When Single Is Not An Option: Indian Matchmaking


This episode examines the first season of Indian Matchmaking, a popular yet controversial new Netflix show. Peter McGraw invites his friend Roopali Malhotra, an Indian American friend who has experience using a matchmaker, to discuss the themes of the show. One issue they identify is how living solo (and living well) is barely touched on as a viable option even though some of the characters seem better suited for single living. (Note: It is not necessary to have watched the show to enjoy the podcast.) This week’s bonus material looks at one of the topics that make the show controversial to some: the colorism on display in clients’ preferences. Peter and Roopali also discuss the rampant heightism in the show, but no one seems to be taking issue with that.

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Listen to Episode #40 here


When Single Is Not An Option: Indian Matchmaking

This episode examines the first season of Indian Matchmaking, a popular yet controversial new Netflix show. It’s not necessary to have watched it but I bet the conversation with my guest, Roopali Malhotra, an Indian-American friend who has experience using a matchmaker will make you want to check out the show. It’s a fun conversation and I won’t ruin it here, but I’ll make the case for why the show is worthy of discussion besides the obvious voyeuristic elements of reality TV. That is that living solo and living well is barely touched on as a viable option even though some of the show’s characters seem better suited for solo living. At the very least, they are highly ambivalent about partnering up. Spoiler alert, one of the characters decides that solo is the way to go.

If you stick around to the bonus material, Roopali and I talk about one of the topics that make the show controversial to some. That is the colorism on display in the matchmaking client’s preferences. That is their desire for light-skin matches. We also talk about the rampant heightism in the show, but no one seems to be taking issue with that. By now you know the usual announcements. Solo has a message board on the Solo page at PeterMcGraw.org. You can sign up to the Solo community and learn about the forthcoming live Zoom community call. Also, Wrapture Masks continues to sponsor us. Use promo code, Wrapture Solo, to get the solo discount. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.

Our guest is Roopali Malhotra. She is an armchair psychologist, novice world traveler and nerd. She’s an academia enthusiast. She was raised by Hindu immigrant parents in rural Christian America. She’s fascinated with culture, values and identity, making her an ideal podcast guest or good company over a glass of wine or whiskey. During business hours, she works in education and law. In other words, she’s a lawyer at a university. Welcome, Roopali.

Thank you for having me.

We’re here to talk about the popular Netflix show, Indian Matchmaking.

The story of my 20s and 30s.

That’s why you’re here. The show is getting mixed reviews. I learned a new term while researching this, hate-watch. People are hate-watching Indian Matchmaking. Before we get into that, why then are you an ideal guest for this particular show?

When I watched the show, I felt as though any or all of these people could have been my girlfriends, people in my community, people I went to college with, or people who I was set up on a blind date with. I understand this on an intuitive, personal cultural level. Nothing on the show surprised me. It was all familiar and I can’t wait to talk about it.

This is an eight-part series. Season one is eight episodes. Each of us watches the full season. We have not talked about it.

I’ve been asked many times. I’ve been holding off discussing it with anybody.

You’re going to be a geyser of opinions. For the audience, you don’t have to have watched the episodes in order to enjoy this conversation, but this conversation may make you want to watch it. Why mixed? Why are people hate-watching? What is the tension between the annoyance and the accuracy of this show?

Anybody who’s gone on a date and sat across from one of these people is instant. Especially if you’ve done it multiple times, it is so annoying because you know these people you have sat across at a coffee shop. You’ve sat across a table from these people. You’ve gone to a bar and you’ve met these people. You’ve seen these personality, quirks and traits. If you’ve done this for a long time, it’s annoying because you know that guy or that girl. I’m sure if you ask a guy, he might say, “Yeah, Roopali was that girl.” There’s a bit of that element for the hate. I know exactly how this works and the frustrations but I also had fun with it.

I could watch this and it was fun for me to identify with the struggles that they’re going through. I also want to tell them that it’s so much fun. If you step back and allow yourself to enjoy it, it’s fun. The problem with Indian dating is they put pressure on you. It’s not about fun. It’s about getting married and hitting this target and milestone in life. It’s a bit unfair because otherwise, dating can be great. It’s a great way to meet new people. You uncover more about yourself through the process. You learn about the quirks and interesting traits of other people, but that’s not what Indian matchmakers are about. It’s not supposed to be fun.

It does seem like a lot of work. Hearing what you say, there are two elements in your opinion. There’s the Indian part of it, then there’s the dating part of it. The dating part of it is easy to identify with as anyone who’s ever dated. The Indian part of it may or may not be easy to identify with.

I have friends from all over the spectrum in terms of culture and religion. One of my best friends is a conservative Christian. She would tell you that her dating experience is quite the same. You don’t meet for kicks. Especially after a certain age, you don’t meet because you’re bored or you want to pass the time. You meet because you are looking for a potential life partner. It can be a very heavy and loaded interaction. That could also be relatable across cultures, although this is specifically geared towards the Indian matchmaking experience.

Let’s talk about the premise of the show for the audience who may not have seen it. In India, there are two types of marriages. There are marriages and there are love marriages. Marriage is an arranged marriage by default. That’s the norm. What is an arranged marriage exactly?

An arranged marriage could encompass a lot of different processes. Your family is selecting someone who they think would be a good fit for the entire family. Both sides do this together but it’s not an individual process. You aren’t going out there and selecting somebody who’s a good fit for you. Your family is selecting somebody who is going to be a good fit for the family. It’s a different mindset altogether. It’s much more of collective experience as opposed to individual experience. If you look at the way the Indian people traditionally live, which is in extended families, then that makes a lot of sense. It’s not about finding somebody who makes you happy, but if you also have to worry about your older brother, your mom, your dad, your grandparents or your great grandparents. If you have ten people living in one house, then it does make sense that you want somebody who’s going to fit in with the group, not just somebody who you find to be amazing.

That’s an arranged marriage. It can be done in a lot of different ways. Matchmakers are what this show is all about. There are a lot of these all over India. There are a lot of them even in the United States and they cater to this population like me as 1st or 2nd-generation South Asian-Americans who are trying to mix a little bit of the old and new. They also do it through matrimonials in newspapers, which is also a very common way. In the back section of the newspaper is where we might find classified ads. They have a matrimonial section. That’s common for your parents or your grandparents maybe, depending on who the elder or the patriarch or matriarch of the family is, to post some things saying, “I have a daughter or a son of this age, with this type of education living in this place.” This is what they’re seeking in the partner. It would be strange to consider in the United States but it’s normal there. There are a lot of people who arranged that way. Even on the show, when they interviewed in the beginning the older couples, a couple of them mentioned that’s how they had been arranged or that’s how they had been introduced through these ads. That’s a normal thing.

