Four years ago, I launched a supremely weird little business.

Today, I am celebrating its continued success/existence and our recent expansions to Hamilton, Burlington and Ottawa with some Peak Frean cookies on a bus to Edmonton (where I will be spending some time with the very first couple I ever matched -- and their two little boys).

I am so grateful to everyone who has supported Friend of a Friend Matchmaking Inc. over the years and especially to my amazing yentas, Lee-Anne, Joanne, Claire and Ceilidhe.

Also, May 22nd is important for another reason: the birth of Steven Patrick Morrissey 58 years ago today. Happy birthday, Sir Moz! Have some cake on us, you gloomy old romantic weirdo!

"Come out and find the one that you love and who loves you."

xo,

Sofi
 

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

After a relationship ended, I made a conscious decision to take the fall and winter off from dating. I needed time to reflect. Plus, cocooning with a good book on a Friday night is always preferable to making awkward small talk with a stranger at an overpriced wine bar.

When I felt ready to get back out there, I downloaded the popular dating app Bumble, which differentiates itself in the market by only allowing women to make the first move.

I was immediately impressed by the calibre of men on Bumble. It was a seemingly never-ending parade of interesting, successful and handsome men. Lawyers and creative directors and CEOs, oh my! Some seemed almost too good to be true — and I started to suspect they were.

Online dating has a rich and sleazy history of fake profiles. When it was revealed 70,000 female Ashley Madison users were actually fembots and actual women were a rarity on the adultery-friendly dating site, it was no real surprise to anyone (except to male Ashley Madison subscribers). With the surge in popularity of mobile dating apps, there came a surge of fake profiles migrating from websites to apps; suddenly, pornbots and scammers were just a smartphone swipe away, hoping to part you with your money, personal information, confidence, swiftly fleeting youth/beauty/fertility or all of the above.

They sure come in pretty packages, though.

Less than a week into my dating app adventure, I Bumbled across a dreamy man. We’ll call him “Jake”. This tousled Brad Pitt lookalike stated in his profile that he was the corporate director of large Canadian firm I won’t name — an impressive title for a 33-year-old who looks like he’s spent far more time on a beach than in a boardroom.

Suspicious, I got in touch with their head office. They had a few different corporate directors, they told me, but nobody by his name was found in the company’s global directory.

Jake — or at least the version of Jake profiled on Bumble — did not exist.

Read the rest of the article here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

A favourite pastime of mine is posting rental listings of beautiful, character-filled apartments in other cities (Pine floors! Crown moulding! A fireplace!) on Facebook, flanked by weeping emojis.

Finding an above-ground apartment in an urban neighbourhood in Montreal, Halifax or even Chicago for under $1,000 a month is a breeze.

In Toronto, it’s practically the stuff of fiction.

Things are financially tight for many in this city, but single people — especially single parents — are at a serious disadvantage. The average rental cost of a one-bedroom condo in Toronto is nearly $1,800 per month. Finance gurus suggest spending only 30 per cent of your total income on rent. Sticking to that rule, a single renter would have to be earning upwards of $65,000 a year. According to Statistics Canada, the average annual income for individuals living outside of an economic family (i.e. a single person) in Toronto in 2014 was approximately $40,000 before taxes.

“Young and single tenants face a terrible situation in the city right now,” says Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations. “A low vacancy rate means that people are struggling to find any place to rent, much less an affordable one. It puts them into debt or unsustainable living situations. Many young folks don’t know their rights and single folks have few others to lean on for support.”

Read the rest of the article here

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Frustrated singles rejoice -- there’s a new matchmaker in Ottawa!

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking, an affordable and accessible boutique introductions company founded by relationship columnist Sofi Papamarko, has expanded to our nation’s capital.

“Ottawa is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada,” says new Ottawa matchmaker Ceilidhe Wynn. “I’m so excited to introduce you to your perfect match to explore and discover the art, nature and culture of this vibrant and romantic city.”

Ceilidhe (pronounced Kayley) Wynn is an accomplished writer. She is a deeply intuitive and understanding people person who considers herself a true romantic at heart.

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking is set to fill an important niche in the Ottawa area; a personalized matchmaking company that is as financially accessible to a queer undergraduate journalism student at Carleton University as it is to a Cabinet Minister.

“We pride ourselves not only on financial accessibility, but also on inclusivity,” says Friend of a Friend Matchmaking Founder Sofi Papamarko. “Everybody deserves love – not just wealthy heterosexuals and executives. We welcome singles of all genders, sexualities, ages, ethnicities, lifestyles and abilities.”

Most matchmaking companies cater to wealthier clients, often costing thousands. Friend of a Friend Matchmaking costs approximately the same as a year on Match or eHarmony.

