News Section: Commentary
Letters From The Wasteland: Ringo's Guide to Online Dating
On Friday, my friend Bright Mike asked me to help him out with his online dating profile. “You're a writer,” he said. “You should be able to help me make a better pitch for myself.” I was reluctant at first, but ultimately figured it might be a fun little social experiment. It turns out I was selling the process way short. It was highly-entertaining and after just a few hours online, good old Ringo has advice for women everywhere.
First, I looked at Bright Mike's profile. I thought it was terrible, but didn't want to squash what little confidence he seemed to have left at that point. “Hey, let's check out your competition,” I told him. However, it turned out that men could only see women and vice versa. Not to be deterred, we found that in less than 10 minutes we were able to sign up a fictitious female who could troll the listings and see whether Mike wasn't having any luck because B-town was chock-full of better offers, or there was something else working against him.
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We didn't want our online lady getting any attention, so we endowed her with the least attractive qualities we could think of and didn't include a profile pic, which the site claimed increased your chances of meeting someone by 1000 percent. Once on the prowl, we quickly saw that the other male listings weren't very intimidating.
Bright Mike is 34, so we looked at guys 30-40, within a 15-mile radius. Every fifth listing seemed to be of a beefy meat-head with a shirtless profile pic who was very clear that he wanted “nothing serious.” Aside from the shirtless selfies, there were lots of car pics – the sort where a five year-old Nissan with aftermarket rims is in someone's driveway, soap bucket and detailing gear nearby. I'm not sure why that was such a common selling point, but whatever.
The rest were closer to what I expected; socially-awkward looking guys with pictures tightly cropped to de-emphasize protruding guts and receding hairlines. The other pictures in their profile almost always showed them on a cruise or some other sort of vacation – look at me I can be fun, no matter what my ex-wife says – or there were pictures of some small lap dog doing something meant to be cute.
The descriptions were all pretty generic and similar. I like to go out, but I also like to stay in. I like food, movies, TV, etc. I'm looking for someone "truly special." Good one Ace, who amongst us is looking for someone truly ordinary???
I was confident we could get Bright Mike's profile to be the best of the bunch without stretching the truth one bit. Bright Mike got his nickname because he's by far the smartest guy in our circle of well-educated, young professionals. He has a master's degree in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech, but is still more right-brained than left. He's a skilled sketch artist, follows politics without being ideologically obsessive, reads Time Magazine every week and can sometimes quote Shakespeare at a surprisingly-appropriate moment.
He's probably read at least 20 of the books on the Modern Library's Top 100 Novels, is a smidge north of 6-feet tall, has a dense head of well-groomed hair, is thin without being scrawny and can be funny as hell, in a dry humor sort of way. He's not obsessed with sports, but follows them closely enough to fit in socially and has a good job that probably puts him in the top 10 percent of local earners, at least in his age group. Bright Mike's a catch by just about any standard, but he seems like the brass ring of this crew, the bias of our friendship notwithstanding.
Once we cleaned up his profile to better accentuate his high-water marks, it was time to check out the single females in his pool. Bright Mike's open minded and set parameters of 24-44 years old, 10 years in either direction of his own age. When I pointed out that given such a liberal spread, it was entirely possible that he could get both a single mother as well as that woman's daughter in the same list of “matches,” he decided to tighten it up to 27-39.
Nearly every profile we checked out was cynical, at least to some degree, but I was genuinely amused by the number of lists that prospective females had generated, apparently to warn off certain male types they'd found pervasive. If you have a picture you took yourself in your bathroom mirror with your shirt off or if half of your pictures of are you and your friends wasted, etc., etc. - don't bother!
These rules seemed fair enough, but after reading a bunch of their profiles, I think it's equally fair to point out a few common themes that gave us a wrinkle in the old eyebrow: Too many of the men might put it out there that they're only looking for one thing, but if you're a girl, it's probably better to know that going in, don't you think? Many women on the other hand, seem to be making it oh-so-clear that their primary goal is to improve their station in life at someone else's expense. Again, this wasn't every single one by any means, but it was at least as common as shirtless hook-up guy.
A surprisingly large number of gals were comfortable disclosing that they made “less than $25,000,” while also advertising that they were looking for a guy who brought in “$75,000 or more,” because financial stability is really important to them. In other words, he'll be able to afford the sort of lifestyle that she can't provide herself, but somehow still feels entitled to, but only so long as he expects nothing in return for spending his hard earned money giving someone all the things they want—nice deal if you can find it, I suppose.
