Tell Me the Truth, JoAnne

Q. I'm fairly recently divorced, and have even more recently returned to the North Jackson area after a few years away. Do your sources have any idea where interesting single/divorced women hang out? Some places I won't name are just packed with 22-year-olds who wouldn't give me the time of day.
— Looking in All the Wrong Places

A. You know, of course, that most of the interesting single/divorced women are at home either taking care of their interesting small children or reading books and reorganizing their lingerie drawers—all wishing they knew where the interesting men were. It's a damned conundrum, that's what it is, nearly as ancient as the chicken-and-egg thing.

Here's the best advice I can give you: don't look too hard. Forget about looking for women and seek out the events, occasions, places, in Jackson that you find most interesting, most enjoyable, most enlightening, most satisfying. You're most likely to find interesting women when you're not looking for them. That's the way I've discovered all the interesting men in my life anyway. They are right in your midst all the time, and you don't even know it. You know them, but you don't.

The most interesting man I ever knew was my beloved husband, Willie, and when I "found" him, I had already known him 25 years. We were in the final stages of putting together the book, "Homecomings," which he had written for the University Press of Mississippi, and I was his editor. I was working, and looking was the last thing on my mind. After he finished the manuscript and it had been edited and proofed, I drove up to Oxford to conduct an interview with Willie and the artist Bill Dunlap, who had created art for the book. My son Graham handled the tape recorder and Bill's wife Linda Burgess was there, too. And right in the midst of friends and family, Willie and I "met" for the first time. We found in each other someone we had never known before. Who can explain such a phenomenon? And who could ever look for it? It was magic, that's all.

But if look you must, I suggest these possibilities:

1. Think books. Interesting women read books. Interesting women hang out in bookstores and libraries, and they attend book signings and author events. Spend as much time as you can at Lemuria in Banner Hall, get on their email list (write lemuria @lemuriabooks.com) for upcoming book and author events, and get yourself to as many of these as you can.

2. Interesting women attend art gallery and museum exhibition openings. Visit all the art galleries, get on their mailing lists, and attend their festivities. I'm personally partial to Gallery 119 and Fondren Traders; their opening parties always seem to attract the most fascinating folks (and who knows, you may find art you want to buy!). Join the Mississippi Museum of Art friends group and keep up with the goings on at the Old Capitol and Smith Robertson.

3. If you're not already familiar with The Lounge List on the JFP Web site (jacksonfreepress.com), acquaint yourself with it now and check it regularly for art, music and community events. Then attend those that strike your fancy.

4. Look into study groups and special courses—adult education classes at Millsaps, for example, where you can learn ballroom dancing, armchair detective work, gardening, and a plethora of other things you've always wanted to know, alongside women curious to know about them, too.

5. Bars and clubs are problematical because many of them are too loud to find out whether someone is interesting or not. So you need to find one that's relatively quiet. I suggest going sometimes on weeknights fairly early in the evening. In my view, you can just cross off the Reservoir and Madison County right now. In fact, the closer in to downtown you get, the better off you'll be. If there's a place more conducive than Hal & Mal's for casual repartee with educated, fun-loving people, I don't know what it is. There are several great spots in the Fondren area, Belhaven, and Highland Village. I love the cocktail lounges at Schimmel's and Bravo; they always make me feel a little spiffier and more like a grown-up. The 930 Blues Café on Congress is a terrific spot for spirited people and "jump-boogie blues." But it's loud; I suggest you take your pen and pad along and plan to pass notes to the interesting women you meet!

6. Coffee shops, like Cups and the brand new Artery in Fondren, attract a crowd that's as stimulating and diverse as the brew. They're ready-made for great conversation. (After all, conversation is the key. But don't you forget Voltaire's rule: "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.") If you don't like coffee, well, you have bigger problems than I can help you with.

And that's the truth!

Send any question to PO Box 2047, Jackson, Miss., 39202, or fax to 866/728-4798. Include name and daytime phone number, although it can be withheld.


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