Playing with Matches:
Mastering the Fine Art of the Hookup
or, What Miraculous Twist of Fate Could Possibly Have Brought Us
Together Like This?
by Daphne Uviller
The instinct to pair up all the single creatures in the world may date back
to Noah's Arc, but matchmaking
techniques haven't improved much since then. Noah basically said: "You,
you're male and you, you're female. Get on the boat. Procreate."
operate in much the same way (though they might toss in a few other parameters.)
They matchmake because they want to insure their genes a ticket to the future.
You, on the other hand, set up your friends because you care about helping them
find eternal love. And because if they get married, they'll invite you to their
wedding, where you might meet someone for yourself.
With that noble impulse in mind, the BTD delivers to you plots on a platter,
new ways to get friends to the altar -- or at least to the appetizers.
There are only two elemental states within which you will begin your matchmaking:
1) The parties are aware they are being set up.
2) They parties are clueless pawns trapped in your brilliantly conceived scheme
to bring them together.
The first one requires less work by you, as the participants are essentially
left to their own devices. The second requires you to plot and strategize, to
employ no end of imagination, to be Emma
Woodhouse, Puck (not the MTV guy), and Julie
McCoy all rolled into one.
The first method -- in which the matchees knowingly set out on a date that
you have arranged -- is the easiest logistically, because all your efforts happen
prior to the date. Your job, in this case, is to think long and hard about who
would be right for whom, then call each party and broker the blind date.
Here the general rules apply. People will need more than just "Hey! You're
both thin and Irish." Think about the way your targets live and lead their lives.
Trying to match up a night owl and an early bird? It could work, but the odds
are long. Looks and income and
-- even, dare we say it -- location are each important in their own way, and
you should be cognizant of the bookends that you're trying to put together.
But these factors won't make or break a good match.
Instead, look for a subtle but important detail around which your two friends
can start a conversation. Are they both politically active? (Maybe you can introduce
them at a rally.) Are they both artistic? (Throw them a curve; take them mini-golfing.)
Are they both workaholics? (Get them to somebody's lakehouse, pronto!) More
than anything, a mutual interest will give them the common ground they need
to suss each other out and go forward... or go home.
Be a Bolt from the Blue
As we said,
you could think long and hard. Or, you could think short and light. For instance,
you're at a cafe, sipping your multi-dollar
morning coffee drink and reading the paper, when you overhear two people
chatting with each other. One of them is in town from the West Coast and he's
exclaiming over how much he loves being back in this East Coast city, where
all his friends and family are. He's making good money writing/directing/producing/gofering
in that West Coast city and likes the weather, but he misses this -- he gestures
around the buzzing cafe.
[OK, so you're probably thinking, "Um, BTD, what are
the chances that I will ever actual overhear that conversation?" Remember
this is all advice from real people who have tested these methods in our own
Let's review what you already know just after a few moments of unavoidable
You know where this man lives and what he does. You know what he looks like,
what he sounds like and you can guess at his age. More importantly, you also
know a little something about his character: he has an East
Coast soul. Perhaps he's a little too chatty for your taste, but you happen
to have a woman friend -- also from the East Coast -- who's currently living
out west. She's attractive, smart, as talky as this guy, about the same age
and she has a sense of humor about blind dates: She's given you carte blanche
to send her way any guy who seems decent.
At this point, your caffeine and your chutzpah
have revved up. You approach the man and say, "This might sound nuts and I don't
know if you're in a relationship, but..." and you tell him -- bluntly, bravely
-- why it has occurred to you that he should at least have a drink with your
friend when he returns to that other coast.
Even if he is in a relationship (and if he is, you wash your hands of him,
right? We all know BG's 'no poaching' rule), he will find it exceptionally flattering
and he'll forever have a story about the stranger who tried to set him up in
the cafe. If he seems amenable to the prospect of a date, get his e-mail address,
give it to your friend and let the pair take it from there. (But don't let them
forget, when their newfound starry-eyed romance kicks in, to set you up with
some of his friends.)
Improve your chances with this method by asking yourself the following questions:
1) Does each matchee understand there are no guarantees? 2) If they hate the
date, will they hate YOU afterwards? 3) Have you overlooked any obvious cultural
or religious disparities that will guarantee this first date to be a disaster?
