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Pairing Off: See your way through blind dates

By Julia Shumway

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, July 14 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

The same thing happens every time I visit my mom’s ward: random elderly people ask her if I’m single and if they can set me up with their grandson, nephew or bank teller.

Because I live in Minnesota, the dates rarely come to fruition, but the conversations are still an interesting phenomenon.

People, and perhaps women in particular, though I haven’t studied it, love matchmaking. It’s like they get to produce their own little reality TV show starring your love life. Would-be matchmakers are rarely discouraged by their lack of success, either. They are convinced their ability to get married themselves and to predict the winner on the last season of "The Bachelor" makes them an expert.

Singles have a few options for responding to setups. Some people refuse all setups as a matter of personal policy. Others will graciously accept whatever they can get. A third group, to which I belong, will probe for more information before determining whether to accept the blind date. It’s not impertinent to ask a few questions given that you’re the one who will be spending time and perhaps money on the prospective date.

Consider the source

If you choose to gather more information, your line of questioning might depend on who’s playing matchmaker. If it’s an old woman in your ward, you might ask for a name and do some Googling on your own, as she’s apt to value different characteristics than you do. Also, you may want to discount any information she provides based on her age and senility.

My grandpa, for example, was always trying to set up one of his grandsons with random “young girls” he encountered at the pharmacy, the bank, the temple, wherever. Being that he rarely knew enough about these girls to even provide first and last names, so Internet stalking was out of the question, and his definition of an eligible “young girl” was any single female aged 19 to 55, my cousin never took him up on the offers.

If the matchmaker is someone you can trust to provide reliable information, you may want to question what they’re basing the setup on. An ideal setup would be based on some defining characteristic. Consider a setup based solely on height. Some tall people may define themselves based on their ability to reach high things, but others might find height has minimal impact on their personality or non-altitudinal life experience. This setup is far more likely to be romantically lucrative in the former case.

The role of social networking

The degree of vetting appropriate for a blind date is a bit controversial. I am firmly in favor of Internet stalking and firmly against the real life kind.

Real life stalking is bad not just because of the potential for a restraining order, falling out of a tree, or being bit by a dog, but also because anyone you’d be interested in dating would probably find it creepy.

Internet stalking, on the other hand, is the best because your “prey” has total control over what information about themselves they make publicly available. Facebook is the old standby – in all honesty, it and Google are all I have ever used – but it’s no stretch to assume potential blind dates might be looking you up on Tumblr, Twitter, goodreads, Google+ and any associated blogs. I guess you could take this as both a word of advice and a warning: social networking has made us a generation of stalkers. If you don’t want it public, don’t post it publicly.

The decision is yours

Blind dates are double-edged swords with the potential to either beautify or awkwardify life: I know a lot of married couples who met on blind dates; I also know a lot of single people who have been set up with weirdos. The nice thing is we live in the information age, and you have the right to refuse any setup you’re not comfortable with. The key is if you do enough verbal and Internet stalking in advance, you can drastically decrease your likelihood of being real-life stalked by a blind date later.

Julia Shumway grew up in Utah and is studying maternal and child epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Her column on Mormon Times, “Pairing Off,” explores the intricacies of the Mormon YSA experience. E-mail: jshumway@mormontimes.

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