Westside Stories by Forrest Preece
By Julia McCurley
A couple of years ago, a thirty-something friend of ours told us about a dating adventure she had experienced. It seems that she met a guy through one of the online services and agreed to go have a drink with him. After about thirty minutes of listening to him rattle non-stop about his life and woes without once asking anything about her, she looked up and spotted the bar manager.
She made up an excuse to go the ladies’ room, grabbed the manager by the arm, and asked him to tell her date that she had just gotten news of a family tragedy and had to leave. With that, she sped out the back door and went home.
That guy could have used some tips from my friend Julia McCurley and the other dating and relationship counselors at her firm “Something More.”
Since I’ve been happily married for 35 years now, using this type of service isn’t on my radar. But I must admit, it was fun to talk with Julia for a while the other day and think back to my dating days.
Julia says that she’s been matchmaking for twenty years and she proudly showed me a photo of a happy result of her efforts in her family.
When she moved to Austin eight years ago for a job in the information technology staffing business, the germ of the idea for her company was sprouting.
“Finding the right people for jobs is a lot like matchmaking,” she says.
One day a couple of years ago, Julia found out about the Matchmaking Institute and she decided to pursue its program and become certified as a matchmaking consultant. Something More grew out of that.
As a certified professional, Julia subscribes to a code of ethics enforced by her professional association. “Being a part of the Better Business Bureau is important to us.” she admits. So far she has had no complaints at all.
The obvious question is why come to a company like Something More when there are on-line services available at the touch of a keyboard.
Her response was quick and simple. “Some people use on-line brokerages – but others prefer a seasoned investment professional to give advice.” (By the way, just a caveat – McCurley shares that 35% of the people on those online “dating” services are actually married.)
On that score, she says that she takes care of weeding out the deal breakers and she’ll ask the awkward questions up front. Her substantial questionnaire, which all her clients are required to complete, is very thorough indeed.
Her goal is to get an idea about the person’s overall lifestyle – religion, politics, wants kids/no kids, attitudes, interests, energy level and things even more personal.
Also, she looks at things like integrating children into a new partner’s life, which is crucial. Usually she has people fill out the questionnaire in her office because there may be items that require discussion.
Getting beyond the obvious is part of her service. Judging a book by its cover is a trait that all humans share.
“For instance,” Julia says, “a man may visually present himself as a ‘cowboy type’ but after a conversation you’ll find that he’s really an accomplished professional with a sensitive side who is willing to learn swing dancing. So when women say something like ‘I don’t want a cowboy,’ I have to sort out if they just mean they don’t like the stereotyped attitude.”
One of her goals is to ask questions that usually come up in the first few months of a relationship so that she gets them out of the way.
First date rules? Number one, no getting, ahem, “physical” on the first date.
Also, each of her clients has a session with an image consultant before their first meetup. She recommends stylists, makeup artists, personal trainers and even dentists. (Teeth are very important.)
Ages? She has clients ranging from 26 to 77. And, she notes, the 77-year-old looks at least ten years younger, is an accomplished professional, and is full of energy.
Her clients are all guaranteed at least one date per month. “But we focus on quality—not quantity. We absolutely aren’t just throwing people together. We want to be in the ‘last first date business.’”
She points with pride to a recent instance of a couple, both on their second date thanks to Something More, who hit it off and have been dating for several months now.
What if there is someone a client knows by name who they really want to meet? Julia will sometimes go out and find that person and ask if they would be willing to get together.
So does the man call the woman or vice versa? At Something More, they make the arrangements and get the awkward part out of the way. They even find out what clothes each person is wearing, so neither will be uncomfortable.
“We ask that the man get there a little early and wait at the front of the restaurant. And we say that they should spend at least an hour together.”
On the other hand, if things aren’t going well, Julia says that they shouldn’t spend three hours together. That sends mixed signals.
As part of her service, Julia has compiled an extensive guidebook—basically, it’s Relationships 101—(one for men and one for women)—with photos of what to wear, dos and don’ts, the works.
One hard and fast rule—no flip flops for men or women! Wedge shoes for women are discouraged, too. And, there are guidelines about men wearing untucked shirts as well.
Does Julia have to exercise tough love once in a while? You bet she does, especially if the client keeps making the same mistake.
Another big missteps is first daters filling the air with how rough their life has been — in detail. (See my first two paragraphs.)
“The point is, don’t drone on for 45 minutes about how your bosses or employees are making your life miserable or how your pet
died and you are feeling awful. You need to create some allure and mystery about yourself and keep asking the other person about their day and how they are feeling.”
What is one of her recurring problems? In a high-tech town like Austin where there are many women and men who hold high ranking positions in the business world, it is tough for these successful people to shut down being the boss for an hour and relate as a warmer human being.
Often her clients get into a clash of wills, where both parties are trying to one-up each other about how much power they have at work. That is not a fertile seedbed for a relationship.
As for our town itself, Julia says that it has a temporary feel and that is sometimes an impediment to people.
She is surprised that many of the younger men she has for clients say that most of the women that they meet are interested in partying and not in settling down.
“When I hear women say there aren’t any good men out there, I say, ‘Not so! But trading tequila shots at a bar is not the way to meet good guys!’”
After two years in business she is getting to the point now where she is seeing marriages resulting from her efforts.
The key point is that she tries to teach people to be better daters, how to be more self-confident and not to just settle.
“My business is growing left and right and I’m excited to be out there helping Central Texans find their right mate. And, I’m networked with other matchmakers nationwide. One client owns a home in California, but he’s moving here and wants to engage my services.”
Two dating tips from Julia:
1 Checklists are for grocery shopping
Besides honesty, integrity, no substance abuse or legal challenges, throw the checklist out the window. It is a fact that people’s hobbies and interests can change depending on whom they love and want to be with. I have seen couples even change their mind on having kids. Of course you want to work these things out before you get married; however these hard and fast rules people have in their
heads can be to their detriment. So what if you don’t like to country dance? Give it a try, you never know! Also, divorce is a frequent topic. Women often say, “I want someone who has never been married.” Well, lady, you are 35, so you are ruling out half the available men in their 30’s. No one plans to get divorced. It is important to be understanding and non-judgmental.
2. Fireworks are for the 4th of July
If I had a dollar for everyone I counsel who tells me they must have immediate chemistry on the first date, I would be a millionaire. There are so many amazing couples I know that tell me their attraction to each other grew over time. Also how many times have you had a “crash and burn” relationship where it is over as quickly as it started, especially if you get physically involved too soon.
#1 Julia McCurley, President and CEO of Something More,. Photo by John Conroy
#2 Julia and two of her professional staffers discuss a client’s upcoming date.