Once she decided to spend a month not worrying about finding Mr. Right, Tamara Duricka Johnson finally figured out dating and turned her experiences into an award-winning book.
She also found a husband.
Johnson was a single, 31-year-old Latter-day Saint who was about to "graduate" out of her LDS singles ward. It was a difficult time in the life of the professional journalist living in New York City.
"The year I turned 30 was suppose to be an unforgettable one," Johnson said in an interview with the Deseret News. "But it was when I turned 31 and realized I was leaving the singles ward unmarried when that year turned into a bust."
On Johnson's 31st birthday, a friend jokingly suggested, "Why don't you go on 31 dates for your birthday?" Having experienced previous heartbreaks, Johnson decided to start enjoying her single life and not worry so much about who or when she would marry. She went right to work on her new project, which evolved into the book, "31 Dates in 31 Days," named "Best Dating Book" by about.com.
"I figured if I'm meant to be single for the rest of my life, or at least for a while longer, I might as well learn how to date better," Johnson said.
Starting back at the basics, Johnson wanted to see for herself if any of her current dating habits should be avoided. Her goal for the project was to drop everything she thought she knew about dating and start fresh. She wanted to learn how to enjoy first dates and not focus on determining if the guy she was on a date with was "the one."
Johnson made sure to establish rules so she would feel comfortable in the presence of strangers.
"To keep my dates safe, sober and sex-free: all dates must be in public places, free of alcohol and be with unmarried men," she writes in her book. "Plus, I had my own little secret boundary for myself: No kissing."
In search for potential dates, she emailed men who she or her friends felt would be a good fit. In her emails, she made sure to mention, "I'm looking for G-rated dates."
Johnson set up a website for her followers to keep track of her "31 Dates in 31 Days" journey. Once the men were found and creative date ideas were researched, the project launched on Jan. 15, 2009.
After going on 30 dates in 30 consecutive days, Johnson asked her followers to vote on whom — among the 30 men she had gone on dates with — she should go on her final date with. The 31st day happened to fall on Valentine's Day.
The man her followers chose was a Mormon, even though Johnson didn't have a rule stating, "You have to be a Mormon."
"Since I wasn't looking for a husband, the guys I went out on dates with didn't have to be Mormon," Johnson said. "However, a third of the dates ended up being with Mormon guys since I had a lot of Mormon connections."
The person chosen by her followers, however, turned out to be Mr. Right. Exactly one year after starting her project, Johnson married the man she did not plan on finding.
"I was not expecting to find my future husband through this project, but it just goes to show that you never know where you are going to end up," Johnson said.
Johnson's religious testimony has been strengthened through this project, and her outlook on life has changed.
"I know that each of us is a divine individual, and I also see how God looks at each of us," Johnson said. "I never knew what it really meant when I was told 'God loves me,' but now I see how he is able to love me for who I am. I am so grateful to have had a small glimpse of how Heavenly Father sees each of us."
Johnson is now a certified dating coach. As she looks back at her life, it seems she was destined to become "the date lady" she is today.
"Dating, something that I once dreaded, was the key to everything: the key to learning about God, the key to learning about relationships and ultimately the key to learning about love," she said.
Kylie Lewis is an intern for the Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho, receiving a bachelor's degree in communications.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company