New York Times – It’s Peak Season for a Matchmaker, but Do Not Call Her Yente
By CLYDE HABERMAN
Published: February 10, 2013
This being the week when Cupid draws back his bow, we were wondering about a possible seasonal malady. Is there such a thing as Valentine’s Day anxiety in this city, a cousin perhaps to the agita that overtakes some people around Christmas?
It is indeed an issue, she said after we had settled into a booth at Brasserie 8 1/2, a stylish restaurant on West 57th Street, nestled at the bottom of a sweeping staircase.
“I usually get very busy right around Valentine’s Day,” she said. “People tend to panic. It just brings it more to the forefront that they’re not with somebody. Couples sometimes break up around then also, I’ve noticed. People hang in to New Year’s Eve, and then after that, kind of move on. Sometimes, they just bail right before Valentine’s Day.”
Let’s not get too gloomy, though. Couples meet and stay together all the time. But finding the right person sometimes needs a helping hand. That is where Ms. Goldman and her Manhattan company, Meaningful Connections, come in.
New York can be extraordinarily tough, she said. It is especially so for successful single women looking for heterosexual relationships. This is a city where a fair portion of the male pool is either married or gay — or now perhaps both. Or the men are hopelessly afraid of commitment. Or they are just undesirable.
“I think it’s harder for women than for men, absolutely,” Ms. Goldman said. “It’s just that there are more women out there who are looking.”
But courtship is no walk in the park for men. New York women can be tough, too.
“People have incredible schedules with work, and people are not always that friendly,” Ms. Goldman said of both sexes. “It’s just rough. There’s such limited time. It seems to me, that’s the most common denominator with everyone I work with. Nobody seems to have any time.”
On that note, it was time for the waiter to take our order.
Ms. Goldman said she did not usually go out for lunch, and so she had asked us to pick the place. Brasserie 8 1/2 is a short walk from her office on Madison Avenue. It was her first time there.
She ordered simply: a niÃ§oise salad with the tuna well-done, and iced tea. Her tablemate settled on the three-course Restaurant Week menu — Restaurant Week being a New York misnomer, lasting as it does nearly a month. The kale salad and skirt steak, accompanied by club soda, suited him. She skipped dessert. He went with the lemon tart.
Ms. Goldman plunked down her smartphone on the table because she had typed notes to herself, a few points she did not want to forget. When it comes to romance, though, electronic devices can be disastrous.
“A no-no is constantly picking up your cellphone and checking your texts, checking your e-mails while somebody is speaking to you, and not giving them two seconds,” she said. “I’ve had guys complain to me, ‘I had dinner with her, and she was on her phone all the time and barely looked at me.’ ”
Men, you will not be shocked to learn, do dumb things as well. “A definite no is talking about your ex-wife who you hate,” Ms. Goldman said. “Or just talking about yourself and showing no interest in the other person, not even letting them get a word in edgewise.”
O.K., what does a matchmaker do that online services do not? This has nothing to do with a strange peril of online dating that can be summed up in two words: Manti Te’o.
For starters, there is the personal touch. “I meet everyone on my own,” Ms. Goldman said. “You have to really listen to what somebody’s telling you. Don’t set them up with the complete opposite just because you need to make a match.”
Some clients come to her after striking out online. “Almost everybody lies online,” she said. “I mean, they lie about their age. They lie about their weight. People lie about what they do. And they’re often confused, like, ‘Why would you say that, and then I meet you, and how could you think I’m going to like you when you’re totally somebody else?’ But people do that anyway.
“I’ve heard from clients that it’s like having a full-time job, doing the online thing. You can be on the computer hours a day. And you have to go on hundreds of dates to meet someone that’s actually somebody you’d like to be with.”
The personal touch does not extend to Ms. Goldman’s own life. “I kind of like to keep my private life private,” she said. She did allow that she grew up in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, lives on the Upper West Side, is married and has no children. May we ask her age? “No,” she said with a smile. We can say, though, that she was “doing some sales-type things” before entering the matchmaking field two decades ago. She has run her own business for 16 years.
It was time for coffee — she had a decaf latte — and questions about what makes a good matchmaker. While we’re at it, does she have to deal with a notion that a matchmaker must be someone on the order of Yente in “Fiddler on the Roof”? Ms. Goldman is decidedly not Yente. And ethnicity or religion does not define her practice.
“I get that occasionally,” she said of the stereotype. “I think of it more as an introduction service. But you say ‘introduction service’ and people think it’s an escort service. ‘Matchmaker’ is safer to go with.”
As for what makes her good, it goes back to being able to listen, if you will, aerobically. “Often, people come in with a shopping list” of what they want and do not want, she said, noting, “I try not to take anybody who’s too unrealistic.”
Here’s a tale from the trenches:
“There was this guy I interviewed a few years back who was short, grossly overweight, lost most of his hair, didn’t have a great personality. He was, like, in his 50s and divorced, and thought that I would find him someone who was in her late 20s, that would love to be with him but wasn’t looking for his money. And no chemically treated hair. If she was blond, it had to be natural.”
She laughed at the memory: “I mean, that’s something that’s totally unrealistic.”
“I hear all the stories,” Ms. Goldman said. “I’ve heard a woman tell me that she was seeing some guy and then found out he was seeing her girlfriend and had met her online as well. So you know, it’s just a nightmare out there.”
But why end on a down note? The world is filled with possibilities. And from Ms. Goldman, there is a simple cure for the Valentine’s Day blues:
“People can lighten up on the specifics of what they’re looking for, maybe widen the net a bit and be more open to different types. There just might be somebody that’s really going to make them happy.”