It seems that on a weekly basis, the media decides to "lynch" a matchmaker. The noose is a heavily promoted article focusing on the "victims" of matchmakers. The media seems to relish in painting these so-called victims as baby lambs who were innocently in search of their soul mates and vindictively scorned by "evil matchmakers" they paid boatloads of money to. What is never printed or addressed is the absolute terrorizing trauma these "victims" put their matchmaker through.
What the media and the reality shows don't tell you is that "the business of love" is without question, a very challenging and thankless job because its basis is complete subjectivity. The "product" the client pays for is intangible, the introduction to carefully vetted potential love interests who possess specific criteria. When a client hands over a check, she often thinks that she becomes the woman of every man's dreams. Paying for the services of a matchmaker doesn't magically increase one's appeal to the opposite sex nor does it provide a guarantee that she will find everlasting love.
While I might introduce her to her dream man, she might not be his "dream woman." She truly has no idea what goes on behind the scenes in finding her someone who fits most of her criteria. Clients come to me with a long list of deal breakers and very strict requirements. They often request multiple profiles of men who possess these qualities and treat the matchmaking service as a candy store, filled with a myriad of "perfect" treats who will all fall head-over-heels in love with her at first sight. What they often do not understand is that the men are not always interested in meeting them. The number of times I have wrestled with how I could gently inform my client that the man she chose to be introduced to was not attracted to her is endless. I am not in the business of hurting anyone's feelings.
I do try to provide constructive feedback but often it is a matter of a lack of chemistry. When I do introduce a client to the veritable man of her dreams, if her feelings aren't reciprocated (which is the possibility with all dating situations), she is upset with me, the person who introduced her to this "perfect" man. Not only am I scolded, attacked and told that I am not doing my job if I introduce her to someone who is not romantically interested in her, I am accused of introducing her to someone who is not serious about a being in a relationship (they ARE serious about being in a relationship, just not with you).
I was recently slapped with a lawsuit, riddled with lies and wrongly slandered and defamed in very public media outlets by such a client. What was shocking is that I did nothing but introduce her to exactly the type of man she desired, and she chose to alleviate the sting of rejection from one of these men by filing a lawsuit claiming that her dates were "fake," that my business is a sham and that I have made a fortune taking advantage of hapless women such as herself. The lawsuit and the defamatory charges are flagrant on so many levels. I am simultaneously aggravated, outraged and bewildered by this woman's allegations and her lack of awareness of what truly transpired.
She fell head over heels for the Jewish Ivy-educated businessman who she had went out with three times. His rejection led her to file a slandered-filled lawsuit based on her assertions that I "forced" a grown man to go on THREE "fake dates" with her. Not only is it a baseless and absurd accusation, it's insulting to both me and the man who dated her. The only fake dates that occur are depicted on reality tv, and last I checked, there wasn't a camera crew following this woman and man on their three dates. It is the most unflattering expression of rejection I have ever witnessed. We have all experienced rejection in our lives, and yeah it hurts, really badly, but to go to the extreme of vilifying both the matchmaker (who was just doing his job, a good one at that) and the man who took her on three lovely dates (including lunch at the Breakers in Palm Beach with his children), is inconceivable and quite frankly pitiful.
I have been in this business for nearly a decade. I moved to NYC with a girlfriend after having sold my successful med-spa and fitness businesses in Philadelphia. I continued to commute to Philly to work with some longtime fitness clients. I was very passionate about the fitness industry... helping people achieve tangible goals, augmenting their self-esteem through diet and exercise that resulted in an overall improved quality of life. My clients were grateful, and I enjoyed the satisfaction of having a positive impact on their lives, both physically and mentally. So when my girlfriend woke up one morning and half-jokingly said she did not want to be married to Jack Lalanne and had this idea for me to become the first male matchmaker that dealt exclusively with woman clients for a new career, I balked but was open to starting something new. (in retrospect, Jack Lalanne, the respected and successful "godfather of fitness" died with a multimillion-dollar fortune and a six-pack, go figure...)
I should have known it was a bad idea when I was called by New York City's most iconic matchmaker to have lunch so she could welcome me into the business. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Honey please tell me that women aren't going to be your paying clients...are they?" I paused for a second and said, "yes they are because I truly want to help women meet the right men and also stay away from guys that aren't serious about being in committed relationships." She simply looked at me and said." You will put a gun in your month in the first six months of your business. I wont take women as clients, I have an assistant herd them into a database and exclusively have men as my paying clients." I was shocked, and wondered if this could this be true? Nah! She foreshadowed the reality of my idealistic vision for this business. One of my biggest regrets is ignoring her advice.
