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Online Shopper

Hi, E-Mail Here Often?

Sites can help screen potential dates. But finding true love online is another matter.

January 24, 2002|CHRISTINE FREY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The last date I went on was in October. The one before that was in May. And the one before that, well, I don't remember.

It's been exactly one year since I've been involved in any sort of substantial relationship, and considering the substance of the last one, that's not saying much.

I've tried the bar, the gym, the public library and grocery store. Girlfriends have introduced me to co-workers and former classmates, and my sister has even tried to talk her high school science teacher into taking me out.

Needless to say, on Friday night, I stayed home and cleaned the bathroom.

(For the record: I am not repulsive or socially inept, and I do not smell bad.)

With Valentine's Day approaching, my editors--who are married, of course--decided it would be "fun" if I found myself a beau online.

You know, that's exactly what I was thinking.

To be fair, most people who post personals are regular folks like myself who are simply lonely and looking for companionship.

There's the Bikini and Swimsuit Dating Service and the Gothic Personals and the Meet People With Herpes Web site.

Although services like Yahoo personals (http://personals.yahoo.com) are more mainstream, the basic premise of the sites is the same.

Post your vitals (23 years old, 5'5," 125 lbs., green eyes, dark blond hair), personal preferences (jazz, baseball and theater) and some pithy plea (in search of individual to share Sunday brunch and newspaper).

Everyone else, of course, does the same. You check them out, they check you out. If you're lucky, cupid's arrow strikes via e-mail.

Nearly every matchmaking site boasts to have a clientele that's brainier, brawnier and more beautiful than the others.

If only that were true.

Neodates (www.neodates.com), for example, sent daily e-mails with descriptions of my supposed "matches."

At the end of each e-mail, Neodates noted that my matches were based upon the age and geographic location of the most recent sign-ups. By geographic location, however, they narrowed potential matches by state.

Don't think the guy from Sacramento and I will be getting together any time soon.

Kiss.com (www.kiss.com) delivered similar updates with details on men who were "keen" to meet me based upon my personal ad.

"You might like to know that you are currently number 2 in SEAN-TK's latest list of desirable women!" one e-mail read.

Oh goodie.

Although two other guys rated me second, my "desirableness" appeared to drop from there. Two more men rated me No. 3, while the remaining guys simply noted that I was "high" on their lists.

Match.com (www.match.com) generated the greatest response from my ad, since members can e-mail each other through the site. (The service hides users' e-mail addresses so they don't appear to the recipients.)

Within a few days, I had received more than a half-dozen responses. Some of them even appeared to be normal.

After a while, though, the ads from "Brain surgeon looking 4 sexy patient" and "Prince looking for his princess" all sound the same.

But if I wanted to find my true love--instead of sitting around and waiting for him to e-mail me--I had to pay for it.

Literally.

Although the Internet services will post an ad for free, I had to pay a membership fee to contact other users on the site.

And quite frankly, not even the "strikingly unattractive non-Danish-speaking geeky Germanic WASP with cheap toupee" was worth the $19.95 a month.

Christine Frey covers personal technology. She can be reached at christine.frey@ latimes.com.

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