After a self-esteem damaging divorce -- my husband cheated with a young woman and discarded me like day-old sushi -- I needed positive reinforcement that I was still desirable. Being over 40 in our youth-obsessed society also added to my anxiety. I needed professional dating help but I did not know where to turn.
You know those advertisements in the back of magazines with the pictures of pretty professional women and the promise of quality introductions? I wondered how they operated and where their eligible bachelors might be hiding, so I called one of the biggest matchmaking services in the country. What I found was a very professional team selling fix-ups for a fortune -- in this case, $25,000 for a yearly membership. I certainly did not have that kind of money to invest, and even if I did, I would not have written a check for such a huge sum with no preview offered.
So, as I kept up my active social schedule, I continued to ask friends and acquaintances to be fixed up. But dates were few and far between, and the idea of a professional dating guru became more and more attractive.
One day I happened to be talking to a friend about matchmaking services, and she told me that she had just heard about a single woman in West Los Angeles running her own private dating agency. She tracked down the cell number, and I called immediately.
Harmony wanted to meet the next day at a neighborhood Starbucks to interview me. She clearly wanted to make sure that I was datable before taking me on as a client. She would not even tell me how much her service cost. I was game for a latte and a little fun.
She was there early, and I felt like a model on a runway. She looked me up and down, had me twirl around and then whipped out her MacBook to show me her line-up of eligible men. I must admit, the array was very impressive. She had me pick those whom I found attractive and then read me short bios on each. It was like picking out chocolates at See's Candies. I was having a great time with no calories.
The time arrived for her sales pitch. She charged $2,500 for a woman and $5,000 for a man for an annual membership, with a $5,000 premium if she made a marriage. She handed me her contract, and as a good lawyer, I changed the language so that the marriage premium was to be paid by the man. I could only hope that this clause would be used. I wrote a check on the spot and could not wait to be introduced to one of her stable of bachelors.
First, she needed a picture for her female computer line-up. She sent me to her photographer (another $200) to have some pictures taken in pre-approved venues. I was draped across the sidewalk and leaned against the back of a Porsche. It was all very contrived but I did as I was told.
About two weeks later, she called with the first date. It turned out that the way she worked was to show my picture to the men and see if they were interested in meeting me. She would then send me their pictures with a brief bio -- usually formulaic. "Seth is a lawyer who likes fine dining, travel, movies, romance." I knew that I would agree to meet every person she sent. After all, she was the professional and I wanted to get my money's worth.
The first date did not start well. He called and asked where we should meet for a drink. I suggested a well-known lounge in Beverly Hills. He said that he did not want to drive that far, and suggested another place quite far from my home. The message was clear -- I was not worth his time, and it was fine for me to brave rush-hour traffic. But seeing as this was my maiden voyage on the see of matchmaking, I acquiesced.
At least he looked exactly like his picture, which wasn't bad. He ordered a glass of merlot for each of us without asking me what I liked to drink. He then droned on and on about his children, his lousy ex-wife, his golf game and the knee he injured while skiing, never once asking me a question. When I managed to interject a word into his monologue, he ignored it.
Finally, I had had enough. I looked at my watch and explained that I had to leave. He stopped abruptly and told me that I owed fifteen dollars. Shocked that he expected me to pay, I slapped a twenty dollar bill on the table and started toward the door. He stayed seated, finishing his wine.
As I was about to drive away, I discovered that, in my haste, I had left my sunglasses on the table and rushed inside to retrieve them. What I found was my date drinking from my half-filled, lipstick-stained glass of red wine. Instead of ordering more for himself, he was drinking the dregs of a stranger's glass. It was embarrassing to catch him in this uncouth act.
When I arrived home, I emailed Harmony: "I will not bore you with the details, but my date was a heathen and should not be dating anyone of our species." I was beginning to worry that my $2,500 might not have been the wisest investment.
As it turned out after five more equally miserable dates, I had thrown the money down the drain. My advice: Beware of matchmaking services unless you are permitted to speak with other clients who have been successful or are given one free match.