A field guide to online dating: The Profile

bad online dating profile

They say write what you know and after 6 years of post divorce singledom, I figure that dating is probably my wheelhouse (that and delivery sushi restaurants of the Denver metro area).

It’s easy to fill out an online profile when you’re 24, 25 or 26. You spend the majority of your free time hanging out with other single friends, enjoying group activities and post work happy hours. You meet people all day long. And the majority of them are single. Being married at 26 is more like a ‘loser’ sign than an asset. Online dating is just another way to supplement your dating pool, and heck, it’s a fun way to waste a Sunday afternoon when you’re nursing your Saturday night hangover. You might meet a few guys but if the date’s not great, you ditch and move on. There’s plenty more out there and all the time in the world.
Filling out the online dating profile at post 35 is a whole different minefield. You tip-toe around your marital status; is ‘divorced’ good since it signals that someone did love you once? Or is it a sign of tarnished goods? Is ‘single’ really better or do you look like someone who spends their spare time dressing up their cats on a Saturday night?
Everyone lies about their weight. But how much of a lie can be disguised as ‘my scales are off’ versus complete body dysmorphia? 8 pounds seems about right.  Salary presents the same dilemma. If it’s low, do you look like a freeloader who’s looking for a caretaker? If it’s too high, do you send the message that you’re a career obsessed professional who’ll need to schedule dates months in advance? While ‘I’d prefer not to share’ is the option we’d all prefer to select, you can almost hear the buttoned up blouse, pearls and tight lips in the sentence.  Body type ‘athletic’ makes me sound like an over-tanned body builder, but ‘slim’ has waifish connotations applicable to women who can’t fill out their skinny jeans. Which I can, complete with muffin top.

Writing your profile is tough. And no, you can’t put that as your title. Listing out a set of activities that you’ve enjoyed over the last 30 years – as oppose to in the last month- seems to be the only acceptable way of sounding normal. Considering profiles of women in my age group I felt tired just reading – ‘hiking, running, cycling, skiing, surfing, yoga, walking, partying with friends’ or ‘triathlon training, volunteering, DIY, organic gardening, Pilates, yoga and cooking for my friends’. Somehow ‘watching all the shows I DVR’d last week, buying vegetables that will rot slowly in my fridge all week, drinking too much’ isn’t very compelling. So everyone’s profile reads the same. There’s a variety of flavors of course

  • God/ my family/ exercise/ Green Bay Packers are important in my life
  • I love to eat sushi/ vegan/ cheeseburgers/out
  • I can’t stand smokers/ negative people/ bad drivers/Republicans
  • I’m looking to start slow/ see where it goes/ find a new friend

All of which conspire to mask the girl behind the profile who’s biting her fingernails on a Friday night wondering what the hell is wrong with her that she needs to write this crap and suffer these bozos just to get a date with average Joe. 

The result is that we’re all ‘outgoing’, we all ‘love to laugh’, we are all ‘active’ and we’re all ‘just looking for someone to spend time’. No-one would dream of writing the truth; 

‘I’m quite funny, I like sex, my husband didn’t and I want to get laid before I forget how it goes. Hopefully you’re not a psycho.’

 The truth, sadly, isn’t rewarded. I know – I once posted what I actually wanted and received one response from a overweight, balding 54 year old who said my profile was ‘refreshing’ and that I was ‘cute enough’ to meet him for a date. Believe me playing the game is the only way to go if you want to actually make it off the internet and onto a date.
A quick word on humor. You may be witty and smart, with quirks coming out of your ass and a writing credit on Seinfeld, but no one likes to be one upped in the humor department out of the gate. A funny line sure, but a profile that comes with a laugh track and an Emmy nomination doesn’t get you far. Intimidation isn’t funny and while everyone wants that GSOH (good sense of humor), no one wants to be the one of the pair who isn’t funny.

Photos are the key to attracting online dating traffic. People are visual creatures and shallow or not, we like what we like. Unfortunately we don’t walk around – unless you’re a ‘US Weekly’ regular – with great hair, clothes and lighting. Most of us have to do with that group shot taken before the party (when your make up is still where it should be), or coerce a friend to stop laughing and stage a ‘casual’ shot or two.  For gods sake don’t ever post a photo you took yourself – what you save in embarrassment at having to ask someone for help, you lose by looking like a friendless loser who doesn’t care. Long shot distance photos with an arrow indicating ‘Me’, pictures taken with your phone in front of a mirror, anything over 5 years old, bikini shots… pass.
I learned the hard way when my neighbor found me on the site and didn’t recognize me from my motley collection of pictures. Not a good sign.

So I posted my profile and started to peruse other profiles on the site to fill the time. Not a good idea. My friend Faith tried this as a means to assess the quality and targeting of her profile and came away with a severe case of ‘where did my life go?’ pondering.  Yes, everyone is prettier/ slimmer/ smarter/ better paid/ more traveled than you.
And they’re still single. Just like you.

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