06 May, 2019
In the modern sense, matchmaking tends to refer to the apps and sites that we use to do the dirty work of sorting out suitors; but for much of human history, the matchmaker was a person. Choosing a life partner was often viewed as far too complicated a decision for young people on their own, and from Aztec civilization to ancient Greece and China, their elders (often women) intervened to make sure they had the "right" kind of suitor. So far, so traditional; but matchmaking throughout human history has had its irreverent moments. How about a ritual biannual orgy, holy sparrow's eggs, or tests involving kindness to camels?
The matchmaker as a figure appears often in popular culture; think of Fiddler On The Roof's "Matchmaker, Make Me A Match," or Mulan's disastrous encounter with a snooty matchmaker who declares she'll never bring her family honor (ironically enough, of course). It also remains a pertinent part of several societies; in Japan, for instance, the process of omiai involves two young people being matched by a matchmaker, or nakōdo, who sets up meetings and sends pictures and messages between prospective families. The stilted, often slightly bizarre photos of potential brides that result were satirized by Japanese modern artist Tomoko Sawada in her OMIAI series, in which she appears as thirty different "options" for Japanese lovelorn men.
If you are still looking for love, today's matchmakers often involve algorithms and left-swipes rather than in-person interviews (though that also still exists), but there might be a charm in going back to more traditional times. Except for the ones involving shooting guns in the air.