Fed up with shopping the meat market? Matchmaker Sofi Papamarko might just be able to help you seal the deal. Photo by Chris Blanchenot.
For all the single people I know socially sleuthing for a mate through the streets of Toronto, not one of them has ever admitted to enlisting the services of a matchmaker. But one woman is out to prove that there’s a lot more to meeting someone worth having a beer with than the Internet has led an entire generation to believe. Meet Sofi Papamarko, the Date Whisperer behind Friend of A Friend Matchmaking, a new agency that aims to put the personality — and the pleasure — back into meeting someone, preferably special. I’ve known Papamarko for a few years, watching her in action as she digitally navigated the cheap thrills and failures of online dating through her Sexy Typewriter blog and relationship columns in several newspapers across the country. “I’ve done a lot of research on social and sexual anthropology,” she says. “I’m not sure if that’s the equivalent of a diploma in matchmaking — if such a thing existed, which it doesn’t.”
A Friend of A Friend works in two six-month subscription services that promise at least two matches in that period: the $69 “Friend Plan” (recommended for, well, friends) that includes a file on you (surveys!); or the $99 “Friend of a Friend Plan” in which you lunch- or coffee-date with Ms. Papamarko for a You 101 session and all the other fixings. Better yet, the service is open and encouraging to those of all ages and persuasions, from the suits that “live and breathe Bay Street” to “creatives” on Queen West and beyond. (You’re probably asking a bunch of questions now, so here’s the full FAQ.)
Papamarko says her knack for match was unearthed a few years ago, in Paris of course! “I met a woman on a bus. She was a Canadian, from Edmonton. We chatted for a while and I realized that her sense of humour and personality were strikingly similar to the personality of a university friend of mine, who also happened to live in Edmonton,” recalls the doyenne of love. “Once we were back on Canadian soil, I suggested that they meet up for a coffee. I attended their wedding two summers ago.” (She hopes the couple will honour her in naming their firstborn.)
So what does it take to be a good matchmaker? “You have to be a really intuitive people-person, and you have to understand the laws of attraction.”
We caught up with Papamarko to talk about why dating in Toronto sucks and why a personal touch matters in, well, matters of the heart.
Okay, Torontonians are known far and wide for being friendly-ish, but I find they’re meek and weak when it comes to social situations of a … romantic nature. Do you agree — is it hard to date in Toronto?
Definitely. Some people call Toronto cold or unapproachable. I think we’re just really caught up in our lives and are a bit shy, and, as Canadians, we maybe have a bit of a mass inferiority complex. Also, it’s just not as culturally acceptable here as it is in Europe to strike up a flirty conversation with a stranger — unless last call is involved. I think singles in this town need all the help they can get. (It’s not us, you guys! It’s Toronto.)
What makes for a successful couple/match? In other words, what’s your method, so to speak?
You want me to give away my trade secrets? Come on! Really though, it’s not as tangible as that. And it really depends on the couple. I can just see how some people might…click.
So then let’s keep it real at least: physical attraction. Is that really the biggest deal breaker?
Maybe for men, but not for women. It’s funny: the men I’ve fallen for the hardest in life were the ones I didn’t find attractive at first. A lot of my friends say the same. Physical attraction can grow, especially if someone’s personality is awesome enough. I hope that if people enjoy themselves on a date even though they can’t envision making out with the person across the table, they’ll give it one more shot and see what happens. There’s this great line in George Saunders’ short story, Tenth of December, that I think rings absolutely true: “The thing about girls? Suzanne said. Is we are more content-driven.”
I always get into heated debates about whether digital assistance is the only way to really meet people these days. In the age of the Internet and apps and all that, do you think matchmaking is…antiquated?
Not at all. I think online dating has really lost its novelty factor and people are realizing how time-consuming and frustrating it can be. I think they want the personal touch. People sometimes abandon the new and go back to the old ways because they were better or more interesting. But there’s definitely a post-modern edge to my matchmaking in that I do so much of it using my email, my website, social media, and so on. Still, it ultimately boils down to old-fashioned methods. Old, meet new! I guess you could say I’m the steampunk of matchmakers? Maybe?
Do you think social media has made us perennially lonely?
Nope. Every time I log onto Twitter? INSTANT PARTY! Seriously, though: social media makes me feel connected to, and supported by, a safe community of well-curated well-wishers. As long as you manage to be physically social outside of social media, it shouldn’t isolate you. In fact, it plays a huge part in relationship building.
RuPaul always says: “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” In your professional opinion, what does dating require of a person on both sides?
Good luck and good timing.
Many of my male friends still don’t like it when women make the first move. Is that bullshit?
And what if someone isn’t happy with his or her match?
They will contact me, and discreetly tell me what they didn’t like about their match and I will refine their profile so that the next match will be more up their alley. Some of this will be trial and error, definitely.
If you could share one secret about women with men, what would it be?
We want you to talk to us.
What would you say is one of the most delusional romantic comedies that might have ruined a generation?
All of them.
So is there such a thing as a perfect “celebrity” couple?
Present day Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Sure, they’ve had their problems — he strayed, the dog! — but she has the biggest crush on him and has just adored him from day one. He lets her shine and stays the hell out of her way.