It-Girl Matchmaker Amy Van Doran uses her Miss Frizzle magic to help New York singles find love in a hopeless place. The trick? It ain’t magic.
September 11, 2014 | The Coffee Table Book | Fall 2014
New Yorker by way of Florida, Amy Van Doran belongs to the school of whatever works. She made waves when she called the Millionaire Matchmaker, Patti Stanger, unfeminist. She believes that being single is awesome and fun, and if that is your honest truth, you should live it. “I don’t think that everyone has to get married or have kids,” she says with authority. She belongs to the school of whatever works. It’s about being yourself and digging it.
I met Amy at her Upper East Side office on a rainy day in April, her bright orange hair a ray of sunlight. A chic grandmother, a clown, and a sunset all rolled into one, Amy is as distinctive as any style icon. Today she is wearing a pair of loose-fitting black tribal print drawstring pants with a black longsleeve top and intricate necklace. Had she not mentioned it, I would have never known they were from a street vendor she stopped at on her way to work. She had dressed for the gym that morning. Sometimes forgetting your pants just works for you.
When Amy first arrived in New York at eighteen as an acting student, she was throwing parties and doing image consulting on the side. Her parties were called “Date My Friends!”, but it wasn’t until six years later that Van Doran realized matchmaking could be a real job. The acting gig grew tiresome, she says, so she turned to matchmaking as an expression of something bigger than herself- God’s work. It comes from a really genuine place. She explains, “I personally just really like hearing people’s stories. We interview nine people here a day. These people come in and tell us their life stories, tell us what moves them, tell us about their heartbreak. That for me is so much more interesting than myself… I get to have the gift of helping people along their journey.”
I spend the first 20 minutes of our conversation trying to read her. She’s complex and I’m having trouble so my questions are coming out muffled and confusing; amateur. Luckily, she’s a talker. She talks her way to the essence of her answers. I’m a romantic; despite all the bad OkCupid dates I’ve been on, I still believe When Harry Met Sally will happen to me. So I sort of expected coming to talk to Amy that I would leave with all the secrets to finding true love, the tricks of the trade, the stuff no one tells you.
“You don’t think yourself into love. You’re just out there and it happens,” she concedes. “The more you study it, the less you know. There’s no mystery – all you can do just be available and show up. There’s no secret. I could tell you that this is what people in this age group should do, but there are no guarantees. All you can do is just be you, the most unabashed you that you can be. But you have to be out there.”
I wonder about how successful New York women, Amy’s clientele, are different when it comes to love? I’ve seen Sex and the City, so I have a few preconceived ideas about this. “New York women aren’t different than women anywhere else, but there are a lot more women than men in New York – something like 10:7 of a certain socioeconomic background that are also single and heterosexual. Then there’s the fact that 60% of the men date women that are 10 years younger than them. I think that New York women are the best people in the world. They are so fascinating and so brilliant, and have these great careers. New York women are looking to meet their equals, but New York men aren’t necessarily impressed by earnings, great jobs or people who are creative visionaries,” she says. “I think New York women are tough, in a good way; they’re resilient. Despite it being so hard, they’re still optimistic and trying. I look up to New York women.”
Amy’s appearance is striking and layered— her clothes are a statement of her self, she says they help balance her mood. The brighter the outfit, the harder it is to feel sad. The way she holds herself is both confident and tender, she’s enigmatic. When I ask if she likes the attention her look brings, she admits she’s happy to be recognized in the subway station– her unique style can sometimes be helpful in bringing in new clients for her matchmaking service. If being her self helps attract business, she’s not about to mess up a good thing; whatever works.
Her advice for single straight ladies is empowering but starkly realistic, “I would just think about what brings value. What [you] love about [your]self and what I love about [you] is not necessarily what the opposite sex is into. Strike the balance of being a kickass person while also trying to maintain an aura of femininity. I don’t necessarily believe in doing that– although I do think it is kind of the secret to making it work in New York.”
She senses my defeated frown and continues, “People should just be their badass selves, and if someone is cool enough to get it, then awesome. You shouldn’t want love so desperately that you’re willing to change who you are in the process. Being single is awesome too! Don’t waste your time if it isn’t something that is making you a better person and you feel like you’re serving a higher self, and you aren’t waking up and happy to be there.”
“You shouldn’t want love so desperately that you’re willing to change who you are in the process.”
It’s refreshing to meet a matchmaker (not that I meet many) who doesn’t believe love is a fairy tale or the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. “I’m very unpopular because of this,” she says. “The most important thing is to do you and dig it. You’ll be putting out good vibes, and someone will have the good taste to like you, but I wouldn’t ever take it personally if they didn’t. I think that being single is really fun. I’m not willing to make concessions. I know what I’m supposed to do to make a relationship work. I’ve read all the books, I’ve studied with all these great thinkers in the field, I have access to 5000 people I’ve interviewed, so I could certainly pluck a new boyfriend from wherever. If it’s a goal to meet someone, there’s nothing wrong with figuring out how to make that happen. You have to do something proactive: go to a matchmaker, go online. If you’re not doing anything, it’s not possible.”
“Be open to changing your mind. Like, I don’t need to be a mother, but if my boyfriend really wanted it, he’d make such a great dad, I’m not going to deprive him of his existential right. I was never on the trajectory of having a child, but I was okay with being wrong about myself because the joy of being in love triumphed over my ego and my personal narrative.”
“I always envisioned myself as being single and alone in a bathtub full of diamonds with lots of poodles. And then I was like, hmm, actually I could live on a farm and have a goldendoodle and pop out babies, too. You know, I’m open.”
Does she have the poodles and the diamonds? I want to know. “I have a poodle and a shih tzu. Dogger is a blind shih tzu, he’s really sweet, and Juniper Prancer, she’s the one that plays the piano, and she also sit on my head like a hat. I also never thought I would have dogs, but I’m an open, go with the flow kind of person. If someone gives me a dog, I’ll keep it.”
She’s could have her own reality show, but Amy has always turned down the offers in favor of the simple clarity of her matchmaking. “I just like this,” she says, motioning around her quaint little office. “I’m not interested in myself, I’m interested in all of these people I meet. I just want to sit here on my little crappy couch and hear people’s stories. I didn’t realize it could be so easy to find something that makes you happy. Sometimes with clients we will just sit here and drink champagne and talk about [life]. It’s not like in therapy because therapists are just so silent! If I’m being an asshole, tell me I’m being an asshole; if I’m being awesome, tell me I’m being awesome. Give me something to work with here! It’s like, come on, I know you’re thinking something! Even in my relationships, if someone doesn’t talk to me for a day, I don’t think they are thinking nice things about me. My brain jumps to the worst conclusions.”
I wholeheartedly agree. People who believe in waiting some period of time before texting you back should be punished.
“You should text them while you’re on the date.”
Amy wears a dress by Carleen.
Kellie Hogan is the only person who Kellie Hogan finds funny; don’t even try to make her laugh unless you’ve won a daytime Emmy. She gets most of her work done at 3 am, after spending the entire day sleeping, painting her nails, and writing to-do lists. She's a Peggy Olsen at work and a Peggy Olsen in the bedroom. She is the Editor-in-Chief of inconnu.
- Editor’s Letter - […] past spring Taylor, Joanna and myself were all together in New York working on this issue’s feature with matchmaker Amy…