Single Spotlight is a Heartalytics interview series in which our editor interviews and features different singles from the Tawkify network. Please note that while this column unmasks one eligible community member 1-2 times a year, the Tawkify network remains completely confidential. If you would like to be considered for our next Single Spotlight, join the waiting list. Get ready to meet Matchable Member, Sam Hai!
V: Where are you from, Sam?
S: I’m actually not from this country originally. I was born in China and English is not my first language. I learned to speak English when I was six, living in Canada. We moved to the United States when I was eight.
V: You sound like a native English speaker! Where all have you lived?
S: Thanks! By age 10 I’d already lived in about 20 different cities around the world. We were always moving around in China, Canada and the US, mostly in the Boston area. I attended college in both Cleveland and in Austin and have been in Austin ever since. This is the longest I’ve been in any one place.
V: Does Austin feel like home to you?
S: A lot more than most of the other places! So… yeah, Austin is a place where I can be me. I can unapologetically be myself here, in many aspects.
V: I get that. Austin is an amazing city. Does it feel international to you?
S: Well, Austin is a very transient city. There’s a lot of people coming in and out, from college students to young professionals. Austin is a great place to be young.
“The double edged sword is that Austin feels like America’s Neverland.”
S: There’s no pressure to grow-up here! For the perfectionists (like me, when I first moved here), that was amazing! You know, I didn’t have to conform to anyone else’s expectations. But as you get older and start to actually want to be an adult, it’s a bit disorienting. It’s like…whoa, I went from swinging on the monkey bars to being the teacher at recess in no time. A weird identity crisis can go along with that.
V: Totally, I think that’s something most millennials can empathize with. What did you study in college?
S: You know that chart that shows what success ideally looks like (a straight shot) versus diverging highs and lows? I’m definitely closer to the latter. First, I was going to be a doctor. About halfway through freshman year, I realized that wasn’t for me and declared my major in economics to build a career as a consultant or financial analyst. I did end up graduating with an economics degree doing what I thought was a financial internship, which actually turned out to be an insurance sales job.
S: Yeah, in the long-run I didn’t actually feel deceived. I’m close friends with the people I worked with there to this day. Our office was only 15 people, so it was a tight knit group. I learned all sorts of life lessons there and the networking through that opportunity led to my current career as a sales engineer.
V: What’s that all about?
S: I do a combination of software and hardware. It’s a bit tough to explain because most people hear my title and think I’m a programmer… or they look at a guy like me and also immediately think, he’s a programmer! (haha). Long story short, I help fill the gap between software and hardware. It’s my job to find new ways to make people’s jobs more efficient by introducing new products and solving problems. I guess you could say I’m a glorified IT consultant!
V: So you did end up as a consultant! There’s something I want to pick at a bit more… did you feel pressured by your family career-wise?
S: Ohhh yeah!
“Whatever stereotype you have in your head is probably true.”
Seriously, I was ‘allowed’ to be either a doctor or a lawyer. That was it. It wasn’t until the iPhone came out that my parents changed their tune to include computer engineering, but in their words, “be careful, there’s no job security in that! You will get laid off at 40!” Most recently, investment banker came into the approved list. So economics made mild sense to them. But, it also made them a little bit nervous because they couldn’t help me in any field aside from medical. Honestly, we had a lot of fights.
“There were moments I debated extracting myself from the family because I didn’t want to deal with that pressure anymore… Their version of ‘help’ felt like jail to me.”
At the time, I was going through a rebellious phase. I wasn’t able to hear their perspective fully and went against everything they were suggesting, even if it was sound advice. At the time, I thought they were just trying to control my life.
V: Now that you’re older, do you see it differently?
S: Oh yeah! I mean… I’ll put it this way, if I had been a little bit more mature at the time and they’d put a lot less pressure on me to go into medicine, I would have gone into medicine! I actually love the study of anatomy. With some of the extreme sports that I do, my eyes have been opened to the great fulfillment a career in the field of sports medicine could have provided. Obviously, I don’t want to start my career over though. It would take at least another six years before I could do anything in medicine. So I study anatomy and physiology for myself, but there’s no way I’d go through the board certification process at this point. Too much of a pain the a**!
