I take some pride in being a good matchmaker. I mean, I'm constantly trying to shove single people together — and, every now and then, it actually works. I even set up one of my best friends with the guy she ended up marrying. How cool is that?
So when a woman in my book club mentioned an unusual matchmaking opportunity, I figured it would be a snap.
matchmaking for money
One of the club's members, Kat, has been friends with a guy named Scott forever. We've all gotten to know Scott through Kat — and as this particular group of friends has grown progressively older and more married, we increasingly live vicariously through Scott's bachelor fun.
But Scott has had enough.
"He's decided he's tired of first dates that go nowhere," Kat reported. "So he's offered a $1,000 finder's fee to any of his friends who finds him a real, successful relationship!"
The excitement in the room became palpable. We all know single women, and we all know Scott — how hard could this be?
Then someone suggested that we could really get to work. "Let's put together of a roster of all the single people we know!" she suggested. "Descriptions, ages, locations. If we all add enough people, we could totally start hooking people up."
I don't know about the rest of them, but I was thinking: Screw the group roster. I'm going to hook Scott up on my own.
I've known this guy for three years, and he's a total catch. And then there's my special aptitude for bringing people together. Did I mention I've already got one wedding under my belt?
I was counting the money already.
Fueled by dreams of an easy payday, I scheduled lunch with Scott the very next week. Scott, I should disclose, is not our bachelor's real name. I don't want any of you sneaky types figuring out who he is and taking the $1,000 for yourselves.
But I can attest to the fact that Scott is a living, breathing bachelor in his early 40s. He is not missing limbs. Nor does he have a family stashed away somewhere. (He was married in his 20s, but it ended without kids.)
He owns a charming bungalow in downtown Phoenix. He's got an engineering degree, an awesome job (which has little to do with engineering), and he is both funny and athletic. I'd always assumed that his single status was a matter of choice.
Not so, he told me, as we inhaled our soul food. Turns out he's tried match.com, eHarmony, you name it. Scott estimates he's gone out with more than 100 women at least once since his divorce.
"I have plenty of dates," he said. "I just hate them."
"You don't hate them," I said, horrified.
"Okay, I don't hate them," he agreed. "I just don't like them." He'd always been leery of letting friends set him up — but after some exceptionally dull evenings, he wondered what he had to lose.
Scott is looking for someone with mojo. "There are all these women wanting for people to create a life for them," he said. He wants someone who's already made one of her own.
He actually has a bit of a list. "I'd like her to have a curiosity about the world, to want to learn and experience new things. Ideally, someone in her 30s who wants to keep active in life. And a biting sense of humor. The banter is important."
None of this sounded too hard.
"I have to find her attractive," he added. "But really, that's the easiest thing to find. It's hard to find women who have a little spunk. A lot of those are taken."
After lunch, I started making a list of my own, this one with eligible females. And that's when it hit me how hard this was going to be.
For one thing, I had a startling small pool of eligible singles. (Taking out the 20-something bimbos and the prematurely bitter, my list was down to four.)
One good possibility is leaving town, and one of Scott's rules is no long-distance relationships. Another friend is way too much of a homebody. No spunk there. A third is hopelessly mired in a screwed-up romance with an ex. If she's waiting to line up a new guy before leaving the old one, how could she possibly fit Scott's criteria of being willing to create a life of her own?
That left Anna (which, again, is not her real name for reasons that will become obvious).
I called her up and gave my sales pitch: Here's this single guy who's smart, funny, successful.
Anna has pestered me for years to find her a nice guy. Years! Yet when I finally had one, she immediately wanted to know how tall he was. When I admitted the answer was 5-foot-8, Anna quickly made an excuse to get off the phone. Damn her.
"You're only 5-4," I pointed out.
"Yeah, but I want to wear heels," she said. "Whoa . . . that's my other line! Call me next week, okay?"
Matchmaking ought to be easy. If people were just a set of data, you could plug in the coordinates and let a computer do the rest. She is 35, 5-foot-4, and smart. He is 45, 5-foot-8, and funny. Ding ding ding!
But the human heart is complicated. Anna is short, but she wants someone tall. Scott talks enough, he ought to be interested in a quiet girl — but he wants someone to spark with, not dominate.
When my friend Janine heard that I was attempting to make money as a matchmaker, she put me in touch with her friend Carrie. Not as a match for Scott — Carrie lives in Los Angeles — but as a cautionary tale.
Carrie is a successful TV and film producer and an attractive blond to boot. She'd always resisted set-ups. But by the time she turned 30, she decided it was time to take some risks.
At her birthday party, she gathered her complete circle and made a toast. For the next year, she vowed, she wouldn't say no to any blind date they suggested.
"Within two months," she says dryly, "I had called all of them to revoke the offer."
What went wrong? Apparently all of Carrie's friends had decided she needed someone to help her "settle down."
She got an unending parade of geeks.
"That's the problem with friends," she says. "They think they know what you need. And, I agree, that is what I need, but not yet. Not now!"
Sadly, I think, it's not just that our friends don't know what we want. We don't even know it ourselves.
I used to have a policy that I would date guys only with good teeth. I like a big, flashy grin. But then I met a man whose teeth were so screwed up, he got braces at age 40. Throwing my rules out the window, I jumped into a serious relationship with this guy, metal mouth and all. I thought teeth mattered; what mattered more is that this man had a sly sense of humor and could cook like America's Top Chef.
Our relationship ended within months of the braces finally coming off, but trust me, the unhappy ending had nothing to do with the guy's choppers.
And then there's my policy on kids. I had a disastrous time in college dating a dude with a kid. The baby mama kept calling and making him feel guilty, and that made me feel guilty. I vowed, never again. So tell me this: Why am I now dating a guy with two freakin' teenagers? "The heart wants what it wants," says Mr. Father-of-Two. Yeah, and the heart is a mess.
That's the problem with match.com, and even that eHarmony test with its patented personality analysis. There's no accounting for pheromones.
Take my friend Erin. Yes, I'm always bragging about the fact that I introduced her to her husband. But what I consistently leave out of the story is that I took her out with my colleagues hoping to fix her up with a different guy. I was stunned when she chose Kevin instead.
And, really, if you'd asked Erin at the time what she wanted, she might have said tall, dark, and handsome — but she would have never said "comic book geek." She ended up marrying one just the same.
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So when it comes to getting the $1,000, I suspect, my so-called matchmaking skills are pointless. Despite Scott's list-making, he probably doesn't know what he wants, there's no way I can ever figure out what he wants, and even if we both found it, what are the odds she actually likes him?
Still, I have cause for optimism. Mathematically, I've got a huge advantage over the other book-club girls.
Supposedly, 110,000 of you picked up this newspaper this week — and even more are reading it online. Surely, one of you is an attractive, spunky woman in her 30s planning to stay in the Valley who'd love to meet a really great (albeit somewhat short) guy.
Get in touch. Maybe I'll cut you in on the deal.