Yesterday I was a divorce attorney. Today I am a Matchmaker. Crazy, I know, but that's my life.
I went to law school and decided to pursue a career in divorce law basically because my mom suggested it and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn't put all that much thought into it. My mom said that maybe divorce law would be the most people-oriented, and I agreed.
I practiced divorce law for a while, and it was in fact very people-oriented, but in an unpleasant way: divorce lawyers do help people, but at a time when they are at the lowest point in their lives and depressed all the time, which in turn makes them depressed all the time. I soon discovered that most divorce attorneys burn out quickly.
To ward off potential burnout, I began throwing parties. I took over swanky clubs early in the evening, before their regular patrons showed up. I gave the management a small cut of the door. I charged $20, collected by one of my "bouncers" (my brother Sean or my brother Christopher), and I had several scantily clad "playmates" (younger sisters of my brothers' friends) stand by the door and collect business cards so I could invite the attendees to the next shindig. Each evening would end with me lying on my bed surrounded by hundreds of $20 bills and hundreds of business cards from all of my new friends.
I loved throwing the parties, I loved meeting the new people, and I found that I was really good at remembering little factoids about people and at introducing couples. Sometimes I couldn't help myself. I would see a guy on one side of the room and a girl on the other, and I would grab them by their hair and pull them toward each other, make the introduction, and walk away. Time and time again, I heard through the grapevine that these couples were dating, had gotten engaged, or had even gotten married. Soon, according to the Jewish faith, I earned a place in heaven, since more than three couples had ended up getting married through my introductions.
For years I continued to start up all sorts of singles businesses -- group-share vacation homes, coed back-to-summer-camp weekends, more and more singles parties, singles newsletters -- all the while subconsciously wanting to be a Matchmaker but refusing to step up to the plate and officially declare my Matchmakerhood. I remember with particular fondness my idea for a coed back-to-summer-camp weekend: I envisioned three hundred or so single people traveling to a sleep-away camp in upstate New York to relive their camping days. Originally, the fantasy was that I would sell so many tickets that I would have to put people on a waiting list, but the reality was that I dragged myself and my very patient boyfriend at the time up and down the beaches of Southampton, approaching strangers and trying to convince them to purchase tickets so I wouldn't have to cancel the weekend. Though a near disaster with no profit whatsoever, the weekend wound up being a lot of fun, and I walked away with a few thousand new friends whom I had met combing the beaches.
I also recall with fondness my newsletter, called "In the Loop," which I decided to mail out to all my new friends. In it, I pontificated about being single in New York, suggested great places to go as a single person, and wrote a Dear Samantha column in which I responded to people who wrote in with serious dating dilemmas (I made up more than a few for the purpose of the first column). I promised that the newsletter would come out monthly, but it never came out again, and in retrospect I'm not sure all that many people missed it.
In the beginning, some of my singles ventures were harebrained, to say the least, but through it all I built up a pretty kick-ass mailing list of the best and the brightest young singles in the New York tristate area. I probably could have handled being a divorce lawyer for a few more years, but what was the point? I always wanted to have my own business, to be something, someone a little different, even unique. And I definitely had a following in the singles world, so I decided to become, as far as I knew, the world's youngest Matchmaker.
Becoming a full-fledged Matchmaker didn't just happen to me overnight. It took me quite some time to get comfortable with the notion that people were going to be thinking of me as a yenta. In my mind's eye, a yenta was that ugly, loud woman in Fiddler on the Roof, complete with a hair growing out of her chin, or one of the real-life Matchmakers -- let's call them the Maries. There were a bunch of Maries, based in New York, who had cornered the Matchmaking market. The Maries were the kind of Matchmakers I didn't want to be. They just had a way about them that I didn't like: they seemed pushy and aggressive and seemed like they would never take no for an answer. I never really understood why anyone would put one of them in charge of their personal life, but I guess when there's only one game in town, beggars can't be choosers. The thought of being equated with a Fiddler Matchmaker or one of the real-life Maries was a little more than I could handle for a really long time.
Meanwhile, several of the Maries got wind of me. One called me trying to convince me to hire her to find me a husband. That was just plain comical because at the time I was 26, had dates up the wazoo, and the last thing I was looking for was a husband. Another Marie found me some time later and invited me to a singles party she was having, and she suggested that I come and pay $150 so I could check out her roster of eligibles. I told her I would think about it, and that seemed to satisfy her enough to let me off the phone. I immediately called my mom to laugh about the phone call, but my mom became serious and said I should go to the party and do some research.
