A lesson in matchmaking gives hope that matches made in heaven are possible with guidelines and a little faith, discovers Elena Koshy
MY parents should have been given a crash course on the skills of matchmaking. It would have spared me many nights of juggling phone calls from strange men claiming they got my number from my father, fielding awkward questions from would-be suitors on hastily arranged blind dates and worse still, fielding said questions from suitor’s parents who showed up on said blind dates.
What’s even more annoying? I’ve crossed four decades and they still haven’t given up.
Case in point: Taking my father on his usual hospital appointment recently opened up an opportunity for dad to speak to complete strangers while waiting for the doctor and in the midst of friendly conversation, discover a still-single relative of erstwhile unknown people who might make a good match for me.
Never mind that so-called single stranger might be an axe-murderer on the sly. But that’s my parents for you — completely clueless in the subtle art of matchmaking.
When a “Matchmaking Masterclass” organised by leading dating company Lunch Actually cropped up recently, I decided to take it up.
Perhaps my parents have got it wrong. Perhaps there are some covert skills to learn rather than my old folks’ genuine but bumbling in-your-face way of linking up two reluctant singles. Perhaps there is a skill involved in getting two people together in the hopes that their dormant chemistry might reignite and kick in.
Whatever the secrets may be, I’m determined to find out and prove to my parents that there needs to be some changes in their approach to matchmaking. After all, random man plus random woman do not necessarily equate love and marriage. Sometimes (most times actually), random man plus random woman equate a hellish date, making one fervently wish the evening could have been better spent at home with Netflix and popcorn.
A UNIVERSAL MATCH
The art of matchmaking has played and continues to play a role across many cultures all around the world. In China, the art of pairing couples has a 2,000-year history going back to the Zhou dynasty. Every village used to have its “Red Mother”, a local woman employed by families to find the right partner for their sons and daughters.
In the land where Bollywood romance reigns, arranged marriages continue to account for a majority of marriages in the Indian sub-continent.
In Malay culture, traditional matchmaking was usually left in the hands of parents.
Whatever the case may be, the days of inquisitive aunts and frantic parents searching out the perfect life partner for their offspring may soon be a thing of the past. With the boom of Internet dating apps and websites, more and more single people are opting for professional services themselves, in the search of a potential life partner.
In 2012 alone, about 2.5 million of Malaysians aged 25 and above are unmarried. And that number is rising.
Violet Lim, certified matchmaker and CEO of Lunch Actually Group, saw a business opportunity in that: “People often ask me how I got started in the business of matchmaking. I have made some interesting observations prior to starting my matchmaking company. I’ve had two set of friends, one set comprising those who were getting married or engaged, while the other remain single and committed to their careers.
“I observed that the ones who were engaged or married actually met when they were much younger, in schools or universities. I noticed that once you missed that window, it becomes increasingly harder to meet someone as you get older,” adds Lim candidly.
TOO MANY DATES, TOO LITTLE TIME
I concur with that. After all, it gets harder and harder as time goes by to sift through the frogs to get to my potential Prince Charming. My parents believe that I should settle down with a frog, and with time (and a lot of training on my part), he just might turn out to less, well... froggy.
“There’s no Prince Charming lah!” my mother says, rolling her eyes. I simply think I missed the window, and all suitable men my age are all but dead, gay or taken. What’s more, as I get older, even the frogs get scarcer, much to the consternation of my parents.
“There’s really no such thing!” objects Lim. “It’s all about opening your social circle and being open to meeting and getting to know new people. It’s really a mindset problem. If you keep thinking there are no available guys out there for you, you wouldn’t be able to recognise a good guy even if he stood right in front of you.”
Point taken. With her company’s track record of arranging close to 90,000 dates across South East Asia coupled (pun unintended) with 85 per cent matches satisfaction rate, Lim should definitely know her subject matter well.
After all, she is the first Asian to be certified by the Matchmaking Institute in New York City.
“When I wanted to start my business, I looked for a place where I could learn how to hone my skills and get proper certification. After much searching, I found this place in New York and did my course in matchmaking there!” shares Lim with a smile.
I decide to put my cynicism aside. After all, who knows? With my newfound matchmaking skills which I hope to gain from Lim’s class, I just might teach my parents a thing or two about setting people up. Besides, I’ve got plenty of single friends to practise my learning on. She does remind us: “Make sure you use the skills you learn here, to match-make at least one of your friends!”
ART OF MATCHMAKING
Simple steps really. Not rocket science at all. Cupid’s best kept secrets are actually common sense guidelines that even our busybody aunts and well-meaning parents would understand but not necessarily follow. Some of the rules include:
Ask for permission
This is where most well-meaning parents fail. They don’t ask for permission. They just decide on your behalf that you need a man/woman and set you up on a date.
It is important for the matchmakee (there’s no such word but really, what do you call someone who’s going to be set up-lah?) to be open to the idea of being set up with a man/woman. If they are not keen, chances are they will reject anyone you pick, even if the person resembles George Clooney.
You are not God
Newsflash: Even the most experienced matchmaker will not get 100 per cent successes. Don’t take it personally if you fail. “I’ve had my share of failures,” laughs Lim. “There is still one case that I still feel very bad about. In this case I know where the woman worked so every time I pass her workplace, I can’t help but feel a twinge. Having said that, we really cannot guarantee chemistry.
But then again we have learnt from that. Over the years our experiences have accumulated so our matching rates have become much higher since then,” recalls Lim with a laugh.
Well, try telling that to my parents. Every failure has been nothing short of catastrophic to my well meaning parents.
Learn what they want, know what they need and be prepared to give some tough love
Expectations — we all have them. We have this long impossible list on what we hope our future partners would have, but any decent matchmaker would tell you not to hold your breath waiting for someone to fulfil all of them.
“That’s why we have consultations. We get to know our clients and find out what makes them tick. You’ve got treat us sometimes as nutritionists. We get to know you, your likes, dislikes as well your life in general and we come up with a menu that you need – not necessarily all what you want,” explains Lim.
And yes, if you’re hoping for a George Clooney, be prepared to be disappointed. Clinging on to unreasonable expectations can come between you and a potential partner.
Like my mother always tells me huffily when I turn down yet another suitor: “You’re no Cleopatra-lah!” Ah yes, tough love. Parents can be really good at that.
And so the class goes on with a lot more guidelines on how to secure that perfect match along with Lim’s personal experiences and observations thrown in.
I take down copious notes on how to create potential matches between people and I’m almost confident I’d be able replicate Lim’s successes with my friends.
I mentally start listing down all my single friends in my head. They can’t say ‘no’ — my pretty little purple certificate after the Masterclass declares me as “Honorary Cupid”.
Never mind that my own (mis)matches were made everywhere else but heaven, at least I could give it a shot as a matchmaker with my quiver full of knowledge. I’m now all set to matchmake, and aiming to score a better track record than my parents!