I have been doing a lot of radio interviews lately and I am always asked to recount some shocking or funny stories to do with matchmaking. I thought I would share the first chapter of my memoir, Hearts On The Line with you all. One of the most surprising things happened one day…
Horrendously long line at ’Bucks this morning—though I allowed plenty of time. I’ll be late for my job at the Double D dating service in Beverly Hills, a place where no one should be expected to work without a serious cup of their usual morning addiction. The delay is my hair’s fault because my boss Gary is the one who insists that I, his vice-president, must perfect my fine, unmanageable red tresses before I’m fit to meet with any client. We’re not talking just chic or even professional. We’re talking hot. My hair must send a message: if you think your matchmaker is sexy, big boy, just wait until you see what stunners we have waiting for you—for the right fee. Money should be no object when you’re looking at hair this hot, right? That’s what Gary expects my hair to do for him.
My hair ignores Gary though. I did try. I ironed it with a gizmo that cost a hundred bucks, and it left a big red burn on my neck—whereupon I cussed in at least three languages. And now the morning is humid, and little dorky wisps go all frizzée. The message my hair sends is more like: if you mess with me, you’ll find out what’s hot around here right now—my temper. I mean, I know I’m lucky to have my job, but the longer I work at it, the tougher it is to think of affirmations that inspire me to keep pairing Farley Fuckwit with Amy Airhead. And my boss….
Oops. A lapse into negativity. I’ll do affirmations later—kind of like the old Hail Mary’s my Grandma used to do, except that they’re about positive energy instead of sin and guilt. They do help.
My turn. Finally. The barista asks, “Grande vanilla soy latte, right?”
“Make it a venti.” I have a feeling I’m going to need it.
I don’t get to work until 10:15. My assistant, adorable Alana, greets me with a frozen smile and an ever so slight nod toward the other person in the room. I turn to see Brittany Malone, a client, sitting on the mocha leather sofa, thumbing through a Vogue magazine. The scene could be a cover shot for Vogue. The office itself still looks good, though Gary has downgraded because of the recession. He auctioned off the original artwork on e-bay and picked up an abstract at a Farmer’s Market sidewalk sale to hang over the sofa. The sprays of pink roses and orchids the plant service used to provide are long gone…as is the service. One lone ficus, cared for by Alana, now graces the soft designer hues on the walls and the shining marble floors.
The focus of the Vogue cover would be gorgeous Brittany. Twenty-eight with long silky auburn hair, alabaster skin and big green eyes, she has the figure and wardrobe of a runway model—not so difficult using her father’s Black American Express card. Brittany has been engaged more times than Lindsay Lohan’s been on the cover of a tabloid. Last week, I matched Brittany with Sam Johnston, a real estate developer in Colorado—an actual great guy, not a Farley at all.
Her eyes tear up. “Hi, Marla…I just stopped by to talk to you about something. Do you have a moment to see me?”
“Of course. Come right this way.” I lead her down the hall and through the artistically etched glass double doors of my office, shaking off the morning’s frustrations to put on my coach cap. I stash my handbag, sit, and take a generous swig of my latte. “Have a seat, Brittany. What can I help you with?” I ask, as if I had no idea what might be troubling her pretty head.
Brittany’s tears dry. She stands right in front of my desk, hands on her size two hips. “Marla, I went to see Sam last week in Denver. He flew me out for the weekend. We had such an amazing connection. He took me to dinner at an amazing restaurant called Mizuna. We ate like royalty and drank champagne. It felt like we’d known each other for years. It was…” She holds her hands up, fingers splayed, eyes rolled heavenward. “amazing.”
“Terrific, Brittany. I’m so happy to hear this.”
She sits down. “Well, Sam proposed, and I accepted.”
“On your first date?” This is pretty fast, even for Brittany.
“Yes, he sure did. It was amazing. We talked about him buying a house out here in L.A. and us living in both cities. He told me that he was going to get me an engagement ring soon. I was in heaven. He seemed like a really amazing guy Marla.” Her lower lip starts to quiver and the tears roll again. I hand her a tissue.
