The Matchmaker Got Matchmade

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by Lee-Anne Galloway
Toronto Matchmaker (straight clientele)

Last month, I got engaged on the top of a mountain near Calgary.  We stood at the summit for a photograph when he nervously reached out his arms, ring box upside down, and said nothing. I ugly cried. The woman taking our pic said “What’s your answer?”, I smiled and said “YES!” He yelled into the mountains “SHE! SAID! YES!".

We were set up by a mutual friend and introduced at a party.  A party full of artists, of which he is not. He was a bit quiet and reserved and wearing a fitted green t-shirt that showed off his athletic physique. My immediate thoughts were “This guy spends too much time in the gym, and we really don't have much in common.” Next!

He sent me a message on Facebook, I messaged back, he sent me his number and then... I ghosted. WHAT?! A professional matchmaker blew off a match?! Yup.

I was stuck. I thought I was being positive and proactive in my dating life, but I was actually jaded and so rigid that I was unwilling to give anyone a real chance -- or even a second date, for that matter. I knew what I wanted, and if a guy didn’t show up exactly how I had envisioned him, I was out.

I realized the irony of the situation when our mutual friend nudged me to reach out a month later. I called him, apologized for blowing him off, and asked him out. It took a few dates for me to really get to know him. And when I did, he was everything. He was thoughtful, generous, funny, supportive, intelligent, adventurous, positive, stylish, understanding and full of spunk!  All the things I had on my list!

So, what did I learn from ditching my judgements and fixations and going for a second date?

First impressions and even first dates are not enough time to get to know someone. We judge harshly instead of staying curious and open. The best way to get to know someone is to spend some time with them. I tell clients, “if your date looked nice, smelled nice and you had a good time, then go out again!”

There will never be a perfect time to meet someone, so stop waiting for it.  When I met my fiance, my mother was very ill with cancer and I was a mess. He listened, was understanding and so kind. Not a fairytale beginning, but it was real and it made us stronger by facing it together.

It’s not always sparks at first sight. A slow burn is what to watch for.  If there’s not a lot of chemistry on date one, but you weren’t turned off, go out again and see if it smoulders.

Finally — and this is the most important point — you must realize the traits and attributes you are looking for may show up differently than you expect! You have to be open and present in the moment to see traits revealed in different packages and combinations.

I am so lucky I recognized the irony of the situation and smartened up. 

I am so lucky I called him back. 

And I am so lucky he fell for me! This marriage will be epic.  I am so in love, and it’s just the beginning. I am forever grateful to our matchmaker. You should get one too! ;)

 

Have I Been Ghosted? Nope, Just Jarred!

Thanks to Portia Corman for interviewing me for this CBC Life piece:

Like many Canadian kids who went to the cottage every summer, I put a lot of things in jars. Toads, beetles, fireflies — anything I felt I needed more time to admire was held prisoner until I tired of it or my Dad forced me to release it back into the wild. I always poked holes in the lid because these were not things I wanted to kill or keep.

In fact, I wanted the opposite. The joy came in the releasing; the knowledge that this beautiful, mysterious creature was headed back into the wild to continue living. I imagined it arriving home to worried toad parents and telling the story of being held in a glass cage by a lonely sunburned girl with big, blue peering eyes.

Seems I am a serial jarrer when it comes to dating as well; catch, admire and release.

The pattern became apparent to me after a particularly magical first date. A handsome, professional man approached me on LinkedIn (yes, LinkedIn is a dating app for some people). He sent me a witty email, we exchanged a few notes back and forth and agreed to meet for brunch the following Sunday. I didn't expect much other than a stack of world-famous blueberry pancakes but after a couple of Caesars, the chemistry was undeniable so when he suggested we go to the liquor store, pick up a bottle of red and head back to his condo, I said yes. We had a natural connection; we laughed, sipped wine, swapped stories and yes, there was some affection as well.  

So it came as a shock when I told him I wasn't interested in a second date.

At the time I couldn't articulate why I didn't want to pursue a relationship but it became clear to me in the cab on the way home; I like to store up perfect moments like snapshots in a photo album that I can flip through later. These precious moments become stories to recount as I lay in bed in the morning or take a long drive; always perfect, never tarnished.

A process I've come to call, 'jarring'.

And I'm not alone. Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and Chief Scientific Advisor to Match.com admitted she once fell out of love after returning from a vacation with her partner that was so fantastic, it made the prospect of returning to their normal life seem lackluster by comparison.

Sofi Papamarko, Founder of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking has seen a lot of good dates end up in nowhere land; "I've heard enough stories from friends and clients about amazing dates that, for whatever reason, were never followed by a second date. Maybe it's not a matter of the other person not having as great a time — maybe they were just 'jarring'".

But 'jarring' seems counterintuitive when you consider that 45% of single Canadians have admitted to trying online dating. If so many of us are looking for love why are some of us running in the other direction?

Hina Khan, a Registered Psychotherapist and Success Coach speculates, "It could be that on a gut level, they know that this person is a bad fit. But, if this is a pattern we have to look at it a bit deeper. Why are they 'attracting' or dating people that are ultimately not the right fit? This could indicate that the person may want a relationship but they don't feel they deserve one. So they keep dating people that reflect how they feel, not what they want."

 

Papamarko says, "It's one thing to never visit that amazing gelato place in Florence ever again; keeping that memory of creamy nocciola goodness perfect and pure. It's quite another thing to avoid getting too close to another human being after having a magical time with them — especially if you're yearning for connection or companionship in your life. To me, 'jarring' behaviour seems rooted in fear and pain avoidance."

