When I was 23, I interviewed a Lubavitch matchmaker for a story I was writing. The more she explained her profession to me, the more appealing the whole idea sounded: Your parents get together with a professional and find someone for you. You’ve got a say in who you match with, but none of this agony of hoping a mixture of chemistry and fate will bring you your true love.
In the 10 years since that interview, many yentas young and old, across continents and denominations, have tried to play a role in matching me. But most of my actual affairs have been fleeting, foreign and decidedly goyish. My longest relationships have been with a Catholic from Rio, a Muslim from Tunis, and an agnostic from Vermont who shares the name of a very unkosher cut of meat. None have been result of a self-appointed matchmaker’s efforts.
That hasn’t stopped me, though, from trying to find a Jewish match, or many others from getting in on the act. Five years ago, in a Persian synagogue in Milan, I overheard a woman ask my cousin in Hebrew, “How old is she?” pointing to me. When I responded 28, she scooted down the stairs and leaned over the balcony with me, pointing out the eligible bachelors davening to the Yom Kippur prayers. “He’s a doctor,” she said wagging her finger at one in the back. Like the others, he looked a bit over the hill to me. “Too fat?” she asked me. I nodded. Just this week came the latest attempt from a Moroccan Jewish woman. She had an eligible bachelor for me, a professor even; he comes from a wonderful family, she told me. Never mind that he is 12 years older than I am, a father and who knows what else. I appreciated the effort, but had a hard time imagining this one going anywhere.
When my parents have tried to set me up, they have been surprisingly off base. This from a couple who has successfully made nine matches that resulted in marriage. (Only three of those have ended in divorce.) There was the DJ pilot, the doctor in Las Vegas, the organic chef. Each was Jewish, but there were definitely no sparks felt on my part. I thought my parents would know me better; and their choices raised some suspicions for me about the idea of a Lubavitch-style, parent-driven match.
These days my mother cannot say the word “JDate” without shaking her fist at me — as if she has chanced upon something that will be the answer to all my problems. But I’ve tried. I’ve met a couple interesting guys through it — like the Swedish artist when I lived in Berlin or the Israeli musician in New York. But for the most part, it’s disappointed me. And I hate the interface with the smiling, shiny brown-haired, very Jewish-looking couples that have apparently fell in love through the site. I find the non-Jewish site OK Cupid less abrasive, but, despite its pledges for computerized matchmaking, it, too, has come up short so far. And I long for the serendipity and the buzz that comes with a connection that isn’t initiated online.
Still, it’s been a long, frustrating — albeit sometimes fun — journey. I turned 33 last month, and part of me wishes more than ever that the matchmaking formula the Lubavitch explained to me could work for me. Recently I got an email from the matchmaker’s cousin, who had heard that I was in Los Angeles. He offered to meet me at any Coffee Bean in the city and to tell me about the singles events he runs. I didn’t take him up on the offer. After that night I had a dream. My mother had chosen two men for me, neither of whom I liked. One I remember clearly had a pink balding scalp and lots of earrings. I stood up and said, “Enough, I don’t want to be with either of them.” I felt good, but still woke up alone in my bed.
My question is this: How can a modern-day shidduch work? Matchmakers out there: What works? What doesn’t? And from those who have been matched successfully, any tips?