I don't see a lot of TV commercials anymore, but those saccharine eHarmony ads featuring Natalie Cole tra-la-laing the blight-on-humanity song "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" have been unavoidable the last couple of years. (At your peril, you can check one out here).
The couples in the ads, many of them fed in the middle, seem to cling to each other with barely contained desperation, as though if they let go they will return to nights encumbered only by pints of ice cream for one and acres of Grey's Anatomy DVDs. So when I became single last year and started signing up with dating sites, I didn't even log on to eHarmony.
It turns out that if I had, I would not have been welcome. One has two choices on the first page of eharmony.com: "Man seeking a woman" and "Woman seeking a man." In the first place, I'm not "seeking" anyone. One seeks a job. Unless you're a bounty hunter, you don't seek another person. For my part, I'd like to meet a nice guy.
But the founder of eHarmony, Neil Clark Warren, has no interest in helping me meet a nice guy. Warren is a conservative Christian, a former recurring guest on James Dobson's radio show, a man who used the overweening right-wing group Focus on the Family to help promote eHarmony in its early days and a man who apparently believes that gays are some kind of different species.
Warren, a psychologist, told NPR's Terry Gross a couple of years ago that "I don't know exactly what the dynamics are [with gay couples]...We've done a deep amount of research on about 5,000 married people, but never on people who are same-sex. So we don't know how to do that, and we think the principles probably are different, and so we've never chosen to do it." He noted later in the interview that "same-sex marriage in this country is largely illegal at this time, and we do try to match people for marriage."
Warren seems like a sweet guy in those ads, but this line of reasoning is transparently convenient: gays are just such an exotic and curious people, why, I could never understand them! And anyway their relationships are illegal so best to ignore them completely.
A class-action lawsuit was inevitable. It was filed yesterday by a lesbian from (naturally) the San Francisco Bay Area. She claims that eHarmony's no-gays policy is discriminatory under California law. The company replied that it might offer gay matching services in the future and denied that it discriminates.
Which is silly: of course it discriminates, in the most basic sense of the term it doesn't allow gays to use its site! Still, I think the lawsuit is a mistake, for two reasons: first, it once again casts gays in the role of victim. If you're wondering why kids still use "faggot" as a slur to mean weak and simpering, it's because gays too often whine about silly things like not being able to use a dating website for fat suburbanites. Second, and more important, gays manifestly do not need eHarmony. We already have too many dating sites. All of eHarmony's competitors match.com and its offshoot chemistry.com; true.com; personals.aol.com; lavalife.com and so on allow gays. There are also many gay sites like gay.com and connexion.org, some of which could easily be charged with reverse discrimination. For instance, please visit manhunt.net for a second. I just did, and the main page says there are "OVER 21,739 MEN ONLINE NOW!" Manhunt offers nothing for straight men. Maybe my heterosexual brother should file a class-action lawsuit.
Recently eHarmony competitor chemistry.com produced a funny ad you should watch. The ad is smarmily self-serving, but it approaches eHarmony the right way: not with a lawsuit, but with ridicule.