Online Dating Tips From a Fox in the Henhouse
One of the things I love most about writing this blog is the presence of both men and women. I didn’t ever expect guys to hang out here, but letting the foxes into the henhouse was a brilliant move, as it turns out. I get a lot of feedback from women who want to know – what would the guys at Loveawake do?
Today I’m pleased to offer a guest post about online dating by a less predatory creature. Badger, a fellow blogger and favorite of mine, is smart about women and he’ll tell it to you straight. In doing so he fills a need I can’t – I was husbanded up before online dating took off, and have no first-hand experience with it.
Badger’s running a guest post by me today as well, so be sure to head over there and check it out!
The first part of this post will detail ways that decent, honest women make the online dating process harder that it needs to be. The second half is stuff that will straight-up cause good men to pass you over. If you meet these criteria, you should think about what you really want (it really serves as a warning to guys too).
PART I: PLAY TO YOUR INTENDED MARKET
Online dating is a misnomer. You’re just making the introductions online; the actual dating takes place in real life. When I first researched online dating options, I read a bunch of criticisms that went “[blah].com sucks, my date no-showed/she lied about her weight/his photos didn’t look like him/he was a player/they were married/etc.” That’s called dating. Online dating is just dating, with all its pros and cons. It is not an arranged relationship service.
Susan has recommended that women only spend ~10% of their dating effort online. An important caveat I’d add is to avoid using online dating as a substitute for a social life entirely. This is not easy, as online dating (particularly if you’re on multiple sites) can easily expand to fill all available time. Kind of like blogging. Not that I’d know.
The real win for online dating is that pretty much everyone on a dating site wants to actually go on a date, unlike social events or day game where you really have no idea if the cute guy you chatted up in the grocery line or at the tailgate has a long-distance girlfriend, is actually gay, etc.
In an earlier life, I worked at a big consulting firm that happened to have an arduous internal assessment process. When I drafted my first self-assessment, I put down a fair review of my abilities and shortcomings, strong areas and items for improvement. The coworker who was mentoring me through this process told me to tear it up. “This is not a biography – it’s a marketing document, telling the higher ups why you are on their team and why you should get a raise.”
The job of the profile is not to be scrupulously honest and forthcoming, it is to display your redeeming qualities so a man might want to date you. You have faults, and so do the men you will date. There will be a right time to discover them. The profile is not that time.
It’s a major meme in certain segments of the manosphere that (a) young educated women are entitled and under-developed in real world skills of negotiation and presentation, and (b) that it’s not because women are less capable but because they’ve been told from birth that they’re awesome, any guy would be lucky to have them, they don’t have to prove anything, etc. If you don’t learn how to market yourself, you are playing into that meme, and both stats and anecdotes show that active bargainers are getting better results in the SMP than people who think the other side will present while they will simply select. If you want a balanced, rewarding relationship with a man, market yourself as not this. (In fairness, don’t think the guys have it all figured out – I’ve been told that women receive all manner of misspelled, unpunctuated, sexually forward emails from men on these sites. )
The entire field of game has centered around men who, despite considerable life success and community respect, don’t know how to market themselves to women. (Much of game rests on the paradox that you are selling while looking like you are buying.) The eventual success of countless men proves they had it in them and just had to discover it.
THE BIG QUESTION
Everything you put in your profile should be cross-checked against the following premise: “How does this item attract the men I want to attract and differentiate me from all the other girls they’ll see?”
Some women, especially attractive ones, may say “but I get tons of attention from guys online! Why should I change my profile?” Dear, it’s not just about quantity – you want attention from the right guys. Guys (online or off) have to get women interested; women have to get the right guys interested. That’s marketing.
If you don’t have a well-done profile, you’re like a guy without game – you may have it all on paper, but nobody who matters is going to know. Why not go for the best guy you can realistically (!) attract?
With that, be honest with yourself about all of the following.
DISSING ONLINE DATING AT THE WORD GO
Online dating has gone mainstream, but in an earlier time before it had crossed the chasm there was a creepy outsider vibe to the whole thing. That you would only be online because you weren’t hot enough for the real deal, or you’d screwed your reputation one way or another. Or if a guy, you were just a loser who had too much time on the computer and couldn’t get laid.
Don’t play into this meme by opening your profile with a disqualifier (that’s what we call them in game) such as:
- I’m tired of the bar scene*, so I thought I’d try online dating.
- I never thought I’d do this, but…
- I haven’t really met anybody…
- Here goes nothing!
- My friends convinced me to get on this site.
I realize these lines are probably trying to convey nonchalance or a coquettish nervousness. But think about it from the guy’s perspective – if you state that you see online dating as some kind of failure or suboptimal last resort, what does that communicate about your own self-image, and what does it say about the guys on the site? Does any worthwhile guy want to message you if he knows you think he’s a loser because he’s on the site? Only a white knight or try-hard beta character is going to try to “prove you wrong” on that one. The rest will simply move on to a profile that’s a little more confident and optimistic.
