Cupid Academy

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ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY THOMAS REIS

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As a newly certified matchmaker, Jill Richardson, 25, doesn't have a roster of clients yet. On a rainy Tuesday, over hot chocolate at Starbucks, she tests her interviewing skills on college friend Pete Gelling. Richardson wants to market to young singles, but many of her peers — including Gelling, an aspiring journalist — can't afford the $350 introductory fee or the $75 monthly charges the school recommends. "If I had a job, I'd do it, though," says Gelling, 24. Most of their friends have profiles on Internet sites like Nerve and Friendster and see little shame in matchmaking. "Even when you're our age, it's hard to meet people in a big city," says Richardson. "I think a lot of people like me just want to find someone."

Experts are skeptical. "Young people don't need the help," says Rachel Greenwald, author of the best-selling How to Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. "The bulk of people needing a matchmaker are women over 30--really, over 40. And for them, there's a problem of supply and demand." She's right. According to the Census Bureau, for those in their 20s and 30s, there are 115 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women; that drops to 69 for every 100 in the 45-to-64 age bracket. A much better tactic than paying a professional, Greenwald argues, is to corral friends into finding suitable matches.

But according to Neil Clark Warren, the founder of eHarmony, no human knows enough about the complexities of modern romance to handle such a task. So Warren drew upon his 37 years as a psychologist to create an intricate, 29-variable, computerized personality profile that he claims practically ensures accurate matches. Warren says his service, launched in 2000, has resulted in more than 2,000 marriages. "The task of choosing a marriage partner is so much more complex than anyone credits it with being," he says. "You need the technology."

So far, no marriages have resulted from the efforts of Matchmaking Institute graduates. One date, however, did come out of the January course: Clampitt sent Biondi, the pretty, blond social worker from Detroit, for a sushi dinner with a New York lawyer. "He was a perfect gentleman," according to Biondi, who says they keep in touch. Who knows? Cupid may have found a mark.

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