Matchmaking services offer an easy way for people to meet, but they can't provide the magic and the glue that make them stick.

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A year ago, my 24-year-old son wouldn’t think of using an online matchmaking service. It would seem as if he couldn’t attract young single women on his own — that he was somehow flawed, unattractive or uncool.

This year, he’s still not flawed, unattractive or uncool, yet he’s still single and no longer working at a place with many available women around. He has few opportunities to meet like-minded ladies who want to become acquainted.

At the “right” moment, I suggest trying online dating services, and he thinks it might not be such a bad idea. No surprise that I also think it might not be such a bad idea to explore the services for this column. I figure some of you are single and might like to learn about how they work.

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My son agrees to try Match.com ($30 for one month; $51 for three; $78 for six) and eHarmony.com ($50; $100; $160). Both sites permit newcomers to browse member profiles for free and then subscribe when they’re ready to communicate through the site’s e-mail service.

After registering at Match.com, my son creates a personal profile to provide his basic information, plus background and interests. He also uploads pictures. After screening his submitted profile, Match.com posts it, and my son is good to go.

To start meeting people, he browses the profiles of women in the Seattle area, looking for ones around his age who might be right for him. The next step is to send a personal message, or to indicate interest by “winking” at someone before possible communication.

Starting up with eHarmony.com is fairly similar, except the new member completes a more extensive questionnaire, which involves selecting specific words that describe aspects of one’s character and personality. Then eHarmony composes a profile that includes those words.

Members can browse and send e-mail, plus eHarmony sometimes attempts to match members who share similar interests and whose habits and preferences appear to be compatible.

Both receive an e-mail suggesting they might make a good couple. Then, it’s up to them to decide if they want to e-mail each other.

My son begins with Match.com, and it doesn’t take long to locate a couple of women he’d like to know and contact them through member mail.

The first responds that she doesn’t want to get involved with a man who has a child. My son noted in his profile that he has custody of his 2-year-old son and posted pictures of them together.

She was forthright, and that’s one of the values of online matchmaking; it’s initially easier to be frank before meeting face to face, when it’s a lot harder.

The second answers favorably, possibly because she also has a 2-year-old. Soon they’re talking on the phone, and I guess she’s a telephone talker, too, because their conversations go on for hours. They decide to meet on a Saturday at the Seattle Children’s Museum, with kids.

My son and grandson leave Saturday morning, and we hear not a word until he calls at 4 p.m. with a story about losing his car keys at a park. His voice suggests the first date is going well, even though the transportation is not.

They find the keys, and the next two weeks are filled with phone calls and rendezvous.

OK, this is a Valentine’s Day column and I want to end the story that they’re a Match.com couple with a happy ending.

But the relationship soon careens from “she’s the one” to “it’s not going to work.” The rest of us at home shake our heads.

That’s the way with relationship beginnings: Some continue and some don’t.

Matchmaking services offer an easy way for people to meet, but they can’t provide the magic and the glue that make them stick.

Still, in my opinion, matching services are great for initiating possibilities.

I know how difficult and awkward it is sometimes for single people to meet, and anything that makes that process easier and reasonably safe is worth considering.

Matchmaking sites certainly are popular. There are reportedly more than 850 of them on the Web, and Match.com alone has 15 million members.

It also seems that though the major sites are national, it’s possible to find enough people locally to make the service worth trying. In the Seattle area, for instance, Match.com has more than 130,000 members, which means the odds of finding a few promising possibilities are pretty good.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, and you’re feeling all too available, why not give online matching a try? It’s not free, but you may actually spend more going to clubs and other hangouts to meet people.

And, according to my son, browsing profiles and communicating with other site members is kind of fun.

Write Linda Knapp at lknapp@seattletimes.com; to read other Getting Started columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/gettingstarted