Online dating is neither a new nor unique concept. Apparently it comes in a variety of flavors – for all ages – by age, city, region, occupation, religion, sexual preference, possibly even by ethnicity, political affiliation, hobby, hair color, eye color, food preference, type of car driven, and beverage preference. I can’t say for sure. I haven’t checked my spam messages in quite some time.
It is what it is: matchmaking. A concept that is, as they say, “old as the hills”.
For those of us born before the information age – but helped create it – the marketing strategy came in the forms of blind dates set up by friends and family, personal ads placed in newspapers and magazines, brick and mortar dating service businesses. Meeting in a bar falls in the realm of social networking and will not be covered here.
One date was set up because I was seen at her wedding by another guest who asked her to
set me up blindside me with a dinner invitation at her house. I had to sit food starved for two hours before he showed up. “Oh look who stopped by!” Fortunately it wasn’t Casanova Paul because I would have left without eating. At the end of the evening he told me he was glad to get the chance to spend time with me and find out that I was a ‘real person’. Real person? As opposed to what, an inflatable doll?
In college we used to read a local alternative newspaper just to laugh at the personal ads. The ads in this paper covered every scenario and combination and then some. I’m sure most of the internet dating sites were inspired by that paper. There was one ad – quite long – written completely in French. I am not fluent in French. I know a few sentences and phrases to conduct a casual polite conversation. None of what I know was in that ad. Judging from the laughter and red faces of my friends, had it been written in English it never would have been printed. Newspapers – even the alternatives – are rated ‘G’, not ‘R’ or ‘NC-17’.
There was the friend – again married – because they’re always married friends, offered to help write me a personal ad (her idea, not mine): SWF Beer Budget Champagne Tastes…Quite unnecessary. I can find enough Dates From Hell without advertising for one. They have always found their way to me. Stalkers too. And far too many who couldn’t even afford beer. But those stories are for another time.
This tale is about The Invitation. Snail mail. Looked like a wedding invite. Same size envelope and bulkiness. My address printed in calligraphy. A real stamp on the envelope. It was an exclusive opportunity to join The Date From Hell Club. A select mailing and invite to ‘successful business women’ to join. They spared no expense. Good quality paper stock. RSVP cards. Testimonials from female members. They claimed to have a ‘social register’ of millionaire men – all living in my area, screened and pre-selected. Very professional photo cards and profiles on about half a dozen men. Limited time offer to join The Club. For a mere $100/year, they would send 5-10 profiles each month to select a date, 60-120 profiles per year. They guaranteed an introduction on selections. Guaranteed.
While it’s true that two blocks from my neighborhood was the street lined with million and multi-million dollar houses and each of the surrounding towns had million dollar neighborhoods, I seriously doubted any of the owners were part of this Club’s ’social register’. Who needs to pay a matchmaker when I could walk right past their houses any day of the week?
But that was the beauty of snail mail. I used to be on the best mailing lists. It gave me a good opportunity to laugh. FAO Schwartz used to send me their Christmas catalog as if I’d buy a toy car for my nephew that cost more than the real car I owned. But I digress.
I had to show The Invitation to a friend at work. Asked her if she wanted to go 50-50 on the opportunity and we could split the dates.
“They want a photo. Whose would we send?”
Well, hey, two can play the game. We’ll cut a photo from a magazine, print it on nice paper and send it in.
“What happens when we show up not looking like the photo?”
Simple. We say we’re a little schizo and weren’t feeling quite like ourselves the day the photo was taken.
We decided to let a third woman in our work group share our laugh. She was drooling over some of the pictures. She honestly believed the men in the photos were potential dates, even though regardless of occupation, age, et cetera they all seemed to belong to the same country club where the photos were taken. In her defense, she didn’t live in or near my zip code.
A few weeks later she came running up to me. “Oh my God! You were right. It was a scam!” She had caught some news program on television while cleaning (an impressive feat) wherein one of the models used in The Invitation wanted to sue The Club for using his photo without permission – and payment. The Club had already packed up, moved on and absconded with the funds – which at $100 a pop turned out to be quite a tidy sum.
I’m sure they’ve taken their act to the ‘net. Photos are downloaded all the time. I know of a site which downloaded a photo of someone’s husband – without permission – and used it on their dating site as one of their eligible and rich bachelors. The husband had died a few years earlier and the dating site refused to remove the photo, even when informed that he most definitely was not available to date.
The senior faction is having fun with the online dating sites. It’s like having Baskin-Robbins come to their door offering a sample of all their flavors. And they are selecting one for every day of the week. They’ve told me so. Hey, if it keeps the seniors on the information highway instead of the other roads, let them have their banana splits and sundaes.
I may have had more than my share of Dates From Hell, but I’m proud to say I have never paid to get one.
See you at the pub. You’re buying.
But I might split the cost of snacks with you if I find that your car isn‘t held together with duct tape.