Love-life need toning up? Call a dating coachs
Americans invented the personal trainer to get physically fit and the career coach to give them a leg-up on the professional ladder.
But once they had hauled their size zero bodies and rippling abs to the very top of the career tree and paused to allow their fancy to turn to thoughts of love, they realized they were out on a limb.
Enter the dating coach.
Unlike a traditional matchmaker, a dating coach will not arrange a tryst for you, but it is "a personal trainer for people who want to fall in love," one of the pioneers of the genre, Evan Katz, said.
"You have to do the work, you have to lift the weights, but I will guide you to make sure you don't hurt yourself," said Katz, who has been coaching people to successful love lives for five years.
His client pool is unlikely to dry up any time soon because, according to Katz, there are tens of millions of single people out there.
The people who employ the services of a dating coach tend to be educated, hard-working and relatively high up on the socio-economic ladder, not least because fees for the service are relatively high and not reimbursed by health insurance, coach Jennifer Viemont told AFP.
But when it comes to meeting a soulmate, they haven't got a clue.
Viemont, whose prices start at 200 dollars for two phone calls and unlimited email support for one month, currently counsels a doctor from Illinois, a business owner from North Carolina and an engineer from Ohio, among others.
Katz, whose fees are significantly higher, speculated that Americans who end up turning to dating coaches have focused so much and for so long on scaling the career ladder that they have ignored their emotional needs.
"This is a country where people work minimum 40 hours a week, at least five days a week at least 50 weeks a year. We don't take a siesta every day, nor do we have a month off each summer, like in France," he said.
And that doesn't leave a lot of time or energy for mate-searching.
"It's work to find the right person ... It's like a job search, only much more important," one of Katz's clients said in a testimonial, seen by AFP.
So how does it work?
Usually, a dating coach will start out with some questions and advice, designed to steer you clear of pitfalls such as "being interested in anyone who's interested back," Viemont said.
"I might ask questions about grooming skills. Are they tucking their shirt in, are they dressed appropriately for where they're going, did they wash their hair?" Viemont said.
"It might seem obvious to you, but some people just don't think of those things" -- which could explain why they aren't getting many dates.
Katz also begins the client-coach relationship with a chat, conducted either by phone or email.
After that, while Viemont suggests places where a would-be dater might meet a kindred spirit, such as wine-tastings or dance classes, Katz puts his clients online.
Viemont explained her aversion to the Internet as a meeting place, saying: "The only thing you'll have in common with someone you meet online is that you're both single. Hopefully."
But Katz defended the worldwide web, saying it was "the quickest way to build a social life from scratch."
"I do it in a very thoughtful, methodical way with photos, a funny user name, witty emails, a self-aware confident essay," the former Hollywood writer said.
Dating coaches have their own, self-appointed professional association, datingcoach.org, founded some six years ago.
Among its lofty ambitions is "to be the global forum for the art and science of dating coaching."
There's science involved?
Maybe they mean chemistry?
Whichever branch of the sciences it is, few of the singles who were willing to speak about their private lives with AFP bought the idea of hiring a dating coach.
"I don't believe in all that. I believe in spontaneity. How are you supposed to see if there's any chemistry between you if it's all been set up?" said Annie from California, a 51-year-old who looks 10 years younger than she is.
"Ugh," said Deborah, 49, from San Francisco bluntly, while 35-year-old Luis from New York said manicured, online profiles and witty emails seemed "a bit disingenuous."