V: Hear that! Do you consider the study of anatomy to be a hobby?
S: More than just a hobby. It’s definitely a passion for me.
“Whenever I have the chance to meet someone in-real-life to geek out about medicine and anatomy, I take it!”
V: Alright then, anatomy and medicine is a good date conversation topic for you — did you get that ladies (laughter)?!
S: Yeah, I will happily spend hours upon hours talking about it, tossing around body jargon! I think it can actually get me into trouble because I can start to lose people. But I suppose that can also turn into something good… hey, I understand human anatomy, wink wink, nudge nudge!
“Of course, you have to be careful not to end up on the Tinder wall-of-shame, i.e. keep the conversation tasteful!”
V: That’s right! No one wants to end up there. Switching gears with a very serious question — are you a cat or dog person?
S: Important question… I’m more of a dog person. That said, I love animals and would be happy to have two of each! After my first big breakup, I obviously experienced sadness in losing her, but as time passed I began to miss the dog we had together a whole lot more.
V: (Laughter)! Did you arrange joint-custody?
S: Unfortunately not. While I provided the financial support and exercise component of the dog’s care, she provided most of the emotional care. At the end of the day, I’d rather our dog get fat (and be happy with her), than be super fit, but cuddle-deprived with me.
V: I see… you put the dog’s needs (and your ex-girlfriend’s needs) ahead of your own interests. That’s a great sign for long term relationship success!
S: Thanks! Yeah, I knew that I didn’t have the time to take care of the dog as well as she could. I’m rarely home and always on-the-go. Ultimately, she was the better nurturer. I really miss that dog though! Maybe I can foster or volunteer to be a dog walker.
V: Excellent idea with your busy lifestyle! I’d actually like to learn more about your secret hobbies. What keeps you so busy?
“If I lived in California, this likely wouldn’t surprise anyone. But I live in Texas, so one of my main ‘secret’ hobbies is rare.”
V: I must know!
S: Breakdancing! Yeah, I do break dancing. People see my size (I’m 6’4″ and 200 pounds), so I don’t have the typical height or weight for breakdancing. Simply, I’m too big! But I enjoy proving the naysayers wrong. Most expert dancers do not expect a guy like me to move as fast as I do.
We just had to see Sam getting down, so we asked him to send over these photos!
V: Do you do any crazy tricks?
S: I like my joints too much to do anything crazy dangerous. No matter how strong my muscles get, my joints are going to be the same. Physics is physics. I can’t use biology to get around physics, so there’s always going to be a limit to what I can do… but I definitely approach that limit.
V: Any other things we should know about? Are you a secret chef?
S: I also do Latin dancing. I am licensed skydiver. If I could afford the lifestyle, I would leave it all behind and go into extreme sports. High adrenaline lifestyle! If I had known about this option as a kid, it would have been my childhood dream.
“It’s a retro-active childhood dream!”
I would have loved to be on the Red Bull Air Force, for example. Basically, these guys are sponsored by Red Bull to travel the world and shoot videos of themselves skydiving next to airplanes, jumping off cliffs, a little bit of running from the cops… you know, base jumping is not exactly 100% legal!
V: You’re a Rebel! Have you realized that? You went your own way with your career, you’ve built your own life, you live in Austin which is kind of a rebel city! This is all making sense now!
S: Haha! Yes, I guess so… and Texas is a rebel state.
V: True! So… what attracts you most?
S: Generally, I’m not attracted to the typical ‘Austin girl.’ I’m attracted to uniqueness, obvious uniqueness, and sometimes that’s not about ‘your look,’ so to speak. For example, one of the women that had the greatest impact on me recently, approached me first. I was drawn to her because of that, not because of her outfit (she was wearing yoga pants, of course!). Typically, hyper-attractive women don’t approach me first — they’re used to the chase (and quite frankly, so am I). Hopefully apps like Bumble and, of course, feminism, are changing that (fingers crossed!)… Anyway, I liked her approach. She came right up to me and said, I think you’re cute and we should talk some more.
