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     Volume 4 Issue 60 |August 26, 2005 |

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Food For Thought

Romantic Risk-taking

Farah Ghuznavi

While history tells us the path of true love is rarely smooth, this is one area of life that just keeps getting more complicated for some people. The difficulties of juggling tiresome daily activities such as cleaning/cooking/running errands (and for some particularly busy people, even eating and sleeping!) combined with earning a living, can often get in the way of having a social life - leading them to take rather extreme measures in the hope of meeting their dream partner.

Speed dating (imported from the US), is one such system. Many who are pressed for time consider this an ideal way to meet large numbers of eligible bachelors/bachelorettes within a short period; dozens of potential partners hold brief three-minute conversations, moving on to the next encounter when the bell rings.

For those less able to deal with the performance pressures entailed by this method, online dating offers a less stressful alternative. Here, you pay to join a particular website where eligible singles browse for potential partners online, examining various profiles in order to determine whether the individual concerned might suit them. Obviously, the websites are designed around certain types of criteria e.g. common interests, religious or racial background etc.

My friend's sister recently took the step of joining such a website. The first step is to describe yourself, and discuss your expectations of a potential partner, so that anyone browsing the website can get a sense of whether you might be the one that they are looking for. If a person is particularly interested in someone profiled on the website, there is a system whereby the person being considered, is shown the profile of the person who is considering them.

My friend's sister was apparently excited the interest of one particular gentleman, whom she felt might be a possible match for her. She therefore suggested that my friend "check out" his profile, and tell her sister what she thought of him.

There was only one catch. In order to access the profiles on this website, you need to sign up as a member. So, in the interests of this important research, my friend also signed up! This necessitated her filling out an extensive set of forms. Because this particular website was based on religious commonality, it even contained a number of theological questions! From what she described to me, you would really need a good knowledge of the Bible/Gita/relevant holy book, to get through this questionnaire…

So to reward herself for ploughing through the forms, she decided to allow her imagination free rein in putting together a profile for herself. Although a happily married thirty-something, she decided to make herself a woman of 56, with two children, who had been abandoned by her husband some 25 years ago! After her registration had been accepted (which just goes to show how easily unscrupulous individuals can misrepresent themselves on such sites!), she was able to access the full database of member profiles. She lost no time in finding the young man who had expressed interest in her sister's profile, and in due course, reported back her views to her sister.

It was only after some time however, that they both realised that this poor young man might now be thoroughly apprehensive about the fact that his profile was being closely scrutinised by a middle-aged divorcee with two kids!

While many of the matchmaking websites are free, some people have taken up more expensive option of agency dating, where you sign up to one of many agencies that claim to be able to find your compatible life partner. In such cases, the agencies managing the websites take the responsibility of vetting members' profiles for content and veracity. Which means that you can't just pretend to be a 56-year-old divorcee (and that's probably just as well)…!

However, just because people are telling the truth about themselves, it doesn't mean that you manage to avoid trouble altogether. The truth may be out there, but sometimes you might wish it wasn't! An American acquaintance who signed up to one of the online dating services received an e-mail indicating interest from one of the men using the service. As his online profile revealed him to be a Republican (thereby violating one of her two key criteria i.e. that she would not date anyone right-wing, or anyone who didn't want to have children someday), she ignored the e-mail, figuring that he would get the message and drop it.

Clearly being the persistent type however, he e-mailed her again a few months later, indicating his interest in getting to know her. This time she composed a very polite message explaining that while he sounded like an interesting person, her strong political convictions meant that she was likely to be incompatible with anyone who voted for the Republican Party. His response was off the Richter scale! He raved and ranted at her for "bringing politics into it", and hypothesised a number of unattractive characteristics she might have! Needless to say, this merely confirmed her in her initial decision and long-held prejudices - and this time she didn't bother with the polite rejoinder. Clearly, Republicans take rejection particularly well (not)!

As always, some people are willing and able - to take extreme measures to find a partner. Inspired by the success of such programmes as Pop Idol, a television programme-maker has decided to film what is being billed as Britain's first "wife auditions". Three men have been carefully selected for their eligibility, and include an ITN entrepreneur, an investment banker and a successful businessman, all in their mid-to-late thirties. They will now apply specific criteria to put the 100 women gathered as potential partners through their paces (sounds a bit like a dog-show, if you ask me…)

It is claimed that none of these men have any problems attracting eligible women, and that their problem is simply that their hectic lifestyles do not allow them the time to identify suitable mates (yeah, yeah!). The fact that the programme-makers have as yet been unable to come up with the requisite one hundred gorgeous, suitably-talented women, is holding back the production of the show. One might wonder, of course, why these wonderful women would still be available! But in the meantime, the dating agency Gorgeous Networks is handing out leaflets in London's high streets trying to identify candidates for the "wife auditions"…

But while "wife auditions" may be a provenance of a chosen few (albeit bearing an uncanny similarity to certain deshi rituals!), so-called "ordinary" people seem to be moving on to ever more bizarre and somewhat desperate measures, in the wake of speed dating and online dating.

The most recent innovation is "dating in the dark", where people have dinner in a pitch black (not even candlelit) restaurant! It is claimed that this eases the tension of being on a first date, where you are constantly worried about appearances…I am not too convinced about this; there may be other tension-inducing factors in such an atmosphere. After all, even though the waiters wear night-vision goggles - how do the customers know what they're eating (or how to manage an escape, if they need to)?!

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