Love At First Byte

<b>48 Hours</b> Tracks Two Online Romances

Della Ivy Lavan and Christine LeDoux did not meet their dates in a bar or through family or friends. In fact, they've never met the men they're about to go out with. These women used an online dating service as their matchmaker.

Correspondent Harold Dow first reported on their cyberdates in February; 48 Hours gives an update.
Lavan decided to fly 900 miles, from Arkansas to North Carolina, for her first date.

"I'm just a spontaneous type person and who knows?" she said. "You know, you never know, that could be the one. And I'm going to go find out."

Said LeDoux: "He emailed me first, and so I went and checked out his profile, and I thought he was cute."

The service used by these two women is called Match.com but there are dozens of online dating sites, everything from GoodGenes.com for the discriminating Ivy Leaguer, to JailBabes.com for the man who likes a woman behind bars.

Curious?
Check out Match.com for yourself!
Single people will tell you the one thing they lack is access to each other.

At Match.com, Trish McDermott, the vice president of romance, cited the difficulties: "We don't get married in college; we've moved away from home; we work very long hours."

These days with just the click of the mouse, singles can browse the profiles of potential dates, or they can simply let the computer do the matching based on their preferences.

"When we buy a pair of jeans, we shop around," McDermott explained. "We try on a lot of...different types. We compare prices, styles. When we are shopping for a life partner, we should be equally discerning."

Since her divorce, about 11 years ago, Lavan has become one of the most successful real estate saleswomen in Arkansas. She raised her daughter and best buddy Ivy. Life is good but Ivy thinks her mother is missing something.

"She's always working, and she needs to relax and just find somebody who she can share her life with other than me, because I'm going to get older," Ivy said.

It was Ivy who urged her mother to join an online dating service.

Said Lavan: "I'm just a good old Southern girl with an accent looking for what everyone else is: love, respect an companionship."

And then she spotted a profile that she liked of a man from Greensboro, N.C., someone the same age, with the same pets and something more - a son the same age as Ivy.

After months of emails and phone calls, Lavan was ready to meet Scott Bradburg, the prospect she located through the Internet matchmaking service. Her daughter, Ivy, went along for the ride, against the advice of some experts.

"When you actually are meeting someone...a long distance, no I don't advise that you bring a child with you," McDermott cautioned.

"There's a time and a place for introducing a child into a relationship but that first meeting is not the place," she added.

"Definitely in this situation we would take our children just to see if the children get along and there's a bonding process," Lavan said.

Dating Precautions
Some people reporting back from the frontiers of online dating suggest starting with a larger service, and then later exploring something more selective, maybe a site catering to people with a specific interest or political persuasion. For some, being anonymous online tends to promote more meaningful communication from the start.

But there's no guarantee that when you've got mail, the sender is being truthful. So to protect yourself, don't give out more than your first name at most, and never give your phone number directly to an online suitor. And take some other commonsense precautions, as with any date: Meet in a public place the first few times. Be sure someone close to you knows where you're going and when to expect you back.
"I don't feel like it's crazy," she said about going out with someone she met via the Internet. "I think it's more adventurous."

"Go with the gut," McDermott advised as far as protection for online dating. "If your gut feeling tells you that someone is not appropriate for you, honor it."

"When I saw her picture it was - I was just blown away," Bradburg enthused about his date prospect. "She's very very attractive. And...she's got just a charming personality, very outgoing, very honest, I guess, kind of bubbly effervescence."

An account executive for a business journal, Bradburg has been raising his son alone since his divorce eight years ago. He liked what he had learned about Lavan thus far.

"Im hoping that she's going to be exactly like she's been on the telephone and through her emails," he said.

In another city, by day LeDoux serves as a nanny to Emily, now 12. By night she's a singer/songwriter cutting her first CD.

Having been through 15 online dates, San Francisco-based LeDoux has worked up her own list of dos and don'ts. (For her, kissing on the first date is a no; bringing lots of extra cash, a must.)

"So I'm bringing my guitar on the date. I'm really excited about that. This will look attractive with my big, long skirt," LeDoux said.

LeDoux allowed her date to pick her up at home, but only because 48 Hours was there.

And what was Andy Wright, LeDoux's date for the evening, looking for? "I'm just looking for somebody fun to hang out with, and then to see if there's any romance or any kind of chemistry," he said.

After dinner they went to an Irish bar, where LeDoux took a turn at the open mike during their date.

Web Savvy
Thirdage.com has an online dating guide.
For his part, on his first date with Lavan, Bradburg passed the "car door test" with flying colors. (Would Lavan have bet that Bradburg is the type to open the car door? "Yes definitely," she said.)

In fact from the hotel to the restaurant, he had thought of everything. His neighbor even had a suit of armor and since Bradburg's emails compare his relationship with Lavan to a medieval romance, it just seemed right to have a "knight in shining armor" drop by with an armful of presents.

Their second night, Bradburg and Lavan had a romantic dinner alone while the kids went ice skating. Later they all joined together for a round of karaoke.

Up to this point, they had been together nearly nonstop for more than 24 hours. That's a lot of togetherness for any family.

What does Lavan think of Bradburg and his son? "I think they're wonderful. I think they're down to earth. I feel like I've known him all my life," she said.

But LeDoux's date in San Francisco was not nearly as successful.

"We had a good conversation, but it wasn't that thing, that thing," she said. "It's like there's just a thing between two people that's undeniable, and I guess I looked over at Andy and thought 'God he's realy cool. I'd really like to know him,' but he's not the person I want to date."

September Update: LeDoux, who currently plays gigs with the Christine LeDoux band, has a CD, Accidently Happy, set to be released in early October.

Though Lavan and Bradburg had started to plan a vacation together with their children, within a few months Lavan decided the relationship was getting too serious and she wasn't ready for marriage.

Matchmaker: Main Page


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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