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     Volume 4 Issue 45 | May 6, 2005 |

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Food For Thought


Farah Ghuznavi

In the words of the old song, "You can't hurry love; no, you just have to wait…" But whether they have left it too long (too busy looking after academic or professional interests, climbing the corporate ladder etc), or whether they have had bad experiences, or whether they are just tired of waiting, many single people today are taking a more proactive approach to romance (with a little extra help!).

In some western countries, "speed-dating" has taken off in a big way. Basically, a group of 20-30 people sign up for an evening, and spend approximately three minutes chatting with each person of the opposite sex i.e. constant rotation ensures that everyone meets. Interested individuals can share contact details.

Apparently, speed-dating is successful because the pace of modern life does not allow for opportunities to meet potential partners. Sometimes the evenings are organised around professional interests, but more often it is a general mix and match process. Of course, how much meaningful information can be exchanged in the course of three minutes remains questionable…And this is clearly not for those who dread cocktail parties!

A more sensible (and definitely less frenetic!) option is provided through computer dating web sites. Here, individuals create "profiles" for themselves describing their personal and professional interests, what they are looking for in a partner, and post this, along with an (optional) photo on the web site. Those who sign up for the service, can browse through profiles on the web site and "wink" to indicate their interest in someone. If the other person responds, they can communicate with each other through web-chat. If they hit it off, they can arrange to meet up in person.

Note that this system is not without its hazards either. The most obvious one of course, is that you end up with some nutcase who sounded good in their profile (which was clearly well-written fiction!). This extreme situation can perhaps be avoided by careful vetting. More common though (according to an American friend), is to find someone perfectly normal, with whom you have far less in common than you had thought. You are then in the rather strange position of having to "break up" with someone without even having got to know them! Unsurprisingly, some people find this rejection rather hard to take…

And then there is the problem, for the rejected person, to deal with the question of why they have been rejected. Some people take it lightly - or at least, graciously - wisely taking the view that this is much like making new friends: you will naturally have more in common with some than with others. Others however, agonise over why they have been "dumped". I heard about one woman who met a man for coffee, and was subsequently told that he was not interested in her. Either because she liked him, or because she was feeling hurt and insecure, she became very concerned about the reason for his rejection. In fact, she was even reduced to contacting him again, in tears, to ask whether he thought she was weird because she allowed her small dog (chihuahua) to sleep on her bed!!

Men appear to be making a particular effort to impress women, with a recent survey in a men's magazine stating that two thirds of men admit that they take the time and effort to look good solely to impress women. Indeed, it has now been estimated that single men in the UK spend an average of £12 a month on beauty products in order to attract women! For men in need of extra help on the dating scene, there are additional options. A recent development has been the concept of "Wingwoman". Under this scheme, an agency helps you to hire a personable, intelligent woman to masquerade as your "friend" (at the rate of only $50 an hour, for a minimum of three hours!). In reality, of course, this is all part of a cunning plan...

This person, who is your Wingwoman, will then accompany you to various trendy bars and clubs, in her guise as your friend (note, not your girlfriend). When you have looked around and identified some interesting women, your Wingwoman will then strike up a casual conversation with them. She will manoeuvre her way back to you, accompanied by the relevant woman, introducing you as "just a friend". This then gives you the chance to impress this woman with your charm, wit and warmth (or, in the worst-case, leave her wondering why the lovely Wingwoman is even friends with a loser like you!)

One of the girls working for the service provided some fascinating background information. The man who set up the service, apparently did so after discovering that he always found it easier to meet women in social gatherings when he was actually accompanied by a woman friend (presumably it gave him credibility as a nice guy, without making him unavailable i.e. as someone's boyfriend). In the course of running the service, the proprietor has only met the women selected to be Wingwomen once or twice each in person, and most of the time he simply contacts them on their mobiles and gives them directions as to where to go for their current "assignment". She therefore described the job as being somewhat reminiscent of "Charlie's Angels"!

Among other tricks of the trade mentioned, were that it's easier to do the job in smaller venues, because then it is easier to "bump into" the desired women and strike up conversations. And apparently among the most frequent customers of the service are Arab men in the US, who find it difficult to date after September 11th...! As with anything else however, hiring a Wingwoman is not without its hazards. For example, if a man is lucky enough to hit it off with one of the women he is introduced to, and this develops into a long-term relationship, he will have some explaining to do regarding his Wingwoman. How will he explain, that this friend who introduced him to this woman, is never seen around again? Does he tell his new girlfriend that the original woman was in fact, never his friend? Or does he tell her that they had a fight, and are no longer friends? Either way, it's a difficult decision. If he lies, he may be asked for more detailed explanations as to what went wrong in the friendship (requiring further lies); if he tells the truth, the woman may wonder why he could not find a genuine female friend to do this for him!

Anyway, if you found the whole Wingwoman idea bizarre, there are far more desperate cases out there. An Austrian man, who found it difficult to meet women, bought a police costume and a siren to place on top of his car. He then started driving around Carinthia, stopping women drivers, but letting them off with a pleasant caution rather than issuing any false tickets (I am glad he drew the line somewhere!). Police finally picked him up, after one woman became suspicious and reported him. He explained that he had done it, hoping that he would run into someone who was attracted to men in uniform…!

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