Setting people up… part 4

Seventh rule: Facebook really isn’t ideal for setting people up.

I had a friend who tried to set me up with a previous coworker of hers. She gave him my facebook name and we “friended” each other and corresponded via message for awhile. He seemed nice enough, but a facebook message chain really isn’t the way to go. In fact, it was pretty lame after a few weeks. And if we were going to message back and forth for as long as we did, it would have made sense to just go have coffee since we do live in the same area. Which leads me into my next rule…

Eighth rule:  If you are in the same area, move the communications from online or by phone to in person sooner rather than later.

Hey, lots of set ups start with a phone call or email or something. But there is no reason to not go have coffee with a person if you are even remotely interested in them or in finding out if you could be interested in them. No one assumes after one coffee date that you’re going to propose, or “go steady”, or… it’s coffee! It’s a chance to have a face to face conversation. I think the coffee date is seriously under-utilized, especially in Christian / Catholic circles. Sometimes it seems like the expectation is the discern if you would marry the person or not before taking them on a date, which is ridiculous. Heck, I have no intention of discerning marriage on a first date! Get to know the person a bit before making that decision.

If you are not in the same area, it can be harder to meet right away, but I still recommend doing it as soon as you can arrange it. I have several friends who married men from the internet, and I think it is really helpful to meet in person sooner rather than later. Even if it ends up not working out, better to do that sooner than to be investing months in a relationship or person that ends once you meet in person.

Setting people up… part 3

Fifth rule: Don’t say stupid stuff in an attempt to make connections. (Translation: Be subtle, thoughtful, and tactful).

One time Kay invited me to a gathering at her house. The excuse she used to get me there made no sense at all so I should have seen the real reason, but I was blissfully ignorant until I arrived at her house for brunch with 10 people I didn’t really know (refer back to rule 3 – and consider that I am an introvert who is uncomfortable in large groups of strangers). The only people at this gathering I actually knew were, Kay, Mac, and their one year old– who had to take a nap. Basically I shrink into invisible mode and spend the next hour or two in agony. Toward the end of this particular gathering, several of the couples had left, leaving one other couple and the lucky single guy. It gets slightly more comfortable for me at this point because of sheer numbers but I’m looking for an excuse to leave. Kay, bless her heart, turns to Mike and says “Do you like dogs?” He responds something about his parents having dogs, so she excited jumped in “Reenie has dogs!”  Oh gosh. Now I wanted the floor to swallow me up.  Instead I waited a second or two (trying to preserve some shred of dignity), stood up, loaded the dishwasher and made my escape as soon as possible. There is simply no recovering after a statement like that. 

Kay was trying to make a connection but instead of helping make that connection, it was just so obvious and made it feel so artificial and downright uncomfortable. Setter uppers need to watch out for this as it is really easy to fall into. Sure, bring up something the people being set up having in common, but go for subtlety and don’t get overly excited. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am going to admit right here that I have broken this rule. And I don’t even feel bad about it. It was months into game nights with JP and Lee and JP still hadn’t asked for her phone number. We were going out after softball. Lee had ridden in my car but I wasn’t going straight to the restaurant. JP offers tentatively (which was a HUGE step for him), “I could take you.” I jump into my car and peel out of the parking lot (not terribly subtle). My sister in law and partner in setting these two up says loudly to her husband, “Get in the car, get in the car!” He shoots Lee an “I hope you’re okay!” glace and follows her direction. Neither of us was tactful for subtle there—but I will say that it was the night that JP and Lee finally talked and started going out!

But back to why subtle, thoughtful, and tactful are such a good idea: recently someone I barely know tried to set me up with a son of her best friend. So there I was, at work, eating a sandwich and trying to write a project timeline in my humble little office. My cell phone rings. I don’t recognize the number so I figure I’ll listen to the voicemail and see if it merits attention. A few minutes later I listen, and oh what a voicemail:
“Hi Reenie, it’s Mary (we teaches the special ed girl in my religious ed class but I wouldn’t say we are particularly close otherwise). Put this number in your phone xxxxx. There’s this guy named Ryan I want you to meet. He’s the son of my best friend. Call me back.” As she goes to hang up, you can hear peals of giggles – so you know she’s out to lunch with said friend and they think they are being SO clever. Subtle? I think not.
I call Mary back an hour later, not sure how to avoid the inevitable (you know I can’t say no, even to a ridiculous set up). As Mary answers, I can hear lots of laughter. The ladies are still together. Mary is clearly SO excited to be part of this fabulous plan. She says her best friend is Cam, who has been through her life for many, many years, through thick and thin. Cam has a son Brian, who is 34, Catholic, single and despairing of ever finding a great Catholic girl who practices her faith. On my end of the phone, I can hear Cam feeding Mary information about him “Tell her he’s an engineer with a good job.” “He’s an engineer with a good job, hey, your dad is an engineer.” Mm hm. Mary to Cam: “Her dad is an engineer!” Cam: “He designs radars!” Mary: “He designs radars and is just a dear, dear guy.”  

