How To Play Cupid

Why should a friend be alone when you have the perfect guy for her? Here’s how to set her up without letting her down.

1. FIND A FIT
There’s more to compatibility than similar ages, levels of education and lifestyles, says US therapist Nina Atwood, author of Be Your Own Dating Service (Henry Holt). Two people need compatible personalities and, while opposites sometimes attract, the chances of your extrovert girlfriend hitting it off with the cute geek in your computer department are not good. They also need to be at the same place in life.
‘If one person is more emotionally available than the other, it will be a bad match,’ says Atwood. But sometimes it pays to go with your instincts.
‘My sister’s an artist,’ says Jayshree*, a Durban dental nurse. ‘Ramesh* is a karate instructor. But they both have a wicked sense of humour and I sensed they’d hit it off. Now she’s got her green belt and he models for her nude paintings!’

2. DON’T DISCOUNT APPEARANCE
As shallow as it may seem, looks do count, say Myreah Moore and Jodie Gould, co-authors of Date Like A Man (Harper Collins). ‘Many couples look like brother and sister – or at least have similar features,’ they say.
Think of Brad and Angelina (big lips, chiselled jaws and imposing height) and Courteney Cox and David Arquette (pale complexions, dark hair and narrow faces). While some people are attracted to those who don’t resemble them, big differences in weight, fitness and personal style can complicate the already tricky business of finding a magical fit.

3. CLUE THEM IN
Take the edge off their apprehension by giving each an idea of the other’s personality and interests – but edit this judiciously. When Port Elizabeth hairdresser Samantha* was set up with a friend’s cousin, she was mortified when he greeted her with: ‘Love your new boobs!’ Overselling someone also sets the scene for a letdown, warns Dr Jan Yager, author of 125 Ways To Meet The Love Of Your Life (Hannacroix Creek Books).

4. OFFER TO PLAY HOST
Professional dating agencies often suggest holding a dinner party to introduce a couple without the pressure of a one-on-one date. Fiona Dorse of Durban’s Corporate Dating believes a ‘good old braai’ is best. ‘You can introduce them, then move on to other guests.’ Braais often have the added ‘bonus’ of separating men and women, allowing the couple to watch each other ‘in action’ and get feedback from their own gender. ‘I liked the way Musa* mixed easily with the other guys, and the attentive way he kept my plate and glass full,’ says Khanyi*, 22, a Pietermaritzburg student. ‘The best was hearing some girls who worked with him saying what a nice guy he was!’

5. ACCEPT DEFEAT
If they don’t hit it off, don’t press for details. Don’t become a go-between, even if one of them asks you, don’t pressure them to ‘try again’ and don’t take it personally. ‘A rejection of your choice of a match is not a rejection of you,’ says Dorse. ‘Try your friend with someone else – if she’s willing. Otherwise, back off.’ If you battle to stay out of it, examine your motives for playing Cupid. Do you really have her happiness at heart or do you need to feel needed? Do you maybe secretly fancy him yourself? You’d be better off working on your own love life.

* Name Has Been Changed

IF YOU’RE THE ONE BEING SET UP…
– Be Open
He may not be your type but he could have qualities you could learn to appreciate.
– Be Candid But Gracious
If he’s truly not your type, say so firmly to your matchmaking friend while thanking her sincerely.
– Be Discreet
Don’t criticise him to her – she may take it as an insult to her taste.
– Be Accepting
If you fancy him but he doesn’t call you later, he’s just not ‘into you’. Don’t ask your friend to pry for you.
– Be Grateful
As irritating or embarrassing as you may find your matching friend’s efforts, remember she has your best interests at heart.
– Remember What You’ve Learnt
Resolve not to make the same mistakes when you’re setting others up!