December 8, 2005
A few weeks ago, I had just returned from a trip to New York to meet someone my rabbi tried to set me up with -- a member of his
former congregation there. On my first Friday night back in shul, I was confronted by close married friends of mine with the question.
"So-o-o ...," the wife sweetly crooned, "how did it go?"
"Things went very well," I replied coyly. "We went to see 'Wicked' on Broadway and took in a full day of the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows. We ate pizza in Brooklyn and walked back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge under a clear, crisp, starlit night. The New York City skyline was spectacular!"
My friend raised her eyebrow with the unspoken question I hadn't yet answered.
"We had a good time together," I responded to her inquiring look, "and she's a very nice person. But I'm afraid nothing is going to happen."
"Tsk-tsk," she practically spat at me. "You're just too picky!"
You know, I have never figured out why such well-meaning folks so quickly jump to that conclusion. As far as I know, my friend had never even met the woman in question or known anything about her. Does she assume that our rabbi, because he has such an intelligent, charming and attractive wife himself, obviously has the ability to pick out the perfect person for me?
Sometimes I think the erstwhile matchmaker's calculus goes something like: "She's single and Jewish and I like her; he's single and Jewish and I like him -- so why not?"
Usually that simple Jew math just doesn't add up, and the "why not" becomes crystal clear less than five minutes after she opens the door. By now, I've lost count of how many times I've ended up forcing my way through the rest of a painful evening, wondering to myself, "What were they thinking?"
Part of the problem is their thinking is based on a false syllogism: Just because you like Seth, and you like Rachel, doesn't mean Seth will like Rachel, much less fall in love with her. Needless to say, we human beings are a lot more complicated than that. The real point, though, is that this sort of math, simple or otherwise, is the wrong method to employ anyway. It's rarely what "looks good on paper" that seems to work in romance; it's much more about finding the right chemistry.
Trying to predict what will attract two people to each other is a difficult task. But that doesn't mean you just throw two essentially random people against the wall and hope they stick. That's like throwing two random chemicals into a beaker and hoping you'll get the cure for bird flu. It's theoretically possible, but it's more likely to blow up in your face.
Please don't misunderstand. It's not that I don't appreciate folks' good intentions. I'm just suggesting the more successful fix-ups I've had have worked better because the fixer-upper has also thought with her head along with her heart. A few minutes of thought should reveal that in putting two otherwise perfectly "nice" people together, certain matches will have predictably poor results. Why put together a man who is complex and has lots of cultural interests with a relatively simple woman who is basically a homebody? Or a super-fit gal who spends a lot of time at the gym and likes hiking and the outdoors with a paunchy guy whose passion for "lifting" and "surfing" involves nothing heavier than a can of beer and nothing more adventurous than the remote control?
I'm sure you could find couples like those who do work. But the odds are against it. Contrary to "good sense," two high-maintenance people get together all the time, for example -- witness all the Hollywood marriages between two high-profile stars. But how many of those are healthy relationships that last the test of time, instead of imploding before the next issue of the Enquirer hits the newsstands?
If you think that all seems fairly obvious, you should hear some of the stories my single friends and I tell of some of the futile, blind-date goose chases we've been sent on.
Now, I'm not saying any of this happened with my recent New York connection. "Laura" is, in fact, not only a very nice, but also an attractive and intelligent woman, with whom I share many interests. So I don't think my rabbi could have so easily predicted in advance that we weren't each other's beshert. Ah, but no sooner had I admitted that to my friends, than what did I hear next from them?
"Nu? So if you're not so picky, what's the matter with her?
Glenn Gottlieb is a professional mediator and corporate attorney practicing in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.