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Sunday, October 7, 2001



ROMANCE isn't just for the young.


But how do you meet your soulmate when you're living on Palm Pilots, breakfast meetings and mutual funds?


Irene Yarkoni is a romantic entrepreneur who has come to the aid of lovelorn singles.


Spin Dating, a new non-denominational dating service, is setting up singles aged 20-70. The concept was devised by a rabbi a couple of years ago for single Jews interested in meeting other single Jews.


He configured women in a circle with a corresponding number of men.


Then, the matchmaker starts the clock and each person is given 10-15 minutes to meet and talk with every other person of the opposite sex.




If the process works, it's because it's designed to be safe and sincere. Spins are held in neutral environments such as a parish hall or community centre. Every participant is screened to ensure they are, indeed, single.


"Instead of meeting one person for two hours, you meet eight prospective matches in two hours," says Yarkoni. "It's very focused, you don't waste time."


That might not sound like a lot of time until you realize you can tell if there is chemistry in less than a minute.


The spin is meant merely as an introductory service. The romance begins afterwards, when dates to talk further are made.


With a database of 2,500 singles categorized by age, Yarkoni holds up to four spins a month, with as many as 10 potential couples attending.


"If you meet someone you are attracted to on the street or in a coffee shop, you are embarrassed to approach them. This is a missed opportunity for romance," she explains. "The spin matches people, so there are no missed opportunities."




In the spirit of 'missing no opportunities,' I volunteered for my first spin.


It's a balmy Indian Summer night and I am riding to the Sandy Hill Community Centre, where 10 women are waiting to give me and nine other guys the once over.


Seated at desks which circle the perimeter of the room, colourful cloths hang from the institutional-issue desks as if to remind all that what we are bartering on these surfaces will be several dozen hearts.


They come in all shapes and sizes. There is a stunning Russian with gray eyes and a curious nature; the woman with the census-form list of questions so long we got halfway through before time was up; the athletic francophone woman with gourmet tastes; the cute red-headed property manager who couldn't stop smiling at me; the MBA who wouldn't smile at all and left me feeling like I was interviewing for a job; the army brat who laughed at every joke I could think of and the tall divorcee who scolded me for being commitment-phobic.


Nervous and reluctant, I force the questions like a game show host -- whoever asks the most questions wins. She looks at me in horror, expressing a preference for men who aren't "control freaks."


Learning the ropes the hard way, I relax, introduce myself, talk casually, listen patiently and laugh easily.


Once I got the hang of it, the nerves calmed and the spin turned out to be slightly addictive.


These micro tete-a-tetes were exhaustive fun. A couple of times it felt like being on trial defending your life, but because the people are matched by age, the experience was a pleasant sense of cheery camaraderie.




The first spin costs $50. Subsequent spins are half that, but be sure to bring throat lozenges if you enjoy talking. This is two hours of intensive relating, which requires stamina and charm.


While I did not make a match, I could have and perhaps should have.


Two women did indicate some interest.


That is about the average, according to Yarkoni.


And I bet I know who they are.


For more information on Spin Dating, visit the website at or call 596-6533.



photo by Suzanne Bird, Ottawa Sun

IRENE YARKONI is the matchmaker behind Spin Dating in Ottawa. The business offers singles a unique and safe way of meeting several other eligible people interested in dating.

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