Somehow, over the course of this 5 minute conversation, the plan develops (without any actual input from me). Sunday. We’ll meet at Mass and then all go to lunch afterward. Cam yells in the background “Tell her I’m buying lunch!”  Mary: “Camille is buying everyone lunch! Won’t this be great!?” More giggling into the phone. “Oh I can’t wait for you to meet him. Okay, we’ll see you then!!!”

Sunday rolls around and there we were, at this cafe, after Mass. Mary introduces me to her friends, Cam, Cam’s husband, and Ryan. It is awkward (he makes no eye contact and appears to be praying the ground will open up and swallow him—I could relate!), we proceed into the cafe. As Ryan walks just ahead of Mary, she turns and whispers loudly to me “He’s really shy!” to explain his awkward behavior. Um, he can hear you. And Ahhhhhhhhhh. What the heck am I doing here? Subtle? Tactful? No. Not at all.
So we arrive at a table set for six. Mary grabs my arm “You sit in the middle, right here in the middle.” This makes no sense to me because it seems to me that the foursome (who are friends) should sit together. I end up moving down one to facilitate that. Cam grabs her son’s arm, “You sit here, across from Reenie,” she said excitedly. Really? We couldn’t have figured that out without that awkward intervention? Really? 

This leads me to my next rule — it’s best not to involve mom. Even if mom is involved in the set up, I can tell you from recent experience, there is nothing more awkward than brunch with mom for a first meeting. Don’t do it. If your mom isn’t involved… don’t tell her either. Really all of this is better without your mom. 
Since I know you’re dying to hear how that one turned out (and you’re totally bored with the rules anyway)… brunch was awkward. But sometimes I even impress myself, and I have to say I am amazingly good at rising to the occasion in the face of awkwardness, particularly if someone is more uncomfortable than me. Though I was uncomfortable, this guy made it really easy to switch into rescue mode. I smiled and pretended this was the most natural and comfortable thing. I asked him questions. We talked about his job. A lot. And a couple times during brunch, while we were just sitting there managing a normal, adult conversation, (and I was pretending this was comfortable), I caught Mary and Cam exchanging excited grins and winks as if to say, “Hey LOOOK!! They’re TALKING!” One time Cam even gave Mary a “thumbs up.” I wanted to die. Right. Like I said, don’t involve Mom. Too awkward. 

And then I asked about his family. And he talked about them, a lot. I have to say, I’m good at asking good questions and giving people room to talk. But I do think, at some point, even in the face of awkward set ups, it is helpful if the other person reciprocates. He obviously didn’t understand that me asking half a dozen interested questions about his job was the perfect lead in to him asking “So what do you do?”  Alas, that never happened. He has no idea what I do.  Same for questions about his family. He mentioned a sister, I asked the obvious question “Do you just have the one sister?” So I learned a lot about his family (not to mention being at lunch with his parents).  When he finished talking about them, it fell silent. Perfect opportunity to say “Tell me about your family.” Nope. 

There’s a handy tip gents: When you’re on a date or a set up or whatever you call these situations – ask questions. It makes it a lot smoother when one person isn’t the only one asking questions. 

Lucky for Ryan, Mary tried to help out. “Reenie has a big family, how many siblings do you have Reenie?” A few minutes later, Mary’s husband thought he’d help Ryan out too, “Reenie, did you tell him about the slide at your parent’s house?” Nope, somehow that never came up as we discussed Ryan’s job at length. So Mary’s husband talks a bit about how he knows my dad and the slide and then conversation moves on to other things. It was really awesome to realize they brought up those little factoids to spark conversation because those are literally the only things they know about me. (See rule 3) They don’t actually know me well enough to even pull the awkward line about dogs! (A mixed blessing really). 

