A couple months ago, I came home from work one evening and suddenly decided to sign up for online dating. Without telling or consulting anyoneâ€”I didnâ€™t want to lose my nerveâ€”I hastily chose a screen name, uploaded the first picture I found, and wrote some random blurbs. In my refrigerator one will findâ€¦beer, milk, eggs, and jelly. Twenty-five years from now I see myselfâ€¦having a few wrinkles, mostly from laughing.
Looking back, I realize I probably should have had a friend edit my profile, filter my personality, and help me pick a photo, but I got 40 â€œwinksâ€ in the first 30 days, so I figured I couldnâ€™t have done that bad a job. Then Leslie Oren, author of Fine, Iâ€™ll Go Online!: The Hollywood Publicistâ€™s Guide to Successful Internet Dating, took a look.â€œThere are too many references to drinking/drinking beer/beer,â€ Leslie told me. â€œMaybe â€˜drinking at a dive-y barâ€™ shouldnâ€™t be listed as the first thing among your favorite things; maybe â€˜beerâ€™ shouldnâ€™t be listed first among the things in your refrigerator.â€ Ouch. I definitely donâ€™t spend all of my time drinking, or even consider it a primary interest, but I had been trying to answer the questions honestly. I really did have beer, milk, eggs, and jelly in my refrigerator at the time. And by saying that I like hanging out with friends at dive bars, I was trying to let guys know that Iâ€™m not a high-maintenance, pink martini kind of girl. â€œWhen you show booze or cigarettes, you run the risk of others interpreting you a certain way: â€˜Oh, sheâ€™s a cool chick, or trying to show sheâ€™s a cool chick, or a boho chick, or anti-establishment,â€™â€ Leslie said.
No one had ever pegged me as anti-establishment in my entire life. Then, a guy sent me an e-mail saying that he was trying to shed his â€œCharlie Sheen in the â€˜90s bad boy imageâ€ and that my photo (me at a friendâ€™s birthday party, Stella in hand) made me a questionable prospect. I decided that Leslie might have been right.
But how do you write a profile that is â€œthe best possible version of your authentic self,â€ as Leslie writes in her book? â€œBe specific and take advantage of your unique qualities,â€ Leslie told me. â€œYou have a great quirky intellectual quality, and I would love to see you exploit that. There also seems to be a lot of joy and optimism in your lifeâ€”you love to laugh, so what are the things that make you laugh out loud? You donâ€™t seem like a vain person, which leads me to believe you are more interested in social and intellectual pursuits. What are they? What things have you tried recently?â€ So, I got all existential and spent a few minutes answering the question, â€œWho am I?â€ I never thought Iâ€™d have to go down the road of self-discovery just to write my online dating profile.
Iâ€™m trying out Leslieâ€™s advice. I deleted the two mentions of beer, changed my photo, and got really specific. (The last great book I readâ€¦I am trying to get through War and Peace. I haven’t come to the conclusion that it’s “great” yet, but I’m only on page 175.) I included my love of French fries, vintage shopping, reading the Sunday paper in the park, and Labrador retrievers. Iâ€™m not sure whether Iâ€™ve attracted anyone new, but it doesnâ€™t seem to have hurt. Plus, my interest in brewed beverages must still be coming throughâ€”Iâ€™m meeting a guy for Belgian beer tonight.