Weddings 2012: Jesse Brown’s story of 21st-century matchmaking (offline)
We were set up by my friend Sheila, who didn’t think it was wise for me to make romantic decisions for myself anymore.
“You’re terrible at this. I liked your last girlfriend very much, but nobody except you thought it was a good match.” She rapidly itemized my relationships over the past five years as a series of vain blunders and self-deceptions. Her accuracy enraged me, but I surrendered. My romantic life, I told her, was in her hands.
Still, I was embarrassed about having to resort to a blind date and leery of putting myself in the hands of a matchmaker. “I’m not a matchmaker,” Sheila corrected me. “I’m a curator.”
There was something to this; Sheila could be trusted not to fob off some lonely, homely girlfriend on me. She would act as my agent alone, combing through her extensive file of personal contacts. First came her questionnaire, administered verbally over cheap Ethiopian food.
“Younger or older?”
“I’ve never really thought about that. Most guys would say younger, I guess, but I find being looked up to really unsexy. I’d be fine with either.”
“So older then. Should she be Jewish?”
“No. I’ve dated lots of non-Jewish girls. Jewish girls, too, but whatever. I mean, my parents would prefer it, and I guess if I have kids I want them to identify that way, at least in part, like culturally, but it’s not like it’s a thing, like a discriminatory thing, you know?”
“OK, a Jewish girl.”
Sheila didn’t give a damn about what kind of girl I thought I wanted. My perception of my desires was useless to her. If anything, it was part of the problem. “Isn’t sexual attraction important?” I asked.
“Nothing is more important,” Sheila replied.
I was confused, but the process I had set in motion did not require my understanding. After some consideration, Sheila decided on a woman she hadn’t seen in years, named Katie, and sent her an email promising that I was “not a loser.” Katie revealed that she was newly single and willing to meet.
“You’re not allowed to Google her,” Sheila insisted. I would have anyways, but couldn’t. I wasn’t given a last name, and Katie’s cryptic email, email@example.com, seemed like an address reserved for spammers and potential stalkers.
We met at the Roxton, a bar on Harbord. I suggested an after-dinner drink instead of dinner (it’s best if a woman doesn’t see me eat until the third or fourth date), but Katie (black hair, green eyes, stunning) was hungry. I searched the menu for something shareable and inoffensive. “How about the hummus?” I ventured. She looked at me as if I had asked to try on her dress, and then she ordered the ribs, which she ate with her hands.
I’m going to marry this girl, I thought.
I still didn’t know her last name, however. “I will give you two clues,” Katie said. “It’s both a famous economist and a burlesque house.”
I spent the better part of a day running searches like “Keynes + titty-bar,” to no avail.
Hours before our second date, a violent summer storm emptied downtown Toronto. I checked Twitter and found photos of a twister all but touching down mere blocks from my Parkdale apartment. I sat at the window waiting for the storm to pass, grew impatient and called Katie.
“I’ll pick you up in 10 minutes, OK?”
We drove past drooping power lines and cars caved in from fallen branches, and I resumed my investigation.
“What about mopete?” I asked. “From your email address—is that a clue?”
“No. That’s my nickname. After Morris Peterson, the basketball player.”
“Your friends call you that? Why?”
“Because I have tonnes of game but never seem to close the deal.”
I probed Sheila for context and soon learned that two men, better than me by every quantifiable measure, had proposed to Katie and been rebuffed. “I’d marry her,” I told Sheila. “And I’d have kids with her. But I’ll never propose to her.” Sheila said she’d never heard cowardice sound so macho.
A week later, a friend of mine solved Katie’s riddle and sent me links, one to an Economist article on the Hyman Minsky moment and another to an IMDB listing for The Night They Raided Minsky’s. I dropped a mention of Hyman’s instability hypothesis that night over dinner and happily took the credit for cracking the code.
Four months later, we had our first fight. Katie called me on my way to a Christmas party, agitated and making little sense. She was upset with me for poisoning her with a brisket mole dish made with a spice paste I’d smuggled home from Oaxaca. “I ate twice as much as you and I feel fine,” I protested, but she was inconsolable. The next day, I came by to see if the clouds had parted. “The mole was fine,” she said. “I’m pregnant.”
I smiled like an idiot. Then she asked, “Will you marry me?”
“Shorty,” I said, “I’ll marry you so hard you’ll walk funny.”
At five weeks, the ultrasound showed no heartbeat. Same at six weeks, and at seven. Everything else was where it was supposed to be—a perfect little womb had been formed, but no fetus materialized to inhabit it, and the doctors told us to stop expecting one.
After everything, Katie dried her eyes and said, “That was awful.”
“We’re still getting married, right?” I asked.
We had our second fight over the phone when I was in New Orleans for my bachelor party. It felt a lot like the first argument, but again I was too thick to connect the dots.
Our son, Isaac, was born that winter.
Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine, a show about Internet culture.