It’s common. For the audience who are not familiar with this, this can seem rather peculiar. What I want to also remind people is with non-Indian cultures, this also used to be the norm. In England, there were arranged marriages and so on. This is something that is a common part of cultures more generally. The rise of the love marriage, the one we know typically in the United States or in modern-day England is a fairly new phenomenon. It’s fraught also in different ways.

Every side will tell you that their approach is better and they’ll list a number of reasons as to why.

It may sound peculiar to people, “For a show for single people or people with solo orientation, why are you talking about arranged marriages?” The reason why I’ve chosen this as a topic is going to come up but I’m going to give a little quick preview. That is the goal focus of this is the only acceptable positive outcome of this and that this is not a trying out thing. This is assuming that marriage is the solution. I’ve been tussling with the idea of marriage in previous episodes. One of them is about People Who Shouldn’t Have Married. My guest pointed out how marriage historically and even in present-day India, at least the aspects of it, is this very utilitarian thing. It serves a purpose.

It’s not an option to remain single. Our culture loves marriages. We love big weddings. This pandemic has caused all of the cultural issues in India because you can’t have a big wedding anymore. We’re famous for that and we love it. From the day that children are born, people start preparing for the wedding that will have to happen, not may happen. It absolutely will happen. Staying single is not an option. I don’t necessarily know that that’s the healthiest approach. It’s a rite of passage. It’s something that you do. If you stay single for too long, it’s almost seen as a bad thing like, “What’s wrong with that family?” It’s not the norm.

I have some themes that I’ve noted from the show. One of them is this notion about how at least the Indian families in the show care about respectability.

I love the show, Downton Abbey. The reason I love it is there are many values and approaches that are incredibly similar to this, which is you have to marry somebody who is respectable. By respectable, I mean respected family, well-educated, professional, certain financial status, demonstrates good conservative morals and values, believes in having many children and raising them in that way. This is not unique to India. If you think about it, this is universal. The respectability coming from a good family, that’s very important everywhere and you can see that in the show.

Those pressures show up in love marriages also. Let’s get into the show a little bit because I want to talk about the players and then we can get into the topics. I’m eager to hear your opinions because I know you have them. The matchmaker, Sima is her name. She’s in the mid-50s. I did the math. She’s 56. She lives in India, but she is a global matchmaker. She will venture especially into the United States to do this. She seems rather good at what she does.

Good always depends on who’s doing the assessing.

Maybe you should do the assessing.

If you buy into this or if your values are the same, it seems like her portfolio is. Certain things are very important when she does the matchmaking and you can see it on the show. She’s lining up people by their profession and their height and attractiveness level. She claims that she’s doing matchmaking based on personality, but how well do you get to know somebody when you meet them for the first five minutes? I don’t know how well she truly knows these people. As good as some outsiders are at assessing your personality, there’s a lot more to know about a person than your first five minutes snap judgment. Regardless, if you subscribe to her methods, then you’re going to say that she’s good at what she does. She’s good enough to get a show. I watched it and I found myself smacking my forehead quite a bit because I’ve never met somebody who’s been married for 25 years and they said, “The most important thing about him was his height. That’s what’s kept us together for 25 years.” That’s not it.

I’m going to hold off on the height stuff because we’re going to return for the bonus material. We’re going to talk about colorism and heightism, which is something that comes up a lot. Some of the critiques and some of the hate-watching is because of the colorism, not the heightism. No one seems to care about heightism.

Maybe that’s because it’s more universal.

Let’s talk through Sima’s process before we introduce the characters. There are a few things that I’ve noticed about this that I thought was very interesting, then I want to find out about your matchmaking experience and how it matches or not. She meets the prospective clients and their family, their parents because it’s a group decision. She gets the preferences and a lot of the preferences are personality-based like, “I want someone extroverted, who has a sense of adventure, who’s curious and so on.” Some of them are successful or they do this or they don’t do that. For that client, she presents 1, 2 or 3 possible matches. They use this term bio-data.

It’s a resume. If you go to Match.com, this is what you’re filling out. It’s your one-sheet.

There’s a single picture. Not even a full-body picture.

It doesn’t matter what the rest of you looks like. You just need a headshot. That’s the only thing that matters.

The other thing is she visits the home of the client and she gets a tour of the home.

That’s a way also of assessing out, what lifestyle do you live? How much money do you have? If you have a lot of money, do you live humbly? Do you have a lot of named brands everywhere? Is your house adorned with gold tchotchkes? Are you serving wine in a fine crystal? Are you having tea in simple cups and saucers? It is a way of getting to know somebody and we all know that. We meet people, then when we go to their homes with their families for the first time, we have this whole different insight as to who they are and how they live. It is a useful tool. That’s probably a good part of her process. She’s not just vetting people on paper. It adds a whole different layer of understanding when you go to somebody’s house.

She does that tour before she presents potential matches, so she’s assessing. There’s research on this thing. There’s a professor of Psychology at The University of Texas named Sam Gosling. He does research on the places that we live and work and how they’re rich data sets about what people are like. He has a book called Snoop. One of the things that are fascinating is he does studies where people look at people’s bedrooms and their offices, and that this is a treasure trove of data about the person. One of the things that they find is a lot of psychology points out what people are bad at.

Like any good Indian onto your uncles are very quick to point out where you’re lacking.

Sima, you would argue is a professional assessor, but even regular everyday people are pretty good at picking up personality cues. The most obvious one is conscientiousness, tidiness versus messiness, and so on. One of the examples that Sam talks about that is interesting is if you go into someone’s office and they have photos of their family, which direction are the photos facing?

Are they facing you or are they facing everybody else?

That’s exactly right. If they’re facing you, this person uses those photos as a brief positive break in their day.

It’s a reminder of why they are there. Why am I suffering through this day? Why am I dealing with these angry phone calls? That’s true. That’s why I keep my photo.

Versus facing out which is like, “Look at my world, look at my happy family.” It’s setting that identity.

What I found interesting is the people who have every single accolade and award they have ever been given in life plastered on a wall. To me, the number of awards that you have framed on your wall is a sign of how much patting your ego needs. I remember dating a guy once who had perfect attendance awards.

At least, you know that he’s going to show up on time.

If they’re framed on your wall, and you’re a 35-year-old person, I have to wonder about your level of security.

You did not marry him.

I did not. What’s interesting is I don’t have a single thing framed on my wall. I have three degrees. I have two law licenses. I have zero things framed on my wall. I suppose that’s an interesting psychological insight for me.

My thing about it is if someone has lots of that stuff on their wall, they probably do well with someone who has lots of stuff like that on their wall. Let’s talk about your matchmaking experience before we get to these characters because it is an interesting group of characters. Some of them are very wealthy and some of them are more modest. I would say no one’s low income.

You have to be able to pay the matchmaker. There’s certainly a filter there, at least on the show, who she has.

That makes sense especially if she’s big time. What led you to a matchmaking service? Was it an Indian matchmaker?

