Coming Clean

Decoding online dating profiles, and imbalances in long-term partner potential.

Q: I’m 35 and single, after breaking up with my girlfriend about a year ago. It seems impossible to meet someone in a bar, so I gave in and gave this online dating a shot. Unfortunately, online dating, while promising in pictures, turns up some women who look absolutely nothing like as advertised. They say “25, fit, well-educated.” What shows up? A 40-year-old woman who hasn’t seen a gym since high school, since that was the last stop on the education train. I need to know, from a woman’s perspective, what kind of strategy is this? Women are always a mystery to men, but this really takes the cake. — Hating Online Dating

A: The strategy, my friend, is none other than a new twist on the old bait and switch, and men are just as adept using it in the online dating arena as women. In fact, according to Scientific American, a whopping 90 percent of people lie in their profiles. Women in their 20s and 30s shave off anywhere from five to 20 lbs. from their weight, while men tend to fib about income, education level and relationship status. A survey from MSNBC.com says that one in four men who say they’re “single and available” are actually married (sound familiar, all you tatted trollops messing around with Jesse “Vanilla Gorilla” James?).

But is this not-so-little web of lies really that much of a surprise? I mean, profile embellishment is the technological equivalent of the front we put on during first dates and the genesis of relationships. Look at it this way: When the woman who bills herself as “curvy and clever” waddles into the bar or coffee shop (you’re not meeting online dates for the first time over dinner, right? RIGHT?) and starts in about the “glory years” of high school, you’ll know you’re 45 minutes away from having her and her stretching of the truth (and the elastic waistband) out of your life forever.

Here, a few of the more common profile comments to be aware of.

1. “I love long walks on the beach/a good glass of wine.” Translation: “I’m trying to sound deep and worldly, but the height of my sophistication came during college Spring Break when I learned how to say ‘Diez cervezas, por favor’ in Cancun.”

2. “I hate playing games.” Translation: “My relationship M.O. = Lifetime Doormat. I try to come off as genuine and passionate about finding something ‘real,’ but I’m so friggin’ desperate to be in a relationship that I get stricken with diarrhea of the mouth telling my life story, starting when I was traumatized as a toddler by my mom’s repeated tried to jump-start my acting career by having me audition for diaper commercials,.”

3. “I don’t like the word ‘cougar.’” Translation: “I am a cougar.”

4. “As the founder and CEO of a successful Internet startup, I savor the finer things in life.” Translation: “I’m a peon in a pyramid marketing gig, I work out of my mom’s basement and I spend my ample free time playing World of Warcraft and chugging Yoo-Hoo, and my annual vacation is the Dungeons & Dragons convention.”

5. “I’m 29.” Translation: “I’ve been on these sites long enough to know that lowering your age to under 30 will make you pop up in more searches. I’m anywhere between 35 and 55.”

This isn’t to say that you can’t meet your match on sites like Match.com and their ilk. It just takes a more critical eye; as in, if there are more Glamour Shots on a profile instead of candid photos, a few with friends, you’re better off clicking elsewhere.

Q: “Anna,” my girlfriend, is amazing in a million different ways. She’s hot, funny, gets along with my friends, and she likes sex. She’s been dropping the marriage hint like crazy the last several months, and to be honest, it’s not that I don’t love being with her, it’s just that I’m not interested in getting married. How do I hang on to my woman without having to walk down the aisle? – Hitched Jitters

A: If you honestly “love being with” Anna but honestly don’t want to get married, then here’s what I propose you must do: Sit her down and repeat everything you wrote here, sans that ever-so-grating last line about having your decidedly non-wedding cake and eating it, too. Then Anna can decide if she’s ok with a marriage-free future with you, or whether she wants to take her amazing-in-a-million-different-ways, hot, funny, easygoing, sex-loving self back on the market, where I’m guessing she’ll find somebody who will consider it a privilege to make that commitment to her faster than you can say “cold feet.”

It won’t be an easy conversation, I get that, but you have to do it. If not, rest assured that the deceit you’ll be perpetuating – passive or not — will be far, far worse than, say, using the term “slightly receding hairline” when you really mean “my hair plugs send small children screaming in horror” on an online profile.

1 Comment »

  1. Also, anyone who uses the word “utilize” instead of “use” falls under #1

    Comment by Erin — April 26, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

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