A former lover who became infamous for being a Matchstick Man (*see below) dubiously wrote about “holding hands in the movies” and “long walks in the rain” in his online profile even though he was about as romantic as a rotting log. I know this not because I met him online (we got set-up through It’s Just Lunch), but because he would brag about his exploits at parties.
What readers of his profile did not know is that Garrison was well aware of the personae he was portraying and that telling the truth about himself would not lead to the kind of whirlwind “relationships” he was looking for. This man wrote well and got dates.
Online dating is so popular these days that 20% of all new couples initially meet on the Internet. Joining this mix of millions makes sense to singles who want to expand their network of potential dates. This approach can also be very tricky because the identities we read (and write) online are carefully revised, polished, and manipulated.
Take Will, for instance. During our FWB romance Will got it in his head that he wanted a girlfriend. Of course, I wanted to be his girlfriend . . . . So what did I do? I wrote a super-kick-ass profile for him and sat back while he dated a bunch of clueless women. Little did they know that Will did not write the profile, nor did they know that the REAL author knew his password and was spying on the whole charade. He’s currently living with his exotic girlfriend and hasn’t cheated on her (with me, anyway) in over a year. Hmmm.
And then there’s Curtis. Curtis and I dated for almost three years after meeting each other the old fashioned way—I walked up to him in a bar. He’s been single for a couple of years now, so he posted a profile on Plenty of Fish and met a “girlfriend” almost immediately. While I was happy for him, it also chapped my ass that it was so easy for him to find someone he really connected with. Well, I got a call from Curtis last week saying that his advice about being “picky and patient” was bogus, that this chick was a total basket case, and that he was willing to pay an additional $250.00 to get home from their Los Angeles vacation without her.
Online dating horror stories abound, but there are also those happy couples who defy the odds. Take Jerry and Gwen, for instance. Jerry and I also met online even though we lived so close to each other that I was piggybacking off of his Internet. We knew instantly that the best kind of relationship we would form was going to be a friendship—so that’s what we focused on. He kept at the online dating, however, and met Gwen about a year later. Happily, they married almost three years ago and are still going strong.
The thing to remember when meeting someone online is that the identity you read is one the writer believes puts their best attributes forward. For those who really make the effort, this involves brainstorming, writing, rewriting, and getting feedback from friends. It could also mean that they went to a seminar designed specifically to help people write online dating profiles. I was a contributor to just that kind of seminar recently, in fact.
“Write Well, Get Dates” is a regularly scheduled seminar (we plan to host one each quarter) that helps Colorado singles create their best online identity. From start to finish, each participant walks out of the workshop with a solid draft he or she can upload that day. Date Scholars founder, Karen Johnson, and I also include research statistics, feedback on phrases to avoid, and information about methods for getting quality emails from potential suitors. We go into detail about choosing the best photos, writing initial contact emails, and other basic online dating etiquette.
While I eventually saw through Garrison’s façade and ended up shunning him—his original approach had some merit. He got his foot in the door by writing well so that women could envision how romantic he must be . . . the only reason his foot ended up being shoved up into his mouth is because he couldn’t live up to the personae he created.
*Matchstick Men / Women are notorious for coming on really strong at first, sucking you into their narcissistic plan—which is to dump you the minute you start thinking about a future together—and then move on to their next victim. For Garrison, this usually meant he was done with you in about two weeks.