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I was 40 and tired of dating app disasters. So I hired a matchmaker

I was 40 and tired of dating app disasters. So I hired a matchmaker
I decided to go for it. (Alison George / For The Times)

The text message came at 5 p.m. on a Monday:

Hey! I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch for awhile. I just needed some time to let my feelings settle and figure out what I want. I don’t think we should see each other again. I’m sorry things didn’t work out.

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My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. No matter how blasé I was about this romantic Bumble interlude, the sting of rejection still hurt. It was yet another online dating failure for me.

Looking through two-dimensional images of men on my phone felt more like a game to pass time than a thoughtful process of choosing a potential romantic partner. After the rejection text, I decided I was done with all apps and websites advertising shortcuts for meeting your one and only.

After a few days of indulging in chocolate chip ice cream in my pajamas, à la Bridget Jones, I heard a story on NPR about a professional matchmaking company based in Los Angeles. Having just turned 40, I knew that living 34 miles east of L.A. proper was a death sentence for love and dating: Not only was I out of the desirable age range for dating but I also lived far away enough in the ’burbs that I’d get dismissed even before I had a chance to impress and charm someone on a first coffee date.

I decided to go for it. I hired the professional matchmaking service to help me find a potential life partner. After I committed to the process, I felt enormous relief. I had outsourced the physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting search for a husband. I no longer had to fret about optimizing my chances of meeting eligible bachelors. A friend of mine likened it to hiring a real-estate agent.

Before finding the man of my dreams, however, I had to establish a healthy and functioning relationship with the matchmaker — Christie — that I was paired up with at Three Day Rule. Here was a woman whose job it was to know intimate details about my romantic life. Our first and only in-person meeting was at a Middle Eastern restaurant — the Diplomat, in Monrovia — where over bites of pita bread, hummus and baba ghanouj, she inquired not only about my relationship history but also about family dynamics, including my parents’ marriage.

The first two matches were nice, but nothing clicked. Then, she matched me with John. She found him by engaging in some deep social-media digging. Hearing the story from John’s perspective was interesting, to say the least. There he was, going about his day, and then he gets this personal message from a matchmaker suggesting that he meet a client of hers because she thought we’d make a great match (in part because we’re both foodies). She DM’d him on Instagram to ask whether he was single and looking for a long-term relationship. It took him a day to respond, to get over the shock of it. When he did, he told her he was ready. But my matchmaker didn't make it that easy for him — first, she had to go on a date of sorts with him herself, to make sure he was the kind of guy I was looking for. As he later told me, she asked him many of the same questions she asked me — relationship history, family dynamics and more. He passed her test, and she gave him my number after filling me in on their meeting.

He called a few days later, and we chatted for about 45 minutes. Conversation flowed easily between us.

After, still weary of the dating near-misses and jaded, I worried that our instant connection could be attributed to the fact that he’s a native Angeleno, well trained in small talk in the land of shallow conversations. (He later told me that he attributed our ease of chatter to the fact that I’m a professor of communication and that I teach effective communication strategies for a living.)

A few days before our first date, I went for a pedicure after months of neglecting my toenails. It was then that I realized how invested I was in making a good first impression.

We met for coffee at Grand Central Market. It was a strategic choice on his end. Later on, he shared how he chose a central location so we could extend our date if there was chemistry between us. And chemistry there was. We ended up spending the day together. He brought me to the Last Bookstore on Spring Street, with a stop at a favorite mural: “Pope of Broadway,” featuring actor Anthony Quinn. We walked through Pershing Square while discussing ’90s alternative rock music that defined our youth.

The ease of interaction we experienced on the phone was alive and well during this face-to-face encounter. It was easy to sense his thoughts from the get-go. His expressive blue eyes never failed to cue me in on how he really felt about certain issues. When I see my own reflection in them nowadays, as talk has turned to marriage, I see the love and tenderness he feels toward me. This thing we have is real.

It feels like we were always meant to be together.

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Hiring a matchmaker was a gamble, but I needed a guide to the complicated twists and turns that make up dating in the 21st century in a massively sprawling city like L.A. We sometimes muse about whether we would have met without her help.

It was a gamble, but I’m glad I went all in.

The author is an assistant professor at Cal Poly Pomona.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.

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