I have, as mentioned, a rather personally fraught relationship with online dating. Catching too many of my supposedly monogamous partners using personal ads to cheat on me left me pretty thoroughly unable to commit to the process. And, when it comes down to it, you have to commit to the process: you are saying, in effect, that you wish to meet potential partners through a service we've all paid for in order to meet other potential partners. You have to accept that it's a perfectly acceptable way to meet someone, and to set down and just let go of your hang-ups about it.
But between (obviously) looking at my then-partners' dating profiles, and trying to see if I could just get over my issues by reading other people's, I've read a lot of online dating profiles over the years. And, although I normally avoid writing about my friends, I'll admit that I spent the last few months helping one of my best friends sort through women's profiles on Match.com. In fact, I read the profile of his now-girlfriend and gave her two hearty thumbs-up before they went out because she was the first woman who I read about and thought, "This is a woman I would hang out with even if you weren't dating her."
But why was I so down on potential online matches, or some of the women my friend considered dating? There were at least one of the following three warning signs in each profile that screamed, to me, "Don't Date This Person!" And they're summarized below.
1. Don't Bother If...
There are the obvious warning signs—"No Fatties!" for instance—included in this category. But this category also encompasses the people who include in a profile, "Don't bother if you have a cat!" or "Don't bother if you live [in this "uncool" neighborhood]!" In once sense, I get it: You're advertising for The Perfect Person. And, in another sense... I mean, really? If Prince/ss Charming rode up with a cat carrier and offered to carry you off to a neighborhood you deemed uncool, that person should just fuck off? There's a huge difference between trying to explain to the world what works for you, and issuing a checklist for the type of person who should even look in your direction. It's a date, you know? You don't sign a contract before dinner.
2. My Ex Said/Did/Was...
Admittedly, I talk about my exes a lot (hello? I have a whole column about it!). Part of that is several of them are still involved in my life as friends; part of that is that the others often make for pretty funny stories. But there's a huge difference in bringing them up in conversation and laying your issues with them out in an online dating profile. Obviously, disclosing a divorce or children—though, personally, I think they shouldn't matter because a person is more than their history—is pretty standard, but there's a special class of people who want you to know that everyone else who rejected them was stupid. As a casual profile reader, I don't know either of you—but often, methinks someone doth protest too much.
3. The Checklist
Another side of the "Don't Bother If" coin is the profile that reads like a grocery list. It's one thing to want someone with a sense of humor and another thing to want someone between 5'11" and 6'1" who has a specific sense of humor to match his skinny jeans and Masters in history. Yes, dating profiles allow people to be very specific about what they want, but some people use that potential for specificity not to look critically at their dating choices to date and pick out qualities that are important, but to dream up the exact perfect person in their head for the role they want to have filled in that life. And, if you are the person who meets that checklist, great—but if you are 6'2" or have a Masters in philosophy instead, you're probably not going to respond.
There are tons of obvious no-nos (racism, sexism, typos and any half-naked photos are among my personal no-gos and pet peeves), but after reading through hundreds of men's and women's dating profiles over the years, these things strike me as the things dating sites subtly encourage people to indulge in that makes the window of potential partners smaller than it really needs to be.
[Image via Martin Ringlein on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]