Kathryn's Blog

Scam detection for those courting Russian women

You know about American ingenuity?  Well, how about those Russians?  Look what this floral company came up with to help those who might be getting scammed by purported Russian women:

Interview with Dmitry Peregudov, RussianFlora.com

Andrey Malygin: Dmitry, as a Head of RussianFlora.com please tell us more about your company.

Dmitry Peregudov: RussianFlora.com was established in 2002. We started [flowers and gifts] delivery services 6 years ago; started with Moscow and then spread [services] through other towns in Russia and Ukraine. Today we deliver to more than 1000 cities and towns on the territory of ex-USSR countries and Eastern Europe.

Andrey Malygin: What was the reason for starting anti-scam services?

Dmitry Peregudov: During the first 2-3 years in business we started to note that approximately one of every 20 orders was sent to the address without intended recipient – the person was either not living there, or wasn’t ever seen [by couriers]. It could happen in various cities: in Volgograd, Moscow or Melitopol – in any city. In fact, it was typically like this – a courier arrives to deliver flowers (or gifts, or even money), and flowers were received by some other person; not the intended recipient. This situation led us to the conclusion that we are, somehow, helping some people who are trying to earn money by scamming Americans [men]. That’s why we offered another service that is very helpful for the [foreign brides] online dating industry.

The service is called RussianScamCheck.org. The main idea of this site is to help our clients to check if their contact [foreign lady] isn’t a fake. I’ll describe it. A man meets a woman in Internet and she sends him a fantastic, gorgeous photo of herself. The man, sure enough, is very happy to see that she is so sweet and good looking, and he is also interested to see her in real life. But a ticket for flying abroad is expensive, or he doesn’t have much free time for this – in any case, he isn’t sure that this woman is real and not a ‘fake profile’. So, he can use RussianScamCheck.org service – for $40-$59 depending on options. Basically, for $40 our courier delivers one beautifully wrapped rose, with a message on a card to the woman of client’s concern. If the girl exist, she opens the door and gets rose and a card, shows us some piece of ID and signs the acknowledgement of receipt. For an additional small charge, courier also makes a photo of this woman and we send it to the client.

Andrey Malygin: With permission from the woman, right?

Dmitry Peregudov: Yes, of course. We can’t make a photo without woman’s permission. The whole service gives an opportunity for the client to check whether, first of all, the woman really lives on the provided address, and, secondly, if she is really the person she claims to be. The client can also check the resemblance of real woman with her photo.

Andrey Malygin: Do you have any statistics regarding such scam checks?

Dmitry Peregudov: In each case we make thorough analysis and, based on its results, we provide some advice in a form of email, where it is stated that there is a certain % of probability that examined person is a scammer.
We also have a special anti-scam quiz. Clients answer a series of questions and receive a probability report. If chances are higher than 50% – we recommend conducting a scam check. And in this case clients can make a more thorough check. Approximately 80% of all scam checks we conduct lead to scammers of different kinds. While the other 20% are absolutely normal people, who then become recipients for the gifts and flowers of our clients.


Down Under dating coach

Now even New Zealand has a dating coach.  When I was doing online dating back in 1998, there was no one no where to be found.

How to bag a bloke… and other dating tips
By Kim Knight - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 03 August 2008

Dating can be a tough time - and good advice helps.
Related Links
SINGLE? CHECK. Happy? Check. Really?

New Zealand’s first self-proclaimed dating coach is not sure she believes you.

“People won’t initially say they want a long-term relationship, or marriage,” says Denise Corlett. “They’ll say, `oh, it would be quite nice to meet someone’...”

The reality, she says, is once people hit their late 20s, they’re looking for someone special. Someone significant. Permanent. Someone but not just anyone.

Corlett found her second husband on the internet. He was the only man she dated. Friends tell her she got lucky. She says it’s because she got specific.

“I think I filtered out people incredibly quickly. Not in a nasty way, but I was pretty clear about what I was looking for.”

Corlett, 46, trained as an occupational therapist before working in psychological health. She set up as a life coach in 2001 and has most recently worked in the recruitment sector. She encountered many people who were having difficulty finding potential partners.

“People were getting into internet dating, going to agencies and the like, and I just felt there was no one in New Zealand who was addressing the issues that constantly came up: it’s not working, I can’t seem to find anyone.”

And so Dating Advice was born. Corlett won’t set you up with a partner but she will try to equip you with the skills to attract the potentials.

“I promote the idea of saying, `I’m single, and I’d like to be a in a relationship’. It’s OK to let your intentions be known.”

Her Auckland office is all Valentine’s Day reds and creams. There is a box of tissues on the bench and a whiteboard against the wall.

Tell me why I’m single, I demand.

“Why don’t you tell me why you’re here,” she suggests, gently.

(Because my editor made me). But, OK, since I’m here… All men are bastards. I am perfect. Nobody really understands me. Why the hell am I telling you this over a glass of water? Where’s the sauvignon blanc?

I’m kidding. Except for the bit about the liquor. How many women, I ask Corlett, go out on a date that lasts, say, three hours and then embark on a three-day analysis of said date, assisted by 15 assorted best friends and several bottles of wine?

She laughs. “Women are so good at analysing. We love sitting around and talking with our girlfriends, about what he did, and what he said and what does that really mean. But men are simpler creatures. They don’t do that.

“The best approach women can take is to ask them outright, or take it just as it is. Do something else, see other people. If that person’s interested in you, they will pursue you.”

Men, says Corlett, like to take charge of this process ("I might be a bit old-fashioned in that"). Women, she says, must reciprocate by being available, “or making the opportunity for the man to initiate something”.

OK fine. But how do you meet someone who wants to ask you on a date in the first place? Corlett says there’s no one approach. Busy, shyer people might have more luck online, for example.

“The thing with internet dating is initially, it’s such a visual thing, and I’m not just talking about how you look, but also your screen name, and the first few phrases you use if that’s not bringing people in, you might have to change it.”

Singles with wide social networks that put them into regular contact with others could try maximising their opportunities to meet people. Or, says Corlett, who will work with clients on a personalised plan of, er, attack, you could just smile at that man/woman you’ve walked past on your way to work every day for the past three years. “And then the next time you see each other, you might say, `hi, it’s a nice day’.”

Because here’s the thing: “If you want to get into a relationship or do anything new in your life, there’s always some risk involved. At the end of the day, even if you have a fabulous relationship, your partner is going to die, or you’re going to die. To the greatest couples, that’s what happens. Someone is going to have pain at the end of the day.

“You do have to open up, you do have to be vulnerable and even if 10 men or women have broken your heart, you need to learn from that but you still need to open up and be vulnerable to the 11th. There is no connection with someone if you are distant, untrusting and aloof.”

Corlett’s business which includes modules that can be completed online is attracting more male than female clients. “Guys often have this perception they have to be funny, or know the lines, or whatever, to approach a woman. They don’t need to be like that. They need to be themselves.”

Corlett says singles of both sexes need to value themselves more. “To be attractive, you need to value yourself and you need to see yourself as deserving. No matter how you look, what actually is attractive at the end of the day is how you come across. You need to see yourself with the best eyes first.”


Over 72?

Sex And the Single Girl
By Katie Baker | NEWSWEEK

In her new memoir, “Epilogue,” author Anne Roiphe chronicles her sudden widowhood and attempts, at age 72, to date again in the Internet era. She spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Katie Baker.

Have e-mail and the Web made things easier than when you dated as a young woman?
This is a great addition to my life. Most of the people I know don’t know anybody who is single and available. If I go to a party, there aren’t single men there. Let’s start with that. So I would never meet anybody.

Your book is a contrast to Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” where she’s almost stuck in amber after her husband’s death.
What interested me was the place [Didion] wasn’t able to write about, which is the healing process, the real afterwards. Shock wears off, numbness wears off, and there you are. And life goes on.

You began dating again after your daughters placed a singles ad for you in The New York Review of Books. How’d they react to your decision to write about these experiences?
I think it must be very hard for children to see their parents in a state of grief they can’t overcome. So I felt it was important, for me and for my family, that they saw I was strong and living and doing well.

You write frankly about the sexuality of older women. Do you think we’ll see a change in our society’s attitude toward it?
I think the way to deal with this is twofold: I’m not a 24-year-old girl. I’m a 72-year-old woman. And I accept that. But I don’t accept that that means I can’t have all kinds of girlish, womanish feelings. Why not? I am a grandmother and I love being a grandmother. But if I believed that because I’m a grandmother, I should stay home and knit socks for my grandchildren … I’d last another six months in this world.


