Losing My Profession / Sarit Chen-Yadegar, Matchmaker

Since the dawn of humanity we have been calling upon all manner of witches and soothsayers and coffee-ground readers for assistance. And some of those practitioners are better known today as matchmakers.

The path to the office of matchmaker Sarit Chen-Yadegar goes past a bridal shop. For a minute I can’t find the office, but I am too embarrassed to ask, lest someone think that I am seeking a match. Afterward, I am embarrassed that I was so sensitive about that.

Throughout our meeting, Yadegar ‏(she added the name Chen after a consultation with a kabbalist‏) giggles shyly as if she herself is on a first date. She giggles when she explains how her business works ‏(for a fee of NIS 10,000 a year, a client is set up with about 20 dates‏), and continues to do so when she tries to explain what a girl like her is doing in a place like this ‏(Yadegar is an architect by vocation, who used to work at the upscale Kastiel home-furnishings store, in Tel Aviv‏).

She grew up in Ramat Hasharon in a home where, she says, her parents “did not get along, let’s put it that way” − although they continue to live together until this very day. “This could have shattered my notion of true, pure love, but that didn’t happen. When I was 16, I even wrote down, ‘If there is no love, there is no life.’”

Following 10 years of dating, Yadegar felt the time had come for reality to confront fantasy: “When I was 30, I said, it’s enough already. I looked for my husband ... I’m not religious, but ... [I] simply felt a sort of cry from within: I needed this thing to happen to me. I suffered. And after reaching this point, I had a different sort of year; I met other people. I believe that because of the decision I reached, to be serious, I met men who did indeed want me. So it was that in the course of that year, I met my husband.”

Not long afterward Yadegar gave birth to her first child and left her work as an architect. It took a while to find her way back into the working world. She began her matchmaking business only a few years ago, indifferent to the eyebrows being raised around her. “As an independent architect I can earn four times what I do now. Also, people told me, there are an awful lot of websites these days − as if asking, what are you doing?”

But Yadegar trusted some inner sense. Like Weight Watchers counselors who once suffered from being overweight themselves, Yadegar also believes that the tribulations of her life as a single woman enable her to identify with her clientele, and “also to give them hope that it will happen to them.”

Her clients include men and women, people who have never married as well as divorcees, most of whom do not have children, between the ages of 30 and 45. These are people who have grown weary of matchmaking websites and attempts to find dates through Facebook. All of her clients, Yadegar says, are busy with careers and are pleasant people and good-looking, she explains, since, “because I don’t show photos, it wouldn’t be fair for me to stick one of my women with someone unattractive.”

Most of the women come to Yadegar at their own initiative, but she finds most of the men herself by going to what she calls “masculine” gatherings, like high-tech conferences where she says she zeroes in on nice, likable-looking men without wedding rings, and enlists them. “The responses are positive,” she explains, “because these men seem to have a high regard for initiative.”

After a new candidate completes a questionnaire and meets with Yadegar for an initial conversation of about an hour and a half, she will sign him or her up as a client, “but only if I have in mind at least 10 people that seem suitable to me for them.”

Only when I ask how she matches these people up and Yadegar begins to reveal her intuitive powers does the packaging around this north Tel Aviv woman with the straightened hair begin to unravel. Through the holes I get a glimpse of a young woman with Sephardi roots whose grandmother on one side read coffee grounds and cards, and whose grandfather on the other side had what she calls extrasensory powers. Plus Yadegar herself, as early as age 14, used her own intuitive powers to tell a family friend how her relatives in Iran were doing.

“I was afraid of this,” relates Yadegar, explaining her circuitous route to the business of matchmaking. “I didn’t want to be one of these scary mediums. That’s not me, I said. Who am I to tell people what their future will be? So I completely abandoned [my powers]. But actually, what happened with the matchmaking is that I am now setting them free. Do you understand that?”

Yadegar sees that I understand and yet don’t understand. “During the first few minutes when I sit with someone, I already get a picture in my mind of someone else who is the same type,” she says, “and I start working from there.”

With her intuitive system, Yadegar challenges my rationalism. At the end of our conversation, on my way out of her office, I again pass by the bridal shop. The figure of a pregnant woman is reflected in the display window. A slight movement, deep in my own body, abruptly reminds me that the woman in the window is me. I place a hand on my stomach to feel the movement. I wait for another one, for another signal in this secret language from the world that isn’t yet.

And I think how simultaneously unusual and yet natural the decision is to bundle our life together with that of an absolute stranger. In order to do so, one needs to believe in alchemy. The same alchemy that can bring together two people, each of whom is like a simple metal − and from the contact between them a noble metal, gold, can be created.

Only then do I realize that since the dawn of humanity we have been calling upon all manner of witches and soothsayers and coffee-ground readers for assistance. And some of those practitioners are better known today as matchmakers.