She was Indian-American. Throughout my 20s and 30s, I had been using South Asian-American gear dating websites. They’re the Indian versions of Match.com. They have one called Shaadi.com. That’s a very big one and lots of cultures have these. There’s BlackPeopleMeet, JDate, and FarmersOnly.com. There are lots of dating sites that cater to specific populations. This is something that everybody does, especially in this generation. Meeting people in person is almost considered a bit unusual now.

It’s hard to operate in real life these days. It’s counter normative in some ways. People will freak out if you try to chat them up.

Part of the reason why the sites are so popular is you can do it in your pajamas sitting in the comfort of your own home. There’s a lot that you might know about a person depending on whether they’re being truthful or not in their profile before you ever have to meet them face-to-face. It’s also because if you’re South Asian and you are not living in India, your prospects or the people in that pool is smaller geographically. I was sitting in a small town in Central Illinois, in a college town where the number of South Asian-Americans wasn’t that great. It wasn’t Chicago, New York, LA, Miami or SF. The sites worked well because they allowed me to tap into pools that were bigger than what I had in my immediate 10-mile radius. It was the path for a few years. I tried the matchmaker only because she, as a lot of matchmakers do, scour these sites to find people to add to their portfolio.

They’re like, “This woman has got it going on.”

“She would be great for my clients who are looking for somebody to meet.” This person works probably the same as Sima here. She probably works with people from all over the country, all over the world. She builds her portfolio or her digital Rolodex so that she can set up potential people in her network.

You got approached. You got a cold call.

This is how people get clients. It’s not different from any other field.

You’re in the funnel, Roopali. You’re in the sales funnel.

She had good marketing techniques. She was advertising and she reached out by email. I conducted an interview and did a phone call. I never met her in person because of logistics. I don’t know where this particular matchmaker lives. I went on a few dates with some of her clients. They were okay but there’s only so much that you can know about a person. You can set up people based on their profiles and also what information they are choosing to share with you but chemistry is hard to predict.

I have some matchmaking experience being approached. There’s another place that one gets approached by matchmakers. Do you want to guess where it is? LinkedIn.

You’re getting a cohort of people who are educated. That makes perfect sense to me.

I’ve had 2 or 3 matchmakers connect with me on LinkedIn and then send me a note telling me what a great catch you are. I usually say something like, “Thanks so much. I’m incredibly flattered by that. However, I’m probably not the ideal client.” I then say, “I host a podcast called Solo: The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life.”

They want you to retain their services. Not that they want to set you up with some of their clients.

My sense is they want to set me up.

There’s also a great show on Bravo. I don’t know if it still airs anymore called Millionaire Matchmaker and her clients were all men. I do encourage you to go through it. If nothing else, you have great podcast material.

Roopali, thank you for saying that. I’m going to make a commitment to the following. The next matchmaker on LinkedIn who reaches out to me, I’m going to say yes just to see what it’s like. That’s a great idea. Thank you so much. Here’s why I say no. I have such a deep need for honesty and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

You’ll be great at the Indian dating realm. You’ll be fantastic because you’re in it. You want efficiency. You’re dating with intention and purpose.

If I can figure out a way to do it ethically and get some podcast material and approach it with an open mind and open heart, I’ll do it.

You should absolutely do it.

You did it and it didn’t quite work out. The tension to me between a matchmaker and the apps, and they’re not mutually exclusive. Someone can be employ matchmaker and still work the apps. The matchmaking seems to be good at getting motivated people. If you’re in that world, you are motivated to try to partner up. You also have the advantage of someones. This family thing, one of the advantages of a family is they often understand you better than you understand yourself in some circumstances.

This is the theme in the show is there is the pressure that gets put on this, but it’s a small numbers game. Sima will present at most three options. One of the fascinating things that she does is you pick one. You don’t go on three of the dates. You pick the one that you think is most appealing. You go on that date and then you and your date decide yes or no. If it’s two yeses, you proceed. If one of them gets a no, you move to the next one. This is fascinating. There is something in economics called the secretary problem. It goes by other names like the marriage problem, the fussy suitor problem or the best choice problem.

For the audience, this is a theoretical exercise that nerdy economists do to figure out what is the optimal stopping rule when you are in this scenario where you’re shopping. You’re looking to hire a secretary or you’re looking for a life partner where you go sequentially and you decide yes or no. If it’s yes, you stop looking. If it’s no, you continue looking. The problem is that you may have passed on the best candidate for you if you say no.

How many options do you have? I thought I remember hearing something like the magic number was seven. If you are presented with seven options, you will make a good choice. Anything after seven, the quality of your choice decreases because your brain is overwhelmed with the number of options that you have been given.

If this was a final exam, I would give you a B on that answer.

I’ll take a B. It’s not the Asian-American standard of an A+ but it’s fine. It’s enough to get me by.

I’m going to nerd out for a moment here. The idea is you have to know the number in the population or the sample at least. I’m pulling this from an article from Slate because they say it more eloquently than I could. You estimate the number of people you could date in your life. That’s N. You calculate the square root of that number. You date and reject the first square root of N. You take the best of those people you’ve seen and that’s your benchmark. You then keep dating and you settle down for the first person that exceeds that benchmark. What’s fascinating about this process is it’s not guaranteed to get you the best person, but it’s designed to get you a good person.

The idea essentially is if you choose the first person that you meet in the population, you’re probably not picking a person who’s good for you. If you wait for the last person, you’re probably not going to get the person who’s good for you. What ends up happening is this saying, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” The secretary problem or this stopping rule is designed to get you someone good to very good and recognize that you need experience getting an idea of the population.

What I find interesting about this already and this is why I’m an academia enthusiast, good for you right now. That’s the other thing that I’m sure your show talks a lot about is how you evolve as a human being. What was it? 15 and 25 and 35. They’re different. There were some common themes there, but people evolve and they grow. I love that data, but I also think the person who you might select, who may be the result of that mathematical equation might work for you well at the age of 28. At 42, suddenly it’s different.

This is not a prescription. This is a description of a way to think about dating. It seems like this idea of this sequential thing is it is designed to put some pressure. You’re like, “You’ve got three and let’s see how this goes, but these are my three best.”

There’s something to be said for focus. If you’re going on one date knowing that you have two more coming up, the amount of tension or energy you might put into it, you would approach it differently. If you knew that this was the one and only date, you would approach it differently in terms of your mindset, how you might prepare for it, how you might talk to that person, how you might get feedback.

I’m going to say this right out the gates because I found the show to be quite entertaining. It was a little voyeuristic for me. I’ve been to India so it was fun to see Mumbai and to revisit my experiences there. What I didn’t like is the assumption that this is the path. I’m going to go through the characters in a moment, but what became clear to me is for some of the characters, this is the right path. They want this, but others seemed at best ambivalent about it. I felt for some of those because the pressure is coming from all sides. It assumes that 100% of people should do this and will benefit from doing this. I know that is an impossibility. There’s nothing in the world when it comes to choices that 100% of people.

