Best Chance for a Decent Date

The Internet

Looking for love in the big city can be a big, honkin' pain in the ass. You've encountered one too many half-drunk idiots at your neighborhood bar (and after one too many happy-hour margaritas, you've found them interesting). The people in your office are flat-out geeks. Your gym crush plays for the other team. Your single friends have introduced you to their single friends who, in turn, have introduced you to their therapist. So hey, there's nothing wrong with a little pre-screening in the privacy (not to mention safety) of your own home, and a broad selection to choose from. Internet dating sites are proliferating like bad pickup lines these days, so we've chosen three of the best. Good luck; you'll need it.

Craigslist

www.craigslist.com

You won't have to fill out a cheesy personality survey at this site, where just one click brings you to the "personals" listings. You can choose from the usual categories -- "men seeking women," "women seeking men," "men seeking barnyard animals" -- and "missed connections," our all-time favorite, where people who wanted to proclaim their love to a stranger in, say, the Trader Joe's checkout line but didn't can convince themselves they have another shot. The service is free, so there's not a whole lot of time pressure. Best of all, your anonymity remains intact until you e-mail your picture to a potential date. On the downside, that marvelous Nick-and-Nora-esque banter you've engaged in for the past week can turn to shock and horror when you open up that JPEG file. Whether your preference is for the creepy -- "short, fat, hairy dark guy looking for a girl" -- or for the sappy-sweet -- "I want to luv you, honor you, and protect you" -- you'll probably find it here.

Matchmaker

www.matchmaker.com

"Sometimes fate takes too long" is the motto of Matchmaker.com, the popular dating site that offers a free trial period. That means you'll never have to pay, because after you've gone through 30 to 50 e-mails every day for a week (if you're a halfway good-lookin' chick, anyway), you'll be too exhausted to join. But with any luck, you'll line up a couple of good dates or, at the very least, exchange a few e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers for future reference. And, God love 'em, the Matchmaker folks have a sense of humor about the whole insipid process, as evidenced by their questionnaire. For example: "How would you describe your physique?" Possible answer: "I look like a reflection in a fun house mirror." And: "How would you describe your looks?" Possible answer: "Bring your bag in case mine tears!"

Match.com

www.match.com

With "8 million people and 8 million possibilities," maybe the $24.95 a month you shell out for Match.com will pay off. The service claims its "core team" comprises "some of the brightest, most active professionals in the industry," whatever that means. We'll be happy just to have the weirdos screened out. You can either search member profiles based on criteria you specify, or leave it up to the experts to find you a few quality matches (this takes two days). A special perk: Match.com offers "hot dating tips and advice." Don't laugh, bub -- this is why you signed up in the first place.

 
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