"Dating today is harder than it's ever been," says Sofi. "Online dating sites and apps like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and Scruff have long since lost their novelty and appeal. Singles are looking to make real connections with real people who share their interests, values and outlook on life. Living, breathing matchmakers are far more capable of making authentic matches than a computer algorithm.”

Friend of a Friend Matchmaking Ottawa officially launches on May 1st, 2017.

Read more about Friend of a Friend Matchmaking at www.friendofafriendmatchmaking.com and get to know our new matchmaker at http://friendofafriendmatchmaking.com/meet-the-matchmakers/

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Do you suffer from Tinder Thumb (like tennis elbow, but caused by furious right-swiping instead of ground strokes)? Does the thought of asking yet another person, “So…what do you do?” send shivers up your spine? Do you feel like you’ve already gone on a mediocre date with every eligible bachelor/bachelorette in the city — twice?

You might be suffering from dating fatigue.

“Dating fatigue happens when a single person goes on a rapid series of dates or constantly looks for dates online and doesn’t meet anyone they are interested in,” says dating expert Julie Spira, author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating. “As a result, a person with dating fatigue gets disillusioned. (They might come to) believe there are no great single men or women out there.”

Communications professional Alexa Giorgi, 37, is athletic, intelligent, sociable and gorgeous. She has been single for all of her 30s. But her lacklustre love life wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“I’ve been online dating since Lavalife was cool and (have tried) Match, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid and Coffee Meets Bagel,” Giorgi says. “I’ve tried matchmaking, speed dating, singles events, Meetup, blind dates — everything!”

Read the rest of the story here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

“I’m open to dating women of all backgrounds,” he tells me. “Except for black women.”

“I’ve just never been attracted to Asian men,” she says.

Uncomfortable yet? Unfortunately, the vast majority of singles I’ve worked with have clear racial preferences and biases when it comes to dating. Now that I’m four years into professional matchmaking, I’ve seen clear patterns emerge when it comes to race and attraction.

White men: congratulations! Women of every racial background seem to strongly prefer dating you. Asian and Latin women are most popular with the gents. Black women and Asian men are the two groups most notably at a dating disadvantage. They are the hardest singles for me to match, because they tend to be excluded from the match searches of the majority of clients. Men seemingly open to dating “anyone and everyone” eventually include a “no black women” addendum. Women who state they only want to find a nice, kind, man say that they have no real physical preferences … as long as the man in question isn’t Asian. Non-starter, that.

The online dating world is also stacked against black women and Asian men. According to Christian Rudder’sOKCupid blog, stats from 2014 show that 82 per cent of non-black men on OKCupid show some bias against black women. Similarly, Asian men’s dating profiles are consistently rated the lowest by single women using online dating sites. But why?

“Attractiveness is a very haphazard dish that can’t be boiled down to height or skin colour, but Asian men are told that regardless of what the idyllic mirepoix is or isn’t, we just don’t have the ingredients,” television host Eddie Huang recently wrote in the New York Times.

“The structural emasculation of Asian men in all forms of media became a self-fulfilling prophecy that produced an actual abhorrence to Asian men in the real world.”

Pop culture is a window into desire. Consider the male Asian characters in movies you’ve seen in the last several years. What were their roles? When was the last time you saw a North American film where a desirable Asian man played the romantic lead and didn’t know martial arts?

Read the rest of the article here

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Maybe you intended for it to be a compliment. Maybe you’re fishing for gossip. Or maybe you believe the only acceptable route in life is the one that closely follows the marriage-mortgage-babies road map.

And so you ask: “Why are you still single?”

Please understand this is not a benign query.

It is as intrusive and judgmental a question as “Why are you still married?” The implication being that something is broken.

If you’re wondering why someone is still single, wonder no more! I’ve chatted with well over a thousand singles over the past four years in both a professional and personal capacity and they’ve laid it all out for me.

If you’re single, I’ve done the work for you! Simply clip this article out and hand it to the next person who asks the offending question before skipping away and living your best life.

I am dealing with some personal issues and am not in a good place right now.

When dealing with illness, grief, ailing parents, a challenging child, addiction and mental health issues, alone or in combination, some people deprioritize dating.

I’m not ready to date after the end of my last relationship.

Whether their last relationship ended three months ago or three decades ago, it’s entirely up to each individual person to decide when they’re ready to move on and make themselves emotionally vulnerable to someone new. Don’t pressure anyone to “get back in the saddle” before they’re ready. That’s a recipe for broken hearts and bad decisions.

I don’t want to settle. . .

