Online dating has become very big business. Zoosk, which has a vested interest in crowing about successes, last year published this: In 2017, online dating became the most common way for newlyweds to meet one another. The Knot surveyed more than 14,000 engaged or recently married individuals and reported that 19% of brides said they met their spouses online. This is a significant increase from the 5% of American couples who said they met online in a 2015 Pew Research poll. According to the Knot, meeting via dating sites has now surpassed more traditionally popular venues, including through friends (17%), during college (15%), and at work (12%). As time goes by and more happy couples decide to tie the knot, we can probably expect further increases in the percentage of married couples who met by swiping right.
Over the course of my mostly single (by design) life, I’ve spent plenty of time on online apps. Zoosk, Match, Plenty of Fish, eHarmony. While I wasn’t searching for a husband, I was in fact seeking good company. If you’re a keen observer of human nature and are morbidly curious about why and how folks do what they do, you can, like me, end up being fascinated by what shows up on line, and even more so, what shows up in person. Which is all too often a completely different story. Online dating pros can relate.
So while this may mostly be directed at men, I have a few recommendations for women as well.
Dead Members of the Animal Kingdom
As someone who regularly got inundated with winks from profiles with no pictures, and from men displaying dead members of the animal kingdom, I decided it might be time to do the other half of the (mostly) American population a favor and offer up a modicum of advice. While most of these sites offer advice on how to write profiles, clearly most folks haven’t paid attention. Perhaps this can help.
Stranger things have happened.
That said, this is offered with tongue firmly in cheek. However, there is wisdom in it, from long experience and (often bemused) observation.
Hunting Season Starts Early
Since January 7th, Dating Sunday, the beginning of the official dating season as dubbed by Match.com, guys and gals have joined Match and other sites in droves. After yet one more holiday season alone, they are determined to find that special someone. Here are some suggestions for my fellow online (ab)users to better ensure a positive outcome.
Have a Photo That Actually Looks Like You
Let’s begin with the obvious: Photographs. First of all, have one. You say you’re “ruggedly handsome.” That is strictly in the eye of the beholder. Actor Ron Perlman’s mother probably told him he was “ruggedly handsome.” That’s her job. He’s ugly as sin but that hasn’t kept him from being extremely successful playing roles like Hellboy. Don’t be ridiculous. If you don’t post a picture we’re going to assume you’re Quasimodo. Don’t ask us to ask you for a photo. If you’re not willing to post one up front, what on earth do you think is our first impression? Someone is going to be attracted to you. Put yourself out there in the best possible photo you can get, not some grainy, foggy selfie taken in the front seat of your car. Put some thought into it. How you look at the camera conveys a great deal.
It helps if you use one that is of you, not your Marky Mark underwear model brother who is eighty pounds lighter and happens to have won the genetic lottery with a seven pack. It is poor taste indeed to post shots of yourself as a chubby child since one hopes most of us are not into child porn. If you’re over fifty don’t post a pic of you from high school. Come ON man, you do not look like that any more. Imagine our surprise when you waddle up to the table at Starbucks 90 pounds heavier and about 500,000 black hairs balder than the college photo you claimed was current. This is akin to ordering your favorite fettucini Alfredo and the waiter presents you with a platter of kimchee. Not cool- for either sex.
Most of us don’t date dead animals. Not only that, many of us are not big on looking at dead creatures especially if we like nature. So shoving that (moose, deer, trout, bear, road kill) into our faces with you in camouflage and a beer can in your other hand is not likely to score Brownie points. Your hunting pals maybe. But not most of us girls. Some gals are fellow hunters, and they may well find this hugely attractive. You may find them in the next tent over if they didn’t mistakenly shoot your white butt while you were relieving yourself. Better yet, go prowl the aisles at Cabela’s. It’s a dwindling community, hunting, with the average age around 55. White. Male. Given the demographics, it might make sense to post photo that actually lets us see you rather than a bloody Bambi.
About those Photos
Take off the sunglasses, put your tongue back in your mouth, skip the stupid kissy face (really, guys?) how about getting close to the camera, in focus, take your ridiculous hat off, and let us see your face. Stop trying to look like a gangsta. Flipping a bird at the camera isn’t exactly a good first impression. Here’s another point: for those of us who have been off and on these sites for a while, using the same photo that you posted ten+ years ago probably doesn’t cut it. This is like walking around your 30th high school reunion with your 12th grade photo clipped to your chest. You don’t look like that any more- none of us does.
Update your photos. Otherwise your date will experience sticker shock. Not a good start.
