Matchmaker: No Match Necessary!

Matchmaker, matchmaker
Make me a match
Find me a find
Catch me a catch
Look through your book
And make me a perfect match

— “Fiddler on the Roof”

tom column - play-MatchmakerAs conscientious Armenians, we need to be thinking about the welfare of our own people. If we don’t support and patronize our own kind, then who else will?

That means a connection to one in business, law, medicine and—yes—matrimony. Both my grandmothers were products of arranged marriages and it did them no harm.

The way I heard it, my grandparents met on their wedding day just after the genocide and a dowry was quickly established. Whether love had anything to do with it remains to be seen.

What was good enough for their parents, I suppose, was good enough for them. They married their own kind, grew into a relationship, and raised a wonderful family here in America. I happen to be part of that lineage.

Way back when, during prohibition times and the Depression, it was all about “sticking to your own kind.” Italian and Irish immigrants found it hard to imagine their children and grandchildren isolating themselves from their heritage by taking a “foreign” spouse. Same with Armenians.

Hard to believe that 45 years have passed when Yenta was making her matches in the hit musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Tevya’s daughters would see her coming and off they would hide for fear of ending up with the wrong man. In the end, despite some resistance, all’s well that ends in earnest.

I tend to be a matchmaker at heart. Each Sunday in church, I sit in the back row and scrutinize the congregation, seeking out singles and wondering how they might fit with members of the opposite sex. I know, I should be praying, but I really am.

I’m praying that love conquers all but sometimes, you have to plant the seed before it fertilizes. I look at the 60-somethings in my world and wonder why they’ve never tied the knot. Externally, they look like they would make good fathers. Switching genders, the same could be said for some women I know. How come they never took the initiative to wed?

I had a cousin like that. He was meant to be a bachelor and nobody could convince him otherwise. They set up traps for him, invited both candidates to dinner parties, purchased theater tickets for each one without telling the other, and went so far as to toss the garter and bouquet to each one at a wedding.

“It’s not that marriage is a bad plan, but I just don’t need a man,” this confirmed bachelor once told me. “I’m single and that makes me happy.”

Another spinster told me how many courtships she had over her lifetime and how none of them worked out. Others keep hoping, well into their 50s and 60s. “Slender and pale, there’s hope for me yet.”

My mother was an inveterate matchmaker. She had so many irons in the matchmaking pot, the fire went out. In all her years of conniving and consoling, only once did she succeed in matching up the right (or wrong) couple. They wound up living happily ever after.

I know of two men who went abroad to find a wife, and both succeeded. On the other hand, marriage proposals are a dime a dozen for those touring overseas, especially in Armenia. I saw a sign once that read, “Finding a match is easier than finding a parking space here.”

A good friend of mine met his wife of 40 years on a trip to Armenia. They were with the same tour group, something popped, and they wound up corresponding. Others I know found their mate at an AYF Olympics, Camp Haiastan, or AYF Conventions and internships in Armenia.

The internship rendezvous happened by chance. They were working in the same village and decided they had a lot in common. It turned out to be a perfect match.

You have to wonder, “Are fixed marriages any worse than finding someone ideal on Craigslist? “

Being a product of genocide survivors, my early adult years reflected these pressures. The girl of my dreams had to be Armenian, but even that didn’t suffice.

She had to be from the same Armenian village my mother lived in. The same religion and same political affiliation. If such a female did exist, she had to be fluent in the language, a decent Armenian cook, and someone who was molded in my mother’s own likeness.

After years of searching, I found such a girl—someone who even walked, talked, and resembled my mother. Everything fit to a mold, except for one small catch. When I brought her home, my father couldn’t stand her.

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Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
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