Advice from a Matchmaker: The Challenges of Dating as a South Asian
Most women already know this but it merits repeating for the naive ones among us: How you look like in your photos really matters for women because men rarely read the bio part of the profile and therefore won’t consider all the other ways you are amazing.
The Dos & Don’ts below aren’t my opinion. They’re taken from blog posts written by professional photographers, research reports, and articles. The photos are from the dating app Hinge.
First thing first
Most of us aren’t super models or photogenic. So what to do? I have two words for you: professional photographer.
It’s a bit of an investment but it’s a decent one because the quality of those photos will be heads & shoulders above your online competition, which means you’re one step closer to matching with Mr. or Ms. Right.
When you get professional photos done you get photos that show the best version of yourself. They’ll be a bit touched-up to smooth out your skin tone and get rid of the little bumps under your eyes when you smile. The shoot location will ideally match your personality and you will be the one and only person in the frame.
Professional photographers have a knack of getting their subjects to feel comfortable in front of the lens so if you’re the type who gets nervous when people start snapping, rest assured, you’re in good hands. And if you’re the type who hates photos then this is definitely something you need to invest in because it’s the people who hate photos the most who have the worst photos.
The usual suspects
Most people use Facebook-style photos – goofy poses, big toothy smiles, laughing at the bar, floating off the junk boat, group shots at a birthday bash – which are def very cute but they’re only good for sharing with your friends and fam (e.g. people who already know and love you for who you are).
These FB-style pics are not meant for strangers who don’t already know who you are and don’t already love you for who you are. Strangers have no context of who you are or why you would be an amazing person to go on a date with so that’s what your dating app photo needs to do.
If you are sharing FB-style photos you are expecting strangers to make a certain number of assumptions about you but they haven’t got the ability to make them because they know nothing about you. Context is everything.
Then there are the LinkedIn-style corporate head shots that are way more polished but don’t show one drop of personality.
LinkedIn photos are meant to show you as a responsible and trustworthy adult, which are def great qualities for a relationship but these photos skew too much to the law-abiding citizen side and removes all evidence of your sense of humor or attitude.
Three questions to ask yourself
A good dating app photo will be somewhere in the middle (and with maybe a dash of Snapchat) and will deliver a well-rounded version of you that answers the questions:
Below are the best dos & don’ts that will maximize your right swipes and online convos.
Dos & don’ts
DO choose photos that clearly show your face. This communicates that you are honest, confident and have nothing to hide. Your face needs to be completely in the frame and there shouldn’t be any shadows over your face. You don’t need to look at the camera but your face has to be 100% in the frame.
DON’T stand with straight arms and legs because it looks stiff and unflattering. Hold your arms slightly away from your body, with a soft bend in your elbows. Bend the knee closest to the camera, putting your weight on the back leg and pushing your hips away. (Click on the link for photos of how this is done.)
DO ensure your primary picture shows you smiling. Women who smile with their teeth get more attention. For men it’s preferable to smile without teeth. Also for men, showing pride is attractive to women.
DON’T use pictures that are no longer representative of who you are today or older than two years. Get new photos if you’ve dyed your hair, gained weight or shaved off your beard.
DO wear solid colours instead of patterns. Patterns take the emphasis off your face. Wear black if you must but a bit of colour goes a long way and let us not forget red is the colour of love. (Also, a 2010 cross-cultural study found women are most attracted to men wearing red.)
DON’T use group shots, especially for the first photo. No one likes to have to swipe through your photos to figure out who you are.
DO stick your neck forward so your whole head moves forward. This will feel weird but does wonders for the photo. (Click on the link for photos of how this is done.)
DO have a mix of close-up and full-body photos. A study concluded that full-length shots get 200% more attention online than close-up shots. (Disclaimer: I can’t find the source to this stat so maybe you don’t want to believe it but I think it’s worthwhile to heed it because if you only use close-up photos people will assume you are hiding something. Own it. Same goes for height, balding or any other physical uniqueness you may have and worry people will hold against you. It’s their loss if they consider your uniqueness a flaw.)
DON’T forget to have a straight back in your photos. Hunching over is unattractive and communicates lack of confidence.
DO stand at an angle to the camera. Turn your feet and shoulders to a slight angle to the camera and turn your face back towards the lens. (Click on the link for photos of how this is done.)
DON’T use Snapchat filters. I know they make us look so beautiful but they actually decrease the chance of a like by 90%.
DO take photos that look candid.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself (and your chances)
People are way too harsh when re: looks when they’re swiping. In fact, I’d say they are merciless. We all need to lose the attitude.