But couldn't it be a natural outcome of the times? Recently, two men set up a site called Life Faker. The site ostensibly sells stock photos that people can pass off as images from their real, flawless lives. Packages include, "My Sexy Girlfriend/Boyfriend", "I Just Happen To Live Here" and "I Can Be Arty And Deep". The idea is that you choose the images you want to purchase and share them with your social network so your friends and followers think you have a perfect life. After you've chosen your desired packaged and clicked through to pay, the real intention of the site is revealed to you. It's a fake. Its purpose is to remind us of the "unhealthy behaviours on social media and their harming impact on mental health." Very tricky, Life Faker guys. However, the fact that people fell for it is a reflection of how valuable we perceive these flawless moments to be.

Indeed, the pursuit of perfection and FOMO isn't good for us. A UK study looking at mental health and social media found that the image-based platforms of Instagram and Snapchat ranked the worst for mental health and well-being and made young people feel inadequate and anxious.

In a culture where perfection is lauded and the prospect of deficiency causes dissonance, 'jarring' romantic connections could be seen as a tempting proposition.

And striving for perfection is facilitated by an incredible amount of choice. There are a plethora of dating apps to choose from. Each offers a slightly different way to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you're attractive, have a decent profile and download enough apps, you can receive literally hundreds of messages from potential suitors every day and go on an endless number of dates.

So why experience the inevitable downs of a relationship when you can constantly bask in the glow of the exquisite ups (aside from the obvious fear of dying alone of course)? You needn't. As someone who has been married before, I know exactly how putting that final lid on the jar would feel and like a lot of my friends, I'm clearly not willing to do so right now. Maybe I haven't met the right person, maybe I have unreasonable expectations or maybe, like a lot of people I know, I have a full, rich life and a network of emotionally supportive friends so all I need to complete my personal picture is a series of memorable dates to recount at will.

Whatever your reason for serial jarring may be, the key is to be honest and respectful about it.

Papamarko's advice is, "Make sure your dates are aware of where your head is at when it comes to meeting new people, because you don't want to inadvertently hurt or deeply disappoint another human being."

If you're a serial jar-er looking for a long term relationship Khan suggests establishing a clear idea of what you're after in a mate: "Get clear on what you do want and the character traits you're seeking. Once you get clear, an important question to ask yourself is, 'do I feel I deserve this person?' and if the answer is 'no', then there is some work to do around your self-image and how you see yourself."

And if you were ghosted after what you thought was a magical first date, take heart. Maybe you weren't ghosted because the date sucked, maybe you were jarred.

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking is Five Today!

Five years ago today, a new matchmaking service was born.

Hundreds of dates, dozens of couples and a handful of babies later, we're still growing and thriving and connecting people in Toronto -- and now Hamilton and Ottawa.

It's been a wild five years! Thanks for joining us on the ride.

Spring is a time for growth and change. Don't be afraid to launch your own business or side-hustle. Life is too short, friends. Sometimes you've got to stop and smell the roses.

Speaking of roses, here's a photo from our official launch party in 2013 (it was a party of one in Sofi's kitchen and the "champagne" is Canada Dry).

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have a matchmaker to thank for their love

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Happily ever afters don't always happen by themselves. Sometimes they need a little nudge.

As you're likely well aware, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are tying the proverbial knot in Windsor this weekend. Something you may not know is that the royal couple were matchmade by mutual pal, Violet von Westenholz.

"It was definitely a set-up," says Markle. "It was a blind date. I didn't know much about him and so the only thing I had asked her when she said she wanted to set us up was, I had one question, I said 'Was he nice?'"

("Nice", by the way, is our #1 ask from our straight female clients. Not rich. Not tall. Not a legitimate prince. Good on Meghan Markle for getting her priorities straight!)

Matchmaking your single friends is one of the kindest things you can do for them. But it can also be one of the biggest disasters. Good thing Violet von Westenholz has a knack for it! 

Last year, I wrote a column in The Toronto Star about how to matchmake your single friends. In honour of the upcoming royal wedding, we're reprinting it below in order to help any budding Violet von Westernholzeseseses out there. Maybe you'll be responsible for the next fairy tale wedding!

***

So you think you can be a matchmaker?

It’s thoughtful and considerate to engineer romantic happiness for your single friends. But if your formula for setting people up is no more sophisticated than “They’re both single and seem to smell OK,” you need to fine-tune your strategy.

Here is the honest truth about set-ups: most people are bad at it. This is partly because most people are not very good romantic fits for each other.

Human beings: complex.

Finding love: hard.

Having been on the receiving end of some nightmarish set-ups and hearing horror stories from friends and clients, I know for a fact that setting up the singles in your life is something of an art. It requires intuition, logic, faith, finesse and a whole lot of luck.

Here are some things every budding yenta should keep in mind before accidentally subjecting their long-suffering friends and relatives to yet another disastrous blind date:

Do their lifestyles align?

If one of your single friends is a steak-loving workaholic corporate lawyer, and their would-be match is a raw vegan visual artist/freelance photographer, exactly what will they talk about on their first date? How about for the rest of their lives? This is a fun pairing for a sitcom but a seriously bad idea for a set-up.

What are their hobbies/interests/passions?

People love to talk about the things they’re most passionate about. Whether it’s the Toronto Blue Jays or health-care policy, indie music or municipal politics, the nuances of the latest HBO series or the craft cocktail menu at a trendy new local, great conversations are built upon common interests. Similarly, great relationships are built upon good conversations.

Do they have similar values?

