The meeting game, as any confirmed old spinster of 23 will tell you, is the toughest part of the mating game. How to meet The One. Every year more young Canadians are finishing their education and moving into the big, fluid, impersonal cities, alone. Typically, they move into apartment complexes whose aura of residential togetherness is an illusion. Given the mobile nature of today’s society the turnover is so rapid that newcomers rarely get to know each other — or care to. How then is love to find a way?
The answer seems to be that new matchmaking mechanisms arc emerging to help the young people find each other, while the rules of the meeting game are changing in some interesting ways. For one thing, women are becoming openly instead of secretly active players. “One can wait forever for love’s young dream to arrive on one's doorstep,” says one of love's young pragmatists in Vancouver who doesn't intend to. Old standards, old scruples and preludes — The Introduction, for example — are starting to crumble like quaint gargoyles under a wrecking hammer. But it’s a slow process.
Singles parties — what are singles parties? I hey are the newest wrinkle in the meeting game. They are recurrent parties set up by bunches of bachelors — sometimes for profit, usually just for fun — to which young men and women come alone for the purpose of meeting each other. They started 10 years ago in New York, are catching on in Toronto and Montreal, and are pretty well unheard of in the rest of Canada.
“They are the best way of meeting lots and lots of members of the opposite sex, object matrimony, steady dating, occasional dating or whatever,” says a young Toronto receptionist. “The great thing about them is that a girl needn't sit home on the weekend if she doesn't have a date. Nobody feels uneasy about going stag. Bringing a date along would just defeat the purpose.”
The Pink Panther's Place is an intrepid apartment in Toronto — currently it is above a hairdresser's on Church Street. Nobody lives there. It was set up by nine bachelors, most of them in their 3()s, for the purpose of throwing parties. Each pays about $20 a month for rent and incidentals. Party guests don't pay admission, but the men bring along a bottle.
The grand opening of the new Pink Panther's Place. The press releases have gone out (“A group of what could be Toronto’s most eligible bachelors have joined forces and created an ideal setting for entertaining on a large scale”), netting a photographer from the Daily Star. The purple, printed invitations have gone out, apparently to people who have got on some master singles-parties list, netting maybe 75 guests in evening dress, a half dozen more women than men. The decor of the place is sort of Vic Tanny Mediterranean: cherry wall-to-wall carpeting, gold wallpaper and other elegant stuff. The music is big beat. It is clearer than at most parties that the guests are providing the basic attraction: each other. Communication is easy. “Mind if I talk to you?” is, among the Panthers, a devilishly effective opener.
“We are all extroverts,” Charles Golombek is saying. Charles is an insurance man who drives a Mercedes-Benz 300-SL Gullwing Coupe and who distributed the last invitation late this afternoon by driving along Bloor Street and accosting the best-looking woman he could find. He told her about the party, gave her the invitation and burbled off in the 300-SL, and damned if she isn’t here. We started this thing almost five years ago,” Charles says, “and now there arc only two original Panthers — Gerald Mason and I — holding the fort." He means that the other original members and some later ones, about 30 altogether, have dropped out after getting married, mostly to girls they met at Panther parties.
That ice-breaking first hello—in an apartment-house laundry room, or anywhere else—calls for “a delicate balance between daring and discretion”
Gerald Mason, a civil engineer, is here. So are most of the other current Panthers, some occupied with one girl, some assiduously tending the wallflowers. They are Martin Sussman, who is “in diamonds”; Helmut Julinot, a consulting professional engineer; Barry Dykes, who deals in motion-picture equipment; Robert Ryan, who has just launched his own movie company; John Evelyn, a racing driver; and Randall Mungcr, the co-founder of something called Market Maid Advertising. Most of the members are Europeans — native-born Canadians are not, generally speaking, actively involved in changing the rules of the meeting game.
A public-relations man and his wife are here. He says he was one of the original Panthers. She says she met him “sort of” through the Panthers but . . . well it is a very complicated subject. “These parties are free and easy,” somebody says, “sort of an extension of the campus scene. They serve as a catalyst to the gregarious ...”
Monday is the crudest day. On Monday morning 1,180,032 unmarried Canadians over 24 wake up, and some of them have just spent crummy weekends, not having met anybody interesting. Enough of these frustrated bachelors and spinsters decide to do something about it to make Monday the busiest day of the week for the marriage brokers.
