by Barry Drogin
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At the encouragement of a friend, I've been looking at some Internet dating sites, although I know they are pretty useless and futile. Like Meetup.com, they are not very good at localization - in New York City, they refuse to separate one borough from another, let alone separate urban from suburban - and, also like Meetup.com, they tend to be filled with inactive members (dead links) and losers. Add to that the occasional scam artist (women who are there just to get free meals) and you can understand why there are so many inactive members.
But, like visiting a foreign country, one returns with anecdotes and little pearls of wisdom. What gets me is the obliviousness that people use in their profiles. The purpose, supposedly, is to make a good first impression on someone and convince them to approach you for a first date. I've seen a few spectacular profiles that are quite impressive. But I've also seen my share of common mistakes, and I'd like to share them. I'm over 45, and this top-ten list is for the over 45 set.
(As a heterosexual male, I read only women's profiles. I'm glad I do, because I've found that the photos men are using in their profiles within my age bracket make me look like an ugly non-starter, but that's a different scam topic for someone else to write.)
Misleading pictures - Sure, we all have photographs of ourselves we hate, and those we think are good. I'm not suggesting a woman post a picture with food dribbling out of her mouth or of her caught off guard. But some women put their best foot a little too far forward. If their personality is such that they are normally sad or serious, why post a typical "smile for the camera" shot? If they're old and have wrinkles, why post a picture that is 10 years old or that magically hides the newly acquired signs of maturity? Because she likes first dates where the first impression is, "So THAT is what she looks like!"? Better to post no picture at all.
Dog pictures - A single woman gets a big dog so she can go out for a walk and feel safe - in other words, to attack men she does not know. A single woman gets a little dog because she is okay with being trapped in the pre-toilet trained stage of child-rearing - a period that normally lasts only 3 or 4 years - for the life of the dog, which is more like 12 to 15 years. In either case, why would a man find this information to be attractive? Cat lovers don't post pictures of their cat. Something going on here.
Unidentified people in pictures - This is just common sense. First, which one is she? And who are the others? And why are they letting her post their picture on-line?
Loves the beach - I can think of a few reasons why a woman might write this. One is that she is obsessed with Club Med and is trying to convey the fact that she spends her vacations and/or weekends at the beach or working on her tan. But think about this from the man's point of view: sunburn and sand aside, why would a woman want to tell a man that she enjoys dragging his ass to the beach so that he can stare at all of the other scantily-clad women? No matter how good she looks in a bikini, is this the kind of subject she wants to bring up in a singles ad profile?
Loves chocolate - We all know that chocolate releases chemicals in the body similar to those released when falling in love. So a woman who writes that she "loves chocolate" could just as well be writing "binges on ice cream" - does a man really need to know how depressed and lonely she is? An alternative explanation is that the woman is making clear - up front - that she expects to receive gifts, but is too embarrassed to write "wants flowers and jewelry and greeting cards" and the like. Of course, in a few rare cases, the woman really is some sort of chocolate connoisseur, but does that mean that she only dates other chocolate connoisseurs? Why bring it up?
Loves to travel - In other words, if a man is a single parent with young kids, go away. Why not just say that (some do)?
Loves to dance - What kind? Ballroom dancing? Modern dance? Slow dancing? Dirty dancing? Is this some kind of secret code for "I enjoy sex"? It's not the 70's, disco is gone, and are women over 45 really going to dance clubs? And if they are going to dance clubs, why are they seeking people on the Internet - what's wrong with all of the men they've met at the dance clubs? Spell it out.
Expensive ideal first date - Warning, Will Robinson! Poor woman looking for sugar daddy! Scam artist looking for a free meal! Sexist anti-feminist who expects men to pay for everything! New age prostitution! Wrong message, wrong message!
Looking for a kind, gentle man - In other words, the woman is passive-aggressive, and her first husband yelled at her. Now she runs in fear from anyone who isn't a complete milquetoast. If she's looking for a man with no testosterone, she should stick with her vibrator. Otherwise, she should learn how to deal, or be honest about her hurt. Admitting vulnerability is a lot more attractive than sitting in silent judgement, or being completely un-self-aware.
Never been married (a.k.a. Marital Status: Single) - If she's over 45 and never been married, statistically, she's a member of a group that comprises just 10% of the population. So either she's lying, or her profile better say something about a long-term relationship she's been in. Many, many people are cohabiting without marriage, so to not mention it at all will scare men off - why has this woman been a confirmed bachelorette for so long? Has she never had a live-in boyfriend? Why not?
NEW - Computer illiterate - Is there anything more pathetic than a woman who has decided to try out Internet Dating (rather than the numerous other ways to meet someone) yet professes various stages of cluelessness about her computer, the Internet, and how to use the website she is on? Don't join a site with instant messaging and leave your PC set up so that you cannot receive or send instant messages. Check out how to customize the settings of your account and use the features of the dating website. Upgrade your computer, your operating system, install Java and Flash and Adobe, get a sound card, learn how to use Google and don't be offended by people who use it. I'm not saying be a nerd, but get educated, upgraded, and know your tools. It's the ultimate turn-off for an Internet Dater for you to plead ignorance and think that's funny, acceptable, or cute. It's not.
WARNING - Spam - Especially on Craigslist, but also on other for-pay dating sites, there are people trolling for data to provide to Internet companies. The simplest and most obvious piece of data is your e-mail address so that you can be solicited for other Internet services. The clue to spotting spammers is the generic message. Some dating sites use generic messages as a tool and are set up in a way to make life difficult for spammers. On the matter of generic messages, be very careful about using them in your Internet dating correspondence. There's a difference between not wanting to give up any personal information and giving the impression that you have not viewed someone's profile or read their message to you.
(If you found this of interest, you may also enjoy "The Seven Stages of Internet Dating" and "Personal - Making the Private Public" - or maybe you've already been there, and are trapped in a loop. Sorry!)
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