If you have read the About page on this blog or the Photo Biography, you know that I spent 25 years or so in New York City producing television shows. Because it's “show biz,” it operates differently from other businesses and when a new executive on any given show was hired, he or she often cleaned house to have the head count to fill with favored past colleagues.
There were a few times I was on the losing end of that “tradition” and while I was between gigs I sometimes wound up in some weird jobs – at least to me; work that I would not have sought on my own but a friend or friend of a friend knew my circumstances and matched me up with someone who needed a fill-in for short while.
One of those was a high-end, personal dating service. (There was no internet yet – this was the 1970s - and placing ads in newspapers or magazines was still new enough to feel a little creepy to many people.)
I've forgotten the exact details, but the general idea of the service was that the client would be introduced to three personally-selected people who matched the criteria the client had detailed on the application, along with invitations three parties that were held in the service owner's lavish Central Park apartment for all current clients to mingle.
At a price of $2500 for six months, the service was meant for professionals and members were mostly the Wall Street crowd, doctors, lawyers and assorted business types ranging in age from 30 or 35 to 50.
The owner's selection process for dates was amazingly casual, at least to me: “Oh, I think Larry and Sue would get along nicely, don't you, Ronni?” Nothing as thorough as that guy from eHarmony.com promises or, at least, implies in the television commercials.
It all felt just a bit sleazy and it wasn't the most fun I've ever had for a paycheck.
It had been many years since I'd thought about that gig until last week when The New York Times reported on some 21st century dating services for people age 60 and older - the “fastest growing demographic” of online dating.
But many older daters, explains The Times, don't use computers or are uncomfortable with dating websites so they are willing to pay for the services of “social strategy consultants” and “life coaches” who help clients re-learn the dating ropes.
”One of the big dating challenges for both sexes in this age group is that they are so rusty 'they go back to their same awkward self at age 20, insecure and unsure,' said Ms. [Judith] Gottesman [a geriatric social worker turned matchmaker], who charges a $3,600 registration fee that is good for up to three years, and an additional $7,200 once a couple is matched.”
That's as pricey for today as it was during my short foray into the dating business nearly 40 years ago.
Among Ms. Gottesman's advice:
”Don’t talk incessantly about — or show photos of — your deceased spouse. Don’t talk disparagingly about your ex. Don’t whip out your collection of diabetes, cholesterol or heart medications.”
I wonder if old people really need to be told that?
Mostly for financial reasons – to preserve inheritances for their children, for example - the majority of older daters are not looking for marriage:
"Harold Spielman, 86, is the co-author of Suddenly Solo: A Lifestyle Road Map for the Mature Widowed and Divorced Man...asked 1,600 men and women over 55 about their feelings on love...
Among his findings: More than 80 percent of both men and women said that the main reason to couple was 'to share life experiences, past and future,' said Mr. Spielman..."
The main reason to date, the respondents told Spielman, is “to share life experiences, past and future.”
That sounds a lot like a friend to me and last week, without touching on the subject of love or romance, we talked here at some length about how to find new friends in old age without breaking the bank account and we have some good strategies.
But that is not to say that if romance or a “friend with benefits” is more your goal and you don't choke on a price of several thousands dollars, this isn't a useful idea. Loneliness is a terrible thing and any way to alleviate it is to the good as far as I'm concerned.
Less expensive (but not cheap) is online dating that with commonsense precautions can be safely navigated. Marketwatch has a good list of the risks and how to avoid them.
And this website has a chart of the prices of the big-name online dating services.
Whatever stigma once existed with online dating has long dissipated and matchmakers are hardly a modern phenomenon – they've been around for millennia so you should not be shy about using them.
I'm curious to know if any of you, dear readers, have tried a matchmaker or online dating service and if so, what your experience was like.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: Spring