25 May

Like any other relationship, your relationship with your dating site fluctuates.

Joining a dating site works like joining any other club. Assuming that you are not objectively unattractive or objectively awkward (both barriers to dating that are surmountable only with great difficulty), the established members of the club, most of whom are drowning in a frothy stew of need and ennui, crave novel stimulation, whether they know it or not. Mostly, novelty means new people, who are just old people they’ve previously ignored. They’ll obsessively, frantically court you for a few weeks, a few months in some rare cases, before realizing that you aren’t really that different from anyone else there they’ve been talking to. They’ll stop sending drinks around. When they do that, you might make the mistake of thinking that you’ve been rejected from the community. You’ll finally realize that you’ve really joined the group when fresh meat arrives, and you fall on it with the same lonely desperation as everyone else.

After Sarah stopped speaking with me for the third and final time, some time passed before I talked to anyone else on Match. When I first joined, I’d been swamped with email, much of it from women whose photos made them look attractive. (Like Facebook or whatever other ersatz social site you happen to pick, people on Match tend to choose pictures where they look as good as possible. Similar to the façade you put on when you’re out to dinner with someone’s parents or having a business lunch with your boss, these representations of oneself tend to bear only a passing resemblance to reality).  Naturally, I assumed that all this attention meant that I was attractive, and naturally I assumed that this attention would continue. Naturally, I was wrong.

I hadn’t had a new message for a week and a half. Hardly anyone new had even looked at my profile. For neurotic internet daters, being given access to that sort of information is sadistic. I reasoned that patterns existed in the profiles that people created for themselves. I began browsing through profiles belonging to both women and men. Correctly or not, I decided they were my competition, so I needed to analyze them.

One pattern emerged almost immediately. Inherently, people (by which I mean me, but by which I also definitely mean you) are narcissistic, and that quality is never so apparent in them as when they are asked to talk about themselves. A dating profile asks you to do that, and it also asks you to describe who you would want to be with.

A side effect of this situation is a used-car lot mentality: If a low-mileage, fuel efficient sexpot doesn’t drive itself right into your lap, you decide that rather than take a risk on something less than perfect, you’ll just keep watching porn. I mean taking the bus. I mean whatever. The point is that everyone ends up with a list of exclusions. Another side effect is that daters also assume that what is interesting about them to themselves is also what is interesting about them to a potential romantic partner. To wit, no one has ever given a cold shit about your love of bass fishing or shopping on the weekend.

Also I noticed that people often described themselves using words that people who actually had the quality in question would never use. Attractive people do not need to describe themselves as such. It is obvious. Likewise, genuinely spontaneous people have performed enough genuinely spontaneous actions to know that spontaneity is boring, unpleasant, or utterly horrifying at least as often as it is memorably fun, and as such it’s the sort of thing you want to keep a lid on until the third or fourth date or so.

I decided to rewrite my profile.


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