One risk in my dating life forever changed everything. I never expected to have all of my dreams come true. Nor did I think I would leave my career in network news to write about my incredible love story or to become a dating and relationship coach. But as I look back, I now realize I was likely destined to become "The Date Lady."
In many ways, I was like most girls. During junior high, my mind would wander through history class while I doodled my first name paired with the last name of my recent crush: Tamara Burner. Tamara Peterson. Tamara Harris. But my interest went beyond wondering if any of those boys actually LIKED me. [They didn't.] I wanted to know about the science of romance, why boys and girls functioned the way they did, and how two people could intertwine their lives when they were so different individually.
While my friends read books about the twin sisters in Sweet Valley, I was more interested in reading non-fiction books about the challenges and discoveries in real relationships, like Deborah Tannen's You Just Don't Understand and Melody Beattie's Co-Dependent No More. I went on to write self-indulgent poetry in high school, wondering why those crushes consistently led to unrequited love. My friends would ask for dating advice even though I didn't have boyfriends. In short, I talked too much about boys and wondered what they were thinking.
Going solo to Senior Prom
When I started dating I made all the typical mistakes girls learn the hard way: the bad boys treated me badly, the good boys were the ones my mom wanted me to date. I had a great high school boyfriend but then no date to senior prom. I had some great boyfriends throughout the years mixed with long dating droughts. I'd have my heart broken dozens of times and I'd wonder if any of it was worth it.
My love life was a constant puzzle. I tried to figure out how to find the right guys and make relationships work. In the meantime, I focused on what was working in my life, which was usually work, friends, and school.
While keeping myself busy as an overachieving student at Roanoke College, I worked as an intern on the overnight shift at the local television news station. Over the next 13 years, I dedicated my life to writing and producing newscasts. I zig-zagged my way across the country for work, beginning at WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, then to KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, Utah, and then KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon before heading to New York City. Every city became home to me, would teach me much about life, and would eventually reside as a permanent resident in my heart (much like every ex-boyfriend I gathered along the way).
I moved to New York for my master's degree. I'd been granted a full-fellowship to Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. While my classmates were researching hard news stories about poverty and global changes, my interests led me back to talking about relationships. That's when I first wrote formally about dating. My master's project, Celibacy and the City, focused on single Mormons in Manhattan. Even though I was writing about dating, I wasn't actually doing much dating in my personal life. In fact I'd gone through a nearly four year dating drought, and I wasn't complaining too much about it. Instead I focused on work.
I landed a gig writing for ABC's Good Morning America, where I would interview some of the world's most fascinating celebrities and ordinary people about life-changing and world-shaping events. During my interviews I always took a few detours to ask the questions that fascinated me most: How did you meet your spouse? What's your secret to a great marriage? What was it about your life partner that was so special? The celebrities and high-powered interviewees indulged my line of questioning, often opening up more than I'd ever anticipated.
On Date #2
of my 31 Dates in 31 Days
January 16, 2009
While my career was on a sharp trajectory toward hard news for life, my love life was toppling like a skyscraper-sized game of Jenga. I was 30, had been dumped twice in less than a year's time, and felt as if I'd somehow become the "world's worst dater." Instead of treating the symptoms of my depressing love life (go through dating detox, find a new guy, give the same bad habits a "go"), I decided to tackle the root of the problem. I needed to start fresh, beginning with first dates. I took my tv producing skills and applied them to a carefully calculated dating program.
Thus, the birth of my life-changing dating project, 31 Dates in 31 Days.
The goal: forget everything I knew about dating and go back to the basics, beginning with first dates. I developed an intense one month "master's class in men" and enrolled myself. My teachers: 30 incredible single men who were willing to take me on a first date and have a fun time in New York City.
With a strict set of rules and a reporter's notebook in hand, I learned what I had been doing wrong when it came to dating and unexpectedly realized my heart and attitude were changing for the better.
My wedding day,
exactly one year later
January 16, 2010
When I started the project, I had no intentions of finding a boyfriend. I had no idea what would happen and set aside expectations. I just wanted to learn something. What I found was more than I could have ever imagined. In one month, I turned from a cynic to a believer. One year later, I was married.
My mother calls my risky project "the gift that keeps on giving," seeing as it led not only to a permanent shift in the way I looked at people but also because it introduced me to my husband, turned into an award-winning book, and gave me the lessons and tools to help others strenghten their relationships and alter their dating habits.
These days I live in Los Angeles with my husband. I travel the country for speaking engagements, I visit with book clubs in person or via Skype, and I coach singles, daters, and newlyweds tackling their own relationship challenges. I often am asked to share my story and the lessons I learned as I went from a self-proclaimed dating disaster to the "first date master."
I write nonstop about love, dating, marriage, friends, family, and all things boy-meets-girl. I'm also working on my second book - about the first year of marriage.
I love animals and kind people. I'm most happy when I'm laughing with my husband, good friends, and family. And I have a questionable adoration of hot chocolate, cupcakes, and Fall weather.
Here are some other random details that likely make me look way more geeky than I'd like to admit:
*My name rhymes with "camera," which was sometimes confusing being the daughter of a professional photographer. Most of my friends call me Tam.
*Much of my best work has been done in slippers. Usually those that are pink and fuzzy.
*My favorite work of fiction is Jane Eyre. My favorite non-fiction book (today) is Bird By Bird.
*I've been a landlord since I was 18.
Me and my lifelong BFF
*I'm still best friends with my very first friend, Cathy. Our pregnant moms met walking in our neighborhood.
*In high school, I was ranked the top Soprano in the state. You can hear a bit of my singing here (it's a beautiful song done with the Roanoke College Choir - my voice is the solo at the beginning). These days I do most of my singing in the shower.
*I graduated from Roanoke College in three years with a double-major, English and Theatre. That's where I learned to get much done on little sleep, a skill I would use again in grad school and throughout my 31 Dates in 31 Days project.
*My book 31 Dates in 31 Days won the About.com Readers' Choice Award for Best Dating Book.
*I'm a die-hard fan of the Back to the Future trilogy and can watch any of the movies any day.
*My husband attended the high school used during filming Back to the Future - a superlative that made him appear super dreamy to me.
*I was student body president of my high school.
*I once ran a marathon. Very slowly. I hope to do it again someday, only much faster.
*I volunteer with teenagers. They're unpredictable. I adore them anyway.
*Some of my favorite moments are spent in quiet conversation with good friends about nothing and everything.
*Someday I hope to speak Spanish, become a better swimmer, and learn to sail.