A Lifetime reality show, two New York Times best-selling books, speaking engagements, seminars, countless media appearances on the most popular talks shows and respected media outlets and a thriving matchmaking and coaching business soon followed. I was helping people in much the same way that I did in the fitness industry, but the focus was helping them find the love they sought and deserved. Most of my clients are successful women, highly educated, attractive, and genuinely interested in meeting a lifelong partner. What I didn't anticipate was the downside of this business and the price I've paid being in the public eye while trying to do my best to fulfill clients' (often unrealistic) expectations. While I have encountered individuals who have been grateful and appreciative, the difficulties and hurdles I face have truly sullied the business I've worked so hard to grow and maintain.
After my first reality show aired, I met with a prospective client. I will call her Kristi. She said she had trouble trusting men because of a recent sexual harassment situation at her job. Then, she strangely asked me what I thought of the details of her experience and asked me to roll play the conversations she had with her boss. I acquiesced since I thought it might help a potential client gain trust in working with me by sharing my thoughts. It turns out, she taped our conversation, editing it so it sounded like I was the one harassing her. Her boyfriend called to let me and my girlfriend know that they would distribute the tape to media outlets if we didn't fork over a large sum of money. Fortunately, we chose not to negotiate with wannabe terrorists and my media savvy girlfriend (who surprised me with her subtle but effective Tony Soprano skills), put the kibosh on the situation after one very stern phone call. While I seriously considered throwing in the towel, she convinced me that this is the type of unfortunate thing that happens when you are in the public eye and developing a thick skin is vital. I knew there would be more of these disturbing and potentially damaging incidents, but I am not a quitter and chose to move forward.
The experiences and situations that ensued are truly much, much stranger than fiction. I wish they were fiction but this is my life...and it's all too real.
A year after that first incident, I had a matchmaking and coaching client I'll call Rene. She was a smart, successful woman who was eager for us to work together. I thought she had great energy and could definitely help her with her dating challenges. Then, the emails and homemade postcards started filling up my inbox and mailbox: pictures of her in bathing suits, evening gowns, posing seductively with lascivious captions. The emails were often accompanied by OpenTable reservations, for TWO, meaning she and I. She didn't realize that I was her dating COACH, not dating HER! Rene was aware that I was recently married and had even met my wife on several occasions, going so far as giving Rene advice about her career. To say my wife was both livid and disrespected is an understatement, but she also did not want to escalate matters since someone who demonstrated such inappropriate and erratic behavior was unpredictable in what else she might do. When I tried to have a non-confrontational conversation with Rene about her inappropriate behavior, she threatened to tell the papers that I had come on to her and veritably extorted money, demanding a refund.
Then there was a client who I will call Susan. I proposed nine matches which she declined for reasons ranging from, the potential match not being in a "cool fraternity" in college (Susan was 36) to the potential match not liking her favorite band Phish. Even more outrageous was her declining a match based on her perception that his hair might be thinning. She actually insisted that I physically check his "hair situation" before agreeing to meet him. She had an aversion to balding men and insisted (after viewing numerous pictures of him at different angles) that I meet the guy in person and literally run my fingers through his hair to evaluate his follicle condition. Another client (single/never married) in her early 60s refused to meet any man who did not have an MBA from an Ivy school. A woman I'll call Brenda blamed me for the flaws of a man she had dated for nearly 8 months, sending me pictures of the happy couple on many occasions including vacations and New Year's Eve. When they broke up, she said he was cheap, and she had to pay his way during most of their relationship. Again, she chose to date this man for a length of time. I did not force her, but she felt the need to reprimand me for introducing her to him. The average looking documentary filmmaker who rejected 14 potential matches for various superficial reasons. The gay client who had such low self esteem that he berated me for introducing him to men who were "too good-looking." I am constantly fighting an uphill battle...
What most people witness as they watch the heavily embellished matchmaker stories on reality shows is not remotely close to reality: very attractive, successful, stable people who just don't have the time to meet that special someone. Almost every episode ends like a fairy tale. Miss and soon-to-be Mr. Right fall madly in love after a helicopter ride overlooking the city, followed by a champagne toast at sunset on a quiet candlelit beach while Mr. Right plays an acoustic version of Miss Right's favorite love ballad. They kiss as the moon shines down on the genetically perfect "20" couple (both are 10s of course). Waves crash behind them as they hold hands and gaze out at the horizon, collectively dreaming of their future together. Unfortunately, this isn't reality; it's a really well-constructed production by a professional tv crew. I'll tell you what is reality, though:
Most matchmaking clients are "normal," average people. They are not Ken and Barbie or Brad and Angelina. They are more Ross and Rachel (from Friends) or Jim and Pam (from The Office). I reiterate that these incidents are not representative of all of my clients but there has been a great deal of unreasonable and vindictive individuals whom I have worked with. This is a thankless business. Even the recently married couple that I introduced did not have the decency to thank me or my colleague after sending the warmest of congratulations and mazel tov-filled emails. It's disheartening but that has become standard behavior. One very major detail that these clients cannot grasp is that neither I nor any other person on the planet can determine or ascertain chemistry between two people. If I had that ability, I'd be richer than Bill Gates. Just as I can't make someone meet a person he or she is not attracted to or interested in, I cannot foster chemistry between two people. I can't count the number of times I have been called, texted, emailed and yelled at by disgruntled clients filled with rage, directed at me because the "perfect" guy I set them up with didn't follow through with a second date. I typically get verbally berated and "punished" for another man's rejection at least twice a week.
