“Come quick,” I whispered in the phone from my towel on the beach to my buddy Adam. “Right now.”
What was so urgent on this sunny day in the sand? It was my friend, Hailey, visiting from across the country. No, there was nothing wrong with her. Actually, I was admiring how adorable she was as she, in her red bikini, emerged from the glistening ocean, and, as she approached some strangers to join in their Frisbee game, how fun she was to be around.
That’s why I wanted Adam to leave work in the middle of the day and join us. He would like Hailey, too: They both loved to travel the world, saving up for three-month treks; they both seemed to value new experiences and interactions with new people over everything else. And, oh yes, they were both single and in their 40s.
I’d been fixing people up for the last fifteen years, from when I was a pretty young thing uninterested in settling down to when I became a woman on the husband hunt herself. I had thought that once I found my own mate, I would stop — but I couldn’t. It seems I was addicted to matchmaking.
Now I understand why: “Matchmaking Promotes Happiness.” A recent study published in Social Psychological & Personality Science found that setting people up made the matchmaker happier. “Chronic matchmakers, those people who can’t help but they have to introduce two people when they see them, reported to be happier,” said Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, who conducted four studies on matchmaking with Michael Norton from Harvard Business School. They also found that the match had to be successful to boost the matchmaker’s happiness.
I know that some have said this study proves that people like me are selfish, only out for their own interest, but I see it quite differently.
See, I’ve always been good at meeting people. It’s easy for me to strike up a conversation with strangers, whether it’s holding court at a crowded party, or hearing the life story of a cab driver. It leads me to have thousands of friends on Facebook, hundreds of work colleagues and long guest lists to pare down when I’m having a party. That’s one of the reasons I like to fix people up: I want to put my social talents to good use. I suppose I’m what Malcolm Gladwell calls “a connector” in "The Tipping Point."
I’ve made five successful matches in my life — and by “successful,” I mean, they got married. (By old Jewish lore, I automatically go to heaven if I’ve made three.) But I think of myself less of a matchmaker and more of a “facilitator.” In the days of old, people like “Yente” the busybody matchmaker in "Fiddler on the Roof," had to procure matches for people — that was the only way they could meet. Today, with Internet dating, it’s not so hard to meet people as it is to get past the bullshit of our baggage. When we know there’s always another person available if your current date doesn’t work out, it’s easy to get waylaid by simple misunderstandings. That’s where I come in: I can tell both people who the other really is.
Like when my friend Alice moved to Denver. I wanted her to go with my friend’s brother, Steve, I said, because he was outdoorsy and laid-back, like her. “I already did!” she said, reporting that he was way “too fancy” for her. She thought his car was too nice, as was the restaurant he took her to. I could understand her reservations: She was the type of woman who never wore makeup or heels. But I also knew that while Steve enjoyed some of the finer things in life, he was tired of dating high-maintenance women. “Steve’s a really good person with a really good heart,” I told her, convincing her to go out with him again. Now, married with one kid, they still debate where to vacation — spa or adventure?; a minor debacle in the greater joy of their life.
That probably explains why their happiness makes me happy. “What we found in our studies,” Anik said, “rather than making obvious matches, try to introduce two people who are unlikely to meet — they provide the highest happiness benefits. So, change it up and instead of introducing your banker friend to your banker friend, introduce your banker friend to your artsy cousin.”
Which is probably why, on that day on the beach, Adam and Hailey didn’t connect: Although they both love to travel and meet new people, they were too similar, spending the day asking each other questions but not answering them. Oh well, I thought, you win some, you lose some. But then I remembered Dave. Now he would be perfect for Hailey. I think?