If your friends adhere to a religious faith (or different religious faiths), consider complications that may arise with their respective families or when potentially raising children down the road. Political leanings are also important. Most people tend to be pretty open about dating those with different political viewpoints, as long as they are open-minded enough for friendly debate. That said, you probably shouldn’t match a left-wing activist with a staunch social conservative. Another solid sitcom idea, though!

What do they want down the road?

Some people want a white picket fence in the suburbs and 2.5 kids. Others want to forgo kids and real estate and spend their golden years sailing around the world. Some want to establish the first human settlement on Mars. Where do your friends see themselves in 10 or 20 or 30 years? Do they ultimately want the same things? Don’t throw them together if they don’t.

Is there the potential for physical attraction?

Looks shouldn’t matter, but they do. A lot. Ask your friend or family member what and who they find attractive (do they have a “type?”) and don’t set them up with anyone who falls too far outside of those parameters unless you feel super strongly that their personalities would really click.

Have you asked if it’s OK to set them up?

You should definitely do that. A few years back, someone introduced me to someone else completely out of the blue via Facebook message. She didn’t know me very well and hadn’t ever asked me what I was looking for in a person — or even if I was looking at all. The man was not my cup of tea and extricating myself from that situation was deeply awkward. Be sure to ask permission of both parties before setting them up. Exception: you feel like being sneaky, so you invite them both to a group gathering. This is a solid strategy for organic interaction but not necessarily welcome if it’s too obvious a move.

And now, for a story: I was very recently set up by a friend and had a lovely time. My date was smart, funny, cute, pop cultured, hosts a radio show (as I once did) and our tastes and senses of humour aligned like planets. Although it didn’t go anywhere (blame our complete lack of romantic chemistry and the fact that he lives in Vancouver), it was still a fantastic set-up and it was crystal clear that our mutual pal has a solid understanding of us both. I appreciated the care he took and the thought he put into it.

Matchmaking your friends is a good deed, indeed. Just make sure you do it well.


This article originally appeared in The Toronto Star

Need an extra $200? Who doesn’t?!

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Friend of a Friend Matchmaking wants to put a little spring in your step. We’re offering generous referral fees this spring that you can put towards a new pair of shoes, dinner at a nice restaurant, books, records, gadgets, groceries, your heating bill from this wretched winter — whatever you want!

All you need to do is spread the word about Friend of a Friend. Simple, right?

 1) Tell your single friends in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa about Friend of a Friend Matchmaking. Have them apply here.

2) If your friend is accepted into the service and registers successfully, we’ll e-transfer $200 — your referral fee — after we interview them*. (Your friend will have to provide us with your name and contact information.)

3) Unfortunately, we aren’t able accept everyone who applies to the service, but the odds are ever in your favour if you send men or openminded queer folx (of all ages and genders) our way. We are especially seeking heterosexual men aged 35 - 70.

4) There is no limit to our referral fees. Send us 20 new clients, make $4000! Reach out to friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues — single people you know and trust. You’ll be helping them, helping us and helping yourself, too. Win/win/win!

4a) No, you cannot refer yourself. (Smartiepants.)

5) Offer ends May 31st, so get referring!

Thanks for spreading the word,

Sofi Papamarko, Founder of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking
Claire AH, General Hamilton Matchmaker and LGBTQ+ Toronto Matchmaker
Lee-Anne Galloway, Straight Toronto Matchmaker
Ceilidhe Wynn, General Ottawa Matchmaker

*Only valid on full-price Popular Plan, Premium Plan or Platinum Plan

Matchmaker Claire gives The Goods on our First Television Appearance

 Matchmakers Sofi Papamarko, Lee-Anne Galloway, Claire AH and Andrea Bain dish on The Goods.

Matchmakers Sofi Papamarko, Lee-Anne Galloway, Claire AH and Andrea Bain dish on The Goods.

by Claire AH
Hamilton Matchmaker
LGBTQ+ Toronto Matchmaker

The day of reckoning is upon us! And by that, I mean that we’re going
to be on daytime TV today! Sofi, Lee-Anne, and myself are guests on
The Goods on CBC and we’re talking about matchmaking as well as offering
general dating advice
. We actually shot the episode a few weeks ago,
so we’ve been keeping it a secret until we got the green light. Keeping
exciting secrets is not my forte and it’s natural to want to talk
about how great Friend of a Friend is, but we all did it!

The prep for our segment felt pretty rigourous. We had a long e-mail
chain, met up in person, went through a few revisions, and had
individual and group phone interviews. This all felt like it upped the
ante for the experience, but the group phonecall flowed naturally thanks to
our amazing interviewer, Andrea Bain. She totally put us at ease and
it became less of a series of questions with perfect responses and
more of a conversation about why we do what we do, what it’s actually
like, and what we think people can learn from our work to apply to
their own lives.

Andrea is the author of a really great book called
Single Girl Problems, which takes the idea of singleness and asserts
that it’s not actually a problem to be solved. Even though we’re
matchmakers and we obviously want to make matches, this message is
really important for perspective on dating as well as issues of
self-esteem and even quality of life. Needless to say, Andrea knows
what she’s talking about and it was nice to contend with someone who
could put herself and her experiences into the discussion, instead of
just asking us questions on a list.

On the day of the shoot, we were mostly excited about the makeovers.
We spent what seems like an inordinate time planning our outfits,
making sure that our hair was just right, and finding the best nail
colour to match our aesthetics. Once we got our badges, we were
whisked into makeup chairs and given lewks to die for. If it had ended
at this point, it would have been juuuuust fine. Having a professional
do your eyebrows is almost as valuable as airtime, right? We caught up
with Andrea backstage, took a few deep breaths, and then went out to
sit in front of the live studio audience.

