In this era of multiple opportunities to meet people – school/university, work, friends and dating apps, among them – is matchmaking still even a thing when it comes to finding that special someone?
Well, at a certain point last year (2019), an opportunity came up for me to explore this heretofore totally-unconsidered option for my love life (or rather, lack thereof).
Perhaps God or Fate was telling me something, seeing as how this came, more or less, on the heels of my previous ode to my singledom.
Now, for those of you imagining that I surrendered my dating fate to a traditional matchmaker the likes of that neighbourhood auntie who knows everything about everyone in the community and holds strong opinions on whose kid should marry who, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you.
My matchmaker, Joanne Ng – also founder and chief executive office of local matchmaking agency Dateworks – is certainly far from your neighbourhood auntie.
For one thing, each client first goes through an extensive profiling session, which allows her to get to know them and their requirements closely.
So there I was at our first face-to-face meeting, trying to self-analyse and explain my personality, values, interests, and of course, what I’m looking for in a romantic partner, to a relative stranger.
This also included what I didn’t want in a potential partner, which was a smoker (no, thank you, secondhand smoke!), as well as my preferred race – I admit, I said I would prefer being matched with a fellow Chinese as I believe it is more likely that we would jive on cultural values and practices, although I did add that if she thought I was really a great match with someone non-Chinese, I would be willing to give it a go.
Fortunately, Ng also shared her own personal and romantic experiences with me during the meeting, making it more like a girlfriend-sharing session, rather than just a client-profiling meet.
Now, this profile is really important as it is the foundation for finding potential matches within the agency’s database.
Ng shared that a matchmaking software was first used to shortlist potential matches based on my profile from within their database, then she personally went through each profile to see how well they matched up with me, both based on my profile and her understanding of me.
First date outfit
Now, it cannot be denied that first impressions are not only lasting, but can also only be made once.
And they are especially crucial when it comes to a blind date as each party barely knows anything about each other before meeting.
So, before sending me out on a date, Ng set up one session of Personal Image and Styling, and one of date coaching, for me.
She strongly believes that improving your image is a good way to not only make you feel good about yourself, but also to make the best first impression on a date.
In fact, the agency’s most comprehensive package consists of 10 dates and two sessions each of Personal Image and Styling, and date coaching.
Of course, clients can also just opt for their matchmaking services, with their most basic package comprising three dates.
The packages are priced between RM300-800 per month, lasting between six to 18 months.
I have to say that the Personal Image and Styling session conducted by in-house image consultant Ranukka Singham was very thorough.
She measured me to determine my body type, showed me a series of photographs to determine my style preference (it may not be what you think it is!) and conducted a personal colour analysis, among others.
Turns out I have an hourglass figure, which is top-heavy; a natural style; and a skin tone most flattered by a soft autumn palette.
From here, we moved on to discussing the types of clothes I should and should not be wearing to best flatter my figure.
Now, during our first meeting, Ng had asked me to send photos of outfits I would wear on a date for Ranukka to have a look at.
Sad to say, only one outfit actually passed muster due to my penchant for loose tops (to more easily hide those unwanted curves!) – turns out I should actually wear more structured clothes to show off my hourglass figure.
However, Ranukka and Ng (who joined us towards the end of the session) were so enthusiastic about my styling that the three of us actually went on a mini-shopping spree after the session (the Dateworks office is just next to Midvalley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur).
Ranukka not only picked out a dress for me, but also advised on more supportive undergarments and shoes, essentially putting together my first date outfit.
The date itself
Meanwhile, the one-on-one date coaching session conducted by Ng was rather short as she tailors her advice according to the client’s previous dating experience.
As I had none, she could only give some general advice on how to flirt and show the guy you are interested in him – something I found difficult to execute, to be honest.
It was also during this session that she shared the profile of a match she had found for me.
WM and I both like reading, travelling, good food and music, which seemed a pretty good base of common interests.
The only thing Ng thought I might have reservations about was that he smoked cigars, as smoking was a no-no for me.
I was free to say no to the match, as was he, but I figured that cigar-smoking was at least a less frequent habit than cigarette-smoking, so I would give it a go.
Ng coordinated our schedules and reserved a table for dinner at a mutually-agreed spot for our date.
I was a little late for the date due to my dress wanting to show more cleavage than I did (that new bra was really supportive!), making me a little flustered on arrival at the restaurant.
Fortunately, WM appeared quite calm, standing up to greet me and urging me to sit with a little quip that this wasn’t an interview, which helped settle my nerves.
While I was a little surprised that he fairly quickly asked how many dates I had been on with the agency and that he started ordering before I had a chance to look at the menu, it was overall a pleasant date.
Despite initial impressions, he turned out to be quite gentlemanly and the conversation flowed fairly smoothly, albeit with some awkward silences here and there.
We went on to have drinks at a couple of places nearby after dinner, and he asked for my number, which I thought was fairly promising.
However, while I certainly enjoyed his company, there was a lack of sparks between us.
I said as much to Ng when she followed up about a week after the date.
She usually follows up with both persons one to three days after the date, but she had been on leave that particular week.
However, after our talk, I figured that aside from one date not being quite enough to get to know a person, nothing ventured was nothing gained, so I decided to text WM to see if he would like to go out again.
Rather to my surprise, he agreed.
We met up for coffee a couple of weeks after that as we were both quite busy in the interim.
This time, it was obvious to me that there was really no chemistry between us, although friendship seemed like a good possibility.
The both of us seem like a classic example of how two people might match on paper, but just don’t have that chemistry in real life.
But overall, I figure I am lucky that I had a pleasant first date and made a new friend out of it, even though it didn’t work out romantically.
Fortunately for me, Ng remains keen on matchmaking me and already has ideas for my next match.
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