By the time Lisa picks me up at the airport, she’s “totally over it” and ready for her first single girls’ night out in her adopted city.We’re joined by her coworker Salem, 27, a native Fort Mc Murrayite, and Shana*, 24, an environmental sciences graduate from Newfoundland, also single, who acknowledges that while the scene is better in Fort Mac than back east, it’s definitely not the promised man-land its demographics might suggest. The mood here is more casual than in Toronto, and the female servers are wearing less.At 27, my romantic life consists mainly of odd hookups (odd because it’s bizarre to have sex with someone you wouldn’t want to stand naked in front of with the lights on); unconsummated dates that usually just waste my beer money; and noncommittal sexual friendships.It’s way better than languishing in a bad relationship, and my life is rich in other ways. Work can’t stroke your hair when you’re waiting on medical results, much less tear your clothes off. When an acquaintance of mine, Sofi Papamarko, started her Toronto matchmaking service, Friend of a Friend, she was deluged with so many female applicants that she had to temporarily close registration for women and start hustling for guys.“I came up here and got an awesome job, one I would have killed for back home,” she says.But she eventually grew sick of the guy (and the online flirtations he continued to engage in with other women after she moved there), so they broke up.
Therein lies the appeal of somewhere like Fort Mc Murray, the notorious oil-boom town with the highest percentage of men per capita in Canada.The same demographic abides in Fort Mc Murray proper, population 72,944, where the bars and restaurants are, and where most people live.In worker camps, the skew is more dramatic: 82.9-percent male, according to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s most recent census.But for many Canadians, it’s the only place to make a living wage.The municipality’s 116,407 residents are 57-percent male.Fort Mc Murray, where—in response to the most recent census figures—Carleton University economics professor Frances Woolley suggests that women seeking men consider moving.A place whose hungry young men are the stuff of legend, where a woman can make 0,000 a year and still get married, or just laid by someone well-built and gainfully employed.The stereotypical Fort Mac story goes something like this: young man from Ontario or Newfoundland heads west, makes 0,000 a year and blows it all on toys (trucks, quads), blow (which exits the system faster than weed, making it prudent in the face of on-site drug testing) and women. But more are there to pay off debts and save for the future.The city is somewhat diverse, and since there’s not much going on, individuals from different backgrounds seem to actually associate with one another.There are lots of young families, and people who grew up there have the confidence you get being from somewhere everyone moves to. From my preliminary interviews, the men in Fort Mac sounded a bit like the women in Toronto: they put up with bullshit, they lower their standards, they bury themselves in work.“The dating scene is horrible out here,” says Jamie, a 27-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., who has worked in the oil patch for six years. They want to know what you’re making, and if you’re not making enough, they’re cheating on you with some other guy who is.” “A phenomenon I see here that I don’t see anywhere else is the volume of guys eating nice dinners by themselves,” says Liz, a 26-year-old yoga instructor from Ottawa.