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Taking advantage of a lack of choice? Western men outside a bar in the red-light district of Pattaya, one of the centres of the Thai sex industry (©Jonas Gratzer/Lightrocket via Getty Images)

It is 7.30pm on a Saturday evening, and I am on my way to a seminar in a central London hotel about how to find the ideal partner. I pass a number of restaurants and bars, full of couples apparently in love, laughing and talking together.

The seminar I am attending is not speed dating or a singles event, but a course entitled “Love & Soulmate with Kathryn Alice”. For £75 a ticket, delegates are treated to a motivational talk from the warm-up act — a young man who explained to us how we could open our hearts to each other — and a seminar from the love guru herself. 

Alice, a Californian, resplendent in flowing blonde locks, pale-grey linen and a fixed, serene smile, is the author of Love Will Find You: Nine Magnets for Bringing You and Your Soulmate Together (Avalon, 2007), plus a number of CDs and audio products. Alice lectures on love all over the world, and has, according to the delegates on my table, something of a cult following. “I was about to fly to California to meet her,” said Irene (not her real name), a middle-aged Asian woman who has been single since her husband left her a decade ago, “but then I saw an advertisement for this seminar. I could not believe it. It must be fate.”

Although the seminar is clearly a money-making event, Alice is not raking it in like a number of others in the “love for sale” market. The hire of the hotel ballroom on a Saturday evening, plus the DJ, warm-up act and administration and advertising costs, would not leave a huge amount of change out of the joining fee. Perhaps such events are seen as loss-leaders, there to promote supplementary materials and encourage people to sign up to the more expensive one-to-one sessions.

The UK organiser of the event, Gail De Souza, agreed to speak to me following my revelation that I was at the seminar to research an article on the commercialisation of loneliness. De Souza told me that she had made a financial loss on the event, but that she did it “out of love”. The room was only about half-full, and many of the people there were linked to the organisers, but nevertheless such an approach to finding your true love can be addictive. Many of those attending had been to several such seminars previously and said they would continue until they found their soulmate.

Some will acquire a taste for such methods of meeting a partner and will go on to hire personal “dating trainers” to help them with their online search skills; pay for advice from a “flirt coach”; or even travel the world to other events like “Love & Soulmate”, believing that, as they are about to be told by Kathryn Alice, “There is someone for everyone out there. You WILL find them.”

This event is one of many examples of the increasing commercialisation of loneliness. The advertising industry has capitalised on people’s desire to find their soulmate and live happily ever after, and it has gone way beyond online dating services.

The dating scene is getting seriously pricey. A year with bespoke dating agency Berkeley International will set you back £10,000. Then there are dating “boot camps” such as Kama Lifestyles, which costs £800 a day.

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October 30th, 2015
11:10 PM
Could this be the result of the break-up of families, who have friends,who have offspring, eventually providing the next generation's social circle; or is it also the result of the mobility, which leads people to go where they see material and other advantages, rather than staying within the safe circle of their local groups?

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