Also, for y'all to know in advance, this is the story of why I harbor an irrational dislike and mistrust for Shadchanim/Shadchaniyot.
I have an older cousin who dragged me to a singles' shabbaton once. I was younger and most definitely not ready to date, but he managed to convince me, and I thought to myself "if nothing else I'd be his wingman."
The shabbaton was for sefaradim in particular, and I was on the lower end of the age limits, so my expectations weren't particularly high for finding someone. I mean, how could I compete with a bunch of doctors, lawyers, real-estate agents and other well-established men? Especially since many women are taught and told to look for established men? I did have a few things to my credit - I happen to be a very capable chazan (and I absolutely love singing zemirot) and even at a younger age I looked significantly more mature.
The program was actually well done. They had a multitude of speakers talking about tons of topics from dating etiquette to practical marriage advice. They had hired a handful of shadchaniyot as facilitators to help match people up.
Friday night, after teffilot and dinner, more divrei torah than I could count and my personal favorite medley of sefardic zemirot, there was a quazi-game that was aimed at forcing men and women to interact. I noticed how necessary it seemed, as the men and women both simply stood around in packs, looking over each others' shoulders and commenting about the pickings. I found it weird. Then again, I'm not much for conventions like that, I have no problem being myself and doing what I enjoy.
The game was, perhaps, well intended, but it didn't really do much to break the ice or soothe any nerves. So the shadchaniyot swooped in to rescue the day. I soon found myself the object of great interest to a particular shadchanit, who, upon approaching me and offhandedly asking my name, began rattling off her "credentials." This, of course, consisted of a list of all the people she'd set up who ended up married, her pending conquests, her deepest sympathies for the plight of the single Jews of the world and a declaration of her undying passion to personally do whatever it takes to solve the issue (and find me a spouse right there and then, of course!).
I was already impatient when she finally asked me the question I'd been expecting: So, what are you looking for?
After one word, I already saw her tune out. Her eyes were gazing, hawk-like, out to the crowd of women. I decided to test her multi-tasking listening powers, so I threw in some outlandish comment like "oh, and she has to love pinapple, because I'm obsessed with -"
"What about her?" She interjected my sentence before I could finish (I'd wanted to say "vegetables" for good measure).
"Uhhhh," I faltered, having no idea who she could be indicating to in the sea of headbands and straightened hair, "which?"
"The one in purple, right behind me" she stated. I began to peer around her, but she snapped baack in response: "DON'T LOOK!"
Good grief. I'm supposed to feel like she's going to put me together with the right woman? She's not listening to me, and won't even let me get a decent look at the young woman she's trying to sell -yes, sell -me. The lips are asking what I'm looking for, but the eyes are scanning me, trying to see what they can get away with.
I manage to answer her with a question: "how am I supposed to know whether or not I'm interested in her if I don't even know if I find her attractive?"
"Okay, follow me" she says, and then we walk in a wide arc around the room, giving me the distinct image of vultures surveying a carcass for viable feeding opportunity.
In the meantime, I'm trying to get some bit of information -anything that might perk my interest -so I ask, "do you know what her family is like? How old she is? What her interests are?"
Her response is halfhearted, vague and curt: "She's in her twenties, has a nice family, she's interested in having a family herself."
Well, duh. Thanks. We finish our arc. I'm not interested. We move on.
She introduces me to a freshly-back-from-Israel teen. I talk to her for a few minutes, during which time I find out she's looking for the perfect combination of yeshiva boy and doctor in his early or mid-twenties. Good luck, lady.
So I change tactics, and try again to tell her what I'm looking for. Maybe she'll get the hint, or put more thought into a suggestion before cutting me off. And all of a sudden, I'm talking with a used-car salesman. I want something simple, a family car like the four-door sedan, something that'll fit into a compact parking spot and isn't too flashy. Meanwhile, she's pulling out the hummer and the ferrarri.
No such luck. A few more attempts and I'm more than fed up. While I tend to feel that I usually have a lot of patience, not for this. If someone is going to set me up, I think it's basic respect to listen and have some consideration. After this, I resorted to all kinds of excuses. Anything to keep the cheeky shadchaniyot off my case.
And this was my first real taste of the dating world. Needless to say, I wasn't eager to get another taste so soon.