Advice from a Matchmaker: Send a Strawberry
Send a strawberry? When I asked modern day matchmaker, Danielle Selber what dating advice she had for women, the last thing I thought I would hear is “send a strawberry.” Her advice was safety-related: go on daytime dates, text a friend the particulars of the date, and set up a random emoji code to call for help. I hadn’t heard of this last one before, despite spending my entire adult life strategizing how to stay safe in a man’s world. Danielle suggests picking a random emoji, like a strawberry, that you can send to a friend or even better, a group text, to indicate that you need to be rescued from the date. A rescue doesn’t need to mean you’re in the trunk of a car, it could just mean you’re uncomfortable, your spidey-sense is tingling, or you have that icky feeling in your stomach. “Trust your instincts,” Danielle says.
Danielle has been matchmaking in Philadelphia for the past three years. Most of her clients have tried the online dating route and come to her frustrated. She adds the personal touch, and a level of screening, that the quick and dirty Tinder, Bumble, or Grinder apps can’t offer. She meets with her clients—all genders—for an hour or two over coffee and gets to know them. She says sometimes these conversations help her clients get to know themselves better too. Her questions prompt them to think about what they want and what’s important to them in a way they never have before. She’s able to pair people up usually within a week and encourages her clients to set up a time to meet within a week of the introduction.
Danielle is a pretty laid back matchmaker, not the strict, imposing image you might have in your mind from Mulan. She has only one rule: no ghosting. I repeat, NO GHOSTING. Be an adult. Let the person know you aren’t interested even if you think it might be obvious to them. Danielle says she gets some pushback from clients on this, usually from men but women too. She won’t set you up with someone new unless you’ve let the last person know it isn’t going to happen. And she only sets you up with one person at a time. She isn’t going to help you line up husband interviews every night this week. She’s trying to help people have healthy and safe dating experiences and that means focusing on one person at a time.
Danielle’s matchmaking is part of her work as the assistant director of Tribe 12, a nonprofit focused on connecting people in their 20s and 30s to Jewish life and community in Philadelphia. The organization has been around for twenty years but has transformed as the needs of young adults in the Jewish community have changed. Three years ago Danielle started a matchmaking service within Tribe 12 and it has bloomed into a major part of her work—almost 75% of her job is helping people find connections. She says she was inspired by her time in Israel where matchmaking is common in the Jewish community even for young progressives. There’s nothing old fashioned about it. We hire experts to help us find jobs, choose clothes, manage our money, train our dogs, teach us new skills. Why wouldn’t we hire an expert to help us find a partner?
What I really wanted to know about matchmaking was if any of our political and cultural shifts were having an effect on the way people were pairing off. Danielle says she saw an immediate and significant shift right after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Before that, when she would ask people how important politics was to them in a relationship, many hadn’t considered it or didn’t have a strong opinion. After the election nearly everyone had thought about that question before she asked it and had their answer ready. Before the election the most common deal breaker was smoking. After the election? You guessed it: voting for Trump. On the rare occasion that she is working with a Trump voter she has a harder time finding them potential partners. To their credit, she says they know their voting record makes them hard to match, especially in the Jewish community in Philadelphia, a politically progressive place.
Although Danielle advises that women use standard precautions when dating, dates set up through a matchmaker are inherently safer. She also says that men seem to have more questions than women about how they should handle dating situations. Her guess is that women talk about their dating life more with other women and gather advice that way (certainly this is true in my group of friends). Men aren’t encouraged to have conversations with other men about how to date in a safe and healthy way. Her perception is that men want to do better but truly don’t know how. Being able to touch base with an expert allows them to learn things that our dysfunctional culture doesn’t naturally teach them. It also suggests that people could be doing some of this on their own by engaging in more open communication with someone they’re dating from the start. Even if you’ve decided not to see the person again, when you tell them (remember, no ghosting) you can give some feedback that might help them in their next encounter. Not everyone can be lucky enough to have Danielle in their corner so let’s all try to help each other out.
Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist