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"We dated our way across America!"

Glamour logo Glamour 7/21/2014 Anna Katherine Clemmons and Molly Knight
© Illustration by John Ueland, courtesy of Glamour

The two of us first became friends as sports reporters in New York City. At the time, we blamed Manhattan for our dating disasters. It was too big, too impersonal; there was too much competition! Then Anna Katherine moved to North Carolina and discovered that finding love could be just as soul-crushing in the South. Between us, we'd had seven un-right boyfriends, a couple hundred bad dates and countless crazy-expensive cell phone bills, thanks to all of the time we spent complaining to each other, until one of those calls ended with a plan: We decided to load up the car with Red Bull and hit the road.

We drove from Nashville to Los Angeles and then back to the East Coast, determined to boy-troll in as many watering holes, beaches and ballparks as we could. We're still no experts on love, but we learned a ton, and even managed to stop texting our exes. Our lessons for you:

1. Guys Do Want to Be in Relationships.
We know. We'll give you a minute to let this sink in. Feel free to excuse yourself, open up your liquor cabinet and come back to us. We're glad to have you.

It was a big shock to us: Men are just as sick of being single as we are. In fact, the one type of guy we met absolutely everywhere we went was Dude Who Whines About Not Having a Girlfriend.

Jason, an attractive 32-year-old guy in Nashville, our first stop, introduced us to this truth. We met him on the basketball courts. (The YMCA, the local women told us, was one of the biggest singles scenes in the city.) Jason offered to show us around that night with some of his single friends. Over pints of Hoegaarden, they admitted that hooking up was easy, but finding love? Not so much. "I'd love to have a girlfriend," said Jason's friend Mark. "And there are lots of friendly girls here, but I've had to learn that friendliness doesn't mean a girl is open to being in a relationship."

And Nigel, the smoking-hot South African who Molly had a dinner date with in Vail, Colorado, confessed he'd just broken up with someone because he felt she wasn't The One. So much for that whole men-don't-wanna-settle-down cliché! We both vowed never again to assume that every guy's default setting is "playing around."

2. But Coastal Guys Are the Big Exception to That Rule
Besides their proximity to water, what do New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York have in common? They're where we met by far the most noncommittal men.

Exhibit A — Peter, the 30-year-old actor-bartender we met in L.A.: "There is too much to do out here while I'm young and single. I'm not ready to settle down." Or take Mitch, 32, a construction worker from New Orleans: "This is a city of hookups," he said. "My friends and I do want to be in relationships eventually, but not before we've had our fun."

Ladies, here's what they forgot to teach us in geography class: Guys near the coast are commitment-phobes! That ocean breeze could potentially whisk the guy you're "kinda seeing" back into the dating pool. Sure, it's a gross generalization, and maybe your sister's friend's babysitter's cousin found her fiancé on a pier in Manhattan. But everyone else knows we're right. Just be warned. (And if you do live near the water, the next four tips can keep you afloat.)

3. Mr. Wrong Might Be Friends With Mr. Right
We've all been targeted by that obnoxious dude who pounces on you the minute you walk into a room. Resist the urge to make a run for it. Talking to That Guy can have its benefits. Hear us out:

On day three, in New Orleans, we contemplated bolting when the slightly more attractive lawyer version of Spencer Pratt flagged us down in a bar and forced shots of actual moonshine into our hands. But then we started talking to his friends, and by the end of the night, we'd decided that the quietest one, Jake, who "Spencer" never stopped ragging on, was great. In fact, he ended up being the coolest person we met the entire trip. Jake was comfortable hanging back and didn't run his mouth about all the clubs he could get us into. Instead, he asked us about our jobs, our dogs and our trip.

Before this, we may have ruled out an entire pack of guys just because one of them was a drunken fool, but Jake opened our eyes: Bonds between men are based on lots of things — childhood T-ball, work, shared hobbies — not necessarily their M.O.s toward women. So the next time you're approached by The Situation in a bar, don't shoot him down! He might be hanging out with the guy you should be talking to.

4. You Don't Need to Try So Hard
In L.A., we spent a hot afternoon at Dodger Stadium eating hot dogs and sweating off our concealer. So when we left the game in our baseball tees and flip-flops, the prospect of walking into a bar brimming with Hollywood types was enough to make us want to go back to the hotel, order On-Demand and eat dinner from the minibar.

But we went out anyway, and since God has a sense of humor, we were swarmed the minute we walked in. The men were drawn to our sports tees like pro athletes to a Kardashian. In fact, L.A.'s bravest — a dozen local firemen — were just as keen to talk to us as to the gals with SAG cards nursing their rum-and-diets. The same was true in Austin, Texas, where the girls chilling out in last year's jeans — that would be us! — were getting more attention than the glitzed-out ladies who had "bachelorette party" written all over them.

5. There's No Harm in Being Opinionated
Meeting guys we'd probably never run into again gave us the newfound freedom to be straight shooters: "No, we don't like that sports team." "Yes, you have nice arms." "Really, we've just met. It's too soon for nicknames." And you know what? Dating is a lot less exhausting when you cut the charades. Go ahead and try it — you'll see!

6. There Are Lots of Great Guys Out There — So Don't Stick With a Jerk!
OK, just Molly talking here: When we started our trip, I was in an on-off situation with a guy who clung to me whenever he was going through a crisis, but was "not in a place" where he could commit when I wanted more. On our drive, I noticed that perfect strangers in Alabama, New Mexico, Utah and Indiana treated me better than the guy who claimed to love me. There was Dan from Mobile, Alabama, who said: "You're smart, funny, beautiful, and you like sports. How are you single?" And Jeff in Phoenix: "There are too many guys out there to hitch your wagon to one who doesn't think he's the luckiest guy in the world." They made me reconsider. Why was I ensnared with someone who made me feel so insecure?

Dear Men of America, you did for Anna Katherine and me what our female friends tried to but couldn't: You showed us that we shouldn't lower our expectations, that we deserve to be happy. Once back at home, I was finally ready to ditch Mr. Wrong. Anna Katherine put her road trip lessons to good use too. And guess what? She's about to move in with a great guy!

If you're not in a relationship and you want to be, we hope our fieldwork encourages you to keep on truckin'. And if all else fails, move to Vail, Colorado — or, as we now call it, Male, Colorado — where we hear men outnumber women 10 to one. Just sayin'!

More from Bing and MSN Lifestyle Site Search: Get additional content on looking for love, dating truths and the importance of being yourself.

Anna Katherine Clemmons and Molly Knight are contributing editors at ESPN the Magazine.


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