The moral of this particular story leads me to my sixth rule: If it sounds awful, you don’t have to agree to it. I am particularly bad at this one. But seriously, I should have stuck with my gut and told Mary that I would be open to meeting this guy but would prefer coffee with the two of us rather than brunch with people watching. Especially his mom and her excitable BFF. Seriously, Reenie, learn to say no already.
Or another time, that time my acquaintance set me up with her cousin? Right. For our first meeting, he thought the natural history museum would be fun. I wanted to die just thinking about a date at the natural history museum. But I felt bad nixing the idea and went along with it… and let me tell you, it was awful. One of the worst first dates ever… because let’s be honest, it isn’t like you’ve got a ton to discuss there at a lame natural history museum they haven’t updated since I last visited at age 12. “So hey, dinosaur bones.” “yup.” I shudder to think I agreed to this regardless of the fact that this awkward first meeting was at this awkward museum with a person who I already knew was awkward (at least on the phone) Righto. Take it from me, if it sounds awful, you don’t have to agree with it.

To the single people out there – I’m not saying you shouldn’t be open to being set up. In fact, since I haven’t met anyone on my own, I feel I should give set ups a fair chance. I’m trying to be open to new and interesting ways to meet people. BUT it is okay and probably wise to put some limitations on that. No to brunch with mom. No to a first date at the natural museum. No to chasing a man down in the car. Have some standards.

Setting people up… Part 2

Third rule: Know something about the people you are setting up.
Once there was a guy named JP. He was a good family friend growing up and good friends with my brothers to this day. And though JP really wanted to find a girlfriend, it was quite clear he wasn’t going to find one without ever talking to girls, which was his current tactic. He’s a great guy, a computer programmer, and even a talker, but only when he’s comfortable and in his small comfortable circle. Solution: Find a way to bring the girl you want to set him up with into said small comfortable circle.  

Although these two people had been on the same softball team for years, JP was never going to actually talk to Lee without some help. The lucky girl moved in with me, making this plan much easier to arrange. I had regular nerdy game nights with a small group of friends, and that group happened to include my brother and his wife who are part of JP’s small comfortable circle– SCORE! The other people in the group include another nerdy brilliant not terribly social engineer who I knew JP would find a kindred spirit. And as my roommate, I could start dragging Lee to these game nights just as easily as “Hey, come to game night!”  And I could invite JP because I’m like that. Besides, I had taken it upon myself to flirt shamelessly with him so as to drive him into the arms of another woman (and hey, that plan worked!). But I digress. 

I should also point out that I did ask Lee if she was okay with being set up with this guy and she was. Better to not blindside a friend, even worse to blindside a roommate.

Where was I? Oh right “Know something about the people you are setting up…” what I’m trying to say is, if you are setting up a nerdy engineer type who has a small circle of comfort, do not, I repeat DO NOT, invite him to a party with 30 people he doesn’t really know and expect him to shine. He won’t. In fact, it will, undoubtedly backfire on you. She will wonder why people even think he’s a decent human being because he is SO bad at parties!! Rather, invite him to a nerdy game night and happen to invite the girl too. Keep in mind you may have to invite him to a year or two of said game nights before he talks to the girl. Don’t give up. Understand that this gem of a guy just takes longer to warm up than the average human, that’s okay. And he warms up better in a consistent and safe environment. Provide said environment and let him get comfortable before springing the idea of the next step on him.  

Another time a dear friend of mine tried to set me up with her brother in laws brother in laws brother (or someone about that related). He lived in the same state as my friend which was part of the motivation for the set up, since we would love to live near each other again. Anyway, this particular set up was via email. Cole emails me after Anne gives him the info. His first email was a dead giveaway on how this was going to end… his only hobbies: sports and hunting. Now hey, I don’t think that I’m going to have all the same hobbies as the guy I end up with… but it would help to have at least something in common. As it turns out, after a couple months of awkward email exchanges, it was quite clear that we indeed shared no common interests and it was going nowhere. It petered out and ended, no big deal. But if the person doing the set up had known anything more about the guy she was trying to set me up with, we could have saved some time, energy, and a horribly awkward several month long email exchange.

So there you have it: know who you are setting up. 

Fourth rule: Don’t, under any circumstances, chase someone down in a vehicle to make an introduction. There’s no way to redeem that. Ever. And yes, that actually happened to me once. True story. 

To be continued…

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…