Way too close for comfort—risks of cyber-sex

Remember the Pina Colada song, the one about the guy who put an ad in the paper wanting a woman who loved Pina Coladas and walks in the rain, only to end up meeting his wife/girlfriend, who had the same fantasies?  With all the people online, you’d think that your chance of connecting with someone you know is remote, right?  Read this article below for an eyeopener, and the best reason I can think of to know just who it is you are trading sexy talks or photos with:

Sex on the Internet

Published on 02/08/2008

By Chapia Bukachi

Mr Kobee a father of two girls Ivy and Rita aged 19 and 17 respectively, living in Nairobi, was distraught after his discovery that he had committed incest with his daughters on the Web. After dating for more than two years on the Internet, they resolved to exchange their nude pictures. Ivy and Rita collapsed when they downloaded their Internet lover’s pictures only to be confronted by those of their own father in the nude. Mr Kobee, after receiving photos of his daughters’ nakedness has since disconnected Internet in his house. Father and daughters are currently undergoing counselling to free themselves of their cybersex obsession.

Welcome to the cybersex revolution. But are we prepared to face the consequences?

The new disorder

Cybersex is simply having sex with someone online. You type out what you would do to them, and they type back what they imagine would be their reaction if you did it. At times, the lovers could activate their webcam (camera on their computers) to expose their bodies live to the other person.

According to the Centre for Internet Addiction Recovery website, one in five Internet addicts are engaged in some form of online sexual activity “primarily viewing cyberporn and/or engaging in cybersex”. Studies show that men are more likely to view cyberporn, while women are more likely to engage in erotic chat. People who suffer from low self-esteem, a distorted body image, untreated sexual dysfunction, or a prior sexual addiction are more at risk to develop the addiction. In particular, sex addicts often turn to the Internet as a new and safe sexual outlet to fulfill their underlying compulsive habit.

Interestingly, people who have no previous sex problem are getting caught in the craze. “Over 60 per cent of our clients are individuals who normally would not go to a strip club or rent an adult video but are downloading online pornography or talking with strangers in sexually explicit adult chat rooms,” the website says.

The reasons for the massive appeal of this new form of immorality is its ability to conceal identities, therefore, those involved feel secure enough to say and do things they would not do in real life.

Patrick Carnes and Elizabeth Griffin the authors of Post-Gazette USA, argue that the major problem of cybersex addicts is their inability to choose freely whether to stop or continue with the behaviour despite adverse consequences.

Mr Kobee for instance admitted that his wife Mary caught him many times searching pornographic sites, and each time he promised it would never happen again. Instead, he shifted his cyber life to the office, from where he kept in touch with his daughters daily without knowing it.

When asked, Rita and Ivy confessed to not knowing the dangers of such indulgence. “After all it was just online,” and “It was not real, we were just having fun,” they said. But by the time they went for counselling, both knew how that initial innocence had initiated them into Hell on the Net.

Danger signs

I know a friend, who though not admitting it is a cybersex addict. Every time I bring to his attention the fact that he is overdoing the thing, suggesting he might be addicted, he says it is just a pastime. “I like to play with people’s imaginations; sometimes I sign in as a woman and a guy will believe my lie and go ahead to have sex with me; sometimes I play the lesbian and a lesbian will play along. It’s nothing serious, just fun,” he says. But I can tell it is not ‘just fun’; the guy is hooked.

Patrick Carnes, in his book, Out of the Shadows, defines sexual addictive behaviour as a sexual activity that often leads to shamefulness, secretiveness and abusiveness. The addict’s life becomes constricted and lonely. Many hours are spent alone with the computer while real-life friendships and social contacts fall away.

“I could rarely take my family out or join them in a family event,” Kobee offers. He always found excuses to justify this. Interestingly, his daughters used to encourage him to go to work even during weekends, but of course so they also could have the time to indulge in their addiction.

Ivy says that the shame she felt “sabotaged my relationships, ambitions and self esteem. I had no interest in anything else, and since we used to engage in it together with my sister, it felt cool.”

Some of the danger signs include:

1) Anxiety and/or personal distress: If you do not do it, you feel that your day is not complete. You feel distressed, and relief comes only when you engage in cybersex. “Just one minute” is a line addicts use to excuse themselves to feed their obsession.

2) Maladaptive behaviours: These manifest themselves when cybersex distracts a person from perfoming their routine, or kills their creativity in other areas. For instance, when one’s working hours are taken up by cybersex, when a student would rather engage in cybersex than do homework, or when men involved in cybersex begin to see women as nothing but sex organs.

3) Deviance from social norm: This is when a person’s lifestyle runs counter to the values of their community. For instance when a spouse proposes bedroom activities you are not comfortable with, or when they would rather have cybersex than the real thing.


The physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, legal and social consequences of cybersex addiction demand that we must pay greater attention and effort to this widespread problem. The most common consequences include severe depression, suicidal tendencies, low self-esteem, shame, self-hate, hopelessness, despair, helplessness, intense anxiety, loneliness, moral conflict, fear of abandonment, spiritual bankruptcy, distorted thinking and self-deceit. Over 40 per cent of addicts experience marital and other relationship problems.

Health consequences include the spread of HIV/Aids and other STIs in case the addicts decide to act out their fantasy. Some addicts have genital injuries due to use of foreign objects and many end up in jail after committing sexual offences particularly rape, pedophilia, vending pornographic materials, prostitution, and sometimes stealing to fund their secret life.


The fact remains that the Internet has been designed to be accessible and visible to all persons online and there is no way to effectively prohibit access to pornographic sites. Still, there is little one can do to determine how a person of Kobee’s age and standing uses the Internet. First of all, like in all other addictions, victims hardly admit that they have a problem.

But parents can do something to minimise the chances of their children getting addicted.

Owing to lack of a law on cybersex crime, the first line of defence here is for parents to monitor their children’s Internet activities. One solution is to have an Internet filtering software installed in the computer at home. This would serve as a firewall preventing the entry of websites hosting pornography and prostitution sites in the computer programme. It would also prevent minors from taking part in sex chats and cybersex by disabling programmes hosting these activities.

Internet filtering, however, is not foolproof. Even where the software is already installed, sites on pornography and prostitution remain accessible. This is because many sites whose names do not sound ‘dirty’ nonetheless contain pornography.

Owing to this, the best preventive measure would be to have a “public” computer in the house placed in a place with heavy human traffic. Discourage computers in bedrooms.

Despite the fact that no law against this exists, parents, employers and Internet cafÈ owners must curb access to these sites. A generation is at risk.

* Names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved.


How the courses on how to pick up women work

I had a romance client who tried one of these “How to pick up women” courses.  I’m not sure what to think of them.  The whole things seems so distasteful.  But there is a place for mentors for guys who haven’t got their act together, for sure.  I just don’t think that insulting women to pick them up in a bar for sex is much of an accomplishment.  Here’s an article about how the courses work:

Duff: Geek Secrets 101: A hacker’s guide to meeting, dating women
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Michael Duff

What if I told you there was a secret formula that could get you any woman you want? What if I told you all the things you’re scared of - dating, flirting, courtship and the club scene - what if I told you those were all just games? Games you can learn, the same way you learn programming, mathematics, guitar and chess?

The magic is real, and it’s sweeping through the Internet like wildfire, turning geek boys into pick-up artists like a virus that rewrites DNA.

It’s called The Mystery Method, and it’s the latest evolution of the “How to Pick Up Girls” books that have been around since the ‘50s. The Pick Up Artist subculture has been a driving force on the Internet since its inception, when the Usenet group alt.seduction.fast launched the careers and fattened the wallets of men like Ross Jeffries.

Jeffries built his “technology” on the idea of NLP - short for Neuro-Linguistic Programming - a kind of mental judo that teaches you to match your speech pattern to fit the expectations of the listener and use low-grade hypnosis to manipulate their emotions.

The most popular proponent of NLP is a man named Tony Robbins - a name that will be familiar to anyone who has ever worked a night shift or gone through an extended period of unemployment. Tony’s infomercials dominate late-night TV, supposedly giving viewers the tools they need to change their lives and conquer the world.

