ILLUSTRATION BY PETER OUMANSKI

In Search of a Soulmate

In 1980, many years before online dating was available, I walked into a Great Expectations office, a video dating service in Westwood Village, to accompany my fifty-five-year-old cousin while she took the plunge into dating after a thirty-year marriage. As we entered, Jeffrey Ullman, the founder of the company was there to greet us. He was adamant when he told my cousin that there would be few prospects for her, and her chances of finding a match would be slim to none.

“But on the other hand,” he said, looking at me, “you are perfect for our services.” He ushered us into the library, a room that held hundreds of three-ring binders filled with member profiles. It didn’t take us long to realize why the several men and women sitting in front of these books had spread them out with the back cover facing upward. This was to view the photos first before reading the profile. Of course. Who in their right mind would want to read a bio before checking out a face and body in advance?

I wanted to run. After all, I was there for Barbara, not myself. I didn’t know anyone who had ever sought this type of service. I didn’t know anyone who even entered a chatroom or solicited the help of a matchmaker. But this man was convincing when he told me how sure he was that there would be someone special for me to meet if only I’d give Great Expectations a fair chance.

At this point, Jeff Ullman advised that he would not be putting my profile or tape out for public view because he was afraid I would be overwhelmed by the amount of requests I would receive because of my attractive profile and interesting tape. I never really understood why he thought this would happen to me, especially when I saw the profiles of all the actresses and models, but I assumed it was because I would be considered more approachable.

The back
The front

The day after signing up and paying a very steep membership fee, I spent several hours searching through the books and sitting in a booth watching personal videos, after which I walked up to a staff member and declared that I had only found three men that I would be interested in meeting. Quite a shaky start when there were several hundred male members.

All three of the men responded to my requests and were given my phone number. I recall being so nervous before my first date that I put a bottle of white wine in the refrigerator to chill so that I could take a bit of the edge off before my date arrived. An hour later when I opened the refrigerator to retrieve the bottle, I found I had put my iron in the refrigerator instead!

None of the three dates went all that well. None of the men were anything more than just attractive faces with no real substance behind the facades. Perhaps I should have gone back to read profiles before looking at pictures. Or maybe I should tell the Great Expectations staff to uncover my profile and tape. I decided to do the latter.

I was totally unprepared for the craziness of the next thirty days, as I had received over 250 requests in just the first two weeks, which meant that I had no time to do anything other than to sit hour after hour, day after day reading profiles and watching tapes. At this point, I was glancing at faces, skimming profiles and carefully selecting the tapes I had time to view.

Over the course of six months, and going on an average of two dates a week, I met approximately fifty eligible men. Many were bright, witty and interesting, but I never felt the attraction and connection which would have interested me beyond a first date. During this same time period, while I was working as a court reporter and meeting new people on a daily basis, I met two men I found appealing. One was married, and the other was the one I would marry seven months later. I said goodbye to Jeffrey Ullman by taking my profile and wrapping it to present to my fiance with a ribbon tied neatly around the box.

A little over twenty years later, at the age of my cousin when she was rejected by Great Expectations, I signed up for eHarmony, an online dating service. Its founder, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, declares “There’s always a better way to do things” and goes on to state: “If people were based on compatibility, there’d be more fulfilling relationships in the world. The numbers don’t lie either — 438 people get married everyday as a result of eHarmony’s compatibility matching. And the rest is history.”

Yep, history! So I signed up and met the man I would later marry through eHarmony. I really believed I had met Mr. Right this time, especially since we were also “matched” on Match.com, but regrettably, we couldn’t have been more wrong for each other.

It seems I’ve been spending most of my life in search of my soulmate — the one who would complete me and make me whole, but I finally figured out I was looking in the wrong direction until I found myself.


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You can find more stories by Danna Colman here.

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