Singles are embracing a new age of ‘dating’
By Tiffany Carney VIA Mercury News
Like everything else, dating has evolved. It is now the norm to turn to online dating services to meet a match. People still frequent bars, buy each other drinks while throwing out their best pick-up lines and are set up by their friends, but then what?
When all the traditional options have been exhausted, think outside the dating box. How about a blind date set up by a matchmaker or attending a rock climbing event at Planet Granite with 15 other singles or going all in with a trip to Thailand? Welcome to the new and improved world of dating.
On the surface, it is just a casual lunch date in the middle of the day. No pressure.
After dabbling in online dating with no luck, Sam Scafford, 55, saw an advertisement for It’s Just Lunch and decided to give it a whirl. He was interviewed to reveal likes, dislikes, preferences and details about past relationships.
“We listen to what the client is describing to us as who they feel would be an appropriate match for them and then we use our judgment as a matchmaker to set up a first date for them,” says Amy Brinkman, franchise owner of It’s Just Lunch.
The personalized service was created for business professionals and is not an online dating service. “We do all of the work, where we call the restaurant, make the reservation, call both parties and give them a reminder call so all they have to do is show up for the date and have fun,” Brinkman says.
“Within two days they [had] four dates lined up–four blind dates essentially,” Scafford says. He went on about 10 dates, either lunch or drinks, where he met age-matched women with similar interests.
“And then I met Deanne, and we hit it off right away,” he says, referring to Sunnyvale resident Deanne Phillips, 49, whom he met April 15, 2011, for their lunch date in downtown San Jose.
“Now we are engaged,” says Scafford, who popped the question in November.
According to the It’s Just Lunch website, “Matchmaking takes the personal legwork out of dating by outsourcing ‘the search’ for interesting, like-minded individuals.”
Clients range from 22 to 74 years old, and they are looking for a long-term match, not casual dating.
Phillips, who grew up in Cupertino, turned to It’s Just Lunch for a more human experience than Web-based services. The matchmakers made all the difference, as opposed to online dating, “where the matches are all random or they are done through some strange computer algorithm,” Phillips says.
Phillips says the matchmakers were business-oriented yet candid and honest when talking about a potential match, similar to chatting with a girlfriend.
Phillips signed up for the service after it changed ownership. She was a bit skeptical, but met Scafford on her first scheduled date.
“You have to give it time; it is not necessarily going to be the first person–I got lucky,” Phillips says. “I think it’s worth taking the risk.”
Increase the odds
A dinner date with a group of people maximizes the odds of a connection. Table for Six utilizes the talents of dining coordinators and matchmakers to hand-select three women and three men to have dinner together.
“You go to the dinner and everybody meets each other and that’s it–you see what happens,” says Marc Paiva, chief operating officer. Table for Six was founded in 1997 by his wife Julie Paiva, who is now retired from the business.
According to the company’s website, “having six people can also provide a sense of security in a new environment.”
The average client is an upscale professional age 30 to 40 and looking to settle down and start a life with someone. With an office in Mountain View, matchmakers serve clients throughout the Bay Area.
Paiva recognizes that there are other dating services out there, but they are “developed and created by technical people,” he says. At Table for Six, matchmakers are hard at work reviewing files to find a match for a dinner date. If there is a connection, the matchmaker is contacted to set up another dinner for six or a one-on-one date.
“We’ve had hundreds of marriages; that’s what happens here,” Paiva says.
According to Paiva, the matchmakers are a crucial part of the business. They have to be good judges of character and able to find out what the client wants in a mate.
“We might see them in a different light than they actually see themselves and surprise them with somebody that they would never have even thought of, and those are the things that really happen–the unexpected,” Paiva says.
Matchmakers even take on the role of fashion consultants to ensure the client puts their best foot forward. On the other hand, they have to know how to comfort clients if they are interested in someone from a dinner who is not interested in them.
“We have to let them down in a nice way,” Paiva says.
The ideal matchmaker is an eternal optimist and a great listener with a loving nature. “It’s fun, but very difficult,” Paiva says.
Another good way to meet someone is to participate in events with other singles.
Barbara Fischer, 41, is a rocket scientist from Cupertino with little time in her schedule to plan extracurricular activities. She joined Events and Adventures two years ago to meet new people–single people in particular.
“Not necessarily to meet a guy or partner, which would be really nice, but really just to have a cluster of friends to do things with, like to go camping or to go for a hike,” Fischer says.
With an office in Santa Clara serving more than 1,000 members, Events and Adventures was created for single professionals to meet other singles.
According to the group’s website, members join to get out and have more fun, to make new friends or to search for someone special.
In addition to meeting her best friend, Fischer also met a few romantic interests through the club. Her favorite events thus far include Halloween parties and murder mystery dinners, but the club has nearly 40 events available each month, including rock climbing, volleyball and jazz nights.
“You find these nooks and crannies in a place you’ve lived your whole life,” Fischer says.
The club does not have marriage statistics, but members do get married, says Barb Morgen, Events and Adventures’ director of membership and marketing emeritus. Sometimes they marry other members, friends of members or people they met at or through an event, she says.
Morgen calls the club an “activities concierge” for singles encouraging new friendships that lead to relationships, but without the pressure of an actual date.
“Gentlemen who may be interested in a lady don’t have to rush up and get their phone number. They can simply make conversation about what types of events she enjoys and then come to those events more often,” Morgen says.
Through the club, Fischer made new memories, met new friends and hopes to meet a love interest.
“You just have to put yourself in the environment and see what happens,” Fischer says. “You never know who will walk [through] the door.”
About nine years ago, Lance Evander realized most of his friends were married, making it a challenge to meet new people.
“One of the main reasons I started Urban Diversion in 2003 was to provide a more natural way for people to meet each other, rather than just the typical bar scene and online dating, which tend to be superficial,” says Evander, 43, founder and CEO of the club.
Members include doctors, waiters, IT professionals, chemists and store managers, all between 21 and 60 years old, enjoy trying new things and have a thirst for life.
Loressa McGowan, director of club relations, describes the community as a social activities club for adults to meet people.
“What you end up with is a great group of people who become close friends by having a ton of fun. And yes, sometimes new friends fall in love with each other,” Evander says.
Nearly 100 people have been engaged or married from the club, but dating is not the main focus, he says.
Unlike other clubs designed to bring people together specifically for dating, Urban Diversion welcomes married and single members.
Members pay a one-time initiation fee and a monthly fee granting access to about 30 to 40 events each month. Events for every age, personality type and adventure level are available multiple times per week.
McGowan says it is perfect for Bay Area workaholics. “All you have to do is sign up and show up,” she says.
In February alone, events include flying trapeze school, skydiving, a scuba class, wine tasting, a San Jose Sharks game, ski trip to Lake Tahoe, Mardi Gras party and many more.
After eight years, Evander continues to attend events. His favorites so far are the annual pirate ship party, in which members dress up like pirates and sail under the Golden Gate Bridge on a rented Pirates of the Caribbean ship, a trip to Thailand and camping adventures from the desert to the wilderness.
“It’s such a great opportunity to be one with nature and to build real friendships in real life and not just on online social networks,” Evander says.
For more information
It’s Just Lunch
www.itsjustlunch.com or 888.565.8624
Table for Six
www.tableforsix.com or 888.640.4646
Events and Adventures
www.eventsandadventures.com or 800.386.0866
www.urbandiversion.com or 888.606.2380
SOURCE: Tiffany Carney VIA Mercury News