You as dot on the horizon in the wide shot of the Grand Canyon is not exactly romance material. Classic Fitness Singles profiles show photos of people doing cool things but there isn’t a single photo of their faces. What do you look like? We aren’t dating your bike, boat, skis, ATV, Jeep, SUP. Good that you are into all those things. Sure Devil’s Tower is picturesque. Are you? You want the same from a potential partner.
Here’s a Closeup of my Junk. Wanna Date?
Sending closeup photos of intimate body parts? What is this, kindergarten? Really? You show me yours and I’ll show you mine? How about I send you a close up shot of my local detective? While there is indeed the outer fringe of folks who apparently pick each other based on what’s under their undies, most of us still prefer to begin with hello. Polite conversation. Demonstrations of respect and mutual regard. Not, as one dolt wrote me as an opening salvo, “You give me seriously hard d*ck.” Needless to say, delete. There are plenty of underground sites for you. Mainstream online dating sites aren’t among them. People who are attracted to this probably don’t qualify as “I can’t wait for you to meet my parents” material.
Twenty-six (the total allowed on Match.com) extreme closeups of your distorted face in various grimaces to display your dental work and nose hairs are not sexy. The love affair you seek, you already have. Like the guy on Fitness Singles who only wanted women who would sit in his home gym and watch him flex (I’m not making this up) you don’t need a partner. You need a padded cell. Oh, but with a mirror. Full-length. You can French-kiss your face all you want, buddy.
Big Impressive Toys
Gentlemen, we don’t date motorcycles, boats, muscle cars. This is not 1966. The last time a Mustang worked to get someone laid was when McDonald’s was charging a dime for a burger and guys chugged through the parking lot to impress high school girls. Get OVER yourself. Toys impress boys. Unless your chick has a Harley. You will find her in Sturges on a bike a lot bigger than yours. If you’re a weekend warrior you probably had yours trucked in. She rode hers, and she’s covered with dust, road rash and attitude. She will drag your ass off by the hair into the biker bar. Enjoy yourself. If you survive.
Ladies: Stop It With the Kitten and Dog Photos Already
Ladies, while much of this is aimed at men, suffice it to say that most guys are NOT interested in your widdle poodle, your widdle kitty, your Barbie doll collection, your hundreds of self-absorbed kissy-face poses, your teacup Chihuahuas, your elaborate and ridiculous hair/makeup concoctions, your elaborate and ridiculous designer clothing. Or your photoshopped glamour shots. The best men I have ever met like real, honest, funny, authentic, accessible women who don’t paint on 47 layers of makeup to do a hike and spend $200 a pop to get their eyebrows plucked. They like fun women who can break a nail, guffaw, wrestle the dog, pick up a snake, earn their own living, hike up a mountain and still rock an LBD. Women who aren’t terrified to bust out a burrito or try a new sport. True, each to his own, but again, men don’t date your Doberman. They date you.
While it’s true that there have been times- many of them- that I ended up liking a dog far more than its owner, when it comes to making ourselves enticing, the animal isn’t the attraction. It’s who we are- in total. What we own or put on does not make us, us. Wit and humor and intelligence and common sense and a particular goofiness and a preference for making love on rooftops are far more likely to get someone’s full attention. Create an interesting life. Then see what you attract.
What YOU have to do to impress ME
This is a sales pitch, folks. When every sentence begins with the words “I”, or “I want” or “What I expect is” you can expect absolutely nothing. I’ve read hundreds of profiles that use words like: “You have to be….You have to have….You should be……” This goes both ways. Relationship is exchange. Two creating more than the sum of the parts. Prince Charming doesn’t exist and neither does Princess Leia, and sadly, the real Leia passed away. She had a hell of a lot of flaws. Those flaws were what made her interesting. We’re all seeking someone whose neuroses dovetail our neuroses. That said, we all have our preferences. Stating what you prefer is very different from dictating what a woman has to do to make you happy or live up to your expectations. That’s Neanderthal. Same goes for women. Nothing is more off-putting than a long laundry list of what someone has to give up to be loved by you.
The Perfect Match is not a “Perfect” Man or Woman
One reason folks are on Match in the first place is largely because they’ve failed at relationships. Join the club. It’s hard work. When we stop asking others to fix our out-of-control life, we might end up with someone worth spending time with. Why? Because your messy life is perfect for you. You want it fixed, do it yourself. Someone else is having enough trouble managing their own messy life, much less taking on the burden of fixing yours. The best fits happen when two messy lives end up making a masterpiece. It’s not perfection. It’s just perfect for both of you.
