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Single people in the United States who wish to find relationships or marriages may choose to remain single, or may “date” other people in an attempt to find a special person with whom to have a relationship, possibly leading to marriage. Although Americans may find suitable prospects for dating at their workplace, school, or through friends and family, many others take more active steps by spending time in dating bars or signing up with a dating or matchmaking service.

Dating bars, as the name implies, are drinking establishments that have earned a particular reputation as supportive places for singles to meet each other. These establishments are not for everyone, tend to be noisy, and are generally associated with young adults.

Some dating services are small and personalized. These tend to be costly, but are ideal for busy professional people who prefer to have a matchmaker recommended potential partners. Most dating services, including today’s popular Internet dating sites, are both less personalized and more affordable.

Each Internet dating service has a slightly different way of matching people. One major service suggests possible matches based on geography or shared interest, but also allows members to browse through photographs of other members, and contact them individually. Another major service insists on doing the matching for their clients, based on compatibility software, without the possibility of browsing; the member must either answer “no” or initiate a sequence of contact steps. Specialized dating services exist for gay people, political liberals and conservatives, pet lovers, sports lovers, members of various ethnic groups, and many other constituencies.

Single Americans, male and female, young and old, have attitudes toward the dating process that range from dream-like to hyper-realistic. Some plow through their dates looking for the right one, trusting in numbers to make things right. Others give up on the process after just one or two disappointments, only to start again months or years later. Without becoming obsessed with the process, the best way to succeed is to realize that, by the law of numbers, you will need to contact many people in order to meet that special someone. Yes, it is work, costing money and taking time.

The dating services themselves give a good deal of valuable advice: protect your identity (they all support anonymity) until you have some confidence in the other person; keep the first date simple; listen to the other person. Common sense and intelligence fills in the rest.

If you are a newcomer to the United States, it is important to be able to handle rejection and disappointment. The date can seem to be going well, the conversation smooth, only to lead to nowhere. Just because an American is friendly to you, does not mean he or she is interested in romance. Understand this cultural fact and move on to other dates, rather than even interpreting the lack of interest as rejection. This is especially important if you are in a situation, as in a workplace, in which you must see the other person regularly afterwards. Make it clear to the other person that you are happy to remain “just friends.” Do nothing to make them feel uncomfortable.

For women meeting men in the United States, keep in mind that it is now perfectly acceptable for you to call a man and initiate contact, suggest getting together, or arrange a meeting. Unless the man in a date obviously has much more money than the woman has, or has made it very clear that he intends to pay for everything, it is polite for the woman to offer to share expenses. If the man turns down the offer and insists on paying, there is no harm done; the woman has shown some consideration. For a woman to assume that a man, otherwise her social and economic equal, should pay for all expenses on every date is old fashioned and unrealistic.

If you have to refuse a date, refuse it clearly (though politely) rather than giving an excuse. If you have to break a date, try not to ruin someone’s evening by doing it at the last minute.

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