5 ways to meet your mate

Get the skinny on dating options that could work for you

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A love guru once told me that both men and women seek the same thing: someone special to share their lives with. But the solution doesn’t come in one bowl of cinnamon hearts. We need options and we’re getting some. I talked to women in the Chatelaine.com forums and others “in the scene” to put together this survey of some new and old ways to find some lovin’:

· Internet dating
· Dating services
· Sports clubs
· Bars + clubs
· Personals

Internet dating

Whether it’s 3 a.m. in their pjs or lunch hour in their business suits, many singletons are logging in for love.

The lure

It’s easy. All you need is an Internet connection and you can post a personal profile, and if you want, attach a picture. At many online dating companies, if another dater responds, you get the message in an online inbox that’s set up when you register. There’s no exchange of personal e-mails or information unless it’s done in private conversations. You pay to respond to an ad or you can send a response collect–the object of your attraction may or may not choose to pay for it. Costs: $9.95 to $49.95 per month. You can set up a free trial account at most Internet dating sites, including Match.com, Lavalife.com and American Singles.

The hook

There are plenty of success stories. Some people have found love and even marriage, while others have found good friends. “Idawmn” from the Chatelaine.com Passions forum met her American husband in the MSN 40s online chat room. They even used Web cameras and headsets to get to know each other better. Online dater, Laura, became such good friends with another dater that she became his roommate. “I love to date,” she says, “talking to so many different kinds of people online is great.”

The snags

Safety can be an issue. Many dating sites provide tips and suggestions surrounding your personal security such as not revealing your phone number, last name or where you work. If you decide to meet your online date in person, tell someone where you’re going and make sure it’s a crowded place.

Plus, watch out for dishonesty. “Some people are insecure about something and then they overcompensate for it,” says Laura. “It always becomes obvious when you meet them.” When she met one online date, Laura discovered the picture he posted online was from about 20 years ago.

Dating services

A host of organized dating services are popping up in larger centres across the country, offering everything from speed dating to dinner parties.

The lure

Most services have easy online registration for events. Many offer socials, where an equal number of single men and women get together for an activity such as learning to salsa or going on a walking tour. One company, Social Scene (currently in Toronto with plans to expand across the country), offers “starters” where a group of approximately 10 men and 10 women meet in pairs over coffee for eight minutes each (read One night, nine dates to get more details). For something more intimate, the company offers “soirées” or dinner parties with eight other men and women with similar interests. Cost: varies depending on the group activity; at Social Scene starters are $49, soirées are $35 plus the cost of the meal.

The hook

“I got to meet some interesting people,” says Nathalie, one Social Scene participant. “I think the great part about it was that people were expecting to be approached, so we were able to talk to almost everyone there without any pressure.” Penny, who also attended a Social Scene event, enjoyed it, too. “I met a great guy at the party. We ended up going out for coffee that same night and plan to go out again.” While cost can be a deterrent, it also means that only people who can afford it attend–usually professionals. Variety is another bonus–if you don’t feel comfortable with one kind of event you can try another.

The snags

You’re limited to the number of people that sign up for your event. One customer, Julie, said that she found the events she attended weren’t diverse enough for her taste. If you get a night where no one peaks your interest, you’re out of luck.

Sports clubs

How about hitting the beach for love? There are sport and social clubs offering organized beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee, snowboarding and more popping up all over the country. Rumour is, they offer a great place to meet your mate.

The lure

Do an online search for a club near you and sign up for an activity. Usually, you can join a group sport as an individual and get assigned to a team. You’re often guaranteed a mix of men and women on your team since most clubs are co-ed. Cost: about $75 for a 12-week season.

The hook

“There aren’t many places where you can get together in a relaxed atmosphere that’s casual,” explains Lisa Edgar, a coordinator at the Toronto East Sport and Social Club (TESSC). The team spirit adds an element of closeness you don’t find as easily in other potential dating environments. “Lots of people get together romantically through us, but we also have couples, brothers, sisters, you name it,” says Edgar. And if you don’t find a mate, at least you’re getting exercise.

The snags

Sports aren’t for everyone, but don’t be intimidated if you feel your skill isn’t up to snuff–sports clubs such as Vancouver Sport offer beginner to competitive levels and everyone is welcome.

Bars + clubs

From the beginning, guys have been putting on their best cologne and women have been zipping up their hottest outfits for excursions to bars and clubs. We all know the drill: pick-up lines, dancing and plenty of drinks.

The lure

You find these establishments on every corner. If you’re looking for dancing–especially contact dancing–consider a salsa, country or R & B club. For conversation, go to a pub. Cost: cover charges for clubs vary from around $10 to 12. In cities, many salsa clubs offer lessons for around $5 to 10.

The hook

It’s all about judgment and luck. I met a guy in a club and plan to marry him this summer, two years later. He was on vacation and having some fun. It wouldn’t have mattered where I met him, he was adorable and perfect for me.

The snags

Bad pick-up lines and the danger of too much alcohol. Use your judgment.

Personals

A simple personal ad has been known to get the job done.

The lure

It’s cheap! Browse through the newspaper, magazines or free entertainment weeklies at your local coffee shop and reply to an ad that moves you. Or place an ad yourself, then sit back and wait. Cost: It varies–sometimes you have to pay to place the ad or sometimes it’s free and people pay a few dollars to respond.

The hook

As opposed to the Internet, where it takes only a couple of minutes to register, people generally spend their time composing personal ads. A compelling ad can attract a number of interesting prospects. Two regulars in the Chatelaine.com forums admit they met their husbands by responding to ads that intrigued them.

The snags

Again, good judgment and a filter system should be in full effect.