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Yet the hospital was so bad that once there, all she wanted was to go home.

When she finally got out, however, there was no home for her to return to: she was no longer welcome in her parents’ home, and likely would not have wanted to go back even if they had agreed to take her.

Fortunately, a work-placement program run by the hospital helped her get a job, and though she couldn’t return home, her Aunt Maud and Uncle Ted took her in. Always the class clown at school, Joan knew it was better to hide her insecurities and weaknesses than to ask for help.

Joan could not read easily or write well, nor could she figure out numbers and arithmetic.

When she ended up in the hospital, she found more of the same.

In an era before mental illness was well-understood, and when young women were routinely incarcerated in mental hospitals for everything from sexual misbehavior to hysteria, many hospitals meant to serve the needs of the mentally ill were instead warehouses for people who—ill or not—had somehow stepped out of the bounds of social norms.

This was why, after a few years working as a shop girl, Joan decided that she'd had enough.

As a transitional move, she took a job at a "marriage bureau" (think non-computerized dating service) and, to her surprise, found that she had a great knack for pairing people up.

Miniskirts might be all right, but letting women wear men's clothes or do men's work—running a business, for instance, or rising into management—was still outside the realm of respectability, and usually outside the realm of possibility, for most women.

Yet the real story, warts and all, is much more interesting.

And it helps us understand why computer dating is what it is today—why we love it, loathe it, need it, and fear it in nearly equal measure.

Scrolling through pictures, swiping right or left on a touchscreen, effortless and nearly instant contact in the event of a match…

these are the experiences that define contemporary computer dating.

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