That is correct. Those characters resonate across the board because anybody feels that way, even young people who I know and college students who I work with. It’s from across the board, no matter their cultural background. Social media doesn’t help but they will say things like, “Everybody I know in life is getting married. Many people are having babies.” That isn’t just in the South Asian-American population. We all feel that way. It’s just incredibly pronounced in our culture.

The worst place for this is Instagram. Any social media but the Instagram stuff especially because Instagram still has this candy feel to it. It’s a very pleasant, visually pleasing, happy place, not completely but more so than other forms of social media. It’s fascinating. If you’re a proud solo, it’s harder to celebrate it than if you are a proud partnered person, proud parents and so on. Think about all the milestones that you can show off on Instagram, the engagement videos and things are nauseating, then the wedding ones, the pregnancy ones, the baby showers and the gender reveals. It is a constant flow from the world of family, birthdays and this and that. It creates an imbalanced view of what it means because there are not as many rituals for the solos. You don’t have to dissect to me celebration videos on Instagram.

That would be a fascinating exercise or a fascinating research project to scroll through Instagram feeds and then determine whether somebody is single or whether they’re married or what stage of life are they in.

For a group of people, they are very public about it. It’s the people who take their family photos and place them outwards on their desk.

They frame every single award they’ve ever won on their walls. They want you to see it.

Sam Gosling has extended his research outside of the bedroom and the office into social media profiles in a very similar way. It’s fitting to bring that up. I’m going to read you these characters. There are a lot of characters in this. I’m going to read the clients and what I’d like you to do. We’re going to not pay much attention to their potential matches and so on. Let’s talk about these characters. What I want to do is I’m going to read the characters. I’m going to try to get their names right. Please correct it as necessary. Let’s talk a little bit about them and let’s judge them along this dimension.

They put themselves on the show. They opened themselves up for judgment. I will do as they’ve requested me to do.

One of the things I want you to judge them on is the degree that they fit this profile of this seems like a good path for them in terms of their true inner interests and desires as opposed to their families versus not. They have perhaps a solo mentality to the in-between, which is they don’t know yet. In the first one, I would say that she is the main character besides Sima. Sima is the thread through all of it. Who do you think is the main character?

I would go with Aparna, the fellow attorney in Texas.

That’s correct. Aparna is 34. She’s lives in Houston. Can you describe Aparna? What do you think?

I would describe her as very proud and critical. Those are two difficult personality traits. She’s successful and edgy. In some ways, I identify with her. I was her age and I had gone through a lot in life. I had worked so hard for my education. I had my core figured out. Those same characteristics that get you through your professional career, you sometimes apply them correctly or incorrectly to your personal life thinking it will yield the same result. It often doesn’t, especially with attorneys. We are a picky bunch.

First of all, you are so much more agreeable than Aparna.

You might want to ask some of my exes because they may disagree with you as a friend for sure.

That’s fair, especially if you’re on a mission. The classic thing with lawyers is they care about rules, standards and contracts.

They pick everything apart. From an Indian mindset in which arranged marriages are very contractual. You bring X, Y and Z to the table. I bring A, B, C to the table and let’s move forward in this particular agreed-upon fashion. In some ways, it could work out well. I don’t know what kind of attorney she is. I don’t know if she’s transactional or a litigation-based attorney. I have been told litigators should never be married because they would argue until death.

Aparna has some struggles. Her plotline is that she is starting to learn that she might need to compromise. What do you think of her along this dimension of should partner, should solo.

She seems to have a lot going for her already. It isn’t clear to me why she wants to get married. She says at the top of the show, “I’m ready to have my partner. I’m ready to have somebody sharing these adventures with me.” That’s understandable and that makes sense. That’s where I was too. You don’t have somebody around because you need anything. You want to share, so that’s fair. It’s interesting because if you want to celebrate things with people, the way that she approaches all of these people is very critical and negative. Could you imagine being on the receiving end of that even as a friend or with a date? You’ll say, “I went to such and such place,” and she’ll say, “That’s a stupid place. Why did you go there?”

She has strong opinions. She knows what she wants.

That’s something that I’ve heard a lot of negative people say. They’ll say, “I know what I want,” but people are usually bad at identifying what they want. Sometimes it does take somebody external. The best thing that Sima does in the show is to send people to therapists.

Life coaches or astrologers.

That’s a bunch of nonsense but the therapy, yes. All of these people would benefit from a lot of very intensive therapy. Not that they need to be fixed. That’s not it, but to bring self-awareness. To recognize that, “These are my personality traits or characteristics. I need to be more honest and forthcoming about them as I approach life, generally.” Forget dating but life generally.

I’m going to make my opinion here because you have not directly answered the question.

I don’t know she is ready to be married yet.

Aparna in many ways will be a better solo than she will be partnered. She said something early on, “Your partner should fit into your life.” That seems like a much more solo orientation. Also, she already has a partner and it’s her mom. She and her mom have this very close bond. They seemed cut from the same cloth. There’s a scene where Aparna gives her mom a quilt or tapestry of all these photos of the kids and her. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

I know people who have fantastic relationships with their family members, whether that be siblings or parents or even best friends and they were fulfilled. Any emotional struggles, they have that outlet already. Any partners through life, they have those bombs. It does beg the question, what do you need this other person for? You already have it. Anybody you meet won’t do a good of a job as fulfilling those needs as the bonds you already have.

It’s quite impossible. That is my opinion. I have a lot of compassion for her. She’s easy to hate and make fun of in the show roaster, in a variety of subtle ways.

I’m sure they edited her to bring out all of her worst qualities.

That’s probably fair too. That’s right but I feel that she’s in a difficult situation. I’m heartened by the fact that she seems willing to try to change, compromise and give this a go even if in the end, she comes to some who knows realization. This is a cliff hanger for season one. The second character is Nadia. You light up.

I love Nadia. I want to set Nadia up with everybody I know. She seems wonderful.

She’s an event planner in New Jersey and she is a delight.

She’s so much fun to watch. She wants to be in love. She wants to be in a relationship. She needs a partner. This is the person we’re on the spectrum, solo or married, this girl needs to be partnered.

Put her on the partner side. I would agree. She has this satisfying life, wonderful friends, hobbies, successful business, but nonetheless, she still feels lonely. That makes me a little sad because she has this great life and is unsatisfied with it. She feels like she’s stuck in this liminal space until she can make this work. I agree with you in terms of her orientation. She is very partner-focused, maybe the most.