I guess my mother knew I was destined for this business. Back when I was in law school, a friend of mine moved to Houston and signed up at a local synagogue for a dating service that charged $100 as an initiation fee and then $2 per introduction; she met a man who ultimately became her husband that way, and that got me thinking. I soon developed a preoccupation with starting a dating service. Of course I wanted to charge a little more than $2 a date, and I wanted to add another dimension and make the dates be only over drinks, but I liked the overall concept of it. So I came home one day and told my mom that I wasn't going to be a lawyer, I was going to be a businesswoman and I was going to open a dating service. My mother laughed and said that I was in law school and naturally I would be a lawyer. Of course that's what a Jewish parent would say! At any rate, a few months after my mother instructed me that I would be a lawyer, she saw an advertisement for a dating service that introduced people over drinks and over lunch. She cut out the article, handed it to me, and said with a smile that maybe I was on to something, but that something should be after law school was over. The article fueled my interest, but I was already in law school, so I figured I should listen to my mother this time and put aside my entrepreneurial aspirations temporarily.
Getting back to my many Maries story, when I called my mom and told her about Marie's invitation to her party, my mom said that since I had always had a preoccupation with dating services, I might as well swing by the event and see what was what. So I went to the party alone because I didn't think it was fair to ask one of my friends to fork over $150 for what might be a terrible party. And for me, it was a terrible party -- for starters, the youngest man there probably could have been my father, and the people were just not my speed. I learned a lot about this Marie, her clients, and her business. Later she apologized profusely for the age discrepancy and swore on a stack of Bibles that it wasn't always like this. Right, Marie.
Time went on and I kept matching people up at all my crazy singles events, but I hesitated about opening a real Matchmaking service because of my preoccupation with becoming a Marie. I actually spent time in therapy obsessing over this. My therapist finally convinced me that I didn't have to be a Marie at all. I guess that's why therapists get paid the big bucks; finally the lightbulb went on in my head and I realized that I would never be a Marie because that just wasn't me, and that I would succeed by offering New York singles an alternative.
Soon I set out to come up with a brand of Matchmaking that would be cool. I decided right then and there that if I started a service and the only people who called were unattractive and awkward and hadn't had a date in years, I would go out of business immediately and that would be that. I had no interest in becoming the Queen of the Undatables in New York. I determined that the only way I would stay in business and make my service work would be to find people who were socially adept and desirable and to convince them that they truly wanted and needed my help. Ultimately, I wanted a service that would not just be successful but even fashionable and hip.
First step, allow people to think that mine was not a dating service, even when it was one. I know it sounds crazy, but it worked. I decided that I would offer one-on-one dates, but I would also offer introductions over small group dinners. This way, people who weren't comfortable admitting that they joined a dating service could gloss over the truth by saying they joined an eating club or a dining club in which a small group of people would get together every so often to eat in a trendy restaurant. They could leave out the part about the real objective of the group being to sit with single people looking to meet a mate. Good idea, right? I thought so. And that's what I did. I came up with a corny name, Table for Two (or More), which basically meant that you could sit at a table for two (a date) or a table for more than two (a group dinner). Then I put together a very classy brochure that explained the idea, and I mailed it out to seven thousand of my closest friends. These seven thousand friends had been enjoying free introductions over the years simply by attending my events, so they knew that I knew a lot of people, and this was the key to starting and succeeding in the Matchmaking business. So I hooked up a business phone line and I sat and waited and waited and waited for the phone to ring.
The phone did ring every once in a while. Mostly the callers were telemarketers, along with a few lonely hearts and one Marie saying that she thought it strange that I would mail my brochure to her (I didn't, of course), but she would love to talk to me about my business. Sure, Marie. I've got some calls coming in right now. Let me ring you back. In other words, buzz off. I'm the competition now.
Eventually a few of the people seemed a little less undatable than the rest of the callers, so I started meeting with them. I figured at the very least it would be good practice for when the heavy hitters got around to calling -- after all, they were very busy people. The first girl I met with was Jennifer, 29, cute, and worked in advertising. Of course I didn't tell her that she was my first. But she was my first, and I asked whatever questions I thought I needed to ask her. When she told me that she was surprised that I didn't ask her certain things during our meeting, I immediately added them to my repertoire. I met with her for two hours, for free, and she never signed up. Oh well, her loss.
The next guinea pig was a girl with curly blond hair, petite, probably not over five feet tall. She was an opera singer who had an unusually high-pitched voice. She wasn't bad-looking, but I remember thinking that her voice would probably drive the guys crazy, because it was definitely going to drive me a little nutty. I wondered if it was worth it to take her money. But then she offered it, my first $1,000 check, and guess what? You got it -- her voice became a little less irritating. As I continued to putter along, a phone call here, a lonely heart there, I would alternate between thinking I was the world's biggest idiot for trying to start my own Matchmaking business and optimistically telling myself that the business would take off any day, I just had to be patient.
