The Argument for Postmodern Matchmaking
There are many different methods for making love connections and I offer no value judgments–except to say that being fixed up by someone you know is the best way to meet your mate. Having a comrade, coworker, or cousin you love set you up for free is the oldest, cheapest, fastest, safest, and nicest route to landing a different kind of love. You get to bypass the usual complex weeding-out process and sidestep the awkward ways that singles usually intersect. These are often so uncomfortable and agonizing that there's a cottage industry of magazine articles, books, sitcoms, movies, and reality shows chronicling the annals of disastrous dates. By choosing and using a matchmaker you know, you can:
• Avoid bars, concerts, raves, clubs, and other meat markets–the most obvious places to connect with drunks and creeps who could be trying to seduce, drug, manipulate, rob, molest, date-rape, or take advantage of you.
• Never again have to approach a stranger of the opposite sex whom you've never met with a pickup line (like "Come here often?") or silly ploy (like "Can you tell me what time it is?"). Instead, the person you meet for coffee has already agreed in advance to give you a shot. Your date knows all about you; you know all about your date. You have an intrusive matchmaker in common to comfortably gossip about, which will break the ice.
• Steer clear of the Internet, which can sometimes offer the quickest, most impatient path to unwittingly picking up pedophiles, ex-cons, losers, and liars from different states and countries who post ten-year-old pictures of themselves with all kinds of other deceptive misinformation.
• Remember how liberating it feels to detach from your laptop, cell phone, video games, TiVo, and all your other high-tech gadgets, take a shower, and get dressed up to socialize with warm people you already like and whomever they choose for your ready-made date.
• Save yourself the agony of placing personal ads, the easiest approach to becoming a confused and insecure liar yourself. Has anyone in history ever offered a résumé or recent photograph that honestly reflects true appearance, age, height, weight, profession, salary, original hair color, or reason for past breakups?
• Give up trying to brand, market, sell, package, and repackage yourself–as if you were a product like cream cheese, or a movie that could be summed up in cute sound bites (rather than a whole, complicated, interesting, real person worthy of an entire conversation).
• Stop wasting your time and throwing away your hard-earned cash on expensive matchmaking services, the clearest gateway to lose your savings to businessmen and women (who are usually miserably single) to do the superficial sorting for you. I only recommend amateur setter-uppers like me, where no money changes hands.
• Skip attending all generic singles events you have to pay for that are given by fly-by-night organizations you've never heard of before. Thus you can cease the painful practice that erodes the confidence, spunk, and great energy you'll need to connect with nice, normal, fun suitors in your own social realm.
Many people still harbor old-fashioned and negative notions of matchmaking. But nobody is suggesting that you allow family members to force you down the aisle with somebody of your faith, ethnic background, or social strata, for purposes of parent pleasing, political diplomacy, or procreation. I'm a huge advocate of staying single for as long as that makes you happy, and dating around until you feel good and ready to settle down. I'm also a champion of feminism, gay rights, and every kind of mixed marriage there is–as long as your mate mixes in love and kindness. Being fixed up by someone you know, trust, and have picked yourself creates a totally different aura than the menacing mood of Fiddler on the Roof
's Yenta. In the postmodern matchmaking arena, you are always in total control of your dates and your destiny. You get to say yes or no to potential get-togethers on a day-to-day basis. (Though please note that answering "Okay, I'll give it a shot," will lead you to "I do" much faster than saying, "I have a zit in the middle of my face, so I can't meet someone new tonight," "I need to watch the basketball game," or "I'm not going out in the rain now 'cause it'll frizz my hair.")
If there is nobody in your life whom you know, like, and trust enough to let set you up, we may have just pinpointed exactly what's been stopping you from finding the right partner. Future chapters will help you combat social isolation and teach you how to cultivate a crowd to care about and connect you. More often the issue is that you're too embarrassed to admit you're feeling sad, stuck, or lonely when it comes to the love department. I'll also discuss in detail the best, fastest, and least painful ways to ask for and get a little romantic assistance.
