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Confessions of a matchmaker

  • Story Highlights
  • Lisa Kogan: Belief in love drives her to matchmaking
  • She says don't over sell potential dates
  • Never ask for a progress report after dates
  • Most dates don't work out because true love is elusive
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By Lisa Kogan
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Oprah

(Oprah.com) -- I believe in love. I believe it transforms, transports and transcends. I believe it fine-tunes goodness, solidifies strength, ripens resolve, eradicates rage, alleviates stress and elevates empathy.

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I believe in love (or something damn near like it) at first sight, I believe it's perfectly okay to love the one you're with, provided the one you're with either happens to have excellent news from an extremely up-to-date HIV test or answers to the name of Hugh Laurie, and I firmly believe that marriage ceremonies would go much faster if Kahlil Gibran hadn't written that big love passage into "The Prophet."

But more than anything else, I believe in love because when you don't have it, you tend to spend your every waking moment chasing after it ... at least I always did.

Bruce Springsteen was right -- everybody has a hungry heart.

It's 10 p.m. and Johannes (the love of my life) wants me to hang up the phone and help him fill out yet another private school application, in the sincere hope that our daughter, Julia, will be accepted by a good one and we can end our lives completely broke but secure in the knowledge that our kid didn't have to endure a 35-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

He enters the room just in time to catch a snippet from my end of the conversation: "So does my friend absolutely have to love camping? I mean, what if she's perfect for you in every other respect -- is the camping thing a deal breaker?"

He rolls his eyes because he knows I'm on yet another in a long series of matchmaking missions. Technically, the camping thing is new on the checklist. Sometimes he gets to hear this: "And she has to be Jewish?" Sometimes it's something along the lines of: "His mother lives in Wisconsin, she won't be an issue." Or: "Look, I'll be honest, she could stand to drop 10 pounds, but so could you." And then there's the ever popular: "I promise he's gorgeous ... Of course, you might want to wear flats."

Johannes listens for a minute, then performs a rather elaborate mime of making a noose and hanging himself as I lob a pillow at the side of his head and continue my phone call.

"I know your last girlfriend forced you to sit through "Dialogues of the Carmelites,'" I say patiently to the potential date on the other end of the line. "But this woman doesn't even like opera -- I swear to you, she's completely uncouth."

Johannes arranges his finger and thumb into a pretend gun, puts it to his left temple, and pulls the trigger. "Sorry, can you just hold on for one quick second?" I clamp my hand over the receiver and pose the question that crosses every woman's mind from time to time: "Why do you have to be such an idiot?"

"Why do you have to set up everyone you meet?" he shoots back.

"Because," I hiss through clenched teeth, "I want my friends to be as blissful as we are -- goddamn it."

And the truth is, I do. There's no getting around it, couples fight. We all have that moment when it hits us that we've entered into a relationship knowing roughly as much about our soul mate as Mia Farrow did in "Rosemary's Baby." Or, for that matter, as much as Mia Farrow did in her actual life.

But I do like knowing that when I go to a black-tie affair clutching the satin evening bag that holds exactly one key and a pen, Johannes is the keeper of my Kleenex, lipstick and comb. I like knowing that once or twice a year he'll call me in the middle of the day to ask, "What don't I like again?" And I'll remind him that he can't stand cilantro, injustice and the commercial where that talking fungus hides under the guy's toenail.

I like knowing that if something happens to me, he'll be the one to decide if it's time to pull the plug. Sure, it's a little troubling that while shaving my legs the other day, I nicked my knee, only to look up and find him frantically searching for my living will -- but Johannes has never been one to let things go until the last minute.

Anyway, the point is, at the end of the day, it's good to have somebody. But finding that somebody is another story. That's where I come in.

My six simple rules for setting up friends:

1. The Native Americans or the Arabs or the Japanese or some other highly evolved culture I can't think of and I'm too lazy to look up have this theory that every time you take a photograph of someone, you steal a bit of their spirit. I maintain that going on a bad blind date has that same effect. Remember that. Avoid phrases like "It's just a drink, or "It's only an hour out of your life." Those hours add up. Do not say, "Hey, they're both single, so what the hell." Do your homework. Think long and hard about whether they're really compatible.

2. Think long and hard about whether they're really straight.

3. Keep expectations low. When describing the mystery suitor, it's best to avoid grand pronouncements la "I've found you the man of your dreams!" Instead, go with a light, casual, "Well, he's originally from St. Louis and he takes meticulous care of his gums."

4. You're going to be very tempted to try to find out if you made a love connection. Stop! Do not under any circumstance contact either party for postdate details. I mean it. Ditch your cell phone. Cancel your e-mail. If they had a good time, you'll hear about it.

5. Unfortunately, if they didn't have a good time, you'll hear about that, too. If one or both members of the date calls to say, "Your cousin Mitzi was all hands." Or that your brother's former roommate spent 38 minutes discussing the printer's credit at the bottom of the menu, you have but one choice -- fake a seizure. It's hard for people to complain if they think your airways are closing.

6. Being single is not synonymous with being mentally impaired. So if your friends tell you there just wasn't any chemistry, trust them. Don't try to guilt them into another get-together. Don't accuse them of being overly picky.

It's sort of like what I did with Jules when she agreed to taste gefilte fish. You smile reassuringly. You say, "I'm proud of you for trying it." You remind her that "there are other fish in the sea." and then, in the calmest voice possible, you add, "Please don't ever spit gefilte fish down the front of Mommy's blouse again." Now, your friend won't understand that last part, but it'll definitely take the conversation in a new direction.

You may wonder why so many of my rules deal with what to do when the date doesn't work out. Well, it's because true love is an incredibly elusive thing and, to be honest, most of the dates I fix people up on don't work out.

Okay, none work out.

But that doesn't mean it'll never happen. The day will come when my dental hygienist's niece and the guy who fixes my computer will meet for coffee, and coffee will turn into a movie, and a movie will turn into dinner, and if the stars are aligned and the gods are smiling, and nobody screws up royally, that dinner will turn into forever.

Like I said, I believe in love. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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