To Find a Mate

Men and women have been hooking up for tens of thousands of years...or 6,000, in Baptist years. Why, then, does the search for a significant other continue to perplex us?

Of course, in the old world we relied upon matchmakers who firmed up marriage plans while Olga and Yuri toddled around in diapers. In fact, the art of meeting and mating (for life) was often viewed as a financial transaction, with one party or the other handing over a dowry of some sort before nuptial whoopee could commence. The advent of a modern era full of self-help gurus has only confused matters. Ideals shifted from devout modesty to brazenly implanted, from quiet masculinity to amorphous metrosexuality, from "don't give away the milk for free" to "let's see what he/she has under the hood."

Yet it's still pretty much the same process. Someone pays ridiculous amounts of cash for the privilege of marriage--ever shop for diamond rings?--and matchmakers, in the guise of an online dating service, a singles bar or such, still play an important role.

So if you still haven't found a mate, there must be something terribly wrong with...oh, yeah. That's why you had to make a resolution in the first place.

The trick is to find someone either with similar interests or a lifelong willingness to learn and explore. "I would suggest figuring out your own interests first," says experienced dater Brandy Bray, "then figure out what options they have for meeting people with those interests." In other words, don't be lazy. If mountain strolls or white-water rafting or Civil War sites appeal to you, then...um...move to another city. Denver, perhaps. Or Gettysburg.

If you enjoy shopping, dining and superficial forms of entertainment, the guide begins here:

Nightlife

It's difficult to ascertain the true interest level of someone you meet in a Dallas bar. Well, there is one way, but it's only a temporary measure. Drop by the city's hottest clubs and, while dodging desperate codgers and recent blondes, one may encounter a like-minded and attractive person. Candle Room (214-370-4155) attracts a young and consciously hip crowd. It's not the sort of place for intense conversations, given the elbow-banging mob scene and dominating beat, but the place reeks of opportunism. Sense (214-370-4445) draws from all age groups. It's more subdued--the better for a discussion of real estate options in southeastern Pennsylvania--but equally opportunistic (a subtle euphemism for the sloppy encounter).

Dallas Museum of ArtDon't think of the art museum as a sedate place full of reluctant second-graders on a class outing (settle down, Michael). Aside from framed still-lifes and chipped granite, the DMA (214-922-1200) offers late-night romps featuring films, live bands and a range of other activities. The occasional events--check the museum's Web site (www.dm-art.org) for a schedule--continue overnight and well into the daylight hours. It's a great place to find beauty and intellect in one place.

Fellowship Church in Grapevine

Yeah, it's out there. But church provides a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere for mate-hunting. Think about it: The men and women you meet at a bar are a bit suspicious to start with. A religious setting, however, disguises your ultimate purpose behind a veneer of decency. Plus it gives you a ready-made pickup line (what would Jesus do?)--unless you choose to visit a synagogue or mosque for your attempts at sin. Anyway, Fellowship Church (972-471-5700) claims to attract 19,000 people, more than half of them unattached adults. They even run a program called Single Impact, a kind of theological pickup joint (just remember, he's watching) with music and food. On Saturday nights, the elders urge singles to attend the evening service--and keep a stack of scarlet letters handy, just in case.

Alumni events

You should've thought of this one yourselves. The aforementioned dating veteran, Brandy Bray, met her current bit of male arm candy at an Oklahoma State alumni event. Don't attempt to crash one of these, by the way. You may blurt out a multisyllabic word, and they'd be wise to your game.

It's Just Lunch

If you prefer a matchmaker, It's Just Lunch will happily set up a series of dates. The service costs, of course--but they do eliminate some of the frustrating decisions associated with dating: where to go (they work with some of the coolest and most comfortable restaurants in Dallas), when to go (they only hook you up for lunch, brunch or happy-hour drinks) and whom to go with (they probe your psyche, find out your interests, discover what you desire in a perfect partner and scan their files for possible mates). It's a blind date set by people you don't know, which probably has a better chance of success than the old dowry method.

Match.com

The Internet exists for a couple of reasons, and meeting others is the non-porn-related reason. Match.com operates like an online version of It's Just Lunch, without the lunch. Members fill out a profile, which allows the service to qualify romantic partners. As an added bonus, they reach six continents (sorry, global warming scientists will find no help here), making that whole Olga thing possible.

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