Finding love—or just intimate companionship—was difficult enough before the pandemic, but now, after almost a year of social distancing, masks and occasional lockdowns, it’s been downright depressing for singles. Cristina Morara, the owner of Sarasota and Los Angeles-based Stellar Hitch, has some advice and hope. As a high-end matchmaker with nationwide clients, Morara specializes in helping men find mates, but assists women as well. Pandemic dating anxiety is palpable, she says, but intimate connections are possible today—and they can start with a phone call.
What’s changed in your business since the pandemic?
“I used to have a rule that face-to-face introductions had to be the first impression. I did not want my clients to talk on the phone before the date. When you see someone in person, you’re collecting all the data points on looks, demeanor, confidence, conversation, chemistry—how they’re dealing with the world around them. But in March last year, people didn’t want to meet in person, so I had to change my strategy.”
Why is the phone more problematic?
“With the phone, you’re not getting the entire picture. So many things can go wrong. Is the person good on the phone? You’re basing so much on the quality of the call. The phone is a one-trick pony. People are already quick to judge, and one false move, and boom, they don’t want to meet you.”
How are you coaching people to be a good prospect on the phone?
“I try to get clients to give one chapter at a time and not the whole book. Too much too soon of anything is not going to end well. You want to keep the balance of communication and anticipation. People need something to look forward to. Phone calls are building layers of foundation. If you put too many bricks on at once, they’re going to fall. You don’t need to tell them about your bankruptcy from 10 years ago or your bunion surgery. I remind people, you’re still a stranger. Go slow, steady and respect the process, especially on the phone. Spread it out so people can digest and process each phone call.”
Are there any advantages to starting a relationship over the phone?
“People are more isolated, so I’m finding that clients are more open-minded to meet potential matches since there’s practically no front-end investment with a phone call. No driving, no blowouts, no reservations. Clients are accepting more introductions because they’re in the comfort of their home. It’s so much easier. I used to have to take more time in convincing them to meet someone. Now, people are leaving more room to be surprised. That’s been wonderful to see.”
“The pressure of where I’m going to take her is off the table, and so is the pressure of acting on the sexual energy. It’s really been shelved. It’s less pressure, nice for both parties. Many people appreciate the more old-school approach to dating: getting to know the person for a while before throwing sex into the mix. People are building more intimacy, a foundation on the phone or FaceTime before they meet. One gentleman told me it was so nice just to focus on her as a person and not as a sexual conquest. He told me, ‘Even if we hit it off, we’re taking it slow, and I can relax and not have to make my alpha male move.’ At the same time, the phone accelerates the dating process. If he/she doesn’t give good phone? It’s easier to move on, especially for women who say, ‘Oh, you’re so nice but...,’ and don’t want to offend. If he’s not a good conversationalist, or she’s too rigid, people can hang up and say, ‘Next.’”
What are some phone conversation starters?
“Curiosity is sexy. Show that you want to know something about the other person. Prepare ahead of time and have questions. If you’re using a matchmaker or a dating app, you already know something because you’ve accepted the match. You heard he went to Bali last year, or recently moved to San Diego. Come up with a handful of questions and think about what you want to talk about. I also tell people, ‘Think about five things that define you—what makes you unique?’ It’s great practice. People are winging it, but there’s an art to conversation and making yourself stand out. What do you want to know and what do you want to share about yourself? Don’t just say, ‘I’ll wait and see.’ You don’t want to be entirely scripted, but you need to have skills in your back pocket.”
Should people talk about Covid?
“How has Covid affected you is the conversation starter right now. It’s a ready-made baton. Everyone can relate to, ‘Wow, what a year.’ Everyone has a story. But it’s loaded. You’re going to hear about death and heartbreak, or about political views you aren’t ready for. I don’t recommend politics, but it’s there. Since I know ahead of time what somebody’s political views are, I match people who are on the same page. I’ll also know beforehand if somebody close to the family has died, and I prep clients. I’m invested in a successful initial meeting.”
How have Zoom calls altered the dating landscape?
“You’re more in control about how you present yourself. You can control the lighting; you can find the right spot. Women especially love that they can create a relaxed image with a Zoom or FaceTime call. I’ve heard more than once, ‘I don’t have to worry about salad in my teeth.’ And you can do a practice Zoom for five seconds before you hit the button so you can see what you look like. I advise no stripes or patterns. Having a camera slightly higher than your eyes is the best angle. Make sure you’re in a well-lit room. A window in front of you is ideal. And if you can’t find a window, get a light and shine it on yourself.”
Eventually, though, don’t people need to meet in person?
“That’s absolutely true. It boils down to that. You like the person but is there enough chemistry? That can only happen when you’re in the presence of someone else. We have no control over that.”