E. Jean Carroll is a love guru: She has the longest currently running advice column in the country (Elle Magazine, 20 years, six million readers). Carroll was a writer for Saturday Night Live, has authored four books, contributed to a host of major magazines, and been featured on just about every national talk show. (Entertainment Weekly called her the "most entertaining cable talk show host you will never see.")
In 2002, Carroll launched GreatBoyfriends.com, a dating site where women recommend their ex-boyfriends to each other. This year she brings us Tawkify, an online dating venture that ditches long profiles in favor of 10 key questions and a telephone. "It's the newest way to meet someone using the oldest method in the world," Carroll says. "Tawkify is perfect for the fabled 50s. We are the last generation that understands the allure of the telephone conversation."
I recently spoke with Carroll about love, dating and why she hunted for primitive man in New Guinea.
What's the one thing that you know now about life and love that you wish you knew when you were growing up?
I knew more when I was growing up than I know now. Because children see through everybody. Adults can be dazzled by money or position. Children never can.
What is the riskiest thing you've done since you turned 50?
I jumped off a 120-foot stone quarry into a pool of water. I also jumped out of a plane with Candice Bushnell when I turned fifty.
Was that the riskiest thing?
No. The riskiest thing was getting on that f--king scale to see how much we weighed before we got in the plane! We had to weigh ourselves!
Maybe you lost weight on the way down! So what's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Best advice was lighten up. Just lighten up.
What's your biggest regret in life?
Oh my God, I have so many!
What's your biggest accomplishment?
I was the first white woman in the history of the world to walk from Telefomin in New Guinea to Munbil.
What the heck were you thinking?
It was nuts. We got lost. I had a warrior with me who didn't speak English and I must have been out of my mind. I was looking for primitive man. I had had it up to here with modern men and I thought to myself: "I think what modern women need are primitive men."
And did you find one?
And did you have carnal relations with him?
No. He was four foot two and wore a penis gourd.
You could have taken off the gourd.
I outweighed him by 50 pounds! He was tiny. They are all very tiny. They eat no protein. They're about the size of our ten year-olds.
Did you discover anything interesting about the differences between primitive versus modern men?
Yeah, truly, career's not important. They live in the moment. They are so laid back. They have real courtship signals. It's all right in front of you and it's so beautiful. We've lost that. When you're in a forest in New Guinea and a woman glances at a man, that man is dead. It's just so powerful. That's Mother Nature. She wants to get women pregnant. She wants those gene combinations.
Tell us about Tawkify. How does it work and where did the idea come from?
Online dating works, but you spend a lot of time looking at profiles -- hundreds of them. And then you get pickier and pickier and pickier. And, of course, we all know that if you have to choose between a thousand guys or five guys, you're going to be happier with the guy if you only have to chose between five, right? Because if you go with the thousands, you're always going to think there's somebody better out there. We took all of the profiles and just threw them away. You don't get to see them. We set people up on the phone.
How does that happen?
People answer 10 questions. They give us their photo. They tell us what they want. And then I call them. I talk to them and find out what they really want, which is usually different from what they say they want. And then I match them. And the day I match them, I call the guy and I say, "I have a girl for you. She likes snowboarding." That's all I have to say. The guy is like, "What? Really?" That's all he needs to know. His imagination just goes wild. And then I call the girl and I say, "Well, there's a match tonight. You're going to talk to a guy. He likes snowboarding." And she says, "No, really? He likes snowboarding?!" So they both get excited. They only need a tidbit. Just a tidbit. You don't tell them too much. You know very quickly in the first couple of minutes if you hit it off or not.
And where do you find your pool of eligible men and women -- or is that a trade secret?
I've been doing the Ask E. Jean column for 19 years and what is the number question? It's E. Jean, how do I find a man? So believe me, I've been asking myself that question every 20 seconds. How do I get a man for this woman? I thought of literally going to the Super Bowl and hanging out in the skyboxes to get guys. It is difficult. And we have way more elite women than we have worthy men. I'm going to be right up front.
Here's a conversation I had two days ago. There's this really cute journalist man in Connecticut by the name of John. So I said, "John, I have a great woman for you." And he says, "Oh, who is she?" And I say, "she's a scientist at Yale working on an anti-virus medicine which might cure HIV." And guess what his reaction was? He asked, "Is she hot?"
I know! She's a post-doc at Yale. She's on the trail of solving one of world's great problems. And he just wants to know if she's hot.
Do men and women get more demanding when they age or do they chill out?
I stumbled on one problem that I never realized existed before: The very demanding woman who knows exactly what she wants is not going to get the guy. Because you just have to enjoy life and enjoy men and not say that you want a man who has to be five-feet-eleven! You can't say that! What if he's a great guy? Give a little! And by the way, he might be great in bed. Stop with your five-feet-eleven!
The smart ones mellow. They know how to seize the moment in front of them. You've got to love what you've got. Those are the smart people. Other people look at the diminishing time frame and get nervous and scared, and that's when they want this and that and this and that. There's a lovely man on Tawkify. He's 52 and retired and lives in Florida and has a zillion dollars -- I'm not exaggerating. But he wants a woman who's 38. By the way, I put him on the phone with a woman who's 50 and he loved her.
Did he know her age when he was talking to her?
No. They had so much in common.
So would the chemistry they had over the phone be enough for that guy to get over his desire to be with a 30-something year old?
I think so because he really liked her. She's one of those women who have a lot of vim and animal magnetism in her voice. And he went for her in a big way and wanted to fly her down from New York to Florida. But by the way, she didn't like him. And guess why?
Because he said "Thee-a-ter" instead of "theatre."
Isn't that the five foot eleven problem?
Oh my God!!
If you could say one thing to the next generation, what would it be?
You gotta tell them to enjoy the small pleasures. That's it. And guess what the smallest pleasure is? A man. And a woman.
So it's all about love and intimacy?
Yes. It's the small things. The big things never make you happy.