‘Tinder Is The McDonald’s Of Dating’ And Other Tough Talk From A Professional Matchmaker

If all you needed was love, dating coaches wouldn’t exist. But the truth is, there’s a lot more that goes into finding your perfect match than just swiping right and hoping for the best. That’s where the Conti sisters come in. They’re celebrity matchmakers (although their non-disclosure agreements are so ironclad that you’ll never find out which celebs) and they make love connections through their agency, Matchmakers in the City.

Bringing people together isn’t the only service the Conti sisters provide. They also offer date coaching for the modern single. Despite what anyone tells you, dating in 2016 is way different than it was even five years ago and tapping into the mind of the average unattached 20-30 something is what the Contis do best.

Recently, Alessandra Conti — the self-described “outgoing sister” — gave us the lowdown on what you really need to do to find love in the modern era.

If you’re constantly on Tinder, you’re not on your way to true love.

“Tinder is like the McDonald’s of dating,” Conti says, “and when you go on Tinder, you have to understand what you’re going to get. When you go to McDonald’s, you can’t except to get the quality of food that Il Cielo would give you. It’s not going to happen. You have to expect that you’re going to get yourself hurt when you’re doing that. The app is an illusion of choice.”

What does ‘illusion of choice’ mean? Buckle up because Conti’s not pulling any punches when it comes to your swiping habits. First of all, she says, Tinder’s a hook up app (which is why you don’t hear about a lot of people finding “the one” on the app and why study after study has been done to explain why it’s not working for you), and second of all, nothing on it is real. “You need to understand that when you’re using dating apps that it may seem like there are fifty women that you’re swiping, swiping, swiping, but I see the reality of these people when they walk into the office,” Conti says. “This is the thing: no one looks like their photos because of Facetune and filters.”

“The issue with a lot of men,” Conti continues, “is that they’re always looking for the next best thing. In their phones, they feel like, ‘Oh, this girl is so hot.’ Guess what, buddy — either A, you’ll talk to her for a month, ask her out, and she’ll ghost you; B, you’ll meet her in person and you’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, she doesn’t look like her photos’; or C, she could be amazing and the love of your life. It’s really a gamble.”

No, you’re not the exception to the above piece of advice.

This may seem harsh, because romantic comedies are always telling us that we deserve the perfect love story, but Conti says that you need to go into using dating apps (and dating in general) knowing that you’re special, but so is everyone else. “I always tell the women and the men, you are not the exception to the rule,” Conti says. “You are not the exception. You need to know that. You are not the exception.” It’s important enough that she repeats that phrase several times. That’s not to discourage you from finding connubial bliss, but helps make it clear that, in order to do so, you’re going to have to set realistic expectations.

Conti’s not demanding that you delete all your apps immediately — although she says she does app cleanses with her clients — but if you’re going to swipe, she says, you’ve got to do it with dignity. Do your due diligence, guard your heart, and make sure that the pictures you put up (and it’s all about the pictures) will entice people instead of giving them reason to take a screenshot and then show all their friends for a few laughs.

“Guys show me their pictures,” Conti says, “and I know I would immediately swipe left because they have sunglasses on in the first picture, or they’re with five women in their second picture. That’s the biggest turn off — if you see a guy with five stunning women, automatic left swipe.”

Looks absolutely matter…especially at first.

Remember when your mom (and every children’s character on PBS) told you that only what’s on the inside counts? She wasn’t completely wrong, but how are people going to get to know the real you when you’re wandering through life looking like you just stumbled out bed?

“Most men,” Conti says, “are bizarre dressers. That doesn’t work with women.” Should you invest in a stylist? Absolutely, Conti says, if you have the money to do it (just once will suffice). But even if you can’t afford one, dressing well isn’t exactly like splitting the atom (though it sometimes seems like you need to have a graduate degree in fashion before you wander down to your local H&M). All you need are the basics — a pair of fitted jeans, a v-neck shirt (“not a big V,” Conti says, “just a nice little V”), a blazer, and a cool pair of shoes that you don’t wear all day every day.