Does it work? It works the way any self-improvement program works. You get what you give, so people who devote themselves to setting goals, making plans and deliberately getting their lives under control will usually see results, no matter what program they pick.

By the same token, pick up programs help turn boys into men by forcing them to confront their fear. They confront their fear of women, and more generally they confront their fear of people. Mystery conquered his fear the hard way, by approaching hundreds of women and learning from each rejection.

This gives Mystery a tremendous amount of credibility with the geek set. He didn’t start with good looks and natural talent - he paid his dues and put himself on the front line. And if he struts around like a rock star now, it’s because he studied rock stars - cataloged them and studied their behavior the way anthropologists study chimps.

“The Mystery Method” is not a sex book. It reads like a psychology text, complete with charts, diagrams and jargon that would be impenetrable to the average reader. PUA culture is a world unto itself, a secret society that turns women into targets and gives young men a surrogate family.

PUA culture feeds off geeks who fear women and turns their fear into hate, building their confidence by tearing down the women they’re afraid of. Some guys can handle it, confronting their delusions without crossing the line into misogyny, but for every boy who uses the program to grow up and treat women like people, there are two who take it too far.

The culture fosters this by reducing social interactions to a series of chess moves. PUA culture destroys respect for women by stripping away their individuality and describing their actions as a kind of war - move and countermove, attack and defense - with each move described by its own demeaning buzzword or acronym.

An established boyfriend is referred to as a “boring friend.” A smile or a casual touch is called an IOI, short for “Indicator of Interest.”

Boys are taught to systematically lower the self-esteem of their targets by using “negs” - tiny insults designed to put beautiful women in their place. Beautiful girls are used to being hit on, used to being the center of attention, so by insulting them, by avoiding contact and lavishing attention on their friends, the Pick Up Artist makes targets work to win his approval.

Does it work? All the evidence says yes. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap, but men who are brave enough to enter the club scene and test these techniques in the real world can change their personalities and learn to play the game.

Entertainment journalist Neil Strauss entered the PUA community as a spectator and wrote the definitive work on the subject. Strauss’s book, “The Game” is a brutal and heartbreaking look at a community that turns women into objects and turns geeks into gods.

Mystery is described as the brilliant, broken peacock of the PUA scene, alternating between triumph and tragedy. Success drowns him in sex and money, while geek excess and mental illness threaten to take him out. VH1 made Mystery the subject of a reality show, now rolling into its second season.

The show reveals flaws in the method and bogs down in reality show cliches, but there was one big surprise. Maybe I’m falling for an affectation here, but I think Mystery really cares about the men he takes under his wing. He really is in this to help people, and he thinks his method is doing men some good.

This is the impulse that seduced Neil Strauss - the journalist who went in to cover the community and emerged as a convert. The PUA guys describe their method in terms of science, but emotionally, it’s a cult - a powerful cult that taps into the primal urges of young men and replaces their instincts with a set of instructions.

The technology looks silly when you see it on TV, but half of anything is showing up, and every dog has his day. Psychology and techniques aside, the PUA culture drags geeks into clubs and turns boys into men. It teaches them how to act and how to dress. And once the superficials are under control, the rest is just trial and error.

The dangerous part comes after, after boys get their first taste of success. They conquer their fear by turning women into objects, by resenting their power and using anger and contempt to take it away. The technology teaches them how to get women and destroys their ability to keep them.

They learn to use the women they used to worship and the end result is no mystery at all.


A picture is worth…???

Remember the days when pictures didn’t lie?  Boyohboy, was that ancient history or what.  Photoshop and the like sure has brought an end to the honesty of photos. 

Good pictures are a must for the Internet dater—I always tell folks to get them—and now you can have them retouched, too!  See what this article has to say, and then bop on over to PicWash.com and see what is possible.

(Frankly, I love the slimming service that takes 20 pounds off.)

But what do you all think, really?  Are touched up photos another way of lying?

Retouching services put a new face (and body) on your photos
Posted by Susan Langenhennig, Fashion editor, The Times-Picayune

There was a time when snapshots were something to stuff in an album and place on a shelf, to be pulled out occasionally when dear friends wanted to chuckle over your Farrah Fawcett hair and your micro-miniskirt from back in the day.

But, now, thanks to online picture-sharing and social-networking sites, friends aren’t the only ones looking. Co-workers, former classmates, long-lost acquaintances and even creepy guys you’ve never met can flip through your favorite snaps at their leisure.

And what they’re seeing isn’t always reality.

Photo-retouching services are helping people put their best face—minus the crow’s feet, double chin and blotchy skin—online. Internet services such as PicWash.com, Fotofix.com and Retouchxp.com can give you a digital facelift and tummy tuck, zap away blemishes, and even out your tan.

For $7, PicWash will reduce facial shine, remove acne, erase wrinkles and whiten your teeth. For $15, the company’s new slimming service, launched this month, will put your image on a digital diet, whittling your waist, stomach and thighs, erasing cellulite and toning the arms—all without breaking a sweat.

The demand has been dramatic, driven largely by the growing popularity of sites such as Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, MySpace and online dating services.

To keep up, PicWash has grown from five graphic designers to 30 since it opened in August 2007.

Fotofix, a 2-year-old company based in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Austin, Texas, gets thousands of page hits a day, said Jessica Mitchell, the company’s founder and chief operating officer. Fotofix advertises its services on social-networking and online-dating sites.

“The knowledge of retouching is really coming about on a consumer level now,” she said. “I got my start retouching for fashion photographers, and, of course, the charge for that is 10 times what we charge on Fotofix. At these prices, ($4.95 for such things as teeth whitening or skin smoothing), it really puts it within a consumer’s reach.”

“Photos are shared now more than ever before,” said Daniel Ciraldo, the 24-year-old founder of the Florida-based PicWash. “One photo of yourself can be online for eternity. People are more and more interested in optimizing their appearance; what we do is provide a beauty service for your photos.”

Ciraldo’s sisters used to touch up their pictures before posting on their Facebook pages. Watching them sparked an idea. “I thought, ‘What if we got a bunch of designers together who could do this from an expert approach?’¤” he said.

His family owns a skin care company and his mother is a dermatologist in Miami, so Ciraldo got tips on “how the skin should look. We want pores to be reduced but still visible so it doesn’t look like you’re a plastic person,” he said. “We want it to look natural.”

PicWash’s slimming service takes off about 10 to 15 pounds. The company’s promotional flier features an attractive woman in a tankini swimsuit. She doesn’t have a model’s body in either the “before” or “after” shots. The overall effect is a trimmer figure but without a dramatically noticeable change.

It’s like one of those hidden-pictures pages from Highlights magazine for children. Can you spot the toned arms and the flatter tummy?

“One thing you probably don’t immediately notice is that we also brought the breasts higher and closer to the body,” he said.

About 60 percent of PicWash’s customers are women ages 18 to 26, Ciraldo said.

Although online services are leading the charge, local photo retailers also are in on the action. Lakeside Camera Photoworks, which has locations in Metairie and Mandeville, offers retouching, but clients request the improvements primarily for professional portraits, not vacation snapshots or Internet posts.

“Most of the time, it’s publicity and business photos for actresses or actors or real estate agents,” said David Guidry, owner of Lakeside Camera. “It’s become an integral part of our portrait studio work.”

Not all of the retouching is vanity-driven. A considerable part of Lakeside’s retouching work comes from requests to add in grandma or crop out an ex from family photos, Guidry said. And Mitchell, of Fotofix, said some customers turn to her service for diet motivation.

“We had one woman who said, ‘Make me 20 pounds slimmer, and I’m going to put it up on my fridge so I can see it everyday.’¤”

Such altering of reality isn’t new. Magazines are filled with unreal beauties. In the March issue of Vogue, for example, Pascal Dangin, a sought-after New York photo retoucher, tweaked 144 images, including “107 advertisements (Estee Lauder, Gucci, Dior, etc.), 36 fashion pictures, and the cover, featuring Drew Barrymore,” according to a May 12 story about Dangin in The New Yorker.

Now everyone has access to a little digital makeover magic. Fotofix’s tagline is “Look your best, even if you didn’t.”

“Everybody knows that celebrities and models are retouched,” Mitchell said. “Why shouldn’t we have the same treatment?”