Now, we all have different relationships to this experience. Lee-Anne
is a regular performer in musical theatre. Sofi is a journalist, so
she has a way with words and has experience writing about pretty much
every facet of matchmaking and dating. I do radio and podcasting, so
theoretically I’m good with speaking off the cuff. That said, none of
that is the experience of being yourself on television. We had
varying degrees of pre-taping nerves (EDITOR’S NOTE: 2/3 of the yentas
could have puked from nerves), but it was actually completely
smooth. There were no awkward pauses, none of us lost our train of
thought, and we actually said coherent, useful things. It’s almost as if
we spend a lot of our lives talking about dating and matchmaking!

On top of our comfort with the subject (doing a segment on nuclear
physics would have been a whole different ballgame) we knew that we
could rely on each other. Without getting too saccharine, we’re a
team. We approached this as we approach Friend of a Friend: quite
collaboratively. Even if you meet with only one of us, you get the
benefit of all of our points of view. That’s what happened on The
Goods, too.
After we returned our badges, we grabbed some celebratory
cocktails at a nearby lounge and looked out from over the Toronto
skyline. Our first TV appearance was a success… Onto the next?

You can watch the episode online here. Segment begins at 17:00.

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Am I Being Too Picky?

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Sometimes we have matchmaking clients who wonder if they’re being too picky.

To them we say: it’s great to be picky! Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. So much of your future happiness hinges on it! It’s absolutely vital for you to be choosy in order to choose wisely.

But sometimes we have matchmaking clients who roll out a list of what they need/want in a partner that is eleventy million items long.

These are clients who won’t be happy until they find a 39-year-old Christian Grey clone in a pinstriped Gucci suit who is exactly six foot two inches tall, drives a Ferrari, has a full head of hair and has never been married before (no kids either, please).

Or clients who won’t settle down until they find a blonde, fit, large-breasted Swedish ski instructor and former Olympian at least 15 years their junior who is adventurous in the sack but who hasn’t slept with too many people (maximum four. Maaaaybe five if one was a chick).

To them we say: perhaps you’re being a little too picky, Chad/Becky?

There’s a fine balance we all must strike in dating. We have to ensure that the person we date is the right fit for us (similar values, similar worldview, similar interests, complementary temperaments, compatible senses of humour, treats us with respect and tenderness, physically attracted to each other, want the same thing/s out of life, etc.) but we also have to live within the realm of freaking reality. 

Something we have to gently remind clients from time to time is that, when you come to a matchmaker, you still live in the exact same world you lived in before. And the exact same people inhabit this world as they did before you met with your matchmaker. We cannot create a Black Mirror-style new reality for you — one where a Swedish ski instructor finds you utterly charming and you can reprogram her personality to suit. And your matchmaker certainly cannot create new human beings out of clay and breathe sweet life into them specifically so that they may date and ultimately wed you. Sorry!

So how can you get away from being unrealistically picky?

First — I need you to throw away your grocery list and focus on what really matters. Ask yourself: what are three things you absolutely need in a partner to be happy?

Three things that you cannot live without in a person.

Go ahead. Write them down. I’ll wait.

 

...

 

Have you written them down yet? Really, I'm very happy to wait!

...

 

 

 

...

 

Okay, yay! What are your three things?

If the first thing you request is something physical (height, body type, eye colour), kindly rip up your list and start again. 

I used to have a list of about twenty items. Then, I distilled the list down to three items that I absolutely cannot live without in a partner and they have served me well. Because I finally discovered where my true relationship priorities lie.

My Top Three, in no particular order:

1) Smart
2) Funny
3) Kind

What’s your Top Three?

1)
2)
3)

That’s good! That’s great!

The Christian Grey clone in the Ferrari may not exist (and if he does, he’s probably not single). The Swedish former Olympian may not exist (and if she does, you’re probably not her type).

But that person you just described up there?

That person exists. And they’re wonderful. And they would be delighted to date you.

Now go find them.

(Or hire us to find them for you.)

xo,

Sofi Papamarko
Founder and Platinum Toronto Matchmaker
Friend of a Friend Matchmaking

How to increase your dating odds in 2018

We can still talk about new year's resolutions, right? Good! 

Here's a piece Friend of a Friend Matchmaking's founder Sofi originally wrote for the Toronto Star. We've tweaked it ever-so-slightly. The advice, while one year old, is still very sound.

***

A wise man or woman once said: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” (It was either Albert Einstein, Mark Twain or Drake, depending on how well you Internet.) Want to increase your odds of finding a romantic relationship this year? You’ve got to change things up! Here are some practical dating resolutions that will increase your odds of finding love in 2018.

Ask around

Do your colleagues and neighbours and dog walker and lawyer and dentist and condo board and knitting circle know you’re single? Tell them! And ask if they know anyone who might be a good fit for you. Feel weird about it? You’d do the same thing if you were job hunting, right? Networking your way into a date or two isn’t desperate; it’s proactive and resourceful.

Do stuff

Do stuff. Lots of it. The more you do stuff (join clubs, volunteer, take classes, etc.) the more likely it is that you’ll meet people who also like to do the stuff that you like to do. Doing stuff also makes you a more interesting person with more conversational ammo when you do go on a date.

(Note: do not fall into the trap of doing stuff that you don’t want to do simply because it might offer you a chance to meet someone. If it turns out there’s no one viable present, you’ll feel like a chump who wasted both time and money. Now let us never speak of that recreational curling league again.)