Most importantly, don’t let your mom shop for you. This isn’t a knock against moms (they only want what’s best for you!), but not every mother is a style genius. That’s why professionals were invented. And no, you don’t have to transform from a Steve to a Stefan to make your mark. Just make an effort. There’ll be plenty of time for the person you’re dating to learn that you spend most of your time in sweats and a t-shirt. When it comes to dating, making a good first impression is key.

Learning how to approach women is a necessary art.

“No men are approaching women in real life,” Conti laments. “It’s a huge epidemic. I work with everyone from Playboy models to nurses to gymnasts, and these women are coming to my office disgruntled, saying, ‘I go out and literally no one talks to me. Guys do not approach me.'”

Of course, you shouldn’t start chatting up every woman you meet — and learning to take no for an answer is vital in your quest to find true love — but if you want to find a partner, you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone.

“If you’re out and about, you need to get over your approach anxiety,” Conti says. “I always say, ‘It takes twenty seconds of insane courage, twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come from it.’ There’s a strategy that you need to utilize because if you’re just approaching women left and right, it’s not going to work.”

This nugget of wisdom (which sounds a lot like the trailer for We Bought a Zoo) can be as simple as it sounds, if you approach it the right way. Unfortunately, Conti knows that talking to women is delicate business. You can’t just go up, introduce yourself, and ask for a stranger’s number — be too direct and it may come off as threatening (regardless of how attractive you are). Instead, you’ve got to start off with a little finesse.

Alessandra Conti

There are four rules you must follow to get those digits.

“You need proximity, an indirect opener, the follow up question, and then the close,” Conti says. According to her, these are the four crucial steps to getting someone’s number, and they’re not just suggestions either. Miss a crucial step and you’re going to end up with nothing but the searing pain of rejection burning into your soul (if only for a few moments). But how do you utilize the four steps? Conti breaks it down:

“Let’s talk about great places to meet women,” Conti says. “Starbucks is amazing and lines are a man’s best friend. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, those are the best places, but only if you do it in the right way. You need to be within two or three feet, maybe four feet, of the woman.” Two things to remember: never invade someone’s personal space, and don’t bolt toward a person you may find attractive. That’s a little too desperate and will come off as aggressive.

“This is the most important thing to remember,” Conti states, “your opener can’t be about her. You can break the ice, but if you break the ice and say something about her, she’ll be sketched out and will put her guard up. If you say, ‘oh hey, I really like your shirt,’ or, ‘you’re really pretty,’ That’s going to be a no.”

“Let’s say you’re in line at Starbucks. Step one, put your phone down. Be in the moment. Look at the menu and say, ‘Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know what’s in the mocha cafe frappe latte? Do you know what’s in that drink?’ This is just a question that you’re asking. She just happens to be standing next to you. She’s not thinking, ‘Oh my god, he’s hitting on me.'”

“Women don’t like to be hit on in that way,” Conti says. “They like if it’s indirect and very casual. You have to practice this a couple times. Do it in the mirror. Typically, if this was a genuine question, you just needing to know what’s in the coffee, it would end right there. That’s why the follow-up question is literally the most important part of this whole thing.”

The follow-up question, Conti explains, is all about taking the conversation from coffee, the price of string beans, or how long the line is to something about the person you’re interested in. This will give them a chance to tell you a little about themselves and give you an idea of whether there’s even a tiny spark of interest. The only rules? The question’s got to be open-ended and lead the other person to tell you more. It’s not about picking someone up, Conti points out, it’s about engaging another human in a totally normal conversation. According to her, it works for everyone — not just the guys who appear on magazine covers.

And then there’s the close: Conti explains that there’s nothing a woman will like less than feeling trapped. So if you’ve talked for a minute, feel that there might be something there, and want to take it further, you need to make your (very casual and unaggressive) pitch and get out of there.

“Your body language needs to be tilted a little away from her,” Conti says. “Use a false time constraint if you have to. Say, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to run. You’re so cool! Let me get your number. You’re awesome.’ In her mind she’s like, ‘I just met a really cute guy at a coffee shop. What a meet cute.’ It’s not sleazy. You’re getting to know her a little bit. You’re not just saying, ‘Hey, you’re hot, can I get your number?’ That’s the trick to meeting a woman in real life.”

