Matchmaker, matchmaker, please give me a break

Something happens when you hit 30 and you're Jewish, as Suzanne Glass d iscovers
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"My name's er ... er, Brian. I got your number from your, er ... Auntie Sadie and I was wondering if you, er ... er." I turn down the volume on my answering machine. Brian is banished at the second stutter. Heartless, I hear you say. Callous and unkind.

No, I am none of those. It's just that when you've reached blind date number 25, you've whittled your screening down to a fine art.

Something happens when you hit 30. You get crow's feet, a tyre around your tummy and, if you're Jewish, an albatross around your neck. The albatross is blind-date pressure.

We're not talking about sophisticated computer dating here. We're talking about grandmothers, aunts and mothers, with an in-built microchip for sniffing out the single Jewish woman, pouncing, and saying: "Just go for a coffee with him. If it doesn't workyou can say, Thank you and goodnight. What have you got to lose?"

It happens in the most hazy of circumstances. In a steam room in a health club, I fall into conversation with a female contour behind the vapours. She asks, "So what do you do? Do you have kids? So you're not married? Are you Jewish?" Then she says: "Boy, do I have a brother for you!" I mean, she couldn't even tell if I had two heads through the steam and she was foisting me off on her unsuspecting brother. Actually, he was the one with two heads.

Then there's my hairdresser. She's Greek Orthodox, but most of her clients are Jewish and she fancies herself as a matchmaker. So she holds this uncomfortably large chunk of my hair between her scissors and says: "I've got a client who has a son who's single. He lives in Belgium and his mother says she's sure he'll want to meet you." Logistics were irrelevant. He was single. I was single. He was Jewish. I was Jewish. Somehow they would make it happen. They made it happen. We never did.

A couple of weeks later, I get this call from an acquaintance in New York. "I hear you're coming over," she says, "and I've got the cutest guy for you to meet." The cute guy, it turned out, was a rabbi, albeit a very reform one. One whom, I was later to discover, carried condoms, ate bacon and couldn't cough without his shrink. But this acquaintance of mine had seen him officiating at a wedding, was impressed by his performance and had gone right up to him and said: "You were fabulous. Are you single? Ihave a friend in London who would just die for a date with you."

Occasionally, very occasionally in my case, parents get involved. So a few months ago my father is at this funeral and he bumps into an old girlfriend. At the graveside she asks him how his kids are doing. Are they dating? Are they married? Unfortunately, she says, she doesn't have anyone for his son, but she's got a wonderful guy for his daughter. He's her husband's friend's brother, he's handsome, he's got a great job, he comes from a "good" family and, and, and ... So my dad calls me, making a rotten attempt at masking the excitement in his voice. He tells me the guy's name and I say: "Dad, don't give him my number, don't you dare give him my number. Dad, swear you won't give him my number." You see, I had already been on a blind date with his brother.

It's one thing when they tell you what they're up to, but it's the set-ups on the sly that really get to you. I'm sitting at this dinner party a few months ago and I begin to have this sneaking feeling that me and the guy next to me are the only two "singles" at the table. He's started to get the same feeling. I can see it by his facial twitches. I can tell by the stilted way he asks, "So what do you do?" I tell him I'm a journalist. He tells me he's a plumber. He says he has no interest in newspapers. I say I have no interest in drainpipes.

The question is, why do they do it? Why do they feel this driving force to set us up, to match us off, to pair us with "one of our kind".

Partly it is a watered-down version of historical matchmaking in the Jewish religion. Think back to Fiddler on the Roof and the song "Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, find me a kind, catch me a catch".

For Orthodox Jews, there has never been such thing as courtship. So someone has to find a partner for them. But the matchmaking mania has spilt over into the world of secular Jews. They also want to make sure that you stay within the fold, which sends them into a frenzied search for suitable marriage material. Then there's the bit about "going forth and multiplying", and if you're not multiplying by 30 it makes them distinctly uncomfortable.

On average, Jewish people marry younger than the majority of the British population and a single person in their midst, even today, is a bit of problem, in a sort of "Who is she going to sit next to at the dinner party" way. But the Jewish culture is a warm culture. It is a united culture. And there is an element of goodness in this matchmaking bit. People want to see you "live happily ever after", or at least promise that you're going to try. They also, of course, want to witness the fruits of their labour. As the woman sitting next to me in synagogue at the wedding of a couple she had matched put it: "I did that. She was my neighbour and he was my chiropodist. If it wasn't for me none of this would be happening."

But it's not for everyone. I'm going to stick to the romantic route from here on in. So, Mum, please tell your estate agent that I'm sure her husband's nephew is a dream, but this weekend is out. And tell Auntie Sadie that Brian sounds delightful, but sorry, no can do. You see, I know you're going to find this hard to stomach, but I actually have a date this weekend. And guess what: I found him all on my own.

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