Veteran matchmaker Annie Mills Mayo has a message for people seeking mates in this age of COVID-19: “Love is not canceled.”
Ever the entrepreneur, when the Boulder native and certified relationship coach was facing unemployment after her boss announced his retirement, she knew she had to do something. After all, she was in love with her work.
She had only been in the industry for a year, but saw endless potential. So she asked her boss if there were any options, and upon his retirement in 2010, she turned The Right One into her own company, rebranded as Duets. Her success with that concept led her to acquire Ignite, a competing Denver-based matchmaking company, a few months later, mainly for its database.
“They had some good software, but I needed matches!” says Mayo, who admits that she got the list for a steal at under $1,000.
Soon Mayo herself caught the eye of It’s Just Lunch, a matchmaking outfit that bought her company in 2013 and made Mayo the Senior Elite Matchmaker for the “elite” side, where members pay up to five figures or more to enroll in the elite wing of its matching service. Things were just lovely until COVID-19 blindsided the matchmaking industry, as it did just about everything else. There were no more meetings at bars, restaurants, clubs or sporting events. Even scheduling a meetup outdoors in Larimer Square became a health-safety issue for clients.
The matchmaking business came to a screeching halt. But then something happened.
“It was around the end of March, beginning of April,” Mayo recalls. “All of a sudden, people started to feel something.”
As singles assessed what life was going to look like over the next months, devoid of outlets for meeting people, they began calling exes and exploring other ways to make connections. They needed to build their “pod,” Mayo says. “Singles started to get serious about dating.”
Casual dating was something that serious singles could no longer afford, not if they wanted to avoid health risks.
In all her years in the business, Mayo had never seen anything create a more polarized dating scene than looking for love in the time of COVID. The virus had a way of dividing singles into very specific categories.
Where before the pandemic it was understood that topics like politics might be tabled until after the first or second meetup, now there was no sense in wasting time. If you believed COVID was real, you needed to insist on a Zoom call and be assured that your prospective date would show up with a mask and a respect for social distancing.
No longer would promising matches be subsequently torpedoed by political or scientific disagreements. People stated COVID-inspired standards from the start. One hopeful member used the required bio essay to clearly state “NO MAGA HATS!” and “I BELIEVE IN SCIENCE!”
Masks were another make-or-break issue for potential matches. Mayo says that the number of people who demand their mates wear masks just about balances those who don’t want to quarantine after returning from weekly business trips. (After all, if you’re paying over five figures for a dating site, you gotta keep making that skrilla!)
The best advice she can give: Be honest.
When a single enrolls in the “elite” class, Mayo or one of her associates meets with that new member for a personal interview — on Zoom these days — and then determines possible matches and locations for a meet.
She recalls one meetup arranged in front of the Denver Fire Department station in the northeast corner of Washington Park. “He asked if he could remove his mask,” Mayo says her client related. “Poor thing said it was okay, but inside she was uncomfortable.”
While that prospective pairing wasn’t a match, Mayo stays positive. She’s had about three to four successful relationships birthed out of the pandemic, and even attended a COVID wedding of a client.
“It’s been a great new way of helping people navigate the dating scene,” she says. “Knock on wood, I haven’t had anyone who has gotten or given the virus to each other.”
Annie Mills Mayo: Ten Tips for Dating During (and After) a Pandemic
1. Be authentic and honest: This should be obvious, but if you hit it off on that first date, the truth will eventually come out, and nobody wants to start a fresh relationship with a lie or two (no matter how small). This applies to the end of the date, as well: If you’re not interested in seeing someone again, let them know politely and wish them the best on their dating journey.
2. Be interested/interesting: A conversation should be a back-and-forth exercise between two people, not one person talking at the other. Be a good listener; ask great questions.
3. Be on time: Show respect for the other person by arriving to the date on time, whether it’s online or in person.
4. Dress to impress: First impressions count. Whether you’re meeting at a restaurant, going for a walk or meeting over Zoom, you want to look like you’ve put effort into your end of things.
5. Don’t talk politics: Keep it light. The first date is to learn about the person you’re spending time with, to discover their interests and passions. You’ll have plenty of time to talk about politics down the line.
6. Ditch your “type”: If you’re single and dating, your type has yet to serve you well. Be open to the possibilities.
7. Dating is a numbers game: You meet people to see what you like and what you’re trying to avoid. The more people you meet, the more chances you have at meeting “the one.”
8. Respect boundaries: If you’re not comfortable meeting in person right away, meet by video. If you aren’t comfortable taking off your mask for a walk, say so. If you’re uncomfortable it will show, and you can’t be your best self.
9. Laugh: Nobody wants to be on a boring date, and laughter is the easiest way to win someone over.
10. Keep the past in the past: Don’t bring up your exes or past relationships. Focus on the present and the person you’re with in the moment.
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