Hey Is For Horses: The Story Of Us (Should Be Properly Punctuated)

Besides church, curriculum writing, book-shelving, and colluding with my soul-brother Eric to make trouble and shake things up, I attempt to participate in normal life activities from time to time.  Including dating.  Welcome to Hey Is For Horses.  (Don’t worry, Mom, I won’t say anything I wouldn’t say at the dinner table.)

Hey Is For Horses is a simultaneous blogging journey with my friend Dianna.  She’s awesome.  Preorder her book.  Here’s her post on profile creation, which is hilarious.

So you’ve decided to dip your toes into the sea of online dating.  Welcome!  Let’s talk about setting up your profile.  I primarily use OKCupid, but I’ve tried to provide ideas that are applicable across dating sites.

Your profile picture:
This is the first thing people will see.  (Does that condition a sort of shallowness, evaluating people on their looks?  Maybe, but no more than seeing someone in a bar and wanting to ask for their number.)  Let’s make it count.

First, a very basic ground rule:  we want to see your face.  You’d think this is a no-brainer, but from the pool of profiles I’ve seen, it is not.  I want to know what you look like!  Please use a picture of you.  I love sunsets, but I don’t want to date one.  Now, the corollary:  we want to see just your face.  A group photo is confusing.  For your main picture, please just show us you.

Now we get into the tricky stuff:  which picture should you use?  In the age of smartphones and selfies, you likely already have something to work with.  Pick something in which you feel attractive.  (If you don’t ever feel attractive, we’ll be getting to that in a moment.)

If you don’t have a recent picture by yourself, time to bust out your front-facing camera and get to snapping.  What’s a setting in your life you’re proud of?  If you’re a bookworm, a selfie in front of your favorite shelf (a shelfie?) highlights that.  Love your pets?  Include them (but mostly your face, please).  And so on.

Profile stats:
These are the multiple choice questions and drop-down menus:  your ethnicity, your career field, your desire for kids, whether you like dogs or cats, smoking / drinking / etc.  This area is pretty straightforward, so just a short suggestion: tell the truth.  If you’re a smoker, please let me find out from your profile rather than from our first date.  If you’re just looking for friends, say so.  Honesty!  It’s sexy.  I promise.

Profile questions:
These are the fill-in-the-blank areas.  They’re a great way to actually get to know a person, and they’re also rather intimidating.  How do you summarize yourself?!  Breathe.  It’s OK.  We’ll get through this.

Get a friend involved.  I think dating profiles would be a lot more fun if they required you to complete them with a glass of wine in hand and your best friend at your side.  So, create that space.  Chill out a bit.  Holler for your roommate, text your bestie.  I sometimes put myself in a specific friend’s shoes and look at my profile from that perspective.  What would they say about me?  What would they suggest I write?

Pull up Facebook.  Your activity there can tell you a lot about yourself.  What have you posted about lately?  What’re the running inside jokes on your wall?

Be yourself.  This is the most important part.  There are so many statements that might seem true to you but are actually rather generic.  I call it “the Forer profile”:
* “I’m just looking for something real.”
* “Easy-going and laid-back.”
Sometimes Forer profiles are clever or cute:
* What I’m doing with my life:  “Enjoying it!”
* The most private thing I’m willing to admit:  “I’ll tell you when we meet.”
* Things I can’t live without:  “Oxygen, food, …”
These are funny, but and they are true, but they tell me nothing about you.  If I can apply what you’ve said about yourself to 80% of the people on OKC, then it’s not helpful.  You’ve got to give us something to work with!  Tell me something interesting about yourself.  What makes you unique?  What do you really look forward to on the weekends?  What is something you predictably geek out about?  Include those.  Give me a story of you that I can work with, so I don’t agonize over how I might message someone whose profile only tells me they love to laugh with their friends.  (We all do!  It’s a good thing.)

Keep it short.  Generally speaking, if your paragraphs go for four lines or more, insert some line breaks or do some heavy-handed editing.  It makes for easier reading!

Please, please, please just punctuate and spell-check.  I know I am not an objective voice on this.  Some people think it’s not necessary, others think it’s stuck-up.  There’s also a socio-economic issue with preferring proper grammar and spelling, because those who weren’t able to access good education (because of poverty and its effects) are at a disadvantage.  Having said all that:  I still strongly prefer profiles written with proper punctuation and spelling.  Just … just think about doing it, okay?

Now, onto something underlying the creation of a profile:  what if, this entire time, you’ve been thinking to yourself:  but I’m not attractive or interesting.  For whatever reason, you don’t think you’re desirable, and this whole concept is terrifying.

First:  what you think is not attractive or interesting actually might be.  Have you heard of Tumblr?  It’s a magical land where people who geek out about the same subject can find each other.  I guarantee that someone shares your vision of the Tenth Doctor showing up in Middle Earth to assist Bilbo on his adventure.  It’s Rule 31 of the internet:  if you geek out over it, someone else probably does too.  And those people are on OKCupid as well.  Don’t sell yourself short.

At the same time, if you’re wrestling with what (if any) positive things you might bring to dating, then I want to challenge you a little.  You gotta love yourself, baby.  Close your OKC tab (you can always go back and edit it) and grab a pen and paper.  Take nine minutes — yes, a whole painful nine minutes — listing things that are neat about you.  The first 2-3 minutes may be a painful slog through whatever crappy messages you’ve internalized, like I’m boring and I’m awkward and This is why I’m single.  I know.  It sucks.  Keep going.  Start with simple things if you have to, like being an excellent dog-walker, or taking care of your car, or the way you relish buying a latte on payday.  What are things you’re proud of?  What have you done that two years ago you’d never imagined you’d do?

And hey, if the nine-minute timer goes off and you still have more to write, you can have an extra couple minutes to finish.  I won’t tell anyone.

Not all of this goes into your profile.  This is just a note to yourself:  you are dateable.  Bring your best self to the table, ‘cause someone wants to buy her a drink.

So now, if you want to meet people who are attractive, funny, enjoyable, smart, nerdy, active, have a compulsive affinity for anything made of LEGO, [insert your own desirable traits here], and might be someone you want to spend romantic time with, then hey, line forms here.

Just … just use some commas, okay?

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