As I think about all the people on the show, that’s probably true. If anything, I feel a little bad for her because she’s one of those pure artists. No matter who she meets, I imagine she could find positive attributes about that person and fall in love with them. I almost wonder that she would settle for somebody who was not worthy of her time. This guy on the show who she dated for a while, who flaked on her twice, I felt bad. He was awful but she still was willing to give it a shot. She found the good attributes in this guy who I hope the entire country is firmly rooting against because he was awful. That’s probably her danger. She’s that great girlfriend who will marry some guy who was not appreciative of how fabulous she is. I’m hoping good things for her. I hope she finds somebody who truly celebrates her for how joyful and positive she is.

She gets stood up at some point and the guy gives a crap excuse and he should have been finished after the first one. I have an ex who reminds me of Nadia. We had a wonderful relationship and it’s unfortunate because I don’t think I was a good match for her.

Was she optimistic all the time and overflowing with joy?

She’s a joyful person and a successful person, but that’s not why we were a bad match. We were a good match for that reason.

Academics don’t work well with overly positive and joyful types. They are far too cynical in life.

We had a great time. It’s just that I never was going to be able to fully fulfill what she deep down wanted. I see her in Nadia and Nadia in her in that way. I’m happy to report that she was able to accomplish a family without me helping.

That’s very honest. I appreciate those.

The next one is Pradhyuman. He lives in Mumbai. He’s 30 and works in the family jewelry business, very affluent. He’s a good looking guy. He was an interesting character. He’s a cook, cultured, artistic and a little bit serious.

This is a guy who is identifiable to the LA types. Somebody who is good looking, has money and is pretty fulfilled by his professional pursuits.

He socializes with friends and goes out a lot.

I’m sure he gets a lot of attention when he goes out. He probably enjoys that. What need do you have to be married? This is the Peter Pan syndrome in LA where men will need to continue to date. If they have those attributes, they can always find somebody to date. They think highly of themselves. They are quite proud of their physical attributes or financial status. There’s always somebody to date when you have those attributes, then why settle down?

This has come up in previous episodes. We had a dating coach on one, Daliya Karnofsky and we talked a bit deeply about Peter Pans. I don’t like that term only because I don’t think it’s always well applied. What Daliya and I came to an agreement on is the guy who doesn’t want to settle down, who’s happy with his life and enjoys dating casually. There’s nothing wrong with that guy unless he claims to not be that guy. He claims to be the guy who wants to get serious and wants to settle down. Now he’s 45 and he can’t meet the right person. That guy is not being honest with himself. He’s not being honest with his dates.

If left up to his own devices or if he wasn’t embedded in that culture, he’s somebody who’s probably happy being solo and dating.

He’s only 30.

In South Asian culture, that’s considered well past the time where he should be married. There’s another person on the show who’s 25 and his mom’s dying because he’s not married yet. If you extracted him from the culture, he’d be fine living in New York or LA, dating and having fun. He’d be happy there. I don’t think he’s lying when he says he enjoys spending time with beautiful women doing things together, but it’s not clear to me what marriage is going to serve for him. For his family, the culture and the context, I get it but I’m not sure.

I put him in that ambivalent territory. I don’t think he’s necessarily deep down a solo person, although you could see him gravitating that way. He’s conflicted and he certainly doesn’t seem ready for this. He’s rejecting lots and lots of matches. The only person that he gets excited about is this stunningly beautiful model. She’s a pageant winner but also to her credit has depth and educated. She’s not just a pretty face. Let’s talk about that next person, Akshay. He’s 23 or 24. He’s also in India. He is the son of an overbearing dictating mother. A wealthy family. I’m almost sure he’s on the spectrum. He’s autistic along some dimension.

He’s become accustomed to his parents making all of his decisions for him. That’s not unusual in our culture. We are so community-based because we live under the guise of such strong parental and grandparent figures. I don’t know that a lot of us have the opportunity to develop as individuals. We’re not encouraged to seek our own personalities and find ourselves. It’s probably true that’s a little bit of both. It’s a little bit on the spectrum, but it’s also a little bit of the product of how he was raised. He had somebody making all his decisions for him, cooking his food for him, doing the laundry, telling him where he’s going to go to school. Every decision was made for him. If that’s how you’ve been moving through life, then you’re going to take the same approach to your partner. You could see a little bit of the struggle where he’s like, “I’m not sure I want to do this.” You could see moments where his true authentic self was struggling to come out, but it was beaten down mercilessly by the enormity of the cultural pressure.

I feel bad for him in that he doesn’t feel fully formed. First of all, it’s very hard to be fully formed when you’re in your early to mid-twenties anyway.

He never lived outside of the house.

He works for the family business. In many ways, all the things that make me sad about young men in the world now. He plays video games. He doesn’t seem that curious. It seems like he does care about studying and into the family business. He has that richness but also as a son of an at times overbearing and controlling mom, it can have these two different effects on you. You can take it and then perhaps be resigned to it. You can take it and you can be resentful of it or you can rebel against it. For me, I took, I was resentful, then now as an adult, I rebel against. I rebel against being controlled. That’s a theme in my life is the pursuit of freedom after having to weather that for so long.

He’s going through the motions and that’s not wrong either. If you find somebody else who also understands that these are the motions, then those two people can get married and be very happy together if you’re on the same page about it. I met a lot of people who couldn’t tell me when we sat down for a date through these apps or through the matchmaker, “Why are you ready to get married?” They’re like, “That’s what you do.” There are plenty of people who feel that way, “This is what my grandparents did and my parents did. All my friends were doing it and my older brother did it.”

That is the worst reason to do it.

If you can find other people who also collectively agree, then it’s okay.

There is something about deciding to do it because it’s right for you that makes it easier and better to do it. This could be a very cultural difference between our opinions.

In my culture, there are probably a lot of people who don’t even recognize that they’re in that position.

That’s why we’re doing this show.

It’s a cultural bubble especially if you live there and you haven’t been exposed to anything else. This is how everybody around you is doing it, then you go through it. There’s nothing wrong with that. The person who you even slept won’t find anything wrong with that either because she’s doing it for the same exact reasons that you’re doing it. While I feel bad for him, the person who I feel bad for is the person you choose to be with because I can’t imagine being a woman and entering into that family dynamic where your husband is going through the motions. You’re living in this incredibly controlled environment where everybody’s going to tell you down to when you should have a baby. That got me coughing. I’m not surprised but when the mother figure was saying to the older son, “This is when you should have a baby,” it’s like a step back.

To the mom’s credit, she knows how controlling she is.

I don’t think she has any idea.

She wanted a daughter-in-law who’s flexible. Flexible is code for will do what I want her to do.

She owns it in some sense but when they’re sitting down with the other family in that very lavish hotel and her husband makes a joke that, “Your mother-in-law will be controlling. I’m easy going.” She snapped back hard. She did not like that description. If she wanted to own it, she would say, yes, “I have high expectations.” At some points to the camera, she does say, “I don’t go to somebody else’s house and tell them how to live. I don’t want you coming to my house and telling me how to live.” That statement in and of itself is so rich because of her house, not her son’s house, not her husband’s house, her house and anybody else. That’s her daughter-in-law, “Anybody else coming into my house.” I would love to see a show all about her.

