Internet dating not doing the trick? Try a professional matchmaker.
Despite the popularity of online dating; many singles are increasingly relying on professional matchmakers to help them find love. A Tango reporter hires three expert cupids to get a new take on the world's second-oldest profession.
Lisa Ronis is sitting in a coffee shop with her French hound, Stella, leaving a sparkling message: "I’ve found the man for you. His name is John. He’s hilarious, sexy, and I’ve given him your number. Let’s chat!"
For most people this would be a social call, but Ronis is hard at work. She is a professional matchmaker, a member of a booming industry that exists nationwide. There are over 1,000 private matchmakers in the United States today, according to Marketdata Enterprises, a research group in Florida.
And there's even a school to train them: The Matchmaking Institute in New York City molds novice meddlers into professional love brokers. "Matchmaking is a hot profession right now," says Lisa Clampitt, the institute’s cofounder and executive director. "It's the next real estate! Our class size has tripled in the past three years."
She attributes this growth to the rise of the Internet. "The online dating industry has mainstreamed the idea of having a third party facilitate your love life," Clampitt explains. "But there’s a lot of misinformation online. Married people pretend to be single. People lie about their age, height, weight. That’s where a matchmaker comes in; they prescreen your date before you even get there."
"It’s all about efficiency," says Rachel Greenwald, a professional matchmaker in Colorado. "If, say, you’re a busy executive, a third party setup saves you the time it takes to slog through all the dating arenas—spending hours at a crowded party only to go home having met no one."
It may not be as strange as it sounds to outsource your love life. As Janis Spindel, a New York City matchmaker, puts it, "It’s perfectly acceptable to hire professionals to do something better than you could do it yourself—even find a mate."
Beyond this logical appeal, there’s an emotional pull: It’s comforting to think that someone else can guide you through a precarious patch of life with relative ease.
If you are someone who is too shy or too busy to "get out there"—or, worse, realizes that being "out there" usually ends in disappointment and heartache—having a pro in your court can force you to make better choices.
"A good matchmaker can help you evaluate your past relationships and break your bad habits," says Ronis. "I’ve had clients who have said, 'She's not for me; she's not pretty enough,' or 'He's not for me, he's not funny.' I make them go on a second date and—boom!—they're married with two kids."
When matchmaking succeeds, all parties win: The client snags a life partner, the matchmaker a handbag of cash. Pricing structures vary, but most include an initial consultation fee, a dating package price, and a marriage bonus. (Bonuses can be cash, or even a car or a trip.)
The matchmakers approached for this story charge anywhere from $7,500 to $100,000 for packages ranging from eight dates to a year of service.
Since it's one thing to hear about the wonders of matchmaking from those who sell the service and quite another to experience it yourself, I decided to test the viability of this venerable institution by asking three matchmakers to work their magic on me. Here's what happened.
Rachel Greenwald, author of Find a Husband After 35 (Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School), believes in the efficacy of business tactics in every circumstance—even love. As such, she sees herself less as an Edith Wharton–style matchmaker and more as a headhunter for an executive search.
She charges $500 for a one-hour coaching session, $1,500 for an all-day private coaching session, and $5,000 to $100,000 for various matchmaking packages, tiered by duration.
Greenwald accepts just a handful of high-end clients, and rejects 75 percent of those who approach her. They can't commit to a realistic relationship, she says, so she can't help them.
For example, she has turned down "men who are attractive and successful and only want to date beautiful, perfect women within a very specific age range" and "women over 40 who are looking for something that doesn't exist: a 38-to 45-year-old man who wants to have a family. That’s unfair. How can a 42-year-old woman guarantee children?"
At Greenwald's rates, I cannot afford to buy love, so she accepts me pro-bono as a long distance client. (She lives in Denver and usually requires a visit.) The condition? That I’ll play by her rules.
This is harder than it sounds. First, she demands that I internalize her maxim: "Be open to finding love in different packages." (I have to admit that all of my boyfriends could fit into the same shoebox: handsome and charming, if ultimately impossible.)
She also forces me to read a 1980s self-help book called How to Stop Looking for Someone Perfect and Find Someone to Love, by Judith Sills, PhD. I am so embarrassed by the title that I staple a postcard to the cover.
But I do read it. So you don’t have to, here it is in a nutshell: Widen your pool and accept people for who they really are. Be open-minded, not judgmental.
Next, Greenwald asks me who I’m looking for. I describe him: smart, playful, ambitious, grounded, clever, handsome, confident, kind (you know, Patrick Dempsey). She also allows me one deal-breaker. I select: He must want to have children, eventually.
Just three days later, I open my email to find an investment banker waiting for me. Kevin* is 34, 5'10'', Canadian, well-educated, well-traveled, athletic, and handsome. It looks like his photo was taken in Capri, or another Mediterranean destination I’d happily visit. I imagine myself on the other side of the camera. Click.
But there is a catch. And the catch is 5 years old, a daughter who is "a big part of his life," and the result of a broken engagement. As excited as I initially was about the date, suddenly I am not. I can picture myself being a mother, but the image is conditional. This is not it.
Greenwald reads my mind and sends me another email. "Don’t say 'Ooooh, that stepmom thing wouldn't be for me, I could never…' Whatever the stereotype is, try to set it aside and see what’s really there."
And since she has the life I want—a happy marriage and three kids—I decide to listen to her, and approach the date neutrally.
Kevin greets me with an extra-wide smile, and I am so pleased. (Let’s just say: His photo delivers). I am less pleased when he asks all three of my pet-peeve questions, which are (in order of appearance): "What do you do for fun?" "What do you look for in a guy?" and "You're so pretty, why don't you have a boyfriend?"
I can sense "What kind of music do you listen to?" on the tip of his tongue, so I steer the conversation toward film, television, and books. Usually, this is a winning trifecta, but Kevin watches children's movies and reads about finance.
I do not.
But, just when I'm ready to write him off entirely, the conversation turns to something he's passionate about: his daughter. She talked him into buying a four-pound dog, and I picture this ex–hockey player walking it, pink leash in tow. I like him more, instantly.
Two glasses of wine later, he pulls on his jacket. When he does, he holds his cuffs in his fists so that his shirt won't bunch in his coat sleeves. It’s been a long time since I've done that, or seen anyone over the age of 10 do it, and I think: This is a man who really cares for someone. How can that be a bad thing? So when he walks me home and suggests a second date, I withhold judgment. I am open. Yes, yes, yes.