The Rules of Setting People Up

Here’s the thing: Set ups are a tricky business.

As a person who has been on both the giving and receiving ends of set ups, it occurs to me I have some thoughts on the matter. Maybe a lot of thoughts on the matter. Maybe some rants, even. And a few victory dances on the successful set ups that I’ve been part of that turned into marriages. In the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of painting (which gives my mind time to wander and half compose blog posts) and I have recently encountered several set ups… so it seemed like a good time to discuss the matter.

I would also like to say I realize that it is quite possible, probable even, that I am the world’s most awkward person. People have tried to set me up many times, in a many ways, with many kinds of guys, and none of them have worked. I’m just saying, I realize it might not be him, it might be me. Nonetheless, I do have some thoughts on things that do or don’t work for set ups and I intend to inflict them on you- my dear readers.

First rule of setting someone up: Recognize it is a tricky business and treat it accordingly.
One time a dear friend Kay thought she’d set me up with a friend. She had just started dating this awesome guy who she was head over heels in love with and, of course, wanted to share that with me (well, not the guy, but the experience of being in love). Her guy, Mac, had a friend Brett. I’m pretty sure the email introducing this great idea went something like this “I’m so happy, Mac, Mac, Mac, Mac (gush gush gush). Oh and I want you to meet his friend Brett, he’s really “quality” and I know how hard it is to be single.”  

Second rule: Do not ever use the words “I know how hard it is to be single” right after gushing about the love of your life. Somehow it robs the statement of its power and comes off as condescending and annoying, even if you mean it and do, in fact, understand that it is difficult to be single. It can also kill a set up on impact. Just saying. Be careful with that.

Back to Kay, so Kay starts casually bringing Brett along with her whenever she and Mac come to my house or to social gatherings. I am ashamed to admit I was less than friendly with Brett because of the nature of the set up. Probably because of the phrase “He’s “quality”” and all the gushing about Mac and “understanding about being single”. I met Brett, didn’t know him, but felt like he was being pushed down my throat, regardless of whether or not I was interested, and I basically avoided him, making it awkward for both of us. Poor Brett. I specifically remember hosting a party at my house for Memorial Day one year, Kay and Mac had brought Brett and he was being so kind and offering to help- and I just didn’t know what to do with him! So I was short and basically refused his help. He had no idea what was really going on and felt bad that I was so stand offish. 

Thankfully, there were less awkward circumstances (without Kay and Mac involved) down the road where Brett and I finally connected and he’s a good friend of mine to this day. We laugh about the horribly awkward initial beginnings and I’m thankful we’ve moved past that – and he is, indeed, “quality” and we are mutually not interested in each other like that to this day.

Along those same lines, I’d like to give credit to a few people who have attempted set ups in a tactful and thoughtful way. (They treated the set up as the tricky business it is and handled it accordingly.) Last summer I was at a wedding and ran into an acquaintance, Beth. We had a great conversation about life and singlehood and weddings, etc. and at the end of it she says, “I want to set you up with my cousin.”  “Okay.” What have I got to lose right? A few weeks later she contacts me to get my info, gives it to her cousin, and then doesn’t resurface in the set up at all. She provided the contact and discreetly moved out of the set up entirely.

This cousin of hers and I talked for a few weeks and then I met him (he lived out of state). It looked rather promising by phone for a couple weeks, we had some things in common, and it was definitely worth following through to see if it was going anywhere. After meeting a couple times, we mutually realized it wasn’t worth continuing and we’ve moved on. But I will say, next time I see Beth there will be no awkwardness over the situation. She provided the contact. The two adults involved talked, met, and mutually weren’t interested. No relationships were damaged. Fabulous.

And then there’s my grandma, who is one of the dearest people I know. One evening I was at their apartment visiting and Gram gets all serious, “I have a question to ask you.” Okay. She goes on to tell me about her physical therapist Jim who is just a dear guy. He’s great at what he does, has a good job, etc. She tells me he’s very tall, muscular, and shaves his head “I suspect it’s because he doesn’t have all that much hair left” (good to know these things I suppose). So Jim was finished working with her but gave her his phone number and said “Call if you need anything” and apparently Gram read that to mean “Call if you want to set me up with your granddaughter.” She was so excited about the prospect, and, though I wasn’t sure what we had in common, I was willing to be introduced. And I really appreciated that she asked if it was something I’d be interested in, rather than just plunging ahead with some kind of awkward set up and blindsiding me. Well done, Gram, well done. Of course she lost his phone number after all that and I still have not met this dear man who shaves his head because he is most likely balding, which is also okay. I appreciate the thought and the handling of it. 

To be continued…

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