This is a long one… I could probably write at least nine books on the subject of online dating. Maybe one day I will*.
I even manage not to be embarrassed about the fact that I am so experienced in these matters, since anyone who’s anyone (who’s single) has given the world of online romantification a go at one point or another (this is a phrase I hope might catch on), and the fact that I am the world’s most picky, yet naively hopeful, writerly-hermit (with far too many projects and evening engagements for that to even work as a ‘thing’), usually either working from home or in some foreign exotic land (it’s a bit black and white, isn’t it?) means I have become over the months-which-turn-into-years deeply, deeply wise about all things online dating. I’m basically a connaisseur. Or connaisseuse. Or guru.
Don’t let the mostly-unfettered cynicism in this post confuse you, by the way; I (usually) love online dating. I find many aspects of it utterly brilliant. I have met some incredibly lovely people, and, so far, roughly zero weirdos (a fact which shocks almost everyone except me; maybe I’m lucky or maybe I have a good weirdo-radar – or maybe I’m open-minded; it could be all three…. OR MAYBE I’M THE WEIRDO?!?!? Ahem, anyway…).
I love meeting new people and I love men; I’m a complete romantic at heart and seem incapable of giving up on stumbling across that potential best-friend-I-happen-to-fancy. I’m quite partial to that buzz you get before a first date, not knowing whether they will become a significant person in your life or just a pleasant whiling away of one ultimately forgettable evening. And I think the internet is, to re-use one of my favourite words, brilliant, in bringing together two or more people who might otherwise never know of each other’s existence, and perhaps even then, would probably not actually meet.
But shall I tell you some things that turn me wildly crazy (well, either wildly crazy or into a numb, unthinking ball of mind-blank; there is sometimes a very fine line) about the typical prose gracing roughly half of the profiles I click on?
I really feel there needs to be an intervention here. I think this is it.
Here are some small, judgmental (but meant-in-the-spirit-of-love) remarks on what my eyes have unfortunately so frequently read in the profiles of those who are probably (but I’ll personally never know) some really decent chaps.
Let’s be clear. You need to NOT say these things:
1. ‘This bits really hard. I dunno what to say here, jus ask me anythin you wanna no lol’
OK. (Deep breaths.) Let’s break this down. I’m going to pretend it’s spelled correctly, since that’s not the main issue here.
‘This bits really hard.’
– I know, I know. No one can put over a complete description of themselves in just a few lines, but since I’m here and you’re here, and since we’re all in it together, why not join in with the bash, eh?
‘I dunno what to say here’
– That’s OK, dear little dating faun, we can do this. The box in which you are encouraged to describe yourself is usually quite small. I think you can work out one or two things to say about yourself even if you don’t fill it completely. You can. You really can.
‘jus ask me anything you wanna no lol‘
– Rest assured that a woman is vanishingly unlikely to contact a man to tease out basic information. Life is too short and we are constantly being reminded (see below) that we shouldn’t be taking it too seriously. Incidentally, it’s also unlikely that you need to hold back crucial facts about yourself because otherwise you’ll ‘give everything away too soon‘ or ‘we wont have anything to talk about on the date lol‘ (or won’t we?? At this stage I’m thinking you may be right – either that or you’re lazy.)
By the way, my interpretation of such declarations (variations on the theme of ‘ask and I shall tell‘) is never ‘Oh, he must be so modest/mysterious and therefore lovely/fascinating’ but invariably ‘Hhmm, he is struggling to fill even 500 characters; doesn’t he have any hobbies or interests?’ Note: the entire scene has shocked me into understanding how many people, when pushed, consider ‘going to the gym an seein friends’ a hobby. My general life tip, let alone my filling-in-your-profile tip, would definitely be: find something you’re interested in and do that sometimes.
(Let’s not even talk about the ‘lol‘. Let’s just not bother, other than to ask what happened to the poor, humble but perfectly-functioning full-stop? OK, let’s: a laugh is not a full stop. Also, you’re definitely not laughing out loud as you type that. Just agree to never write ‘lol’ again, OK? Thanks.)
2. ‘I like going out but also staying in.’
– Do you? How versatile!! I love you already. (Do you also like working hard and playing hard? Wine but not too much? Travelling but also chilling out?)
3. ‘We’ll say we met in a bar ;-)’.
– You are roughly the five-millionth person to make that witty joke. You saw it on someone else’s profile and quite liked it, didn’t you? Please note that small variations (‘We’ll say we met at a wedding/on holiday/in the toothpaste aisle’) don’t make it a different joke**. Anyway, why be self conscious? Yes, you’re on a dating site, but be proud; you are taking action! That’s a step towards success, is it not?
4. ‘I don’t take life to seriously’
– This is 99% of the time inclusive of the above spelling error, which is OK I suppose, nervous twitches aside; as, you know, there’s more to life and we shouldn’t take things too seriously. After I’ve finished having a quick existential crisis about whether or not I am taking life too seriously when it comes to despising this phrase (this can occasionally then spiral off into thoughts about the correct and incorrect use of ‘existential crisis’, which, by the way, I am misusing here), I basically die of boredom. It’s not pretty.
5. ‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’ (Or similar world-changing epiphany generously conveyed from you to me)
– OK. You can (maybe) tell a lot about someone by hearing their personal philosophy on life (or the philosophies they have chosen to pass off as, in the realm of online dating, at least, their own), but often, I don’t want to know your personal philosophy on life (whether or not it’s yours or really someone else’s) and more about you. H. Thurman’s quote (above) is one I happen to love, but still, the sharing of pithy quotes is not a substitute for actual communication (as impossible as that can be to believe after a quick look around every social media enterprise ever). You still have to write other stuff in the self-blurb box. Something substantial if we’re lucky.
Maybe instead of telling me how connected we all are, or how you don’t think we should have any regrets, or how you think life is for living and that we should smile while we still have teeth, or not take up too much room because life is all about living and comfort zones and edges, etc, you could tell me things like:
– Who you are
– What makes you happy
– What you want
– What you think is fun to do
… That would be really cool.
(I’ll stop now.)
*I definitely won’t.
**I secretly kinda love the idea of meeting my future ‘one’ in the toothpaste aisle. I imagine I’d be struggling to choose – not because I haven’t at this point in life, established a favourite brand, but because of abundance-related toothpaste-FOMO (what if the other one has whitening AND enamel protection AND the little crystals AND comes with that patented thing I don’t understand at all and neither probably do the marketers?) – then drop absolutely everything I’m carrying (despite having a basket); then he’d pick it all up while simultaneously recommending his favourite brand and asking me to dinner. WAIT! If I invented an online dating site one day, I would definitely call it ‘The Toothpaste Aisle’!