Two-minute charisma bedevils would-be shmoozers

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It's amazing how easy it is to forget what it's like to be single. This time around, as a divorced male, I knew for sure that I wanted to date exclusively Jewish women, as Judaism is such an important part of my life.

I knew the Jewish Bulletin was the place to start. I glanced through ads for all the matchmaking services and of course all the singles ads.

Perusing the abbreviations in the ads, I was surprised at how many women wanted a letter. Then someone explained to me that LTR meant "long-term relationship."

Most women requested men with height, hair and/or money. "Short, balding and just getting by" did not appear anywhere — which managed to disqualify me from hundreds of otherwise promising would-be partners. Of the remainder, most had already buried their first husbands and listed "playing with my grandchildren" as a favorite activity.

At 43, I couldn't see these as likely candidates either.

Nevertheless, every week I would pick up my Jewish Bulletin and circle an average of 14 ads. I then closely reviewed those 14, narrowing the prospects to a manageable few. I did notice a direct relationship between how many ads I would circle before drinking a glass of wine and how many after.

After three weeks of circling, I decided it was time to make the first few phone calls. Anticipating a barrage of answering machines, I prepared a list of my own best qualities and some of the qualities I was seeking.

Coward that I am, I found myself grabbing at excuses to simply hang up without saying a word. I was amazed to discover how easily a little thing like a name or a voice could turn me off.

"I don't think so," was my first reaction after listening to some. "Been there, done that" was a close second. I was able to reason my way out of 75 percent of the calls. For the rest, it seemed the women wanted me to leave a message of a kind different from the one I had prepared — which meant I either had to call back later with a new revised list or ad-lib one now with lots of "uhs."

The hang-ups were so much easier.

All in all I left nine messages, after which I thought the worst was over. I thought all I had to do was sit back and wait for the women to call me back.

Wrong.

Direct mail gets better responses. I was now convinced that I must have sounded like a total idiot. I was hoping the women weren't going to play my message back for their friends and have a good laugh.

I then decided it must be easier to take out an ad myself. That way I would only need to be clever, charming and desirable once, when I left my outgoing message, which should be easy enough.

Wrong.

The sequel to "Gone With the Wind" had fewer rewrites than my message. I actually called some of the guys who placed ads, just to hear how they did it. I gave it my best shot and told myself, "OK, now sit back and wait for the calls to come in."

Wrong.

I don't know which is worse, calling the message retrieval center and hearing "the number of messages in your mailbox is 0" or hearing some of the messages I did get. I knew I was in trouble when one of the callers asked, "Charlie, my son, is that you?"

Well, so far so bad. I thought I was going to have to try the agencies when I saw an ad for a shmooze. All right, I thought, imagining a room full of live single Jewish women to whom I could talk directly. I could even take along a friend. This is going to be great, I thought.

Wrong.

I attributed my first failed shmooze to shyness and to the hair-and-height thing. The second failure gave me a revelation:

My journey into the meeting game has shown me that there is a need, a service, that doesn't exist but that would be of tremendous benefit to many of us who are "in the market." The problem with all three options — responding to a message, initiating a message and shmoozing — was me. I simply don't know how to be charming in two minutes or less.

In all three scenarios, that's approximately how much time you have to make your impression. I'm a long-haul kind of guy. I don't have pickup lines, I'm not suave and I don't look like Antonio Banderas.

Is there a school, a seminar, someone out there who can teach the suave-impaired, the charm-challenged how to shmooze? Is anybody teaching Shmooze 101? If there is, have you got a market.

I'm not alone. The singles scene will never be the same, and maybe all those nice people out there who are trying to meet each other can get past the two-minute sound barrier. Once that's accomplished — watch out, here we come!