Online Consulting

Metro Magazine is the latest publication to point to online dating “consultants” as a burgeoning trend.  There are now services out there that will help you write or re-write your online dating profile for a nominal fee.  I don’t think I’ve met (or dated for that matter) anyone who has used a service like this and, if I did, I imagine the first date might not go so well.

I’ve seen a good amount of bad online dating profiles.  Sometimes these are just unflattering pictures, sometimes the profile is just so typical that I get bored after reading the self summary, sometimes a girl comes across as desperate.  But it’s unusual that I’ve come across a profile where I reached the conclusion that it’s the writing and formatting of a profile itself that is turning me off.  It’s usually that the girl just isn’t my type.

Granted, most of these online consultants are probably oriented towards men.  Generally, women have very little difficulty in getting guys to message them, especially when they live in a major city.  For girls, online dating is more of a process of sorting through all the “hey there” one-liner messages they get, messages asking if a girl would be interested in some kinky sex act, and the very small subset of messages from guys who are actually competent at writing a girl a message.

For guys, we live in a very different reality.  I tend to get 1-2 unsolicited messages from girls per week.  I got more messages when I lived in New York, but I assume that’s due to population differences.  I get the feeling that, unless you’re particularly good looking, no guy is going to be approached nearly as much as a girl is online.  It’s very traditional for a culture that has leaned increasingly towards gender equality in the dating world over the past decade.

So, for a guy, your profile is really there to bolster your credentials after you have sent a girl a presumably grammatically correct note that highlights or quips about something you found interesting/funny/provocative about their profile.  If your message is weak, it’s highly unlikely that (unless you’re extraordinary good looking), your profile is going to redeem you.  Having a standout profile helps, but it’s really a secondary measure.

I will concede a few things, though.  First, your picture is always important.  If your face is 90% acne or you have a goatee, it’s very unlikely that she’s going to message you back.  Second, it is possible to have a profile that’s so good that a girl is going to be intrigued enough to message you.

Focusing on that second point, I still think an online consultant is useless.  And that’s really just because an intriguing profile is usually a very accurate reflection of your personality.  If you don’t have the charm or wit to write a good profile yourself, someone writing one on your behalf is going to be easily contradicted by your writing style in messages and will certainly be belied when she meets you in person.

The key to a good online profile, I think, is to try to come across as fun and honest as possible.  Don’t show off, highlight what makes you you and try to make it clear what you think makes you a “catch.”  By being “a catch,” I don’t necessarily mean you should list off the items on your resume (your great education and well paying job), those are important and you should mention them.  But you should definitely highlight the activities that you like to do that you think would be something you could do when you meet Ms. Right.  For example, let’s say you’re an avid golfer.  That’s great, and you should mention it, but mention it with an inviting opportunity: “I love golfing on Saturday mornings.  But my short game is in need of some serious practice.  Want to challenge me to a game of mini-golf?  Bring it on.”  Or let’s say you’re a huge movie fan: “I love film, whether it’s mainstream or it’s something you can only find in an independent art house.  Right now, I’m trying to watch every film in the AFI Top 100.  I’m only at number 14, but I could use company as I try to get through the top 30 by the end of the year.”  Or you like to cook, “I’m always experimenting in the kitchen.  I’ve been meaning to take a cooking class in the next few months so I can actually cook with creme fraiche rather than just have a talent for spelling it.”

The point is that your okcupid profile needs to be honest and reflect your personal voice.  But it should also be inviting, that you are probably a person that could be fun to hang out with.  Having someone else write these elements is just going to make you look like a liar when you meet someone in person.  Also, paying $1500 for professional photos and hair/makeup will probably make you look a bit too posed and plastic.  Basically you’ll be the only guy among tens of thousands who is obviously using pro-shot images, that might actually make you stand out in a bad way.

In summary, if you’re considering paying for an online dating consultant, don’t.

