February 12, 2005


Women coming out of tired marriages gulp as they start reactivating their dating rituals. They don't even want to think about sitting by the phone, pining, sighing, waiting.


But by the time, they reach middle age, women have learned to "hear" insincerity or "smell" insecurity. They are quite capable of "thin-slicing," the term Malcolm Gladwell uses in his new book Blink to describe making snap judgments.


One shortcut is to place an ad in the personals, and my first attempt was a wrung-out and bold statement about the new me, who I was. I was very sure what I wanted: lots of sex and no commitment. Or so I thought.


It proved to be a deeply dissatisfying experience, but that was 15 years ago. Today, singles eager to cut to the chase have a lot more options. Now, they can use technology to help them thin-slice the dating world.


Lavalife is one of many on-line dating services available to Canadians. It appears that eight million Canadians are lined up on-line, looking for one of Lavalife's three service categories -- relationships, dates or intimate encounters. Eight million is one in four adult Canadians and it raises the question: Who's left to watch reality TV? Signing up is free, browsing is free, but whoever initiates the contact pays a fee in the form of purchased credits.


Here is how Lavalife changed the lives of three of my patients.


All of these women were fresh out of long-term relationships and aware of a drive to start all over again. But they are time-starved, juggling busy careers and kids.


For these women, first contact to first encounter averaged seven to 10 days. They e-mailed back and forth with their prospective date three or four times before providing their phone numbers and moving from talk time to face time.


For one, the experience proved to be beyond even her wild imagination. The setting for the first date was the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. They met and toured -- at least she did, absorbing all the paintings, lost in thought. He watched her, confessing later that he had seen the exhibit five times already, but never had he seen anyone like her with such movement, such grace. They went from lunch to dinner, to bed, to breakfast and then to the gym. And that was just their first date. Her grown daughter wagged a finger and asked if she had used proper protection. "What would you say to me if I behaved like this?" the daughter said in a classic role reversal.


The couple have been bound to each other since, with an intensity usually reserved for puppy love. But the truth of everything I hear in my practice is that passion long vanished can be restoked with surprising force.


The second woman discovered that the search capacity of the site allowed her, after a few false starts, to narrow all her possibilities to vegetarians. It was there that she connected with her new love.


For my third friend, her profile was a confession; she had never done anything like this before, she was out of a 17-year marriage. (Often, if you don't leave within the first three or four years, you're in for the next 20). She had the usual joint-custody headaches and a demanding, yet fulfilling job.


She knew something was missing in her life and she was definitely not going to bars to find it. Nor would she put her friends at risk in engineering such a risky venture. For her, efficiency was essential and so Lavalife's $2 charge to say hello isn't all that bad.


So did my three Lavalife women thin-slice? You bet! But they haven't arrived at this point in life not to match the thin slice with hard data and time. For all of them, financial independence has been their hard-fought struggle and they aren't seeking dependency on someone, nor will they look to take on any.


They are beyond merely dating, they want the relationship with the full Monty of intimacy and mattering about each other's life.


So, if you are re-entering the market, you could do worse than starting that journey at Lavalife.

Dr. Jean



Doctor. Writer. Athlete.

Advocate. Adventurer.