Still, I am painted in a negative light, as most matchmakers are in the media. The poor, innocent "victims" did not find love after handing over a large sum of money, and it's the fault of their matchmakers, who some choose to sue, others defame on social media outlets (often peppered with lies and slanderous statements) and then there are those who demand that I provide a full refund after they have used my services, received all of their matches and decided it's my fault that they did not meet their future husband. They refuse to acknowledge that they played a part in the overall experience. They don't have the ability to look at the greater picture and understand that maybe it's possible that they are single and will continue to be based on their behavior, actions or lack thereof. In reality, they would love to tell off the person who rejected them, curse them, insult them, tell them they will never do better than them.
Rather than risk being labeled the scarlet "P" (psycho), they find catharsis by abusing and/or punishing the person who introduced them to object of their unrequited affection... that would be me, their matchmaker. The experience is akin to someone signing up with a personal trainer, paying them for a certain number of sessions and then demanding a full refund if they didn't see results or changes in their body. Just like a matchmaking client who can't acknowledge her part in the nonsuccess of her experience (i.e.: being too busy to schedule dates or habitually canceling on dates, meeting her date in gym clothes right after a workout, talking about herself incessantly, broaching inappropriate topics, tweeting about her date in real time...), the fitness client can not admit that she canceled several of the workout sessions, ate poorly against the counsel of her trainer and when she did show up to her sessions, she only put in 50% effort.
What gets sensationalized and highlighted is the apparent "victimization" of the matchmaking client, but what does not get addressed is that person's behavior and why she might have made it nearly impossible to do my job. I think lovelorn experiences resonate with the public, which is why the matchmakers who could not successfully marry off their clients (that's a tall order unless you're in the mail-order bride business) are often unfairly sued, slandered, portrayed as unscrupulous date peddlers and scolded for baseless and untrue misdeeds. We have all experienced heartbreak, rejection and deep disappointment when our feelings aren't reciprocated or when it seems that you've met "the one" but things don't turn out the way you fantasized that they will. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to find someone to love and to be loved back, and while it is still a business, I have always had my clients' best interest at heart. They come to a matchmaker because they have not had success finding love on their own.
I encourage my clients to not rely solely on the service to meet eligible singles. Those who cover all bases, say yes to invitations they might often decline, delve out of their comfort zone, try a new activity or experience at least once a week, give that nice but not amazing first date a second chance, smile often, make eye contact, throw away their proverbial list of a mate's requirements, give their card to that cute stranger who caught their eye at a Starbucks...have the greatest chances of finding the love they seek, whether through me or somewhere else. I coach my clients, work to instill confidence in them, arrange makeovers, go shopping with them, approve outfits, craft and edit emails and texts to respond to the person they are dating or want to date, teach effective flirting techniques, play wingman, augment their online dating profiles to bring out the best in who they are. I suggest places and events where they might have the chance to organically meet someone who shares common interests.
I am in no way crowning my head or looking to be posthumously canonized as the Mother Theresa of matchmakers. I do not have a perfect or stellar track record with my own relationships (which has been well-documented in the press as well), but I'm human, and I believe that being in a loving relationship makes us better people and brings out the best in us. It is not easy to find, but I truly think each person deserves to find love, and I'll continue to forge ahead despite the naysayers and critics, the defamatory remarks, the bogus lawsuits.
What has made it so disheartening for me is the clients who refuse to participate in bettering themselves and opening up their criteria. They have more dealbreakers than dealmakers. They are their own worst matchmakers because they reject more than they accept; judge with prejudice and quite often should be investing in a quality therapist rather than a matchmaker.
Next time a disgruntled client suing a matchmaker becomes a big news story, you should be aware that there are two sides to every story or sometimes three sides, such as the case with my most recent publicly circulated ordeal: the scorned client, the innocent man who gave it a shot and the matchmaker, who truly wanted nothing more than for these two to take themselves off of the market and hopefully at least send me a thank you after they announced their engagement. Don't think it's asking too much...