Illustration by Charlotte Fassler, written by Mattie Kahn
It’s 9pm on a Saturday night and Patti Stanger would like me to change. I know this to be true not because the Millionaire Matchmaker herself stands before me (if only!), but rather because as a committed viewer of her Bravo TV show, I can say with some conviction that she would be displeased with my choice of outfit. Patti does not favor ironic sweatshirts. And she does not like brogues.
For the uninitiated: Patti Stanger is a third-generation matchmaker. Unlike her no-doubt Delancy-Street-dwelling forbearers, she lives in sunny Los Angeles. Capitalizing on the town’s singular combination of wealth and insecurity, Stanger founded the Millionaire’s Club, a dating service for—le duh—millionaires.
The Millionaire Matchmaker debuted in 2008. In each episode, viewers are introduced to two largely insufferable millionaires, who are, in turn, presented at a cocktail party with a host of pre-screened, purportedly companionable women. Each client picks one such lady to take out for a date, and we get to watch. A highlight of the hour-long program comes at its conclusion when we find out whether either of the installment’s two couples is still dating. The fact that I’m genuinely invested in the happiness of two morally questionable strangers is a topic we can all explore together at a later date.
But The Millionaire Matchmaker isn’t all fun and games. No sooner did it premiere than I was made to understand that I was handling this courtship business all wrong. According to Patti, a successful relationship is predicated on a few vital components. Among them are straight hair, cleavage, and general obedience. Other Patti edicts: A predisposition for jewel tones is good. Midi skirts and neon are bad. On one memorable occasion, Patti informed New York women that they should “dumb it down a little” if they want to find a date. She once called someone “a poodle” and has been known to shout, “Where’s the body!” to women in maxi dresses. To think of the true love I could be enjoying if I weren’t so fixated on ordering my own meals at restaurants. Or wearing chunky-knit sweaters.
Okay. Fine. You’re disgusted. I know. I know!
What about feminism? And Beyoncé? What about mutual friends? And meet-cutes? And the vague, icky feeling that the Millionaire’s Club might be punishable by law?
Theoretically, I’m with you. And yet I’m mesmerized.
I love the show in spite of myself and my mother and Betty Friedan. (Ed. note: Who just posthumously celebrated the 50 year anniversary of The Feminine Mystique). Maybe it’s because there’s something to be said for Patti’s old-school advice. Her assertion that nothing good ever happens after 11pm might just merit an amendment to the texting constitution. And maybe—though I’d like to deny it—some small, Neolithic part of me is hopelessly swayed by her antiquated claims.
That unsavory possibility explains why I went momentarily numb a few weeks ago when my eye doctor informed that I shouldn’t be wearing contacts for more than twelve hours per day.
“But how am I supposed to see?” I asked him stupidly.
“Are glasses too radical a suggestion?” he replied.
I’ve hated glasses since my first pair in the fourth grade. They were crimson red and wire-rimmed and I was blind without them. But I cried all the same when I came home from school after debuting them because a nine-year-old asshole told me I looked like Arthur the Aardvark. I begged my parents for contacts immediately, and once I secured them three years later, I vowed never to sport frames again.
I told Dr. S as much, but he remained unmoved.
“Do I really need them? Like, really, really?”
“Really,” he said, writing me a prescription.
Deferring to medical authority, I brought a great friend to Oliver Peoples to face my fear of four eyes. If I was going down, I was doing it in style.
“I want them to be invisible,” I commanded the helpful saleswoman. Nodding, she began her search, and I tried on roughly thirty versions of the same nearly imperceptible model.
“I look like an accountant!” I wailed. And, really, could there be a grimmer resemblance?
Finally, the saint helping me whipped out a pair she called “the Deacon.” They were thick-framed and heavy and reminded me of Jenna Lyons. They were not invisible. In fact, they seemed downright powerful.
Patti would have hated them.
“They’re perfect,” I said, instantly intoxicated by my reflection. I thought of Teddy Bromberg and his childhood insult. Then I thought, screw you, Teddy.
And here’s the thing: Since debuting them on campus, I have never gotten more brazen compliments from individuals of the opposite sex. An ex something-or-other called them sexy. A friend diagnosed them as “50% scholar, 50% bombshell.” Even my brother likes them.
I want to tell Patti that she’s too entertaining to be such a goddamn misogynist. I want to explain that there is a breed of men outside Los Angeles who will tolerate overalls and ambitious careers and advanced degrees for the women they love. I want to explain that the only boys who have ever mattered really liked my untamed hair.
But I already know I won’t convince her. How could I? Patti Stanger definitely does not read the Man Repeller.