Make me a match
Back in the good old days, people sought relationship advice from twin tabloid titans Dear Abby and Ann Landers. But answers were less than immediate, if at all, and totally dependent on a printed newspaper with sometimes unreliable delivery methods. Late in the 20th century the World Wide Web was born and nothing has been the same — including dating.
Fast forward to 2008. Erin Tillman, a marketing graduate with a minor in international business, had been in Los Angeles for five years working in various areas of the entertainment industry. Production assistant, print model, TV host and wardrobe stylist to name a few, Tillman was finding her way in the city she describes as full of hustle and bustle with a mixture of interesting and eclectic people and a variety of creative career opportunities. And beautiful weather. Something a girl born and raised in the Midwest could really get used to. It was also a time when the internet had become a part of daily life for most people, and it started to expand the universe of how people meet.
“I started writing about dating in 2008. It was all so new and I was writing about the double standards between the genders when it comes to dating and sex and seeking answers to why so many marriages end in divorce. Was there something that people were doing back in the dating stage of their relationships that was leading to unhappiness later in life? How and why were people choosing their partners? Were there people who were happier in unconventional partnerships? I had so many questions and was eager to find answers,” Tillman said.
Using the foundation from her marketing degree, Tillman was able to create her own niche based on her interests in dating, human behavior and the entertainment industry, and learned how to incorporate the latest technology into her brand. She started using the moniker “The Dating Advice Girl” and soon established herself as a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw. She sees her place in the industry as still evolving, with new opportunities arising all the time.
“It’s clear that the digital social space is a relevant industry, and I feel secure about my place in it,” she said.
Tillman published The Consent Guidebook in 2018 as a way to convey easily digestible content that offers a crash course on issues of consent, dating and intimate scenarios, as well as content on interpersonal relationships with family and friends and the need to be aware of each other’s personal boundaries. Featuring illustrations by fellow Flyer Seth Wade ’15, it includes advice from over 30 sexual health educators, psychiatrists and professionals of various genders, cultures and experiences.
“I believe it is important to have a variety of perspectives and levels of expertise featured in the book, not just mine,” Tillman said.
At the core of Tillman’s philosophy on dating and relationships is self-respect and empowerment. She believes if someone is self-confident they will find the strength to make decisions that will influence and impact their lives in positive ways. In her role as a dating empowerment coach, she helps clients lessen anxiety and be prepared for the ups and downs of the dating process.
“I help clients take an honest look at who they are, who they are attracted to, what their ideal role in a relationship would be and what kind of relationship would be a good fit for them. In society we default to a one-size-fits-all kind of relationship, when in reality, we are different individuals who might thrive in different scenarios and partnerships,” Tillman said.
Another important demographic Tillman caters to are colleges and youth organizations. She offers several dating safety programs designed to educate teens and young adults on the importance of consent, social media awareness and establishing boundaries. She has other sessions that give helpful advice on having a happy and healthy social life outside of dating, building strong communication skills and learning to use technology to your advantage.
“There seemed to be a consistent trend of consent being a new concept for the majority of individuals,” Tillman observed. “Even in sex ed, most people I’ve talked to — especially those over the age of 30 — did not have any sort of comprehensive consent teachings when they were younger, me included. If most of us never really learned about boundaries, it’s no wonder so many issues, concerns and incidents were coming to light.” In college, Tillman was a self-professed late bloomer and never dated until her junior year while studying abroad in Lille, France. “I got a lot of attention being the only American at my school, so some of my most memorable dating experiences were in Europe,” she said. “That has definitely given me an interesting perspective about courtship, dating and relationships.”
Her award-winning The Dating Advice Girl podcast can be found on platforms including iTunes and Spotify, and Tillman regularly does guest appearances on local and national shows as well as media including Men’s Health, the Chicago Tribune, BuzzFeed and the Lifetime Network. She received an award in 2018 for her work in the realm of consent education and gender equality.
"It felt like a total fairy tale." —Erin Tillman ’01
With all of this talk of dating, it begs the question of Tillman, “What’s the best and worst date you’ve ever been on?”
“The worst/weirdest was while having dinner, I laughed at something my date said and he stuck his finger in my open mouth and got upset when I asked him what he was doing. I immediately asked for the check,” Tillman said. “One of the best was when I lived in France and my (ex) boyfriend and I decided to hop on a train and go to Paris for the weekend, just because. It felt like a total fairy tale,” she recalls.
Tillman has made it her life’s work to help people figure out what fairy tale ending is right for them and how to achieve it.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see respect given even if there’s not a full understanding of someone else’s experience. That always gives me a deep feeling of fulfillment to help facilitate that experience,” Tillman said.