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To that end, Wicks has adapted the boot-camp training she received from Greenwald in 2009 to focus on the general public. Late last year, for example, she received a request from a high-school junior. But even after downgrading her price, Wicks's fees are still similar to those of a psychiatrist: Initial consultations cost $200, and coaching runs $75 an hour from there. Still, her role as Boulder's only full-time dating coach affords flexibility while she develops her brand.

After working in retail, the 42-year-old Wicks attended the National Matchmaker's Conference in 2009, where she met Greenwald and decided to sign up for her boot camp, then try out a new career. "I had seen so many bad dating profiles and been on so many bad dates myself, and I had helped friends with their profiles," explains Wicks. She met her own future husband on Match.com.

Once Wicks commited to matchmaking, the first step — even before looking for clients — was to print business cards, then create a logo for the website that would attract daters to her service. As Greenwald teaches her students, marketing is important: If you build it, they will come. The next step is to ensure self-confidence. If a matchmaker doesn't believe in her business, none of her clients will. "I'm kind of a shy person, so it's hard to put myself out there," Wicks says, comparing herself to Greenwald. "I still feel like I'm behind. I'm no marketing maven, but the only person holding me back is me."

*****

If you cannot afford a $9 salad, you cannot afford me," says Chris Wilhoite, waving her right hand in disdain as her left hand balances a teacup. And then she issues a truly weighty sigh. Just because they help other people perfect their love lives doesn't mean that matchmakers' own love lives are perfect. Earlier this year, Wilhoite went to Applebee's on an ill-fated date (among other things, the man wore an entirely black-and-white outfit and attempted to convince her the look was big in Italy), and she has yet to completely recover.

Episodes like this one, though, provide the fodder that Wilhoite uses to relate to her clients, and this is extraordinarily important for her. Wilhoite's business, while still young, caters specifically to Mormon clients, and her 23 years in the LDS community have given her a head start on exclusive rights to the love lives of Denver's Mormon population.

"I see this niche as untapped," she says. "Marriage is viewed differently for an LDS family because they say 'till death do us part,' but we say 'for time and all eternity.'" That's a big difference, she notes, and a fear of divorce leads many Mormon singles to place extra — and conservative — pressure on the concept of marriage. "Their modesty standard includes longer skirts, capped sleeves instead of sleeveless," she explains. "You wouldn't meet someone in a club, because we don't drink. When you're sitting by yourself on a church bench, it's lonely. It's just enough of a difference to matter, and I know their background and doctrine."

Wilhoite, who converted to the religion at 22, marks a trend in modern matchmaking that is quickly moving daters toward more niche-oriented ventures. Online, vegetarians can find love at veggieconnection.com, while seniors have a huge variety of age-specific options. LDS daters can be matched on LDS Singles and LDS Planet, while Jewish daters have J-Date. And if you're an Anglophile, look no further than DateBritishGuys.com. "No matchmaker should be tapping into the same market as any other," Greenwald says. "If you do, you're doing it wrong."

Right now, Wilhoite describes herself and her slowly moving business as a "tortoise" — but if Greenwald is the hare, then there are lots of turtles. "That's the wonderful thing about this business," Wilhoite says. "There's nobody saying 'Do this right now.'"

When Wilhoite takes a seat in her living room, she automatically chooses the exact center of a wildly flowery couch, which places her head immediately below her head inside a framed portrait of Wilhoite and her late husband, Nolan, hugging as their four children posed around them in matching outfits. For Wilhoite, who was married for thirteen years before Nolan passed away from pancreatic cancer, absence has made the heartbreak grow fonder.

"I had a great marriage, and I want to spend my living watching people fall in love," she says. "I still think the sun rises and sets by my guy. Rachel asked me if I still have pictures of him in my house, and she wants me to take them down, but from an LDS perspective, that's not something we'd do."

Although her specialty comes with its advantages, it also brings a generous share of awkwardness. Despite attending church in the area, Wilhoite is uncomfortable directly recruiting church members for the business she started after attending Greenwald's boot camp a year ago. Instead, she has organized a "fireside," a church discussion group, to teach constituents about creating an online dating profile in hopes that they might also approach her for more coaching.

During the four years she has spent training other matchmakers, Greenwald's students have come from a wide spectrum of specialties and backgrounds — but the most common constituency, she says, is mothers like her who are searching for a career that can be completed from inside the house without any strict routine.

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10 comments
Laura
Laura

What a fascinating and enlightening article. It's hard to be single, and Rachel brings great hope and determination to an otherwise frustrating and sad experience with dating. Rachel's positive spirit, her passion for others' happiness, and her smooth, easy manner are all elements of her success. But she's also a great, down-to-earth mom, wife and fabulous friend.

michelle g
michelle g

Hmmm . . . I found my amazing husband for FREE.

Sonya
Sonya

I think all that matters is that the people wanted a partner and the matchmaker got it for them. Does it matter how? She got the results. Shrug.

