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MIX 'N' MATCH : Whether You're Looking for Love or Just a Tennis Partner, There's a Singles Group for You

February 13, 1992|KEN WILLIAMS | Ken Williams is a member of the Calendar staff of The Times Orange County Edition.

February is an odd month for Valentine's Day. It's often rainy and bleak. Most people are still smarting from the financial pinch of December's spending spree, and to make matters worse W-2 forms have started trickling in to remind us that tax day is looming.

In spite of it all, romance blossoms at this time of the year just as it might in June. And if you're an Orange County single trying to perk up an anemic love life, no time is better than now to join one of the many local clubs whose aim is bringing people together.

Whether you're looking for a serious relationship or just want to meet others and make friends, there are dozens of groups that offer a wide variety of activities, from dancing to horseback riding, discussions to scuba diving. A glance at the singles guide in our 11-Day Calendar listings (page 24) will give you an idea of the number and diversity of singles organizations in Orange County.

It's been said that in every relationship there are basically three players: the man, the woman, and the man and the woman together. The problem for many, though, is getting all three players on the field at the same time. That's where Joan Chaytor comes in.

Chaytor is a matchmaker, who claims to have successfully connected more than 1,020 happy couples since 1984 through her Irvine-based Chaytor's Social Club.

The club offers personalized service within a family-like atmosphere to singles who are seeking relationships.

Members attend weekly parties and dances at lounges and private homes. Chaytor offers individual counseling, personal introductions and warm, enthusiastic support.

"I'm a fun person," says Chaytor, a petite redhead with a lively sparkle in her eye. "I love to have fun and make it fun for everyone. I'm intuitive and I have a natural gift for matchmaking. That's why I started the club."

With more than 500 members, Chaytor's is similar to other singles groups in that there are slightly more female members than males. Nevertheless, she always makes sure that her events are attended by equal amounts of both sexes. A typical Friday dance will usually have a total of about 110 men and women, mostly professionals, ages anywhere from 25 to 60.

Much of the recruitment of new members occurs at the dances, which are open to the public every other Friday at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. A fee of $5 is charged at the door, which includes dancing to a deejay and an all-you-can-eat taco bar.

New members have a one-on-one consultation with Chaytor, who helps them compose an introductory letter that is placed, along with a photograph, into a special book.

Members look through the books and pick people they'd like to meet. The matchmaker then offers counsel about choices and makes arrangements for an introduction. Members may look through the books as often as they wish.

Besides the dances, there are private house parties every other Saturday. Held in members' homes (people who volunteer their homes can get a break on dues), the parties usually feature a professional dance floor and deejay and home-cooked food. Parties with themesare given on most major holidays.

One of the most popular aspects of the parties, Chaytor says, is the "hugging circle," in which she cajoles party-goers into a big circle where they give each other nurturing hugs.

"Many people actually meet each other in the hugging circle, and it really helps to create the warmth and feeling of family," she explained.

Joe Evans, a 3 1/2-year member from Huntington Beach, agrees. "The hugging circle is the best means of getting people together. Sometimes (Chaytor) has to twist some arms, but it really works, and you end up feeling like the member of a family. If you don't meet someone, it's your own fault."

Most women members agree that the best thing about Chaytor's club is that it offers a safe, non-threatening way to meet men.

"There aren't that many places where a single woman can go by herself," says Marie Marabello of Lake Forest. "This is a safe place. Joan will work for you if you want to meet someone. She introduces people and really makes the atmosphere congenial."

Initial membership for Chaytor's club is $225 followed by a $60 renewal fee every six months. This includes at least 52 scheduled activities a year and unlimited use of the books.

But the real draw is the matchmaker.

"I'm a romantic person and I think my club attracts romantic people," says Chaytor. "People want to be in love and to have a soul mate and it makes me feel good that I can bring romance and love into their lives. That's what it's really all about."

For more information about Chaytor's Social Club, call (714) 838-5542.

Of course, not everyone is looking for a soul mate. Many singles just want to meet others and make friends with those with common interests. Classic Encounters, a program offered through the Pacific Symphony, is designed to give singles the chance to meet others who share a love of fine music.

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