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Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match
Published in Ahram Online on 23 - 02 - 2021

We all entertain dreams of meeting prince/princess charming, falling in love, getting married and living happily ever after.
It can happen, but how often? It is the “stuff that dreams are made of”, especially during those arid pandemic days of indescribable loneliness, isolation, and fear. Prince and princess charming will have to wait for kinder times. Meanwhile, when or where do we meet our significant other?
Cupid is always ready to bring couples together, but nowadays he needs more help than ever. Match-mating is one of the oldest professions in existence, thriving in all cultures. What? Did you say “matchmaker”? Shame on you. How very old-fashioned.
Today there is a myriad of opportunities for girls and boys to meet — in school, college, work, parties, clubs, etc. Are these outlets not forms of gentle matchmaking, camouflaged by the appropriate environment?
Obviously the elements that bring two people together may not be the same, but the sense of happiness must be the main stimulus. There should be the effect of illumination, of inevitability. Not really. In most cases parents, relatives, and neighbours perform the necessary functions of the matchmaker, which you mock and repudiate.
Meeting people through personal introduction recommended by a friend or a matchmaker is not too different. The potential bride and groom need a little outside help, no matter the source.
Of all the world's marriages, 60 per cent are still arranged, revealing that despite modern trends matchmaking is still alive and well.
In Britain, as far back as 1605, the first matchmaker agencies surfaced when parish vicars played a crucial role of arranging marriages for their parishioners. By 1825, the first non-religious dating agency opened in London. By 1890, it became a sort of entertainment, a pastime for women, already married.
If you are familiar with the works of Jane Austen, everyone seems to be involved in matchmaking. Of course, the couples must be suitably matched. We cannot resist the urge to play Cupids. As long as people have entered into a relationship you can bet a form of matchmaking occurred.
In Eastern cultures, the matchmakers were indispensable, as the shadchan in the Jewish culture or the Khatbah among Muslims. In the Hindu culture, it is still prevalent and displayed on television.
A recent Netflix show about arranged marriages reflecting Indian societies grew into a global hit. The eight-episode series, Indian Matchmaking, mesmerised viewers in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. The show follows an Indian matchmaker and her use of astrologers, face readers, and marriage coaches, exposing arranged marriages in Indian societies. This unexpected sensation brought the idea of matchmaking to the fore, especially that the giant streaming Netflix has 193 million subscribers.
A study of the philosophy of love-pairing led to a new era of Western matchmaking.
Around the new millennium a new concept came into the scene: online dating.
It is big business and it is increasingly happening online.
In this digital era we have become our own matchmakers. The concept took the market by storm. At its peak, tens of millions signed up for its services in the UK.
Strangely enough it's up to the millennials who have led the charge to make it legitimate, acceptable and even desirable.
An Australian survey in 2018 revealed that 12 per cent of the 18 to 30 age group admit to being in a relationship with a partner or spouse they met online.
There are 1,500 apps and websites for single men and women to produce the perfect match.
A group of researchers concluded that 50 million adults in the US have used dating services.
Dating services provide users with the ideal platform to interact and become interested with people through a computer or mobile. Their services have become extremely credible with an increasing number of users accepting the idea of meeting a random stranger through online dating services.
The strict verification process of reputable dating services use allow very few false profiles, which make it a safe investment.
There seems to be a scientific reason for this popularity. The cognitive process identified by psychologist Barry Schwarz “as the paradox of choice” and a “choice overload, or fear of a better option”. What matters most is what makes you happy. There is a lot of disappointments because of unrealistic expectations. So you try and try again.
The rise of dating online has encouraged investors in big companies. We refrain to mention names but the top three are responsible for 49 per cent of successful relationships. Some 39 per cent of couples admitted to meeting on line compared to 20 per cent through friends, 11 per cent in social settings, 10 per cent in high school, and four per cent since childhood.
Prince Harry and his wife met through a friend, Nisha Nonoo, who facilitated the courtship.
Online dating is the most popular way for US couples to connect. This is the result of a new research by Stanford's Michael Rosenfeld, “matchmaking is done by algorithms”.
The sensation caused by Netflix's Indian Matchmaking concluded that the purpose of marriage in an Indian society is not love, but family, children, and social stability.
What do you think? There is a fundamental difference between falling in love and marrying a stranger, but the essence of the tale is the same — so is the conclusion.
A good marriage, by whatever means reflects the foundation of a good family, a good nation, and a good world.
“Love lives on propinquity, but dies on contact.”
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 February, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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