Singles Groups

Sporting Singles

Corrections or additions?

This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the March

3, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Singles Diary: Checking Out a Dating Service, Part 1

With the festivities and distractions of the holidays come and gone,

many single men and women of disparate ages confront the reality that

no special someone exists with whom to share the everyday rituals of

life together. They peer within their own four walls, take a strong

look at home, and ask themselves – is this a place to lift the heart

or just a spot to hang the hat? True, many are proud to have mastered

solitude. Yet, lately, its charms are wearing thin.

I discovered one possible solution – the Lawrenceville branch of

Together – "America’s oldest and largest personal introduction

service." But please know that I am still in the process of "meeting

my matches," and here offer up Part 1 of my adventure (or misadventure

– the ending remains to be seen.)

A discount coupon in the newspaper introduced me to this professional

organization with 30 years of experience and over 8,000 participants.

You find the discreet doorway from a bountiful parking lot behind

Acacia and Fedora restaurants (off Route 206, across from the

Lawenceville School). The lively and encouraging Amy DiStefano has

been at the Lawrenceville helm for a decade. Your opening encounter is

free, sans obligation. You may find the possibilities unlimited at

www.together1.com/gate1.htm.

My friends have been after me for too long to follow their lead with

Match.com and other Internet matchmakers, one of which is

science-based and somewhat appealing. But I just could not bring

myself to enter upon a search of such magnitude in such haphazard

fashion. Together’s information arrived as I was recovering from

severe oral surgery. I needed something to take my mind off pain and

swelling. I filled out Together’s challenging questionnaire (available

online too) and fired it off. A series of merry phone calls from Amy

ensued – reassuring enough that I collected a friend and off we went

for a shared first interview.

This program is light years, it turns out, beyond computer dating.

Together’s "Match Team" meets weekly in the organization’s Clark

office, having conferred intensely with our Lawrenceville consultant

and her vivid notes. Humans, not computers, discuss and decide who

belongs with whom. They take us under experienced wings. I am told

profiles will arrive, describing in cursory fashion, the first of our

"matches." Our Clark representative, Christine, has been at her post

for eight years. Like Amy, she exudes confidence: "I love my job," she

says. The two of them can listen to anything when it comes to

preferences, foibles, and dreads. I found out more about myself in

that Lawrenceville hour than some years of psychology revealed in the

late 1970s.

You’ve heard of headhunters. The Together team are heart-hunters –

they orchestrate relationships. The first thing Amy showed us was a

notebook rich in letters, engagement announcements, wedding pictures –

her ebullient success stories. Overflowing as this book is, most of

Amy’s "wedding letters" reveal initial levels of skepticism and worse

to match my own.

Being a nature type, I tell her that I’d always expected to meet love

on the towpath. I know people for whom this happened, a couple who

have been married now for decades. I had decided if the man for me

wasn’t out on the trails, he must not be anywhere. I don’t know what

it was about post-oral-surgical trauma, but in deep in recovery mode,

I suddenly decided, "Enough waiting!" In the frenetic 21st century,

dating is not amateur hour. A wise quote has since come my way: "There

is nothing you can do about a vanished lover. Except to replace him."

I wouldn’t call my Together process linear. For every step forward,

there have been dashes to the rear. At the end of my first phone chat

with Amy, I confessed, "I don’t see how this is going to work. My list

is too demanding. I’ve had two long loves as well as one outrageous

fling with a young poet who nevertheless stayed in my life over many

years. How can there be anyone to top them?" Amy’s key word is

optimism. "We have so many success stories," she says, softly,

sentimentally. "I’m in this because I’m a romantic. I love playing

Cupid. I did it for friends all my life, even before I knew it was

possible to do so professionally." She is shyly proud of her string of

successes – directing attention not to herself but to all who have had

the courage to reach out and find one another.

