Toronto the cold

Whoever said meeting people is easy didn’t live in this city. It’s cold, and it’s not just the temperature. So why is Toronto such a harsh place to be single?


On any night of the week in Manhattan, women are like rabid wolves, thirsty for blood – and other bodily fluids – from the moment the clock strikes midnight until about 5 am.

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But on a Saturday on Queen West, the only ones rabidly prowling at 5 am are raccoons on the hunt for undigested poutine.

Toronto – a city where women outnumber men, speed and online dating services thrive and there’s a healthy appetite for sex – is caught in a sad romance.

That’s what NOW readers who filled out our survey tell us.

“In cities in Europe, people are more approachable. Everybody seems pissed off here. It’s all about running to and from work. People are rude. Guys in bars won’t even try to pick you up,” says one respondent.

“Not only is it difficult to find a partner in this city, but I find people are less inclined to just socialize with others outside their own cliques,” says another.

“I feel like the gay version of Bridget Jones! I’m single in a city filled with groups of smug marrieds. It ain’t pretty in this city being single,” says another disheartened respondent.

And almost 60 per cent of those surveyed think more sex goes on in Montreal.

Toronto the good? More like Toronto the cold. But why?

Justin Parfitt, the CEO of a dating company called FastLife, pins it on our history, saying the city still lugs around the social values of its pious, puritanical forefathers. “We put up barriers that seem to come from previous generations,” he says.

He says T.O.’s shyness is the reason his speed-dating events – and online dating – are so successful. People don’t meet each other in the more traditional ways.

“There’s a sense of reserve here that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere” says Parfitt, who is also the Slice network’s dating expert. “All you need to do is go into a bar in Toronto and one in New York. You see it instantly.”

The comparison to New York is frequent. The difference could come down to the traditional Big Apple attitude – bluntly skipping the niceties – but it could be demographics, too. In New York, there are 210,000 more single women than single men.

“One of the things that makes the dating scene in NYC so good – in some ways – is that there are so many single women,” says Sam Yagan, the founder of OKCupid, a site that’s been called the Google of online dating.

Statistically, there are usually more single women than men in a large city. That sex ratio is one of the factors urban pundit Richard Florida looks for when he evaluates whether a city is single-friendly or not.

Toronto’s ratio, though, is more like 55 to 45 – not enough to make a lot of difference.

The missing ingredient, Yagan hints, might be a certain social lubricant sold only in the LCBO, the Beer Store and at bars and restaurants. Our draconian drinking laws, he says, “may well be the bigger deal, since they remove any opportunity for spontaneity!”

A large number of readers, as well as Parfitt, mention Toronto’s reputation for being hard-working.

“Toronto’s fine for being single, but it’s certainly not as good as more sex-positive places (e.g., Montreal or anywhere in Europe) where people don’t make a huge deal about flirting,” reads one survey entry. “Torontonians are very career-focused, which can make a date feel like an interview more often than not.”

Toronto-only dating service The Daters makes a conscious effort to make dating less like a job.

“We found many approach dating and relationships from a very business-minded perspective,” says Laird Park Choi, Daters’ founder. “Perhaps if people took the time to enjoy the experience rather than analyze the other person’s calibre, we’d find love a little easier.”

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