Have you ever set up two friends on a blind date? Been set up yourself? Are you going to write to me after this article is published and tell me how you met the love of your life on a blind date and it could totally happen for me, too? (Handy hint: Please don’t.)
Setups are like the soufflés of the dating world. They can be delicious when done right, a miraculous pairing of ingredients resulting in a rising bubble of love.
But, when they don’t work, they really fall flat. You’re left deeply unsatisfied, with an awkward mess, and two people who are very unhappy with the chef.
I’ve been set up on blind dates three times since my divorce around five years ago. The first set up was a reasonable success; the man was interesting, just a decade too old.
The others setups were less successful. They were both males, and they were single and appeared to be breathing, but that was the extent of their suitability. I’d have more in common with a sentient pencil. I’m not at all sure what our mutual friends were thinking.
Still, despite my own poor record, I am a big fan of the setup. Setups offer everything that online dating cannot – a personal recommendation, a handpicked match, and a good starting point for conversation. "So how do you know Tammy?" isn’t the greatest opener in the world, but it’s a million times better than, "Hey, come to Tinder often?"
Setting up two friends is a worthy pursuit – if, that is, they are interested in being set up. Still, a good set-up is tricky, and it’s easy to get wrong. If you want to play matchmaker, here are some rules to follow to ensure no-one will be left with a dropped love soufflé.
1. Have a think about the requirements and criteria of each of your single friends. Yes, they may be keen to meet someone, but they are probably looking for someone who can offer more than just "a pulse" and "has the type of genitals I enjoy".
2. Never, ever give out a friend’s number to a third party without their express permission.
3. When setting friends up, give them specific reasons why you think they’d be compatible.
Valid reasons include: "Malcolm is really smart and funny and loves strong women"; "Carol has a thing for architects and has three girls with hair of gold, same age as your boys!"; "Bodhi meditates twice daily and only eats white foods, just like you!"
Invalid reasons include: "Pete seems harmless enough"; "Brad has been so lonely since his wife died"; "Jessica is female and you really like females."
4. Don’t oversell. You don’t want Carol to be disappointed when she realises Mike is actually a draftsman. Better to under promise and over deliver.
5. Offer photos of potential matches upfront. Looks aren’t everything, but they are a factor. And it doesn’t matter how smart and funny Malcolm is if the sight of Malcolm makes Lucy dry retch.
6. Offer to throw dinner parties or get-togethers so that your single friends can meet in non-threatening circumstances. Say things like, "Fred, I’d like you to meet my friend Mary", and leave them to chat. DO NOT say things like, "Fred, you and Sarah would be perfect together, and you’ll have such beautiful babies!" That is kind of awkward.
7. If your friend declines the setup, don’t try to convince her. Yes, it may be a bad photo of Brad, and yes, he may be much better looking now that he’s shaved his head. But Gwyneth knows her own mind, and if she doesn’t like the look of him, it ain’t gonna happen.
8. Remember, a fallen soufflé is a risen omelette. A failed setup may end up a lasting friendship. That’s a very good outcome indeed.