Online dating is increasingly a numbers game. Some services count on number-crunching algorithms that claim to compute the equation of love. Others opt to sell themselves on sheer mass. And when things don’t work out? Send another 20 messages like you’re tossing fishing lines into a crowded aquarium. You don’t have to know what you’re doing; you’ll eventually snag on something. It’s this mentality that keeps people swiping right for eternity like a modern-day Sisyphus.
This may be part of the reason why there is a new trend in online dating: exclusivity. Throw away the notion of “plenty of fish in the sea.” Instead, these closed-off networks of daters suggest you value quality over quantity.
That’s what the Dating Lounge purports to be. The creation of professional matchmaker Samantha Daniels of Samantha’s Table, the app skids by on her pedigree. She’s an accomplished talent, an author and on-air personality who claims to be responsible for over 300 marriages in her 15 years of playing Cupid for the upper class.
“[I’ve] spent a lot of time listening to what high-end successful single people like and don’t like about dating, and more recently about dating apps,” she told the Daily Dot. This is what inspired her to launch the Dating Lounge, the gated community of online dating.
And she let me peek behind the velvet rope.
Getting in the club
To even get to the point where you’re setting up a profile on the Dating Lounge, you have to be invited to the party (there’s an impressive waiting list). “Affluent people want in a dating app with an exclusive community full of people with whom they have a lot in common. The best way to achieve that result is by making the app invitation-only,” Daniels explained.
Users either have to be invited by existing users, request account approval by an existing member, or register for admission via a vetting process. “Our tagline,” Daniels said, “is ‘Do you belong?’ playing off of the double-entendre ‘Do you belong?’ and ‘Should’ you belong? This keeps the membership highly vetted.”
So who gets in? “The Dating Lounge is targeting upscale members who are looking for real relationships. The members of The Dating Lounge are welleducated, influential, successful, and affluent individuals.” Daniels says the users of the app are generally all connected by “similar friends, education, careers, backgrounds, experiences, values, and philanthropic endeavors.” Which, sure, at face value sounds like a Tinder for rich people.
“I spent a lot of time coming up with a very strategic list of sophisticated interests from which Members can choose to really reflect their lifestyles.”
The unconnected are left at the door, unable to join without accompanying references or the credentials for entry. They’re joined at the curb by users who are already in a relationship. Every user on the site must link a social media site to their account upon registration. Daniels says the linked profile is combed through “to make sure no one is married or ‘in a relationship’ and if they are, they are automatically blocked from joining The Lounge.”
The Dating Lounge doesn’t appear to cater to LGBT users either. Encouragingly, there is the promise of a “man for man” and “woman for woman” option in an upcoming release. But for now, even the dating tips within the app (I’ll get to those shortly) were directed at straight daters.
Joining the elite
Once you clear the bouncers and get inside, you begin creating your profile. Instead of attempting to fill up blank text boxes with attention-grabbing information, the Dating Lounge automatically generates each user a description based on how they fill out survey-style questions with checkbox answers.
Daniels says this is a strategic attempt to recreate her matchmaking success for online dating. “I spent a lot of time coming up with a very strategic list of sophisticated interests from which Members can choose to really reflect their lifestyles. In this way, they can see what interests they have in common with other members,” she says.
From the looks of it, Daniels’s clients really love skiing. There were so many variations on the activity within the categories of hobbies and free time: “skiing black diamonds,” “first tracks on new powder,” “hanging out at the ski lodge,” just regular “skiing.” Between the many iterations of options for snow bunnies, users can also profess their interests in polo, kiteboarding, and stamp collections, among others.
Users are asked to describe their look with descriptors like “doe-eyed,” “girl next door,” and “va va voom,” and their personality with options such as “ball of fire,” “big cheese,” or “bon vivant.” All of this eventually produces a paint-by-numbers profile where the phrases selected are dropped into the blank spaces in a Mad Libs-style paragraph that will greet others when they visit.
From the looks of it, Daniels’s clients really love skiing.
Additional information can be provided to better flesh out the profile. Information like where a person went to school consists primarily of prestigious, private institutions—Ivy Leaguers will feel fully represented—while many major public and state schools were bunched under the generic “Other,” from which users can then manually enter their lesser-known school.
And the upper crustiness of it all really hits new heights when you get to the app’s income level information. Users can optionally choose to set their range of earnings, which are broken down as “Under 100K”, “Over 100K,” “Over 250K,” “Over 500K,” “Over 1 Million,” “Over 5 Million,” and “Other.” Intimidating? Absolutely.
