“I’m an empty essay, fill me out!” the words beckoned under the Self Summary section of my brand new, totally blank OkCupid profile.
Armed with a Diet Coke and a new resolve, I was actually signing up for online dating, something I hadn’t done in three years. And not because I was in a relationship during that time, but because for the most part I wasn’t dating, first by default and later having decided to take a deliberate break.
After a long dating hiatus, when January rolled around this year I finally felt like I was ready to dive back into the dating pool. My first thought when contemplating dating was, God, please don’t make me online date again! because in the past I’d tried JDate, eHarmony, Chemistry, Match, and Nerve, all to great disappointment and sometimes even despair. My experience with online dating thus far had been that the guys I liked didn’t like me back, and the guys who did like me made me want to flee the state and join the Dating Protection Program.
Instead of going the online dating route, I’d planned to simply shift my energy. I didn’t want to actually do anything or take actions to get dates, I just wanted to be energetically open to dating, and hope that the Universe, and some compatible guys therein, would sense that and respond, by way of asking me out.
This tactic proved to be too subtle. It didn’t work at all. So I thought, if I was serious about coming out of my dating hiatus, I was going to have to take some concrete steps to make it official.
It seems like everyone who’s single and online dating is on OkCupid, and I hadn’t tried it before so didn’t have any old negative associations with it, plus it’s free! And the site itself has a kind of fun, light, whimsical personality, which is the attitude I want to adopt towards dating this time around. Ready to take the next step, or any step at all, I decided that this site would be my foray back into online dating.
Which brought me to staring at my blank profile. Searching for some inspiration, I looked through my old online dating profiles, hoping I could just copy and paste. But reading through paragraphs I’d written about myself four, five, and six years ago, I cringed, knowing I had come a long way and a lot of those words no longer rang true.
In my old dating profiles, I was really cheerful. I used a lot of italics, exclamation points!!!, and ALL CAPS. I was doing tons of fabulous, interesting things. I was in an improv class! I was taking pole dancing lessons! I was effervescent, positive, and full of life!
Much of that was genuine, but I also have to confess to at times having typed, “Cheerful, coffee-drinking yogini who loves to laugh looking for intellectual, playful man to share in the adventures of life!” through tears, driven to online dating by a devastating breakup and the fear that I’d be alone forever.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve dropped down from the land of all caps, exclamation points, and italics, into a deeper, more grounded place. I’ve lost some of my relentlessly cheerful optimism, and gained hard-won self-acceptance, authenticity, and wisdom.
So while some of what I’d written in my old online dating profiles still applied, I decided to start from scratch and write something that truly reflected who and where I am in my life right now. And that meant no trying to present some hyped-up, enthusiastic dater, all caps image of myself. It meant being brutally honest at all costs, and most importantly, real.
I started by telling little sentence-long stories about myself that would hopefully reveal something about who I am. Like how happy I feel when an R&B song turns up on a playlist in yoga class. How I love the soft rock that plays in grocery stores, unabashedly watch “The Bachelor,” like to take walks, and recently went sledding for the first time in my adult life and the best part was the hot chocolate afterwards.
As I wrote, I heard the critical voice in my head telling me that I was making myself sound boring and no one would ever be interested in me. That I’d spent my entire adult life not sledding and when I finally did I didn’t even like it seemed to broadcast how unadventurous I am, the kiss of death on a dating site, where everyone is always “up for an adventure!” and has a wide array of fascinating, possibly life-threatening hobbies. But I kept going, sticking to my resolve to be brutally honest and authentically myself.
Then I got to the section that asks you to describe what you’re typically doing on a Friday night. Write that you’re at an improv comedy show! my inner voice instructed. Tell them you’re out dancing!
“On Friday night I’m tired from the week and home watching ‘Shark Tank,’” I typed.
You’re out with your friends! my inner voice pleaded. At least at the movies!
But I’m not. On Fridays I love to be home, winding down at the end of the week. So I kept my initial answer, and then added a handful of other activities I like to do when it’s another night of the week, or when I’m not tired, like going to the movies, having dinner with friends, and attending the occasional improv show.
My inner voice had a lot of other opinions about what I should or shouldn’t say. In the section to select how much you drink, the clear answer for me is “Rarely.” In all of 2012, I drank one beer total—half a beer during the season finale of “The Bachelor,” and another half a beer watching “The Bachelorette: Ashley and JP’s Wedding” at a friend’s. While I’m not a recovering alcoholic, I have a really bad reaction to alcohol and it makes me sick (after drinking the last sip of my “Bachelor” half-beer, I got an immediate hangover). So I don’t do it often. I do it rarely. And that’s the box I checked even though I felt like it would be so much more socially acceptable to check the option for “Socially.”
Then I moved on to what to say about my career. Part of me did not want to mention even the slightest hint of the fact that I’m a writer anywhere on my profile. As a writer who writes very personal personal essays, the last thing I want a prospective date to ask me is, “So, what do you write?”
Thinking that a guy could have read my writing makes me feel extremely vulnerable and like the playing field is far from level. I know that they like to cook, enjoy snowboarding, and can’t live without an iPhone; they know I have depression and anxiety and it took me five years to get over an ex.
But it’s hard to convey who I am and what’s important to me without any mention of writing, so on it went into my profile.
Lastly, when I clicked on height, I selected 5’6”. I used to be an actress and on my acting resume, I rounded down my weight and rounded up my height to 5’7”, even though I’m only 5’6 ¾”. But brutally honest is brutally honest, so 5’6” it had to be.
Reading over my completed profile, I felt happy with it and satisfied, like I’d done what I’d set out to do—convey who I really am, simply and clearly without any bells, whistles, or exclamation points. It wasn’t the most AMAZING profile and I wasn’t the most EXCITING, ADVENTUROUS person on the Internet. My profile was quiet and subtle, authentic and funny. There was no false advertising or image management, only a glimpse into who I truly am.
I know my profile isn’t going to attract a million visitors—I know, because in the week it’s been up, it hasn’t. But I don’t need a million men, nor do I need to attract adventurous, mountain climbing, whiskey-drinking snowboarders who go clubbing every Friday night and travel the world every other weekend.
In writing my new online dating profile with brutal honesty, I got the chance to reflect on who I am and find acceptance and appreciation for that person, exactly as is. I hope that my quiet, subtle, authentic self will resonate with someone else who values and appreciates those exact same things. And kind of loves staying in on a Friday night.