Corrections or additions?

This article by Diana Wolf was prepared for the January 10,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

D-A-T-E Doesn’t Have to be a Four Letter Word

New Year’s Resolutions to change your life and become

a better person usually mean starting over — including that

irksome

dating relationship. Whether your mate has cheated on you with your

best friend or has simply been uncouth enough to order white wine

with the beef, at the moment that the ball dropped you realized that

dumping your guy or girl is vital to your peace of mind.

So where can you go to find the courage and the words to house clean

your soul and say, "Get out of my life"? And then what?

To find an answer, you no longer need to wander self-consciously

through

the self help shelves of your neighborhood coffee-and-book store.

From the privacy of your own home (or office), you can seek comfort

and wisdom at your computer. Www.dating911.com is one of many

relationship websites a browser will display.

This is a website designed to help the desperate dater we all become

at some point in both our budding and long-term romances. The site

comes with a "Relationship Atlas" — a toolbar that

provides

a little nibble of everything by bundling related articles together.

There are seven sections for those with specific areas of need:

Experts,

Diaries, Basics, Playthings, Disasters, Community, and Concierge.

So how credible are these so-called "relationship experts"?

The term calls to mind miracle workers peddling love potions, or an

"Is He Right For You?" magazine quiz. Dating911’s

"Experts"

give credibility to relationship advice by blending subcategories

of professional medical advice with personal opinions. Dr. Tim, a

graduate of the UCLA medical school, answers questions in

"Biology"

regarding pregnancy, diseases, and nervous responses when speaking

to the opposite sex. "He Said, She Said," written by social

worker Gayle Greene and her husband, David, deals with more long-term

issues and couple interactions.

The site’s other "Experts" include clairvoyant Donna McCue,

author of the "Intuitive" column that highlights online palm

readings complete with a photo of the hand and a diagramed analysis.

The "Dating Diva" and "Single Guy" offer both female

and male perspectives on such topics as first dates, aphrodisiacs,

exes, and cat-calls. Hollywood Gossip from insider socialite

"Venus

de Hollywood" follows the on-again, off-again love lives of the

stars. A wealth of information is learned by reading Today’s Question,

answering readers’ common concerns: How Do You Put On a Condom? Am

I a Nymphomaniac? I’m 23 and Ready To Lose My Virginity. How Do I

Get These Love Bites Off?

Are others going through the same things I am? The soap opera lives

of heterosexual and homosexual youth are found under the DIARIES

heading.

Diarists share their souls and other body parts as they relate their

dating mishaps and successes to a voyeuristic cyberpublic.

How do I meet and keep that perfect guy or girl?

Dating911

describes BASICS as "Everything you ever wanted to know, but were

afraid to ask." This area teaches a step-by-step tutorial for

online dating, suggesting websites to find that perfect mate. If

you’re

unlucky in love, check out the Clueless Daters 12-Step Program, a

self explanatory examination of what you are probably doing wrong

and ways to make it right. The sexually explicit material is viewed

through a members-only registry that verifies that you are at least

18 years old. The registry also makes you eligible for contests and

rebates.

So you thought you had it bad? After reading the real-life

horror stories and last-first-dates in the site’s "Disasters"

section, you’ll be dizzy with relief that you’re only reading about

these events.

"Community" offers an online chat board — no personal

ads here — with website articles and subsequent responses from

members sharing opinions, experiences, and advice. "Concierge"

is a mercantile hook that offers online tips for buying offline

material

in every price range. Here you’ll find holiday party planning tips,

book and movie reviews, music for all occasions, and travel advice.

An added bonus outlines what both males and females should expect

from that first date. The best suggestion here (and one that I second)

is that males get a manicure and clean their apartment, clothes, and

car.

If you’re just looking for fun, the "Playthings" section is

home of the Fortune Cookie of Love, saving you the calories of Chinese

food while providing your fortune (in bed). You won’t risk a strained

wrist from shaking the site’s Magic D8 Ball; a click of your mouse

reveals your destiny to any question you ask of it. Bitter Magnetic

Poetry on the cyberfridge allows you to play with words and create

works of art from the provided phrases. Revenge is yours when you

submit your poetic emotional expression to the website’s best area,

"Bitter Poetry," where the rancor simply oozes.

"Bitter Poetry" also happens to be the favorite section of

Karen Fox, the 30-year-old editor-in-chief and co-founder of the

www.dating911.

Her tax lawyer father and playwright mother divorced early in her

life and she says experiencing her parents dating positively affected

her own dating outlook. Fox has freely experimented with placing

personal

ads and going to dating websites. Of the latter she notes: "It’s

as successful as any other form of meeting people, which, of course,

is not very." As single surfers know, any search engine will

return

dozens, even hundreds, of relationship or dating websites. Two other

comprehensive sites Fox recommends are www.breakupgirl.com and

www.xmeetsy.com.

A graduate of Amherst, Fox’s dual majors of physics

and English seem to have made her a natural to address the

complexities

of relationships with real world advice. "You can’t just say `dump

him’ because I’ve been the girl who couldn’t break up with the guy

I knew was bad for me," she says. "In modern days, you’ve

got to allow for a variety of complex relationships."

In dealing with relationships, Fox doesn’t beat around the bush.

"For

starters, sorry, it’s you, it’s not them," she says. "So let’s

figure out what you’re doing wrong or what the bad habits are."

Dating911 began informally, three years ago, when Fox established

a personal website influenced by the popular self-help book of 1996,

"The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr.

Right" by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. After positive

feedback

on her own set of "rules," she collaborated with her business

partner to create Dating911 which was launched in December, 1999,

after approximately three months of personal time invested. Fox says

the purpose of Dating911 is to provide "informative, entertaining,

and modern dating and relationship advice for everything from the

single trying to get out there to how to keep the spark in your

marriage."

Most importantly, Fox recalls the day in January last year when user

hits suddenly jumped from around 300 "to something like

300,000."

Her website, she discovered, had been chosen as a "Cool Site of

the Day," and it has continued to grow and evolve. Among Fox’s

informal assistants is her father, who regularly reads the site and

offers feedback on its content to his daughter.

Does this advice work? Something must be working for Fox, currently

living in Virginia, a full-time freelance science writer along with

her Dating Diva crown, currently in a one-year-old relationship with

an old high school friend. Her advice for the forlorn? "You have

to have confidence both in being single as well as faith that this

does not mean you’re doomed to always be single. You need confidence

to enjoy it."

Can dating and fun ever coexist? This colorful site blends the hip

and the helpful into something it describes as "mouth-to-mouth

for your comatose love life." The writing is entertaining and

easy to read. And the most delicate topics are answered in a

non-invasive,

positive tone. A lot of the advice is simply another’s opinion, so

you can take from it what you choose.

Is this the most helpful site out there? Is the advice accurate? What

makes this website stand out? The strength of Dating911 is offering

its readers a different perspective. It does not post personals, so

the task of finding the perfect mate is still up to you. With this

cyber-site as your motivational cheerleader, you can hope to achieve

some sense of control navigating the vast and "real" dating

wasteland. And that’s the best any of us can hope for. That, and a

date for Friday night.

— Diana Wolf


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