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
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.”
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
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