Friday, March 30, 2007

Pimp My Bride: Serious Matchmaking

How people make their living (and spend their money) is of endless fascination to me. Thus I was intrigued by Bella English's recent Boston Globe article on Janis Spindel, Serious Matchmaking.

Well, call me Madam, but serious is an understatement.

Spindel, whose business is in NYC, was in Boston looking for love. Not for herself, but for one of her serious matchmaking clients.

Divorced Boston businessman in late 40s with beautiful home and lots of dough seeks single woman, mid to late 30s, for marriage and babies. Must be thin and possess classic good looks. He's a warm and cuddly guy who enjoys golf, sailing, and tennis. If interested, call his matchmaker at 212-987-1582.

The man who Spindel is looking for - she calls him "Jeremy" but I like to think of him as a John - is paying her serious money: $100,000. So much for taking out an ad in The Phoenix or joining eHarmony, let alone asking your sister-in-law if she has any friends....

In the 15 years she [Spindel] has been in the matchmaking business, Spindel claims responsibility for 760 marriages and "massive thousands in committed relationships."

On her web site, the claim is both toned down - "1000+" rather than "massive thousands," and tarted up: these relationship, the copy claims, are monogamous. Just how Janis Spindel determines this is anyone's guess. (Got to drop Harry and Sally from the rolls, Sally just called and said that Harry was cheating on her. He claimed she'd let herself go - she gained 10 pounds after the baby and ballooned up from a size 2 to a size 4.) Fat, as we'll see later, is a big no-no in this world. When you've got the big bucks to spend, thin is in.

Spindel is clear to differentiate her product from a dating service:

"I am a matchmaker," she says. "A man can get dates on his own. I'm a little too expensive for that. And I don't deal with trophy wives. I'm looking to match soul mates."

Spindel wears the matchmaking mantle proudly, terming it "'the second oldest profession.'"

Well, given the world's oldest profession, I would have thought that pimping might rank number two.

Spindel's business is geared toward men. "Women are too high maintenance," she says. "They're needy. They're nagging."

So forget about what women want - those needy, nagging, high maintenance whiners. Men want pretty. Men want long, straight hair. Men want thin. ("We're not in Kansas or Iowa or Nebraska.")

Spindel uses the familiar sliding scale to price her services, from the:

$25,000 "basic" package that Spindel says takes her "five minutes" to match from her database of women to a $100,000 "elite" plan consisting of an out-of-town client and a casting call that can involve hundreds of women.

John, errrr, Jeremy has signed up for the elite plan, and Spindel is holding a Boston cattle call for prospective brides on April 13-15. (They must make an appointment, and pay a $50 processing fee. Spindel is clearly not interested in leaving any money on the table.) The field will get culled, and Spindel and Jeremy will review the results of the call and pick out a few women for him to follow up with.

Like so many of Spindel's clients, Jeremy has been too busy becoming rich and successful to find the time to cultivate a serious post-divorce relationship. In his 40's now, he's ready to re-settle down. He's got the house, apparently, now all he needs is the wife and kiddies.

While the 1000+ monogamous couples that Spindel has matched up are nice, it's the 760 married couples that really matter.

Spindel is both a romantic and a shrewd business person: she gets a bonus if wedding bells ring out. (Bonuses can range from $25K, to a Harry Winston pink diamond, to a first class family vacation.) She does not, however, get invited to the wedding. "Men are embarrassed by the fact they have to pay me."

I bet she also knows where her clients can get a good pre-nup lawyer, too.

Spindel's web site -  pretty in pink, hearts, and cupids -  is absolutely worth a look. You learn that her 10,000 name data base is "made up of carefully screened, upscale professional people who are searching for convenient and effective ways to meet other quality singles."

Her services include pre-screened 30 minute (fee-paid) interviews for women in which Spindel separates the A-players (who get "invitations to Janis' signature intimate dinners") from the B-list (who do get into her database). These cost $1K if you get Spindel herself, $500 if you work with her assistant.

For men, she offers "simulated lunch or dinner dates", in which Spindel plays the date and sizes up manners, intellect, and interests and figures out who Ms. Right might be.

And then there's the matchmaking services themselves: "Fees to be discussed during initial meeting."

Spindel also runs "upscale" parties and invitation-only "intimate dinner parties. 4 courses. 4 rotations. 4 tables of 8."

Ah, doesn't that sound like fun.

Obviously, there are a lot of people out there looking to meet their significant other. Spindel may well be as adept as she claims, and she's clearly meeting the need for at least some of the "upscale" crowd.

