One of the delights of having a blog is that it serves as a beacon in the night for lost and wayward souls. That, and spectres from my sordid past, up late, Googling of an evening. I've reconnected with a number of intimates over the past year, which pleases me no end. My New York boyfriend emailed me just yesterday; noting that I'd had extensive experience and some (ahem) success in the online arena, he asked if I'd be up for vetting his online profile and offering tweaking advice. A fixer-upper addict from way back, I jumped at the chance, especially since it would afford me the opportunity (oh, hell...the excuse) to lay out some of my general thoughts on successful online hook-ups.
WHERE TO GO
First off, I'm leery of Match. It's a real lowest-common-denominator website, so while you'll cast a wide net, you're likely to wind up with a good deal of flotsam & jetsom in it.
As I've mentioned on the blog, back in my datin' days, I liked Spring St. Networks (The Onion, Salon, etc) personals the best. They've since changed their pricing structure and in doing so, ruined a lot about what was loose and vaguely counter-culture about it so I don't know what their dating pool is like now, but if you're looking for someone like me, I'd more likely be there than match, matchmaker, tickle, etc. I did like their questionnaire far, far better than any of the others', and thought it brought out the quirk in everyone.
As for eHarmony, after two at-bats I can safely say that they're freaks. I won't even link to them, because no one who reads communicatrix on a regular basis is going to have any luck there.
On the other hand, if you've accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you might do quite well in that arena.
WHAT TO SAY
There are specifics to be addressed in anyone's profile, but there are commonalities that work across the board in online dating. Don't try to reinvent the wheel; or, to mix metaphors, at least understand the rules of grammar before you get creative about breaking them.
1. When in doubt, go with humility.
You're smart and accomplished! You make decent scratch! You're fit and interesting!
To say so is, at the worst, sudden death, and at the least unforgiveably dull, which is almost sudden death. Find clever, creative ways of showing that. Be secure in the knowledge that the girl of your dreams will be able to read between the lines. Be equally secure in the knowledge that if you toot your own horn, you will wind up with dates who are (or worse, a girlfriend who is) a colossal pain in the ass. Besides, if you're really articulate, shouldn't you be able to show rather than tell me? (And when I say "me," I mean someone like me; the communicatrix is very happily partnered.)
2. Lay off the (yawn) first person singular.
It's easy for a profile to turn into a laundry list where each item begins with "I", I like this, I hate that, I'm really good at this, I suck donkey dick when it comes to that. It's fine if your first (unpublished, un-uploaded) pass is full of "I"s because a first draft should be a sort of vomiting up on the page of everything you think you want to say. Your second (and third, and fourth) pass, however, should be about finessing and storytelling and captivating. Switch it up; get jiggy with the gerund! Spice things up with a question! 3. Unless you have a true Buddha-like nature, post a picture
Sometimes people don't want to post a picture because they really, truly are interested in the inside and want to keep ego out of the equation, focussing on those fine, inner qualities that make for a good partner.
Usually, however, not wanting to post a pic is motivated by one of two things:
(a) the poster is, for whatever reason, embarrassed by being online, feels vulnerable at the exposure putting him- or herself out there generates and wishes to retain some anonymity for the control it offers or...
(b) the poster is as ugly as a moldy stump in a bog
If you want to go the no-picture route, you will dramatically reduce the number of qualified responses you'll receive. Period. Most people want to see what they're getting. And if your argument is, "Well, I'm looking for someone like me, who feels the same way about posting a photo online that I do," that's dandy, go to eHarmony, with the rest of the homophobic sheeple who goosestep behind Herr Neil Clark Warren.
Remember, online dating is largely a numbers game (at least in the beginning stages of communication) and you need to generate the numbers to play. Even if you find someone whose picture appeals to you and whose prose stirs you, you still may not have that chemical "click" in person. You need to generate the good leads to close. For every lucky bastard like The BF who has the girl of his dreams email him within hours of his posting there are at 50 or 60 others whose profiles are moldering away on a server somewhere, slipping ever downward on the "fresh faces" continuum.
Which leads me to our next item...
4. Commit! Commit! Commit! (But be relaxed about it!)
Like most things in life, you'll get out of online dating (or dating, period) what you're willing to put into it. Dip a toe in the water and all you'll get is a wet toe.
So commit to the truth. Embrace that you have gone online because dammit, you're ready to meet someone, to open yourself up to the possibility of something real and great happening offline.
However, for the love of all that's holy, be cool about it. It's hard to define cool, but cool generally lays back and digs the scene. Cool is not pushy or demanding or, heaven forfend, desperate.
5. Keep your pickiness private
While it's fine to have preferences, really, you're better off letting them go, or at least keeping an open mind. Think of it this way: if you were in a bar, you wouldn't introduce yourself to people by saying, "Hi, I'm 6'2" and have multiple advanced degrees and have abs you could bounce a quarter off so I really don't like chicks who are short, fat and have only completed two years of college." You'd hang; you'd be polite. You'd be nice. You'd be cool (see #4).
I know this may seem to conflict with the whole Truth thing I'm always nattering on about, but really, it doesn't. With the exception of people who really want to procreate the old-fashioned way and are seeking same and/or perhaps certain members of 12-step programs, there's no need to start excluding people from the get-go with a race/income/whatever checklist.
If you're dead-set against it and feel you must post your do/don't list, be cool about other people doing the same. Don't get your undies in a bundle if that 23-year-old you emailed doesn't email you back, especially if she posted her own specs and you don't match them. I can't tell you how many emails I got from men who were 10 years outside of my very generous parameters (on both ends) because they (ahem) were sure they were the exception to the rule, since they looked (ahem) very young for their age. They didn't, and besides, I really wasn't interested in someone who was 20 years older (or younger) than I was. Which brings us to...
(6) Never, ever, ever say you look really young for your age
If you do, people can tell by looking at your picture. If you don't, you're worse off than if you'd kept your trap shut. And not having a picture posted doesn't make that kind of bloviating any more attractive.
Online dating is no worse and, once you get used to it, possibly a little better than its offline counterpart. As with any new venture, I'd suggest thoroughly familiarizing yourself with it, the competition, especially, before taking the plunge. Read through profiles, see who you'd date if you were on the other side. Read what you can about those who've been there before you.
And dig deep for those old-time connections. You never know where you might cadge a little free coaching...