*(As long as we are on the topic, to first order, online dating IS the bar scene. No one is reading profiles of people they don’t find attractive. People will pass you over for reasons you’ll never know, and you’ll do the same to others. People will fib about their weight, height, income and other things. Don’t take it personally – accept rejection, and accept rejecting. Don’t lap up the attention from someone you’re not interested in; clear the system for people you are serious about.)
One of the biggest mistakes I see in online dating is people who are trying to be attractive to all people one way or another. This is textbook bad marketing – unless you’re an attention whore (in which case jump to the last part of the post) you don’t need to be attractive to everybody; you need to attract a few guys you match well with, from which you can pick one. Microsoft has to sell a product that addresses everybody’s needs – you don’t.
Invoke the long tail and make yourself very attractive to a subset of suitors instead of choosing a low-risk, low-reward strategy that makes you every guy’s second choice.
A ridiculously large number of personal statements sound like they were written by the same person, a person who couldn’t decide what she wanted to do with herself. “It’s really hard to write this section but I’m a fun-loving down to earth girl who loves to laugh!! I like to stay in, but I also like to go out…I like to try new restaurants and see the sights. I’m looking for a smart, handsome, funny guy who’s hardworking but also knows how to relax.”
These profiles are mind-numbingly boring to read – going back to our theme, nothing in there makes you sound interesting or original, there’s very little a guy could seize on to build some rapport, and as a result you’re going to get a bunch of orbiters and guys who pencil you in as a backup.
Most importantly, though, a trite and unoriginal profile essay looks like you don’t have the confidence to be honest about who you are and instead you are trying to avoid the prospect of people disliking you. It’s online dating, if they don’t care for what you offer they’ll silently go elsewhere.
Again, the profile is not about an authorized biography, it’s about highlighting some key items that would make you an attractive girlfriend prospect to a man you would want to date.
There’s another thing about content-free profiles (especially ones with disqualifications) – they communicate flaky, unfocused and indecisive. These are, in a word, player bait. Even a true player might feel bad pumping and dumping a woman who asserted she was looking for an LTR or a husband, but a flaky image gives the player plausible deniability to say “we were just fooling around, neither of us was looking for anything serious!”
As the Most Interesting Man might say, you don’t need to take a lot of space to say nothing. Short (3 or 4 sentence) profiles suggest any or all of thefollowing:
- You have low intelligence
- You were too lazy to put a serious effort into it
- You are entitled and expect guys to sing and dance to impress you while you don’t have to do anything
Your profile should be longer than this section.
OVER SELLING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Countless profiles also have paeons to family and friends: “I love my family and my friends are REALLY important to me!” Going back to our basic principles again, how is this a differentiator? What girl that a man would want to date is on bad terms with family and doesn’t have any friends?
If your brother lives in the next town and you hang out with his wife and kids every weekend, you can put that as a positive factor in your life. Otherwise, steer clear of generic homages to family and friends.
VAGUE INTENTIONS AND GOALS
This one is a little more complicated, but one of the major male paranoias about relationships is that a woman will become completely codependent on the man, unable to function without calling him 12 times a day and venting her problems to him for hours. (Just as women can smell neediness from men, guys can smell crazy on a woman. We don’t date crazy, although we might sample the merchandise if it’s on sale.)
To this end, we look for a woman who “has her shit together.” It’s hard to describe what this exactly means, but we know it when we see it. You don’t need to be on your way to upper management while mentoring at-risk youth and conducting the church choir. You just have to have some semblance of intrinsic personal stability, and something you want to accomplish professionally or otherwise. We guys like to take pride in our woman’s accomplishments too, as long as it doesn’t become a race to the top within the relationship.
If your life sounds like it hops from thrill to drunken thrill, expect a lot of attention from frat guys who do the same.
So don’t put vague intentions and goals. If you plan on staying in the accounting field and you like to do triathlons in your spare time, say that. If being an office manager isn’t really your bag but it pays the bills so you can focus on your church community, party on. If you’d like to move out of teaching and eventually become a professional massage therapist, let us know. Just give us a life plan that doesn’t require us to be at your side 24/7, and that we can take pride in when we tell our family what you’re all about.
If you don’t have any intentions or goals, you just got yourself a new personal project.
NOT PUTTING WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
Related to the previous point. A good tip for mating and dating is to rank all of the things you want in your partner, then cross off everything except the top two. For example, I think my tops are “intellectual” and “active.” (If your response to this exercise is “I shouldn’t have to settle,” I can’t help you anymore.)
This means that in your profile you need to be serious about your deal-makers. If you love dogs and your man needs to be OK with pooches sleeping in the bed, he better understand that from reading your profile (and please drop me a line). If it’s a must that your guy is Baptist/Catholic/Amish/whatever you are, put that down. Maybe he doesn’t have to be vegetarian but he has to abide your meat-free lifestyle. The dating process is supposed to help you optimize on the most important items, but you won’t get them if you conceal them.
