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Playing the Dating Odds

Dear Philippa,

I'm a 35-year-old woman wondering whether I should renew my membership in a meet-for-lunch dating service. Last year I had to wait five weeks for a lunch date, while most of the guys in the service tell me they went out on lunch dates once a week. And, the manager won't tell me the membership ratio of men to women. Should I rejoin?

�Emma, New York, NY


Dear Emma,

The short answer is, no�you should not renew your membership. While that seems obvious I'd like to explain why and what your alternatives are.

First of all, congratulations on being a savvy consumer and asking the right questions. I wish more people would understand that selecting a dating service is no different than making any other major purchase. After all, you can spend a great deal of hard-earned money for these kind of introductions. I spent thousands of dollars on trying just about every variety of dating service. But, I learned a great deal, even if it was the hard way. That's why I dedicated two chapters of my book to this subject.

One of the key criteria for selecting a suitable dating service is to analyze it for the potential return on your investment. To do this you put any emotional neediness aside and act market smart. This means looking beyond the sales pitches and success stories and asking the tough questions before you sign any contract.

You asked one of the key questions: What is the ratio of men to women in the club? I would take your question even further. There was a chap in one of my classes that joined a video-dating club. He was an attractive 25-year-old professional, seemingly a good prospect for this service. He asked the same question you did and was satisfied with the number of available women in the age group he was seeking. But after he joined he experienced your frustration. He had neglected to find out about his competition, the number of men in his age group in the club. He found out the hard way that there were a lot of guys like him asking out the same 22-30 year-old women he was seeking. So you also need ask questions that will help you determine how many women similar to you are in the organization.

Of course a dating service isn't required by law to answer questions about the makeup of its membership. But if you sound savvy enough to ask the smart questions, they'll be more likely to deal with you in a straightforward manner. Many of these sales people are on commission. In any commission sales situation its somewhat of a power game. Appear too eager and na�ve and you'll pay the highest price.

Your best bet for honest feedback is from other members. But not members the dating service recommends. These may be token referrals, people who get special deals to act as positive references. If you can, ask to be invited as a guest to an event at the dating service and talk to the members that attend.

I'm sure you defined the kind of man you are seeking in the broadest possible terms. You knew you wanted to meet men who are say 32-42, professional, liberal Catholic, etc. But you also need to be even more analytical, and not emotional. Facing the reality that even if there are 100 guys in the membership who are 32-42, there may also be many women in a more popular age group. In many dating services the most popular age group for women is 22-30 (the prime childbearing years).

Here's another tough question people need to ask after they've joined a dating club or service. How are you represented in the club profiles? Does your photo do you justice? How do you describe yourself in your biographical data? Read the profiles of other women and men and see what they're saying about themselves. Let's face it, it shouldn't matter, but your visual and written image count. Not that you have to be beautiful or handsome, but you have to look and sound inviting, relaxed, interesting and fun.

So is a lunch or dining club a good way for people to meet? Make that judgment based not just on the ratio of men to women in the club. It also depends on the criteria the club has for matching people. Find out who does the matching and how they do it. Be your own best PR person and ingratiate yourself to the person in power. If they think you are fun and pleasant, you are more likely to get chosen for the best dates.

Most important of all, decide what type of dating service is right for you based on how comfortable you are in that kind of environment. Some people do better in small discussion groups like dining clubs rather than one-on-one lunch situations. Not everybody is at his or her best on video. Choose the environment where you'll shine and appear most relaxed�is it playing a sport, being a smart conversationalist at lunch or dinner, or maybe joining other altruistic singles in volunteer activities?

Please consider my comments and ask yourself if the lunch club method of meeting eligible men is still a good choice. Maybe a different club or dating service is best for you. Only you can decide. I applaud your self-empowerment. It takes guts to put yourself out there emotionally. Emma, you're on your way to discovering the right guy and having a magnificent relationship.




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