She dabs at her eyes. “I flew back home two days later, and we’ve talked a few times on the phone. I thought things were fine, but then he stopped returning my calls. I hadn’t heard from him for two days, and then I got an email this morning telling me that he’s changed his mind and feels that things went way too fast. He doesn’t want to see me anymore.” She is sobbing now as she pops up and paces in front of my desk. Her voice raises an octave. “He promised me that we would GET MARRIED AND BUY A HOUSE! What a LIAR. What kind of a man would DO a thing like that?”
My boss Gary has come in and looms just outside my office door out of Brittany’s view. He’s scowling, but I keep my focus on Brittany.
“Sweetie,” I say softly, “why would you even accept a proposal from someone you just met? What is the rush? The whole purpose of dating is to get to know someone and find out about his character.”
“This happens to me all the time—men asking me to marry them on the first date.”
“But this isn’t normal, Brittany,” I tell her gently. “And the love-at-first-sight instant fiancé plan hasn’t exactly worked out so far, has it?” I’m about to point out that she may have come on too strong again with her lifestyle priorities, but her glare stops me.
Then she sobs even louder. “This is so UNFAIR! How could he TREAT ME LIKE THIS?” she wails, blotting the tear tracks from her cheeks.
Gary charges in and says in a stern voice, “Brittany, you have to leave now. We can hear you in the lobby. You’re disrupting my whole office, and I have a prospective client coming.”
She looks stunned. “Let me tell you what happened with one of your clients, Gary. I think you should know what kind of people you are signing up here!”
Gary shakes his head. “Uh-uh. I don’t want to hear it. Get your purse and get out! Now.”
I turn away from Gary so he can’t read any shock that might be registering on my face. I shrug slightly and give open-mouthed Brittany a pathetic look of helpless sympathy. It doesn’t seem to help. She snatches up her purse and my box of tissues and stomps out of my office.
“Marla, I don’t want to see that woman in here again. Throw away her file. She’s obviously unstable.”
I give Gary a whatever-you-say-boss look and nod as he backs away. He has no appointment with any new client. He just doesn’t want even the possibility of drama just in case someone might walk in. And I understand that, but Brittany is a ten and not easily replaced. All tens are high maintenance one way or another. I’d much rather counsel Brittany than have to spend hours and aggravation trying to replace her. But, boss’s orders. I toss Brittany’s file into my Portofino style wastebasket. I then send Sam an email, letting him know that Brittany stopped by and was very upset. He quickly responds:
Oh boy, where do I start? Well, I was definitely smitten with Brittany from the first time I laid my eyes on her sweet face and saw that angelic smile, but things soon changed when her demands became more than I was willing to submit to.
Here is the list of things that she was asking for in order for us to have a life together. Let me know if you think I am out of line for running for the hills…..
7 carrot engagement ring, wholesale, more than $100,000
New Ferrarri for her in L.A.
$3 million dollar home for us in L.A.
Professional interior designer
Travel back and forth L.A. / Denver, Denver / L.A., every week.
New furniture for her to have a new office in the Denver house, $20k.
And she doesn’t want to work or have kids for 4 years.
She is very sweet, but very expensive and high maintenance.
Thanks again, we came close!
Kee-rap. Cost of having a wife like Brittany? Four million for starters. Cost of having the peace of mind without her? Priceless!
Brittany needs to take an Olympic nose-dive into the real world. Before her date with Sam, she’d asked for some feedback, and I told her that the guys thought she was gorgeous but too interested in material things. Instead of backing off, she’s even more of a GDGD.
GDGD – A gosh darn gold digger.
No matter how many times I see this behavior, the nerve some women have still shocks me, especially after they’ve only known someone for a week or less. I guess Gary wasn’t as heartless as I thought. She deserves a hard landing on her size two whoopee cakes.