Actually, “marriage broker" is a generic term to which most of the 20 or so professional matchmaking services in Canada strenuously object. They are scientifically oriented. Besides, it’s popular these days to promise dates, not mates. The biggest national service is Operation Checkmate, which claims that the odds against finding your ideal date are 679,857 to one — unless, that is, you purchase the services of the Checkmate computer for $10. Clients answer a three-page questionnaire (sample: “What is the maximum acceptable weight level of your date?”) and are promised at least three “compatible” names and telephone numbers.
Some of the computer agencies got started as campus organizations. An engineering student with an interest in computer programming and a pal in first-year psychology would organize a “computer dance.” It is quite easy to program a computer for age, height and a few other basic factors. Still, the campus computers did some funny things. One Harvard man was matched with 264 girls because he had a red sports car and had inherited some money.
The University of Calgary’s Cupid Computer program (application fee: three dollars) set up one attractive nursing student with 104 “compatible dates.” The University of Toronto's computer (fee: five dollars) matched a male student with his sister. Dr. Vernon Seri of the University of Calgary theorizes that the use of computers as matchmakers “is an extension of our scientific, technologically based society. We are making use of the one thing in which we excel — technology. 1 don't think that this use will extend beyond a certain level of the middle class, which has traditionally been concerned with mating, marriage and having children.”
There is a service in Vancouver, the Commonwealth Marriage Bureau, that claims well over 200 happy marriages in more than a decade of operation. This is no flighty dating bureau — triflers are deterred by the comprehensive registration form. The director, Mrs. Lin Brown, may well be the Mary Worth of Canadian matchmakers. Says she, in advancing the bureau’s humanistic as well as scientific approach to coupling (e.g., an exchange of pictures) : It takes both heaven and earth to make marriages.”
The most interesting marriage brokerage in Canada is the Scientific Introduction Centre, which is headquartered in Toronto with a branch in Ottawa and correspondence services in the west and the Maritimes. The centre doesn't even use a computer—-
just an old-fashioned sortting machine. It’s expensive. too. It charges a standard fee of $175 (although lower rates are offered to women under 25), and employs eight qualified social scientists to screen and assess clients, who are put through a battery of psychological tests.
There are self - exposing sentence-completion questions such as "Her loins ..." and "My sex life is normal but . . . ," a sexknowledge test, a personality - inventory test and more tests to reveal interests. marital-role expectations and affinity for marriage. The centre makes no promises but undertakes to provide each client with a minimum of five "introductions" per year. It claims between 80 and 90 marriages in less than three years of operation.
Present clients number about 600.
"There have been no separations or divorces that we know of,” says Mrs. Gertrude Neiger, the centre's shrewd, attractive, Austrian - born executive director. Mrs. Neiger met her own husband, a clinical psychologist, through a marriage broker in Europe.
She believes that common interests, views and personality patterns are keys to a successful marriage.
"It is very easy for two people to become physically attracted.” she says ominously. "T he best time to consider other factors is before they meet."
The people who use the Scientific Introduction Centre tend to be educated professionals, executives, technicians, nurses, secretaries and teachers. They are often somewhat introverted and not overly sociable — at the opposite extreme from the Pink Panthers. Most of them are deeply involed in their work. Typically. they prefer outdoor life and cultural pursuits to nightlife.
The hardest clients to satisfy arc teachers. "They find it hard to adjust to the essential need to compromise,” says Mrs. Neiger. "Both male and teníale teachers have the highest expectations and all kinds of extremely irrelevant specifications anti qualifications." The hardest group to attract to the service is the female civil service corps in Ottawa. “Ottawa is supposed to be swamped with women.” says Mrs. Neiger. "Our Ottawa branch is swamped with men. Ottawa women seem to be conservative, cautious and suspicious. Ottawa men believe in the idea but the women are too embarrassed or afraid. They have the civil-service mentality. Ottawa men like Toronto girls.”
In one of mankind's lesser attempts to fathom the sweet mystery of life. Maclean's correspondents in Halifax, Toronto. Calgary and Vancouver distributed a scientifically — well, anyway, carefully — worded questionnaire on the meeting game to single women between the ages of 21 and 35. What we found out, or think we found out. is summarized below.
1. A majority of single women would permit presentable strangers to buy them a drink in a lounge — but wait: only if they had a roommate along for protection. There were further qualifications. “If the waiter came over and made the approach, well, that would be sort of like an introduction," said a Toronto typist.
2. A majority would not permit a presentable stranger to lure them from a bus stop into a nearby coffee shop. Clearly, there is still a stigma attached to "being picked up,” but the whole area is getting pretty fuzzy.
