Bullish Life: Online Dating Tips From Professionals and Happy People

Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.

Three weeks ago, I wrote Bullish Life: I’m Engaged! What I Learned From Twenty Years of Dating, followed by Bullish Life: How I Met My (Soon-to-Be) Husband On OKCupid.

I’ve since turned all my attention to baking and having wedding invitations printed on organic hemp paper folded by Japanese children.

No, not really. Actually, my kick-ass assistant just helped me file all the paperwork for a very specific insurance policy for a business I’m launching on June 1st! And my web designer works on my projects at night when I’m sleeping! I mention this because I wish to assure you that this column has not gone boy-crazy.

I would like to add that I did once have a “boy crazy” phase, but it largely involved Data from Star Trek and ended around 1995. And also, over on The Grindstone (where the dress code allows only two eyeshadow colors: neutral brown and neutral grayish-brown, as opposed to at TheGloss, where everyone is playing Fuck, Marry, Kill all day while making eyeshadow out of scented Magic Markers*), I’ve been writing about why tech skills are not optional for your career, how technology can help overcome discrimination, and how to ask for more money (Q&A on this topic coming soon).

And yet, I had so much material on online dating — thanks to dating pro Judy McGuire — that I thought the topic deserved another post.

I also think that the idea that life advice, business advice, and dating advice are completely separate is a bit silly. Virtually every woman I know regrets having wasted time on some puerile man-child when she could have been getting better grades, improving her career, writing a book, etc. So, the more directly you can achieve your version of romantic contentment, the more time and energy you’ll have for the rest of the components of a gentlewomanly life. Who has the time to go out in real life with some boy who, it turns out, wants/doesn’t want kids when you don’t/do? Or who, it turns out, thinks that the Earth is larger than the Sun? (See last week’s column for my praise of the time- and agony-saving question system on OKCupid.)

So, here are some online dating tips from experts and happy people!

*Completely made up. All the ladies work in the same office, which I’ve only been to once. Everyone wears the same eyeshadow, just like in North Korea.

Emphasize Your Weirdest Features

The OKCupid blog has charts. So, so many charts. They have a lot of data to crunch. Like this: The Mathematics of Beauty.

This post begins with a warning about women being objectified, but then goes on to give some very practical advice: If there’s something weird, conventionally unattractive, or polarizing about you, play it up. Better than some people think you’re ugly and peculiar and others think you’re amazing than for everyone who sees you to collectively shrug. To quantify: What matters in how much attention you get is not your absolute hotness ranking but the standard deviation of the data.

In other words — pardon me for referring to women on a hotness scale of 1 to 10 — a “5″ who is ranked “5″ by everyone (standard deviation of zero) gets no messages. Who wants to go out with a 5? But a woman who is ranked a zero by half of the male population and a 10 by the other half gets a lot of messages.

So, big sharp noses? Enormous asses? Flat-chestedness? Take a fucking photograph and go with it. All of those things have ardent fans. (The nose thing is mine! I really like prominent, sharp, symmetrical noses. If I were a man, I would propose immediately to Alexa Ray Joel.)

Online Dating Tips From a Pro

And now, some tips from dating columnist and profile-fixer Judy McGuire:

  • Don’t be such an uptight baby. The only people who think there’s a stigma attached to online dating are either smug marrieds (the only good phrase out of Bridget Jones’ Diary) or people who haven’t gotten laid since Bush was in office. And yes, someone you know might see your ad—so what? They only saw it because they’re also trawling OKCupid for tail.
  • Expand your height, weight and age ranges. Casting a wide net makes you look like an accepting, wonderful person. Also know that everyone online lies—men just as often as women—so when you have a cut-off of 35, that’s 45 in online dating years anyway. Decide who you’ll go out with on a case-by-case basis.
  • Cleavage shot. I don’t care if you have an A-cup, squish those bad boys together and show them. Not in a slutty way (unless you want a deluge of penis pics, which is okay too), but in a carefree, “Oops, I left an extra button undone” kind of way.
  • Unless you’re a Friend of Bill (i.e., in Alcoholics Anonymous), skip coffee and meet for a drink instead. Meeting a stranger who turns out to be a foot shorter and ten years older than you were led to believe is a lot easier to swallow over a Manhattan than a mocha grande.