Confidentiality is paramount at Together. Amy does not simply bandy

the word about, as do some who should keep secrets. She answers us

frankly throughout, all the while ardently guarding those who have

entrusted themselves to her. Backing away again, I ask if this process

has to be limited to the marriage scene (I’m actually looking for a

hiking partner). She informs me that "these people are looking for

commitment." Well, a committed hiking buddy, then.

I’m startled at the fierceness of our answers to certain queries. My

friend would actually go out with someone of the opposite political

party. I could not, unless he thoroughly disapproved of its leader,

which seems unlikely. She is always interested in full-bodied

political dialogue. Then, fixing Amy with her lively gaze, my friend

cautions, "but no extremes, at either end!" On this, we two are in

strong accord.

The question of height is interesting – we are each surprised to

realize that we prefer compact men. Fitness is key, along with

education, energy, and enthusiasm. Accents come into discussion – I am

always drawn to European customs and languages. She asks about hair –

facial and head. I didn’t know I cared. My picky list is getting

pickier. Nonetheless this is an enjoyable exchange.

Amy then explains Together’s fees, which vary with different levels of

service, but range in the low-to-mid-hundred dollars on up into the

thousands. My friend and I split a membership, which you can do if you

come in with a friend. To me, it still feels like quite a chunk of

change.

Amy adamantly notes that Together is the only agency that gives a

100% guarantee that they will match exactly within the client’s

parameters. She points out, too, that sometimes, if a client is not

finding him or herself to be compatible with the matches she finds,

she’ll encourage the client to consider the possibility that he or she

may need to revisit their original parameters.

A team of people, skilled and proven at matchmaking (Amy even matched

her own brother up with his wife), dedicates itself to our quest.

Driving home, I realize it feels good to know there are men who are

willing to pay that much to find a suitable partner. In my head, in

the dark car, I hear, "You get what you pay for." My expenses will be

reduced, however, since, in my natural enthusiasm for what I have

learned so far, I have referred two people to Together. There are

financial compensations for sending others into this pilgrimage. This

privilege continues even after I have "met my match."

Meeting for supper before an environmental meeting, a week later, my

friend and I find we are looking upon ourselves differently since we

have taken this step (filled out forms, read agreements, written

checks, in individual, confidential sessions.) My very chest cavity

feels enlarged, because I’ve found fortitude within myself I didn’t

know was there. I feel the kind of pride I carried home after doing

Tracker School (wilderness survival) and the Six Day (a

spiritual-physical Outward Bound that included rappelling, the zip

line, and the Tyrolean Traverse). My friend, so much younger, admitted

to a resurgence of hope, which had been somewhat battered in recent

months.

At first, our take-home list of 150 personality

traits/activities/interests seems daunting. This search concerns a

high level of self-awareness – I’ve never been any good at yes/no or

multiple choice questions. Give me an essay, any day. Together’s

questionnaire links hiking/camping. What if you love one and eschew

the other? They mention board games – does Scrabble count? I’m no good

at Monopoly. Am I moody, possessive, parental? I need somebody else to

answer these! They ask about punctuality -what if you’re obsessively

early?

Under music, I do not check heavy metal. But there is no place to

enter Baroque or opera. I add a lot of notes, exclamation points, and

the like. (Amy already has extensive notes on the large issues, such

as religion/spirituality, education, politics, geography, children –

in or out of the home), divorced or separated-and-working-on-it. On

some of the questions we give Amy our preferences, adding, "Talk to me

about this one."

It occurs to me that no one should be permitted to become engaged –

let alone married – without filling out and comparing these lists.

Answering turns out to be far more challenging than writing the check.

After all, money is an illusion, especially in these slippery economic

times.

Sealing the envelope, I think, I know women who spend more than this

on a cruise. And what do they have to show for it afterwards? A few

photographs, a postcard or two, some bittersweet memories? Amy took

rather lively Polaroids of us in the office; she’s asked us to collect

some other photographs to copy for their records. I think they’re only

for the match team, not for the men whom they will contact. I choose

one hiking Island Beach, when the sun burst out after weeks of

hurricane rains; one grinning in a kayak; a third, champagne in hand,

presiding over a dinner party here at home – all of us surprisingly

ebullient, although the party followed immediately upon the heels of

9/11.