Finding a match on the Dating Lounge isn’t all that different than other sites, save for the clientele. The app presents potential matches, whom users can then like or dislike based off their profile. “There are 15 specific match settings that allow users to strategically search for the type of person they want to date,” Daniel says. This ensures shared values and interests. “I am a firm believer that the more things two people have in common, the more chance they have for a successful relationship,” she explained.
Daniels believes her years of matchmaking experience gives the Dating Lounge an edge. “The most unique aspect of The Dating Lounge is the fact that it is the only dating app on the market that has a real life Professional Matchmaker (me) behind it, who has been deeply entrenched in the dating industry for over 15 years,” Daniels says. “All other dating apps have business people behind them who, try as they might, just don’t have a real understanding about what high-end single people want and don’t want in quite the same way as I do.”
While you could argue that the business minds behind other dating apps don’t focus on “high-end singles” because it’s a much smaller market than the general population, it’s clear Daniels has her finger on the pulse of a particular market. She says she’s developed the matching and vetting algorithms of the Dating Lounge so her “personalized brand of matchmaking for which I am quite well known is felt throughout the entire app.”
“Some of you might think that [the tips] are not ‘politically correct.'”
If the invisible hand of the matchmaker isn’t yielding the results a person is looking for, they can allow their friends to match them up with a “play matchmaker” option or get direct advice from Daniels herself through the “ask the Matchmaker” feature. Users can ping Daniels with questions regarding dating or matches. “This makes a member feel like they have a support system and that they are not just thrown into another black hole dating app.”
Daniels has also loaded the apps with a “Dating Tips” section, which offers up “tough love” information for men and women in the dating game—specifically straight men and women.
“Some of you might think that [the tips] are not ‘politically correct’ (whatever that might mean in today’s age),” cautions the tips section before dropping tips like “Women in the Lounge expect men to pay on the first date.”
A large section of the tips for women center around how they present themselves; they read like they’ve been peeled directly from Cosmo. “Men in the Lounge care about looks,” the tips say. “Men in the Lounge are attracted to fit women.”
“This is not about thin or fat, although in today’s world all know that most men prefer thin women. This is about being fit: working out, eating healthy, caring about yourself. You have no choice in this,” it insists. “It’s the reality of the high-end singles community.”
In contrast, men are simply expected to remain above the bar of “slovenly, unkempt person.” Men are expected to “dress decently for a date,” but women aren’t “even one thousandth as picky as men when it comes to looks,” the app says.
A separate tip suggests that men like happy women, though not for the purposes of valuing someone else’s real happiness. “You shouldn’t be a doormat, but you certainly shouldn’t be a pain in the butt when it comes to everything either. If you are too difficult, he will walk away and find someone easier.”
The app states that men have a preconceived notion that women are in a rush to get married, so it’s the woman’s job to make sure they come off as relaxed and in no rush, then suggests that women may have to eventually use an ultimatum to “help him catch up to your time clock.”
The app also suggests men believe women are a little crazy and for women to disprove this untruth they should “save your crazy for your girlfriends and your mother.” The final tip for women is that men like sex, and that they like women who like sex. The suggestion that perhaps women just enjoy sex independent of a man’s interest in it is absent.
No love in the club
If you haven’t gathered, the Dating Lounge is full of outdated men versus women tropes. Daniels is an expert on the topic by her own accord, so if anyone were to understand the thought process of those dating in high society, it would be her. But it’s depressing to think that relationships between upper-class single people can be distilled down to the plot of a bad romantic comedy.
For those who fit into this mold and share in these beliefs about relationships, perhaps securing entrance into the Dating Lounge will serve them well. I guess you have to keep in mind how very different these people are from most of us. As Daniels points out, “It would not be unusual for a Dating Lounge member to match with another member who equally enjoys attending charity events, traveling to St. Bart’s and/or drinking Negroni.” Exactly.
The Dating Lounge doesn’t come right out and say normals aren’t welcome, but it may as well. There’s a definite appeal to an exclusive dating app, one that promises a better prospects, better matches, and better dates. That appeal wears off quickly once you get inside and realize that you don’t belong. You got behind the velvet rope only to realize they’re serving the same drinks as they have at the bar across the street, they’re just charging three times as much, and everyone looks like they stepped out of a Brooks Brothers catalog.
Maybe exclusivity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Photo via bjornmeansbear/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)