A Few Notes From My Own Experience

  • Anyone whose age ends in “9″ is suspect. One man who listed his age as 39 later revealed that he was 43. However, he revealed this via text, before meeting in person, so I didn’t mind too much. Later, he said he believed in lying to machines, but not to people, which led to an interesting discussion.
  • All of the men who listed their height as 5’8″ were shorter. Just FYI. I think the collective male unconscious has decided that 5’8″ is the minimum acceptable manly-male height. Sometimes, you really do have to meet people in person: I’ve discovered that I don’t necessarily mind short guys (especially ones with other masculine qualities, like prominent brow-ridges), but I do mind when guys have smaller hands and feet than me. That’s just creepy.
  • My fiancé and I have noted that we hate a lot of the same things. Nothing brings people together like shared hate! Mentioning things that you dislike (innumeracy, celebrities getting a mere slap on the wrist for drunk driving, incompetence, Ayn Rand, people who say, “Keep the government out of my Medicare!”) can really bring people together, but go light on things you dislike about men. Don’t write an ad specifically to scare away your last three ex-boyfriends. They don’t matter anymore.

Switch Your Profile To Say You Like Women

And go look at what all the other ladies are doing. This is actually really eye-opening, enough to deserve its own subheading.

Starting browsing for a girlfriend, and you may discover that what you think is fresh, original, and witty in your own profile is actually a bit cliché (see below, on the ubiquitous Shot of a Woman Skydiving). I also discovered that, in general, the ladies of OKCupid (at least the ones that came up for me in NYC) were all a pretty nerdy, verbal, witty bunch.

I’m not suggesting that you look at these ladies as “the competition”; it’s just nice to get some context.

For instance: Witty, verbal ladies tend to write long, detailed profiles and then get a bit offended when a man writes them only a one-sentence message, even if it is on-topic and correctly spelled. However, once you realize that most of the ladies on the site are verbose and witty and care about details, it quickly becomes apparent that even the most thoughtful, erudite, well-spoken fellow just couldn’t possibly generate the word count required to send long, smart, detailed messages to woman after woman, knowing that only a small percentage of women are going to write back.

So, don’t disregard one-sentence messages; it’s reasonable that a guy might want to know that you think he’s attractive enough to talk to before he writes a few paragraphs. Lazy second and third messages, though, indicate a guy who’s probably also too lazy to hold himself up on his arms during sex and will just flop around on top of you like a dying tuna.

A Few Amusing Pointers From Men

Several nice and attractive men I’ve polled concur on the following:

Share This Post:
    • Jennifer Wright

      “Drunk On Magic Marker Fumes And Playing Fuck, Marry, Kill” is going to be TheGloss’s new tagline. Thanks for this.

    • G

      “Lazy second and third messages, though, indicate a guy who’s probably also too lazy to hold himself up on his arms during sex and will just flop around on top of you like a dying tuna.”

      So. Good.

    • GuysKeepScore.com

      “No more skydiving photos. They look silly and don’t show any of your attractive features. Why are all women showing off their skydiving?!”

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    • Amy

      Re: the sweats/dress thing, I can’t tell you how many dudes’ profiles I’ve read that include some version of “I love a girl who’s just as comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans as she is in a sexy dress and heels.” I wonder if ladies have started repeating it in their profiles, in response?

      I don’t have anything like that in my profile because 1) jeans are WAY more comfortable than heels, so I don’t want to give anyone false hope, and 2) it’s obnoxious. Of COURSE men want a woman who is a tomboy and a sex kitten. We all want the whole package! I would like a lumberjack who listens to Joni Mitchell, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • Tania

      I think my biggest problem with OKCupid, specifically, is that it tells people how often you respond, and someone told me mine said “replies selectively.”

      Which is entirely unfair. I looked through my inbox after someone mentioned that, and I replied to 90% of first messages that were either polite or implied they had at least read my profile. I assume it counts replying to subsequent messages in its algorithm, guys who messaged me back after I said (nicely) that I didn’t think we’d work out together.

      Which led to me getting maybe one message every few days, often by someone telling me that I shouldn’t care about spelling and grammar because it doesn’t matter anyway, man, we’re all going to die so we mite as wel not caer abt splin.

      So I gave up in frustration.

    • Riley

      “…I do mind when guys have smaller hands and feet than me. That’s just creepy.” Yes! Why is that so skeevy? I actually like short guys (great ergonomics for kissing standing up), particularly if they have broad shoulders, but tiny hands always freak me out.

    • Joann

      I would add one thing – don’t make too many comments about physical appearance. Personally I don’t like to be treated like a doll.