But there's something a bit off-putting about the whole thing, especially the $100K matchmaking. I've acquired my fancy job, my fancy car, my fancy condo; now I've got to acquire a fancy wife. Let's see, I like fast, low, and sleek in a car; chrome, glass, and leather in a condo; how about thin, straight hair, and upscale in a wife.

The commoditization of yet another bit of life's little magic, and talk about giving lie to the saying that "money can't buy you love."

Finding a nice-looking wife through Janis Spindel: $100,000.

Lavish wedding to show off the little woman: $250,000.

Waking up next to someone who loves you, warts (and that spare 10 pounds or so) and all: priceless.

For those interested, Janis Spindel Matchmaking has franchise opportunities.


Mary Schmidt said...

First, just let me say, "ewww-yewwww"

"Soul mates? heh? Yes, a thin pretty baby-making machine mate.

Does she offer any money back if the woman gains weight? A monogamy warranty?

And, again, "ewwwww-yewwwwww."

John Whiteside said...

You know, her site comes across as awfully low-rent for someone charging a $100,000 fee.

I read a while back about someone who does something similar, but only the high end piece - and what was interesting is that if a guy rejects her choice, he'd better have very clear reasons why - and if he keeps rejecting them, she dumps him as a client. She actually appeared to be putting effort into understanding who her clients were, and what they wanted (perhaps better than they did themselves). It still was a bit horrifying, but I had some grudging respect for her by the time I finished the article. (And I can't remember where I read this - maybe the NY Times magazine?)

But Janis, with her cattle-call parties, sounds like another (less pretty) picture altogether.

jrh said...

Is it the cash involved, her attitude or the fact that men of a certain age and status in life appear to be able to pick and chose their (next) mate that is so offensive here?

Older rich guys like/feel entitled to younger attractive women. I don't think this is a recent occurrence. Take a peak through shakespeare, the Old testament, or even Beowulf for crying out loud, and there's rich older men with young pretty brides.

And the 10000 plus women who make the grade into her database - - What are they looking for? Some peace of mind, some security? A nice place in the suburbs to raise kids? I'm not sure what's wrong with this.

I'm not a historian nor a biologist, but couldn't one argue that all she is really doing here is assisting the Darwinian process? The 100k serving as a limiting factor that thins out the herd (pardon the triple entendre) and then matches them with suitable mates, using appearance as a limiting factor. Money + Wealth = good looking, rich kids.

If there is any problem here its that Ms Spindel may be secretly trying to create a master race that owes its existence and allegiance to her efforts. I see a presidential run in about 20 years when these kids become of voting age.

PS John, I completely agree with you on this...her website is pretty ghetto for someone's who's racking in 100K a pop. I get better looking spam sites in my MYSPACE on a daily basis.

Maureen Rogers said...

Spindel is obviously filling a market need here and, as you point out,in some respects she's just giving Darwin a paid assist. I think that what rankled me in reading about her business is the underlying current of "I've got better things to do with my time than find a wife. Why don't you do it for me?" This seems to be the positioning that Spindel offers her clients, which is a lot less sympathetic than if she stated flat out "I help guys who for whatever reason haven't been able to find the right woman." (And, of course, there's the issue that a man who Spindel describes as "cuddly" - which sure sounds like code word for a little on the podgy side - is only interested in thin women...)

Anonymous said...

I'm not too fussy, but we all know that it's so HARD to find somebody, whether you're male or female. For $25,000, how likely is it that I can find a wife who is 22-28, and most of all, willing to come live out on the West Coast with me? To womens credit, they are much more willing to move around. I see NO shame in having help from Janis, if this is legitimate. That's just the thing: It's TOO easy to prey on vulnerable people (like me).

Anonymous said...

I went to Janis, paid $50,000. She set me up with 3 women in 12 months. One was severely overweight, the other 2 were CATHOLIC and I SPECIFIED I wanted a JEWISH woman!!!

Anonymous said...

One has to wonder about the sort of men who seek out madams er matchmakers like Janis Spindel. If they don't have the time to look for a potential spouse, how will they have the time to BE a spouse, let along (god forbid) a parent? YIKES...sounds too much like those guys are merely checking off a laundry list and Spindel and others of her ilk are making bigtime $$$ of them. Shameful...and they say it's gays who destroy the sanctity of marriage? I'd say it's the marriage brokers who are destoying it, wouldn't you?

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