It would be exhausting. This is something that is an interesting thing is that some of the first dates happen with the two families. The introductions are made and these are incredibly awkward sequences.

It was loaded. I have never done that. That is a whole other level of traditional that I was not willing to go down. That would be hard. There are too many dynamics to be worried about in that room. Let alone the person who you’re supposed to be getting to know. That’s a very loaded meeting.

A lot of people want to hide their family for as long as possible.

Although other people might say it’s good. As you said, you want to hide your family. Most of our baggage comes from our families. I would say that as human beings, that’s where we get the first baggage that we’re proud of. You might as well meet it. You might as well see the dynamic right upfront. No secrets, no surprises. This is who we are and maybe in some ways, it’s better. You get it all out there instead of waiting for 6 to 8 months to a year before you meet somebody’s family, then you see for real what those people are like.

We have three more. The next one is Ankita. She lives in India. I don’t remember where, but she has clothing and eCommerce business.

She’s definitely a better solo. She even acknowledges that towards the end. She’s too focused on the fun things that she’s doing with her life.

She’s very progressive, especially by Indian standards.

[bctt tweet=”The problem with Indian dating is that they put pressure on you. It’s not about fun. It’s about getting married.” username=””]

I applaud her for that. It’s great that she came to that realization on her own, at least in the final shots with her talking with her best friend about what she wants to do in life. It’s good for her.

She’s the best solo candidate. She talks about wanting someone who’s equal. She’s such a problem client for Sima. She enlists another more “progressive” matchmakers.

She didn’t turn out to be that progressive.

That’s exactly right. It shows you how different it is there. We’re going spoiler alert. When Ankita comes to the conclusion after trying the matchmaking that she doesn’t need it, she has this very supportive friend. She’s like, “Your business is your fucking baby.” They then have this thing like, “Worst come to worst, we’ll move in together and we’ll grow together.” She’s saying, “What are you talking about worst comes to worst?” She’s like, “Best comes to best, we’ll do that.”

I love that because it is true that some of us feel fulfilled by our best friends and our families. We don’t need anything else. As long as you recognize that, great. The earlier you recognize these things about yourself, the better it is for everybody. You’re not struggling to fit through this mold for such a long time and then feeling like you failed. You need to know these things about yourself. I applaud her for making that decision.

The last two, let’s talk about them together because they’re a very nice example of how fraught this is and this notion of respectability. One of the other themes in the show that I identified is this idea that people are like, “What do you want?” “I want everything. I want this income and this education.”

It’s like going through Amazon. You’re checking the boxes.

You want to optimize these things. The last two people, one is Vyasar. He’s Indian-American who lives in the United States. He’s a goofy goodhearted college counselor, not an Indian achievement. He’d be happy being a househusband, doing the cooking and cleaning.

I liked him. He seemed like a genuine quality person.

He’s goodhearted, kind and a mega nerd.

I love the academic enthusiast.

He has a dark secret. Rupam is in Denver. She’s in the USA also and she’s a Sikh. I thought she was quite lovely. She’s in the mid-30s, with a very overbearing and exhausting father, proud, ballsy, pushy. They both have big strikes against them.

Strikes in the sense from the traditional matchmakers approach. From Sima’s approach, they have strikes against them.

From a bumble approach. You can deal with these things.

These are part of who they are. This is the part about matchmaking which I find to be upsetting. Divorcee, we give the woman a poor age right on her shirt. Come on now like this is life.

She’s divorced and has a child.

For the Indian matchmakers, this is considered taboo. The matchmaker even says, “Your choices are going to be a lot less,” which may be true. In reality, I found that my friends who have been divorced are generally much saner about marriage and have been beaten up and have come to acknowledge, people who learned from their divorce anyway, about their faults and what it takes to be in a good relationship. I have even more respect for these people. You would think these are the people we should be chasing after but not according to the traditional Indian matchmaker. It’s seen as a failure.

What’s interesting is the challenges that she faces. For example, Sima presents the man who the father vetoes because he doesn’t meet the cultural expectations.

It’s a communal decision. This poor daughter might have gone out with a man.

She seemed excited about this guy.

If your parents feel very strongly about it, this is, how much do I fight? Do I submit and be resentful or do I rebel? Those are three paths that a lot of us find ourselves in. I know people from men, all phases and all those buckets, and she chose to submit, “My dad says no. It’s not worth it. I have too much else to deal with in life. I don’t need to add this complicating factor.”

[bctt tweet=”Indian culture loves marriages and big weddings. It’s never an option to remain single.” username=””]

Vyasar has a dad who’s in prison or was in prison.

For a horrible crime, conspiracy for murder. Part of the reason why Indian families are so obsessed with every single one of us falling in line is that the choices that you make don’t reflect on you. They reflect on the entire family. If you choose to rebel, people are going to make judgments about your parents. They’re going to make judgments about your siblings. They’re going to make judgments about the collective because you chose to be selfish and do that thing that you wanted to do. For Vyasar, his dad did this horrible thing. Never mind the fact that he doesn’t know his dad. He’s never had a relationship with this person. He hasn’t seen this person for a long time, but his family from the South Asian lens, the whole family will be considered in a very negative light because of the acts of this horrible human being. It’s unfair.

You’re rooting for him.

I’m totally rooting for him. He seems like a very quality person.

I wrote down a few other themes that I saw in the show, but I’m also curious about what you thought. One was this issue of people wanting everything, but Sima and her team, the life coach, the astrologer, and so on. She will pull in to help guide these people is to get people to compromise, to recognize that, “You don’t have everything, you can’t expect everything,” that idea.

That’s something all of us face now in the Amazon world. It’s easy to click on boxes, “I want this.” What are my search results? Even on dating apps, it’s like that. You can check on the boxes and everything from how tall you want somebody to be, to what cultural and religious background they are, what degrees and education they have. It does make us very picky. Maybe in previous times when we didn’t know all the options that we were able to select from. It’s the concept of how many possible decisions are there. There’s choice overload so then we make bad decisions because we’re given too many options and that’s certainly a thing.

This hearkens back to the secretary problem that we talked about as you keep looking and you might pass the person who might have been ideal or even who would be good enough.

Once you pay somebody to do a job for you, you’re going to expect more than what you could have done on your own. That’s certainly a part of it too. If you’re going to retain a matchmaker, she better do, and then these people are free. Depending on who they are and who they claim they are in their portfolio, these people are charging thousands of dollars to their clients. You want what you paid for. You want somebody amazing if you’re going to pay that much money. It’s the way that we shop around for any of our consumer goods. We’re going to want that out of our partner as well.

