Women were asked to look at a trio of sketches of men in various settings, and to say where they’d prefer to find their ideal man: in camp chopping wood, in a studio painting a canvas, or in a garage working a pillar drill. 1400 Series computer, which then spit out your matches: five blue cards, if you were a woman, or five pink ones, if you were a man. Men were asked to rank drawings of women’s hair styles: a back-combed updo, a Patty Duke bob.
Each client paid five dollars and answered more than a hundred multiple-choice questions. (A previous installment had been about a singles bar—Maxwell’s Plum, on the Upper East Side, one of the first that so-called “respectable” single women could patronize on their own.) She had planned to interview Altfest, but he was out of the office, and she ended up talking to Ross.
One section asked subjects to choose from a list of “dislikes”: “1. The batteries died on her tape recorder, so they made a date to finish the interview later that week, which turned into dinner for two.
The criteria for compatibility had little to do with mutual affection or a shared enthusiasm for spicy food and Fleetwood Mac.
Happiness, self-fulfillment, “me time,” a woman’s needs: these didn’t rate.
The twentieth century reduced it all to smithereens.
The Pill, women in the workforce, widespread deferment of marriage, rising divorce rates, gay rights—these set off a prolonged but erratic improvisation on a replacement.
In a fractured and bewildered landscape of fern bars, ladies’ nights, Plato’s Retreat, “The Bachelor,” sexting, and the concept of the “cougar,” the Internet promised reconnection, profusion, and processing power.
The obvious advantage of online dating is that it provides a wider pool of possibility and choice.
They rely on algorithms, those often proprietary mathematical equations and processes which make it possible to perform computational feats beyond the reach of the naked brain.
Some add an extra layer of projection and interpretation; they adhere to a certain theory of compatibility, rooted in psychology or brain chemistry or genetic coding, or they define themselves by other, more readily obvious indicators of similitude, such as race, religion, sexual predilection, sense of humor, or musical taste.
Civilization, in its various guises, had it pretty much worked out.