How honesty gets you everything

Now, talk about an up-front and honest profile: He described himself honestly as a smoker with 11 children (ages 8 to 29) from two previous marriages. And he hadn’t cut his hair in 13 years.  And he STILL got the girl.

Elopement wraps up romance with a bow
By Joe Blundo

BERLIN, Ohio—Keeping marriage plans secret isn’t easy when the bride and groom have 15 inquisitive offspring between them.

Arlene Essinger and Kenny Link, both 49, got it done by eloping this month to a cabin in Amish country.

She wore a cranberry-colored dress and a wreath of roses in her hair. He wore his “dress sneakers.” A minister they’d met just minutes before pronounced them husband and wife, they kissed, and that was that.

It was a relief, the new Mrs. Link said.

“I don’t have to dance around questions my family keeps asking me.”

Their trip to Berlin, about 90 miles northeast of Columbus in Holmes County, had raised plenty of suspicions among relatives.

The Links confirmed them when they broke the news of their marriage to about 30 gathered for a cookout the weekend after the elopement.

“They thought it was an engagement party,” Mrs. Link said. “A couple of family thought it was going to be a wedding.

“So, after a while, everybody got over the initial shock, and I think we all had a good time.”

The couple’s elopement marked the culmination of a three-year romance that began online.

Mr. Link, a Mechanicsburg factory worker who believes in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, ran a Yahoo! personal ad that softened no edges: He described himself honestly as a smoker with 11 children (ages 8 to 29) from two previous marriages.

The ad included a photo showing his hair, which hadn’t been cut in 13 years.

A mother of four (ages 16 to 30) who was living in Marysville, Essinger had recently divorced after 27 years of marriage. She initially considered Mr. Link more of an adviser than a romantic interest.

They chatted online for three months, with him schooling her on the Internet dating scene. His savvy and helpfulness impressed her.

“He’s a very intelligent man,” she said.

They met in person and began dating. Eventually, he cut his hair, although whose idea that was remains a he-said/she-said issue.

Mr. Link, an Air Force veteran, calls himself a “radical conservative”; he’s both anti-war and anti-tax. His new wife said she doesn’t agree with all of his views but she’s learning a lot.

She isn’t a person with strong political opinions or a penchant for speaking out.

They have other things in common, though.

Mr. Link had adopted four children; Essinger, two. He plays the piano; she’s a part-time music director at Hoge Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbus. She wanted the freedom to pursue her goals; he encouraged her.

Mr. Link isn’t big on formality: He once wore a cardboard tie to a relative’s wedding. So an elopement suited him, although he insisted that the religious ceremony be preceded by a private commitment at which no one else would be present.

“There’s a plethora of symbols in our lives that mean nothing,” he said. “I don’t require a ceremony, but I will acquiesce if that’s what Arlene wants.”

He not only acquiesced but also made her a headpiece of roses and pipe cleaners for the service. And he hummed Wedding March as she made her bridal walk from the side door of their rented cabin to a patio where the minister waited.

The Rev. David Stutzman of Sugarcreek conducted a simple service in which he compared marriage to wine:

“My prayer for both of you is: Just like good wine that’s been sealed and tastes better with age, so will your marriage be.”

They exchanged rings, and the union became official.

“I’m not singing the recessional,” Mr. Link joked afterward.

The couple have different goals: Mr. Link, a Cleveland native, wants to retire from his job in two years and spend one baseball season as an usher at Indians games; then he wants to do service work, perhaps in a hospital. Mrs. Link, who recently completed a vocal-music degree at Capital University in Bexley with a minor in journalism, would like to work as a copy editor.

They’ve promised each other that in marriage they will continue the approach Mr. Link took in his personal ad: Be honest and speak plainly.

Which explains his cleanshaven face.

She asked him to remove a few days’ worth of stubble before the wedding.

“And I believe I said it plainly.”


Pre-nups and should you?

You can believe that the financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn would be aware of the need for firm understandings about money for new couples.  For sure when she found herself heading for the altar.  See her article below.

Slicing Up Assets in Advance

It’s one thing to write about prenups, and quite another to live through their making. Doing a prenup isn’t for sissies.
Jane Bryant Quinn
Updated: 1:18 PM ET May 31, 2008

There I stood, in Vera Wang’s dreamy Madison Avenue shop, trying on a wedding dress. On either side, 25-year-olds, with their mothers, their bridesmaids and their 22-inch waists. In the center, me, trying to pull something white and swishy over my hips. Available wedding dates are few for brides of a certain age. You have to celebrate after your grandchildren get out of school and before your friends go away for the summer. So I’ll be a June bride. I have two more weeks and am hustling to finish the paperwork.

Oy, the paperwork!

When my husband died four years ago, I hadn’t expected love to come back into my life. It did, in the person of Carll and his children. Between us, we have eight. That raises the unromantic question faced by all parents who go to the altar, bringing families along. What do you do about the money?

If you do nothing, state law intervenes. When one of you dies, the other can claim a share of the assets, no matter what it says in your will. If you divorce (gulp), a court can divide the property in ways that seem fair. Couples wanting a different result have to draw up a prenuptial agreement—a legal contract defining the financial arrangement they prefer.

It’s one thing to write about prenups, as I have before, and quite another to live through their making. Most decisions were easy. One, however, required us to dig into feelings that were hard to talk about. Embarrassing, even. Doing prenups isn’t for sissies.

The easy things were our separate assets. Neither of us needs financial support. The prenup says that what’s mine goes to my kids when I die, and what’s his goes to his.

There’s a twist with my retirement fund. You can leave an Individual Retirement Account to anyone you want. By law, however, some or all of your 401(k) or pension trust is earmarked for your spouse. A prenup can’t change that. To free me to leave my pension trust to my kids, Carll has to sign a special waiver after we marry, not before.

So here’s the nightmare (only an obsessive financial reporter could think this one up): I say “I do,” waltz from the wedding ceremony to the party tent, trip on the dance floor, break my neck and breathe my last. Carll inherits the pension trust and can’t give it back to the kids without paying a gift tax. They rebel. I haunt the lot of them.

OK, thoughts like that mean I need calming down. Nevertheless, I asked a lawyer who’ll be at the wedding to drop his notary stamp in his pocket. I won’t take a step until the waiver is signed and legalized.

The tough decision was what to do about the weekend house we own together in upstate New York. When we bought it, we agreed that if one of us died or the relationship failed, the house would be sold and the proceeds divided. That was still OK with me. For Carll, however, the house is now our baby and he’d hate to lose it. If I gave him my half, it would take a chunk out of the assets I’m leaving for my kids. I balked.

This sudden, fierce desire to protect my children’s full inheritance came as a surprise. After all, I’m getting married—for richer, for poorer, and all that. Spouses are supposed to take care of each other financially, as well as emotionally. How could I tell him no? There’s other money for the kids.

Reaching a resolution took several uncomfortable (for me) conversations. In the end, it worked out. Each of us will be able to keep the house if we want, with the kids inheriting it, eventually. And—very important—all the children are in the loop. I don’t believe in surprises when the will is read.

Meanwhile, back at Vera Wang, I arrived for my first fitting. The gorgeous young thing at the desk looked at me and asked, “What’s your daughter’s name?” “It’s me,” I said. “I’m the bride!”


Great expectations belies its name

I’ve not heard good things about “Great Expectations.” Sounds as if the Attorney General of Arizona hasn’t either.  See below.

Pricey dating service accused of deception

Jun. 18, 2008 06:33 PM
The Arizona Republic

Attorney General Terry Goddard on Wednesday accused Great Expectations, a Scottsdale-based matchmaking service, of coercive sales tactics and deceptive practices to sell expensive dating services.

The company, which says it has 30 years of experience in helping people find true love, said the case has no merit and looks forward to going to trial. It declined to respond to specific allegations.

The suit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court against Sun West Video, Inc., which does business as

Great Expectations for Singles. The suit is seeking refunds for consumers and financial penalties against the company.

The Attorney General’s office alleged that Great Expectations:

• Misrepresented to consumers the overall number of participating members and members in certain age groups.

• Told consumers that two to three marriages occurred among members every month when it had no credible basis for such statements.

• Misrepresented to consumers that it had conducted a criminal background check on all of its members.

• Used high-pressure sales tactics that included sales representatives urging consumers to contact their credit card companies to get an increased credit limit to pay for a membership.

• Showed potential new members written profiles and photographs of people they said were Great

Expectations members when many were not available for dating.