The beauty of having someone near and dear set you up is that there'll be no surprises or shocks about what lies ahead. You probably already know your matchmakers' marital status, their mates, and whether you trust their stance on sexual matters and methods of socializing. Thus you can feel semicertain that your next suitor will not be a tranny in hiding, a serial adulterer, or an axe murderer. You can also easily find out what your match's ex looked like and learn all kinds of other important data about your date before you even sit down for drinks or a casual lunch at your local diner. I've been known to let slip whether a client is currently looking for fun for the next few years or matrimony within six months; if either side comes with a car, a country house, or a dog or cat or canary; and whether someone is desperate to have offspring tomorrow or is anti-children. Serial monogamists who have a history of never being able to close the deal come with a warning label.
Furthermore, a fair fixer-upper will not mince words when it comes to mismatches, misgivings, or misogyny. My sweet former student Sasha came to a recent party I threw, but ignored the earnest gentlemen I introduced her to. Instead she gravitated toward an alluring teacher I knew to have a reputation as a roué. When Sasha informed me of his interest, I told her plainly: "Fine, go out and have a drink with him, if you must. But do not sleep with him. Ever. For any reason." Sasha went out to dinner with him twice before he became verbally abusive. She stopped by last week to thank me for the advance advisory. Luckily, most matchmakers have wide word-of-mouth networks, an effective technique that perhaps inspired all the bad-date whistle-blowing blogs and dot-coms that have recently become so popular.
George, a thirty-seven-year-old friend of a friend, contacted me about a month ago. He said he was single and quite eager to go out with Julie, a pretty, well-known thirty-seven-year-old celebrity acquaintance of mine he had a crunch on. He thought that since we knew someone in common, I would quickly provide the intro, or just hand him Julie's private e-mail address and phone number. Not so fast, buster! First I had a few questions for him. After a blunt back-and-forth online tête-à-tête, I gathered that George already had a spouse whom he had left–and not very long ago. When I pressed for more details, he reluctantly admitted that they weren't yet divorced, nor even legally separated. I promptly deleted him from Julie's current date card. If he managed to meet her himself, that was his business. But I would not be the liaison. Had he been straightforward from the start about his status, I might have found him more on the up-and-up. Yet when I was living solo, I wouldn't be in such a rush to rendezvous with a man three minutes after he ruined his marriage.
"How do you know it was the husband's fault?" Aaron wanted to know. "What if it was the wife who screwed up the marriage?"
"A guy who has just been dumped would not be feeling confident enough to make a play for a beautiful, famous woman," I told him. "Plus, people who've been screwed over usually play the sympathy card by saying, 'My wife just left me.'"
"What if it was a mutual decision to break up?" Aaron continued to defend all of mankind.
I considered Aaron's defense of this male he had never even met and conceded it was possible. But even if the demise of George's domestic scenario wasn't at all his fault, he had legal entanglements to take care of before he was ready for the kind of full-speed-ahead fix-up Julie said she wanted. Since she was thirty-seven and had never been married, she was focused on finding a mate and having a baby right away. Thus I didn't want Julie to waste time, money, or energy on someone not as ready or as forthright as she was, not to mention that he was still literally wed to somebody else he owned a home with.
Sorry if I sound prudish, but I figured from experience that if George couldn't be totally straight with me–a potentially ideal love connector–he could lie or withhold important information from his dates too, perhaps until after they were postcoital. As a married woman who'd been around the block with bad boyfriends, and had learned how to weed through a lot of weasels to find my own rare and honorable hero, I wasn't playing games here. I was more like the referee calling out-of-bounds.
Still, I wasn't sending George to the penalty box to punish him for real or imagined transgressions. I was basically just implying, "Come back when you are officially available," and filed his request in the back of my mind to revisit at a later date, after his divorce papers were filed. I knew somebody who knew George's soon-to-be-ex-wife, and made a mental note to see if I could get her side of the story. Amazing what a matchmaker's fact-finding mission sometimes revealed.