I’ve been married to Adolfo for eight years, and I’d be embarrassed to ask him outright to buy me something since I make my own money. I take a book of matches out of my drawer, light the lilac aromatherapy candle on my desktop, and take another sip of my latte. Hard to believe that I’m going into my seventh year working here at Double D—not the company’s real name, of course. Let’s call it Exclusive Personal Search of Beverly Hills, the mother ship of a multi-city enterprise. I know you didn’t think Double D stood for Dream Dates. It’s the cup size ninety-five percent of our male clients specify for the women they are willing to pay us megabucks to find, as I’m sure you D-duced. What you may not have guessed is that women don’t have to pay anything. Just show up with a pretty face, a size two butt, and, you know, the knockers. These men are essentially trying to buy a trophy wife, but I know that the happiest ones are those that connect with soulmates. That’s where I come in. I’ve even written a book called, Excuse Me, Your Soul Mate Is Waiting—for which after several years, I still collect modest royalties once in a while.
I get busy with my files, determined to find a great match for Sam Johnston, a woman who doesn’t have my personal GDGD code next to her name. The good side to this is that once the men have experienced dating a GDGD, they’re a little less insistent on the traffic-stopping lookers and open to a more realistic pairing. I pull out several file pages and accidentally knock over my latte, just as the phone rings. Damn. My venti latte!
I see that Alana’s already on the other line, so as I’m opening a fresh tissue box to wipe up the spill, I pick up the phone. “Exclusive Personal Search of Beverly Hills, Marla speaking.”
“Oh, hi Marla, you are just the lady I was hoping to talk to.”
I recognize the voice. It’s Lewis Grover, a tall, ruggedly handsome fifty-five- year-old client with a thick head of wavy gray hair who lives in the mountains near Reno. He is semi-retired and spends most of his time gambling, fishing or traveling. Lewis has a gregarious personality—warm and affectionate with a wicked sense of humor. I haven’t heard how the dates have been going with his recent referrals, except that he doesn’t seem to get a lot of second dates.
Over the years, I’ve helped hundreds of clients, but Lewis stands out. Last year at the Double D Christmas party in a posh supper club in Beverly Hills, Lewis spotted me making my way to the bar for a second chardonnay. He scooped me up and swung me around before almost suffocating me in a bear hug, which wouldn’t have fazed me except for the fact that when he swung me around, my skirt twirled up, giving our stuffy new client Richard Beeman from Bel Air a grand view of my Spanx. But when his hand then “accidentally” slipped down to my left breast, I realized that nice guy or not, he was going to have to settle down real quick. I glanced around the room to make sure my Adolfo didn’t see the slippery silver fox’s fancy holiday greeting. Adolfo is generally not jealous, but he does enforce a strict policy of “look but don’t touch” when it comes to any gentlemen who might be admiring my allure. I got the feeling Lewis’s behavior was harmless enough, but I didn’t want Adolfo’s Latino pride to force him to challenge the six-foot-five mountain man to a pre-Christmas duel.
“Lewis, hi, how are you doing?” I chirp into the receiver, the awkwardness of the holiday party still vivid in my mind.
“Well, I have a little problem…” His voice sounds gravelly and strained.
Why would he be calling me? “Did one of your introductions flake on you or something?” I ask while finally getting the Kleenex out of the box and dabbing the coffee to try to keep it from reaching the files. Clients sometimes want to complain immediately to me about this sort of thing.
“I need your help.”
“Marla, you are a very attractive woman. Very sexy,” he says.
I frown a bit at his words and also at several of my files that now have latte-colored edges.
Lewis continues, “I’ve been trying to get a release here for the past half hour, and it’s just not working. So, I thought you might be able to help me.”
Rats, I’m going to have to make new file pages. “Um, Lewis I’m not quite following….”
“Goddam it, I CAN’T COME! I’ve been trying everything, but I just CAN’T COME! Please, if you can just stay on the line with me, it should only take a few minutes….”
EEEEeeeewwwwww. My stomach does a flip-flop, and I feel a bit dizzy. “Lewis, I can’t possibly have heard you correctly. What in the hell—?”
“Please Marla, if you stay on the line with me while I do this, I’ll FedEx you five thousand dollars the minute I hang up.”
I am on my feet now pacing back and forth behind my desk. “Lewis, why would you call me? For God sakes, I am your matchmaker! I’m married.”
“This is highly inappropriate. Of course I won’t do this. Besides, I could lose my job!”
“Okay, ten thousand dollars! If you do it, I’ll send you ten thousand dollars! For the love of God, please help me, I can’t come!”
