Martin Lomeli, a 36-year-old man dressed entirely in black, hovers at the edge of the dance floor with drink in hand.Recently divorced and new to the Sacramento area, Lomeli “just started looking into these kind of events because I’m very lonely. I’ll always love her.” Bristling at the suggestion that it may be too soon for him to start dating, Lomeli insists he is ready.None seems nonchalant about the mission of the evening. Young lovers were asked to dance or went home crying, only to wake in the morning with a different beloved in mind.The juvenile separation of genders notwithstanding, this gathering bears a distinct difference from the middle-school mixers of old. Feelings, and the torrid but temporary bonds that followed, just “happened.” A singles convention, however, is about planning and focus.Ever the party host, Gosse whispers something to the DJ and invites everyone to join him for “the greatest dance song of all time.” No one moves, so he takes Linda Coker by the hand and leads her onto the floor.More couples follow suit until nearly everyone is up.Wary of cupid’s careless aim, the attendees have paid to learn specific strategies for attracting a mate and, for one night, to test these strategies in a dating pool of others as determined as they.Enter Rich Gosse, “The Sultan of Singledom.” An uninformed observer would be hard-pressed to identify The Sultan in this crowd. Modestly dressed in gray slacks, a button-down shirt and striped tie, he sports a large moustache reminiscent of a young Captain Kangaroo, and a gold wedding band.
The disappointed crowd threatens to turn ugly until a woman in the audience holds up a small television and informs everyone that the Kings are ahead. Tons of activities every week.” He holds up a copy of the Bee’s Ticket section and scans the pages. “The average guy out there is scared to death of rejection. All you need to know about men—this one lesson is worth the —is that they’re chicken.” The women laugh, while the men stare blankly into their cocktails.The game starts with mastering dating strategy at a convention The middle-aged professionals gathered for the Northern California Singles Convention have resorted to the “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Junior High” approach to mingling.The men, starched and uncomfortable in sports coats and ties, lean against the back wall of the ballroom at the Red Lion Inn.You are competing with their fantasy partner.” His list of taboo revelations includes any previous relationship infidelities and being in recovery for drug addiction. ” Gosse smoothly replies, “After you hear those magic words, ‘I love you.’ Once a person is in love with you, they’re addicted to you like a smoker to nicotine, like a heroin addict to smack. Gosse wraps up the lecture and turns the night over to the DJ.A man raises his hand and asks when one should make such disclosures. They can’t break it off without suffering horrendous pain and people don’t want to suffer, so they’ll stay with you.” Some women gasp. The lights go down, the music comes up and the entire convention races to the bar for a dose of liquid courage.