Matchmakers, Matchmakers, Making a Mint

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By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Really, you can't hurry love? Oh, and money can't buy it?

Don't tell that to the army of consultants working tirelessly to bring bliss to Washington's long-suffering lonely hearts.

For a fee, of course.

This is the fifth-best city for singles, according to a recent report by Forbes magazine. It's also a first-rate city for very-busy-and-important types who have high standards, healthy bank accounts, and limited patience for the wearying efforts that dating can entail. Little wonder then that so many romance entrepreneurs have rushed to the rescue.

Now available locally: a scribe to dash off a personal essay for your online profile ($150); a wingman to cruise the aisles of Macy's with you while you practice pickup lines on strangers ($50 an hour, two-hour minimum); a personal dating coach to refine your approach to finding that special someone (three-month one-on-one immersion program, $5,000).

Forget how Grandpa met Grandma. This is Romance 2008: outsourcing available. And even as the economy teeters, finding love is still, to many, worth the investment.

Here and across the nation, in myriad strange and sympathetic ways, a full-service dating industry has bloomed in recent years promising to assist lovelorn souls in that age-old quest for companionship.

The roots of the industry's rise? Frayed social ties in a time marked by hyperconnectivity and increased isolation.

People work more, know their neighbors less. They leave home towns full of family and friends in exchange for cities rife with interesting opportunities but few connections. They are tied to, and reliant on, technology -- which has indelibly altered the way humans interact. It was only a few years ago that online dating was considered a realm of the nebbish and needy. Today an estimated 120,000 marriages a year result from Internet matches, according to Online Dating Magazine.

"By your late 20s, many people are not willing to stand around in a bar all night . . . and they've met everybody they would've met through their office mates," says Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist. "So they're turning to new ways to do this same old thing, which is: find love."

"We address a problem, which is the dating and relationship culture that exists today," explains Jae Ellis, co-founder of AskRomeo, a Reston-based coaching company that runs dating workshops that can lead to those Macy's flirting sessions.

And in a nation that relies on personal trainers and wardrobe consultants, outsourcing the search for love isn't all that surprising.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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