Rejection is inevitable

“When a woman says no, she means no,” Conti tells us firmly. “She’s not playing hard-to-get. Move on to a woman who will actually give you the time of day. You will get rejected, you just have to move on.”

One possible way to stop getting rejected so much? Stop using alcohol as a way to boost your confidence. “A lot of guys meet women when they’re super drunk,” Conti says. “Of course, you’re going to get rejected when you’re slobbering all over a woman.”

Your texting game could kill your budding relationship.

The first rule of dating in the modern age is making sure that your texting game is on point. That means you shouldn’t text too much, try to be too funny (even your closest friends have a hard time trying to decipher your tone via text sometimes), and never ever say anything forward.

“Your relationship will rest in peace if you say anything remotely sexual,” Conti says. “What are you doing? Why would you say something that could even be perceived as a little bit sexual? Don’t do it! Nothing sexual in texting, unless you’ve been out a couple times, and then that’s cute.”

While it may be terrifying, the best way to avoid falling into the trap of texting something wrong is to make a date as soon as possible. Many men, Conti says, spend weeks talking to women via text before going out in order to make sure that their Tinder match is comfortable. That, in Conti’s opinion, is a good way to make sure that your love life doesn’t go anywhere. Send a few texts back and forth, she says, and then suggest a time and place to meet for a drink (never coffee).

“The sexiest thing that a guy can do is be a man with a plan,” Conti explains. “The sexiest thing. When a guy has a plan, women love it. Date, time, location. Get it done quickly. Then, when you’re leading up to the date, you can text her the day before and say something funny or cute.”

A date is not an interview.

“The ultimate goal of the date is to have fun,” Conti says. “You don’t have to give a woman your full bio. She doesn’t need to know everything. Make a date a fun conversation. It’s okay if you don’t learn everything about her, or if she doesn’t learn everything about you. In fact, that’s actually better; that’s what a second and third date is for.”

“A huge problem that I’ve seen with men,” she continues, “is that they’re really bad at asking questions. Have a few in your back pocket. If you have to write them down in your phone and go the bathroom, do it. Don’t make her do all the work. Women love to talk, so let the woman talk. At the same time, try to steer the conversation towards something that you’re interested in.”

And don’t worry if your date doesn’t last as long as you hope it to. According to Conti, the first date should last approximately two hours. That gives you just enough time to talk without running out of things to say and ensures that no one feels trapped by the end.

Never kiss on the first date.

“If you’re on a first date, and you’ve met on an app, don’t try to kiss her,” Conti warns. “Unless, it’s just like this amazing connection, it’s awkward. Kissing at the end of the date is the worst thing. It’s tragic and uncomfortable and should not happen. The best kisses are in the middle of a second date.”

“Trying to kiss on a first date sends a whole slew of signals to her,” she continues.”It sends a signal that you’re getting physical very quickly. Women generally don’t want to get physical too quickly because they’re not looking for hookups. If they’re dating you and you’re going on a proper date, they want a boyfriend.”

The good news is that not getting a kiss is not a gauge of how much your date may like you. “If she doesn’t kiss you or gives you her cheek,” Conti says, “don’t think that’s her giving you a red flag or saying no. It’s uncomfortable. She doesn’t know you.”

“That said, it’s okay to break the physical touch barrier. For women, the safe area is the lower arm. If you’re guiding her, you can touch her hand, or have her link arms with you because hands get sweaty. At the same time, it’s super important to not expect a kiss. If you want to kiss on the second date, do it in the middle of the date. Do it when you’re standing, when you’re watching a band, have something active happening. Don’t wait until the end. It’s so awkward for everyone.”

The only way to make it more awkward? Talk about sex. According to Conti, one of the worst things you can do on a first date is talk about anything sexual or physical. “Women want that, too,” she says, “but talking about it on a first date is such a turnoff.”