Monday, October 24, 2011

Rules for online engagement.

I am an online dater. I am not proud. I am not loud. I am not always confident that what I am doing is right. But online I am. And online I’ll stay…til my membership to expires in 5 weeks or I find a boyfriend. Whichever comes first.

While shopping for a partner online may seem like a whole lot of fun and games and browsing for chinos on J Crew, it’s crucial to remember that you’re not just shopping—you’re being shopped for. And creating an online dating profile that represents you—the real you—but not all the bad parts of the real you—just the alluring, attractive, amazing parts—is both a crucial and challenging task.

I was asked recently for tips of the trade (if dating is still my trade in 5 years, remind me to shoot myself). And seeing as I’m a good friend, a dedicated blogger, and have some time on my hands between dates at the moment, I’m all too happy to oblige.

Here are some key tips for marketing You (yes, you are a good for sale for all intensive purposes) on the digital meat market:

Your Profile Picture(s).

• No matter what they tell you, it is permissible and actually advisable to look at least as good, if not better, in your picture than you do in real life. In real life, your date will get to learn about all the wonderful non-physical parts of you that really matter. At first glance, he can’t see your kindness and bubbly personality. All he can see is that chip in your tooth and your kinky hair.
• If you’re worried that your one glamour shot picture may not represent you accurately and you want to offer a more honest glimpse at the goods, you’re right. Post a few pics. But the more, the merrier does not apply either. There is such a thing as too many pics on your profile. More than, let’s say, 10 can indicate narcissism. And it’s not all about you. Yet.
• Shots of you with just one other person of the opposite gender is not a good look (for a hetero profile, that is). I don’t care if it’s your best friend. Your brother. Your oldest mate. No one wants to see what may be competition in a picture with his future romantic interest.
• Beware your captions. They’re likely not as clever as you think they are.

Your Age.

• Guys. Girls. Everyone. It is not okay to lie about your age. More importantly than it showing you to be a liar, it will undoubtedly, absolutely, 100% get found out if you make it into a relationship. And then you won’t just appear a liar. You’ll appear pathetic and insecure. Also, how young are you aiming for your date to be that you feel you need to lie about your own age to score him? Avoid the drama. Your age is one of the few things you can’t change about yourself. Own it.

Your Interests.

Don’t check off Interests because you want to attract others who care about those things. Do you think someone else’s elevated interests will rub off on you? Someone’s karma transfer over? We are who we are. Our mates can help open our perspective. They are not meant to be the people we wish we were ourselves. If you want to start having ‘coffee and conversation’ (a good beginner’s interest for those of you used to checking off ‘loafing on the couch watching Housewives’), go out and grab a goddamn cup of coffee yourself. Feigning Interests doesn’t make you interesting.

Your About Me. And Who You’re Looking For.

A lot of folks feel that describing themselves in the ‘About Me’ section of dating sites is akin to forced bragging about themselves. False. Telling the facts about yourself is, in itself, not pretentious. It’s your tone that makes it so. You can share that you have a zest for life, are smart, have an Ivy League education, and enjoy watching tennis, and come off sounding absolutely delightful. Or, you can end up sounding like Muffy of Muffy and Buffy at the Snoot Town Country Club. Reread your statement. You should be able to decipher which side of the bragging line you come out on. If you have any sense of self-awareness that is. And if you do, feel free to throw that into your About Me section as well. Most everyone enjoys a self-aware partner.

As for the bit about what you’re looking for—well, what are you looking for? If you’ve gone online, chances are you’ve tried dating in ‘the real world.’ And found results to be less than ideal. Here is your chance to be specific about what you want in a partner. And hopefully you will have evaluated this before you put pen to paper. Does it matter to you that your new friend is a family person? Say it. Is it crucial that he be financially stable (please tell me you’re no longer dating couch surfers, readers?!)? Then write that ish down. You have literally paid your dues in order to shop for partners that suit your specific needs and desires. And there is no point in being coy about it.

Your Body Type.

No one’s saying a multiple choice selection process to describe your physique is kind. Or fair. Or even accurate. Take me, for instance. I’m probably not what you’d call a girl with ‘more to love’ by general American standards. I might even be considered amongst the smaller population, in fact. But, I don’t live in America at large. I live in Los Angeles. And in Los Angeles, I am not ‘slender.’ But do I say I am? Yeah, I say I am. Because no man thinks he wants to date a ‘curvy’ girl. So, let him meet me to find out that he does.

That all being said, I’m not encouraging blatant misrepresentation here [or in any part of your profile]. Saying you’re slender if you are, in fact, obese—count this amongst things that are not only not okay, but will also score you reactions resembling: aghast, horrified, and disappointed on Date 1. And that’s not good for your date. Or for your self-esteem.

I met a man recently whose last match had shown pictures of herself 65 pounds slimmer than the current reality. That date lasted 40 minutes. And I think that was kind of him.

Your Pets.

When I first filled out my profile I said I loved dogs. I didn’t have one, I said, because I didn’t have room in my studio apartment. A year later, I looked back at this and realized it was a blatant lie. I do not have a dog because I do not want a dog and, to be honest, I prefer that my partner not have one either. A boyfriend with a dog means to me: having to leave dates early to care for said dog, viewing endless albums of pictures of dog over dinner and having to feign interest and even excitement, sleeping in my man’s bed with a dog in between us, possibly drooling on me, and having to share my man’s attention with a hairier, shorter bitch. I’m not interested.

Another friend of mine was fibbed to by her now boyfriend who said he liked cats. When they moved in with each other months later, it turned out that he not only disliked them, he was allergic. They stayed together, but she ended up cat-less. A bummer.

So, what I’d encourage here is: honesty. If you’ve got a furry friend, let your potential mates know up front. If you’ve got an aversion to all things that walk on 4 legs, best to let others know that too, even if it does make you seem a little cold and heartless. Cold sure, but not a liar.

Honesty is the best policy.

As a general rule: be honest, be honest, be honest. From what you’re looking for (long-term relationship vs. short term tryst), to your education (we live in a digital age—he will find out if you didn’t graduate from Harvard, friend), to the things you share about yourself (if you’re not funny, don’t say you’re funny. I assure you he will figure this out within 10 minutes of date 1. I’m sure you have other lovely traits you can highlight instead.)

And be honest with yourself as well. About what you want, but also about who you are. If you are looking for something magical and wonderful and exciting, be the person who will attract this kind of mate—in other words, be magical and wonderful and exciting yourself. In the search for someone else, never stop working on Numero Uno—you.

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