The age of dissonance. Let’s You and Him Date

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New York Times – January 16, 2005

There he was at a nightclub bash last fall. Bachelor No. 1. Hitting on a beautiful friend of mine who happens to be engaged. I had to intercede.

Turns out he’s a working actor whom I recognize from television — smart and funny, with a stupendous jaw line. He could be useful for any of the other beautiful single women I know. I took his number and flew into action, with all the delicacy of a border collie.

”This guy’s hot,” I told a neighbor friend the next day. ”I’ve seen him on HBO.” She didn’t sound sold exactly, but said she would be happy to meet him sometime.

”You should do it soon,” I persisted. ”He has to go off to work in L.A.” How could she not want to drop everything to meet him?

”What is wrong with you?” she finally said. ”You’re crazy.”

Maybe this is what happens when you finally find love and settle down, as I have. You go from being a bachelor who talks up the nobility of being a thriving independent person in the most sophisticated city in the world to thinking everyone you know should inhabit a heart-shape Jacuzzi of the soul. Or maybe it’s from having too many very attractive single women friends.

Whatever the reason, I suddenly find myself the most aggressive matchmaker since Barbra Streisand in ”Hello, Dolly!” And when it doesn’t work out, I get irritated. How dare these friends who belong together waste my time with their own opinions?

Take Bachelor No. 2, whom I found at a downtown bar. A soulful, funny Buddhist in his 40’s, he said he was looking for someone younger. Not the greatest sign, but I took his card and got to work, not by making a dinner party (who has time?) but by setting up a three-way at a bar with a 30-something redhead who has a New Age background. Her blouse wasn’t as flattering as it could be, I thought. And the conversation was a little forced for all of us. It didn’t work.

Later, when I got him to join me and another wonderful single friend, we had lots in common and plenty to talk about. By e-mail soon after she told me he was lovely. He never called her or me again. Ingrate.
So whose dates were these anyway? Mine or theirs? Clearly, in my need to control things as tightly as a reality TV show producer, I had broken every rule of matchmaking manners. But then, Joseph Field of Field’s Dating
Service says setting up friends is as bad an idea as lending them money.

First of all, friends aren’t always comfortable discussing their desires. ”And when a date doesn’t work it can really come back to haunt you,” he said. When one woman I know got set up with someone completely wrong for her, it made her question her friendship with the matchmaker. On the other hand, she recently connected two friends and now they’re engaged.

”It’s nice to make an effort to help your friends,” said Lisa Clampitt, who founded the Matchmaking Institute in Manhattan six years ago to train yentas. (Twenty-two hours of instruction for $1,500.) ”But you have to be more discreet about it and get them together without even telling them why.” Or better yet, said Nancy Kirsch, the senior vice president of It’s Just Lunch, a national dating service, don’t be anywhere nearby when it happens. Just give friends each other’s numbers and let them handle it. ”Why would you even want to be on a first date with them?” she asked.

Probably because I don’t trust people to drop their expectations and get on with seeing how wonderful they could be together.

”People aren’t babies,” said Ms. Kirsch, who married a man recommended by a friend. ”They can meet on their own if they have any interest.” Etiquette, she added, requires calling the matchmaker the next day.
That’s what my neighbor did after a sizzling first date with Bachelor No. 1, whom she tracked down while on assignment in Los Angeles.

Soon after that, it tanked. Now I’m miffed.

”You’re a tyrant when you set people up,” she said. ”But even if you’re very bad at it, you’re trying to
create love, and that’s the nicest possible thing you can do.”

Tools of my trade? One bow, one arrow and one cattle prod.

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