People constantly talk about “soul mates.” I’ve had those before. Their job was to teach me some hellacious lessons. These folks have a job to do with you, if not on you. When you want a partner, you want a best friend. Friendship is what stands the test of time once waistlines waste away and our faces start sporting turkey tracks. Friendship rocks. It guarantees laughter and trust and hilarity and life stories. Terrific sex without love guarantees soulessness. When you can combine terrific sex with friendship, it’s unstoppable. But it might not come in quite the package you were expecting.
My best friend Sonja, who is a stunning cafe au lait Black woman, developed an outline for her “perfect man.” She had a very clear picture in mind. The perfect man who showed up was a Missouri homeboy. White. She forgot to ask for chocolate-dipped. But they are madly in love and stunningly happy. They found each other on eHarmony. We often have no clue what is best for us until the right one shows up. Sometimes what is perfect is right under our noses but we’re too busy looking for something that doesn’t exist.
“I Love to Laugh”
This one deserves its own paragraph.
Among the dumbass things that people- most especially men- write in their profiles is that they love to laugh. A more inane, obvious comment is hard to imagine. OF COURSE YOU DO. This an involuntary reaction from infancy on. We ALL love to laugh. If you’re struggling for a differentiator, how about something that isn’t common to the other 7.4 billion people on the planet? I realize that profiles are a pain to write, but originality counts. This jaded, hackneyed line is in probably 98% of all the men’s profiles I’ve ever read. When you are trying to compete for someone’s attention, it helps to sound, look and be different. What’s unique about you? It ain’t laughter. Now, here’s a tip for ya: read other men’s profiles. Put yours on stealth so that guys don’t get all nervous, then read what everyone else says. You’d be surprised at how cookie cutter profiles are. That is enough to teach you what NOT to do. Then go create something that is unique, engaging, funny and by god ORIGINAL.
Gentlemen. Puh-leeze. Do I really, truly have to tell you not to put explicit material in your profile title and text? Are you that dense, that dumb, that childish? Apparently. What double-digit IQ behavior. Go write on high school bathroom stalls. Crawl back under your rock. Or run for President. You’ll probably win. Or, you can see whether Stormy Daniels is still available. Admitting that you enjoy having sex while wearing a purple bunny suit is unlikely to win you many Starbucks dates. Otherwise, put a raincoat on and go prowl the video racks at your local sex shop. Using the handle “Cunning Lingus” as your headline, and yes, that’s a real Match.com headline (or at least it was), underscores your IQ. Or lack thereof.
An online dating profile is typically a worse pack of lies than a job resume, and it’s much harder to validate. People claim to be good, true, honest, trustworthy, sweet. Here’s one that still makes me chortle: “I don’t come with baggage.” HAHAHAHAHA. My bullsh*t meter clangs so loudly that I’m deaf after three sentences. “I’m a nice guy, I’m kind, I’ll work hard to make a relationship last.” OH PLEASE. Gag-o-meter is off the charts. Some days you’re like that maybe, and some days you most definitely are NOT. We are all of us consistently inconsistent. Unpredictable. We are all of us dichotomies. My father would say one day, “I can’t stand people.” The next, “I love people.” Both were true. If you called him on it he’d get furious. But we’re ALL like this.
The other problem is that there are some very evil operators out there, and I’m not talking just about Indian scammers. A high school friend of mine who lives in Texas got hookwinked by a guy claiming to be a pastor. He bashed her head in one night, nearly killing her. She’s still recovering years later, and the court case is hardly over. Women scam artists can be just as bad. It serves to be mindful, protect your wallet and personal information, and do your due diligence. About everyone.
How We Show Up
How we show up depends on circumstances. No more, no less. It depends on what it’s in it for YOU in the moment. That’s because we’re self-absorbed. Nothing wrong with this. Just stop trying to sell yourself as Mr. or Ms. Wonderful 24/7 when we both know that some days you wake up dressed as a jerk. So does Aaron Rodgers, especially after a season-ending injury. SO DO I, when I have spent all night in agony after a bad horse fall. So do we all. Making fun of it makes you lovable. Self-deprecating humor goes a very long way. My favorite dates have always been with men who loved to poke fun at themselves. They’re real. And they always enjoyed the fact that I could tell a fart story better than most. Speaking of which….
