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The Love Tapes : More on the Pros and Cons of Video Dating

April 13, 1986|JACK SMITH

A while back, I wrote here of receiving a letter from Great Expectations, a video dating service, inviting me to find my ideal mate among the clients they have on file.

I pointed out that I not only have my ideal mate already, but that if I were single, I would prefer to search for a mate in public places where single women abound, hoping for what used to be called a "cute meet."

Among the letters I have received in response is one from a Carol Ascher, who allows that she has rarely been so "infuriated."

Ms. Ascher has jumped into a high dudgeon and driven off in all directions.

She protests that my essay betrayed my age and my outmoded thinking and showed that I am "incredibly out of touch with what is going on in society today."

She castigates me for writing about Great Expectations only on the basis of an application "mistakenly" sent to me, and without talking to any of its people.

She calls my notions about cute meets "ridiculous," conceding that such chance encounters can happen but alleging that "the odds are one in a million."

Ms. Ascher praises Jeffrey Ullman, founder and president of Great Expectations. "The man has made a tidy profit from it, and every dollar he earns is well deserved. Hundreds of people have met and married because of this one man and his idea."

Ms. Ascher says I owe Mr. Ullman an apology, and she invites me to meet her at the Great Expectations Center and find out what it's all about.

Of course I'm not going to apologize to Mr. Ullman. He's got his tidy profit and his clientele, and he doesn't need my apology. All I said was that his service did not appeal to me .

I said: "I certainly don't mean to discourage anyone else from trying it. I'm sure there are thousands of singles in our cities who despair of ever meeting anyone suitable and will try almost anything. . . ."

The rest was simply a nostalgic essay on the cute meet, which did, as Ms. Ascher says, betray my age.

I'm sure Ms. Ascher can't guess what a thrill it is for me to make a young woman so angry. She encloses a color snapshot of herself in which she is smiling vivaciously. She appears to be an extremely pretty young woman with perfect teeth; a wide, voluptuous mouth; great, dark, flashing, almond-shaped eyes, and glossy black hair falling over her forehead in bangs.

If she had this picture taken especially for me, Ms. Ascher must be one of those women who gets prettier when they're angry.

I am reminded of the all-time worst John Wayne line from the all-time worst John Wayne movie, "The Conqueror," in which Wayne plays Genghis Khan. He infuriates the spitfire Susan Hayward--who, I believe, is a Persian princess whose people he has overrun (speaking of cute meets)--and he tells her, in his best Mongolian twang, "Yore beautiful in yore wrath!"

"I have enclosed a picture of myself for you," Ms. Ascher explains, "not to show you that I am Miss America or anything but to at least show you that I am not what you would probably term 'a wallflower.' "

She confesses that she has not fallen in love with anyone through Great Expectations, but she has had some "lovely dates" and developed "wonderful friendships" with both men and women.

"Mr. Smith, it is not 1930 anymore. This is 1986 and an age where meeting new people is extremely difficult. . . . I am happy that I have an alternative . . . rather than living my life hoping that maybe today I'll have a 'cute meet.' "

Some time after receiving Ms. Ascher's letter, I happened to sit next to a young woman at a banquet. She had known her fiance for six years, but they hadn't married yet. She was attractive, bright and vivacious, and if I hadn't been exactly 40 years her senior, and married, I'd have considered it a cute meet.

This woman said she used to work for a dating service, and the trouble with video dating methods is that you can meet your perfect match, someone with whom you are theoretically compatible in every way, yet nothing happens.

"There's no chemistry," she explained.

In a cute meet, there's chemistry. When you pull up your raincoat zipper on a bus and accidentally snag June Allyson's sweater in it, and your eyes meet, you may not know what her religion is, or whether she speaks English and likes volleyball, Pinter and huevos rancheros , but you know whether there's any chemistry between you.

I just might accept Ms. Ascher's invitation to meet her.

Despite my unavailability, I feel there must be some chemistry between us.

She's so beautiful in her wrath.

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