Catch and Release

After the nasty, shallow, breaking-up post the other day, I thought it only fair that I do an equally nasty, shallow meeting-up post today. Amy mentioned in the comments of the breaking-up post that she once dated via personal ads and screened applicants through their grammar and spelling. Coincidentally, that same day, I got an email (and probably many of you got the same email) from some “Facebook-integrated dating site” (whatever that means) offering to let me write posts for them for free.

The stars were obviously aligned in favour of an internet/agency/personal ad (depending on your era) dating post.

I once joined a dating agency. For anyone under 30, this is what they used to have before LavaLife or Plentyoffish.  You had to leave your home and visit an office populated by human beings who would give you a questionnaire – on paper. Then they’d give you a pen, and you’d sit and write down — by hand — information about yourself. Then they’d take a photograph with a crazy old-timey gadget called a Polaroid camera that instantly produced blurry, greenish images, but with a nice wide border around the bottom. (The big bottom border was so you could write down a description of what was supposed to be depicted in the photograph in case it was too unrecognizable and green)

The really swanky dating agencies would take a blurry, greenish video of you instead. You’d get all dressed up; pretend you were talking to a potential date and say really stupid stuff about yourself.

I opted for the lower-tech, chicks-are-free option. In this agency, the Matchmaker Lady did all the work. She’d sort through the applications and Polaroids and match me up with people she thought would be compatible. Then she’d call me and tell me about some guy and give me his telephone number. I’d call him, we’d talk and then decide if we wanted to meet up. I’d call the Matchmaker Lady and tell her when the meet-up was. (I know, I know, she’s starting to sound like a pimp to me, too, all of a sudden) Anyway, after the initial meet-up I had to call the Matchmaker Lady again and let her know how it went. I guess if she didn’t get a call within a few days, she’d assume I’d been murdered and left in a ditch by the side of the road and she’d alert authorities.

Luckily that never happened.

She did send me a lot of desperate eligible men. It was quite a long time ago now, but I don’t believe anything memorable ever happened on any of the meet-ups I went to. I’m pretty sure I never went out on a second date, either. Matchmaker Lady got pissed off with me at some point and we more or less mutually agreed that I should gave up on the whole sorry experience.

I’ve never looked at LavaLife, but I have had a look at the Plentyoffish site — just to see what was going on in the zany world of dating these days. Nothing there made me jump up and say, “Whoa, stand aside and let me dive into this sea.”

I do realize that you’re all muttering to yourself that it’s not the fish in the sea that’s the problem here — it’s me. And you’re right. Matchmaker Lady said pretty much the same thing. I’m obviously not interested enough in dating to make the effort. If I happen to meet somebody I like enough to want to spend an evening or whatever with, that’s one thing. But pursuing a date, by electronic or other means is like making some sort of commitment to declaring yourself open to a relationship.

And if that’s what you really want, the deliberate mate-seeking option seems to work. I know quite a few people who met their spouses and/or significant others online and everyone seems happy. Even people, who didn’t purposely set out to meet a partner, ended up meeting someone incidentally because of Facebook, blogging or some other online-related activity.  

How about you? Have you ever dabbled in the world of internet, agency or personal ad dating? Was it a good, bad or indifferent experience? Did you meet your soul-mate, worst nightmare or cure for insomnia?

*** Also,  of all the Polaroid photographs that have been taken of or by you in the past, do any of them still have an actual image on them?

30 responses to “Catch and Release

  1. I put up an online dating profile because my friend Lesley told me that’s what I had to do if I wanted to stop dating musicians and bartenders. I kept my profile up for a month and went out on dates with two different guys. Both were okay, but not for me. When I went on line to delete my profile I saw a profile posted by my current partner and sent him a note. The rest is history. We’ve been together for three years and I still think he’s pretty great.

  2. Never did that and am eternally grateful that I am married now and will not have to do any sort of contrived meeting to have a date. I was/am not particularly skilled at meeting new people especially where that is the purpose of meeting. I’d rather just meet people naturally – at work, school, party, club or whatever.

    Dating services to me seem unnatural and like something out of a cheesy horror film that has somehow become reality.

