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New York Times- December 11, 2005

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Long Island Journal
Tweaking Girls' Night

FINDING a new mate has not been easy for Alma Cardenas, 42, a computer engineer from Nesconset who was married for seven years before her divorce five years ago. Since her most recent romantic relationship broke up last summer, Ms. Cardenas said, she had been to five events for singles and was lucky to get a guy's phone number - or be asked for her own - at one of them.

Jay Rosensweig, founder of singles dating company, also plans mixers where women seeking potential friends and activity partners can meet other women.

But it is not just men Ms. Cardenas is pining to meet. She is also looking for female friends.

"The hardest thing is to establish a circle of friends, a circle of single people," Ms. Cardenas said. "The idea of having a fun time for myself and meeting single women is very attractive. It takes away the scariness of doing the single thing, and puts a fun element in it."

As the friends they have known from young adulthood commit to relationships, marry and have children, single women in their 30's, 40's and 50's, especially in the suburbs, often find themselves out of the loop. Tagging along with couples becomes awkward, and the common ground of shared experience dwindles. The single friend may feel stuck in a rerun of "Sex and the City" while the married friend has moved on to the Wisteria Lane of "Desperate Housewives."

"If I want to spend time with my friends, I have to go to my friends' kid's parties," Ms. Cardenas said. "Sometimes it's fun, but it's a drag. It's a reminder that I'm single."

The gulf can seem widest for those who have never married, like Jill Hughes, a 42-year-old chiropractor from Rocky Point who is still looking for Mr. Right.

"A lot of women my age are married or have kids," Dr. Hughes said. "They are just on a different path in their lives. They are not interested in going out or doing anything with the singles scene. I am still looking to go out, to meet men."

Evidently, that "last one without a ring" feeling isn't just a social phenomenon, it's also a marketing opportunity - the one behind the latest twist in matchmaking events on the Island: the single-women-only mixer.

One recent afternoon found Ms. Cardenas and Dr. Hughes headed for such a mixer at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa at the Walt Whitman Mall.

Not only would they have a chance to commiserate with other unattached women over fresh fruit, sushi and cucumber water, they would also choose from a menu of pampering treatments, from mini-facials to professional makeup applications, having their hair blown out and attending a group lesson on skin care.

Afterward, relaxed, primped and perhaps bonded, the 18 women would move straight on to the more traditional half of the double-barreled event: a men-and-women singles party at Cirella's, a restaurant in the mall.

The strategy, Ms. Cardenas said, was win-win, whether or not she found her soulmate.

"Meeting women and men - it's a good two options," Ms. Cardenas said. "Doing the spa thing, if all goes wrong, you walk away with your facial. If all goes right, you make some new friends. If it goes extremely well, you walk out with a potential guy's phone number or being asked your phone number."

Jay Rosensweig, the founder of weekenddating.com, a three-year-old company that runs singles events, came up with the idea for the women's mixer after several women who came to his company's matchmaking events on the Island complained about having no single friends.

Mr. Rosenswieg's company specializes in the musical-chairs-style events known as speed dating, with men and women matched up for four to five minutes at a time to share the event's activity - bowling, perhaps, or rock climbing or cooking - before moving on to the next potential partner. "There is a lot of luck involved, as far as who is there the night you are there," said Mr. Rosensweig, who is 34 and single. The women who take part, he said, often found they enjoyed talking to other women more than to the men.

"The comments would constantly be, 'I didn't make a love connection, but I made a great new friend,' " Mr. Rosensweig said. So he canvassed the 5,000 single people on his e-mail list and, based on their very positive reaction, decided to develop an organized way for women to meet potential friends and activity partners.

Gianna LoBuono, the general manager of the Red Door, who is single herself, knew Mr. Rosensweig from a Long Island Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting. She offered the spa as a neutral but welcoming environment where women could get to know one another, a place away from the mate-hunting grounds where they would all be after the same prey.

"In a club, it is more like a competition," Ms. LoBuono said. "Who looks better? It's a little bit more intimidating in that environment." But in the spa, she said, "You are not alone. You have a friend. You have someone in the same situation as you."

At singles events for men and women, Dr. Hughes said, she often got "that standoffish thing" from other women. So the women-only mixer at the spa was a refreshing change, a chance to be cohorts instead of rivals. "In this kind of situation, it's a lot more relaxed," she said.

As an aesthetician slathered a creamy mask on her face, Marjorie Adler, 52, a lawyer from Valley Stream, said the mixer was just an excuse to indulge herself with pampering treatments.

"There's nothing lost in coming to this," Ms. Adler said. "But it is better to come with women who you have something in common with. If I came here with everybody who is married and has kids, all they are going to talk about are topics that I can't relate to."

Making new friends of either sex has gotten harder as she has gotten older, Ms. Adler said. And if she happened to meet a new love interest at the matchmaking event, well, "that would be amazing," she said.

Robyn Philip Norton, 37, a medical scientist who lives in Long Beach, met Gail Admoni, 38, a diamond wholesaler from Kew Gardens Hills, at one of Mr. Rosensweig's speed-dating events. While the two women didn't find any suitable men, they struck up a friendship with each other and signed up for the single women's night out together.

"It was quite fun, just meeting someone else that we had something in common with, so we could come to these events together," Ms. Norton said.

Ms. Admoni, who has never been married, said her married friends always included her in social events, but that did not bring her any closer to being married.

"I always feel I should be doing something to meet people," she said. "With my married friends, I know they are not going to be doing something to meet single people."

Angela Pecora, 53, of Bohemia, divorced two years ago after 23 years of marriage. She gave speed dating a try, and it worked, at least temporarily: She met a man she liked and spent all her time with him, until they broke up a few months ago.

Sitting in the spa's relaxation room, Ms. Pecora said she hoped to meet a new man, preferably someone at least 44 years old. Meanwhile, a new girlfriend might come in handy, though she opted for a mini-facial first.

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