Archive | January, 2012

What’s in a Name?

30 Jan

Alright, we know the profile setup process is fraught with a number of stressful decisions. But before you decide whether to set the playful photo of you with a cute animal or that headshot from 5 years ago as your profile picture, and before you begin the daunting process of describing yourself to the online world armed with nothing but naked words, you’ve got to pick a name. So let’s take a step back. That’s right, a name. While this will excite some among us, I feel like many will see it as yet another cumbersome step in an already ridiculous process. But you’ll need to suck it up and christen yourself like the rest of us.

So what shall we call ourselves? Whenever I cruise through girls’ profiles, I’m struck by a few very obvious patterns that I will categorize into a few simple baskets:

Geographical Affiliation. Ladies, if you have no inclination to be creative or express anything unique whatsoever about yourself, choose this route. “ParkSlopeGrrl, VillageGal, LadyLES, or UESandy” are all acceptable choices. If you want to take it up a notch and add a simple pun, you’ve reached Level 2: the Geo-Pun handle. Try “FortGreener, WilliamsburgerWithCheese, ChelseaLately, or if you’re more inclined to be racy, AssToria.” Guys, you can take it from here.

Those with less neighborhood pride/interest in attracting people within a 5 block radius who also happen to be Jewish may be fond of the Schmaltzy Pun. With a very large number of Jewish daters in New York, you’ll come across these folks even outside the vaunted halls of jDate. Here the possibilities for irritating nicknames really explode within a large subset of Jewish daters. If, like me, you’re a relatively indifferent Jew, these will make you want to wretch and subsequently block people who choose to hit Enter after typing in “DreidelDave, Lisa_Latke, SchvitzingSchwartz, MeshugarDaddy,” or, god forbid, something more direct, like “Jewlicious, Jewcy, Jewbilation, JewnBug, or NYJew” (if you’re a clever NYU student). There should be a special circle of online dating hell reserved for these nicknames/profiles once retired.

More eggregious than a Schmaltzy Punster and Geo-Affiliate combined is the Elitist Flag. This is a not-so-subtle signifier that not only do you lack a healthy amount of shame for attending an Ivy or Ivy-caliber institution; you actually demand that the world knows it. It’s also an academic mating call to others of the same stripes. You’ll find this group well represented at the lower-Ivy level (think Penn, Brown, Cornell). Thus you might see a “BigRedBarb” or a “UPenny,” or, if you’re really lucky, a “JewPenn.” It bears mentioning that schools with good sports also inspire guys and gals to identify with their alma maters (e.g., “GatorsGal” or “FoghornLonghorn”) but I put these squarely into the category of good old sports affiliations.

Once you’ve successfully avoided the urge to do a Geo-Pun or to raise your Elitist Flag to full mast, you can choose a decent, unimpeachable nickname. I myself haven’t been entirely immune to the lure of the punny handle. This has led to such fiascos as my recent MustLoveBlogs decision, which was quickly undone after some timely intervention from good friends. If you’re not sure, find a good friend and ask. Better yet, crowdsource it with a few people. Names may not make or break your online dating portfolio, but they can make a dent that will be hard to fix.

Think about it…then think again.

Striking the Right Pose

24 Jan

Just Don't

Of all the advice you’ll get as you start building or revamping your online dating avatar concerns photos. Which ones should you post? How many should you post? Should you conduct a photo shoot just for your profile? What pose should you strike? Smiling or serious? For guys of a certain aesthetic, shirt on or off? For girls, purse or pucker? For lip puckerers and pursers, earnestly or ironically? For many people who aren’t supremely confident and/or spontaneous, photo-related decisions are a minefield of doubt, insecurity, and calculation.

Looking at the pictures I’d used in my original dating profile some years ago, it’s a wonder anyone who wasn’t legally blind or extremely inebriated actually contacted me. To state the obvious, the picture is the single most important piece of information you offer to another human being. Would you walk into a bar disheveled, faded, and bloated-looking if you were out to meet someone? So much as it pains me to say it, pay some mind to your photos, but don’t go all Howard Hughes. One time I had to conduct an early-morning photo session, before work, for someone near and dear to me (identity withheld). I found this by turns annoying and absurd, but I appreciated the care he wanted to go into his shots.

OkCupid Trends and other sites might give you some some statistical information and general suggestions: ABS (always be smiling), smile in at least one shot, give one headshot and one body, girls should look coy to be more alluring, guys should be engaged in an activity to show how much they enjoy life, etc. (I enjoy looking at various exotic locales and whimsical adventures, though one might wonder if people who only have photos of extreme situation ever stay put long enough to carry on a relationship…or if they can enjoy the place where they live.) The one advice you’ll hear almost universally, both from dating “experts” and peppering dozens of women’s profiles, is for guys to keep their shirt on and not subject them to previews of their ripped physique. Sound advice but as the always fascinating oktrends demonstrates, maybe qualifying guys should keep their shirts off.

My personal take is that you should put your best foot forward, but not so much that it ends up looking like someone else’s foot at the time of the date. Be your best self, but try not to play with angles and post obsolete photos from a decade ago. What’s the point? By anticipating superficiality you are also playing into it. People like pleasant surprises on first dates, so for the comely among you, why not post a more modest shot? I understand how difficult this is, especially for ladies, who sadly understand that many guys will blow right past their profile if they see an imperfect figure. But deceiving upper body shots and MySpace-angled photos are a medicine that only aggravate the disease. And if you suspect those guys of caring about this as a dealbreaker, what do you think a date would change? I’m not immune to this critique, and have been told that I don’t look like some of my photos. But I know I’ve met the minimum standard of common decency and honesty in the shots I share, so I can sleep soundly at night.