Rising costs of long distance love

I’m a big fan of looking wherever you need to to find the love of your life.  I looked all over when I was single, and in fact, Drew was the closest at 482 miles away.  But the current economics of travel are making people think twice about starting up the old car or buying a plane ticket.  That’s sobering when it comes to finding a mate.  What do you think this will mean for your own search for love?

The toll on long-distance love As fuel prices climb, couples choose between breaking the bank and breaking hearts.

By Lini S. Kadaba

Inquirer Staff Writer
Love has its price.

Every few weeks for the last six months, Amanda Sheronas has paid $120, even $180, in airfare to see her sweetie 760 miles away.

But this month, Sheronas, 37, reached her limit.

The $219 cost of a one-way plane ticket to visit Jaime Alvarez, 40, in Jacksonville, Fla., broke the bank.

“I couldn’t afford it,” said Sheronas, who lives in Devon and works as a director at bridal gown company Alfred Angelo in Fort Washington.

Bad enough that the climbing cost of fuel has hurt school budgets, fire companies, and everyone’s grocery tab. Now, long-distance lovebirds are feeling the pinch on wallets - and hearts.

“It’s put a hold on us,” said Sheronas, who is unsure when she and her boyfriend of six months will rendezvous. “We’re seeing if we can wait it out. It’s not easy. . . . We’ve had to dial things down a little bit.”

The couple, like others, is fueling the flame - and easing the financial burden - with technologies such as texting. Others are cutting corners or choosing to meet at a halfway point.

According to an online poll conducted this month for The Inquirer at dating site OkCupid.com, nearly two-thirds of 1,179 clients said they would see a faraway mate less often as a result of higher gas costs.

About 65 percent text, call or e-mail more. More than 70 percent would cut back on extras, like a night out or gifts.

Locally, a philly.com poll posted two weeks ago found that 41 percent of 472 respondents had gone so far as to break up a long-distance relationship due to travel bills.

That might reflect Philly grumpiness more than actual love lost.

Still, said Kimberly Flemke, a couples and sex therapist with the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia, long-distance love, already complex, is “tougher now than ever before because gas prices are out of control. It really does force people to prioritize relationships. Who’s worth the money, the time? Where is my payback? . . . Who do I want to invest in, and who do I not?”

About 3.5 million dating couples consider themselves long distance, according to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, a Web site affiliated with author Dr. Gregory Guldner, who wrote the self-published Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide. An additional 3.6 million couples have commuter marriages, the Web site notes.

Experts say the number of LDRs, as they’re known, has grown with the rise of online dating - which increases the likelihood that Mr. Right lives three states away. The average LDR couple lives 125 miles apart, visits one to two times a month, and calls each other every three days for 30 minutes, according to a Guldner study.

As gas prices reach a nationwide average of $4.11 a gallon - more than a third higher than a year ago - nearly 60 percent of OkCupid.com poll takers would look for a match in a smaller geographic area and 70 percent would not date someone more than 50 miles away. The price of jet fuel has soared even more. In the last year, it has doubled, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Ironically, the same weak economy that might force LDRs to fizzle also could lead the number of love commutes to multiply, according to Caroline Tiger, author of The Long-Distance Relationship Guide. As jobs become scarcer, one half might have to move to chase employment, she said.

Jim Donohue and Christia Gordon, both 26, saw the financial stress mount when he left the San Diego area in late 2006 to come East, where he has family and landed a job.

“We don’t have a ton of disposable income,” said Gordon, a publicity manager. Recently, she worked the Web for a bargain to Philly. Fares hovered above $400 - double what she had paid just 18 months ago, she said. “Basically, right now, you could go to Mexico or the Caribbean for the same money.”

Even worse, those bucks go for a too-short turnaround. Donohue, who lives in Media, spent $450 for a West Coast drop-in over the July Fourth weekend - an expense he found “hard to justify” until he considered the prospect of “not seeing her for three months.” (Awww!)

Gordon was ready to quit her job and join him. Instead, she negotiated a deal as part of a promotion: She can work out of Philly for a week once a month, easing the situation.

Martha Blackburn, 29, lives in Marlton. Her boyfriend, David Williams, 25, a freelance TV station engineer, resides outside St. Louis. The couple bridges the 800 miles with video.

“It was his Valentine’s present to himself and to me,” said Blackburn, membership coordinator at the American Association of Teachers of German in Cherry Hill. “He got a little video camera, and we can see each other over Skype.”

The software allows free phone calls and videoconferencing over the Internet. Alas, “you can’t give someone a hug over Skype,” Blackburn lamented.

Ultimately, said Lisa Chase Patterson, a relationships expert at JustAnswer.com, LDR couples need to resolve the distance.

“Love is love,” said Patterson, who has seen an uptick in queries that mention the toll of gas prices on relationships. “But the reality is that you can’t do this for another five years. The person who does most of the traveling is going to get resentful.”

Tiger, the author, has had three LDRs of her own. The last, with Jon Dunsay, 36, an attorney and now her fiance, worked beautifully: He moved from Washington, D.C., to Center City, a block away from her.

“There’s really no substitute for seeing each other,” Tiger said. Besides, “we can use the money we’re saving . . . to actually travel places together.”

Others, in the meantime, are cutting corners to fund road trips and flights.

“We eat in more often and watch movies at home instead of going out as much,” said Katie Delach, 26, a public relations account manager who lives outside Boston and drives - round-trip: $120 - two, three times a month to Morristown, N.J., to spend time with Will Stokes, 24, a management associate with Subaru of America.

If she drives down more than he drives up, they split the cost of gas and tolls. “Sometimes,” she said, “we meet halfway in southern Connecticut. It gets to the point where, as much as you want to make the drive, we’re both starting out, and we can’t afford it.”

“It’s been a shock,” he said.

A few days ago, the couple caught a break (of sorts) on gas. Stokes’ company moved him to Chicago - and spontaneous, frequent drives are no longer possible.

The couple plan to rely on once-a-month flights. “We’re just going to have to see each other less,” he said. “It’s the only feasible, financially responsible option.”

Karlene Lihota, 25, a graduate student at Thomas Jefferson University who lives in Bella Vista, is luckier than most LDRers.

In another year, she’ll complete her degree and plans to join boyfriend Michael Salguero, 27, an entrepreneur, in Boston.

For now, she watches “100 percent” of income from a part-time Internet job go toward travel between the cities.

“You’ve really got to like the other person to do this,” she said.


Why men behave weirdly…

OnlineBootyCall does it again—horrid site with dreadful premise, but they do have a sense of humor over there. 

“Men get a bad rap for leading women on when we’re really just not that into them,” but according to Moses Brown, Founder of Online Booty Call, “women play a part in it too. If the ladies would relax and read the obvious signals we give them, they’d understand that most of the time it’s nothing personal. I’m just not that into you.”

Here are the Top 10 indicators that your date is just not that into you:

10. He tells you he’s just not that into you
9. He tells you he isn’t ready to settle down into a relationship
8. Doesn’t give you a hug or a kiss goodbye
7. He doesn’t call and makes poor excuses like his cell phone died
6. He suggests you date one of his friends, or asks for one of your friend’s phone numbers
5. Shows up with his wife or girlfriend to the party you invited him to
4. You find him at the club showing off his moves to some other girl on the dance floor
3. He doesn’t want to come upstairs and says he has an early meeting
2. If he doesn’t know your last name, he’s really not that into you
1. If he doesn’t call to thank you after taking him to a Lakers playoff game, lets face it, he’s just not into you


Getting older and better, love-wise

The single senior seniors are doing what comes naturally.  Or at least what comes more naturally these days than it used to: They are looking for love, and they are doing it online.

As seniors live longer they find ‘love expectancy’ also grows

By Frank Greve | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Murray Katz, 82, a retired senior federal patent-appeals examiner, has made a transition that lies ahead for millions of Americans.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t see women who were in their 60s and 70s as women,” he said recently. “Now, it’s amazing. The men I know are all looking at 80-year-old women. They’re our friends. We listen to them. We dance with them. We have sex with them when we can. It’s beyond comprehension.”

For many it’s unimaginable. But one of the things new under the sun since Katz was a boy is an 18-year increase in U.S. life expectancy, much of it spent in healthy retired life.

Those who are living through it spend their time in the traditional American way: pursuing happiness. And so it is that seniors today aren’t just dating more, they’re the fastest-growing users of Internet dating services and the fastest growing group of cohabiters.