  3. My husband and I met online. I’d gone online because I’d never had much luck meeting anyone I was interested in at a bar. I found being set up on dates by friends to be awkward (too much pressure). And I was too busy with work and my own life to try and figure out any other way to met men. I also liked that anyone I met on the site was actually looking to find a mate. I’ve always found it difficult to express my interest in real life when I don’t even know if the other person is available, let alone interested.

    I went on a fair number of first dates over the course of a year. I went on very few second dates. Some of the men I net were just too nervous and awkward. Others were too full of themselves. Other were nice, but not right for me. I learned very quickly that clicking with someone via email rarely translated into clicking with them in person.

    My husband, when I met him, had joined the online dating site on a whim but had not actually contacted anyone until he contacted me. I tell him all the time how lucky he was not to have suffered through all the bad first dates. Lucky him–he met me right off the bat! We had a great first date and it only got better after that.

  4. I dated two men through, I think, MatchUp. They were both sort of nice but both turned out to be very wierd in the end. They probably thought the same thing of me. I decided to try it as it was an easy way to meet men not being a bar hopper. It was easy, just strange. I met my husband on a blind date which seems to be sort of the same thing.

  5. I have nothing to contribute on the dating thing, but polaroids, yes. Some of my very favorite old pics of myself are polaroids. I always thought the lack of detail was like instant air-brushing over all the little flaws. Good times.

  6. Never an online dater… but I do think that we find the best relationships when we’re not really looking for them. At least that’s how it’s always worked out for me.

  7. About while back, when I was desperate to find a girlfriend, I joined a matchmaking agency. It was pretty pricey…~ about three grand if I remember. (And that was in 1991 dollars!).

    But, for whatever reason, at the time it made sense (this was in the days before the Internet, you know.)

    In the brief time I was involved, I met three people. One was a dud. Two were quite I dated for a month or so. It definitely seemed worth it.

    Then, a former girlfriend called me up, out of the blue, and we re-kindled our romance. Needless to say, the dating service was not used after that.

    3 years later, we broke up, and then I ended up moving 600 km away. Never used the dating service again.

    What a waste of money.

    *sigh*. Oh well.

  8. J – Wow. That’s a relatively pain-free success story. Really, online is where most people spend a lot of their free time these days, so it seems a sensible place to meet people, right?

    Sean – They may be unnatural, but like Mary Lynn says when you meet someone this way at least you know they’re available and looking for a relationship and that you have some things in common already. Sure, it can be awkward, but if, for some reason it’s not – you’ve found a match! Anyway, it’s nice you’ve found your life’s mate.

    Mary Lynn – Of course lots of people in the online dating world are NOT actually available and are NOT actually looking for a mate. You’d hope to eliminate the sleeze-balls when it’s a “cards-on-the-table” sort of situation, but there seem to be plenty of married guys just looking for a fling disguised as serious mate-seekers. I’m glad you found the perfect one for you. And yes, he’s very lucky that he didn’t have to go through months of dating crazy women.

    Linda – Blind dates are odd, too. Your friends set you up with someone they think would be perfect for you and then you meet and wonder what the heck your friends actually think of you. Many times it’s just that they happen to know 2 single people and figure the right thing to do is set them up. At least your friends knew what they were doing!

    Geewits – See that’s why I like to throw an sort of unrelated, yet related tangent into every blog post – so that if the primary topic doesn’t interest you, there’s something else to spark a comment. Are your Polaroids fading away? Lots of the ones we have are turning greener and greener with less and less definition of the images. It’s creepy.

    Christine – Probably true. When we’re “looking” we give off a scent of desperation and that’s never very appealing to anyone.

    Friar – Well, I must commend you on your commitment to finding a partner. That’s a big investment, so it’s obviously something you wanted very much. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. I think the internet things are mostly free. It’s full of women looking for guys to put their kids through university – ha ha ha (I’m never going to let you live that one down)

  9. No, but I sort of wish I had, because these stories are EVER so much more entertaining than meeting one’s spouse at a party. Pffftt.

  10. I met my ex-husband on, way back in the early days of online dating. I think we were their first divorce.

    I met GC online but it was more accidental. We both regularly played Scrabble on Facebook with his neighbour, Julia. Then we started playing each other. One thing led to another and we fell in love over the virtual scrabble board. (Sometimes we met for coffee too.)

