By Denise DePaolo
Images by Elizabeth Lucille Photography
South Dakota’s largest city is constantly making it onto lists of best places to live, best places to do business, and best places to retire – but is it one of the best places to be single? We gathered a group of eight unattached young professionals for some perspective.
Lauren Forch moved back to Sioux Falls a couple years ago after a stint in Rapid City. As a career-focused person, her romantic experiences West River were largely within her own social circle of busy professionals – she refers to it as “dating out of convenience.” And although Forsch says the pool is a bit bigger in Sioux Falls, where she works as director of fundraising and corporate events for The American Heart Association, that doesn’t make finding someone any easier.
“I received this advice a little while back: ‘More than likely, your significant other, you’re going to meet them out doing something. You’re not going to meet them at home. So put yourself in a place where you would want to meet that person. If you’re always at a bar, you’re going to meet someone who is always at a bar.’ I thought that was interesting,” she recalled. “And when I moved back to Sioux Falls, I started doing a lot more things for me, for my interests – whether that be history club or different organizations around the symphony. Those aren’t things people my age would necessarily be interested in. That’s one of the reasons I joined The Bakery, too, to be surrounded by other young professionals, other like-minded, entrepreneurial-spirited type people.”
The Bakery, a coworking space located just north of downtown Sioux Falls, has more than 300 members, many of whom are single professionals in their 20s and 30s. Bakery co-founder Brian Rand has had experience in both the Los Angeles and Sioux Falls dating scenes which, he explains, are completely different animals. While getting married in your 20s is common in South Dakota, he says even being in a serious relationship at that stage was considered weird on the west coast.
“If you’re single and you’re 30, people are asking what’s wrong with you here,” he laughed.
Another big difference, Rand notices, is the attitude toward online dating in South Dakota versus states with larger populations. “Here, I think dating sites are looked down on or shunned, where in big cities, everyone’s on them because you could be in one town and someone else lives four miles away, but there’s three million people between you, so you’ll never meet. Here, if you live in Brandon and someone else lives in Tea, you’ll most likely have met at Icon or Wiley’s – at least you’ll have seen that person. There seems to be a stigma about it in the Midwest, but in bigger cities it just seems like a norm.”
The connections formed by social media can be both a blessing and curse for singles in smaller communities, as well. Thadeus Giedd, The Bakery’s operations coordinator, recently got out of a long-term relationship. As a native of nearby Crooks, he says starting from scratch with anyone in Sioux Falls can be a huge challenge. “If there’s a person you just met, you find out you know 30 of the same people on Facebook. It’s kind of small town, everybody knows everybody.”
Many of the singles we spoke with feel increasingly isolated as they watch people around them pair off, and invariably awkward as relatives and older acquaintances attempt to set them up. On the flipside, however, none said that their single status – however longterm – has led them to lower their expectations. If anything, it has helped them understand more clearly what they want.
“I’m almost in the stage where I don’t want to put in time and effort for just something,” said Forsch, who is 27 years-old. “The person I feel I’ll have a connection with and share values – faith values or family values – that is the person I’m really looking to invest time in a relationship with. If that person comes along, that is where my focus will turn. I’m not going to date just to date. I think that’s why I’ve been single this long, because I recognize at some point the relationship is not the right fit and it’s not going to be. I’d rather end that relationship than have it turn into ‘This person’s nice to be with. At least I’m not alone.’”
According to 2013 data from the U.S. Census bureau, the average South Dakota woman gets married at 25.6 years-old and the average man ties the knot at 27. Although South Dakotans rank among the youngest to get married nationally, people in Washington D.C., which has the highest median age for first marriages, aren’t walking down the aisle that much later – men at 30.6 years-old and women at 29.8.
At 25, Giedd says just two of his close friends are married, and he personally doesn’t feel any pressure to find a serious relationship. “As a generation, we’re getting married a little later,” he observed. “I don’t like dating. I like to get to know someone on a casual basis. I don’t like the interview aspect.”
Rand says at 31, he’s ready to settle down, but not to settle. And, he remains optimistic about his prospects. “I desire to have a family and kids. I’m at that place in my life. Do I think she’s in Sioux Falls? I don’t know. I hope she is.”
To read the full article, pick up the February issue of 605 Magazine or click here.