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Could a Matchmaker Help Me Find Love?

23 Jun Posted by in Guest Writers | Comments Off on Could a Matchmaker Help Me Find Love?
Could a Matchmaker Help Me Find Love?

By Kathy Belge

I’d just come home from yet another disappointing online date when I received an email from H4M,an LGBTQ matchmaker. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in interviewing their founder and CEO for an article about dating for Valentine’s Day. But I had another idea. Could she send me through her matchmaking process and set me up on a date?

Tammy Shaklee

When I spoke to Tammy Shaklee, I was surprised to learn that she was a straight woman. She’d gotten into the business of matchmaking in 2012 to help some of her gay male friends with their pursuit of love and has since branched out to include the whole LGBTQ community.

The process was simple and kind of fun. First I filled out an online form and then we set up for a Skype interview. Tammy was personable, but matter-of-fact in her approach. The first question she asked was, “What is it about your current social life that you’re not meeting women?” Well, truth is, I do have an active social life and I DO meet women and do even ask them out on dates. I’m out and active and even on the different dating apps. But it seems the women I’m meeting are either newly out of something and not ready for anything serious, polyamorous or for one reason or another, we just don’t click romantically. I was looking to see if a different approach would bring about different results.

Tammy buzzed through her questions—what line of work I’m in, where I grew up, a bit about my family life and my previous long-term relationship.  She asked about what I’m looking for in a partner and what my non-negotiables were. Since she has a nationwide data base, she wanted to know where I was willing to meet potential partners.

While I live in Oregon, I also included Seattle and the Bay Area, since I often travel there for work and to visit friends. We agreed that any potential match would have to be OK with me writing an article.

A few weeks later we scheduled another call. Tammy had found someone she thought I might be a match with. “Debbie” was 36, a real estate developer from Spokane. I was kind of hesitant. 36 was below my optimal age range—I wanted 40 and older, as I’m 53. Plus, Spokane is kind of far and not a place I’d even ever visited.

Tammy listened and encouraged me to think outside my box. She needed to reach out to Debbie and make sure she was still single.

I didn’t hear from Tammy for a while and when I did, Debbie was no longer available, but she had three more potential women for me to meet.

The one who seemed most interesting to me was Nicole. Tammy described her as being 56 and from the Bay Area. She was in real estate development and was part owner of a winery. She’d previously had a long-term relationship and had careers as a lawyer and volleyball coach.

I was a bit hesitant and didn’t know if a straight woman would be able to get the nuances of lesbian dating. Would she get the subtly of butch/femme dating? I’m also quite adventurous and want someone who can keep up. I’m 100% out and proud needed to meet someone who could handle dating someone who has been a professional lesbian for the last 20 years.

When you sign up for a matchmaking service, you agree to let go of some control and someone else do the picking for you. With H4M, before the first date you don’t get a photo, you’re not allowed to try to find them on social media, let alone see what they look like or talk to them.  You’re only provided with a first name and some basic information.

I didn’t have a trip planned to the Bay Area any time soon and Tammy wanted to set up a Skype date for me. I was skeptical. If this was my one and only chance to make a first impression, I wanted to meet in person. Before Tammy had the chance to set it up, a work trip sent me to San Francisco.

The dating service setup everything. I asked to meet in the neighborhood I was staying, as I’d have to rely on ride-sharing to get around. They picked an upscale restaurant a few miles from my place. They sent me the date details with a list of rules.

The date would be 1-2 hours in length. No more than two drinks. Appetizers only. You may exchange contact info at the end of the date, but no sex is allowed. The date would be dutch treat. And you have to call in the next day to give feedback.

Leading up to the date, I have to admit I was nervous. I’ve been on dozens of online dates and normally don’t stress at all. But something about not having a picture and no conversation at all beforehand made nervous. I also didn’t want to tell my family and friends that I was going to meet someone picked by a matchmaker. There was something a wee-bit embarrassing about it.

I arrived at the restaurant first and Nicole arrived soon after. She was about my height with medium length blonde hair and dressed in slacks and a blazer. She greeted me with a warm hug and a smile, and although I didn’t feel an immediate attraction, I tried to stay open to the possibility.  While attractive, she definitely wasn’t the femmy type I usually go for.

Since Nicole was in the wine business, I let her order the wine. My gut clenched for a moment when she ordered a $54 bottle from Napa Valley. Then I remembered Tammy telling me that she assumed most of her clients (except for the teachers) earned at least six figures. I’d looked at the restaurant menu beforehand and because the rules clearly stated appetizers only, I’d eaten a bit of dinner before our 7:30 date. We ordered some oysters to share and Nicole ordered herself another appetizer. (When the bill came, we split it down the middle—and it was more than I usually spend for a month’s worth of dinners out.)

First we talked about the whole matchmaking process.  Nicole revealed she was not a client of Tammy’s but was signed up with a different matchmaking service. The services share clients with each other when appropriate. Nicole said she’d gone on four dates since signing up a few months ago. She said she’d met four wonderful women and there was one she was hoping to have a second date with.

Prior to the date, Tammy told me a few things about Nicole and I learned that she knew I was in town for a celebration, but she did not give details. She knew I was a writer for a national publication and that I enjoyed women’s basketball and travel. I appreciated how the matchmaker gave us just enough that we had good conversation starters.

And the conversation did flow easily. Nicole was smart and accomplished. I learned what a real estate developer actually is and of course found out all about the wine business and her passion for food. I told her about my camper van travels and my writing career and my two published books.

I found out that she’d also bought a new Class B RV a year ago. But as much as she said she enjoyed camping, she hadn’t yet. Instead she used it as a mobile office to travel between job sites. If I hadn’t already known we weren’t a match, I knew right then and there.  Here was a woman who owned my dream RV—the one I would have bought if I had money and she’d never once taken it camping.

Like most lesbian dates I’d been on, we shared pictures of our pets and talked about our families. She surprised me by asking my coming out story. Having been out for 30 years, my coming out story doesn’t have my relevance in my life these days.  I wondered if it was something matchmakers coached their clients to ask about.

When the date was over, I walked her to her car. She’d brought me a couple of bottles from her vineyard, which I thought was sweet. I moved in to give her a hug goodbye and she surprised me by kissing me on the cheek. I was worried that maybe she was having feelings that I didn’t.

Although there was no chemistry between me and Nicole, I left feeling like she was a super great person with a lot to offer—just not to me. I called Tammy the next day to check in and give my feedback, I learned that Nicole also thought I was great, but that my lifestyle was a bit too transient and active for her. Tammy then let me know, that had a been a true client, she would ask me more follow up questions to hone in on a more suitable match for my next date.

Bottom line, while I’m not sure a matchmaker is for me, I do think there is something to be said for having someone hand pick dates for you based on your personality and interests. Especially if you have the means to pay for it and you’re open to meeting people outside of your geographic region.  The cost for H4M is $7500 for six months or six matches, which ever comes later.

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