Tell a Story
Why? Because we’re only as good as our worst days. Better you share a story. A true one. I didn’t make character claims, for the simple reason I don’t know how I’m going to behave around a new person. We can’t know. That’s part of the fun of new relationships. You cannot possibly guarantee how you are going to act. Some women make you weak in the knees. Others make you horny. Still others make you laugh ‘til you snort your coffee. If you’re lucky you get all three. That’s why making character claims is dishonest. Some folks bring out our worst no matter what. Others invite our hell-bent-for-leather best. The exquisite joy of love is the uncontrolled chaos of “Sh*t man, I don’t know what’s going to happen next!” If you did know, what would be the point?
On another note here, about stories. Some aren’t worth telling. Like the older guy who took me to a nice restaurant and regaled me with a detailed blow-by-blow of his recent colonoscopy. Over food. On a first date. You can’t make this stuff up. You wanna know where comedians get their material? Right here.
We’re more likely to pay attention if you wrote that your old hiking boots were so foul that the Boston police used them for riot control, your farts peel the paint off the kitchen cabinets and you are more likely to trip on your bathrobe and smash your teeth on the bathroom sink than pick it up. That’s funny. That’s honest. And we will love you for your imperfections. That kind of profile gets real responses from real women with a real sense of humor who don’t want cardboard copies of cardboard guys trying to be someone they aren’t. You’re not perfect. You don’t have to be. You just need to be perfect for the right one.
I wrote a Match profile some years back about getting stuck in a tree trying to pee in the Amazon during rainy season when the entire area was flooded. It was hilarious, true and I had photos. This stuff makes us real. Accessible. Authentic. I was dirty and sweaty and laughing my butt off. No airbrushed photos. WYSIWYG. People love authenticity. And frankly, guys, if they don’t, you don’t want them.
Tell the Truth
And finally, guys, and I realize this is hard, just tell the damned truth. This is a stretch here but work with me. There’s a reason some of us post ourselves close to a restaurant exit door on a first date. Or, one that has a bathroom window to the outside that I can slip my hips through. That’s because people do indeed post dishonest photos. It’s beyond my ken why folks do this. I’ve met a ton of guys over the years who were genuinely taken aback that I looked just like my photos, or better. As advertised. Unfortunately, many of them did not. Those were very brief dates. You can’t start a relationship with a lie.
I’ve had men fake English accents and tell me they were professional hockey players just to get laid. There have been those who have lied about their work history, marital status, and financial status. Some have been professional con men. I’ve seen the gamut. And then there’s when it works.
In 2008 I met a guy on Match whose hockey-and-soccer-honed tree-trunk thighs caught my attention. It didn’t hurt that his profile was funny, honest, sweet and accessible. He wrote that his bulldog farted (she did) and that while he appreciated athletes, a hundred-mile race probably wasn’t going to be a good first date. I wrote him an email that complimented him on his legs. He wrote me back that he’d never met anyone who had swum with Great White Sharks. Or skydived. Or scuba dived in Africa. We were both intrigued.
Our first date was at the Outback Steakhouse in Golden, Colorado, very close to my 55th birthday. He was 38. When I walked in the door we had identical reactions: Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t.
He looked exactly like his photo. So did I. Damn, man. We talked for hours and hours and hours.
The night of my 65th birthday this past January, he took me to a gorgeous restaurant. The entire evening I was staring at this guy thinking Holy Sh*t. Damn, man.
That was almost eleven years ago. To say the least we’ve had trying times, challenges and issues. Everyone does. But when I hear his car in my driveway I still get chills. And when he sees me at the door dressed to the nines, he still says Holy sh*t. So do I.
What the River Delivers
Here’s the piece, folks: sometimes we have a picture of what works for us. Someone of a certain age, race, size, body type. My closest male buddy Paul, a fireman, has always loved whip-thin women athletes. As he has reached his mid-fifties, he has chosen, and has found very sexy, a slightly chubby agoraphobic nurse for whom outdoor sports would be terrifying. Who knew.
My guy, at 38, probably never in his wildest dreams imagined himself with a woman nearly twenty years older. But we’re both very serious body builders, our lifestyles are closely aligned, we find the same things funny, share the same values. When we look at each other, it’s holy sh*t, man. I know his flaws, his failings, his personal issues. And he knows mine. They don’t get in the way. Our neuroses dovetail.
The trick, if there is one, is all-out honesty blended with humor. Real photos of the real you doing stuff you love. Stories that show your humanity and your quirks and your flaws. And perhaps, a willingness to let the river of life deliver someone on your shores that may surprise you out of your gourd.
Someone, when you look at each other, you both think Holy sh*t.
Good luck out there.