by Kirrily Schwarz, Contributor
“So, have you come to Alaska to find a man?”
I was first asked this question exactly three days after I arrived in Anchorage. Fresh off the plane and struggling with the cold and bleary-eyed from the time difference, I had just dragged myself out of bed with barely enough time to get to class.
Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling particularly well equipped to answer such a question.
“Um,” I said, intelligently. “Ah. Well … I’m sorry, what?”
The person asking the question was an older gentleman, a cheeky bus driver, who I had met the day before. With a twinkle in his eye, he turned around and said, “Well, you know, we get a lot of men coming up here to work or for the fishing, but we get an awful lot of women who come here fishing for the men.”
“Oh,” I said, somewhat more coherently, “is that so?”
“Yeah, it is,” said the bus driver. “And let me tell you, it’s not hard if you know how to go about it.”
By this time, I was genuinely intrigued. Prior to my arrival in Alaska, I had conducted a number of Google searches to see exactly what I was getting myself into, and one thing quickly became evident: Men significantly outnumber women.
Although the actual statistics varied significantly — my married best friend at home was gleeful when she found a website that pronounced the odds as being six-to-one — apparently it is a fact.
According to the bus driver, catching a man in Alaska is as easy as catching salmon. He specifically told me all I need to do is get myself a black and red plaid shirt, a pair of tight Levis and some waders that come up to just underneath my backside. Then I need to get a fishing rod, line up next to some anglers and pretend I don’t know what I’m doing.
Having never fished before, I told him this wouldn’t be a problem.
He assured me this technique is foolproof, although it is obviously seasonal in nature.
I’ve now been in Alaska for almost six weeks and have been asked the driver’s original question in a number of variations. Some of my favorites include: “So, what does your boyfriend at home think about you coming up here with all these men?” and, “I haven’t seen you in a few days. I figured you must have married someone by now.”
Did it ever occur to anyone that perhaps the best thing about coming to Alaska is being single?
If I had a boyfriend at home, chances are I wouldn’t be here enjoying the adventure of a lifetime. I wouldn’t have left him at home, so I would still be there, going about my life and doing the same old things.
If I came here to search for a man, I’d be wasting my time senselessly flirting with every attractive guy who walked past instead of making the most of opportunities to explore a new town, meet new people and trying new things, like ice climbing, skiing, skating and building snowmen.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course there are advantages to having an Alaskan boyfriend.
Valentines’ Day recently passed, and though my roommate and I enjoyed a lovely evening together watching Will Smith’s movie “Seven Pounds” while consuming scary quantities of chocolate, cotton candy and cupcakes, another friend went down to Goose Lake with her boyfriend, who had made her a heart-shaped ice skating rink.
As much as I’d like to sit on my high horse and advocate the advantages of singleness, it’s impossible to compare the difference in experience. I really enjoyed the film, but contemplating the intricate philosophy of conscience and atonement has nothing on a romantic evening of ice skating under the stars.
Instead, what I can say is this: After the bus driver told me the secret to catching men in Alaska, he offered me half of his tasty salmon sandwich.
Don’t stress about catching the perfect fish. Sometimes the tastiest salmon will appear all by itself.