This week's essay is from Robin, a dear friend of mine who describes a life-altering experience using one particular web site, Match.com.
I once read that 93% of all Americans go to their graves married or having been married. I read this as a 42 year old woman who had never been married, and assumed I would end up in that other seven percent who doesn't have "devoted wife/husband" on their tombstone. So it was a bit of a surprise when a wonderful -- but not perfect -- man came into my life. And the only reason this happened was because of the Internet.
The cause and effect of this was rather circuitous: I was reading the Wall Street Journal to which I had just gotten a free trial subscription. There was an ad in the Business Opportunities section that interested me. I called, left a message, and forgot about it. A few nights later I got a call from the woman who placed the ad. It soon became apparent that we weren't going to be doing business together, but we continued to chat pleasantly. In ways that are particular to women, we soon became conversationally intimate and the topic turned to men and dating. It was through this encounter that I was to learn about Match.com.
My computer and AOL account were maybe a year old at this point and I was hardly a techno-wiz. But I knew enough to surf the web and do email, and headed over to Match.com. The site was visually crisp with easy to understand instructions. Some of the cooler features included the distance that your match was located from you, and the matching feature, which came up with a list of candidates, based on your preferences. The site tried to be as personal as possible. There was even a virtual deity named Venus that would email new matches to you. All this can seem like magic, but it is the power of the database that makes it work. The registration form that you fill out contains boxes that you check off for ethnicity, religion, body type (slender/slim, average, large, etc. -- this could use some improvements and some truth in advertising), height, smoking, children, plans for children, etc. Then there is the free-form blurb where you tell a bit about yourself and which becomes the true personality test. It didn't take long to fill out.
The site is national and international, so if you want a long-distance romance, this could work. So in a mood of curiosity and boredom, I called upon the database to find me a single, Jewish man between the ages of 39 and 48 -- in North Dakota. I probably would have been more successful finding life on Mars. I did have a brief correspondence with a guy in London, but that petered out. Better luck was found closer to home, and in the 18 months or so that I was a Match.com member, I had a fair amount of dates. Some were lousy, some were okay, and some were good. I met guys that were a little out there, but no one that could really be called completely nuts.
Okay, so what about the guy I finally met? His ad was a well-crafted one-liner. According to the distance-o-meter, he lived 40 miles away (database error-according to my car's odometer it's more like 60 miles) in a Lower Hudson Valley town I never heard of. There was also a picture of him putting his best smile forward, and I think it was the earnestness of this effort that compelled me to email him. We had our first date October 31, 1999 and have been happily together since. Had it not been for the confluence of a free newspaper subscription and cyberspace, our paths would never have crossed.
My advice to the lovelorn? Go play with your databases. You never know.
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