Most curious was the gender breakdown.
Thirty-two people had trekked up the piney woods to Elysium in Topanga for Tracy Cabot's seminar. Cabot, they knew, had written the hot-selling guide entitled "How to Make a Man Fall in Love With You." Yet 22 of the seminarians were men, only 10 women.
Had the men--upscale, articulate, professional types for the most part--shown up figuring on a large turnout of pickable-uppable women? As it turned out, not really. ("Yearning knows no sex," Cabot had said later. "Well, you know what I mean.")
Before an expansive, crackling fire, Cabot, in a brook-soft, soothing voice, held her audience spellbound as she said the magic words: true love "guaranteed," she'd written in her book, and she still stands behind it.
Cabot, married two years ago--for the first time--at the age of 42, was telling her audience how she'd researched the love technique. Then, in the classic method, she'd set out to do her own experiments.
In the interest of science, she'd made out a "Man Plan," found a total stranger who met the prerequisites, and zeroed in.
"Once I decided on him," she said, "he didn't have a chance."
"It's true," she laughed a few days later at her Van Nuys home, "every word of it."
Cabot crossed the living room--nudging aside a sleek Doberman with the improbable name of Precious--to fetch a wedding memento. From the happy-ending photograph grinned husband Marshall--tall, strong, athletic, radiating success (he's a movie producer).
Quite a catch. Cabot, too, though not quite as obviously. On the short side, not exactly statuesque, Cabot--physically--is not a woman you'd describe as stopping traffic. OK, slowing it down a little, but not your major freeway jam.
As she speaks, though, you begin to notice little things. A sweet, modulated voice that's a little spacey, consummately feminine. Laughing eyes, capable of a glint, a flash, but in the main genial and winsome. Little things. Lovable things. You wonder if she's been practicing, following the tenets of her book, and after a while you don't care.
Few of us, after all, are Tom Selleck or Jacqueline Bisset, and we can identify with Cabot. There's a feeling there that if she can do it, we can do it. She insists we can. Guaranteed.
Having Too Much Fun
Cabot hadn't really avoided marriage/commitment until 42. It just hadn't happened. A roving writer/reporter, she'd just been having too much fun.
"I fell in love over and over and over," she said, "but nothing took. I don't think I was looking for it to take.
"By the age of 39, though, I was tired! I'd been around the world. I had a guy in every port. Hey, the guys I was working with had a girl in every port. I was doing the same work, making the same money. Why not me?
"And then I was tired. I wanted company and love and affection and support--but I didn't want to go out and find it fresh every Saturday night."
Cabot studied love: what it is, what makes it happen on a permanent basis. "I was writing the book when I met Marshall. I honest-to-God did the whole routine. I did everything in the book."
At Elysium, Cabot distributed sheafs of mimeographed pages to be filled out.
The first sheet was the "Man Plan," modified in this case to "My Fantasy Mate," a list of sine qua non qualities one would insist upon in one's mate. The only sounds in the conference room were the exaggerated snap-crackle-pop of the roaring fire as 30-odd anxious, earnest single people described their dream men/women to themselves.
Lists were read aloud by the less inhibited.
One woman stopped halfway through and giggled.
"Go ahead," Cabot cajoled.
"I can't," said the woman. "I just realized that what I want is not a man but a sheep dog."
"I met my husband through a video-dating service," said Cabot, back home in Van Nuys. "I was doing a story on video-dating to supplement my income while I was writing the book.
"Don't laugh. You should see the people in there: lawyers, doctors, tycoons. No creeps--a real creep doesn't put himself on videotape to be seen by the world. Mainly, it's people who are too busy, who want to make connections with people they wouldn't ordinarily meet. What do you want them to do, hang out in a singles bar?
"Anyway, I was taping like crazy, having a great time. Marshall was the 37th man I went out with--from that place alone."
At Elysium, Cabot had cautioned her students that their plans, perforce, would be flexible, that it was possible--once you got to know him--to love a man with a bald spot, a man who wears polyester, even a smoker: "As your list narrows, your possibilities get broader."
Marshall wasn't perfect , but close enough, she said at home. "Of course, I had to get over the country club. . . . "