My friend, Clark, is a 38-year-old entertainment executive who enjoys the services of two full-time matchmakers.
"They're always on the lookout for someone special for me. They call it scoping for ladies," he said with a laugh. And who wouldn't be doing the same? Clark is intelligent, witty and handsome. I, for one, find it remarkable he's still unattached.
Sometimes the matchmakers nudge Clark to push the boundaries on one of his platonic friendships. One of them will say, "I'm sure she's interested in more than just coffee."
Yet, they never meddle too much in Clark's efforts to discover his soul mate. And while most men would bristle at such regular consultation, it is different when the matchmakers in question are your own lovely daughters, ages 11 and 13.
Clark's daughters spot unsuspecting women at every turn. All over Los Angeles they find creative excuses to strike up a conversation. The girls have even admired a woman's slobbering three-legged dog at the park just to find a reason to introduce Clark to an attractive single Jewish female. One of them will gush, "Wasn't it sweet of our daddy to take us to the park today?" Then they duck out of the way to let the chemistry take its course.
A couple of years ago, the girls weren't terribly hip on the idea of daddy dating after the divorce and pursuing mates who weren't their mom. While living on the beach in Santa Monica, Clark's daughters conjured up the idea of building a chute in the sand that began at their front door and ended in the ocean: "If we don't like her, she goes down the chute, daddy."
He tried to reassure them: "You think I'd get remarried to someone who you girls didn't like?"
Now, because they are fast approaching dating age themselves, the two girls have gained more perspective on the importance of courtship. Clark found himself pulled aside for a father-daughter/daughter talk. "We discussed it last night and we'd be very happy for you to get remarried," one of them told him. "It is time, dad. We want you to date."
The girls' involvement opened Clark's eyes to one unpleasant truth: his kids have more insight into women than he does. "She's too pretty," they telegraphed after meeting one of his dates. It was a diplomatic way of indicating their distaste for a date's self-absorbed character, which later turned out to be prophetic.
"The older I get," Clark sighed, "the more I realize I don't know much of anything."
They say children and pets are superior judges of character. So why do we hire matchmakers who walk upright and are old enough to drive? I think we may have it all wrong. Perhaps the best matchmakers are the young family members who know and love us, and perhaps our dogs and cats. My felines see things instantly in the men I date -- the same things that take me months or even years to learn for myself.
Why is it kids and critters might be better judges of character? Age. The myth is that we get wiser with age and closer to the truth. But isn't it also true that as we get older we make things unnecessarily complicated? We lose that clarity of vision and naivete that we had as children. Clark, I asked him, does it get any easier to date at 38 than at 28?
"Moxie," he sighed, "it's hard until it isn't."
Clark told me most of the issues remain the same no matter what your age -- except for one.
A man like Clark discovers in his potential mates a bias against the kids that are now a part of his life. When surfing for companionship online, it's far too easy for a woman to plug in her dream criteria for the perfect man and click the "no kids" box. But in not considering a man with kids, she risks filtering out a dream date.
Maybe if she met him through mutual friends, at a party or a synagogue, she'd see beyond those misleading demographics.
If they know you and like you, Clark believes, their notion of the ideal mate would seismically alter. Besides, he points out, shouldn't you be wary of a man near 40 who has never committed to anyone?
And that's when my guilt set in. I thought about all the times men contacted me through an online personal ad and I'd instantly rule them out as a result of their profile. You know the score -- they either had children or failed some other arbitrary requisite I'd deemed essential.
Clark reminds me to just look for the chemistry and follow your heart.
Good advice, but I've found these clichés are -- to use a cliché -- easier said than done. In a few years Clark will be able to offer this sage advice to his own daughters. And perhaps even return the matchmaking favor.
And while I have no apparent shortage of unattached female friends around to help in the commiseration process -- and a few I should probably introduce to Clark -- a dad who is back on the prowl is a terrific person with whom to discuss my own mate-finding foibles. Of which there are many.
In fact, when I got burned recently, Clark was one of the select few (all right, he was one of several) who heard my tale of woe. "How did I fall for that?" I brayed. "I should've seen it coming."
"Oh, don't worry. The older you get," Clark reassured me, "the easier it is to fool yourself."
Madison "Moxie" Slade is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who keeps a running tab of her thoughts, experiences and other debacles at www.moxie.nu .