  11. @XUP

    You might laugh, but there are lots of single-moms here in Splat Creek, making crappy money, who would love to latch onto a “rich” engineer for precisely that reason.

    Small-town mentality. It’s not quite the same as it is in The Big City.

  12. No. And honestly, if I ever end up alone, I’m far from sure I’d want to go that route – or any route for that matter even though I know lots of people for whom it worked.

  13. I’m with Mary Lynn (hi, Mary Lynn!)! I met my husband via newspaper personals in 1992, before online dating was big (or at all?). We were each other’s first date using such a venue, and although he had one other date (that he made at the same time, and wouldn’t cancel on principle), we joked that he’d put an ad out for me. We dated for 5 years and have been married for 12.

    Tidbits from the six-line ad: no spelling errors, referenced his tastes in music, literature, tv, and film, religious-prefs, and dry sense of humor.

  14. When the Internet was first introduced to me it was like a big party of WOMEN…I dated some and I moved in with one. Dating is hard and I think the Internet has certainly raised everyone’s expectations in finding the PERFECT mate, problem is they themselves are not the PERFECT mate, no one is perfect, you got to take someone warts and all.

    I have met women on Craigslist and when you talk to them on the phone they start to list everything they want in a woman and I am not even 50% of that and I just say, thanks, but I am not what you are looking for and I think Mother Thersea and Gandhi never actually had any children together that turned out to be a lesbian so good luck with your search.

    Also, I read of that as plenty offish and I thought it was a dating site for French people…

  15. Fortunately, I met my husband in college and have not had to delve into online (or any other type of) dating since. I consider myself very lucky for that, because it doesn’t sound like a fun time.

    I have a number of friends who have signed up for online dating sites with mixed success. Some gave up after years of not meeting anyone, but I know a few married couples who met that way.

  16. Ellie – Well, d’uh…where else on earth could you two have possibly met? Your entire life is one big party!

    Zoom – “Match” is a very volatile image for a relationship. It can only end in disaster. Good for you for being a forerunner. The virtual scrabble board story is very romantic. Also the story we heard about when you two actually met at a dinner party. Was that your real first meeting?

    Friar – Oh, I believe it, dude. I’ve known single moms like that and I’m sure there are some in the big city, too – just like there may even be one or two self-sufficient, intelligent single moms in the boonies.

    Jazz – You kind of give me the impression that if Mr. Jazz were no longer around for whatever reason, it would never even occur to you to find a replacement. (Mr. Jazz II)

    Nylonthread – Cool. I have a friend who met her husband by placing an ad in the local pennysaver. They were each other’s first dates from the personals, too.

    Cedar – Ya, really if you have the entire world of single people at your finger tips you’re going to want to hold out for some exhalted god, right? Why settle for the same plain jane you can get next door? Little does anyone realize that the world is almost 100% populated by plain janes with only a smidgen of super foxes. (plenty offish…har har har)

    Kimberly – The world of dating isn’t quite as horrible as you “married my high school/college sweetheart” people think it is. There are fun, exciting and romantic moments. The thrill of the chase. The adventure of the unknown. The hilarity of swapping date stories with your friends. You meet some interesting characters. But there’s a lot to be said for skipping all over that and just finding your mate right away.

  17. I dabbled a little shortly after my first wife met a man in Ireland on the internet and left the country. I didn’t do too well, but I probably shouldn’t have lead with that story on my dating profile. Because when a woman leaves you and her country for a man she’s never met, you must be pretty bad at the whole relationship thing.

  18. I’ve tried a few times with various types of free blind date matchmaking services over the years – newspaper and internet mainly. And generally I’ve found it to be an extremely stressful, confidence depleting and unsuccessful enterprise. Or perhaps that’s just how dating is for me.

    Nowadays I go on social outings through the meetups internet group. Although most of the people in our group are single and several have become couples, most are there just to socialize. You don’t have to think someone’s attractive to talk to them, at least.

  19. Way back in the early days of on-line meet-ups (circa 1999), I, after having split with wifey # 1, decided it was time to dip my toes back into the proverbial sea.

    So, how to meet these new and wonderful people? I figgered that things had changed a bit since I was last single (circa 1984).