We talked about this idea of respectability. This is a family choice. The other one that I noticed is what you’re seeing in this show is the modern-age, progressive, more egalitarian, and more individualism creeping in culturally. Ankita is the best example of that. She’s ambitious. She has her own business and she’s looking for an equal, “If it doesn’t work, that’s fine. I’m going to be okay.” In episode seven, Sima says that the marriages in India are so delicate. They’re breaking like biscuits.

I was happy to hear that. I remember hearing somebody say once that a high divorce rate is a sign of an equal society because usually, women don’t feel trapped. Usually, a lot of people stay in marriages because they don’t have the financial resources. They don’t have emotional support. They have no place to go. If you have access to those things, if women have education, if they have jobs, they have money, then they’re not afraid to walk out. They don’t need to put up with that treatment because they have other options and good for them. Maybe that’s part of what’s happening in India because girls are going to school where they didn’t before.

When you don’t need a man to support you, then you don’t need a man unless you want a man.

I was happy to hear that because for a long time, previous generations, you heard these horrible tales of the worst treatment in these arranged marriages, but the women stayed because they had no place else to go. I was pleased to hear you say that. There are two other things that are interesting. One may be arranged marriages. People realize that’s probably not the best. Their parents went through their own arranged marriages. Maybe they had some shortcomings or they would have done things differently. Maybe they are giving their kids some grace. That’s nice to see as well. The other is Western influence. A lot of kids from India are going to school abroad. They’re meeting other people. They’re seeing how other cultures do things and realizing, “Maybe I could do a love marriage instead.”

Social media and the internet are bringing our culture to becoming more universal. It becoming a little bit more homogenized. Maybe you pick up a little bit of the old, you pick up a little bit of the new and maybe that’s the best path forward. I like that. When I was dating, I was looking at a Venn diagram. These are all the things my parents want. Here are the things that I want. I was searching for that sweet spot in the middle, which if you asked any one of these people, maybe it’s where they are too.

That’s well said. It’s a fascinating anthropological case study. Whether you care about the topic or not, to me that was one of the more interesting parts of this process. We should probably wrap up here. I want to repeat one of the ones that got me thinking about this and why it became a worthy topic here is the idea that this seems to be the one path. There are two paths that you could have. Let’s explore this one, let’s explore that one. The one being the partner path and the other one being the solo path. I was thinking as I like to say, that that marriage is overprescribed, whether it be arranged or love. We have a lot of data to suggest why it’s overprescribed as you talked about is because if you give people access to divorce.

A lot of people will take it and also fear and lack of consequence. As a society, we’re getting better about not treating divorced people badly. There was much judgment. That broke my heart with that one particular person on the show. A lot of Asian culture frowns on that. As a society, if we let go of that, a lot of people would be happier to acknowledge, “I’ve made a mistake. This is not the right person. Let’s both get out and be happier with our lives,” but they fear the judgment.

It’s too bad. You can imagine an alternative situation where you should be afraid of being judged poorly because you put your child in danger because you’re living with someone who’s abusive or who’s an alcoholic.

We should be commending people who get out of those toxic relationships. There’s so much judgment.

Roopali, thank you for being my first choice and clearly the best choice.

If you had an option of ten, you may have selected differently.


For our bonus material, we’re going to talk about colorism and heightism. Colorism is one of the reasons why people hate-watch Indian matchmaking. What is colorism?

I’ll start off by saying this is applicable across all Middle Eastern, South Asian, East Asian and also Black culture. I’ve talked about this issue with my friends from all nationalities and all kinds of backgrounds. It is you assessing positive attributes and defining beauty with lighter colored skin.

It’s not the color of skin, it’s the shade of color.

[bctt tweet=”In an arranged marriage, your family is selecting somebody who is going to be a good fit for the family, not for you.” via=”no”]

The darker your skin, the less desirable and less beautiful you are. This is true in Korea, Japan, China and India. It’s true in Africa and in the Middle East. Your physical traits, lighter colored hair, eyes, skin, that’s considered prized. It very much impacts your dating in the matchmaking world or your desirability.

This comes up in the checklist or the criteria.

If you look at Indian dating sites, they ask you for your skin tone. That’s a feature along with age, education and religions, skin tone is there. You’re considered desirable in the Indian dating world. I was talking to some of my South Asian friends to try to understand where is this coming from? Is this a result of colonialism? Is this British colonial impact influence? Is this something we have done to ourselves? We have a caste system in India. We are not foreign to the concept of putting people in categories and in social hierarchies for sure. Is this part of generation evolution? It’s maybe associated with wealth, for example. If you work outside, if you were a laborer, then you were darker. It’s an indication of status and wealth. If you were inside then you were lighter skin. Maybe it’s connected to other attributes that people would consider desirable but it’s harsh, mean and not fair.

I know there has been a lot of research on this. I don’t have the expertise to speak to it. My suspicion is it’s a bunch of these things that gets baked into the culture. In the same way that there are certain preferences. For example, there have been changes in preferences in body type that happens. Back in the day being plump was good because it showed you had food and you had money.

Now, we’re all drinking detox tea.

Even something in LA which is fascinating is suddenly big butts are such a thing. People are getting butt implants. These things do change but they get baked into the culture.

For people who are white, being tan is considered healthy. It means you’re out in the sun and you’re getting good exposure. That was an odd thing. People in Asia do not understand this concept of tanning that we do. We have lightening creams. That is the biggest money-making beauty product for Asian culture.

This is why some people don’t like this especially people who may lean far left because it’s distasteful. It’s discriminatory. The alternative narrative is you’re angry with Netflix because you’re displaying colorism. I don’t have the same view. I think it is responsible to show it because it spurs the conversation we’re having right here which is, is that a legitimate criterion that you should use to judge a potential partner?

It’s certainly not woke for sure. Part of what I do appreciate about the Indian matchmaking is it’s blunt and it’s honest. You can see even Sima saying that. She’s not very attractive but she has a good heart. She’s blunt about it and she doesn’t bother trying to set up two people who are opposite. She doesn’t try to set up Pradhyuman with an unattractive person because she knows. That’s not going to work. That’s not what he’s into.

People do this naturally anyway. They self-select into not the exact level but band of attractiveness.

Skin color is a big deal and they’re honest about it. They don’t try to hide it. It’s a fact along with any other fact that if a girl or a guy is skinny, slim and trim, that means he’s in good shape. I do appreciate that people are blunt about it, “No, you’re too dark.” All the implications of that, we go into that. That’s a whole other debate, but they want what they want and they’re not apologetic about it.

It’s good that people are being honest because they’re not wasting people’s time and so on.

You can’t extract that from South Asian dating by the way. There’s no way they could have put a filter on that, on the show. It’s so much a part of it.

It’s wrong to have tried to do that because it’s shining a light on this world and it would not be an accurate portrayal if you had another. I’m not going to disagree. It may be distasteful for people, but you can’t be guaranteed to always get information that you’re going to like.

