their sugar daddies.
Then there’s your own self-sabotage. One night last summer after the Nickelback concert, I was at the casino with a couple of friends. I had a guy putting in some serious effort flirting with me though I remained totally oblivious. When we decided to leave, we walked by him and his friends, with him asking, “Oh; you’re leaving?” And what was my brilliant response? “Yup; we’re leaving.” Utterly and completely the wrong answer. I knew it as I heard those words tumbling from my mouth. It was one of those times when your brain is screaming at you to shut your mouth and quit talking, but do you listen? Nope, and another missed connection.
However, the world of dating in Fort McMurray has some other pitfalls.
There is the belief if you work at site, the dating pool is like a smorgasbord; larger with more selection. Then there are those who are Fort McMurray single: commuters looking to live a double life and the biggest risk to a single’s heart and their happily ever after.
Then there is the similar, albeit lesser known status of MBA – married but available.
“I personally don’t jump at the chance to date commuters because you really don’t know who is waiting at home for them, and who really wants to be the other woman?” says Vanessa.*
Back on the dating scene last year after the end of an 18-month relationship, Vanessa, 41, had been single for nine years before that.
“Dating in Fort McMurray can be fun; you get the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people. The biggest challenge, I find, is the different shifts.”
Vanessa works Monday to Friday which can be challenging when dating someone who works a 14/7 shift.
“That’s not a lot of time to hang out and get to know each other. I wouldn’t say I hate anything about dating here. I would have to say most of the dating process happens through text messages so it’s hard to determine who is really being honest with you.”
Blake, who works in town, has found long-term relationships with commuters haven’t been successful.
“A relationship is about proximity. Hook-ups and sex happen, maybe a few dates, but without the person physically being here, it’s difficult to proceed to the next level.”
Single for a year, the 32-year-old has tried online dating sites such as Tinder, Ok Cupid, Match and POF, but he finds the selection limited.
First dates he’s enjoyed so far here have been fairly low key affairs; coffee or beer and wings.
“I’m ideally looking for a long-term relationship with a kind, caring, affectionate partner, but it’s not fair to either partner to set those expectations off the bat, so we play it by ear and see where it goes,” says Blake.
Being single in Fort McMurray can be challenging to say the least and a little tougher for singles over a certain age.
The average age in Fort McMurray is 32, so if you have some years on that, that small dating pool becomes even smaller.
Katheen has been single for over eight years.
The 52-year-old finds dating in Fort McMurray very hard even beyond the fly-in/fly-out crowd as she has discovered that single guys living here are afraid of commitment for whatever reason.
“Most of the men I meet only want one thing: sex. They want friends with benefits,” she sighs.
Kathleen admits there are many facets she dislikes about dating in Fort McMurray. That list includes men doling out the age old line of wanting a relationship, but then disappearing into the night – or morning after – following a romp in the sack.
She’s tired of guys telling her she’s sexy and all they want to do is have sex with her.
Working at site makes dating no easier, she states. In fact, Kathleen believes it is more challenging because there are so many temporary workers and commuters who have wives or girlfriends back home wherever that may be.
“They just want to have flings or one night stands because they’re lonely. Dating at my age is even harder because I believe some men have been in relationships for many years and now they have their freedom, they don’t want to settle down in another relationship.”
There remains a heartfelt belief that there is someone out there for those who are single; it’s just a matter of meeting them. And that is the million dollar question: How do you meet them?
It also depends on what singles are looking for. While many are waiting for Cupid’s arrow to strike, others, like Heidi, prefer a casual relationship.
“I’ve been single for just over a year. I don’t find dating in McMurray a challenge, but I’m not looking for love,” admits the 44-year-old.
“I could see people’s work schedules interfering with a budding relationship, but for me, it’s not an issue.
“I don’t know if this is a McMurray thing or just the dating scene now, but when you tell a man you aren’t looking for love, they instantly think you only want a physical relationship.”
She acknowledges it could be tricky finding love with someone who didn’t make Fort McMurray their home.
“I’d be okay being involved with a commuter as long as they were truly single and weren’t just single in Fort McMurray.”
Stephen’s outlook isn’t as rosy:
“Dating in Fort McMurray is like navigating a minefield.”
His observations have led him to sort women into one of three categories:
First, the gold diggers.
“They want to know what you do and how much you make. They only seem to be interested in you if you make in excess of $150,000.”
Then there are those whose social life revolves around the bar scene and trying to pick up men.
Finally, there are those he refers to as ghosts.
“After a few interesting conversations, they completely disappear without any explanation.”
He describes dating on site as awkward, especially if it doesn’t work out, but you have to see the person every shift. It’s worse if they happen to be a work partner and forget trying to date a commuter or somebody on a 7/7 shift when you work an opposite shift.
“One of the common sayings around here is: ‘You haven’t lost your wife; you just lost your turn,” cites Stephen.
Shauna allows that one of the hardest things for her to deal with is the fact that many folks left families to live and work in Fort McMurray.
“If a guy has left kids behind, that’s who he is going to go see when he’s off work. If he doesn’t go see them regularly, he’s not a keeper. It’s a Catch-22.”
Trust is difficult unless a guy has family here.
“Is he single or just pretending to be?” she wonders.
“I won’t date someone who’s in camp and flies out of town on days off. They’re not invested in the community, so how will they be invested in me?”