Chemistry Lesson

With all due respect to Humphrey Bogart, a kiss is not just a kiss. On a first date, the timing and placement of that kiss (not to make you nervous or anything) is vital.

As part of our due diligence researching the magazine’s first sex issue, we invited Carrillo, a professional matchmaker, and three of her colleagues to lunch. Carrillo, head matchmaker of the Englewood Cliffs office of Great Date Now, was joined by Kim Caltabellotta and Michele Terranova—her counterparts in the Morristown and Red Bank offices, respectively—and by Gary Ferone, owner and founder of Great Date Now, an upscale matchmaking service with nine offices in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
We sat at a large round table in a private dining room in the Park Avenue Club in Madison and peppered them with questions. We learned a lot, but as suggested above, a few moments brought time to a standstill.

Do the matchmakers endorse kissing on the first date? “Absolutely!” they responded in unison, before Caltabellotta clarified, “If there’s a comfort level, a connection, a spark—then, yes, we encourage it.”
What kind of kissing?

“Not a peck on the cheek,” Terranova replied.

That is when Carrillo—a striking brunette with long straight hair framing an oval face and sensuous features, at least in this writer’s opinion—put her finger to her lips, at a spot just right of center. “It could be right over here,” she said. “That’s sweet. That’s sexy, that kiss right here.”

A follow-up question did not immediately spring to mind.

Just then, Ferone weighed in. “I think the advancement alone is sexy,” he said. Interesting usage. Heads swiveled his way. “You’ve finished dinner, you’re walking out, the valet is picking up your car,” he continued. “Now comes the lean-over move. That’s a very intimate, sexual thing, to lean over and go for that kiss, to let the person know there’s an interest here.”

We were visualizing that scene when Caltabellotta, as it were, hit instant replay and slo-mo. “As you’re leaving the restaurant,” she instructed, “you’re going to touch the small of her back. Women really appreciate that. It shows a sensitive side to a man. It’s not overpowering. That physical connection is subtle, but important.”

Carrillo nodded. “There’s a gentlemanly quality to that,” she said.

If women like the small of the back, what do men like on the first date?

“Men appreciate touch also,” said Carillo (who was seated on my right). “A touch on the hand—that’s what I do,” she added, softly. “Let them know.”

“The hands for the men,” the other matchmakers chimed in. “Definitely.”

Carrillo reached out with her left hand, gently touching the back of my right hand. “See?” she said.
I did. “It’s out in the open,” she explained. “I’m showing you and everybody else that I like you enough to touch you.” She was speaking hypothetically, of course. But we made eye contact. “Did you get that sense?” she asked.

I did. Most definitely. Again, Ferone came to the rescue. “I think,” he began, “for men, sexiness in a woman is being forward. You’re sitting at dinner and the woman says, ‘Gee, we’ve got to get together again. C’mon over my house.’”

We had not previously considered the seductiveness of the word gee, but we were there to learn. “I will tell you,” Ferone went on, “a lot of times sex between the people we put together happens when one or the other says, ‘C’mon over, I want to cook you dinner.’”

“Women like men who cook,” said Carrillo. “It’s sexy.”

I decided not to mention that I make a delicious spice-rubbed rack of lamb. Another line from that Casablanca song came to mind: “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.” What about that fundamental question: Who takes the lead?

“Personally,” replied Caltabellotta, the Morristown matchmaker, “I like when a man is forward and calls and says, ‘I’ve made reservations. This is what we’re going to do this weekend.’ Boom.”

As opposed to, would you like to do such-and-such this weekend?

“Right,” she said, emphatically. “The surprise.”

“Women still want someone to sort of take charge,” said Terranova. “Very sexy.”

We moved on to whether women like facial hair, chest hair, and the male manicure. Answer: Depends on the woman. “I always ask the client, ‘What do you find most attractive physically in the opposite sex?’” said Carrillo. “What do you think the men say is the sexiest feature?”

This was not a rhetorical question. Our editor, David Chmiel, spoke first. “Eyes and neck,” he declared.

“Eyes, lips, and neck,” I volunteered. “And the way she moves.” (Why can’t I ever give a simple answer?)

“Eyes, lips, and legs,” Carrillo corrected. “Always legs. Know what women say?”

Now the ball was in the court of our art director, Donna Panagakos. “I would say,” Donna began, “hmmm…shoulders.”

“Shoulders and butts!”

When the laughter subsided, Ferone swept in like Fred Astaire. “‘He’s got to make me laugh,’” he said. “I hear that from women all the time.”

Funny, sexy, gentle, yet take-charge—does such a specimen exist? On movie screens, yes. Great Date Now’s women clients ask for him by name: George Clooney.Or someone who looks like him. It gives the matchmaker something to go on. Men say Catherine Zeta-Jones or Julia Roberts, though Kate Beckinsale is gaining ground.

“A client called me yesterday,” Caltabellotta related. “He’s 6-feet-2-inches and said, ‘I know who I want—Jennifer Love Hewitt’ [who is a foot shorter]. I was shocked.”

“You know what he’s trying to tell you,” Carrillo shot back. Everyone looked at her expectantly. Carrillo’s hands mimed a large arc in front of her chest. Hilarity and guffaws. She didn’t have to say a word.
People think they know who they’re looking for, but it turns out they don’t. “Maybe only 10 or 20 percent really would be happy with the type of person they say they’re looking for,” Ferone said.

He told the story of a female client, a hairstylist, who ruled out dating bald men, insisting, “I have to be able to run my fingers through a guy’s hair.” Ferone had someone he thought would be perfect for her, except that the man was bald. He suggested the guy anyway. Nix. “She had six or seven dates that didn’t work,” Ferone continued. “I kept saying, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy. I’m telling you, you’re going to like him. Just go out and enjoy yourself.’”

Ferone had us where he wanted us.

“They’re married today,” he said, triumphantly. “They fell in love on the first date. He has a large catering place in New Jersey. They just built a big house in the Dominican Republic.” He leaned back with a satisfied smile.

Sexual chemistry, the matchmak–ers agreed, is not about pairing, say, a tall man who likes blondes with a blonde who likes tall men. Rather, it is about listening to the way the client talks about sex during the intake interview. Although Great Date Now has a website with brief forms to fill out, the process centers on an extensive personal interview. (Clients pay a minimum of $2,595 for ten introductions over any period of time, even a lifetime. The company does a background check to verify marital status, employment, and other vital statistics.)

“When men ask for a ‘sexy’ woman and women ask for a ‘passionate’ man, that’s a good indication right there,” said Ferone.

Caltabellotta added, “If the client exudes a confidence, a comfort with themselves, you can tell by their body language.”

Wallflowers needn’t fret—Great Date Now has dating coaches and image coaches on staff. But about 20 percent  of applicants are turned away for being, in the matchmaker’s opinion, unready for or uninterested in a long-term relationship. Divorcées, widows, and widowers have to have been on their own for at least a year. Seventy percent of the client database is 30 to 55 years old; only 5 percent are in their 20s.

“After the interview, we know who’s going to be in the bedroom and who’s not,” said Ferone. “First of all, they tell you—especially the women. What’s surprising is how long they’ve gone without sex when they come from a divorce. Often it’s been years. If people have not been in a good relationship for a while, they tend to have sex sooner. There’s a big difference in people’s comfort level once sex is out of the way. Before sex, there’s more formality. After sex, it’s, ‘Now we’re together, let’s relax and enjoy each other’s company.’”

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