- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Even in the age of e-mail, friends still cherish face-to-face contact.

Harriet Smith of College Park knows all about that. Single for all of her 57 years, Miss Smith says she often longs for a meal with friends.

"I get tired of eating by myself," she says. "Sometimes I cry out to God, 'Why can't I share a meal with somebody? I've invited lots of people to my house, but it's a little harder to invite the whole family."

Therein lies the problem for many singles in their struggle to maintain friendships with married friends: logistics.

"A new family, especially with young children, that can put so much pressure on you," says Kimberly Hartke of Reston, who founded True Love Ministries (www.truelove.org) to help single women move toward marriage. "It does take work, sometimes."

Mrs. Hartke didn't get married herself until she was 40, so she says she understands the problems single people face trying to stay in contact with married friends. She says couples should try to invite singles to parties and other social gatherings when they can.

Mrs. Hartke tells of a New Year's Eve party she and her husband threw a few years ago where they made up a guest list that included 20 percent to 30 percent singles. She gave the singles different-colored name tags so they could find each other and seated them closer to the dance floor.

"There's nothing more awkward that approaching a married person and have them shun you when you ask them to dance," Mrs. Hartke says. "For guys, that must be devastating. If it's a dark room, what if they can't see the ring?"

She says the singles had a "blast," and she didn't field one complaint from a single who felt embarrassed by any "meat market" feelings, either that night or in any of her other endeavors.

"I've never heard a person express reluctance," Mrs. Hartke says. "Certainly, some singles' sensibilities get ruffled, but I've never gotten a negative reaction that I know of."

Karen Wilson, a software engineer in Burtonsville, says her married friends don't need to go to anywhere near the elaborate lengths Mrs. Hartke did that New Year's Eve to help her. A phone call would do nicely.

"There is one thing that would help me if married friends would call me," Miss Wilson says. "Even if they only have 10 minutes to talk on the phone. Married people have the assumption that if you're single, you're never home. I always feel like, 'How did you know if you didn't bother to call?' "

On the other hand, married couples say their single friends shouldn't necessarily feel cut off totally just because they haven't been in contact for a while.

"There were inevitable changes when we got married," says Ellen Nunnelee of the District, who has been married to Frank Lennox for 12 years. "There are probably people I would have become closer friends with or seen more of if I were still single. It's nothing personal, it's just what happens when you get married. You can't see anybody, it seems."

Kay Lynch of Richmond has two young children, which makes it even harder for her to spend time with her single friend, Martha Goodman. She echoes Ms. Nunnelee's comments.

"It is very hard when you have young children to make the time," she says. But, noting that Miss Goodman has been able to help with some of the baby-sitting and errand-running, Mrs. Lynch notes with a chuckle, "There are some nice fringe benefits."

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