Love for sale

It was with much trepidation and a little humiliation that I found myself sitting in the offices of what I’ll call Dates ‘R’ Us.

I had already exhausted the advice and good intentions of friends and family when it came to my single status. Many people had tried to fix me up with women whom they took to be my perfect counterparts, but after meeting these people, I still found myself wondering if it was true that there’s a special person out there for everyone.

As more of my college friends announced their engagements, I found myself questioning why I was still alone. Annual family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas only compounded my confusion, when relatives I rarely saw asked if I had married yet, leaving me murmuring sheepishly that I was “still looking.”

After much soul-searching, I scheduled an appointment with Dates ‘R’ Us. Hopefully, I’d find my true love. I had seen an ad in the newspaper promising “exciting times with other area singles” and thought it might be worth checking out.

When I arrived at the Dates ‘R’ Us offices, the receptionist handed me a form to fill out and told me that my “personal counselor” would be right with me.

The questionnaire asked very straightforward questions about my personal life: What types of activities was I interested in? How often did I date? How committed was I to starting a relationship? Nothing seemed too personal, however, until I got to the financial questions about halfway through: How much did I tend to spend each week on entertainment? How much money did I make? Did I own my house and car? Did I have much job security?

I guess those questions had something to do with my compatibility, but they still bothered me. I never considered myself materialistic — and always figured anyone I would date wouldn’t be hung up on that either — so I answered truthfully and handed the form back to the receptionist.

“Terri will be right with you,” she said as she took the questionnaire. “Are there any questions I could help you with?”

“Well,” I replied, “do a lot of people come here?”

“More than you might think,” she said. “We only opened a few months ago, but business has been pretty steady. I guess there are a lot of people here looking for love.”

“Have you ever tried it?” I asked.

“What, the program? Oh, no. I don’t think it would be professional for me to participate.”

At that moment, Terri and her bright-red hair came into the room, wearing a muted pink business suit. “Right this way Mr. Rich,” Terri said. “Brenda, please hold my calls.”

I entered Terri’s office and was offered a seat in the overstuffed chair across from her desk. Behind her desk was a huge banner with the words “Help the magic happen” written in bold red letters that matched her hair.

“Mr. Rich, it says here you’re a writer. That’s a very creative job, and we like creative people here at Dates ‘R’ Us.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I hope I can find somebody here who is compatible.”

“Oh, that shouldn’t be a problem.” Terri replied. “We cater to all types and tastes.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of that comment, but before I could ask, she continued to review the questionnaire.

“Mr. Rich, what kind of woman are you looking for?” she asked.

“I guess someone who is sincere, likes to have a good time and can laugh at herself as well as others,” I replied with my rehearsed answer. “Someone a lot like me.”

“Well, that doesn’t seem too difficult. We have a lot of interesting women for you to choose from in our data base.” She went on to explain that, in addition to using their compiled lists to set me up with potential Ms. Rights, Dates ‘R’ Us had monthly activities such as volleyball tournaments, dinner socials and movie nights where I could meet other participants in the program.

“We don’t want to force anybody on you,” continued Terri. “Our program allows you to make all the decisions in a way that lessens the threat of rejection for all parties involved. If you see someone you like, we send them a note to let them know you’re interested. They can review your information and decide if they feel the same way. If so, we allow you to schedule the date, but if not then there is no reply to your query. That kind of takes the awkwardness out of the procedure.”

It seemed to me that also took all the spontaneity out of things, but I decided not to make a decision until I had heard more.

“Mr. Rich, how many times a week do you want to go out?”

“I guess once or twice,” I said. “Things get pretty busy in my line of work.”

“OK, let’s say you’d go out twice a week. What would you do?”

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