Corrections or additions?
This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the March
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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:
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,
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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