My suggestion to clients is to look at a profile in its entirety and not focus solely on looks. Easier said than done but you need to try at least.
But if you’re just going to focus on the photo, consider my ‘2 points’ suggestion.
If you think she’s a five in the photo, she’ll probably be a seven in real life. (Of course if it’s evident Photoshop was used liberally you may have to deduct two points instead.) By the same token, strangers won’t think you’re as good looking (online) as you think you are (or your friends think you are) so subtract two points from yourself (e.g. If you think you’re an eight then people who have only seen your profile and never met you will probably think you’re a six).
There are several reasons I say this:
I’m in Buenos Aires at the moment and we’re in the middle of a hot & sticky summer. Good for me because I love the humidity but not so good for my grandmother who can’t go out because the heat and therefore going a little bit cabin crazy.
You know what’s the best antidote for oppressive heat? Watermelon. Also beer and AC but especially watermelon.
A few years ago there was a Facebook post making the rounds about how to pick a watermelon. Do you remember it? It was an eyeopener because before reading the post, whenever I was in the market for a watermelon, I would go for the prettiest, most symmetrical, least blemish-y one.
But apparently that’s a rookie move.
This post said you want to basically look for the ones that don’t look like much on the outside but give you clues to their deliciousness on the inside.
Just in case you are in the southern hemisphere, here are the tips. The sweetest and most delicious watermelons are those that have:
So, before you choose someone solely based on their looks, look for evidence of their internal qualities.
In the watermelon’s case, it’s the outside characteristics (webbing, black ooze and, discoloration) that tell you it’s delicious.
When it comes to dating you want to pay attention to outside characteristics too. They are not so obvious as with a watermelon but they are just as important to tell you if your potential match is “delicious”.
You can decipher the clues by asking yourself:
But when it comes to dating you’re in luck because nothing is irreversible.
You don’t even necessarily have to go on a date with the person. Just by having a few non-committal conversations and paying attention to verbal and non-verbal clues, you can find out what they’re like on the inside.
If you like what you see you can go out on a date and if you don’t like what you can move on with your search for the sweetest one of the bunch.
Now that we’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get down to business…What will work best for you?
Going the matchmaking route might work for you. But it’s not for everyone. Instead, if you are interested in meeting eligible singles to date, you might consider online dating or getting into a hobby (e.g. running or volunteering).
Nothing (and no one!) is perfect so when you make a decision on how to move forward with your love life you’re going to need to consider both sides – the pros & the cons. Today I’m going to walk you through them so you can make a well-informed decision.
Online dating – pros
Almost all singles use online dating and so I think the biggest pro is the safety in numbers. Online dating used to have a stigma until it reached a critical mass (around the time Tinder blew up the scene). Now there’s no perceived shame using dating websites or apps because everyone is doing it.
Most dating apps use a freemium business model so you can get access to a database of singles for no cost. You can pay for an additional array of tools if you so please but that’s not necessary.
You can swipe anywhere – be it on a toilet break at work, watching TV in bed or waiting for dinner to be served when you’re visiting your folks. As long as you have a signal you’re good to go.
Online dating – cons
Technically it’s free but the hours you put into the scrolling, swiping, chatting, and planning sucks hours out of your day. Think about how much your time is worth and how many hours you’ve invested in random women/men you’ve never actually met.
Swiping and chatting can be emotionally draining when it’s a constant barrage of “Hey,” “WYD”, and ghosts.
Dating requires being vulnerable and open but at the same timedating scammers, catfishing, and predators require caution because not all dating apps and sites verify photos and identity. This is a tough balance to strike.
You are more than just a photo. The people you are swiping on are more than just a photo. With the gamification of dating apps people have become commodities.
The first one is quite obvious: It’s going to be fun!
Killing two birds with one stone – you’re going to do something you enjoy and possibly make a romantic connection with someone. That’s efficiency!
You get to meet the person in real life (IRL). Unlike dating apps that reduce each living & breathing human to a two-dimensional photo (and let’s be honest, most photos suck), IRL you get a very good taste of what the person is like. You can figure out if there’s chemistry almost immediately (though sometimes chemistry takes some time to build).
You know you’ll at least have one thing in common and that will help you bond.
You need to choose the hobby based on the chances of meeting your type of Significant Other (SO) so the actual enjoyment this hobby brings is less important than the people it introduces you to. If you’re a woman who wants to meet a man you can’t go to cross-stitching or flamenco classes because the likelihood of meeting a guy there is slim. You must join a hobby that attracts the type (and gender) of person you want. If you choose the wrong hobby you’ll be wasting your time.
