Catholic dating gets a makeover
It all started with a Twitter rant.
A single Catholic woman sounded off in personal disappointment about a speed dating event that she was attending at a local parish.
Per the norm for many things related to Catholic dating, throngs of women quickly signed up, while the event struggled to capture the interest of men, despite the $10 price that included drinks and appetisers.
The tweet spread throughout so-called Catholic Twitter and beyond, and hundreds chimed in.
“What’s wrong with these men? $10 drinks and apps and talking to women and they still won’t show up?” one commenter said. “Seems like a silly event,” said another.
The conversation sparked by the tweet captured more than just one woman’s frustration with a one-time event. Single Catholics bemoaned the many difficulties of modern dating – finding someone with the same beliefs, limited options of single Catholics who live in certain areas, the uneven ratio of Catholic women to men, those who seem forever to be discerning and never committing, and so on.
Catholic-specific online dating options have also, until recently, been quite limited. One or two sites with dial-up era technology, no apps, and high prices remained the only options for years for single Catholics hoping to meet new people, but wanting to avoid the “Netflix and Chill” culture associated with certain secular dating apps.
Times are tough in the Catholic dating world, but there are people who are paying attention – and trying to change the game.
Meet the #CatholicYenta
Emily Zanotti, a married mother of 5-month-old twins and editor for the Daily Wire, is one such person paying attention to the woes of her single sisters and brothers in Christ.
In her personal life, she already boasts several successful matches she’s arranged between friends resulting in multiple marriages and, so far, five babies. She once paid a friend $5 to ask out someone she suggested – they are married now.
“I find matchmaking to be really fun and it’s something that I’ve done for friends and acquaintances for quite a long time,” Zanotti told CNA.
When she saw the speed dating conversation on Twitter, Zanotti somewhat off-handedly offered her matchmaking skills to anyone on Catholic Twitter who wanted to be set up. She asked interested parties to respond to her Tweet or send her a message with some contact information and personal information that she could use to follow up with them and find them a match.
The response, she said, was “overwhelming.”
“By the end of about three days – and this is to some extent thanks to help from the Jennifer Fulwiler Show on Sirius, which I went on after this exploded on Twitter – we had a thousand people sign up for this #CatholicYenta matchmaking service,” Zanotti said.
A yenta is a colloquial term for a Jewish matchmaker (it was popularised by the musical Fiddler on the Roof – the real Yiddish term for matchmaker is ‘shadchanit’). The name #CatholicYenta originally started off as a joke between Zanotti and one of her Jewish friends, who tagged her as the #CatholicYenta when she found out what Zanotti was doing.
“So I was like, you know what? No one owns that domain. Let’s go,” Zanotti said.
Now an official website, Catholics can sign up for the Yenta’s matchmaking services by answering 19 questions, including a question about liturgical preferences, questions about work and pace of life, and questions about family, hobbies and interests.
There’s no algorithm-generated matches here. Zanotti is combing through each one, following up with phone calls with each applicant, and doing what she does best – personally introducing couples whom she thinks would make a good match. She said most of this will be done through email. She’ll even help coordinate the first meet-and-greet for the couple, if necessary.
For good matches, Zanotti said she pays attention to personality traits and senses of humor the most, she said, as well as if they have similar tastes in blogs or podcasts or other media.
“I find that sense of humor is a really, really good way of telling which people go together,” Zanotti said. “If they laugh at the same jokes, if they read some of the same people, I get the sense that they’re ready to be matched together.”
She’s also relying on prayer and the Holy Spirit to help inspire her.
Zanotti said she’s trying to keep the matches confined to relatively the same geographical area, although she is doing some long-distance matching for those who indicated that they would be open to it.
When asked if the gender ratios of her applicants were as skewed as the D.C. speed dating event that sparked all of this, Zanotti said it was actually nearly “an even split” of men and women.
“There’s a lot of men who are very quiet about this. It’s not something that I think they tweet about or say or maybe even tell friends,” she said.
“I think a lot of this has to do with the way dating is right now,” she added. “There’s a lot of emphasis on app dating and hookup culture and so much of it is impersonal. And I think people just responded to the idea that they want a human connection…they want to meet people using that special human touch.”
Zanotti met her husband the old-fashioned way, in person at Ave Maria law school.
“My husband asked me out on MySpace, so that’s how long I’ve been out of the dating pool,” she said.
A lot has changed about dating culture since then. Zanotti said she hopes #CatholicYenta is helping to fill in the gaps where modern dating culture is lacking for Catholics.
Drops in the number of people of faith have alone narrowed people’s options, she said. Catholics are often found in small enclaves throughout the country, and if one doesn’t find a match within one’s limited enclave, it can be really difficult to meet other Catholics.
“I think people who are serious about their faith and serious about values are not particularly served by the options that are out there,” she said. “It is really difficult for Catholics and people of faith to find people who share their values in this dating pool.”
Zanotti has plans for #CatholicYenta’s expansion beyond the questionnaire, she said. She is launching a new, updated website soon, and hopes to expand the site’s services to include dating coaching, prayer groups, counseling options for married couples, and a network of people who are married or religious who want to help single people find each other.
She encouraged Catholics to pray more for their single friends who want to be married.
“To have people praying for Catholic marriages, praying for matches for the people who participate in this…the more prayer we can have, the better,” she said. “In order for Catholicism to grow and flourish, you have to have serious Catholics getting married and having children, and we need to pray for that.”