No, not in some icky, physical way. This is a kind of spiritual heart meld between us and Dr. Neil Clark Warren, that kindly white-haired fellow behind eHarmony.com.
Love cherubs and soul mates
It's not just that he empowers people with the knowledge and inspiration needed to grow and strengthen their most important relationships for a lifetime of happiness. It's not just that the couples in his ads are such love cherubs and soul mates. It's not even that his questionnaire is based on Christian principles.
It's just that he's so nice, and so smiley and friendly and totally sincere (-looking). His service doesn't just computer match; it measures 29 dimensions of compatibility, making eHarmony the Certified Used Vehicle of the industry.
We so want to trust you, Dr. Neil. You brought Mary and Lyle together. You brought Darryl and Lisa together. If we were ever in the market for a relationship -- which we never will be, because, well, let's just say we're maxed out -- we'd like to think you could bring us and Salma together. (By the way, do you by any chance do three-part eHarmony? If so, we'd settle for zero dimensions of compatibility.)
In short, we've been darn near seduced by eHarmony's True Romance fantasy, which we mention because today's actual subject is the good doctor's biggest competitor, Match.com.
That's also an online dating service, and a big one, and it sure does take a different tack.
No cutesie-wootsie love cherubs here. Just the opposite -- but not in the sense of, say, cleaving closer to online reality. There's no point for any of these services to dwell on the real e-yenta landscape, populated as it is with the discarded, the discouraged, the dysfunctional, the disreputable and often enough the disfigured. No, Match.com is different simply by virtue of the type of fantasy it portrays. Forget the cheerful, pleasant-looking, ordinary folks who can scarcely believe their low expectations have been marginally exceeded.
Match.com gives you a gallery of memorable singles wayyyyyy out of your class and invites you to gawk.
Blonde and voluptuous
There's CuteBritChick, blonde and voluptuous, supine and giggly. There's Danishbeauty22, tall and Nordic, decked out in an evening gown and interrupting an imperfect opera scale to mutter eccentrically about her hem. She's Annie Hall with just a pinch of Christine Jorgenson. We also meet LaSirena7, a latter-day Holly Golightly, a ravishing free spirit skittering to and fro on wobbly roller blades. Salma, is that you?
The tagline: "It's OK to look."
OK, we're looking. These women are fascinating. But there should be a second line, too. Something like: "Results not typical."
Because, let's face it ...
Sure, strictly speaking, the promise here isn't that you're going to get matched up with the impossibly enchanting, larger-than-life seductress of your dreams. The promise is merely that on Match.com, you get to browse for one, and you just never know. If eHarmony is pitching certified used cars, Match.com is showing lottery commercials. You've got to play to win.
But in the end, the problem with these ads is the same one that tragically undermines dear, sweet Dr. Neil: shameless puffery. The experience advertised has nothing to do with what will happen to you. You are pretty much destined not to have a lifetime of happiness with LaSirena. Most likely you'll get paired again and again with an unenchanting loser who herself resorted to puffery in her profile.
Which, in all probability, you did too.
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Review: 2 stars
Agency: Hanft Raboy & Partners
Location: New York