. . . But if you’d rather I get married as soon as possible to the first person who will have me and don’t mind one bit that we have nothing in common, that they never contribute to the household chores or ask me about my day and I am desperately unhappy and cry into my pillow while they’re out carousing at all hours with God-knows-who and we get divorced after the kids come along, then by all means keep telling me I’m too picky and to just latch onto some warm body already because tick-tock! The external pressure will wear me down eventually. See you at the wedding!

Read the rest of Sofi's column here

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Bad poetry. Mix CDs. Postcards from Sedona, Ariz. Postcards from Berlin. A freezer-burnt wrist corsage. Tiki mugs. An electric can opener.

These are a few of my favourite things that old boyfriends have given me over the years. I still have most of these objects. (The electric can opener did not survive a particularly stressful move, not unlike the relationship itself).

Call me sentimental, but I just can’t seem to part with the material reminders of people I used to love. Just because a relationship is over doesn’t invalidate all of time we spent together and the memories we shared.

Not everyone wants to hang onto souvenirs from ex-partners, especially if the breakup is a fresh one. Everyday objects can be extremely painful reminders of a difficult time.

“It’s difficult to throw away or give away objects that have a lot of sentimental value,” says Alexis Hyde, director of the Museum of Broken Relationships in Los Angeles, which takes in anonymously donated post-breakup memorabilia. “There is no ritual that we have yet that can honour a relationship adequately. No funeral, if you will. This is a place that you can lay it to rest, along with other stories from all over the world, and know that the relationship had merit.”

It’s interesting that Hyde mentions funerals. The end of a relationship often feels like the death of something — future plans, a parallel life in which you were going to be with this person for the long haul and, above all else, the death of a friendship (in most cases). So it makes sense that we ritualize our grief in the face of such endings.

Read the rest of the story here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

I love you.

There. I said it. That wasn’t so hard, right? Those three little words — three syllables, really — are among the most coveted and most difficult words to say in the English language. (Surpassed only by “I forgive you” and, the most difficult phrase of all, “I’m sorry.”)

Context: I’d been having some trouble coming up with an idea for my Valentine’s column this year and wrote my editor in a cold panic.

“EMBRACE THE LOVE!” she exclaimed in all-caps.

I tried. But throwing my arms around a Hallmark holiday felt disingenuous. Not unlike the holiday season, Valentine’s Day can be a painful and lonely time for many. So instead of embracing February the 14th and all associated ephemeral trappings of romance (fancy chocolates, flowers, marriage certificates), I’m embracing Pollyanna. I’m embracing patchouli. I’m embracing the free expression of love itself.

And so, I love you.

When training my matchmaking consultants, I play them the Sloan song “The Good in Everyone.” I ask them to internalize the lyrics about being a person who sees the good in everyone because that makes our jobs easier.

Not everyone is going to be your cup of tea, but you have to pinpoint what’s lovable about every single person you meet. That’s what good matchmakers do. That’s what the best people do, too.

You can usually find something — often multiple things — that are amazing in every person you meet. A genius sense of humour, maybe. An aching vulnerability. Self-awareness. Intelligence. Loyalty to friends and family. Optimism. A strong work ethic. The best of intentions.

I love you, reader. Whoever you are. Not romantically, but emphatically. I love you, even though I don’t know you.

I love you because you are a person with a past that may not have always been kind.

I love you because you have worries that sometimes keep you up at night.

I love you because you’ve read a poem or a short story or heard a song or seen a piece of art or experienced natural beauty that has buoyed your heart or broken it.

Read the rest of the article here

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

 Putting yourself out there romantically can be all kinds of scary. The simple act of asking somebody on a date can prompt sweaty palms, an elevated heart rate and other symptoms related to anxiety. Love is fight. Love is flight.

As a wise man once said, “shyness is nice, but shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.”

It takes courage and some measure of self-confidence to ask somebody out. But what if you have neither?

Then you might just be love-shy.

“The Forty Year-Old Virgin” is a movie concept that supposedly borders on the absurd, but it’s astonishing how many matchmaking clients I meet in their 30s, 40s and beyond who have never dated. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with them; in fact, they happen to be particularly introspective, intelligent and sensitive people. It’s just that they’re too afraid of rejection to express romantic interest in anyone — ever.

Read the rest here

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Can your smartphone find you love? There are so many dating apps out there that it can be confusing to know which to choose. For the luddites among you, here’s a quick primer on a few of the more popular ones. (We can’t help if you still use a landline, sorry.)

Grindr

The daddy of all dating apps. Released in 2009 for the gay community, Grindr forever changed the culture of dating and hookups. Harnessing the magic of geolocation, users browse profile pictures and exchange messages with other users nearby. Grindr is currently used in 192 countries around the world and boasts two million daily users.