So what if George wound up frustrated or annoyed? I didn't want to court any headaches, and was only in the market for real husband material for my clients. It didn't matter to me if I won or lost a popularity contest among cads not up to the high standards of my romantic roster. If he turned out to be a decent fellow as a divorcé, I could always call him back to invite him to a singles soiree. If he didn't come, who cared? How refreshing not to give a damn if he didn't like me.
The point is that these kind of in-depth, behind-the-scenes interactions are another huge perk of having someone you know matchmaking for you. Since we know who we are setting up personally, we take everything very personal. We have a shared goal, and our reputation as a perceptive, smart, and serious fixer-upper is at stake. One misstep could hurt someone we care about, along with our future prospects. So we apply protective filters and shields, assessing each member of the potential gene pool so you don't have to second-guess who is not earnest, for real, worthy, or good enough for you. We offer you a divine yin-yang balance to unburden you and keep you sane and serene. We can be a pest, or a pain, or a flaming bitch so you don't have to be. You can remain shy, retiring, passive, forgiving, and/or flirtatious while we do the sorting, heavy lifting, research, dirty work, and rejecting.
Yes, there are cynics out there who think a fixer-upper procures partners like a pimp. In actuality, a good matchmaker is part older sibling, part private detective, part shrink, part bully, and part volunteer bodyguard out there to protect you.
If you're the least bit nervous about trying the matchmaker method, ask yourself one question. Who do you trust more-your sister, boss, and best friend? Or out-of-town companies wanting to make big bucks on your loneliness by linking you to their cyberclients around the country, with no legal motive or ability to check any facts or verify anybody's posted vital statistics?
Indeed, when The New York Times
"Modern Love" column editor Daniel Jones was asked to share his observations about trends in twenty-first-century dating, he deduced that, "In pursuing love, electronic communication allows us to be more reckless, fake, distracted and isolated than ever before." Jones, the editor of the popular male essay anthology The Bastard on the Couch
, opined that "men and women today are apt to plunge into love affairs via text message, cut them off by PowerPoint, lie about who they are and what they want in forums and blogs and online dating sites, pretend they're young when they're old and old when they're young, ignore the people they're physically with for those who are a keystroke away, shoo their children off their laps to caress their BlackBerrys, and spend untold hours staring at pixilated porn stars."
So when you're finished playing with cyberfire, failing, and paying for services that often disappoint you, then come back down to earth, where your fellow earthlings can lead you to lasting love cost-free. If you're still skeptical, examine the motives of people you know to set you up. Members of your family want you to go forth and multiply your tribe, which is their tribe. Most friends and colleagues who are amateur setter-uppers want to help you out of the goodness of their heart, a much sweeter motive than profit. Those who are married hope you join their ranks of those bound in holy matrimony, which reinforces their own choices. Single fix-up fanatics, like Alicia Silverstone's character on the recent TV series Miss Match
, often unconsciously feel that by giving you love they will find love themselves. What's not to love about that?
Plus, all matchmakers relish sharing their own romantic lessons and following up on their pet projects. You know who they are, where they are coming from, and you can hear examples and swap stories often, over the phone and in the flesh. So you will be able to endlessly discuss and dissect the interesting two-hour date you just went on, with the one person on the planet who is almost as emotionally invested in the final outcome as you are.
Furthermore, cultivating a few matchmakers from your inner circle will force you to get out of your house, your head, and your cybersystem. You will have to get over your shyness, timidity, doubts, hesitations, fears, insecurities, shame, and seclusion. You'll need to take some chances, make decisions, and ask someone you know for exactly what you need–face-to-face, using direct eye contact, putting yourself on the line, and feeling very open and vulnerable. You will need to ask questions, answer them, argue, risk rejection, and otherwise intimately relate to a living, breathing being who cares about you. This important exercise in continual complex social interaction will provide excellent practice for dealing with the living, breathing mate with whom you will soon be spending your future.
Excerpted from Secrets of a Fix-up Fanatic by Susan Shapiro. Copyright © 2006 by Susan Shapiro. Excerpted by permission of Delta, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.