A guide to today’s Toronto dating scene

A guide to today’s Toronto dating scene

Catching someone’s eye in a bar? Yesterday’s news. The modern dating world is complex, app-driven and, frankly, a little scary. Here’s a primer on the best—and weirdest—new ways to find, dissolve, dissect or even fake a relationship in Toronto

NICHE DATING APPS

The latest swiping services are hell-bent on keeping out the riff-raff. Here, five of the most exclusive

LUXY
For One-Percenters

Luxy

The app launched in 2014 with the tongue-in-cheek tagline “Tinder minus the poor people” and sparked an immediate avalanche of hate (the CEO claims he’s received death threats). Members have an average salary of $250,000, and fakers are deterred through an “income verify” feature.
Who’s on it: CEOs, scions, socialites.

THE LEAGUE
For Country Clubbers

The League

Founded by a Stanford grad, the app vets prospective daters based on their social, educational and professional pedigrees (there’s a 100,000-person wait list). It’s currently only available in New York and San Francisco, but it’s slated for international expansion in the spring.
Who’s on it: I-bankers, lawyers, collar-popped Ivy Leaguers.

RAYA
For Cultural Elitists

Raya

It’s the dating app version of a velvet-roped nightclub: users are selected via secretive committee based on beauty, Instagram influence and referrals from existing swipers. Instead of profile pics, members upload moody photo montages set to music.
Who’s on it: Artists, models and celebs (including, reportedly, Moby, Kelly Osbourne and Lily Allen).

BELINKED
For Professionals

Belinked

The LinkedIn spinoff hails itself as a dating destination for “quality, like-minded people.” It pulls data directly from the networking site, letting users target partners from similar educational and professional pools (notably, they can also filter out members of their own circle, thus reducing the risk of awkward encounters).
Who’s on it: Gainfully employed professionals.

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
For Superficialists

Beautiful People

This site is ruthless about enforcing its exacting physical standards—it recently booted 3,000 members for weight gain and “graceless aging.”
Who’s on it: 800,000 hard bodies from around the world, including Canada, Denmark, Britain, France, Poland and the U.S.


 

DATING HORROR STORIES

Bad dates are demoralizing, but they also make for good comedy. That’s the logic that led to the launch of 416 Dating Stories, an itinerant storytelling show and fundraiser where Toronto singles share their tales from the trenches. Here, three cringe-inducing anecdotes from the stage.

Name: Ariel Kagan
Age: 27
Occupation: Comedian
“I agreed to go for sushi on a first date even though I’m squeamish about raw fish. At the restaurant, while I was distracted, my date picked up a piece of sashimi and popped it in my mouth. My gag reflex kicked in and I barfed all over her leg. She gave me one horrified look, then grabbed her stuff and left. I didn’t hear from her again.”
Name: Steph Davidson
Age: 33
Occupation: Copywriter
“I got catfished by a guy on OkCupid. I was confused when I met him because he looked nothing like his profile pic—he was older, heavier and just clearly a different person. I later confirmed via reverse-image search that his photo was actually of an obscure British session guitarist. He went on to try the same thing with a friend of mine.”
Name: Amish Patel
Age: 35
Occupation: Comedian
“On our second date, the woman I was seeing showed up on my doorstep hauling a massive suitcase. At first I didn’t know what was going on, but then she mentioned landlord troubles and started making herself at home. I was too embarrassed to tell her to leave straight-out, so I blamed it on my roommate—who was laughing in the next room.”

(Image: Davidson by Dukát Photos)


 

DATING WITH THE HELP OF SCIENCE

A gene-based compatibility test

Instant Chemistry, a biotech start-up from a pair of U of T–trained scientists, uses a combo of DNA and psychological testing to measure the long-term viability of romantic relationships. Analysts examine 10 genetic variants, including those related to empathy and risk-taking. $200 per couple. Instantchemistry.com.

