When Tom Monahan met Sally Kangos, they were both 46, divorced, lonely and venturing into unchartered waters. They posted their profiles with an on-line dating service.
"I was a knight in tarnished armor and [I wrote] that I was a work in progress," says Monahan.
"It just endeared my heart, I just loved it," says Kangos. "I sent him a note and it was one sentence. It said, 'I like your profile. Read mine. Let me know if you wanna communicate.' And that was it."
He did! And before long, they were meeting face to face at a restaurant near their homes in suburban Cincinnati.
"So I pulled in. And I was extremely nervous and he came up to my car door and I said, 'Tom, I'm so embarrassed, I can't get the keys out of the car,'" says Kangos. "He leans in the window and says, 'Sally, why don't you put the car in park.' So, it started off. I was so embarrassed."
Trish McDermott is the Vice President of Romance for Match.com, one of the pioneers of Internet dating.
"I think what online dating does is it creates an incredible opportunity to a large pool of romantic partners," says McDermott. "It means that I have the somewhat daunting task of overseeing the love lives of about 8 million people who are using Match.com today."
CBS News Sunday Morning Rita Braver reports that the astonishing number is for her company alone.
"It took us 10 months to register our first 60,000 members," says McDermott. "Nowadays, we register 60,000 members in 2 1/2 days."
The Match.com Web site shows profiles and ages posted. Half of them are under 30, the other half older. And there are dozens of other sites too. Some aimed at particular religious or ethnic groups. Others promising "good genes" or "great boy friends."
Unlike Internet chat rooms, where people sometimes strike up relationships by chance, Internet dating services are set up for the specific purpose of matchmaking.
"I think what's going on with single people right now is that they don't have access to each other," says McDermott. "It has just gotten harder and harder to casually hook up with people in the course of our very busy day."
Online romance is catching on. A new CBS News poll finds that 27 percent of all Americans have now heard a lot about it. Seven percent of all unmarried Internet users say they've gone on an Internet date; 42 percent say they know someone else who has tried online dating.
Services charge different fees to subscribe. To protect privacy, all initial communications between users are routed through the site. Couples decide when and if to exchange real e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
Some sites let you browse for free but make you pay once you decide to communicate with someone whose self-description catches your fancy.
"We ask you: 'How you feel about pets?'; 'How you feel about tattoos, piercings, long hair?; 'What turns you on and what turns you off?'"
It can sound scientific — feed the computer some likes and dislikes and out pops the robot of your dreams.
"It's based in science in that there's technology that helps you hook up, but you have to remember there's people at the end of each of these profiles," says McDermott.
But just like in traditional dating, it's not always love at first site. John and Carla Cinti of San Carlos, Calif. are now the proud parents of daughter Sophia. But five years ago ...
"When I met John, he had long hair and a goatee," says Carla. "My first impression was, 'This is probably not gonna work.'"
"I think you probably did tell me many times," counters John. "I didn't want to hear it."
That's another things about online dating -- pictures are optional. Neither Carla nor John posted theirs.
"I didn't want to be searching for somebody only by how they look. I wanted to get to know somebody," says John. "I think the rest would just work itself out."
Besides, pictures can be deceiving.
"I had a particular experience where I went to meet a man at a bar, and I hardly recognized him because I think the picture that he put online was maybe, like eight years," says Gabriella Gershenson. "And, like 1000 hair follicles earlier ... It was a little disconcerting."
(To read about Gabriella Gershenson's online dating experience, click here.)
As for 40-something Karen Drotzer, after 5 years of online dating, she says men are likely to lie about their height and their marital status.
"Unfortunately, I'd say about 40 percent, maybe in my experience," says Drotzer. "Either I found out at the end of the first date or occasionally I found out a lot later than that. That they were married."
Before he met his wife Kimberly, Neil Corriea went on about 50 online dates.
"Women do not want to tell their weight," says Neil. "'Voluptuous,' that is a very deceiving word. In laymen's terms, it means that you are fat, bordering on huge. I mean honestly."
Neil finally met Kimberly because she picked him out. One of the major reasons women like online dating is that they are more comfortable making the first move.
"I'm shy. I'm not gonna walk up to them and just go and say something to them," says Kimberly. "I guess at home, behind my screen, I just got a little more nerve than I would out, you know, in public.'"
The only problem was that he was a police officer in Houston and she lived in Los Angeles.
"I mean it was almost instant chemistry," says Neil. "We call it, 'Love at first type.'"
So, he decided to visit. He says he wasn't thinking about marriage.
"I was thinking vacation, California and hopefully no earthquake," explains Neil of his visit.
"The e-mails say otherwise," responds Kim.
She was terrified when she went to meet him at the airport.
"I loved talking to him, he was wonderful," says Kim. "But I am very visual. I just knew that if he had the slightest thing wrong, I was gonna be turned off. And, so I was worried."
Neil says Kim gave him a checklist.
"I couldn't have bad breath, I couldn't have ugly-looking shoes, I had to be dressed appropriately," says Neil.
He passed with flying colors. They were married three months later.
Still, even when they find true love online, folks can be reluctant to admit it — even to their kids!
"I didn't tell [the children] how we met right away, cause you know, 'Do as I say, not as I do,'" says Sally Kangos.
The kids say they thought it was weird. But the online daters were married, courtesy of the Internet, and maybe something more.
"I really believe that God intended for us to be together," says Tom. "It could have been almost anything that brought us together. That was the vehicle and there are thousands of people meeting and socializing. And their lives are better for it."
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.