Tales of an Unsuccessful Shadchan

By Phillip Nagler

Since I’ve started college, I’ve noticed that whenever I meet someone new, I’m faced with the same old set of questions. Where are you from? What are you studying? Are you dating? Generally, I’ll respond to these queries in the same perfunctory manner that I usually do. Recently, I met this Rabbi at a Shabbat meal who had an interesting way of segueing through these mundane questions. He started off with the classic, “What are you studying?”, to which I casually responded with: “Chemistry.” (Yes, I am aware of how enthusiastic and detailed that answer is) Smoothly, and without hesitation the Rabbi responds, “and what about your romantic chemistry? How’s that going?” I cringed a bit on the inside and then promptly responded with something along the lines of, “I’m waiting for the time to be right.” It was only a few minutes later that I realized what I should have said: “I won’t be studying physical chemistry until my senior year.”

Personally, I’m not quite ready to dive into the dating scene, but at the same time I want to get involved in all of the action and excitement. I decided that maybe I could become the next big shadchan (matchmaker). It is debatable whether one can consider mixology to be an actual science, but I find the concept of it amusing. A good shadchan knows how to analyze the important personal traits that people have and utilize this information to formulate the perfect matches.  Additionally, a shadchan also has to deal with the many conditions and stipulations people have. “She has to be smart, but she can’t be smarter than me.” “I want him to be frum (religious), but not super frum.” It seems to me that interpreting a shidduch (dating) resume can be just as difficult as interpreting an infrared spectrum.

Recently, an idea popped into my head to set up two of my friends. In my mind, it was the perfect match. Both of these friends always displayed this certain quality of sincerity and kindness towards other people. Additionally, they had similar personalities and religious values. I decided to ask my friends if they were interested in going on a blind date. It seemed they were open to the idea, but still hesitant to go through with it. After some coercion and good ol’ peer pressure, they agreed to go out. I had done it. My career as a shadchan had started.

It was about a week before my friends actually met each other on the first date. I was eager to hear how it went. My male friend checked in with me after they went out for dinner, but he didn’t tell me much about the date. “She had a really nice personality and I enjoyed the date.” He gave me the impression that he seemed hesitant about the situation and did not trust my judgment. I thought their relationship would be like a strong ionic bond, but it seemed like they were two south sides of a magnet.

The girl had a slightly different perspective on the first date. Before the date, she was excited, nervous and curious to meet him. The fact that they shared a mutual friend comforted her. After getting to know him on the first date she was excited to go out with him again. At the time, I didn’t know her side of the story, so the prospects seemed bleak. My bright idea seemed to be dimming, but lo and behold, the relationship between them continued.

Around two weeks later, my male friend had told me that he went out with her on another two dates. I was pleasantly surprised. Three dates are a chazakah! They went out to dinner on each date and even went to an off-Broadway show on one of them. On the dates, they spoke a lot about what was going on in their lives, their families, and current events – all of the classic dating conversation topics. I was getting the impression that things were going well, and it seemed my matchmaking skills were better than I had thought…so it seemed. After the third date, the girl decided it was better that they just stay friends. She had a lot of fun on the dates and felt they had a lot in common and similar interests. Ultimately though, she felt that they were not meant to be. My friend said he was not expecting this, but he understood where she was coming from.

I felt like I had failed. My perfect match wasn’t so perfect after all. It seemed like I had wasted their time. Despite the hard feelings I had for myself, both of my friends thanked me for setting them up. They both agreed that despite having very similar personalities and interests, it didn’t work out for a romantic relationship. This gave me some reassurance that my initial instincts were not completely farfetched.

Although my first set up did not go as planned, I learned a few things from my experience. When it comes to dating, it is important to realize that the match needs to be right for both the girl and the guy.  In this scenario, I had weighed the guy’s interests more than the girl’s. Although she liked him and thought he was a great person, at the end of the day, she was looking for someone else. I also realized the importance of going with my gut and that I shouldn’t be hesitant to set up friends in the future. My advice to aspiring shadchanim: have confidence about your potential matches. It’s easy to make yourself feel doubtful. Just remember, the worst that can happen is that your friends will go on an awkward and uncomfortable date. Who knows? Maybe these two people will end up being soulmates. Regardless of what happens, don’t be afraid to continue setting up your friends and realize that your friends may trust your judgment more than you think they do. After all, they are your friends for a reason.

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