I am totally freaking out. I am crawling out of my skin. Lewis has lost his mind. But… for a nanosecond a dozen thoughts flash through my brain at the same time. If I stay on the line for five more minutes while Lewis jerks off, my credit card debt could be totally wiped out. But then again, would he really send me the money? Sudden disgust. What am I thinking? And if Gary found out, I’d probably be fired. And Adolfo…My God, Adolfo would go berserk.
I imagine myself saying, Honey, I’m finally debt free! How did it happen? Oh, it was a breeze, all I had to do was stay on the line while one of my clients jerked off, fantasizing about me. No, no, no, no, no.
“LEWIS, I CANNOT AND WILL NOT DO THIS. GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!” Oh, shit! Did I really say that? That is exactly what he’s doing. God, he’s moaning. “Damn it, Lewis, you need help!” I say before slamming the phone down. Help? “Merde!” I mutter. “He probably took that wrong too, the cabrón.”
Our new telemarketer Connie is standing at the doorway of my office beside Alana, puzzled looks on their faces.
I turn to the girls and open the door. “OH. MY. GOD!” I recount the obscene phone call while pacing in front of my desk and hyperventilating. “What an asshole!”
“You have to tell Gary about this,” says Connie. “He has to know.”
I shake my head. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”
“I agree,” says Alana. “You can’t match this guy anymore. He needs to be kicked out of Double D.”
“How am I supposed to tell Gary? It is sooooo disgusting. I wonder why Lewis called me. A forty-something married woman—at work no less! I mean, that’s what 800 numbers are for.”
“He is definitely, sick,” says Alana. “It’s amazing that money lets some guys be an even bigger perv than a regular dude who just makes anonymous obscene calls.”
“Yeah. Amazing. $10,000,” says Connie. “Don’t vibrators work for men? Geez.”
I kind of shiver.
“I’m going to bring you some coffee,” Alana says.
“Thanks.” I’m seriously questioning the prohibition of cocktails before noon. Keeping a flask in my desk doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
I don’t remember much time passing as I think about a nice long hot shower, but I’m grateful when Alana comes in and sets down my coffee.
She leaves again. I can’t seem to switch gear. What did Lewis think of me that made it okay for him to call me?
Gary buzzes me. “Can I see you in my office for a minute?”
Uh-oh. I get that guts-are-sinking feeling whenever Gary “wants to see me in his office.” I’m always afraid I’m going to get the ax, even though the clients are happy, and I’m doing a great job. Did Lewis call him and make up some story? I head down the hall.
Once I step into Gary’s office, he closes the door immediately. Gary keeps his office at least fifteen degrees cooler than the rest of the place, and I break out in instant goose bumps.
We are standing near the door only about two feet away from each other. Gary has a concerned look on his face.
“What’s up?” I ask, arms crossed.
“Marla, I’m just wondering, is everything okay at home?”
What a strange question. “Excuse me?”
“Is everything all right between you and Adolfo?”
“Umm…I’m not really following. Of course everything is okay.” I’m totally confused.
“Oh, I was just wondering because you aren’t wearing any make-up today, and you’ve been looking tired and washed out lately.”
Not today. Not today. “I am wearing make-up. The exact same amount as always.”
He leans in closer, inspecting me like I’m saleable merchandise. “Oh, yeah, I guess you are. It’s very light though.”
I feel my face turning red. How dare he ask me this? I always look nice WITH makeup, and my hair is as close to “hot” as possible on a muggy day. And I’m dressed as elegantly yet professionally as my wardrobe budget can stretch. I know the client list is low, but what does he expect? I’m supposed to look like a hooker with glasses, like from those cheesy porn titles involving the secretary and the boss? I, his vice-president?
I don’t even want to tell him about the call from Lewis now in case he turns it around somehow to use against me. Gary and his fake concern about my marriage. Ugh. “Will that be all?” I ask, loading as much frost as I can into the four words.
Hell. His cell phone chimes, and he holds up a finger to signal for me to wait. I use the chance to try and refocus.
• I deserve a break.
• I deserve respect.
• My hair and makeup send a message: I am amazing—in a good way.
• I am better able to discern any small traces of inner beauty in fuckwits and airheads.