Sitting opposite me in a sparsely furnished office in the Heights, a comely young woman named Nidia Lopez had just delivered the painful news that my application for membership in Events and Adventures, a national singles dating service, had been rejected. That stung—I mean, I’d been rejected by dates before, but dating services?
I’d been inspired to apply after hearing the company’s radio spot, which promised 30–50 monthly events for singles, from rock climbing to jet skiing. Dialing the number in the ad, I was told by a representative (the company’s based in Washington state) that I needed to go to a local Events and Adventures “clubhouse” and submit to an hour-long interview. Thus, Nidia.
She began by telling me that I was “a handsome man”—promising enough—before proceeding to grill me on my dating history and what I hoped to get out of my Events and Adventures experience. I told her I was hoping to get a girlfriend, and also an article about the Houston dating scene for Houstonia. Nidia looked at me. “Most people come here for a legitimate reason,” she said, sounding rattled.
“What does the service cost,” I asked, suddenly realizing I was on a date with Events and Adventures and it wasn’t going too well; hence the instinct to redirect. Nidia told me that she couldn’t discuss fees until I’d been invited to join the Events and Adventures club, which hadn’t happened yet. I told Nidia that I couldn’t join a club until I knew the fees. Again, she looked at me, finally divulging that the monthly charge was roughly $100 to $175 depending on the club member, plus fees for activities, of which each member was expected to participate in two per week minimum.
I told her that readers would be grateful for any further details she might provide, which reminded Nidia that I had readers, and therefore an illegitimate reason for visiting Events and Adventures. She quickly wrapped up the interview. “Based on what you’ve told me, I won’t be able to offer you admission to the club,” she said. “Your goals aren’t a good match for our members.”
And just like that, my date with Events and Adventures was over. I’ve been on a string of such bad dates lately—with dating services, I mean. A few years ago, all I had to do was sign up for OkCupid, create a profile, upload some photographs, answer some leading questions (“Is it okay for a girl to talk openly about her sexual exploits?”)—and bam, dates aplenty. Of course, that was OkCupid–New York City, the place to be single in America, as anyone who’s watched a sitcom will tell you. The only thing OkCupid–Houston ever gave me was crickets. Reluctantly, I turned to paid dating sites.
Despite eHarmony’s claims that 565,000 men had married women they’d met through its service, I was persona non grata for months. I did finally get a few dates after following a fellow-subscriber’s suggestion to tweak my profile (changing my political orientation to “Moderate,” my smoking history to “Never,” and my religious beliefs to “Agnostic”). Unhappily, these dates were with nonsmoking agnostic moderates. I moved on to Match.com.
Soon I found myself invited to one of the website’s “Stir” events, where, in exchange for a $5 fee, a colleague and I were given access to 30 souls milling around a private party room at El Big Bad downtown. We were also given icebreaker questions (mine: “If you didn’t have your current job, what alternate career would you pursue?”).
Despite this unpromising start, I soon found myself talking to Gina, an elementary school teacher. She was fun, attractive too, and best of all we seemed to hit it off. The conversation was easy, the hours flew by, the world disappeared. In the blink of an eye, the mixer had ended and El Big Bad’s party room was shutting down. I had to leave, sadly. Still, things were looking up. At least I was being kicked out of a club I wanted to be in.