Some mums are lawyers, some are nurses, some stay at home while others are businesswomen. My mum is a part-time marketing director, on call (dare I say) grandmother, triathlete and J-Junction matchmaker.
It’s always that last role that raises eyebrows. A matchmaker you say? You mean like Yenta from Fiddler on the Roof? If I had to, that would be the best way to describe it. But instead of being based in 1905, we’re in 2015 where online dating sites like eHarmoney and apps like Tinder have revolutionised the way people find their prospective partners. Despite the popularity of online dating, it seems we have taken akin to Yenta’s style of traditional methods, seeking out modern matchmakers like my mother to find our soul mates.
Just to clarify, my mum isn’t my matchmaker, nor would I ever let her even try set me up with someone. But the night I found out she was a Yenta, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of her going on a “date” with some young single guy and getting to know him through a bunch of personal questions… with the intentions of matching him up with the love of his life of course. When dad came home to no dinner that night asking where mum was, I told him “she’s on a date,” getting exactly the reaction I was expecting, “SHE’S WHAT?!” I reassured him, “Calm down she’s matchmaking.”
So mum, what exactly happens when you go off and do your secret squirrel matchmaking business?
“It kicks off with a face-to-face interview, which is an enjoyable scenario… we ask about their family background, their work, their past relationships, what type of person they think they are after and what they think their good and bad points are,” she says.
I’ve always wanted to know about the types of people who surrender to dating services. Are they picky? Or are they at that stage where they can’t afford to be picky anymore?
“They are all wonderful people, what they are doing is really brave and I believe everyone has a partner out there somewhere but particularly with guys, there is a shopping list,” mum says, “they are quite specific and can go into a lot of detail.”
While she has never told me anything about what she does, I get the feeling these people have shared more information with my mum than I have! But more information isn’t necessarily going to find you the textbook person you are after.
“Guys think it’s really easy to find the exact girl they are after by giving me their ideal eye and hair colour, weight and body shape, height, age and job… You just have to smile and listen and eventually as you get to know them you have to start saying to them, relationships and people don’t quite work that way,” she says.
While some want people who share the same interests and others complete opposites, the truth is that there is no criteria or formula for the right person who will ultimately complete and complement you in the end.
“It can be very frustrating though, when we have found them a match they instantly go on Facebook, vetting the person and if there is something they see they don’t like… they will reject the match,” mum says. “It is a real shame because there is so much more to a person than just their Facebook profile and looks.”
People can be more superficial when it comes to dating sites and services because they are given the opportunity to choose their ultimate partner. However, they should be less picky, more open and realistic about the girl or guy they are after. “Some guys have unrealistic expectations – thinking they are Brad Pitt and that their Angelina Jolie is somewhere on the endless database of girls. So they keep rejecting and thinking there is going to be another and another,” mum says.
So how would “Brad Pitt” be able to be matched with his “Angelina Jolie”?
“At the meetings, we all sit around and it is a bit like a witch’s coven. Someone says I have this person with these attributes, do you have anyone on your list? Because we know our clients well we can quickly assess suitability but it can be quite funny getting there.”
It’s well-known that women who seek out recently widowed men over 60 are referred to as “the casserole brigade” because as soon as the mourning period is over, single women start coming with casseroles and food, zoning in on this new available single guy, mum says, “they get snapped up pretty quickly.”
According to a 2013 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, in general singles are getting married later than ever; males at 31.5 years and females at 29.5 years. What is also interesting are the findings of Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project conducted in the US in 2013. They found the intermarriage rate among all Jews peaked at 58% and 71% among non-Orthodox Jews.
Modern matchmakers certainly have their work cut out for them given these statistics. Motivated by the mitzvah of ‘chesed’ (loving-kindness), these matchmakers, most of whom are women, possess passionate, determined and community-focused traits.
Gender roles and expectations have come a long way since since the days of traditional matchmaking and as a result challenges have arisen for matchmakers like my mum.
“Generally there are more women left in the older years than men because times have changed and women are more focused on their work life than ever before. For women getting into their late 30s, the pressure starts to kick in about kids and they aren’t as relaxed about relationships as they were when they were younger. So unfortunately it can be hard to find a suitable match for them,” mum says.
While some people have been on the books for years and years, others have found love, dated for months, even a few years, or are in de facto relationships and have eventually married and gone on to have kids, “its really satisfying to get a positive match,” she says.
At the end of the day, matchmaking dating services like J-Junction may not be your thing but you never know, mum says, “you might just find a really good, lifelong friend out of the experience.”