“She knew how to take control of the situation and it was very attractive.”
I’ve had women come up and approach me before, but typically they just say, ‘hi,’ awkwardly and wait for me to fill-in the silence. When that happens, there’s a lot of pressure because I have less than a second to take the reins and be charming or it gets awkward, fast.
“This woman was confident and communicated well. What also drew me to her was her authenticity. I could tell she was nervous but she muscled right through it.”
That’s a trait she had that I don’t have as much as! I mean, Give me a physical activity that’s life endangering and I’ll take the leap no problem; but, walking up to a beautiful woman to strike up a conversation is more of a challenge.
V: What are the most important things to you in a relationship?
S: I want someone I can have fun with!
“This whole Netflix-and-chill thing isn’t for me. Both the literal meaning and the modern meaning.”
I see a lot of couples get into the rhythm of ordering take-out and staying home way too often. I don’t really watch TV. I already spend 8-10 hours a day staring at a screen, I don’t want to go home and stare at another one! I prefer the anti-couch-potato lifestyle and I’d really like to share that with a partner. Obviously, I need balance, we all need balance! If I’m anxious after a stressful day, relaxing is great. I’d love to have a partnership where we can both study on the couch in silence. That’s so nice!
“Other important things… my love language is physical touch.”
Affection is my primary love language. Verbal reassurance is a close second. If we haven’t seen each other in a couple of weeks, the nicest thing to hear is, I missed you.
“I would love to be vulnerable with a woman about my insecurities.”
Take, for example… I have a history of social anxiety because of how much I moved around; it was tough making friends! Austin has a bit of a ‘small town’ mentality. Many people here have close friendships that go way back to toddler times, but I don’t have any friends like that due to the nature of my childhood.
V: Who doesn’t love a man who can be vulnerable? That shows great strength. Anything else you’d like to mention?
S: Yes, I’m all about working hard, but it’s important to me that my partner takes time for personal relationships too. I realize work-life balance is hard to strike… I dated a woman who went deep into her work. For long periods of time, she would be completely emotionally unavailable. Without getting too into the details, our sex life was totally compromised.
V: And since physical touch is your primary love language, what must have been especially tough.
S: It was. I also think this hits home with me because I had two parents who were fiery ambitious.
“In traditional Asian culture, the way you provide for your kid is to spend as much money on him/her as possible. My parents basically worked all of the time, even though they had by most standards, more than enough to live comfortably.”
They were never there! This is also why I didn’t want to become a doctor in the first place; I worried I wouldn’t actually be there for the people in my life. Most kids come home after school and their parents are there, or at least a baby sitter is there. I came home from school and was completely on my own. So I understood that cultivating work-life balance was important to me at a pretty young age.
V: It’s incredible that you understood this about yourself and built a career to meet that standard! What are your top three match priorities in a nutshell?
“Emotional intelligence. Not just an intuitive understanding of things, but also the ability to articulate.”
S: Next, sense of fun! Last, enough of an initial (and enduring) mutual physical attraction to maintain a healthy sex life.
V: Good ones! Next question — fewer Americans are getting married than ever before. Do you think that marriage is still relevant?
S: I love being single — I’m adept at being in a good single-flow-state. I go to work, go to the gym, practice my hobbies (like break-dancing), volunteer, and at the end of the day, I feel great. But there’s a whole side of myself I haven’t really discovered yet. Yes, I’ve been in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, but that’s more like a best friend type-relationship. Marriage is a whole different level. I’d love to develop more as a person with another person, through marriage.
“So marriage is insanely relevant!”
V: What an unexpected perspective, love that! What do you think is the ideal way to get to know someone?
S: Tough… but I’m going to lean more toward the experiential side of things. Ideally, it would be great to be put into a novel situation of some kind and see how it goes. Also, there are some essential questions I think should be covered for compatibility… What’s your fighting style? What are you sexual preferences? What do you value?
V: Right on! Healthy conflict resolution is essential. What’s your fighting style?
