The amazing thing about the human species is its endless innovation to get what it wants. It may require thinking outside of the box, effort and supreme patience, but where there’s a will…well you know the saying.
That human gene for innovation is nowhere more evident than in the history of matchmaking – whether it’s public in nature or hush-hush and private. Of course, people have been trying to find a good partner – with or without their parent’s intervention – for eons, but the advent of mass communication has really changed things.
In our age of smart phones, the Internet, and high-speed lifestyles, we tend to live in the moment with little sense of pre-digital history. But, what I didn’t fully appreciate is the long history of humans trying to reach out to find a partner with technology once the printing press came into use. For hundreds of years, people had been using personals to find a pleasure partner, mate, or just a like-minded individual.
When did it all start? It seems that in 1695, we saw one of the first personals helping British bachelors seeking eligible wives. Then as now, money played a role in perceived compatibility for some. Here’s one of the first personals placed by a 30-year old man with a “very good estate,” seeking some good young gentlewoman that has a fortune of £3,000 or thereabouts.” (That’s over $400,000 in today’s money!)
Not all personal ads can be open and honest. Gays and lesbians were forced to use personal ads with code words at this time going forward to be safe. In King Henry’s time, homosexuality was punishable by death.
By the mid-1800’s, personal ads became much more fashionable for the general public, not just the upper crust. As time went by, personals’ popularity waxed and waned, with the occasional exposed scam lowering interest.
The early 1900’s saw an interesting personals phenomenon in the Western US where rural farmers and other isolated people used personals to find a partner. Wartime brought interest in personals to both find a partner and for the lonely to find someone with whom to correspond.
The 60’s and the counterculture in the US saw an increase in personals. And, with the on-going sexual revolution, ads in some publications could be more open about sexual interests. With computers becoming more flexible and powerful, a team of undergrads at Harvard developed the first computer dating service, Operation Match. For a small fee, you filled out a questionnaire and received a list of potential matches.
With the growth of the Internet in the mid-90’s, new ways appeared for people to meet people with similar interests. Some early options included chat rooms, forums and on-line classifieds through such services as American Online, Prodigy and even Craigslist. But computerized dating services of all kinds were finding their way into the mainstream.
Today dating services have changed – and changed the dating habits of the average American. Now, dating sites exist for just about every interest, orientation and location. Equally important, online dating has become the norm for many people to go about finding compatible partners. Where online dating was once considered somewhat dubious or a secondary source of potential contacts, they are often now the first and trusted source for finding a potential date and/or partner. Of course, scamming can happen, and most online daters have their etiquette for vetting candidates, but the experience is becoming the new normal. While the biggest dating services include Zoosk, Match, OurTime, eHarmony and Elite Singles, countless other services serve specialized demographics, including some that are surprisingly unique. Here’s a smattering of the specialized services:
An earlier mention of rural people using classifieds for romance continues in FarmersOnly.com. There are many religious-specific dating services such as ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com (for Jewish singles). There’s SugarDaddie.com for those seeking “successful and affluent people” and AgeGapDating.com for those interested in dating someone either much older or much younger. Speaking of age differences, how about CougarLife.com for the cubs and cougar set? Geek2Geek is a sophisticated dating site for exactly whom you think it’s for. Though, I always found the term geek a bit flexible. If you want a dating service that has strict guidelines and offers only “beautiful people” like yourself, then DarwinDating.com is for you. Want to make sure that that special someone can also be infatuated with your pet, try LoveMeLoveMyPets.com. Your dog or cat – or whatever – will thank you! Of course some dating services, Like Grindr, are really more of a hookup service using your phone GPS to located those close to you. Though originally created for males to find other males, I understand they have created a new version for heterosexuals as well called Blendr. While the developer of both apps, Joel Simkhai, says Blendr is more about friendships, others assume it will be used as a hookup site for heterosexuals. We’ll see.
Oh, and it you’re part of the aging population over 50 – 70 and beyond there are plenty of options for you as well. I mentioned OurTime.com, but there’s also SeniorPeopleMeet.com and SeniorSoulmates.com. And if some seniors are a bit reluctant to engage in online dating, their kids can get them into the game with MyLovelyParent.com, where they can set up a profile for them and let the fun begin – or not.
But, of course, the options go on and on. Want to get with the action “where survivalists and preppers meet?” Then it’s got to be DoomsdayDating.com. Maybe you don’t consider yourself highly attractive but want to meet others. Then there’s TheUglyBugBall, a tongue-in-cheek named website that provides “real dating for real people.” And it just goes on and on. How about DateAGolfer.com? Many people say they have a real passion for the sport. Why not double the passion? And don’t let your horse get between you and an attractive new partner in your life. Merely visit EquestrianCupid.com and meet someone in the saddle. A little short? DateALittle,com. Looking for a tall partner? TallFriends,com. And if you’re a gluten free seeker, you need only get to GlutenFreeSIngles.com. I thought this was a joke, but apparently ClownDating.com is for real and for clowns or people who like to clown around. The site has the slightly creepy moniker, “Everyone loves a clown. Let a clown love you.” Any reason why free wheelin’ bikers can’t get into the game? Absolutely not! There’s BikerKiss.com! And, of course, the sites for pot smokers, incarcerated women and sea captains.
My favorite, given my past, is DatingForHIppies.com You’re probably thinking it must be a senior dating site. But, not necessarily! As their blurb says, “No matter if you were born in the 1940’s or the 1990s, if you consider yourself a hippie, then it’s high time you joined the most happening hippie dating site around.” I sort of like the idea, but I’m just not sure I can imagine Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cruising online to find their soul mate.
Well, like it or not, online dating is here to stay. And it probably does afford people a much broader pool of dating candidates while using big data techniques to bring you closer to, well, yourself, and the partner you think you desire. I know people who use online dating and seem to think it’s OK. And, all the dating service ads brag about couples finding their perfect partner and tying the knot.
So, go forth and explore where no man – or woman – has gone before. Given that last phrase, it’s worth noting that there’s a dating service for Trekkies at…amazingly there’s more than one! They include TrekDating.com, TrekkieDating.com, TrekPassions.com and StarTrekDating.com. I should have known!