3. A big majority expressed approval of Toronto's burgeoning singles parties, even though — how can you get any sense out of a woman? — a smaller majority agreed that they are “cynical and unromantic.”
4. Only about five percent of single Canadian women would consider using dating bureaus or marriage brokers under any circumstances. "I like to be able to see what I'm getting,” said a Calgary girl. A Vancouver girl said, “Any man who did that would be a real nut — not the kind of nut I want.” The scientific method is coming. maybe, but it's still a long way off.
5. Women in Vancouver are the most liberal and aggressive in their attitudes toward the meeting game, followed (in order) by women in Calgary. Toronto and Halifax.
6. Vancouver's main meeting places are Stanley Park, the beaches and high-rise apartments in the West End and Kitsilano. Calgary sexes mingle at the Mount Royal College cafeteria, the White Spot (an all-night restaurant with dancing), the Night Hawk (a discothèque), the Prairie Inn, a number of swinging downtown pubs and some unspecified apartments. Almost everybody had a different idea about Toronto, but often mentioned were the northcentral high rises (the ones with swimming pools), and laundromats (Toronto has some very swinging laundromats). Village coffee houses and discothèques and several beverage rooms, most notably the Pigalie Room in the Regency Towers Hotel. Halifax meeting places include two coffee houses, the Livin' End and the Privateer. beach parties at Hubbard's and dancing at the Shore Club, Dino's Pizza House, nurses' residences and apartments.
7. There is no bar or lounge in Canada w'here “decent” girls customarily walk in alone and order a drink. The dating bar, a last-growing institution in the U. S., hasn't found a toe-hold here. Canadian girls are about evenly divided in their view of the idea.
8. A question asked, “Where did you meet the last man you went out with?” The most - quoted answers (in order): “At work,” "In my apartment building.” “At a party,” “Through girlfriends.” "At a dance” was the second most-quoted answer in Halifax, rarely quoted elsewhere.
9. Apparently the traditional meeting spots — YMCA dances and such,
church halls, discussion groups, nightschool courses and so on —are an insignificant factor in the meeting game circa 1967. Only a lew of the girls mentioned any of them.
10. A question asked. “Does it matter to you where and how you meet the man you marry?" No, said 90 percent of the girls, it doesn't matter at all. But Diane Mailman, a Halifax stenographer, thought she would like to meet him on a moonlit empty beach because "it sounds pretty romantic.”
The meeting game, which goes on till marriage, and occasionally after, is a game of intangibles in which a good move is often impossible to foresee and irretrievably lost. “I often wonder about the women I’ve never met who'd really like me if they only knew me,” says Bill Henry, 24, of Montreal. A melancholy thought.
It is a good game for opportunists. A girl named Sandy Rooksby, of Calgary, took a mechanic’s course at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology last winter, and (go back three squares) most of the men were over 40 and they were all married. Then she bought a sports car (advance five squares). As she says, “It’s a real fraternity. Put the top down, go on a trip and you’ll meet all kinds of men, especially if you have car trouble and you get out to look at the motor and you’re in your shorts.”
Many players are afraid to make a move. A 25-year-old Calgary nurse with three roommates says, “We’ve lived in this apartment for a year and a half and there is an eligible guy living across the hall. I’ve only seen him about three times. In apartments, people say hello when they pass in the halls, but no one really wants to get involved.”
A delicate balance between daring and discretion is often indicated. “A lot of girls don't try to meet men,” says Wayne Tipert, 24, a Halifax IBM scanner. “If a girl wants to meet a man, she can. If a girl is sitting on a beach and she looks like she wants to be met. I'll go up and speak to her. But if a beautiful girl is on the beach and she doesn’t look interested, I'll go by.”
You have to play the game for some stakes. A 32-year-old, plumpish but attractive Vancouver secretary says, “Cocktail lounges may be the best place to meet men, but you’re beat from the start. The reason is that you have declared yourself. Two girls don't go into a cocktail lounge just for a drink, you know. You go in to meet men, and they know it.”
If the winners have anything in common, it is confidence, exuberance and a disregard for fusty rules and conventions. A 27-year-old Calgary statistics clerk says, "It’s easy to meet any man you like. You just invite him to a party or start talking to him. I've never been at a loss for male company. You can't sit around and wait. You have to have a little initiative." Another Vancouver secretary says, “A good ploy when you’re down on the beach is to ask a fellow to turn up his radio because you say you like the song they are playing. But I guess that’s like picking him up. in a way, isn't it? What are we girls coming to?”