By Marlene Alexander, As Told To Michele Sponagle published
I tried online dating for about a year. I hated it.
I had a few disasters, to put it mildly. Dates that made me cringe in the moment—and then continue to cringe for days afterward. One date showed up wearing a shirt with a popped button that allowed his belly to hang out. Another guy found out I was a labor lawyer and our "date" suddenly turned into him pumping me for free legal advice.
I was tired of dipping my toe into the miasma of online dating. Which is why, when I heard about a friend who tried a matchmaker (yes, an actual, kind-you-see-in-movies matchmaker), I thought, "What the hell?"
After asking around, I decided to use a Toronto-based service called Six Degrees Introductions founded by self-proclaimed matchmaker Julie Ritchie. Her service is exactly what the title suggests: You have to know someone who knows her. Clients are by referral only; you're ostensibly introduced to a potential mate by someone you know. It's kind of old-fashioned, but that's what I liked about it.
Julie and I met over coffee and had a lengthy interview. She understood the limits of online dating and that meeting people in real life through mutual connections lends itself more to long-term success.
We discussed explicitly what I was looking for in a partner and I also filled out a lengthy questionnaire detailing the same specifications. But most importantly, we talked about deal breakers. Honestly, it's not dissimilar to what you might specify online (or to your best friends when they want to set you up). For me, the big two were smoking and having an acrimonious relationship with an ex partner; both are personal red flags.
Julie's standard process is to decide whether she will put your name forward to male clients after meeting with you. She agreed to work with me, but she didn't make any promises. She said it might take weeks or months to introduce me to someone. In short, she was non-committal. But I liked that she was upfront and didn't give me some bullshit speech about how I would have the perfect guy in a week.
I signed a contract and agreed to her fee schedule. Considering the awful dates I was getting for free, I thought the fee was reasonable. And the fact that clients have to pay bodes well; it means they are serious about meeting someone.
The matchmaker's rules are also very clear: She gives your contact information to the guy and it's up to him to make the first move and connect. (A little regressive, maybe, but hey, I said it was old-school.) So you're also paying for this golden guarantee: The guy's getting your number and he's going to call you. There's none of the usual dancing around. That's the drill.
Interestingly, you don't see photos of prospective dates before meeting in person. Julie is a big believer in not doing that. And for good reason. If online dating has underscored anything, it's that we're maybe too much of an aesthetically-driven society. Swiping left and right based on a picture means, of course, you're missing out on the surprises—the people you may not have a knee-jerk physical reaction to but are more of a slow burn. With traditional matchmaking, the objective is the very opposite of online dating: It's *not* to make a decision about a potential partner before meeting.
I went on my first date within few weeks of signing up. It was...lackluster. The chemistry just wasn't there. I let Julie know that he was very nice, but he wasn't a match. She understood. It's just the reality of dating. You can't connect with everybody.
My second date came six months later, in July of last year—certainly a longer time to wait than if you're using an app. But I knew I was signing up for a slower-moving (and ideally more effective) process.
Initially, I didn't want to meet this guy. He has three kids—more than I wanted. But ultimately I decided that dating isn't necessarily ordering a person out of a catalogue. Life, and finding a true partnership, doesn't work that way.
We met for drinks and we hit it off right away. He was well spoken and had great energy. He was cute. I had a great time and made sure to tell him so before we said goodbye.
We didn't make immediate plans—I wanted things to percolate. We texted a few times, and then he asked me out again. Everything just clicked after that.
Now, we're a couple, taking things at a reasonable pace. Even though we're happy, I waited a little while to tell my friends that I'd met my new boyfriend through a traditional matchmaker. (Call it reverse online dating stigma). When I ultimately did share how we met, they weren't shocked. The landscape of dating has become so radicalized, so open to different apps and experiences, that no one is surprised by anything anymore. In fact, they were intrigued, and wanted to try a professional matchmaker, too.
Comparing experiences, matchmaking seems more tangible to me than online dating. You get a person's profile—to hold in your hand. You talk to a real human about the kind of partner you want to meet. The experience feels a lot like a friend helping you out. It's not some anonymous click and send.
There's a lot of disappointment out there in the dating world—digital and otherwise. But using a matchmaker made it a little less painful for me.
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