Second chances are key

You’re on a date. They’re nice but do not look like Ryan Gosling/Halle Berry. They crack a joke or two that makes you laugh and puts you at ease, but there are no firework or angelic trumpets in your heart. Do you go on a second date? Heck yes! Your former 2017 self probably would not have gone on date No. 2, but this shiny new 2018 version of you will!

Why? Because first dates are deceiving. People are nervous and awkward and not always their genuine selves. Plus, physical attraction can grow over time.

But wait -- there’s more! People in general can be annoying and awful, so if you find a person who makes you laugh and doesn’t strike you as immediately terrible, you should definitely bother getting to know them. Go on the second date already!

Go public

It’s easy to get into hibernation mode in months that include the letter R. Unfortunately, unless you’re online dating, your future spouse isn’t going to magically materialize while you’re eating Kraft Dinner on your couch (although this has always been a fantasy of mine). Even if it’s cold outside, head out to festivals, community events, fundraisers, fashion shows, birthday parties, concerts and comedy nights — anywhere you can mix and mingle with carbon-based beings who are not your cat.

Get a new job

I realize this is an extreme measure, but considering how many people meet their partners at the workplace, it’s worthy of your consideration. An inordinate number of our single female matchmaking clients work in fields dominated by women, such as teaching or book publishing. They tell me their colleagues are 90 per cent women and 10 per cent gay or married men. Seeking out a different career trajectory that still aligns with your interests and talents might just be worth exploring.

If you work from home, dedicate at least a couple of days a week to working from a pub or café. If you become a regular somewhere, you’ll likely start seeing some of the same faces and might even work up the nerve to strike up a conversation . . . eventually. (See next resolution.)

Actually engage strangers in polite conversation

Good luck with this one, Toronto!

Not My Resolution: Thoughts on January weight loss from a cheerful chubster (guest post)

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking loves this body-positive piece by our friend Carly. We are re-posting it here with her enthusiastic consent.

I celebrate not only the Gregorian new year, but the Jewish one, plus the all the new moons and witch holidays. I love an opportunity to reflect on how things are going, and to think about what I’d like to shift. I have planted my intentions with seeds, and watered them with wishing well water. I have written myself notes and ceremonially burned them. I have mailed myself letters for the future. I have gotten tattoos to remind me of lessons I am still working on learning.

All this to say that New Years resolutions should be right up my alley…but they’re not, because more often than not, the way the dominant (white, North American) culture approaches these resolutions is through stunning self-effacement.

I will erase myself and overwrite a better version of me (who I am is wrong)!

I will stop all my bad habits (stop employing my coping mechanisms)!

I will become better, faster, and stronger (suddenly demand more of my body than ever before, and expect it to cooperate without injury or protest)!

I will lose weight I will lose weight I will lose weight (I am too much)!

In truth, I believe in body autonomy over nearly anything else, so I actually think it’s fine to want to lose weight (or gain it! or change your body in other ways!); and you sure don’t need my permission to make a resolution for yourself.

What I want is for us to get value-neutral about body size and about food. I sometimes err on the side of YAY FAT because the opposite voice is so loud and omnipresent, but legit what I think would be the best is if everyone got to decide for themselves what felt right and good and healthy and hot for their own body, and we got to be less fettered by literal constant messaging that thin bodies are sexy/healthy/desirable/virtuous and that fat bodies are lazy/unhealthy/unloveable/a project that can never be abandoned. My body is not a problem to be solved. It is not a disease, and I need no cure. I’m just fat (and honestly, I’m kind of into it).

I do workshops about body image with young people at a TRULY AWESOME summer camp. As an opening exercise, I give everyone paper and a pencil, and I ask them to make a list, as long as they can, of things they love about their bodies. I give an additional prompt that folks can think about a) how their body looks, b) how their body feels, and c) things their body can do. Then we sit in silence for a few minutes and I watch these strong, smart, powerful, visionary youth struggle to think of something, anything, they like about their bodies (I promise the workshops get less depressing from there).

Here is a short list of a few of the things I love about my own body, to use as reference or inspiration in case you decide to try this exercise for yourself (and I recommend that you do)!

soft belly/ juicy butt/ impressive armpit hair/ truly amazing for being the little spoon/ summertime freckles/ cute little feet/ dexterous fingers let me knit fast/ my eyes change color/ multiple orgasms/ strong legs/ strong bones (never broken one)/ general sturdiness/ great lips (for coating in lipstick)/ soft skin/ cool hair/ tattoos/ being a shorty means I always have enough leg room on trains on in the backseat.

I could go on (it miiiiiight get a little more NSFW if I did).

At this time of year, it seems like there is a big, resounding WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER thing ringing through the air about disciplining our bodies into something different, and folks, I am not in this with you. This is not a universal project. It can be yours; but don’t you dare suggest that it should be mine.

This doesn’t mean I love everything about my body all the time. I sure don’t. But I want to love most of it most of the time, and I am way more interested in working towards that goal than towards the utterly Sisyphean one of making my body conform to the standards expected of me.  Not only is that unattainable, it’s not actually what I want! I have come to love the physical power that comes with living in a larger body, and I don’t want to give it up. My body is extremely well suited to standing firm, holding fast, and comforting people I love. These are precious gifts.

If you want, even as a tiny thought experiment, to try on body positivity or body neutrality, or whatever words you want to give to the deliberate shifting of how you evaluate and understand bodies (yours and other people’s), here are some ideas of ways forward. YMMV, and I support you in the struggle, however it goes.

1. If someone you care about announces that they have lost weight- instead of leaping to congratulate them, first ask- “how does that feel for you?” (or something like that) and listen to the answer.