The Shame Factor

19 Jan

You are not alone

One of the fundamental barriers to online dating initiation (especially for women) is the social disgrace they imagine to be concomitant with an online dating profile. We’ve all been brought up on fairy tales of how romance is supposed to work, what chivalry is, and how that magical connection happens. Nowhere in that narrative will you find computers, Python-coded sites created by Harvard nerds, or digital “winks” with cheesy pickup lines. Chances are a girl (and guys in some cases) was brought up on a healthy spoonful of expectations for courtship, and chances are she has experienced a helping of “love, actually” before migrating to the online realm.

Let’s take a step back. Forget the fact that 50 years from now those same fairy tales will probably feature characters with computers and future social/virtual networks will be part of every child’s coming-of-age experience (more so than they already are). The idea of romantic love itself is fairly modern. In the course of human history, most couples came together due to necessity, economics, and, in sadder cases, by brute force. But the urban professional cares little for such relativist nonsense. We want sparks, chemistry, and if not a spiritual experience, then at least some semblance of secular enchantment. Leaving aside the situation faced by so many online daters (lack of time), many “dating immigrants” huddle on OkCupid, Match.com, and even eHarmony after disillusioning experiences with the bar scene. Many girls soon discover that living in a big city presents both genders with endless options and disincentivizes even minimal commitment.

Some come in with an open mind and high expectations, but many ladies tread lightly and spray their profiles with tentative and self-effacing confessions of doubt and embarrassment for being there. As cool as it is to admit, my own serious relationships have come almost exclusively from online rendezvous, so my point of view is somewhat skewed by limited engagement with the “bar scene.” But every time a profile starts with a defensive statement explaining why they are here and how different they are from the hordes of online dating losers, or when I see a “Most private thing I’m willing to admit” field populated with “I’m trying online dating,” I definitely roll my eyes a bit. Come on, accept it—guys, ladies—just roll with it. If you spend your entire profile apologizing for being here it can be off-putting. Maybe it helps the alphas, frustrated by their out-of-character desperation, bond together. But for the rest of us, let’s just admit that we’re all “losers” together.

Maybe sending electronic messages and pre-arranging dates is not the most spontaneous and romantic way of connecting with another soul, but if you found other social vehicles successful, you wouldn’t be here. Like any community, no one likes a whiner who’s knocking the group’s headquarters. Imagine people coming to a bar each week only to decry the drink list and turn their noses at other patrons. How attractive would you find that in another person?

Girls Love Grammar

18 Jan

(Editor’s Note: I’ll use OkCupid as a point of reference for much of what you’ll read here. You might have more love for jDate or Match.com, but many of us have long since wised up and migrated to this FREE dating zoo. Consequently, the demographics are somewhat skewed to twenty- and thirty-something urban, quirky, college-educated, socially and personally aware set. For neophyte professionals, have no fear: you’ll still find lawyers to date, but they’re likelier to practice environmental and art than corporate and insurance.)

If there’s one universal truth about any girl worth dating on OkCupid, it’s this: she loves grammar. Or at least she professes to love grammar. But I can confirm that the vast preponderance of women whose digital profile reflects a strong penchant for grammar really mean it. And the ones who don’t will at least stipulate this minimal requirement for contact: “You know the difference between your and you’re.” What gives?

First, to be fair, this reflects very poorly on the “men” of online dating (more on guys in future posts). One can shiver at the thought of activating your profile, your spine tingling with anticipation of sexy, mysterious strangers sweeping you off your swivel chair and whisking you off on an endless adventure, only to find dozens of illiterate and un-spell-checked messages from bros cluttering your inbox moments later.

Still, there must be more. Indeed, the OkCupid universe, forged in the fiery bowels of Mordor, just off Harvard Yard, is one that draws a disproportionate amount of not only educated, not only hyper-educated, but wonky and word-obsessed Scrabble players, bloggers, and crossword fanatics who either majored, minored, or dabble in one communication art or another. To the highest elite in this word-ly set, a guy (or girl, for that matter) who can’t reference Eats, Shoots, & Leaves or namedrop Strunk & White, the conversation is over before it began. For the rest, who either aspire to or admire this cabal of wordsmiths and grammarians, a standard is set, a line is drawn, and it’s “your and you’re.”

And let’s not forget one obvious fact: it’s a writing medium! Making redonculous spelling mistakes in an introductory email is the equivalent of drooling out of the side of your mouth when you approach a girl at a bar.

Who knows why grammar has such a hold on online daters, but the fact is that grammar offers a wonderful synergy between soft arts and hard rules, a beacon of objective certainty in a sea of doubt. So do yourself a favor, forget dangling participles and give up on split infinitives. Just make sure your leading with you’re best line.

The Welcome Post: Robot Love

18 Jan

A Good Bot Is Hard to Find

Hello, and welcome to the mind of a chronic online dater, who just happens to be a dude.

“I refuse to do Robot Love,” a friend said when I suggested he break up the drudgery of his dateless nights by trying online dating.

“You’re right. Better hang on to your lonely principles than find a cute robot on OkCupid.”

Let’s face it: with each month, those online personals you’re daily blasted with in your inbox, Google sidebar ad, and pasted all over your favorite magazines, websites, and subway trains are getting more intriguing and less and less frightening. Your friends have done it. Some have mocked it, others got married. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 99 and single, chances are you’ve at least thought about doing it. Maybe you posted a picture and quit without writing a word. If you’re a prude of slave to perceptions of stigma, you’ve had a friend create a profile for you despite your insincere protestations. You don’t have to be an oracle to foresee the future of romance–for many of us, clicking will always start with a face on your mobile phone, and like it or not, that’s just the way it is.

What nuggets of wisdom I have gained I will impart here both to provide an outlet to my bursting observations and hopefully add value to your romantic life.

Robot Love? So be it. Beep boop bop and may you find the right algorithm.