If the answers are yes, no, and no, then proceed with the fun.
Strangers in the Night, Exchanging Numbers
Then there's the second category, in which the matchees don't know they're
being set up. In order of easiest to hardest, here are three tried-and-true
techniques that will bring your unsuspecting prey into the sights of your own
Herding the Party Animals
Whether it's a cocktail party, a New Year's Eve bash, or a barbecue,
a big fete (yours or someone else's) is a fine place to test your matchmaking
prowess. Say you've just struck up a conversation with an unattached, charming,
confident woman. You came to the party with a guy friend who's a bit shy. He
passes you on his way to the bar. You grab him and say, "Hey Alan, this is Lisa.
She was just listing three easy ways to understand quantum mechanics. Weren't
you just telling me how much you loved the play Copenhagen,
the play about World War II physicists?"
OK, the conversation might go more along the lines of, "Hey Alan, this is Lisa.
She was just saying she loves to eat lasagna and was wondering how to make it.
You have that great recipe;
what's your secret ingredient?"
But you get the picture. First, find their common ground and illuminate it
with such brilliant clarity that they can't possibly miss it. Second, facilitate
their conversation until it becomes apparent that they're either turned on by
each other, in which case you subtly remove yourself (try one of these if you
need them: "Well, I'm starving!" "Well, I'm thirsty!" "Well, I have a plane
to catch!"). If, on the other hand, you sense they're painfully uninterested
in each other, you can subtly remove one of them ("Hey, Alan, isn't that Phil
over there? Doesn't he owe you 20 bucks?").
Dinner: Setting the Table for Two
This requires careful thought and brings with it the risk of being exposed as
a matchmaker. If you invite three couples to dinner along with your two targets,
the matchees will immediately recognize what you're up to, become rigid with
anxiety, and fail to enjoy the evening. So mix when you match. In addition to
your couples, invite three single men and
two single women; kind of a sampler plate approach. Even if only two people
are really candidates for your match, the others never have to know that they're
If your matchees are not finding opportunities to talk to each other, you must
ask them to help you in the kitchen with dessert. You need one person to slice
strawberries and another to hand-whip
the cream. After you get them started, go back to the table. If they're miserable
in there, the task will come to an end soon enough. If they're content, the
rest of your guests may start to wonder where dessert is.
Tip 1: Don't let anyone else at the party in on your machinations;
someone is sure to slip up and shatter your delicate handiwork in an instant.
Tip 2: Pay attention to the setting. Candles, music, wine:
these props work their magic even at a table set for six.
Your Piece de No More Resistance: the Group Activity
very height of heart-handling, the apex of this amorous avocation, the mother
of all matchmaking (devised and practiced with great aplomb by certain members
of Team BG, by the way.) As with the dinner party, this method requires buffer
participants so that the matchees are not suspicious. Unlike the dinner party,
though, this requires more than menu planning on your part. For this method,
you organize an event that highlights a common interest between the matchees.
You find a Habitat for Humanity
project and coordinate no fewer than five friends to spend a Saturday hammering
nails into the roof of a shelter.
Or -- and this may requires months of advance planning -- you identify a group
of athletic friends and propose that all of you train for one of the three-day
AIDS rides that happen throughout the year and across
the country (when it comes time to pair off as tent-mates, well, it's a no-brainer).
If your matchees are neither service-oriented nor athletic, you convene a bunch
of friends on a rainy afternoon at your home, where you all read aloud A. R.
Gurney's epistolary play, Love Letters.
Provide wine and biscotti or tea and cookies. Spread pillows on the floor and
read while reclining. Congratulate yourself on supplying a subtly romantic setting.
The beauty of setting up people while obfuscating your intentions is that no
one can be hurt or humiliated. But if they DO get together, whether for a fling
or forever, never be humble about your tremendous feat. Always remind them,
especially when they are planning the seating chart, what you did for them...
and what they can do for you.
Daphne Uviller is the very picture of innocence, even when she's up to
something. In her last outing for the BTD, she took you to Italy.
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