Life on Orcas Island, Section 17: Dating

I read the following piece at Use Your Words, a twice monthly open mic at The Barnacle on Orcas Island.

Welcome to Life on Orcas, our twenty-part series on living and thriving on Orcas Island.

Section Seventeen: Dating on Orcas Island

In our last section, we talked about the many ways that you can take part in the close-knit community of Orcas Island. Maybe you’ve taken up volunteer firefighting, or you’ve joined the Co-Op board, or you’re just gossiping in the checkout line at the Island Market.

Most islanders are paired up in committed relationships and have families, or are pleasantly retired.

Island families live on homestead farms where even the animals are polite and affectionate. Island children are mostly blond-haired, can generally repair a small engine, and talk to adults with an almost disturbing degree of confidence.

Retired islanders spend their days gossiping at cafes, restaurants, and other public spaces. They discuss changes in the weather, benign island scandals, and the ferry schedule. As they cruise into their sunset years, they can look at their partner, and their dog, and their other dog, and think: Yes, I have succeeded in all possible measures.

There are a small number of islanders who are considered single. Most of them leave within 24 hours. However, an even smaller subset do decide to stay, for reasons that are unknown to science. There are so few single people on Orcas that they all know each other, and dislike each other.

The only option then, is to date Off Island. Dating off island should be pursued with due caution. Hazards of dating off island include whale attack, ferry fatigue, and disappointment.

Orcas islanders should practice additional caution when dating in Friday Harbor. Approximately 50% of Orcas Islanders who travel to Friday Harbor never return. What happens to these islanders remains one of San Juan County’s most enduring mysteries.

There are many single people in nearby cities, but it is important to note that most of these cities are in Canada. While Canadians look like Americans, they differ in several important ways. Canadians are more polite than Americans, but they should be approached with caution. All Canadians carry a ceremonial dagger called a Skookum, and if their honor is threatened, they will lash out without warning. Canadians are sensitive about the small size of their country. It is unwise to discuss geography, maps, distances, or the metric system with a Canadian person. Canadians also have universal health care, which makes them fearless in the face of injury or death. Therefore, it is important not to engage in a physical altercation with a Canadian, because they don’t fear death, and they delight in the smell of blood.

Most experts agree that Canadians and Americans are fundamentally incompatible, and should not date for any reason.

In conclusion, single people on Orcas Island face an inhospitable climate and poor odds for survival. Most are eaten by whales or stabbed by Canadians within 16 months. The few that survive move to the woods, and make fine furniture, musical instruments, or pottery. Some of them even write.

This concludes section seventeen of Life on Orcas. Be sure to answer the study questions in the companion workbook. Remember to support your answer with painful personal anecdotes, like that time you met a girl on Lopez and you really thought that something was building between the two of you, maybe something like mutual regard or affection, and for a moment you thought ‘maybe, my long suffering friend, we have walked out of the desert.’ And after the third date, which, in your opinion went very well, you receive a formal text in which you are fired by this girl from Lopez. And you feel a complex series of emotions—a whiff of surprise, a pang of hurt, and the beginnings of a fairly large lake of sadness. But mostly you think, we are all of us unknowable, each separate, suffering alone, and the distance between each person is sometimes unbridgeable.

Anyway, use an anecdote like that one.


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