Tinder

“Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a Grindr for, like, straight people?” hetero singles collectively sighed in 2011. Talk about wish fulfilment! Tinder launched in September 2012 and ignited like … well … literal tinder. Your Facebook profile provides the particulars (location, age, photos) and the app does the rest, offering a never-ending parade of dream girls and dream boys for you to judge based on looks. Swipe right to “like” them. Swipe left to reject without consequence. If you mutually like (or “super like”) each other, you can chat through the app and meet up IRL (that’s “in real life”). Tinder was initially considered a hookup app, but it’s since evolved into part of a balanced dating strategy. Tinder weddings and Tinder babies are far from unheard of and 50 million users swipe away on the app each month.

Read the rest here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

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, Jessie Potter 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 2017.

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 they do not look like Tom Brady/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 2016 self probably would not have gone on date No. 2, but the 2017 version of you will.

Read the rest online here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

This can be a lonely time of year for a lot of peopleespecially singles.

But no matter how badly you want to partner up, for those who use online dating sites to forge connections with potential mates, it’s important to give your head more credence than your heart. 

In other words: if the person you’re communicating with online seems too good to be true, they probably are.

In 2015, Canadians were bilked out of close to $17 million from online dating scammers. And those are just the reported scams.

Scammers attempt to earn the love and trust of their online targets before asking them to send money for seemingly legitimate reasons – a plane ticket or a family emergency, for example.

According to Borke Obada-Obieh, a graduate student in Computer Science at Carleton University studying security precautions taken by online daters, Canada is ranked the 7th country most susceptible to online dating scams. 

Desire to find an emotional connection with someone could make (dating site users) easily vulnerable to scamming,” she says.

We’re a nation of Eleanor Rigbys with money. This makes us sitting ducks to romance scammers.

According to Obada-Obieh’s findingsscammers reach out to people of all ages, but their targets seem to skew female.

Wende Wood, 47, has been approached by would-be online dating scammers at least five times. The Calgary-based woman lived in Toronto for 17 years. It was here where she was targeted by a man who claimed to be “Larry,” a Romanian-Canadian from Toronto who strung her along for nearly four months. 

Read the rest of the article here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

 

The Hamilton-Burlington arm of Friend of a Friend is starting to pick up steam, which is very exciting. Some incredible people have signed up and now I’m (Joanne) working hard to find them their soul mates (or at least some great dates). 

We’re still welcoming women, men, and trans people of all orientations, but there are some specific people we can make matches for right away. Men from 30-70 who are interested in dating women in their peer group: we want you! If you have a volunteer spirit and love your family and the outdoors, we want you! If you love classic rock (and beyond) and comedy, oh boy, do I have a great date for you! Men who love to travel and enjoy the company of a smart, sophisticated woman, yes! And if you're a 40something to 60-ish creative, sensitive, cool, leather jacket and rock 'n' roll type, do we ever want you! 

Women who love the outdoors and keeping fit (especially cyclists) are on top of our wish list, too. 

We are offering a 50% discount for all men who sign up to Friend of a Friend Hamilton-Burlington until January 1, 2017. Join now!

Friend of a Friend Hamilton-Burlington was recently featured in the Hamilton Spectator.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Thanks to reporter Emma Reilly for this lovely piece in the Spec:

In an era of online dating algorithms and swiping right to find love, Joanne Davis is relying on good, old-fashioned gut instinct to help fellow Hamiltonians.

Davis is the matchmaker for the new Hamilton branch of the successful Toronto business: Friend of a Friend Matchmaking. A self-described "yenta," her job is to meet romantic hopefuls, get a feel for their personalities, and – if all goes according to plan – connect them with someone in the hopes that sparks will fly.

"I know that people find love in unusual ways," says Davis who, coincidentally enough, met her husband of 20 years through a friend of a friend.

"I think I'm a pretty good judge of character, and I feel like I have a good sense of the kind of people that get along."

At first glance, using a matchmaker in the age of online dating may seem as anachronistic as churning your own butter. But Davis says it's a perfect fit for a wide range of people —including those who have tried dating websites and are sick of striking out online.

"I think for a lot of people it was fun for awhile, but it's not fun anymore," she said. "I think that people are also charmed by the idea that they have a matchmaker or a yenta."

Davis says the service is also useful for those who work odd hours, who don't want to have their face broadcast on an online dating site, or for older singles who may not be as comfortable with technology.

Read the rest of the article here.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

Thank you so much, Toronto!

I had no idea what I was doing when I started this weird little business and some days I still feel like I'm totally faking it, but this recognition feels really good. I've tried to run Friend of a Friend Matchmaking with as much heart, good humour and integrity as I can muster; it's nice to know that you lovely people have taken notice.

All of the love.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko

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.

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AuthorSofi Papamarko