The United States has millions of unmarried adults. Many would like to go out socially and have fun with someone they like. I'm Mary Tillotson. And I'm Steve Ember. The story of how people meet and date is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

February fourteenth is Valentine's Day. On that day, many Americans send cards or buy presents for people who are important in their lives. Valentine's Day gives lovers a chance to express their feelings.

However, millions of people in the United States are alone. They are not married or involved in a close relationship. Some of these people wish they could find someone to date. They wish they could celebrate Valentine's Day with a special person.

There are a number of ways to find someone to date. Some people meet at work. Others meet by chance in a public place. Still others visit places where other single people go. Or they can use businesses that help organize dates. Many men and women find dates through services they find on the Internet computer system.

The purpose of dating is to have fun. Sometimes people who date develop a close relationship. Some people decide to live together, yet remain unmarried. Others decide to get married.

In the past, young people in America usually lived with their parents until they got married. Today, some still do. Yet most young people live a more independent life. They have a job. They travel. They rent or own their own apartment or house. They wait longer to get married. While waiting, they date.

Often a friend will plan a meeting between two unmarried people who do not know each other. The friend thinks the two people will like each other. This is called a "blind date." The people involved are not blind. They just have never seen each other. However, most unmarried people have to find their own dates. Many go to public eating, drinking or dancing places. Every city in America has them. Some places are popular with young people. Others are for older people.

Many Americans, however, want to go where they are sure they can meet people with similar interests. For example, they may go to a bookstore. Some bookstores in America serve coffee and food. Many offer special programs and social activities for single people. Other singles join health clubs or sports teams to get exercise and to meet people. Or, they may join groups for people who like to take long walks in the woods.

Some public eating and drinking places help plan dates for single people. At several such places in New York City, people can write answers to a series of questions about themselves. Then other people read the answers. If someone likes the answers, an employee sets up a date. This service costs a small amount of money.

A restaurant called Drip Café started using this system when it opened in New York in nineteen-ninety-six. Since then, the Drip Café has helped many people find someone to date. It was the first restaurant and date-organizing place in a group called DateCafes. There are similar cafes in several other American cities.

Some businesses help single people meet other people. For example, Great Expectations has been organizing dates for about twenty-five years. It started in San Francisco, California. The company sends millions of letters a year to people throughout the country. The letters explain how the system works.

A company called Brief Encounters serves single people in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland. Its meetings provide quick introductions for small groups of men and women. At these events, people meet members of the opposite sex for only a few minutes.A man and a woman sit at a table across from each other. They talk for six minutes until a bell rings. Then everyone meets a new person. People write their reactions on paper. They write the names of the people they liked best. Then they give these notes to a Brief Encounters employee. Within twenty-four hours the people seeking dates receive the names and telephone numbers of the people who liked them.

A group called SpeedDating also provides fast introductions for single people. It is one of a number of dating services organized by religious organizations. Many young people are in a room. One man and one woman meet and talk for seven minutes. Then they meet and talk to other people. An international Jewish education center started these groups. They began in Los Angeles, California. The service now has spread to many American cities and to other countries.

Some people seeking dates do not like making hurried choices. But others praise this method. They say it prevents spending long hours with someone who is not very interesting.

Many American newspapers and magazines publish messages from people seeking someone to date. The messages are called "personal want ads" or simply "personals." This is the usual kind of message in a personal ad: "Nice looking woman, thirty years old, thin, athletic, successful, great cook, desires long-term relationship."

Men who want to meet this woman write to the newspaper or magazine. They describe themselves and their interests. The woman reads the letters. Then she decides if she wants to meet any of the men.

There also are telephone dating services in many cities. A person calls a telephone dating service and leaves a message on a recording machine. For example, a man describes himself and the kind of woman he hopes to meet. He describes what kind of relationship he would like.

Other people call and listen to the messages. If they hear one they like, they leave their own message. If two people enjoy these telephone messages, they can make plans to meet. Some telephone services let people speak directly to others they might want to date.

Millions of Americans seek someone to date through services they find on the Internet. People start by communicating with strangers. Sometimes the strangers become friends. They might decide to meet. Then they might decide to date. They may even decide to get married.

A business called Match-dot-com is a leader in organizing dates through the Internet. It has millions of members.

Members can get lists of people their age who live nearby. Some people identify themselves, while others do not. Many send pictures electronically. The goal is for people to get to know each other through electronic mail. Then, they can decide to meet and date.

Match-dot-com began in nineteen-ninety-five. It says its service has led to more than one-thousand-three-hundred weddings. Many other members have formed close relationships. For example, a teacher in the Washington, DC area ended her marriage a few years ago. She had not dated much until she met a computer expert through Match-dot-com.

However, many people believe there is the possibility of danger in any situation when strangers meet. Some women say they do not want to meet a man through a computer dating service. They are afraid that a man may not be the kind of person he claims to be.

Some people praise businesses that help organize dates. Others say they wish they could meet people by chance. No one method of finding someone to date works for everyone.

When single people finally get together, what do they do on a date? People of all ages like to do many of the same things. They go to restaurants or night clubs. They go to movies, museums and concerts. They watch sporting events, or play sports themselves.

Dating in America can be fun. It is also a serious business. Why? One woman gave this answer: "People are always looking for the perfect relationship," she says. "No matter how old they are, they are always looking for this thing called 'love'. And love is sometimes hard to find."

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.