2. Don’t talk shit about your own body. See what happens if for 24 hours, or a week, or a month, you don’t speak out loud (even when you are alone) a single disparaging comment about your body (it can hear you). You may even owe it an apology (or several million of them). Might that be delivered by a massage? A pie? A love letter to your abundant thighs? A thank you note for every orgasm you’ve ever had? A long slow run through a wooded area? Several glasses of cool water with lemon? Acupuncture? Doritos? A nap? What is your body asking you for?

3. Make whatever choices feel right to you about what you eat, but don’t then coat them in a veneer of virtue. Your food is not “clean” (my food is not dirty). Your food is not “good” (my food is not bad). Your food is right for you, and that is awesome. Avoid the “cupcake? I couldn’t possibly!”s and the “I’ll have to work this off later”s. Eat what you eat, don’t eat what you don’t eat, and don’t shit on someone else’s pulled pork sandwich.

4. Try taking an appreciative approach to your body. What are the things you love about it, and how can you cultivate those (rather than trying to erase or modify the things you hate). This might lead you to the same actions- for example – if you want to be smaller, you might decide to dance more. If you love how your body feels when you dance, you might decide to dance more. Even with the same result, I promise doing the thing will feel differently if you’re doing it from a place of cultivating love and connection with your body rather than punishing it for existing too much.

5. Fake it. Fake that you think you’re hot as fuck. Fake that you “can pull off” that dress. Faking is actually doing, in a lot of circumstances, and eventually it might not feel like faking.

6. Make a change to the kinds of images of bodies you are exposed to. Find a blog or an instagram account or a porno (or twelve) that shows different kinds of bodies (fat bodies! hairy bodies! genderqueer bodies! disabled bodies! bodies with scars! bodies with stretch marks! bodies like yours) like, having fun. Wearing cute shit and going to the aquarium. Wearing sexy things or doing sexy things. Doing sports or dancing. Notice your own judgements, and try to let them go.

7. Get mad! Get mad about little kids who refuse to eat because their fear of being fat is so visceral. Get mad about the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry that is SO INVESTED in us hating ourselves. Get mad about Oprah repping Weight Watchers. Get mad about the misogyny that is embedded in a deep societal hatred of bodily squishiness. Get mad about how much we could all accomplish if we spent as much energy learning Russian or ASL or solving mathematical equations or cuddling our small humans or making soup for our sick friends or starting a small business or dismantling the prison industrial complex as we did picking apart our bodies and planning their (partial) demise.

Good luck with whatever goals you set for yourself; I’m already proud of you.

Carly is a 32-year-old white genderqueer femme. She is a freelance workshop facilitator in Toronto, mostly working on community building, body autonomy, intersectionality, queer sexual health, trauma survivorship, and keeping people alive. She likes roasted vegetables and bitter foods, and hates cantaloupe and anything gelatinous. She thinks that leopard print is a neutral and that prisons should be abolished. She is also a tarot reader- think of it as single session therapy, with a witch! Find out more at http://www.tinylanterntarot.com

Five Ways to Maximize Your Matchmaking Experience in 2018

Matchmaking is unique in that the process starts the second you message your matchmaker -- even before you actually meet face-to-face. Asides from the occasional “Do I need to bring anything to the meeting?”, we don’t get many people asking us what they can do to make the most of their matchmaking experience. We want to get an accurate impression of you, but it’s certainly in your best interests for it to be a good impression. Here are five ways to put your best foot forward with your Toronto matchmaker, Hamilton matchmaker or Ottawa matchmaker:

Be On Time

This is for two reasons:

1. Your matchmaker may be meeting several clients in one day. We try to book in buffers for late starts or longer conversations, but sometimes people are only available successively. We don’t want to keep anyone waiting. We don't want to keep you waiting.

2. It’s not nice to keep your date waiting! This is also true of your matchmaker. Stuff happens -- we get it. Missed alarms, work meetings that run long, nightmarish transit being a nightmare, delays, but chronic or serious lateness is a serious red flag. Your matchmaker is paying attention to everything and sometimes behaviours outside of our discussion can hint at potential matching considerations, like a lack of respect for the other party.

Be Polite

Speaking of behaviours we’re attuned to, please don’t be rude. Be courteous to staff if we’re meeting in a cafe. Don’t be disparaging about people around us if we’re meeting in public. Definitely don’t be impolite to us. You don’t need to be sickeningly sweet, but be mindful of how you come across. Don’t be pushy or try to manipulate us. Don’t say anything (positive or negative) about our appearance, especially as it pertains to what you’re looking for in a match. Keep your correspondence with us civil if you need clarifications about something. Mutual respect and kindness is the best way to do all things -- especially when those with whom you’re speaking are paying extra attention to your behaviour.

Know Yourself (But Don’t Go Overboard)

There’s nothing better than meeting with a client who knows what they’re about and who can explain themselves clearly. We’re prepared to do the work of dismantling layers and digging to find out what you’re like, but that leaves less time to discuss what you want and how to best get it. Think about what you might want to discuss in your meeting, but also reflect on who you are and how you present yourself. Is your ideal life so far from your current one that you don’t want to be accurate with us? For instance, do you want to be active with the person of your dreams and go on runs every single day with them...but can't find time to get to the gym right now? That’s something to consider when signing up, and definitely important to discuss with your matchmaker. We’re looking to get a good sense of where you are in your life now, as well as where you might like to be..