    Bars? Made my head and liver hurt.

    Phone dating services? I don’t like talking on the phone.

    Friends helping out? Yeah, right.

    So I went on-line, created a profile and waited to see what happened.

    Afte a while, I met some chick working at the National Gallery. I was attracted by her user name – “solomongurskywashere”… I’m a big Richler fan.

    We were both very cautious. Did due diligence. Took it real, real slow. Phone conversations, then coffee in a public place, then introduced her to my then 7 year old. Dinner. Beers at the Heart and Crown.

    We celebrated our 8th anniversary in August.

    I like to think of myself as a pioneer… 🙂

    XUP – this shoulda been a Valentine’s day post…

  20. Zoom – Yes, we heard that romantic tale at breakfast one day from people that were there. I thought it was a much better story than meeting over a scrabble game. But the combination will be lovely to tell your grandchildren

    Mayopie – That certainly is a wallop to the testicles. I bet she’s kicking herself now that you are an international star of the blogosphere and have a humungous following of crazed female fans willing to do anything to pleasure you.

    Gokalie – That sounds relatively humane. I’ve seen those groups advertised. They also have dinner clubs and stuff for singles. Good to hear they’re fun(ish)

    Trashee – Aawwwwwwww… what a sweet story. It’s true. You’re the Daniel Boone of the internet dating world.

  21. I was once a member of eHarmony for a very brief time. It cost an insane $50 US per month so I only stuck it out for a couple of months. (I know, that’s a couple of months longer than I should have.) Realized shortly after that that I really am not looking for a life partner — I mean, if I met someone that I clicked with, I wouldn’t punch him in the face to avoid commitment, but I also wouldn’t go looking for someone to click with. Know what I mean?

  22. I let myself pay for one month of eHarmony. One. Though I had dabbled in Lavalife before, the whole online dating thing terrified – and still terrifies – me. However, I will say this: in that month I made contact with 2 men. One turned out to be torture. The other I met days before my account was to expire and he lived far away, so I had absolutely no expectations … well, the other I am still in touch with after about three and a half months. I’m not going to get ahead of myself and make any declarations here … but it isn’t torture :P. So, I suppose sometimes forcing yourself to try something that feels completely negative can turn out positive. To be continued … lol

  23. OOOOOO Boy! I have online dated, speed dated, left my number for waiters, blind dated, singles mixer-ed, met at a wedding, class mates, party meeting….

    I feel really untouchable after writing that!

    Ha! It is true though. I like social psychology and meeting new people, so I just put myself out there, I guess I still do in a platonic way. I have so many stories, I really think about compiling a book or a blog. My friend I talked about making a cable access show! As a teaser: There were 2 blind guys, one possible Hobbit, a zen punk violinst, and a guy my friend and I called “Dog Lamp.”

    I met my husband online. We actually both had signed back up on a site after taking breaks from dating at the same time. We live chatted as we updated our profiles! We met in person the next night.

    If I learned anything from dating, or general social interaction, it is that meeting in person is important.

    In my social life, I have met lovely people online all over the world. Oddly enough, I have met more of the people who live far, far away from me in-person after becoming friends online than people who live in my neighborhood! I wonder why that is…

  24. Quack – Ooooo. Cool. Keep us posted. Is he still far away? “Too” far away?

    Missy – Oh ya, you need to do a book or something. I want to hear all these stories.

  25. Lol – will do 🙂
    He’s not “That” far away … just across the Straight of Georgia. 4 hour trip.

  26. i’ve always been rather cautious in my dating career, and i’ve never used a service but i am not opposed to it should the need arise.

    most of the men i’ve been in a relationship over the past 18 years were men that i already knew on a level of friendship. it wasn’t until i met the husband that i even realized this. he was the first man i dated that i’d not known before. and, it was very scary for me.

  27. Quack – That’s pretty far for a relationship, but good luck.

    Leah – “should the need arise” ha ha. I’m trying to imagine a situation where one would be in dire need of a date. So the stranger dating thing worked out pretty well for you so for, eh?

  28. Online dating can be like a box of chocolate. There are many websited that are also very misleading and full of fake profiles. Casual dating seems the best way to go. One new casual dating site to checkout is This is a new site that is up and coming with many features and plenty of singles.