J.M. Kearns has a Ph.D. in philosophy, but his approach to romance is simple: To find Mr. Right, you first have to look for Mr. Right. Last year Kearns’ book, Why Mr. Right Can’t Find You, was a best seller in Canada, earning lavish praise from publications both there and in the United Kingdom. Now that his book is available in the U.S., Kearns is offering hope and humor to female singletons all over the country. There’s nothing of the self-important self-help guru about Kearns. He’s just a guy who finally got it right—he met his partner Debra online—and wrote a book about what he learned “as an embedded reporter in the trenches of love.” A native Canadian, Kearns moved to Nashville in 1996 to be a songwriter—his band is Michael Kearns and the Lonely Mammals—but his first novel, ex-Cottagers in Love, will be published this month in Canada. In a recent interview, he discussed Sleeping Beauty, wedding etiquette and the problem with destiny.
Scene: You moved to Nashville to be a songwriter. How did you end up writing a self-help book, too?
Kearns: I’d finally gotten over a major relationship that had failed, basically. I spent about three years searching for somebody because I didn’t want to be alone. I felt like I was really ready for a serious relationship, maybe for the first time in my life. I also wanted to write about relationships, to give the male side of the story. I became aware of the self-help literature about dating, and I felt [it] was giving men very bad press.
Scene: In the book you point out that men do want committed relationships.
Kearns: A wall has been put up between men and women by the culture. Dating has been turned into a manipulative thing where you think you have to play games in order to manipulate a guy into your trap. That’s just ridiculous. One of the red flags that you’re not with the right person is if you have to play games all the time.
Scene: What’s the first step in searching for Mr. Right?
Kearns: Don’t focus on what you think most men are looking for or all men are looking for. Focus on the men who are looking for you. It’s a change of perspective.
Scene: You believe women should be proactive, right?
Kearns: There are all these myths out there, and one of them is the myth of destiny or the myth of Sleeping Beauty. It’s the idea that if you raise a finger in your own cause, you’ll never succeed. You must wait passively for the prince to ride to you. But destiny is best honored after the fact. In other words, make a good effort, find a great person, and then when you’re sitting with them in front of a fireplace sipping some wine, you’ll think, “This must have been destiny.”
Scene: What do you mean when you say, “Total accidents of seating and attitude can stop major connections from being made”?
Kearns: Don’t think that the only time to meet a guy is when you’ve gone out to meet a guy. That’s probably not when you’ll meet a man. In that way I do believe in destiny, or accidents, serendipity. I think it can happen anytime.
Scene: So if you’re seated with a bunch of married people at a rehearsal dinner, you should switch your place card to the fun singles table?
Kearns: Right. You want to at least give yourself a chance to meet new people. It’s hard in our culture. Women who have read the book tell me it’s an adventure every time they go out in public [now] because they’re aware someone might be looking for them or find them attractive. And they start noticing when men notice them and being much more willing to encourage the guy and get in a conversation, to have an encounter. They realize they’ve been squandering opportunities to meet guys who actually were attractive and found them attractive. The worst that can happen is maybe you’ll make a friend. And if nothing happens, that’s OK too.
Scene: Returning a smile isn’t necessarily encouraging a stalker.
Kearns: Right. A lot of people are programmed to keep all strangers at a distance. But if you haven’t found the right guy yet—and he is out there—then he is a stranger. He’s among the people you haven’t met yet. If you’re not taking steps to meet more people, then you won’t find him. My whole idea is, he’s out there. You’re out there. You’re both looking for each other. Now help each other. Now navigate so you can get in touch.
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Wonderful! We're hoping Knoxville puts something like this together, too. It's a fantastic concept!!