Then came my big break. About six months into my entrepreneurial venture, I met a reporter for a major magazine. She asked what I did and I told her. As a matter of fact, I talked her ear off about how fabulous my business was and how successful I had been, how my phone was ringing off the hook and how I had the hippest people in New York as clients -- although I was unable to name names. The fabulous business part was true. The cool client list was maybe a bit of an exaggeration; I kind of left out the part that the clients weren't all that cool yet. Well, guess what? She bought it. A few days later, she called me and said she wanted to write a story about me and my booming business, complete with a photograph and everything.
And she did just that. Not only did she write an article, but she wrote a glowing, positively enviable article. She made my business sound unbelievable, sought after by only the most desirable singles in New York, with waiting lists and unpublished business lines. Once the article came out, I realized that now I might just have the opportunity to be the stellar Matchmaker that I knew I could be. I could help a lot of people who needed my help, and they would want it once they knew I existed.
The day that the magazine hit the newsstands I was very nervous. It was do-or-die now. If the datable people called -- no, when they called -- I needed to be able to put my money where my mouth was or I would be out of business very quickly.
My anxiety was well founded because I was besieged with fifty-seven phone calls before noon! Every person who called wanted to meet with me in person. The writer of the article became my favorite person on the planet! The power of the press was truly remarkable! When I woke up that Tuesday morning, I had a whole bunch of clients, but not all of them were that set-uppable. By lunchtime, I had fifty-seven A-list "Desperados" who wanted to meet with me and pay $1,000 each for my expertise and services!
Up until that point, I had been meeting with everyone for free, but all of a sudden my time was becoming valuable. I panicked and called my "business adviser," a guy I had dated who went to Harvard Business School. I asked him what to do. Harvard boy told me that when I called back the next five people to schedule appointments, I needed to tell them that there was a $200 consultation fee to meet with me. And then I needed to see what happened: the less serious callers would balk and, for those who didn't, I would have myself a consultation fee.
I did just that for the rest of the afternoon, and guess what? No one batted an eyelash. So much for that plan. By the end of day one, ninety-six people had called and I was truly panicking. It would take me two months to meet with ninety-six people. So I called back Harvard boy and asked for some new advice. He said, tomorrow morning tell the first five people I called back that I had a $400 consultation fee and see what happened. He said that some people would think that number was way too steep -- I don't know, buddy, they were supposed to think that of the $200 fee; I am becoming quite desirable, you know -- and then I would have a manageable number of people to meet with for $400 each. So the next morning, I started asking $400 to meet with me, little old me. And just as Harvard boy predicted, some people said buzz off, and the more committed people said fine. And so the kookiness began....
Copyright © 2005 by Samantha's Table LLC
The Diary of a Modern-Day Matchmaker
The Diary of a Modern-Day Matchmaker
When people learn what Samantha Daniels does for a living, they have to know more: How did she become a Match-maker? How many matches have led to marriage? How does it work? Who's her craziest client? And most of all, how can a Matchmaker be single?
Samantha Daniels is unlike any Matchmaker you've ever heard of. Young, ambitious, and, yes, single, she's the founder of Samantha's Table, an introduction service that caters to singles in New York and Los Angeles who are ready to invest seriously in the task of finding The One. After handpicking their matches, Daniels works with her clients as their cheerleader, part-time therapist, dating coach, voice of reason, and closest confidante as she helps them down the road to happily ever after.
Readers learn how Daniels started her Matchmaking business (How much do you charge for finding the love of someone's life? How do you screen out the Undatables?) and get to know the colorful cast of characters whom she fondly refers to as her "Desperados." There's Mr. Cheapskate, Miss Manhunt, and Looks Good from Afar Guy. There's the 39-year-old female corporate exec who wants a husband yesterday; there's the guy who will only date women worthy of Brad Pitt; there's the gazillionaire who offers a $60,000 bonus if Samantha can find him a supermodel wife; there's the very well endowed woman who's having trouble finding men attracted to her mind; and a host of others. Will Samantha be able to make them a match?
And more importantly, will this Matchmaker find herself a match? You would think that meeting hundreds of single men would make dating a snap, but not even a Matchmaker can avoid the pitfalls of single life. Readers are introduced to another lively cast of characters -- the men that Daniels herself dates. Readers meet the many Not for Me Guys and a few Maybe for Me Guys, to see that even a celebrated Matchmaker can be a Desperado herself.
Throughout the book, Daniels also offers real dating advice (such as the most common first-date mistakes and tried-and-true conversation topics) and secrets of the trade (why September is the best month for Matchmaking). Like a real-life episode of The Bachelor, Matchbook is a wild ride through the flirty, unpredictable world of urban dating, with a wise and witty guide at the helm. For those who love romance and anyone looking for love, Matchbook is a perfect match.