Some people like to say showing up is 80% of success but that’s not the case when it comes to dating. Just showing up to a class does not mean you’ve achieved your goal. You need talk to the eligible singles and make a connection (by flirting and meaningful conversation). That can be hard for a lot of us but it’s a vital part of the process.
Matchmaking – pros
You’re outsourcing the search so you have time and energy to dedicate to other things.
You get your own private Agony Aunt with whom you can vent and discuss challenges and issues (and also celebrate all successes of course).
The coaching and introspective exercises ensure you are set up for success. For example, if you don’t have the confidence to flirt, your matchmaker will help you bring your A-game.
Dating can be emotionally draining and can disappoint and disillusion people to the extent they stop pursuing their goal. A matchmaker helps reduce the disappointment by introducing you to the right people and will keep you on track and work hard to keep youenergetic and enthusiastic about the process.
Matchmaking – cons
It’s a luxury service and as such can be expensive.
Because matchmaking is a bespoke service, it can be slowwwwwwhen it comes to introducing you to potential matches.
Matchmakers have been around for thousands of years but it’s a luxury service that can’t be accessed by the masses. As such, it hasn’t reached a critical mass and hasn’t been accepted the way dating apps and websites have and some would-be-users of matchmaking decide not to go that route because they feelashamed or embarrassed about the idea.
What should you do?
If falling in love is important to you and you have the bandwidth for the pursuit, then it doesn’t matter what you do – just do something.
The one thing I don’t want you to do is nothing. OK? Don’t sit back, relax, and let destiny take the wheel. Sure, maybe you’ll meet your future SO at the supermarket, bar or office. If it’s happened for others it could very well happen to you…
But if being in a relationship is a priority I suggest you not leave it to chance. Take a more proactive approach to your love life and consider the above methods (or other alternatives) to increase your pool of eligible singles and your chances of interacting meaningfully with them.
Anyhoo…I’m sorry for ignoring you. It’s been more than a month since the last newsletter. I meant to send something the weekend after returning from Hong Kong but I got distracted.
As you probably know I was in Hong Kong in November and it was amaaaaazing. The energy! The food! The people! The late nights! Also it was a very productive trip for business 🙂
This was my first trip back since leaving in February and a very good reminder that the people of Hong Kong do not have it easy. The stress levels are off the charts because of the non-stop rhythm of work, working out and networking.
But returning to Hong Kong was also a reminder that Hong Kong isn’t a wasteland of love. There are many happy couples flourishing. Not everyone is getting cheated on and not everyone is emotionally unavailable.
So how about you?
Why are you still single?
LOL I hate that question but you can answer it one of two ways…ether you’re awesomely single or terribly single.
If you’re awesomely single keep on being awesome and don’t let any party pooper tell you you’re wasting your time being single because you are definitely not. Being single is amazing and awesome and let’s you concentrate on the most important person in your life (that would be you BTW) and puts you in the right headspace for your next relationship.
But how about if you’re terribly single? This means you are single against your will. In this case, may I make a suggestion? If you’re not doing anything to remedy the situation, please try something. And if you are trying things but they’re not working maybe try somethng different?
By ‘different’ I do not mean you should hire Maitre D’ate (although that is an option). The idea I am pitching is becoming awesomely single.
Is that weird coming from a matchmaker? Maybe. But hear me out. If you’re not happy now, no man or woman is going to change that. You gotta love yourself and know what are your priorities before you bring someone else into the fold.
You know what I mean?
And I always say no.
I don’t care if you’re in a rush because your ovaries are shriveling or your sperm is drying up or your parents are on your case about not having grandchildren or you’re straight-up lonely.
If you rush into a relationship without loving yourself, knowing yourself, and ensuring you have the tools required for a healthy and nourishing relationship, chances are you will end up dating the wrong person and will end up single and have to start again at Square One or you will stick it out and be unhappy.
Well, it’s because I was single for seven years before I met Pierre. That’s an excessive amount of time but I don’t regret it because I spent a lot of that time figuring out my shit. And that’s why today I have a great husband, I’m a decent wife, and we have a pretty healthy relationship (though miles away from perfect).
So, here’s my CTA (that’s communications industry jargon for ‘call to action’ which is basically the thing I want you to do)
It will help you understand why you’ve dated who you’ve dated and show you what you need from your future Significant Other and, therefore, helping you make better choices as you move on. It will also help you gauge how much you love and respect yourself. If you’re making bad choices then you have to ask yourself why. This is not an easy question but it’s vital if you want to make positive choices.