Jack Mackadoo
Jack Mackadoo

This is a fine story, Kelsey. But I will admit that I'm skeptical about utilizing the services of a matchmaker. I can see the pros and cons of it: Pros--especially with online dating, outsourcing the daunting task of weeding through hundreds of potential dating partners to find the ones that are a good fit is a huge time-saver, and a stranger can often advise you better than family or friends on what your strengths/weaknesses are with regard to dating capital. Cons--it's expensive, it's methodical, it's calculated, and the matchmaker's job is to get your ass down the aisle, but at the end of the magical fairy tale it's still you in the prom dress.

If a matchmaker's success is rated by how many couples she gets married off, then what makes her different than a chapel in Las Vegas? I would measure success by how many couples she matched who are in healthy, happy marriages after one year---five years---ten years.....

Leighsin
Leighsin

This is the most ridiculous use of an MBA from Harvard...not to mention the idea that we continue to put women in these horrific roles to "hunt" down men based on the very stereotypes we have tried so hard to get away from...shame on Westword for making this a cover story about a very shallow woman who has learned to capitalize on other people's need to find a partner

pleaseletsfixthis
pleaseletsfixthis

I find Ms. Greenwald’s business a bit appalling. People in the 1960s and 70s expended a lot of effort to break down discriminatory policies and to support and create opportunities for women to go to business school. It is disappointing to me that Ms Greenwald took the opportunity thus created to go to Harvard Business School and chose to spend it in this way. Isn’t she reinforcing patriarchal marriage, where the woman is the primary parent, disenfranchised and demobilized in deference to men in the political economy, and oppressing the children because that’s the only power she has? I am worried she is charging huge amounts of money to people who are vulnerable and who don't understand the ramifications of patriarchal marriage and that modern, two-earner, two parent egalitarian marriage is now available (and is especially widely pursued by Gen-Y and Millenial age men and women, but also by many in Ms. Greenwald’s Gen-X cohort). And she is training other women to do this. Is this kind-of like a cult?

It is interesting to compare Ms. Greenwald’s approach to that of some other women Harvard Business School graduates of her Gen-X era: Sheryl Sandberg and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. Ms. Sandberg, Facebook COO, shares equally the unpaid work, responsibility and power of her home, including parenting, with her husband. And she married her good friend, by the way; Is it a coincidence that she is capable of being friends with men (and didn't need a matchmaker) when she has this more adult and responsible attitude? Ms. Sandberg also just served as one of the chairs of the prestigious Davos Financial Forum. Ms. Tzemach Lemmon, Newsweek editor and the author of the bestselling book “The Dressmaker of Kabul”, has done excellent reporting about businesswomen in places like Afghanistan and busts stereotypes that US warmongers circulate about the US needing to go to war to protect the women there.

Some of the most serious harms of the patriarchal marriage fall on the children; I gather Ms. Greenwald doesn’t really reach that issue. They range from abuse/neglectful/traumatic parenting by both men and women, high divorce rates, biological clock issues in the children of men who father children at older ages, and children having to take care of mothers who can’t stand on their own.

She says she has few successes in her business; are these serious flaws in her business model the reason?”

Chesterton
Chesterton

Western Civilization will be much better off when it returns to honoring the traditional family, with Husband, Wife, and children. All of these experiments with bizarre alternatives are proving to be failures. Worse of course is the single mother paid by the state to raise children without a father. That results in boys who are utterly without male role models, resulting in gang behavior, no work ethic, poverty, crime. And many women are finding that after wasting their childbearing years toiling in a thankless corporate world they are left with nothing, no family, and for some only grudging respect of the business world. Money can't buy you love in that case. The folly is in pretending that men and women are interchangeable and that God did not create men and women with unique characteristics, the melding of which in the form of the family, results in the correct situation for life, and for the world. Most of the time people like to point to one bizarre family they know that is good, such as two men, two women, or any other combination of people, and then extrapolate that to the bizarre conclusion that therefore the traditional family means nothing and any combination of people should work just fine for everyone. Thousands of years of history prove what is right. The current experimentation will prove to be wrong. Nature will win out in the end.

pleaseletsfixthis
pleaseletsfixthis

You don't "buy" love, in any case. I would suggest that if you think you can, you may not really know what it is?

I imagine these are scary times for people who have not adjusted to the progress of the 20th Century. Having women do things like go to Harvard Business School is particularly scary to people who have issues from the female-dominated childhoods that patriarchal marriage insists upon. If you are having trouble adjusting to being a real dad, a book many men have found helpful is "The Modern Dad's Dilemma" by John Badalament.

You are correct that nature will win out in the end, though: there is no God. That is a fantasy created by the dysfunctions of the patriarchal family, which is a stop-gap (i.e. temporary) invention created only because paternity could not be proven and disproven. Our political and legal system has not quite caught up yet, but it will soon. In the broad range of human evolution, patriarchal marriage and male monotheistic religion is but a blip.

 
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