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April 10, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Yentarama: Friends as Matchmakers

Speaking of the above brothers, well, call it the Kevin Bacon Dating Game. So-and-so works with whozeewhats, who brought such-and-such to whatshername's party ... where a little somethin-somethin happened. It's enough to make you ask which one of the degrees of separation was Fate? Which one would break the chain? What if I hadn't started talking to so-and-so at that salad bar? -- such-and-such and I would never be talking about getting you-know-whatted! (To play more of the What If? game, see the new movie "Me Myself I.")

But when you guys MEETmeet people "through friends," are the meetings mostly of the the above KB variety, where the degrees of separation happen to narrow themselves? Or are they of the variety where your friends take your fate/date into their hands and say, "I have this friend you have to meet." -- ?

If the latter, right on. People who actually come through on the setups they promise are as rare a breed as the people who actually make copies of the photos they say they will. And arguably (or at least stereotypically/theoretically), friends -- since they know you on your terms and see what your life is really like from a peer POV -- are more discerning matchmakers than, say, aunts. Or neighbors. Who, for whatever reason (mind the generation gap?!), tend to have different (less strenuous?) definitions of terms such as "nice guy" and "lovely girl" (="should be married already, end of story").

But matchmakers -- and their yentees -- need to follow some rules.

Potential Yentees, first and foremost: Let your people know (sing, seasonally, to the tune of the Passover song). People will not necessarily step up and set up. Especially if they pre-surmise that you'll feel patronized, that up and offering to fix you up implies that your single life is a fixer-upper. So how do you send a Yentalert? Well, don't write some sort of chain letter or activate some sort of phone tree; tell select people whom you like and trust ... or at least sense that you trust. Yes, be a little bold here; if you meet someone new and feel some sort of connection with them, go ahead and whisper that you're "looking," and would they consider peering through their own spyglasses as well...? There's where you open up whole new worlds. Say "help!" only to people you know well, and you're just spinning your social wheels.

And now...

Breakup Girl's Rules for Friend-Yentas:

1.The Golden Rule: Date unto others as you would have them date unto you. Be as discerning as you'd like them to be were the café tables turned. Maybe this is pretty old and obvious advice, but then how come I keep hearing the horror stories? My cousin just got fixed up with a guy who took her to dinner at 5 PM and afterwards (5:30) made a big deal about taking her to a special place he loved ... a 99-cent store. Now, fine. I could see why that would be a cute place to wind up on one of those cute giddy "Hee! We can make anything fun!" dates. And no, I wouldn't shop for party favors anywhere else. But ... no.

Anyway, it's not just horror stories. I mean, when I meet a cute new gay guy, I always catch myself thinking, "You're gay? I know someone gay! You two should..." Okay, no. At least to the best of your estimation, these two should have something in common. Something. Doesn't have to be a specific hobby or anything; maybe you just think they'd make each other laugh (or, as in a Do Teller named Angela wrote: "My co-worker set us up based on one piece of information: the fact that we both liked to sit in the third row at the movies"). Fine.

Something. Even if your perfectly well-intentioned hunch about a potential couple that turns out to be wrong. But the worst thing you can do is send them off to nurse a latte with someone with whom the only thing anyone really thought they had in common was "single." That is how you make your single friends feel like one of the leftover socks you match with another one just because it's leftover, too. If that's all you have to offer, then make a date with that friend instead.

2. Don't talk a big dating game.
The above said, don't make promises that they'll be making vows. Your only statement should be, "Look, all I know is, you two will enjoy being in the same place at the same time for one hour. Beyond that, you kids are on your own."

3. Yenta as Masochist: Don't.
Refrain from setting up people that you actually want to date.

4. Help them set up a DATEdate.
Yentees, you pay attention here too. You could try working the angle where the Yenta engineers it so that you're both at the same picnic, and that's fine. But too much sitcom-caper effort is too much sitcom-caper effort. The harder you try to rig chance, the more likely it is that you and Yentee #1 will watch helplessly as Yentee #2 pairs off with the "wrong" person. A DATEdate, on the other hand, offers controlled (well-lit, public) circumstances -- you're supposed to be there, with each other, for a we-both-know-why-we're-here reason -- and that (besides, oh, fun, and the human joy of meeting someone new) (or at least the human joy of a good story) is what dates are for. Use them.

So Yentas, keep things simple. Middle-man a phone number or e-mail exchange, and step back. Yentees: courage. If you think calling someone you don't know is scary, try being in a relationship. Go ahead and drop a dime. Lots of people want to date "the kind of person" who would up and do that.

And even if the best-laid fixup goes down in flames, well hey. No one's in trouble. There's much to be said for for helping your friends -- or making sure that you -- stay on the BG-coined/recommended Flirtation Continuum: where there's enough of a generally flirty fizzy buzz going on in someone's world that no one encounter appears to be the be-all -- or, more to the point, end-all -- of one's love life. Where a date, even a 99-cent one, counts.

There's more:

  • Check out WebWoo.com to combine the cute friends of your friends with the power of the Internet!
  • Watch for a Big To Do on this very topic in the coming weeks! 



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