The Real Goods
Matchmaking, marriage, and
making it work when you’re miles apart.

By Caren Lissner | Last year, two former Sex and the City writers cobbled together composites of their friends’ dating debacles and wrote up responses, slapped them together in a funny 160-page tome, charged 20 bucks—and the multimillion-dollar success of He’s Just Not That Into You was born. Although entertaining, the book’s chief attribute was the tough-love message contained in the title, and it fell short on the true-life examples and research that could have further aided its neurotic purchasers.

Three Penn grads have since come out with non-fiction volumes that deliver the real goods. While their tone and purpose vary, these three books have the first-hand dating advice and riveting stories that the SATC writers left out.

Matchbook is the compelling memoir of Samantha Daniels C’89, who chronicles her experience becoming a professional New York matchmaker [“Profiles,” November/December 2003]. Daniels, who had been setting up friends for years while she worked as a divorce lawyer, figured there was a place for her breed of delicate matchmaking in the rather small field, so she placed ads and created a matchmaking business called “Samantha’s Table,” which inspired a TV series on NBC, Miss Match, and led to appearances as a relationship expert on CNN and The Today Show. Yet Daniels remained single herself, making the same mistakes she saw in her wealthy clients.

Told with wit and feeling as well as business acumen, the story actually contains three threads. The first follows the “desperados,” as Daniels dubs them, who pay her obscene amounts to go on 12 dates. Next there are Daniels’ own attempts to find Mr. Right. Finally, there is the tale of Daniels’ growing business.

The book shifts quickly among clients’ dates, Daniels’ own experiences, and changes she makes to her operation. Clients get nicknames—there’s “Mr. Bonus with the Pinkie Ring,” a politically connected man who wants a tall woman with large breasts and promises Daniels a $60,000 bonus if he gets married, but looks like a penguin and sports a gauche pinkie ring; there’s “Miss Boobs,” who possesses a sterling set of the aforementioned unmentionables and who, Daniels diligently reminds herself, has more to offer than just her marvelous melons; and “Brad Pitt Guy,” who falsely believes he resembles Brad Pitt and, like many of the men in the book, thinks he is entitled to a super-sexy counterpart.

Daniels spends a good deal of time trying to convince clients that they shouldn’t rule someone out based on a single detail. For instance, “Miss 39” rejects a 44-year-old financial professional because he grew up in Queens rather than Manhattan. Yet Daniels herself dumps guys for sketchy reasons: one has three tattoos, another nibbles his cuticles. Although she doesn’t come out and say it, sometimes the excuses people give are really disguises for a deeper lack of connection. Daniels has to keep reminding her clients to give people a second chance, because somewhere down the road, they might return to her wishing they hadn’t been so picky. “If you find someone who has 85 percent of the things you want in a mate,” she concludes in a list of dating rules at the end, “run—don’t walk—to the altar.”

While Daniels’ clients are clearly confined to a certain set—not everyone can pay $10,000 to find a mate—reading about her journey will make any plane ride or beach day fly by.

Joining Daniels in true-romance tales is Jorie Green Mark C ’96, who chronicled her engagement to Barry Mark C’93 in a column for Out of this came Bride in Overdrive, 191 pages of events including Green’s date with Mark at the Class of ’23 skating rink. (He tells her, “I don’t know why you’re wearing an outfit like that to an ice-skating rink, but you look very nice,” and for some strange reason she finds this a compliment.) Four months after they meet, Green tells Mark she loves him; he responds that the only woman he truly loved was his high-school prom date. Her adventures teach us lessons about women knowing more quickly what they want than men do, and the book goes on to describe ring-selection craziness, wedding mishaps, and everything in between.

The downside is that, unlike Daniels’ compendium, Mark’s book is only about herself, and thus, it’s not as compelling. The subtitle, A Journey into Wedding Insanity and Back, is a bit of a falsehood because—as much as her publishers would like it to be so—Mark doesn’t get all that insane. This is a boon to her family, but not her readers; a typical crisis is that she isn’t sure where to seat certain guests, or that her father is half an hour late for wedding preparations. The point of the book, of course, is that she frets too much over minor details—“Things really got messy when I told Barry that we needed to select a steam iron” during the registry process. But her life is largely free of conflict. Still, Mark is clearly a talented, witty writer, and Bride in Overdrive is a worthy companion for women going through the same emotions and preparations as she did.

The Long-Distance Relationship Guide, by Caroline Tiger C’96, is a handy pocket book bursting with idiosyncratic advice about long-distance relationships (LDRs) —everything from leaving pets home to web-cam communication, as well as stats, lists, and true-life anecdotes. Subtitled Advice for the Geographically Challenged, it contains such nuggets of advice as this, in the “Thinking Outside the Standard Weekend-Visit” category: “Meet at a halfway point. It’s even more fun if the halfway point is in the middle of nowhere.” It also explains “why you shouldn’t fight over e-mail … a sentence that is meant to be delivered with a raised eyebrow or a chuckle can be construed as confrontational.” There’s advice from military wives, case studies on specific LDR couples, and a timeline of “Milestones in long-distance communication.” It’s a useful guide or gift for LDR cohorts and their friends.

Caren Lissner C’93 ( published her first novel, Carrie Pilby, in 2003. She says tall men intimidate her.

©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 01/05/05


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By Samantha Daniels C'89
Simon & Schuster, 2005. $23

Bride in Overdrive: A Journey
into Wedding Insanity and Back
By Jorie Green Mark C'96
St. Martin's Griffin, 2004. $12.95

The Long Distance Relationship Guide:
Advice for the Geographically Challenged
By Caroline Tiger C'96
Quirk Books, 2005. $12.95