Issue Date: May 2007, Posted On: 4/27/2007


Make Me a Match
by Amy Klein

You’d think, in this era of the Internet, that online dating would have replaced the oldfashioned techniques of our parents’ generation. With the not-so-subtle arrival of JDate, Frumster and more generic sites like MySpace and craigslist, we should have seen the last of bar-hopping, mixers and the never-tobe- forgotten post-Yom Kippur Dance.

Right?

Wrong.

Well, almost wrong. While online dating sites may have succeeded in changing the face of the modern-day search for companionship, even they have not been able to eradicate that age-old form of playing cupid, the kind practiced by God in the Garden of Eden: matchmaking. You know, shadchanus—to use the Yiddish terminology— the art of fixing people up. In an age where the next date is only five cyber-seconds and a click away, where anyone from 18 to 80 can browse and discard 30 potential mates from the comfort of his pajamas, matchmaking—yes, matchmaking— is making a comeback.

Exact numbers are, of course, difficult to come by. But the recent surge of interest in all things matchmaking— from NBC’s 2003 television series Miss Match to eHarmony.com, a matchmaking site rivaled in size only by the generic Match.com and Yahoo personals—is pervading every form of media. For instance, a Google search under the term “matchmaking” yields 7,560,000 listings, and the same search on Amazon.com yields 6,677 in books alone. (And, in fact, 12 of the first 30 were published this year.)

Indeed, the pop culture appeal of Samantha Daniels’ “Diary of a Modern Matchmaker” (Simon & Schuster, 2005) or Susan Shapiro’s “Secrets of a Fix-Up Fanatic” (Delta Trade, 2007) has made its way into the Jewish romance industry as well. Matchmaking sites such as SawYouAtSinai.com claim membership of 20,000 and 434 engagements—and this is in only three years. Even the more generic Jewish dating sites, such as JDate, have incorporated a matchmaking component into their package, sending their members daily emails with a computergenerated list of potentially appropriate matches.

“To people who want something more personalized,” says Esther Kustanowitz, a singles columnist for The Jewish Week and a professional speaker on the subject, “matchmaking is one of the ways to go.” Kustanowitz says she has seen a proliferation of services that provide some form of matchmacking because people are tired of the same methods. And, she says, “A market wouldn’t provide what people aren’t looking for.”

And so, while for most it seems that matchmaking died out with Yenta, the busybody matchmaker immortalized in Fiddler on the Roof, the art of the fix-up is definitely returning— albeit in its modern incarnation.

Combining Yenta with Yahoo
If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the fix-up. Maybe that’s because I was out there—wherever there is—all the time, meeting people whom I liked on my own. Then came the Internet, and with it, the need never to go out there again.

And yet, for every couple that met online and married, there are probably another 10, like me, who are still single. Take JDate, for example. Boasting hundreds, if not thousands, of marriages, JDate still has, at the very moment of this writing, 19,890 (presumably single) people online. So the Internet—that great equalizer and leveler of playing fields—hasn’t ended singledom. It hasn’t put a stop to the bar scene or singles mixers. And it certainly hasn’t put an end to the need for matchmakers.

Just ask Rachel Greenwald, author of “Finding a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School” (Ballantine, 2003), who advocates that women ask everyone they know to fix them up. (See page 46 for more from Greenwald.) “In business, when a company ‘goes public,’ it announces an IPO (initial public offering) to the world,” says Greenwald. “In searching for a husband, the same holds true. You want everyone to know you are looking for a mate because they might be able to help you or might know someone to introduce to you.” Greenwald sees the “fix-up” as an integral part of finding a mate.

And others agree. According to Shapiro, author of “Secrets of a Fix- Up Fanatic,” the case for post-modern matchmaking is simple. Putting your love life in the hands of someone you know and trust helps “sidestep the bars, 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,” writes Shapiro in her book. “The beauty of having someone near and dear set you up is that there’ll be no surprises or shocks about what lies ahead.”

It goes without saying, then, that Shapiro met her own husband through a fix-up and is a veteran matchmaker— 12 marriages and counting—and that’s not even her day job! (She’s a writing professor at New York University.) “Since we [matchmakers] know who we are setting up personally, we take everything very personally,” she says. “We have a shared goal, and our reputation as a perceptive, smart, and serious fixer-upper is at stake.”

The Payoff
After reading Shapiro’s book, I decided maybe she was onto something. After all, I am still single. It’s not that I’m not good at picking people for myself— although that might be the case—it’s just that there are too many people to choose from. Now, this isn’t a “My mansion’s too big and I don’t know where to spend my money” type of complaint; it’s very real: I don’t know how to select from, say, everyone Jewish in the world. (Although half the guys on JDate aren’t even Jewish.)

But it’s not only that. Internet dating feels like interplanetary dating. You don’t know where the guy came from, who he really is besides what he tells you and where he is going to disappear to after you’ve met. It sometimes feels like dating Jason Bourne. A person without context.

That was the first thing I liked about my first blind date after reading Shapiro’s book. My friend Alan set me up with “Stan.” The whole two hours I was with “Stan,” all I could think was, “Alan really likes Stan. Says he’s a really nice guy.” Now, I’m not sure that I liked “Stan”—or liked him in that way, for me, forever—but I certainly liked knowing things about “Stan,” like his real name, where he was from and, most importantly, that one of my friends could vouch for him.

I’ve been on five fix-ups since I read the matchmaking books. One was a total disaster—but not as bad a disaster as it would have been if it were an Internet date—because all I could think during the date was about my friend Jason, who’d set us up. (“He really likes this guy? He really thinks this guy is for me? What’s wrong with him? What does he think of me? What’s wrong with me??”)

Two others weren’t for me—one by my choice and one by his—but still, I had that warm and fuzzy feeling that we both knew someone in common (our matchmaker) and liked that person, and that was something, wasn’t it? We also all had to be extremely nice to each other because our friend had set us up.

And the last guy, well, turns out he was someone I’d never have gone out with if left to my own devices—an MBA, type-A personality living across the country in a zip code so tony I’d hope never to call it my own. But still, we clicked on our first few dates. And that’s exactly what my friend Josh who set us up had said in the simplest terms a matchmaker could use: “I think you guys will like each other.”

Maybe this time my matchmaker actually has made me a match.

Amy Klein is the religion editor for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

2007 World Jewish Digest

 

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