With my filled-out questionnaire, my carefully-written check, my

colorful photographs, and my courage screwed to the sticking place, I

set out on the next leg of my improbable journey.

I admit. I am a dreamer. The original cockeyed optimist. For my life,

it’s the only way to go. The opening interchanges of my Together

campaign were dynamic indeed, but it is too soon, of course, to draw

conclusions. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Together, Princeton/Lawrenceville, 609-895-1969. By appointment only.

Another option for those interested in using a professional service is

M. Chatfield Ltd, New Jersey/New York, 800-360-0364. Maureen

Chatfield, a former Ford model, Manhattan restaurateur, and Oprah

Winfrey’s East Coast dating expert, is a "social agent for

accomplished people looking for a carefully-screened Mr. or Ms.

Right."

The agency’s fees range widely. For $300, you can register only –

which includes filling in a number of forms and participating in a 1

1/2 hour phone interview, after which your profile and photo are put

in the system – but that does not include active searching. However,

once registered, your name may come up as a prospect in the agency’s

active search on behalf of another client. (Any in-person meetings or

interviews take place off-site at high-end spots like the Waldorf or

Hotel Intercontinental in New York.)

The junior contract for $1,800 and the executive contract for $3,500

involve different levels of active searching. Levels then range up to

the highest, or executive media search, for $30,000, usually done for

out-of-state clients, including media buying fees for ad placements

with upscale regional publications.

Top Of Page
Singles Groups

Book and Movie Club, 609-587-7265. Small informal discussion groups,

biweekly trips to movies, ages 40+, meetings alternate Fridays, 8

p.m., P.J.’s Pancake House, Nassau Street, Princeton. E-mail:

KlassicKorner@aol.com.

Professional and Business Singles Network, 800-537-3859. A

30,000-member organization that hosts nearly 50 activities per month.

House parties, dances, seminars, barbecues. Also Voice Personal Ads

and an introduction service for shy singles. Median age is late 40s;

60 percent are women. Events hotline: 800-537-3859. Contact: Ralph

Israel, 888-348-5544. For a schedule of events, visit

www.pbsninfo.com. One-year membership, $65. Upcoming events: Saturday,

March 6, dance and social, Best Western New Hope, 8:30 p.m.

Rhythm and Bugs, Hamilton, 609-252-0502. A community-oriented social

swing dance held on frequent Fridays in central New Jersey. No partner

necessary; 40-50 participants, most of them single. All dances are

held at St. Matthias Episcopal Church, 2200 Genesee Street, Hamilton.

$5. Fourth Fridays have live swing jazz music, $10. Beginner lindy hop

lesson 8 to 9 p.m.; dance from 9 p.m. to midnight.

www.patmedia.net/rhythmandbugs. Upcoming dates: March 5, 19,

and 26.

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Sporting Singles

Somerset Hills Single Hikers, 732-863-4909. Meets the first, third,

and fifth Sunday morning in the realtor’s lot across Hillside Avenue

from Willie’s Tavern, Route 202, Bedminster, 2nd light north of Route

287. Six to eight-miles hikes. Bring water. No reservations are

required; hikers are encouraged to just show up. Upcoming hikes:

Saturday, March 7, Lewis Morris Park, Morristown (six to seven miles

of rolling hills and somwhat rocky terrain); Saturday, March 21,

Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Oakland.

Weekend Racquets, Brunswick Hills Racquet Club, 1020 Route 18 Shopping

Plaza (across from Seville Diner), East Brunswick, 732-432-7728.

Sunday tennis parties for intermediate to advanced intermediate

players only, 6 to 10 p.m. $20. Upcoming dates: March 7, 14, 21 (no

party March 28). Contact: Sherman Mark.


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