Be Open

Please try to be genuinely open to lots of kinds of people, and maybe do some work exploring why you’re attracted to the more normative or specific things you like. We’re looking for a balance between honesty upfront and willingness to be open in our clients. You can absolutely tell us about your types and patterns in dating, but it’s valuable to look at why you have dated who you’ve dated and a willingness to not discount people outside your history is valuable. Maybe they’re your history for a reason and it’s time to date a wider selection of wonderful people! We’re looking for strong mutual matches, and we have more opportunities to match among people who aren’t focused on specificity. If there are things you really can’t budge on for whatever reason, we can certainly talk about that, but we are attuned to the deeper aspects of matchmaking, such as lifestyle, values, personality attributes and long-term goals.

Don’t Make Assumptions About Matchmaking

Listen carefully to us when we explain the realities of matchmaking. Our website has lots of information about how we match people and we’re also very upfront about what to expect in your year with us in our contracts and our meetings. People nod, tell us they understand, but then many don’t really internalize it. When we say an average of two matches in one year, you think you'll be the person with a match a month. You think you’re special and it’ll be different for you. You are special, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be inundated with matches immediately. Don’t superimpose your desires as realistic expectations. It might take some time, you might have to make some compromises if you have an especially narrow view of potential matches. You might have one or two matches right up front and then a long gap before the next match…you might go many months without any matches at all. It’s unpredictable because we’re working with human beings, human emotions and human desires -- all innately tricky to wrangle. We set up expectations the way we do for a reason, and we find it really helpful when people take them to heart.

We’re the matchmakers. We’re your matchmakers. We make the matches. Help us do that by respecting and trusting the process and by engaging in it with as much openness and thoughtfulness as you can muster. Not only does it make it easier to find better matches, but it makes you seem eminently more matchable. 

--Claire AH, Hamilton general matchmaker and Toronto LGBTQ+ matchmaker

OKCupid Removing Usernames is a Huge Mistake

 

 

I just got an upsetting email from an online dating site I've used off-and-on (without much success, might I add, but I am an eternal optimist) for a decade.

"Before the new year, we’re removing OkCupid usernames. It’s starting with a test group and will soon be rolled out to everyone on OkCupid, so all users will need to update their profiles with their real names. We know, this is tough to hear — especially for StayingPawwsitive, Dootdootledootd0 and Britney__Tears. It’s because, like the recent goodbye we said to AIM screen names, it’s time to keep up with the times. We want you, BigDaddyFlash916, to go by who you are, and not be hidden beneath another layer of mystique. Even if that mystique is crucial to you and your dating life, unicorn__jizz."

Holy heck, OKCupid! You used to be so wise! What are you thinking?

I'm just as happy to say goodbye to hornyguy4u69 as anyone, but guess what, friends? hornyguy4u69 continues to exist on the site! hornyguy4u69 is secreted among us, but now that he is camouflaged as a Steve or a Dan or an Aloysius, how will I know not to spend precious minutes of my life engaging in conversation with him?

Maybe this is what OKCupid wants. More interaction and engagement between users. Even if those interactions and engagements are ultimately doomed to fail.

For me, usernames have been a quick and effective way of getting to know someone's interests, intentions and creative capacity. (I recently went on a couple of dates with a mister_spinster because I thought that was a cute and clever name. Turns out, he was a cute and clever man!) I often reach out to people with literary or cheeky names, confident that if they put some effort and wit into their usernames, surely they would put some effort and wit into their conversations and dates with me.

OKCupid's other bungle earlier this year was attempting to emulate Tinder by forcing users to participate in their horrible "Doubletake" (formerly known as "QuickMatch") function. Doubletake shows you user photos but not much else. This perpetuates the shallow nature of online dating and minimizes OKCupid's true value over apps like Tinder and Bumble -- getting to know another human being through their writing as opposed to images of their pectoral muscles.

As a woman with a weird job and a distinctively-spelled first name, I will no longer have anonymity on this dating site. I would even go so far as to say that I would fear for my personal safety, considering some of the vitriol I've been on the receiving end of when rejecting potential suitors (everyone's read the ending of Cat Person by now, so you know exactly what I mean by this).

OKCupid didn't think this through, so I'm through with OKCupid. After I hit post, I'm deactivating my profile for good.

For me and for probably many singles who aren't on board with this bizarre change, it's back to meeting cute and clever people the old-fashioned way: parties, bars, friends of friends and, of course, matchmaking.

Sofi Papamarko
Founder
Friend of a Friend Matchmaking Inc.

 

The Four Worst Matchmaking Bios We Receive

By Claire AH

When you sign up for Friend of a Friend Matchmaking, one of the first things we ask you to do is to fill out a questionnaire. This is how we get to know you before meeting up in-person, thus saving us all of the small-talk and getting right to the in-depth personalized discussions that most benefit you (and us)! 

At the end of the questionnaire, everyone who signs up for Toronto matchmaking, Hamilton matchmaking or Ottawa matchmaking is asked to write a bio summarizing their entire essence in the third person.

Regardless of where you are, being asked to succinctly describe yourself is daunting. We've been told this is the hardest part of the questionnaire and we completely understand why. This is your calling card and your personal ad -- you want to put your best foot forward in your bio. And sometimes, the bios our clients submit fall a bit short.

The weakest bios we get back from our matchmaking clients tend to fall into four distinct categories:

Curriculum Vitae

People who write a CV bio (or a bio that reads more like a resume or LinkedIn profile) tend to take the act very seriously. They list their most marketable traits and accolades, itemizing things with clarity -- but perhaps a lack of warmth.

Class Clown

A solid sense of humour is an important thing to prospective matches, so it’s understandable that you might want to lead with something funny. That said, there’s a fine line between making a joke and sounding like you might treat the dating process like a joke.

