Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA, in VOA Special English. I'm Steve
And I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. Our show this week is about the search
for love. Join us as we explore dating in America!
Another February fourteenth, Valentine's Day, has come and gone.
Millions of people received flowers and chocolate, or some other
gift, or even just a telephone call from someone they care about.
Valentine's Day is a special time for love.
People who follow old traditions have a second chance at the end
of this month. A tradition says February twenty-ninth, Leap Year
Day, is the one day a woman may ask a man to marry her.
But a lot of people are not even close to that point. They would
be happy just to find someone to date.
In the past, young people in America usually lived with their
parents until they got married. Some still do. But, in general,
young people have grown more independent. They wait longer to get
married. Even then, they still have to find the right person.
There are many ways for people to meet. Some meet at work. Others
meet by chance. Still others seek help from businesses that try to
bring people together.
Friends and family members might offer to help. Often a friend
will plan a "blind date." This is meeting between two people who
have never seen each other before. The friend thinks the two people
will like each other. They might. Or they might never want to see
each other again.
Usually, though, single people have to make their own plans. Some
might go to a dance place, for example, and hope to meet someone
they can ask out on a date. Some places are popular with young
people. Others are for older people. But this kind of life is not
Dating and establishing a relationship can be hard work. So a lot
of people want to go where they are sure they can meet people with
similar interests. They might look for someone who shares a common
interest in religion or books, for example. A lot of bookstores in
America now have places that serve coffee and food. Many offer
special programs and social activities for single people.
Singles may join health clubs, or sports teams -- or maybe even a
group for people who like to take long walks in the woods. If
nothing else, at least they will have gotten some exercise.
Some Americans use dating services, which help people choose a
person they might like. For example, a company called Great
Expectations has been helping to bring people together for almost
thirty years. Great Expectations started in San Francisco,
California. The company organizes events in more than fifty places
in the United States for people to meet.
Another company is called Brief Encounters. It serves people in
several states and Washington, D.C. The name describes what the
company does. Brief Encounters organizes events that provide very
quick introductions for small groups of people. Men and women meet
and get only three to six minutes to introduce themselves.
Two people sit across from each other at a table. They talk until
a bell rings. Then everyone meets a new person. People write their
reactions on paper. They write the names of the people they liked
best. Then they give these notes to an employee of Brief Encounters.
Within forty-eight hours, the people who took part receive the names
and telephone numbers of the people who liked them.
A program called SpeedDating also provides fast introductions for
singles. Many young people are in a room. Two people meet and talk
for seven minutes. Then they meet and talk to others. The
SpeedDating program began in Los Angeles, California, at a Jewish
educational center. It is one of a number of dating services
operated by religious organizations.
But some people do not like making hurried choices. A young woman
in Chicago, Illinois, says nobody can make an intelligent choice
under those conditions. But others praise this method. They say it
is a way to avoid long hours with someone who is not very
Many American newspapers and magazines publish messages from
people who are seeking someone to date. The messages are called
"personal want ads" or "personals." This is the usual kind of
message in a personal ad: "Nice looking woman, thirty years old,
thin, athletic, successful, great cook, desires long-term
Men who want to meet this woman write to the newspaper or
magazine. They describe themselves and their interests. The woman
then reads the letters and decides if she wants to meet any of them.
There are also telephone services. A person calls and records a
message. For example, a man describes himself and the kind of woman
he hopes to meet. He describes what kind of relationship he would
Other people call and listen to the messages. If they hear one
they like, they leave their own message. Once two people talk to
each other directly, they might or might not decide to meet in
Telephone dating services have led to video dating services.
People go on camera and record a message about themselves. Then they
wait until someone likes what they see.
Some cities in America have restaurants where people hope to find
more than just good food. A place called Drip opened in New York
City in nineteen-ninety-six. It started with the idea to have people
write down answers to a series of questions about themselves. Other
people then read the answers. If someone likes what they read, an
employee sets up a date.
Now there is a Web site, Drip.com. People are directed to a
DateCafe where an employee tries to set them up on a date.
This is just one of the dating services on the Internet. A
business called Match.com is a leader in the area of online
matchmaking. Members can get lists of people around their age who
live nearby. Some people identify themselves and even include
pictures. Others do not. The goal is for people to get to know each
other through electronic mail. Then, they can decide to meet and
Match.com began in nineteen-ninety-five. It says many of its
members have married or formed close relationships. One example is a
teacher in the Washington, D.C., area whose marriage ended a few
years ago. She had not dated much until she met a computer expert
A lot of people search for love online. People usually start by
communicating with strangers. Sometimes the strangers become
friends. They might decide to meet. Then they might decide to date.
They may even decide to get married.
But there are risks anytime strangers meet. There have been
stories in the news about people killed by others they met over the
Internet. That is not the only risk. People may lie about themselves
or leave out details. Some people find that the person they met over
the Internet is already married.
However they meet, when single people finally get together, what
do they do on a date? People of all ages do many of the same things.
They go out to eat. Or they go dancing. They go for walks. Or they
go to movies, museums or concerts. Couples might play sports
together. Or they might just spend the evening watching television.
Dating is the traditional first step toward marriage. But many
young Americans no longer feel in as much of a hurry to get married
as in the past. They want to finish their education and establish
themselves in a profession first.
Other people are ready to settle down and start a family. They
want to meet someone and fall in love. There are more ways to meet
other people today. Yet some say it is harder than ever to find the
right person. So they keep dating, and hoping.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty
Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for another
report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English
program, THIS IS AMERICA.