An overwhelming number of these single ladies also said something about a nice dinner at a romantic restaurant being their preferred first date. Personally, I would think that Bright Mike would be better off meeting her at Starbucks, having a pleasant 20-minute conversation with no expectations and deciding whether there's enough potential for a date. I mean, the whole reason these sites exist is because it's supposedly so hard to meet someone who's right for you; so it only stands to reason that you might have to go through the meet-and-greet drill several times before you find someone who's a good fit.
But according to many of these sort of girls, meeting for coffee is cheap and unromantic. So Bright Mike is supposed to pick up this data-entry clerk, drive her out to see Sean Murphy, and drop a buck and a half on the best dinner she's had this year—unless I'm being unfair in presuming this young lady isn't planning on splitting the tab (snicker) —and then decide if she's a materialistic and shallow climber?
Then there are the girls who are looking for “smart” guys. Intelligence (sic) is very important to these young ladies, as evidenced by their poor grammar and admitted dedication to reality television, shoe shopping and the 13 pictures of a little dog that dominates their profile. No one wants to be with a dummy and everything is relative, but if you're advertising for intellectuals you should be able to find Islamabad on a map, know that Iranians are not Arabs and whether Holland is a country or who Nikola Tesla was. Bright Mike might not ask you whether you liked Swan's Way better than Time Regained, but he might expect you to know who Proust was, given your stated intellectualism. When you tell him that the last thing you read was a Danielle Steel novel three years ago, you're sure to get voted off his island.
About three out of five women also had the term “soul mate” somewhere in their opening paragraph. They weren't looking for something casual, which was made very clear. They only wanted to meet that one special person who they just knew was out there in the wings, waiting to swoop in and check every block on their impossibly demanding list of essentials. No pressure or anything, but if you don't think you're that guy after seeing a couple photos of her and reading 300 words, you need not apply. Thanks for the warning psycho; you're almost as scary as the 44-year old who “DEFINITELY wants to have kids.”
Then, there are the photos. I told Bright Mike that 3-4 pics were more than enough and that the point was to allow the person to see what you actually look like, you know, the person who's going to be knocking on the door—not the guy six-years ago, who was 10 pounds lighter, looked almost ripped after a bad case of the flu and was standing under very flattering light that might give the impression he worked out on a regular basis. Three honest pics, and there will be no surprises.
However, many of the ladies used pictures that were so eclectically chosen it didn't seem as if you were looking at the same person in any two. In fact, when women used several pics that were group shots of them and their friends, it was often impossible to guess who among the group was the girl from the profile thumbnail. And again, what is up with all of the damn cruise ship pictures?
Then there's the photos that so obviously have an ex-boyfriend or husband in the pic, who's been cropped out, because I like the way my hair looks in that one. Can you say shallow? Newsflash, take your phone out, turn it around and snap a pic. That's what the guy is going to see when he picks you up, regardless of what you convince him (and you) in the interim. I'm not saying you can't use one that's a little more thought out than that, but if it looks too different than the face that will be staring at him when you answer the door, you're only sewing seeds of disappointment.
At the end of the day, I really couldn't decide who was worse off in this brave new world of virtual matchmaking. Most guys seem to be looking for a very attractive girl who just wants to have sex and can do without all of that other relationship stuff. Newsflash, if she exists, she doesn't have to use a dating site, as long as she can find her front door and walk through it. Meanwhile, most girls seem to be looking for a tall, fit, very good looking and financially successful, sensitive-Romeo type, who's looking for someone comparatively average to spend his fortune on and have a family with. I hate to break it to you, but if he exists, he doesn't need a dating site either.
Still, no two ways about it, Bright Mike is a good catch. If he can't find love online, I'm afraid there's no hope for the rest of you. As for Ringo, I'll stick with the bar scene, where even with a pair of beer goggles strapped tightly around my face, the only fraud and misrepresentation I'm likely to rub up against will come in the form of spanks and push-up bras.
Name: Ringo Khan
Ethnicity: Half British/Half Pakistani
Status: Most Excellent
Occupation: Rock Star Journalist
Income: Modest with unlimited potential
Religion: Greek Mythology
Pets: Vintage 1972 Richard Nixon Chia Pet
Drinks: Upper end of social
Drugs: Occasional recreational use of mild hallucinogenics
Stated ideal date: Wine and a romantic meal
Actual ideal date: Sex, beer and pizza (any order)
Looking for: His misplaced vinyl copy of Dark Side of the Moon
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