The point is that if you show you’ve done some real thinking about long-term compatibility, it will shirley attract the attention of guys who want a serious LTR.
Excessive pickiness is rampant in the dating world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few basic hardline requirements. They say something about you, though, so choose carefully…if you “need” your man to be hot and rich, expect him to want you to be DTF, in great shape and not very audible in public.
What about dealbreakers, you say? Avoid putting down what you DON’T want. It’s negative energy, and more than likely will just encourage feisty men to try to “break” your will. (More on that below.)
PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN
Discussions at Hooking Up Smart have revealed that young women largely have no idea how easily they can boot themselves off of a man’s dating ladder with the mere suggestion of unmitigated sluttiness.
Let’s be honest – every man with a sex drive wants his lady to move it and shake it for him. That doesn’t mean he wants half of downtown Baltimore to know what her cleavage looks like. A few too many pictures of you drinking at the bar, drinking at the beach, drinking at Mardi Gras, with your tongue sticking out, face crumpled, in seductive poses with other women, will instantly downgrade you from a good prospect to “not a girl I want to take home to Mom.” Don’t put them in. If you don’t have enough quality photos, go take some – it’s not complicated.
Pictures of you with other men who are not family are an obvious no-no. A woman who flaunts the male attention she gets says “play me back” to other guys.
What should you put in? I’m not going to micromanage your photo spread, just don’t communicate “I’m an attention whore/party girl/unserious woman.”
I can hear some of you now, “but if I take all that stuff out of my profile there’ll be nothing left!” This is why writing profiles is hard, and why so many people fall back on these cliches.
Think of it as a creative writing exercise; great art always comes from constraint, not freedom. If you’d like the help of a professionally amateur reviewer, go ahead and email me, I’d be glad to give it a once-over.
So now you’ve got a great profile. How do you know which guys to go out with?
A brilliant blogger has written an interesting model of managing your dating prospects.
Remember that online dating is just dating. So get ready to go on a lot of first dates where one or both of you says to yourself “I don’t really want to date this person.” Get ready for “he’s just not that into you.” Get ready to date a guy who may be dating other women and trying to pick one (or if he’s not trying to pick one, get out before you get drafted into his harem.) And of course, no sex before monogamy.
Should you initiate online? Spare me the ”he won’t value me if I make it too easy!” That’s a projection from women who find unavailable men attractive. If you find a guy interesting, tell him something in his profile you found interesting and why. That’s a HUGE differentiator for us, and initiating doesn’t mean you’ll be making the moves for all eternity. Or just give him a wink or a poke or whatever – a dude getting one of those from a woman will know to email back.
Don’t drag email threads on. Expect to get asked for your number in the first message after you email him. Either give it to him, or politely turn him down, or give him a IM address. (Always use a dedicated email address for online dating that is separate from your regular personal mail.) If he’s not getting to that point, give him the opportunity to move things forward with a “we should get together.”
PART II: RED FLAGS
Straight talk from the world of men, these items are not marketing mistakes, but more like Freudian slips – items that should make any quality man think twice about getting involved. If you have these, you should consider changing your life and not just your profile.
Certain words like sassy, tough, hard-nosed, a handful, challenging, ambitious, betray a woman who is just plain difficult to deal with. Men with spines don’t date these women, they leave them for the players and the simpering betas. There is absolutely no conflict between career accomplishment and being pleasant and attractive in your personal life. If this is a challenge for you, learn to leave it at the office, and don’t subject a boyfriend to yourself until you do.
“I’VE HAD MY FUN”
A woman who talks about “settling down?” Slut alert.
I shouldn’t have to talk about why you should avoid emoticons , excessive punctuation!!!, mispellings between me and u, or lol’s. Grammar Girl was right – grammar is sexy, or at least it doesn’t make you look stupid.
READING STUPID SHIT
I guess I am supposed to feel bad about being judgmental on this one, but if you tell us your top reading tastes are People and Glamour you are severely limiting your options among intelligent men. At least put some variety in there – novels and nonfiction, magazines and newspapers. (If you read Cosmo you should throw that shit out – no woman needs that many blowjob tips.)
PUNCHING OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE
If you are overweight but ask for athletic and toned, if you are 5’2″ but put 6′ as the lower bound of your height preferences, if you put a “required” income level at all, you are asking to be played, disappointed or both. Know your league and play there.
“NO PLAYERS”/”NO MILITARY”/”NOT PLAYING GAMES”
This will have one of two effects: you’ll either get simpering suckups desperate to be different from the guys who did you wrong, or guys will play up the asshole game and non-”commitment” act because you’ve explicitly communicated to them that it has worked on you in the past.
Best of luck.