“She has freckles?” Delete.
“She doesn’t like erotica?” Delete.
MY SHIELD HAS a crack. A few days in on Match.com, I find a man whose silence I start to take personally. His screen name is Waffles* (for his favorite breakfast food) and his profile is funny, likeably self-deprecating and spell-checked. Plus, I’m drawn back more than once to the dimpled grin he’s flashing in his pictures. I do nothing at first, hoping that he’ll see me and e-mail. After three days and an embarrassing number of page-views of his profile, he hasn’t. I decide to wink (paradoxically, as it’s the same timid move I’ve dismissed a hundred times in my own inbox). A day drags by; I hear nothing. I think about e-mailing, but decide instead to reevaluate my own profile and see what I might add (or remove) to elicit an e-mail. I settle for downloading a picture of myself with slightly longer hair. And then I wait.
DEADLINE APPROACHING, I visit another matchmaker, a woman named Cheryl Thomas who’s with a company called Great Date Now. Like Selective Search, Great Date Now is a new Philly outpost of a nationally acclaimed match-making company; unlike the former, GDN enlists clients of both genders. For a fee that generally ranges between $1,500 and $5,500, Cheryl arranges set-ups based on intensive interviews.
Cheryl sits across from me at her desk in a sleek Center City office. She’s a little ball of energy with a sleek blond bob, a deep tan and frosted pink lip gloss, a Jersey native who spent several years in the Manhattan fitness industry before joining GDN two years ago. Her manner is so warm she practically radiates, so that even as she delves deep into my personal life 20 minutes after I’ve met her, it’s not hard to open up. I tell her what I like to do, what I think I can bring to a relationship, what I hope a man would bring to a relationship.
“One reason match-making is so much better than the Internet,” she says, “is that I really know both people.” It goes beyond safety issues, she explains — though the company does run background checks on every client. “It’s integrity. I would never set you up with someone who’s, say, shorter than you think he is. And I won’t send clients out to date before they’re ready. If they need help toward the right path — whether it’s a haircut, styling help, whatever — then I’ll make sure they get it before they start meeting people. I’m someone who will be on your side through the whole thing.”
It’s a brilliant sell, I think — not just promising to send people out on Great Dates, but promising to be in the foxhole with them for it all. By the end of the meeting, she says she has two matches for me; I tell her that I’ll meet anyone. I like the idea of a friend to call to dish on the date, and — even better — a friend who will dish on what the date said about me.