I think a lot of distasteful things on TV or anything.

[bctt tweet=”As a society, we’re getting better about not treating divorced people badly. South Asian culture traditionally frowns on that as a failure.” via=”no”]

Here’s what I’ll amend with regard to the colorism. If someone was able to move past it because they’re woke because they recognize that the shade of skin doesn’t make much difference for what kind of partner someone’s going to be, it can open up opportunities. I’ll use my own personal example because it’s only fair. As a younger man, I had much more of a checklist. It never was race-based but for example, I always thought that I wanted athletic women. When I let go of that and I started dating women who are less athletic, I’ve found that they were often sexy and they were fun and lifestyle-wise, we could still match up. I wanted them active but they didn’t need to be the female jock. When I let that go, it improved my dating life. It didn’t worsen my dating life. It would be nice to see this move to a place where that’s less the case.

It’s so ingrained. It will be slow.

The other one that no one’s talking about that’s even more insidious is the heightism that exists in the show. No one is pushing back on the heightism, even the people who hate the colorism probably are heightists. This is something that shows up a lot, “I want tall,” even if the person is not that tall themselves.

Isn’t that ridiculous? This is a universal thing. Height is correlated with success and power. Even if we don’t have it ourselves, we want to marry somebody who’s taller so that we could have perhaps children who are tall. Height is a big deal. In Asian culture, the average height is shorter. I don’t know what the average height is. I won’t speculate on that.

There are cultural differences in height.

As a man, it’s important that you be tall. It’s less important for the girl but it still matters to match them up visually. You want the visual to look good. I have to laugh at it only because I understand it when you look at long-term marriages and what makes them click. My favorite part of the show, to be honest, is when they interviewed the couples who had been married for a long time. They said, “How did you meet and what makes your marriage work?” I want to see more of that in a future show because those people’s dynamics were so interesting. What made them work? Not one of them said, “What’s made our marriage work is that she’s light-skinned and tall.”

No one says that. For the audience who hasn’t seen this, yet they open the show. If you have ever seen When Harry Met Sally, they have these couples on a couch who have been together for 30 or 40 years talking about how they met and so on. They do a similar thing with Indian Matchmaking where they have these Indian couples talking about their arranged marriage and what they thought of the person when they first met them. They’re heartwarming, funny and interesting. It does a nice job of contrasting and I’m sure the producer-director wanted that contrast to show that these people are thinking about the wrong things some of the time.

I also think that maybe it was put in there because at least in the West, we look at arranged marriages and people were taken aback like, “How could you be married to a perfect stranger? That’s criminal.” People view it as being almost evil and bad. Certainly, in my culture, I know people who have been arranged and they’ve been married genuinely happily for decades and decades. On these little bits, you can clearly see some of these couples are so happy with each other. They’ve been married for a long time and they couldn’t have imagined any other way. I appreciated that she showed that because I don’t think that gets sought about.

My opinion about this is you love marriage people, glasshouses and stones. It’s not clear you’re doing it well. We should be very careful about being critical of other paths to doing this. This issue of heightism is fascinating. Admittedly, I’m a tall man and I have benefited greatly from being a tall man. I notice it and it’s unfair. Women complain about men lying about their height on the apps. A guy who’s 6-foot on the app is 5’10”. The guy who’s 5’9” is 5’7”. That’s unfortunate. I was poking around on looking around for heightism. It hasn’t been well-researched.

It’s not a big topic. It’s a legitimate gripe to have. It’s pervasive and it’s cross-cultural as you pointed out in the same way that colorism is. It is rooted a little bit in some natural biological kinds of things. Perhaps good nutrition, health and so on. Also, people care about it more for men in part because men get judged less on their looks and more on status, resources, dominance and power. It is associated naturally, so babies and little kids associate tall people with more power and so on. I went down the Reddit rabbit hole for a little bit on this. There are two forums on Reddit that I’ve found. One is a subreddit called Short and another subreddit is called Tall. I want you to guess which one has more subscribers?


No, it’s tall. Almost twice as much.

People participating in the conversation. Is this a forum where tall people gripe about all the things that suck about being tall?

No. The short one has 59,452 subscribers or Redditors. It’s described as, “A place for people of small stature to discuss the pros, cons, highs and lows of being shorter than average.” It says, “What is short? For the purpose of this subreddit, 5’7” and less is considered short for men, 5’3” and below is short for women. However, everyone is welcome. We don’t care as long as you’re polite, respectful and a positive member of the community.” The tall has much less description. There are 113,305. “No height requirement! We welcome people of all shapes and sizes to discuss all things tall-related.”

I’m curious as to who is on the tall Reddit then. If you don’t put rules down, then I suppose anybody thinks they are tall.

[bctt tweet=”Nobody says their marriage works because the other person is light-skinned and tall. Yet we continue to subscribe to colorism and heightism.” via=”no”]

That’s a good question. It’s a fascinating thing. A lot of things that happen when it comes to stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination is some of them, we see the conflict and the challenge. Judging someone based upon the color of their skin at one point was fine. Nowadays, not fine. Judging people by the shade of their skin, still largely fine. Judging people by their height is absolutely fine and accepted. Yet that ends up being unfair. I have a podcast that’s going to be forthcoming where we talk about singleism. It’s about judging people based upon their relationship status, and the judgment and discrimination that gets not only baked into the society, but it gets baked into the tax code and into legislation.

Everything we do encourages the family unit.

These isms, height-ism is not as bad as sexism or racism or heterosexism. The argument that we conclude is that if you’re going to fight one form of oppression, you should be fighting all forms of oppression because they all start from the same basis. We want to knock out sexism and racism first, but it still doesn’t make it okay at least in my opinion. This should be a highly credible opinion because I benefit from heightism. I recognize how I benefit from heightism. I will say that I have been guilty of it. I had an exchange at one point with a woman on a dating app. A woman who I ended up dating and I made a quip about being tall and she’s not a heightist. She came and clapped back at me and said, “I hate that women judge men based upon their height. It’s like a man judging a woman based upon her bra size.” I remember going “uh-oh.” We ended up going out and dating and that was quite nice. It was despite that I was tall. She didn’t like tall men. It helped. I was like, “She must like me for who I am, not for this thing that doesn’t matter.” Roopali, this was super fun. Thank you for sticking around for the bonus material. Thanks so much.

You’re very welcome.



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About Roopali Malhotra

Solo 40 | Indian MatchmakingRoopali Malhotra is an armchair psychologist, novice world traveler, and academia enthusiast. Raised by Hindu immigrant parents in rural Christian America, she is fascinated with culture, values, and identity, making her an ideal podcast guest or good company over a glass of wine or whiskey. During business hours she works in education and law. In other words, she is a lawyer at a university.



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