At 32, Sofi Teleky has long, strong legs that an Arabian mare would envy, plush brown hair, toned everything, and a lilting accent from her native Hungary. She also owns an e-commerce business that sends her to Europe for months at a time. In her spare hours, she puts her smouldering looks to use as an actor; recently, she played a sexy maid in a short film. She’s smart, hot, accomplished, and on her own. Yes, boys. She’s still single. And, she said, it’s all your fault.
“Sometimes I see a cute guy in the lineup at Starbucks,” Teleky, who lives in Delta, told the Georgia Straight in a recent phone interview. “I’ll smile and look, and look away, and flirt, and he’ll never approach me. Guys here have no testicles. That’s a huge problem. But women can also be really hard on men. Especially the attractive ones.”
It’s no new revelation that Vancouver is a tough place to meet a mate, or even date. The Straight interviewed several singles who, like Teleky, have looked for love for a decade or longer with little success. Also like Teleky, they are lust winners overseas but love losers here. Is it their problem or the Lower Mainland’s?
Statistically speaking, Vancouver’s never-married, separated, divorced, and widowed folk represent 58 percent of the population, or 293,320 people, according to Statistics Canada. That’s a significant sea in which to miss finding a fish. Other Canadian cities are comparable: Toronto has 53 percent single folk; Edmonton 55 percent; Montreal 66 percent; and Victoria a whopping 70 percent.
But flummoxed singles still blame this city for their personal romantic drought.
Sarah Jones, for example, is a 34-year-old paramedic from North Vancouver who’s just returned from three months in Argentina and Brazil. A breakup 18 months ago left her raw, she told the Straight. And she’s not looking for a husband quite yet. She said she’s not emotionally ready for a partner again. But the South American men easily coaxed out her inner vixen.
“They’re fabulous,” she gushed. “They have no problem telling you how they feel and if they want you and what they want to do with you.” At first, she admitted, the aggressiveness turned her off. But, she said, she soon realized that it was far more lighthearted than the attention she gets in Vancouver. Here, she said, if a guy asks for a phone number, it’s a huge deal for him. “Down there, it’s like, ”˜I like you. Let me take you for dinner.’ ”
Describing himself as “super single”, TV production designer Tink (who goes by that name alone) also has trouble with Vancouver. He’s attracted to men and women he describes as “interesting, out-there people”. As a model, he found them in London, Barcelona, and Rome, he told the Straight. As a filmmaker, he found them in New York. As a designer, he found them in Tokyo. He just doesn’t find them here.
“In a city like L.A. or Tokyo, you’ve got people at the top of what they do creatively, and it’s satisfying. There’s a buzz. I have tons of friends I love dearly in Vancouver. But someone that sparks me? I don’t have that.”
The city isn’t the problem, according to Diederik Wolsak, the founder of the Choose Again Center for Attitudinal Healing. Instead, it’s that so many singles look outside themselves for what’s missing inside.
“There’s six billion victims on the planet,” Wolsak told the Straight. “Your job is not to make someone else happy, and their job is not to make you happy. Your job is to fall in love with you, and my job is to fall in love with me. And we are madly in love with each other doing that.”
Most folks, Wolsak explained, don’t have a clue what they want in a relationship. And when they’re in one, they don’t know what the purpose of it is. To him, it’s simple: love is happiness; “it’s more fun than anything you can imagine.” He suggested this, like the concept of Namaste—the divine in me greets the divine in you— is a spiritual-relationship theme that extends across faiths and time: the Upanishads, Buddha, and so on. Young people, he said, have an easier time grasping the concept of intrinsic worth, as do First Nations people. It’s older people and white people, he said, who struggle with it the most. To build a worthwhile relationship, Wolsak said, everyone must start with the idea that they’re intrinsically valuable—apart from the size of their paycheque or the firmness of their buns—and that those they are dating are intrinsically valuable as well.
That’s not a local problem, Wolsak explained; that’s a western-world challenge.
However, lifestyle coach Ronald Lee said Vancouver’s vibe is indeed an impediment to love. His dating-coaching service works hard to give locals the social skills they need to talk to the opposite sex—a simple platform that’s frequently missing, he told the Straight during an interview in a West Broadway coffee shop.
“In Vancouver, we’re looking for someone to take care of us,” he said, noting that many women are looking for wealth, and men for a mommy figure. “We’re screening harder because we think we’re entitled to more.”
At the same time, he explained, there’s a dangerous stasis in the city. Generally, no one is working as hard as the Edmontonians or Torontonians to meet each other. Vancouver guys, he said, will memorize scripts before hitting the bar, or put on a he-man act for the evening; women, on the other hand, will dress poorly and reject everyone without giving them a chance.
Asha Gill, 41, doesn’t have much patience for Vancouver’s shallow dating scene, so she’s single. After a marriage that ended in divorce six years ago and mad dating afterward, she’s narrowed her relationship search to reflect her experience. She doesn’t have a checklist of qualities, such as romance or cash, so many of her same-age girlfriends screen for, she said. Lasting love, she’s discovered, is really about good day-to-day communication, being understood, and seeking to understand.
“Being loved by a partner and having that kind of loving exchange, nothing can touch that in terms of how it makes you feel,” Gill told the Straight, explaining why she’s still looking for love. “You can be happy on your own. And I am. But nothing can touch that feeling.”
As for Teleky, she’s not looking for love anymore. Raised behind the Iron Curtain on a literary diet of Jane Austen and the Brontí«s, she once had a heart full of romantic fantasy. Now, as an adult, she’s given up on the Prince Charming dream; at the same time, she’s also given up on romance.
“No one dreams of a really dependable man who has maybe lost his hair or is short,” she said. “Everyone wants a Mr. Darcy.”
In a city where Teleky said she has trouble finding even a decent conversation, she’s stuck in no-man land.