My son recently married a woman who, in another age, would have been called "a mail-order bride." And my granddaughter seems to have found the love of her life via the Internet. Sounds dehumanizing, doesn't it? Or at least a throwback to a system of matchmaking engineered by parents with the aid of professional matchmakers.
Yet when I look at it more carefully, I wonder if it isn't a reasonably efficient way to find a mate when one's local community has failed its socializing responsibilities.
Kids don't meet in church anymore. They don't even go to church. While yet in school, they and their pals are too young for marriage, and on graduation, they scatter to the four corners of the earth. Then at work, they are kept too busy or are actually discouraged from romantic involvements or any boy-meets-girl activities.
My son tells me that he found his wife through an ad in a magazine called "Island Girl," a publication designed to help Filipino women find American husbands. Liking what he saw, and also thoroughly discouraged in his search for a woman he could love in his own hometown, he wrote to the magazine asking for the address of the woman whose picture and description beguiled him.
In response, for the sum of $40, he was sent information on how to get in touch with her. There then followed six months of correspondence between the two, with growing mutual interest as the letters revealed more and more of the personality and interests of each. Finally, he flew to the Philippines to meet her in person. Within the week, they were engaged and set about making arrangements for her to come back to the United States.
There is a fiancee visa that allows a U.S. citizen to bring his foreign-born fiancee home, provided that they marry within ninety days of arrival in the United States. If they do not marry within that time limit, the immigrant must return to her native country.
This sounds a bit like: "Try it on for size, and if it fits, keep it; if not, return it"...or some such merchandising gimmick. But for my son and his wife, it worked. When I saw them last summer, they were as delighted with each other as any two lovers could be. All in all, I think that they made a good choice, even if arrived at by an unconventional route.
As for my granddaughter who became friends with a man she "met" on the Internet, this too has worked out happily. From their Internet communications they found that they shared similar likes and dislikes, had compatible views on life. They deserted the Net for Ma Bell and found they liked the sound of each other's voice. So they agreed to meet at her family's cottage on Cape Breton and spend their vacation discovering if they had anything "going" for them-she traveling from Arizona and he from New Jersey. Presto, it was love at first sight.
Now how could these two have ever found each other through conventional means?
I've had a number of patients use the "personal" ads in local newspapers in their search for a compatible partner-some successfully and others not. For them, fee-charging services produced no better results than direct personal ads. One woman of 49 (an age at which it is hard to find a partner) had 39 answers to the ad she placed, one of whom turned out to be a man she came to love and marry.
Business and professional conferences in Shangri-la places often attract mature people whose motives in attending are not solely the sharing of professional information. They are also keeping their eyes open for a potential lover who may, or may not, turn into a permanent marital partner whose interests will parallel their own. Too often such attendees have suffered through previous marriages that didn't succeed primarily because of lifestyles and interests that were not compatible.
I don't think that the planners of such conferences have mating in mind as they prepare their programs, but it must lurk in the background of some of their minds when they choose the romantic locales and the social inducements for potential conferees. At any rate, such conferences must rate very high on the list of ways to meet a partner.
Certainly we know that with today's mobile population, it is hard for individuals to connect within those institutions that have traditionally fostered friendships that could blossom into mating. So welcome to the modern versions of matchmaking, even though some of them may seem crassly commercial.
About the author: Dr. Hamilton, a retired psychologist and sex therapist, is the author of five books and a recipient of the Amercian Library Association award. Her television appearances include "The Phil Donahue Show," "The Merv Griffin Show," and "The Tonight Show."