Molecular Attraction

Step 1
Spit in a tube, pack it in the supplied biohazard bag and FedEx it to the lab.

Molecular Attraction

Step 2
Sign into the secure online portal and complete the psychological assessment.

Molecular Attraction

Step 3
Receive a 20-page PDF report assessing psychological, neurological and biological compatibility.


 

AN EASIER WAY TO BREAK UP

The Breakup Shop’s Mackenzie Keast helps daters outsource the icky business of saying buh-bye

Mackenzie Keast (Image: courtesy of Mackenzie Keast)
 

You co-founded a professional dumping service. What inspired you?
I was dating someone I met on Tinder when she all of a sudden “ghosted” me—just disappeared, no text, no phone call, nothing. My brother, Evan, and I realized there are many services that help people get into relationships, but none to help them get out. We handled roughly 70 breakups in our first month.

You offer a few different exit strategies—from $10 texts to $30 Dear John letters. What’s most popular?
The text service, followed by the personal call. But Snapchat is catching up.

Those phone calls must be awkward.
They’re totally awkward. But we’re very professional about it

So what exactly do you say, and how do people react when they’re dumped by proxy?
At first they’re usually like, “Is this a joke? Is this a prank? Who is this?” But we tell them, no, we’re calling on behalf of your significant other, and we’re breaking up with you. Once people get it, there’s the usual emotion. Surprise. Occasionally a few tears.

It seems callous to end a relationship through an intermediary.
I don’t think so, not unless you’re doing it maliciously. Our customers are generally in casual relationships where there’s not a lot of emotional attachment, and where there otherwise might not be a formal breakup at all. We give their future exes some closure—a bit of the “why.”

Are some people vindictive?
We’ve been asked to say cruel things, like “You’re a bitch” or “I’m sleeping with so-and-so now.” We won’t do that. We aren’t in the business of spreading hostility.

So you’d have felt better if your Tinder date dumped you via third-party text?
Yeah, absolutely. At least then I’d know the reason—like, “Julia is leaving you because you laugh weird,” or whatever it was. There’s always a reason, right?


 

WHEN BEING “JUST FRIENDS” IS ENOUGH

A women-only networking club that found its feet on Tinder

GirlCrew was born when a Dublin woman named Elva Carri found herself home, bored and browsing Tinder prospects on a Friday night. On a whim, she switched her cyber-gender to “male” and started pinging lady swipers with the following proposition: “Want to be friends and go dancing?” The huge response sparked a women’s movement that quickly went global. The 737-member Toronto chapter, organized through a private Facebook group, is like a dating club for female friendship: members share life advice, organize group vacations, and meet for book clubs, bar nights and other estrogen-fuelled outings across the city.


 

FIND A FAKE BOYFRIEND

No partner? No problem. Here are three novel ways to fake it till you make it

Invisible Boyfriend (Illustration: Mario Zucca)
 
INVISIBLE BOYFRIEND

Invisibleboyfriend.com
This service provides convincing electronic evidence of a romantic relationship (to mollify nagging parents, perhaps, or ward off unsuitable suitors). Users design a fake partner by filling out a questionnaire. An actual human assumes the persona and sends messages via text and voicemail. $35 for 100 texts and 10 voicemails.

Rent-a-Friend (Illustration: Mario Zucca)
 
RENT A FRIEND

Rentafriend.com
Hundreds of Toronto men and women offer their social services through this U.S.-based site, which stresses that it’s not an escort service (there’s a strict no-physical-contact policy). Faux friends can be hired for dinners, weddings, work functions or just hanging out. Starts at $10 per hour.

The Cuddlery (Illustration: Mario Zucca)
 
THE CUDDLERY

Cuddlery.ca
The Toronto company offers “high-quality platonic cuddles” by the hour, including caresses, pats and tickles (sexual activity and nudity are no-nos, though customers can pay extra for limited skin-to-skin contact). Any info confided during a cuddle session is kept strictly confidential. $49 for 30 minutes.