[via Metro]

The Mobile Digital Self

On a date a few weeks ago I found myself really connecting to the girl I was out with.  We were at a bar in Nob Hill and were texting some mutual friends.  After a while, she decided to take the liberty of using my iPhone to text on behalf of both of us.  As she explored my phone, she started going through my contact list and noticed that while almost all of my contacts are people’s full names, there are a handful of one-named contacts.  In every case it’s usually a girl’s name: Courtney, Danielle, Emily, Jen, Jill, etc…  She jumps to the (correct) conclusion that these are all phone numbers of girls I’ve been out with — or at least, as she guessed, girls who had given me their number.  I laughed it off and hoped that she was kidding.

Luckily, she didn’t get too deep into the folders of apps on my phone or she would’ve found my OKCupid app (which has 8 unchecked notifications on it).  We didn’t meet on OKCupid, we met organically, so I have no idea what her attitude towards the site is.  Most people are okay with it, a handful are not.  At the same time, I didn’t want her to get the impression that I’m some sort of guy looking for a one night stand or a “player.”  I’m not.  In fact, only once in my life have I ever dated more than one girl within the same time period (I’ll get to that in a later post) and I felt overwhelmed and kind of guilty about it — though I wasn’t exclusive with either girl.  The girl I was out with seemed like a great person and the last thing I wanted to do was have her think I’m looking for a one night stand.

So that begs the question: what steps, if any, should you take to make sure your smart phone is date-safe.  By that, I mean, do you want to have all the text conversations from your old girlfriend deleted?  Should you delete or at least try to hide all your dating apps so they can’t see what you’ve been up to?  How long should you wait after you stop seeing someone to remove their contact info from your phone?

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here.  In fact, it’s probably pretty rare a girl is going to go through your phone on the first date.  But it’s probably something that’s worth being prepared for.

OKcupid Skipped Questions: Hairy Issues

Do Women Have an Obligation to Shave Their Legs?

Do Women Have an Obligation to Shave Their Legs?

There are tons of interesting and sometimes thought provoking questions on OKCupid, everyone’s favorite free dating website.  But then there are questions that are difficult to answer.  Here’s a recent example that’s been frustrating me:

Do you think women have an obligation to keep their legs shaved?

My direct answer to this is: no, of course not.  However, at the same time, I would prefer a woman who shaves her legs.  By selecting no, it’s more likely that I’m going to matched with a girl with hairy legs, which is a big turn off for me (and probably a lot of other men).

Just to clarify my position on women and shaved legs, let’s look at the issue here.  Shaving any body part is a hygiene choice and therefore personal.  Women have no obligation to shave their legs, armpits, chest, arms, whatever any more than a man does to shave his face or trim his sideburns.  Do I find it more attractive when a woman has shaved legs?  Yes.  Do I feel like a woman is doing something inherently wrong by not shaving her legs?  No.  Good for her, it’s her choice.  Further, I have absolutely no right to tell a girl that she has to shave body parts or wear makeup or confirm or do anything else that I think makes her look pretty.  In return, if I choose to grow a beard — though my beard doesn’t exactly grow in the way I’d like it to — I don’t think a woman has the right to tell me I’m obligated to shave (the exception to this, of course, is if I’m offered a spot on the Yankees).  I’m also not obligated to brush my teeth or shower, though I imagine most women would prefer this.  Similarly, most men probably prefer a woman with shaven legs.  Though, this whole shaven legs thing is actually a style that’s less than 100 years old.

But, again, here’s the problem with this question: I don’t want to date a girl who doesn’t shave her legs.  I once actually dated a girl who didn’t shave above the kneecap and it was a huge turnoff for me.  I don’t know why, I can’t explain it — for men prior to 1920, this was normal — but I didn’t like it.  So part of me is inclined to answer “yes” just to be sure that every girl I’m matched with is shaving her legs.  Of course, that also means that every girl that I’m matched with might also think women are obligated to stay home and take care of their families, or think that Saudi Arabia is on to something when they forbid women from driving cars.  The small subset of women who have their gender philosophies dwelling in the past like that are also turn-offs for me.

So how do I answer this question?  I don’t.  I skip it.  I could answer it privately but then most people will assume I answer that women are obligated to shave their legs — and I don’t want them to think that!

It’s a vicious cycle.