Next memoir post: All matchmakers go to heaven

Next memoir post is up.

A Jewish myth says if you set up a couple who later get married, you’ve earned your place in heaven. What if you do it by mistake?

I’ve never thought about fixing people up. One of my writing teachers did it so much, she wrote a whole book about it. I don’t know if it’s because I just don’t know that many people, or because I know more women than men.

I’ve been in the presence of a match made just one other time. Senior year in college, a bunch of us were having dinner at someone’s apartment. My friends, let’s call them B and L, were there, and had never met before. B was a year younger than the rest of us and a dynamic playwright/women’s studies major. L claimed to be a Republican who loved the smell of money. I remember L made some joke, and B caught his eye, nodded, and smiled, and I thought then, Hmmm.

L called my other friend J and said, “B is cute.” The next thing we knew B and L were dating.

If I remember correctly, it lasted well over a year. But it didn’t work out. B was Chinese and L black, and B just knew her conservative parents would never accept him.

I’ve been on the receiving end of set-ups – or rather, potential set-ups – twice. Once was when I was a sophomore year in college, before I met the Ex. An older friend had me and some other people over for dinner. Among the guests were her boyfriend’s buddies from Harvard – a now-famous Asian American journalist and some kind of finance guy. My friend thought the finance guy might be for me.

About halfway through the evening, the finance guy said something about his home state of New Jersey, and suddenly it hit me.

“Do you have two younger brothers named Brother 1 and Brother 2?” I asked.

For a moment he looked surprised. Then he said, “Wait, I know Angela.”

Turns out he was the son of one of my mother’s oldest friends, whom I had basically grown up with while our parents played many rounds of mah-jongg.

“You guys know each other?” my friend said, looking disappointed. There went her spot in heaven I guess.

The second time was while I was already with the Ex, only my mother didn’t know I was. I had just graduated from college, was lving at home to save money, and couldn’t get away from my mother’s insistence that I meet Jeffrey, another son of yet another friend.

I had been lying to my parents about Joe, so I thought why not another lie. I’d go out with Jeffrey once and say we weren’t a match.

Joe did not like this and got pissed off because his parents had been trying to set him up as well. “But I’ve always refused,” he said. How was I supposed to know? It was always like that with him, his expecting to know things somehow, without his telling me.

Which was worse, my mother’s anger or my boyfriend’s? Mom was closer so I offered Jeffrey my plan. “I have a boyfriend,” I told him, “but my parents don’t know.” I suggested we go to one movie, and call it quits.

He agreed, albeit reluctantly. I wasn’t surprised when he never called again. I thought I was safe, but then a week or so later, my mother came barging into my room.

“Did you tell Jeffrey you have a boyfriend?” she said.

That blabbermouth, I thought. “No,” I said, trying to keep my face blank. “What are you talking about?”

“His mother said he said, ‘She has a boyfriend. I don’t want to get involved.'”

My mind did somersaults. “Maybe I mentioned Joe,” I said. As far as she knew, we were just friends. “And he took it the wrong way.”

“Oh.” My mother calmed down. “Well, you shouldn’t mention other boys when you’re talking to a boy.”

I nodded. “Okay.”

It seems most Western culture looks at set ups as a last resort. Love should happen naturally! totally by chance! even if it’s one in a million!!! On ther other end of the spectrum are traditional Chinese and Jewish cultures, where couples meet ONLY through set ups, as my cousin did with her first husband. As with most things, I think it’s something in between – being open to both chance meetings and set ups. Online dating is just do-it-yourself matchmaking; true, you lack the objectivity of a shadchan but at least you have some control over the situation rather than waiting around for Prince Whomever to show up. We can’t all be my cousin Huang Lei. :)

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