S: Well, I tend to have intense feelings and then immediately second guess them. Developing a more balanced fighting style is something I’m working on with my therapist. I think this might be a consequence of being a loner as a kid. How that has manifested into adulthood is interesting… when solid plans get canceled, that tends to make me feel really angry. So I’m working on finding a balance between that, but also expressing that I value when my time is respected.
V: You are refreshingly self-aware! There aren’t many men who are in therapy and also open about it. It’s attractive when we take care of ourselves — body and mind. I think all people could benefit from therapy!
S: Oh, big time! Big time!
V: Do politics come into play in your dating life?
S: A little bit.
“If I were to pick one issue that could be a sticking point, it would be views on immigration. Obviously, that hits extremely close to home for me.”
Also, I tend to have a tougher time dating social conservatives.
V: How did you hear about Tawkify and why did you decide to become a Matchable Member?
S: I like to check-out new approaches to dating. I consider myself to be an informal student of relationships. I lived with someone for almost two years who was getting her PHD in adult romantic relationships. Off topic, but the one book she (and I) would recommend everyone read is: The Handbook Of Relationship Initiation. It provides a scientific perspective on adult romantic relationships. Dating articles and advice columns are a dime a dozen and the ones I’ve read are from a female standpoint (often a jilted female standpoint), so I found this book to be refreshing. Anyway, Tawkify interested me because you guys are doing things differently.
V: Ohh, I’m intrigued! Bring your scholarly learnings to mind because I want to know what advice you have for single women and men!
“Diversify! Let me explain… people tend to stick to the same ‘types.’ It takes deliberate effort on one’s part to change those patterns, but it’s very beneficial to do so.”
We’re somewhat controlled by the messages we received in our formative years. I suggest challenging those messages instead of being drawn into the same rooms with the same people over-and-over.
V: Amazing advice. We actually have a good article on radically challenging standards. I need more from you, that was great advice!
S: Thanks! OK, next I’d say to trust science. Work on yourself! Therapy is a great option. If not therapy, then carefully select some self-help books. There are some great ones! What I’m trying to get at here is… before blaming others, look at yourself. Always reflect.
“Always look at yourself before deciding it’s everyone else’s fault. I realize this is in opposition to the radical self acceptance trend, but too bad! I don’t buy that.”
Better yourself! It’s easy to chase hedonistic highs, but there are other types of highs you can chase that are constructive and sustainable (you know, things that don’t destroy your brain, body and liver!).
V: Yes, yes, yes! That applies to everyone. Great tips, Sam! I’m curious, do you have messages specifically for other single men?
S: Umm… don’t be a d***, (laughter)!
I say that jokingly, but there’s a lot of truth to it too. There’s definitely kind of a chicken and egg effect on who made who behave badly…
“…but as men, we can absolutely do our part to stop perpetuating abusive behaviors.”
That’s first and foremost. I do have kind of a controversial thing to express aside from that…
V: OK, fire away!
S: The #metoo movement is great, but I do think there’s an element of sexual shaming going on as a side-effect — which effects both sexes in different ways. From a male perspective, the manifestation is that some men are afraid to embrace their own sexuality. The key is to find a healthy way to explore your sexuality, own it and then express it in a way that’s connective and empowering for both parties. I realize this sounds hippy-ish, but it’s possible and important.
V: That’s valid, Sam! Thanks for sharing that. This has been so much fun. You have some surprising and interesting insights to share. I’ve enjoyed hearing about your life. What a fantastic person to kick off Single Spotlight with, thank you, how lucky am I!? Any parting thoughts for your fellow readers?
S: You’re welcome and thank you! For anyone still ‘looking,’ I’d say… good luck and have fun! Longer version… glhfddka: Good luck, have fun, don’t die, kick ass!
V: Thanks Sam!
Seems appropriate to close with these awesome picks of Sam skidiving!
Austin Texas ladies — if you think you could be a match for Sam, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will only pass on contact information to Sam if our matchmaking team agrees with the match. Please note, you must have a completed Tawkify profile for us to evaluate.
Valerie Presley Ackler
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