Platitudes

You know that Meredith Brooks hit from the '90s? If your bio talks about your roles (mother, child, lover) then it may be a bit too vague. Ditto: loving to laugh, always looking on the bright side of life, having fun with your friends or taking long walks on the beach. People want to get a sense of you and your life -- they don't want generic sentences that could apply to most humans. Too many of these can make you seem like a stock character instead of the fascinating and complex individual we already know you are.

I can’t write it! You write it!

This is less of a bio and more of a statement. We can collaborate and find a bio together, but there is something to be said for seeing how you would describe yourself to a potential date. After all -- they want to date you! Not us.

So what should you actually do here?

All of the above -- but in the right measure

The ideal client bio mixes in some of your accomplishments, a little humour and perhaps a well-placed (or slightly recontextualized) platitude, plus maybe a little input from your friends or even your matchmaker. All of this leads to a well-balanced bio likely to give a pretty clear depiction of who you are and why you are definitely worth meeting!

PLEASE NOTE: when it comes to bios, do be kind to yourself and others. Bios are useful, but it’s good to avoid reading into them too much. Regardless of what people write, they’re not a complete picture and the style they choose doesn’t necessarily indicate much about the kind of person they are. If you’ve received an e-mail about them as a potential match, it was intentional and based on things that couldn’t possibly be captured in a few sentences, so don't say no just because their bio wasn't penned by Virginia Woolf or Ernest Hemingway. Some people are just better in person -- why deprive yourself of their wonderful company?

Write on!

Claire AH

Cuffing Season is Here Again!

Apologies to my friends and family — you’re not going to be seeing much of me for the next little while. I’m a matchmaker and this is the time of year when I’m swamped.

Most service industries have their high seasons. July and August bring jam-packed patios and daunting lineups at trendy ice cream shops. And January is perpetually peak season for new gym memberships due to the cyclical optimism of New Year’s resolutions.

Similarly, the first of November signals the beginning of dating service season.

It seems counterintuitive, really. Surely spring should signal the start of high mating . . . erm . . . dating season. And yet, summer is a dead zone for professional matchmakers. It’s consistently the autumn and winter months — known to the Urban Dictionary set as “cuffing season” — when singles are feverishly using matchmaking and online dating services to get paired up.

I reached out to pre-eminent biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray to ask her why matchmakers get slammed by client applications every November.

“November and early December is the highest time of year for male testosterone,” Fisher says. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for increasing sex drive and stimulating sperm production in men.

“From a Darwinian perspective, if you have a baby in August, that’s really the height of the fresh fruit and vegetable season,” Dr. Fisher says. “There’s a milder climate and more sunshine, so it’s easier for both the mother and child, in terms of survival. It’s less stressful.”

So if you’re feeling keen on snuggling someone right now, know that it’s more than just the inherent cosiness of sweater season making you feel that way. It’s been beneficial to the survival of our species for millennia that we get to baby-making in the fall.

Read the rest of the article here

Toronto Matchmakers Take Utah!

Matchmakers, matchmakers, made you a match! Drunk on red wine! Cute as heck, natch!

Sofi and Lee-Anne attended the 2017 Matchmakers Alliance conference in Utah last week. We had the opportunity to meet and network with over thirty successful professional matchmakers, from Texas to Taiwan. It was an amazing experience in so many ways and we're excited to start applying everything we learned to Friend of a Friend Matchmaking!

Also, Utah was the prettiest so we took a million, billion pictures. We chose a few favourites and posted them on our Instagram account. Please follow us! We follow back! 

Ottawa Matchmaker on why women cheat

Our Ottawa Matchmaker is in the news! Check our Yenta Ceilidhe's interview with Arti Patel in Global News today on why married women cheat on their partners.
***

For a long time, infidelity was seen as a man’s game, a cliché story line of married business men hooking up with their secretaries. But the landscape for cheating in the last few decades has changed and experts say women are cheating just as much as men.

In her new book State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, author and psychotherapist Esther Perel said since the 1990s, the rate of married women who have cheated has increased by 40 per cent, CNN notes. The rates among men, however, have not changed.

Ceilidhe Wynn, a matchmaker for Friend of a Friend Matchmaking and relationship expert based in Ottawa, says it’s not only that women are cheating more, but a lot more of them are talking about it as well.

“Women have the same opportunities [to cheat], but we are still told not to be sexual people and cheating is seen as a sexual act,” she tells Global News, adding at the same time, women are more open about the reasons they cheat on their spouses.

Read the rest of the article here

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

We sincerely hope that you do not get turkey dumped (but if you do, you know who to call).

***

The first week of September, I overheard a conversation between some international students on U of T campus. They had all just met that day and were sharing basic information about themselves, sweetly and tentatively building new friendships.

“My boyfriend still lives in Korea,” offered one of the fresh-faced freshmen. “We know it will be difficult, but we’re going to stay together.”

Oh, honey.

Maintaining a long-distance relationship over four years isn’t impossible. But it is highly implausible, especially when you’re a teenager and are still figuring out who you are.

In my university experience, the students who arrived romantically attached to someone from their hometown were single again after Thanksgiving long weekend.

Known widely as the “Turkey Dump” or “Dumpsgiving,” it’s the phenomenon of first-year university and college students, immersed in their new academic and social lives, ending things with their high school sweethearts the very next time they see them — usually Thanksgiving weekend. When the end of a relationship is dealt with in unhealthy ways, it can impede student success for a semester — or even threaten the entire school year.

Digital media specialist Adrienne Friesen, 25, is an admitted turkey dumper. When she moved to Toronto for school, she and her high school boyfriend tried to make it work. Unfortunately, the relationship lasted about as long as a slice of pumpkin pie set in front of Uncle Bill.

Read the rest of the article here