What I'm going to bring to your attention today is a global phenomenon that is perhaps the greatest personal threat we face as human beings. It is a ritual that has been carried out on the willing and the captive since time immemorial and is insidious, pervasive and downright evil. It is known colloquially as The Set-Up.
It is easy to spot the victims of this form of societal bullying; just follow the corpses of romantic ideals and friendships. To illustrate my argument against matchmaking, and to drown out the cries of protest from those who fall in to the lucky five per cent of the population for whom it has been successful, let me provide you with some examples.
Last year, a friend of mine had just sent her boyfriend packing, quite literally; she even paid for his passage back to America, for a myriad of reasons. After five years, his cheating, domineering ways had finally spurred her into action. Not to mention the fact that he drained her of most of her savings. She had begun to rebuild her life and her self-esteem was improving daily, and it was good to see her happy again. Then one day, she said something so unconscionable it almost pains me to write it here.
'He's a really funny guy, and very loyal. He's thinking about coming back here in a few months, I reckon we should set something up; he'd be good for you.'
I doubt this needs explanation, but for the few readers who are still in the dark as to what my 'friend' was trying to facilitate, it is what I like to call the 'Match of convenience,' IE: if Love Rat and I were successfully matched, it would be wonderfully convenient for her. I declined the invitation, very politely under the circumstances.
A woman I once worked with was set up by her best friend in an arrangement I like to call the 'Broaden your horizons because I say so' set-up. Armed with the knowledge that her friend favoured a particular physical type; tall, dark, and handsome; she then went about setting her up with a workmate of her husbands who was the complete physical opposite, citing that it would be good for her not to be so picky when it came to physical attractiveness. Not only was the date unsuccessful, it also put a strain on the friendship that never really went away. Still, it didn't end badly for all concerned; it turned out that the architect of the set-up had been harbouring a crush on her husband's friend for several years, and when he was sent by her husband to pick her up at the train station, he took her to his place. A month later, it became their place.
The final example I'd like to lay on you comes courtesy of a former neighbour of mine. She was referred to by most of her family as 'Poor Thing,' in light of her limited romantic and vocational prospects (from their point of view). To help her, and undoubtedly absolve herself of responsibility for her part in her daughter's misfortune, her mother set her up with a friend's son. Stacey couldn't believe her luck; Richard was gorgeous, funny, and polite to an other-worldly degree. He fit her criteria perfectly! The two of them were married two years later and even had a daughter, so I guess you might say it was a successful set-up.
Reserve judgement until the end of the story.
Within months of the wedding, cracks started appearing in their relationship. Stacey ignored them, attributing Richard's moods to homesickness, seeing as, at thirty-one, this was his first time living away from home, and he was still acclimatising himself to living with someone with different habits and rituals than those of his father and stepmother. Things did improve when Stacey discovered she was pregnant, but once the baby was born, life in her household returned to its familiar unsteady rhythm. When she finally decided to question Richard about it, on the morning of their daughter's second birthday, he irritably confessed that he didn't love her, and that the only reason he was with her was because his father needed him out of the house so that he could leave his second wife with a clear conscience.
Given the end result, I suppose you could call this a set-up of in-convenience.
I'm not saying that all set-ups are doomed from their inception, I'm just saying that the next time a friend/loved one/well-meaning-sticky nose says they know someone who would be perfect for you, consider their motivations first, and never doubt your own instincts.