To be sure, older men remain in short supply and millions of widows decide that meeting one man’s needs was enough. A few million more are ailing beyond caring. Still, there more couples than ever like Eleanor Robinson and John Kunec.

She’s 85, a Scrabble player, poet and table tennis champ whose social hub is the bustling Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton, Md., just north of Washington. He’s 83, fit and friendly, a retired government accountant. Both are widowed.

As surely as she carries his harmonica in her tote bag and they finish each other’s sentences and watch ballgames together, they’re a couple.

“I never had a relationship such as I have now,” confided Robinson, a Roman Catholic school girl from West Philadelphia who married at 19 and was widowed 54 years later.

“It’s like I’m a kid,” she said. “When I’m with him, I’m caring for him, and when I’m not with him, I’m thinking about him.”

Her beau — still a term in their set — had less to say. But Kunec’s a fine harmonica player, and the first tune out of his mouth during the intermission at a recent senior center dance was a stately rendition of the old Ray Charles hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Nonetheless, the couple maintain separate houses and marriage isn’t in the picture. “The complications wouldn’t be worth it,” Robinson explained. “I’ve limited income that I’ve decided to share with my grandchildren and I wouldn’t want to interfere with his family.”

Multiply this by a million or two, drop the ages by a decade or more and you have a more accurate picture of what many seniors are up to these days, or would like to be.

Longer healthy life expectancy is part of the explanation. There are also more men around, thanks largely to better drugs and treatments for diseases that more often afflict men, such as heart disease and cancers of the prostate, colon and rectum.

Seniors are also richer, their constant-dollar incomes more than triple what they were in 1960.
Sex is hardly out of the question, thanks to Viagra and its cousins, which about 14 percent of senior men use, according to an AARP study.

Finding partners is easier, too, the Internet being a superior resource to barstools or the friends of friends. According to Mark Brooks, a consultant and newsletter writer who tracks the Internet-dating industry, the number of seniors joining online dating services has risen at double-digit rates annually since 2003, the most of any age group.

But attitude changes are probably the biggest factor in the expanding social lives of seniors.

A generation ago, romance among the elderly was widely derided, said Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist who’s studied dating among older adults.

“Falling in love at an elderly age was seen as somewhere between unwise and dementia,” she said. In the parlance of the day, only “dirty old men” pursued sex. Cohabitation was not just low-class, as the term “shacking up” implied, it was morally “living in sin.”

Today, the elderly find remarriage fraught with headaches: It threatens some pensions. It alarms children worried about inheritances. It comes with love-testing anxiety about liability for a new spouse’s future health costs. So remarriage rates among seniors are flat.

Instead, Schwartz said, “People who wouldn’t have let their daughters into the house if they were cohabiting are now doing the same thing.”

According to Susan Brown, a demographer at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, cohabiting among older people increased 50 percent from 2000 to 2006, based on census figures.

The total — 1.8 million — counts only couples who live together full time and were willing to admit it to census interviewers. Part-time cohabiting — traveling together, sharing a summer house, spending weekends together — is up at least as sharply, according to seniors and people who work with them.

Does anyone in their age group disapprove?

“Maybe in the red states,” sniffed Eve Jacobs, 87, of Friendship Heights, Md., a labor demographer who still publishes in the field.

Opposition is more likely from children whose widowed parents are newly in love, said Joanne Wilder, a Pittsburgh lawyer and the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

“Many of them take a pretty dim view of this behavior,” she said, and their parents know it. “Matrimonial lawyers see a lot of people looking for ways to break things to the kids,” Wilder continued. “They’ll say, `My daughter will kill me!’ or ‘They really like her, but I don’t think they’d like it if we got married.’ “

Consequently, prenuptial agreements are much discussed at poolside in adult communities. “They make it safe for his kids to like you,” said Linda Stevens, 70, of Arlington, Va.

The children’s acceptance is key to older romances that flourish, said Steve Shields, the chief executive officer of Meadowlark Hills, a resident-governed adult living center in Manhattan, Kan.

“The need for approval and support from their children is really large,” he said. “No matter how deeply they love in late life, the importance of the love of their kids never diminishes.”

Shields is a big fan of late-life romance. “People 65 or 75 who are dating look younger and act younger,” he said. “There’s as much adolescent energy around them as there is around teens, but there’s lots more life savvy. It’s neat to watch.”

The rules of dating among seniors can be as dumb and cruel as those in junior high school, however. That’s because they’re the same ones that people followed when they first dated. For example:

* The older they get, the more senior men favor younger women, according to researchers. The new wrinkle is that senior women choose younger men, too, when they can afford them. Going younger has a downside, said Schwartz, the senior relationship expert. “A lot of men and women who’ve done well are afraid they’ll be loved for their money. But then they go out and marry someone 12 years younger and all but assure it.”

* Good men are hard to find. Unmarried women aged 65 to 74 outnumber men of that age by more than two to one, according to the census. And the disparity grows with age. Pickings can be especially slim in rural communities, said Liz Levaro, a doctoral candidate at Oregon State University in Corvalis who’s writing about new romance among the elderly. Her finding: “If a guy’s got his own teeth and can drive and dance, he’s a hottie.”

* The dynamics of sex remain fraught. When the AARP asked divorced 60-plus men what they liked best about being single, 22 percent answered more sex. Just 1 percent of divorced women that age agreed. Brooks, the Internet dating expert, said seniors’ personal ads often were deceptive about sex and commitment: “Women lie about wanting casual relationships. Men lie about wanting long-term ones.”

That senior relationships work out as well as they do is a tribute to people who know a lot about loving. Having leisure and a little money helps, said Robinson, Kunec’s partner. So does living without obligations, she said, free to be herself entirely.

To explain the last, she told a story:

Her late husband, whom she described as a good, smart man, was the family’s only wage-earner, though they worked hard together to advance his career.

Although frugal, he loved to travel, she said, and once conceived a trip to Ireland that involved swapping houses with a family there.

She located an interested Irish family and they were set to go until a change in regulations on traveling pets made it impossible for Bridey Anne Murphy, the Robinsons’ Kerry blue terrier, to accompany them.

They couldn’t go without the dog, her husband declared. When his wife said she had her heart set on it, he countered: “But where will you get the money?”

She had some money due from census canvassing, she recalled. She borrowed the rest from the bank and went.

The two months on her own in Ireland were magical, she said, not least because, after a lifetime of being someone’s child or wife or mother, she was free to be herself.

“Now I feel like I’m in Ireland every day,” she said.


Guys, marriages and eHarmony…

Back in January 2006, I wrote a blog post that said eHarmony claimed 90 singles a day were marrying because of eHarmony.  This article below says the numbers are now 236 people marrying a day who met on eHarmony.  I’m not a big fan of eHarmony, but you can’t argue with success.  What are the stats for Match.com and Yahoo! Personals?

eHarmony says its goal is not just to find users dates—It wants them to get married. In fact, the company claims that 236 people a day in the U.S. are married as a result of meeting through their site.

Part of a comment on OnlinePersonalsWatch by Evan Chase:

...while some men find eHarmony a pain in the butt due to all its hoops in guided communication, I actually like it and find it a must have for men dating online.

It’s actually more efficient due to the fact that you don’t have to be creative about your answers until long in to the communication process. How many different ways can you answer, “Your Idea of adventure is?”


Economic realities and dating

A tightening economy is putting the pinch on dating in Britain, and probably here in the old USA.  Read about how our single friends in England are doing with less in their dating budgets. 

Credit Crunches Cupid’s Arrow

LONDON, July 21 /PRNewswire/ --

- Spend on Love Hits All Time Low as Men Expected to Pick up the Bill
- PARSHIP’s Cost of Love Index, Finds Singles Have Decreased Their Love Shopping Bill by 12%
Spiralling debt, soaring inflation and a stalling housing market are hurting Britain’s 8 million love-seeking singles, according to online dating firm PARSHIP’s annual Cost of Love Index.

In just 12 months British singles’ love “shopping bill” has dropped by 12%. In 2008 singles will spend just GBP11.5 billion in the pursuit of love and happiness, compared to the staggering GBP13.1 billion forked out in 2007. What’s more, the cost of love is likely to hurt men far more than women as singles revert back to traditional dating rituals with the man expected to pay on the first date.

