Fiddling with filters, and self-selection.

Shapely Gal is a weekly-ish newsletter that discusses love, relationships, marriage and the various markets these are traded on. This newsletter is a concoction of observations, theories, ideas, real stories, figments of imagination and sometimes just rants on romantic relationships.

This edition of the newsletter attempts to explore trade on matrimonial markets, self-selection and the resulting frustration.

“How does your service work on matrimonial platforms where majority of the profiles are managed by parents and many have criteria that your client may not fit in (even if the profile matches my requirements)?”

Someone reached out with a question on the assistance service of M.B.A.

I read the question a few times.

People have requirements. Their matches have criteria. So, people are hoping for a high intersection between their requirements, and the match’s criteria. But at no point, does either party attempt to budge on their requirement or criteria, yet both continue to have a problem with each others’ requirements and criteria.

Wait, it’s not us, it’s the parents. But, is it, really?

People have figured out this much - it’s largely parents who trade on the matrimonial markets, and it’s the wards themselves that trade on dating platforms.

People think it’s the lack of parents on dating platforms that makes the dating market more liberal. In a way, yes. But what we all hate to admit is that we have our own criteria that is just as rigid as a horoscope match. Most of the time, none of this has any real bearing on the quality of relationships that can be built.

Yet, we fiddle with filters because it makes us feel in control.


You’re not buying tomatoes, it’s more romantic than that.

If you had all the time in the world to buy juicy tomatoes to make a marinara sauce, you can hunt down the entire market to find the best tomatoes. But at a given point of time, you have to pick the least worst ones if you really want to make the sauce.

The problem gets complicated multi-fold if the tomatoes have to like you back. Yet, you go round and round the market in circles looking for tomatoes that don’t exist because you saw a movie in which those tomatoes existed or because you neighbour managed to get them last week. So, why can’t you right?

I think this is how people who don’t understand market dynamics think.

Economics has no place messing with romance, does it? Actually, hanging out on a matrimonial site flipping through a human catalogue isn’t exactly romantic. Romance is something else. But this is economics - it’s about trade, and markets.


Unless you’re willing to pay a premium, your trade won’t go through

If you’re looking to trade something liquid like 3 shares of Infosys, the transaction cost of your trade is fairly low. You simply list your trade on the National Stock Exchange and you’ll soon find someone to take the other side. But when you’re looking to sell something less liquid - like 5 bonds of Reliance at 6% maturing in June 2025, the exchange won’t work for you. You will have to go through the “over the counter” market, paying a higher premium to make the trade go through.

What does higher premium in a marriage market look like?

  • You engage multiple brokers to represent your interest, and help scout a partner of your preference. This means, you’ve got to be prepared to shell out thousands or even lakhs of rupees. This has highest likelihood of a medium pay-off. You save time, you could be spending your time doing things that make you more interesting, but money doesn’t guarantee a higher than expected pay-off. You only get what you deserve, at the most.

  • You date a lot. You put yourself out there, learning about people, letting them learn about you and nurturing the possibility of a relationship, not once but multiple times. Eventually, you’ll see a pay-off. Here you pay a premium in terms of your pride. I am not sure about the likelihood of a pay-off, but when you have one, it is very high.

  • You wait around endlessly either on or off platforms like you deserve being found. Here, you pay a premium in terms of your time. This has the lowest likelihood of pay-off with a low-medium pay-off because this is a market for lemons.

Now, most people choose the last option because they don’t have to make a decision themselves. Since they don’t take much responsibility for their destiny, they unfortunately don’t enjoy the benefits of market feedback. Hence, you will see that they don’t budge much from their requirements, that almost never fits anyone’s criteria.


Blame it all on the market if you want, but you’re part of it too

Nothing irks me more than lack of clarity, long check-lists and lack of flexibility in the marriage market. Actually, there is one thing that irks me even more - people’s inability to see that this is a matching market. This basically means that people who you like need to like you back in order for you to exit the market.

People who don’t like you back aren’t very different from you. They think in boxes and filters just like you. They don’t care who you are beyond the words and pictures that make up your profile. Just like you. They lack flexibility just like you. They don’t want to give you a chance just like how you don’t want to give someone else a chance.

I know that there’s a part of you that ever so often resolves to thinking you could’ve serendipitously met the partner of your dreams, and a relationship magically would transpire between the two of you. But don’t let that fool you.

You are the market, and the market is you.


So, what does it take to make a trade happen?

Broadly, there are three ways to make a trade happen:

  1. Compromise - stop being so fussy, work with what you can get. Learn how to get married in 3 months.

  2. Engage a broker - pay a premium to make an “over the counter” trade. There is Assisted matrimony, Select Shaadi, several community brokers and MBA’s assistance program as well.

  3. Get out of the market - smash your biological clock. It’s imaginary anyway. Shut that little voice in your head that lives in constant fear of dying alone. Break all the boxes and filters that are holding you back from just experience life as it is. Start from a place of curiosity vs judgement. Sign up on Dinner Club.

Remember that no matter what path you choose, you pay a premium for the trade - time, pride, money. You take your pick, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or dinner.


But you don’t have skin in the game.

Those of you who think it’s easy for me to throw this BS around just because I am married, you are damn right. It’s because I am married, and have been for 10 years, that I know what it takes to build a relationship. If I were on your side (which I was 10 years ago), I probably wouldn’t know better.

No one ever told me what was important and what wasn’t in relationships before I got married. So, when people tell me things like they want people to look a certain way or lean a certain side of centre, I can’t help but wonder what a conversation between a 22 year old me and a 33 year old me would look like…

22Me: Hey, I find intelligent men really attractive.

33Me: That’s great. How does that impact your relationship?

22Me: Oh well, he’d have a great job. We’d have lots of money. I can buy whatever I want, travel the world and generally have a happy life.

33Me: I don’t think you understood my question. How does your partner’s intelligence impact the relationship between you and him?

22Me: I would always look up to him and be attracted to him forever.

33Me: Great, what about him? How would he feel about you?

22Me: He would love me forever too.

33Me: What makes you so sure? What do you have to offer?

22Me: I am smart too. Isn’t that enough?

33Me: Would he look up to you?

22Me: Duh, why not.

33Me: How are you so sure?

22Me: I don’t know, it’s just a feeling. Sometimes you just have to take a chance.


More from Shapely Gal

Here’s a little sneak peak into the various projects I am working on:

  1. Dinner Club - We’ve had 10 blind dates (including a celebrity one) in the last two weeks, and 14 more coming up this week. Before the end of the first month, I’d like to have reached 50 dates. So, if you are open to going on virtual blind dates, you should sign up.

  2. Ask Auntie: If you don’t want to stay with your in-laws, how do you make that clear to your potential partner right in the beginning.

  3. Arrange Your Own Marriage: Last week I discussed caste and horoscope based matching - why we rely on them, how to get around them and what not.

  4. Ask Priyanka: Should you be dating when you’re still not over a past relationship?


Sneak Peak…

what I’m reading/ watching:


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