IN 2015, ‘dating’ generally refers to the awkward set-up by your best friend, the long-avoided meeting with your Tinder match of five months or the tiresome third date with that oh-so-nice but painstakingly boring colleague. Pigs are more likely to fly than any hint of a spark. Following the death of courtship and gentlemanly behaviour in…oh I don’t know…let’s say the 1950s, dating has become an even playing field, by which I mean it’s horrible for everyone involved.

Three in 10 of us reportedly turn to our friends to set us up, possibly giving an idea as to why more of us are single today than ever before. Clearly the tried and tested method of shoving your friend into a baffled stranger before scarpering in flurry of giggles isn’t really doing it for her. Odd, that. But like most areas in life, when people need guidance, there is a service to provide it.  From dating coaches to personal shoppers, US company ‘Hire a Wingwoman’ uses their team to coach you into meeting someone you are likely to connect with and fancy- miracles do happen.

With clients ranging from 21 to 60 years old, President of the company, Susan Baxter, claims the women tend to ask for help: “If all their friends are married or don’t want to go out on the town or compete for the same guy or just need some practice going up to guys in general.”

The female client averages around 32-years-old, which we all know is the, ‘shit, some of my friends are engaged and all I have are my two cats’ stage of your life. Well, don’t go back to the irritating accountant just yet. For a price, the coaches will equip you with all the skills, from body language to hooking and maintaining his interest.

Susan insists her incredibly glamorous team do not compete with their client: “We have a lot of female clients complain that when they go out with their friends, often they’re attracted to the same guy. We are on your team and we will put you in the spotlight. Also, we dress down and do not try to steal the show.”

So that eliminates the slight hint of guilt you feel when you don’t tell your friend she has lipstick on her teeth, so the tall, dark handsome one will fancy you instead.  Your personal wingwoman will accompany you anywhere from networking events to nightclubs. But surely the revelation that your ‘friend’ is in fact, hired has to come at some point doesn’t it?

Apparently not, says Susan: “Sometimes they may mention it on a second or third date and they have a laugh about it. The wingwoman and the client become ‘insta-friends’ when they meet anyway, so it’s okay to say they’re friends.” Although a drink-induced social media friendship might be enough to convince yourself that that girl you met in the toilet is your new besty, it’s a different ballgame maintaining that front to your potential partner, surely.

Even though three in ten of us own a profile on a dating website, there is still a stigma attached to admitting that men don’t just fall into your lap, somehow. So actively seeking professional help and paying for the service is something else entirely.

“Female clients are totally fine with sharing it. Male clients are less apt to tell their friends they’ve hired a wingwoman to meet a girl,” Susan believes, “There is no harm in hiring someone to help you meet others.”

Undoubtedly, in a lashing of ‘lad banter’, anyone that revealed they had paid for such a service would get annihilated. However, according to ‘Hire a Wingwoman’, a woman is likely to respond better to a man accompanied by a female friend, and less likely to believe he is purely ‘chatting her up’. We wish the packs of men on a testosterone-fuelled night out the best of luck, but this certainly seems to be the way forward! One-nil to us.

However, after contacting a number of different agencies during the research for this article, I invariably failed to find anyone that would talk to me about using the service. Inevitably, the embarrassment of using any dating service seems to be ever-prominent. However, as more and more of these companies are developing all over the world, maybe it will become less of a taboo.

Founder of matchmaking service, ‘Mutual Attraction’, dating expert and author (phew), Caroline Brealey is in agreement that the embarrassment seems to be ever-present: “I would be lying if I said there wasn’t still a bit of stigma around paying for a service but it’s much less nowadays. In life people pay for all kinds of experts and professionals to guide them through important aspects of life and it’s no different with matchmaking.”

With clients ranging from 20-50 years old, Caroline believes that you are never too old to be searching for love. But it isn’t just the Bridget Jones’ of the world searching for love, as Caroline admits: “Many of our clients are young, smart, professionals in their late 20’s!”

Again, the majority of clients average around 30-years-old when people start to succumb to the pressure of their mothers marrying them off to any half-willing stranger on the street. Or maybe that was just poor Miranda.

Mutual Attraction cannot only boast their part in some marriages, relationships and families, but they also do all the leg work beforehand:

Not only do we find and headhunt matches for our clients, we meet them in person first, ID check them, ensure their profile and photo is representative, and we only present compatible matches to clients.

So that puts an end to your determined Facebook-style background checks on your potential interests…his mum regularly posts on his wall? DELETE. It’s not stalking, honest.

“When a client goes out on a date there is a much higher chance it will be a solid match and there’s an added level of security. The ‘chemistry’ though, well that is out of our hands…” says Caroline. This clearly entitles you to show your friends a picture of his contoured six pack, because it’s actually real. Goodbye to the beer-belly cradling men hiding behind Google image-searched profile pictures.

“Is it a better investment than online dating? For some people yes but I also think online dating websites are great too,” Caroline believes, “It really depends where you are in life and what your priorities are. A matchmaking service is very different to online dating and only attracts those ready and actively looking for a relationship.”

Her 2013 ‘Matchmaking: Create Your Own Business’ guide advises people how to set up their own profitable and successful businesses, hopefully spreading the profession further than its popular London origin to other cities and towns. Caroline also runs one-to-one mentoring programmes and live training for anyone hoping to get into the business.

“I often joke that there is no such thing as a Matchmaking Master’s degree but wouldn’t it be amazing if there were? Sign me up!” enthuses Caroline, “Whilst you don’t have to complete any formal training it is advisable. Training prepares you for everything you need to know and put in place to make sure your matchmaking business is both profitable and does what it says on the tin – matches clients successfully.”

A Mutual Attraction membership will set you back £4,000 (what’s almost a year’s rent anyway?) but 72 per cent of members leave having met their match. As they say, you can’t put a price on love. But if you could, and it guaranteed you a lifetime of happiness in a compatible relationship, why the hell not?!

Services like Hire a Wingwoman and Mutual Attraction are a favourable option to skip the horrifyingly awkward process of trial and error in your dating life and fast-forward to that romantic ending. But dating the organic way, (the sweat, hopefully not blood, definitely tears, heaps of laughter and so much cringing there isn’t an adjective suitable enough) is the way we learn. Every new mistake is one we won’t repeat next time; every side-splittingly funny moment is another unforgettable story and every rubbish date you ever have makes that right one all the more special. These services almost guarantee that you will meet someone amazing, so remember they’re there. You can resort to them after you’ve done the walk of shame, otherwise known as life.

By: Charlotte Buckley

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