PARSHIP.co.uk’s Love Index found that singles have decreased their spend by GBP207 per year. In 2007 they racked up an all-time high of GBP1647 per person - GBP1008 on nights out on the pull, GBP156 on internet dating services, and a further GBP602 on first dates. However, 2008 has seen the average spend per person drop to just GBP1440.

At the height of the dating boom last year, singles went on seven dates over a 12-month period. 2008 sees a return to more modest dating patterns, with singles clocking up just four dates. Likewise, the cost of a first date has dramatically decreased in the same period from GBP69 in 2007 to GBP48 in 2008. Men now spend GBP49, compared to GBP46 spent by women. All things being equal, you would expect the bill at the end of the evening to be split, however only 40% of women were prepared to go Dutch. No less than 42% now expect the man to pay and only 1% of women would be prepared to pick up the bill, preferring to spend their budget on a new pair of shoes.

Although the average single man now spends GBP146.50 a month in his quest for love, one fifth of men (19%) claim to spend over GBP300, while 9% splash out GBP500 or more. By contrast, only 2% of women are prepared to invest over GBP500 a month in love, with their average spend falling to just GBP93.50, over one third (36%) less than the man.

Dr Victoria Lukats, psychiatrist and PARSHIP’s dating expert, commented:

“The rise of online dating as a way of finding a partner may partly explain the reported reduced spend on an average date. When dating on the internet, people may be less likely to spend excessive amounts of money on a first date - because it’s with someone they’ve never met before. Going out for dinner remains a popular choice for a first date, but more and more people tend to opt for lunch, coffee or a drink in a bar. They opt for a less pressured first date to determine if there’s any chemistry before committing to spending a whole evening together.”

“It’s also interesting, but perhaps unsurprising, that men and women alike still expect either the man to pick up the bill on a first date, or for the bill to be split - rather than the woman being expected to pay. Some may feel this is old-fashioned but it’s far from outdated: previous surveys have repeatedly shown that men rate good looks in a partner more highly than women do, while women rate generosity and income of a partner more highly than men do. While these distinct differences exist, it seems that we’re a long way off from women being just as likely to pick up the bill on a first date. Many men still feel a need to demonstrate their generous side on a first date and figures show that many women are still impressed by this.”

The Cost of Love Index survey of 1,000 British singles seeking a long-term relationship was commissioned by PARSHIP, Europe’s largest serious online dating service for single men and women, which features a unique psychometric compatibility test and a methodology that matches you with people who are genuinely right for you.

Cost of love monthly spend Single Men Single Women GBP50 49% 63% GBP100 20% 23% GBP200 12% 8% GBP300 7% 3% GBP400 3% 1% GBP500 9% 2% Cost of a date Region London GBP61 South GBP56 Midlands & Wales GBP38 North GBP41 Scotland GBP55 Northern Ireland GBP118

Notes to editors:
About the survey
The survey was conducted by Innofact in June 2008 and YouGov in August 2007 with 1,000 British adults over the age of 18.
About Dr Victoria Lukats (http://www.drlukats.com) Dr Victoria Lukats, MBBS MRCPsych MSc is a psychiatrist, agony aunt and dating and expert. Dr Lukats is a Specialist Registrar working in the NHS and dating expert for PARSHIP.
PARSHIP.co.uk is the UK’s largest compatibility-based online dating service, specifically for people who are serious about forming a lasting relationship. It is the British subsidiary of Europe’s most successful serious online dating service, now with millions of members, predominantly affluent, educated men and women between 28 and 55 years old.


DNA Matching to find your True Love?  Sounds bogus to me…

This sounds SO ridiculous to me: Getting matched based on your DNA?  Come on,now, folks.  What does your DNA have to do with love and attraction and long-term relationships?  Don’t get sucked into this one. 

From the Washington Post:

Ok, We Have Our First DNA-Based Dating Service: GenePartner

Tuesday, July 22, 2008; 1:48 AM

It was only a matter of time before someone launched a dating site that looks for potential matches based on DNA compatibility. That time is apparently today with the launch of GenePartner (ok, it’s not the first, but it’s the cheapest).

The Switzerland-based company says they can use a $199 DNA test (compare to $1,000 for 23andMe) to help you find your perfect match, statistically speaking. They’ve analyzed “hundreds of couples” and have determined the genetic patterns found in successful relationships. Based on their algorithm and your DNA, they’ll determine the probability for a satisfying and long-lasting relationship between two people (color me skeptical).

What about romance? Chemistry? That certain je ne sais quoi when you meet someone and get a tingling sensation in your stomach? Forget it. The future of dating is DNA tests and buccal swabs, so get used to it:

A brush for collecting your DNA sample from your saliva ? called a buccal swab kit ? will be sent to your address. Following the simple instructions included with the kit you will gently collect the DNA from the inside of your cheek. Use the addressed envelope supplied for returning the brushes.

GenePartner is looking to partner with dating sites and have those services encourage users to see if they’re a DNA match.

Will they be able to avoid tough emerging U.S. laws around genetic testing? Well, they’re in Switzerland. My guess is they’re not going to be too worried about California and other state laws prohibiting their service.

From the Roanoke Times:

What your DNA can (and can’t) tell you about you

Mehmet and Mike are happily married. No, not to each other. To two wonderful ladies (one each, of course). But if they weren’t and they lived, say, near Boston, a peculiar dating service might arouse their curiosity.

For $1,995.95, a company called ScientificMatch.-com claims that if you crack open its special kit, rub a cotton swab on the insides of your cheeks and ship the swab to its lab, that the company will use the DNA it collects to find your soul mate.

The company examines the genes that relate to your immune system—technically, the genes in your major histocompatibility complex—to match you with another member of the dating service who has a very different MHC makeup.

Studies suggest that people are more likely to feel that romantic lightning-in-a-bottle called “chemistry” when they have genetically dissimilar immune systems. (One theory suggests that blending diverse genes gives children stronger immune systems, so it’s an evolutionary advantage.)

This matchmaking venture is just one of dozens of consumer-based genetic testing services that have popped up in recent years. Many others promise to look into your DNA and tell you whether you’re susceptible to certain medical disorders. For about $1,000 and up (not covered by health insurance), services such as 23andMe, Navigenics, Genelex, deCODE Genetics and others will scan your DNA for gene markers linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, certain cancers and more. Other tests claim to identify nutritional deficiencies and then provide diet advice.

Beyond these pricey services, many over-the-counter DNA test kits are now sold in drugstores for as little as $30. Send in your swab and, for an additional $200 and up, they’ll test your DNA for markers of lupus, sickle cell anemia, depression, glaucoma, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, high blood iron ... the list goes on.

Are they legitimate? In the case of romantic bliss, we have seen the studies linking diverse MHC with sexual attraction in animals and humans.

But we also know that these limited studies—like nearly all research involving genetic testing—probably reveal only a tiny part of a complex process that nobody truly understands yet. So we’d take any advice from ScientificMatch.com (or any other personal DNA-mapping or -matching service) with a grain of salt the size of a Volkswagen.

Gene testing is an amazing tool. Mapping the human genome has yielded powerful new weapons against cancers of the breast, ovaries, colon, prostate and others.

In fact, we have colleagues who refer people for testing for the BRCA 1 and 2 breast-cancer genes every week. For adopted children, gene testing may be the only way to acquire valuable medical information. These tests are conducted by certified laboratories and interpreted by physicians who can help patients decipher and use the findings.

Also, while research has identified genes that contribute to about 1,400 diseases or disorders, so far most of these provide only preliminary clues. And with certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, genetic mutations don’t always mean you’ll get a disease. So you really need a counselor help you interpret the results.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the quality of the counseling you get after using one of these consumer DNA tests. These kits could give you helpful information, or leave you feeling falsely safe or needlessly scared. Before trying one, start with these steps:

n Thoroughly discuss your family medical history with your doctor, going back to your grandparents. This can yield vital information. Counselors should ask for this history; if they don’t, you need a different laboratory and counselor.

n If you decide to go ahead, be sure that the company keeps your test results confidential. A recent federal law prohibits job or health insurance discrimination based on genetic tests, but we’re still in uncharted legal territory.

n Review the test results with your doctor or a certified genetic counselor (ask your doc for a referral), not just a rep from the testing company, especially before buying pricey supplements or additional services.

Comment on posting on OnlinePersonalsWatch:

When you take a healthy objective and critical look at these claims of “chemistry” related to DNA matching, one quickly realizes that there’s nothing substantive there to back them up. In fact, some companies have no grasp of the very research they tout to justify their methods.

However, my team has volunteered pro bono to conduct a real-world test of at least one company’s claims. The double-blind experiment would then be submitted for academic publication. It’s disappointing, but not that surprising, that this particular company desperately avoided this offer.

Interested reporters are encouraged to contact me for full details.

As an industry insider and respected compatibility researcher, my professional opinion is that consumers should stay away from DNA dating (and save money on these costly services) until real-world validation studies on their services prove they actually predict relationship quality.


James Houran, Ph.D.


What do people lie about online?  BeNaughty.com weighs in…

Here’s a very interesting survey by a British dating site about what singles like about.  A whopping 29% lied about the level of their debt!  I rarely hear about debt as being of concern.  Most folks get angry about lies that concern looks, like old photos or guys who say they are taller than they are.  Maybe Brits worry less about being over 6 feet—this survey says only 5% lie about height anyway. What’s the purpose of a lie about height, when anyone can tell on a first meeting?  Come to think of it, debt likely is easier to hide. 

BeNaughty.com Survey Exposes Britain’s Top Fibs

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Britain’s top fibs exposed in BeNaughty.com survey.

1. Debt (29%)

2. Smoking/drinking (28%)

3. Weight (24%)

4. Number of sexual partners (14%)

5. Age (13%)

6. Salary (11%)

7. Fidelity (9%)

8. Hobbies (8%)

9. Job/employment (8%)

10. Education/qualifications (7%)

11. Travel experience (5%)

12. Height (5%)

13. Where you live (5%)

14. Physical endowments (4%)

The number one thing we lie about in the UK is our own personal level of debt, according to a new national survey into our biggest fibs.

The Truth Be Told survey, commissioned by online dating site http://www.benaughty.com, revealed that nearly a third (29%) of the 1,028 people between 16 and 64 that were interviewed said they lied about how much money they owe*.

Running a close second (28%) of the things people lied most about was how much we drink and smoke.

And third in the benaughty.com survey, with just under a quarter of votes (24%), were lies about how much we weigh.

Number of sexual partners comes fourth in the list (14%), while a person’s age is fifth (13%).

Surprisingly, the thing both men and women lied about least was the size of their physical endowments.

Men versus Women – who are the biggest liars?

While just one in seven men lie about their weight, the figure leaps to more than one in three women.

The benaughty.com survey also reveals women lie slightly more than men when it comes to debt (30% compared to 28%), and are similar when lying about their smoking and drinking habits (28% and 27%).

Max Polyakov, EasyDate Ltd chief operating officer, said: “I admit I was surprised by the results of our survey because to be honest I expected most people to say they lied about their age or their educational qualifications.

“People must feel pretty ashamed of their financial situation or how much they drink or smoke if they feel the need to lie about it. These are really important things and honesty between people is really very important for relationships to survive and develop.”

http://www.benaughty.com will offer its website users the opportunity to compare themselves against the survey results, to see how they compare with the various national and regional trends.

Notes to editors

*Research conducted by TNS OnLineBus among 1,028 GB adults aged 16-64.

Interviewing was by CAWI over the internet between 24 and 26 June 2008.


Canadians get on the dating bandwagon

Lookin’ for love

Sarah Treleaven
For Canwest News Service

It can be tough to meet people to love. You run through most of your attractive single acquaintances by the time you reach your mid-30s. Getting set up through friends involves an uncomfortable accountability factor. And, in the case of one woman I know, dating men your mother meets in the supermarket gets stale after awhile.

So, a growing number of Canadians, mostly between the ages of 35 and 50, are willing to pay—up to thousands of dollars—for services such as online dating, speed dating, singles groups and matchmakers.

Why don’t they just throw all of their money at a bartender and hope for the best?

Kim Hughes, editor-in-chief of international online dating site Lavalife, says there are two key reasons that people pay to date: efficiency and customized searches. “If you’re looking for a Portuguese-speaking Methodist who’s university-educated and a non-smoking Virgo, we can help you find that person,” says Hughes. “You could meet someone in a bar, but it’s very time consuming.”

Julie Oden and Doug Fry, a couple in Toronto who are getting married next month, met two years ago on eHarmony, an online matchmaking service. Oden, 33, says that she liked the ability to focus on singular personality traits. “You can tell a lot about a man from how comfortable he is talking about his animals,” she says. “In Doug’s case, there wasn’t a profile picture because he was in the middle of changing it, or so he says.

“But he talked incessantly about his dog in his profile.” If the online scene doesn’t appeal to you, there are other options. It depends on how much you want to pay to find love—or at least a few awkward nights on the town.


It’s Just Lunch (IJL) is a matchmaking service that works with upscale restaurant partners. You can buy 14 lunch, brunch or post-work drink dates as part of a $1,995 one-year membership. Christine Morela, who owns IJL franchises in Calgary and Edmonton, says that the matching process starts with an hour-long interview to assess hobbies, employment status and dating preferences. The total pool of clients between the two cities is 1,500, but Morela concedes that she sometimes comes across hopeful daters she can’t match. “Some religious preferences we just can’t accommodate,” she says.

Those without jobs or who lack a driver’s licence, are also hard to match and are weeded out by Linda Miller’s Ottawa-based matchmaking service, Misty River Introductions. “It’s hard to date on public transport; it’s not that attractive,” says Miller, a clinical psychologist who has a pool of 10,000 clients in Ontario and Quebec.

Miller says that the personal attention of a matchmaker can make all the difference in finding the right person. “We do that screening process so you know that people live where they say they live, work where they say they work, look like their picture and are the age and height they’re supposed to be,” she says, adding that many of her clients come to her with online dating fatigue.

Singles groups

If you think you may be the “common denominator,” you may have better luck with a more casual singles service, such as Meet Market Adventures. According to Sam Gruszecki, director of strategic initiatives for the Toronto-based service, Meet Market is a “pay-as-you-play” model with no membership fee, but individual fees are charged for each event. Meet Market organizes approximately 35 to 45 events (including whitewater rafting, hang gliding, pub crawls and board game nights) every month for 50,000 members in the Toronto area.

The fees range from $19.99 for a speed networking night to $299 for scuba lessons. Meet Market also offers the opportunity for travel, including a $40,000 nine-month cruise around the world.

But what if you get stuck with duds? Meet Market doesn’t balance for gender or screen for compatibility, so there is a possibility that your dream cruise could turn out to be more like a holiday nightmare.

If scuba diving isn’t your idea of fun, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto has been offering a high-brow option for more than 20 years.

The ROM’s monthly Connecting Singles program offers a wine and hors d’oeuvres mingling event coupled with a lecture on a timely topic such as global warming. Each event costs $65 for non-members, $60 for members and is attended by 100 to 175 people.

Conrad Biernacki, programs manager for the ROM, says that a singles event at a museum allows for a certain amount of pre-selection. “If you like art and dinosaurs you’ll find similar people here. Isn’t that what a matching service does?”

Speed dating

If you prefer to get the introductions over with as quickly as possible, you could be a good candidate for speed dating.

These events give you the opportunity to meet up to a dozen prospects in a single evening without having to spend more than eight minutes trying to appear interested in each one.

Justin Parfitt was single and looking to improve on existing speed-dating models when he founded his company, FastLife, in Australia in 2003. “The competitors were all in not-great bars with carpets that smelled of beer and no one had really made an effort,” says Parfitt, who is now based in Toronto and has expanded his business into Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, the U.K. and China.

Parfitt responded by founding a somewhat swish, invitation-only method of speed dating where participants are grouped with others deemed potentially compatible. Niche events include speed dating for wine enthusiasts, foodies and world travellers; the price of a standard event is $79 and includes an open bar. In the past two years, more than 20,000 Canadians have used FastLife’s services and Parfitt claims 90 per cent of clients walk out of an event with at least one match.

A match?

Clearly, there are plenty of options for the unlucky in love, but do any of them work? Online dating services are tight-lipped about long-term matches, but eHarmony recently released a study claiming that on any given day in the United States, 236 couples who met through their service are getting married.

Speed dating and singles groups such as the ROM’s Connecting Singles, FastLife and Meet Market have some anecdotal evidence of successful long-term matches—