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“… hand written letters … home cooked meals …”

Every once in a while, a profile resonates deeply and humor suddenly seems conspicuously inappropriate.  This email was written to a woman who had posted such a profile.

“I liked how you described your passions, particularly the way in which you combined the large philosophical principles (“a life governed by responsibility, humor, kindness and gratitude”) with the small personal pleasures (“nice linens, home cooked meals, hand written letters”).

I was impressed that you recognized things like intelligence and being born an American as accidents of birth that one should be grateful for, rather than mistaking them for accomplishments or (even worse) entitlements.

I was struck by the fact that you listed humor, conversation and intelligence as important things for you to find in another person (probably because I believe myself to qualify on all three counts). In fact, most of what you wrote was not only thoughtful, in places it was very moving, a quality that seemed to be magnified by your choice of professions.

Finally, it didn’t escape me that you’re tall and exceptionally attractive, with what appears to be a warm smile (or perhaps “pre-smile” would be a more accurate term, given the instant at which the picture was taken). I’m sure that last sentence sounds soulless, shallow and sexist (probably because it is) and truth be told, I might not have written if you were a toothless troll. On the other hand, I definitely would not have written if your profile hadn’t resonated , which would seem to indicate that it’s not ALL soulless, shallow and sexist. So, despite the fact that I’ve not sent a hand written letter in decades; I’ve never served a home cooked meal, and I can barely imagine myself (or you) at a motorcycle show (I don’t think I’ve even ridden one since college), I still hope that you choose to reply.”

She never responded.

“Women Thinking Creatively”

Some years back there was a sitcom called “Men Behaving Badly”. I don’t know how good the show was (I don’t recall ever seeing it), but a variation on the title seemed perfect for this post.

In her response to an entertaining email about the fact that she had misstated her age, a woman suggested that she hadn’t really “lied”. (Incidentally,  “lied” was her word, not the guy’s, and just for the purpose of further clarification, this is NOT the same situation that was described in the previous post; different woman, different man, different time frame.) In an effort to prove her point, she asked the following question, “Is something a lie if it is disclosed several sentences later in explanation?”

This was just too good to pass up, so the writer composed the following reply.

“Hmmmm, ….. let’s think about that one for just a minute. Okay, …. the whole point of the exercise is for you to avoid being summarily rejected by men whose search parameters are set to exclude women above a certain age. Therefore, the instant your profile comes up in the search results, your objective has been achieved. HOWEVER, since the misrepresentation is cheerfully disclosed immediately after the fact (in your “About Me” section) … it’s not a lie.

Now, let me see if I can come up with an analogous situation. Well, what do you know? I believe that I can. Yes, …. I have one. A man gets a woman into bed by representing that he’s single, but immediately after the fact he cheerfully mentions that he has a wife and kids. Under your criteria, that wouldn’t be a lie, right? After all, the guy didn’t continue the deception until he was “found out”. He disclosed it voluntarily when he explained why he had to race home. Yes …. I’m not only beginning to SEE this, I’m beginning to really LIKE it as well!!!! What a great concept!!  My initial  reaction was that this was going to be a perfect example of what’s referred to in common parlance as “female centric thinking” or “FCT” (with apologies to Gloria Steinem and NOW, of course), but was I ever wrong! This is pure genius. It’s not a lie provided you promptly admit to misleading the other party, as soon as you have gotten what you want, but before your deceitfulness is discovered. This has to be the key to Nirvana, that magic place where complete honesty and perfect relationships happily coexist, and I can’t wait to try it.”

The woman replied with two words, “call me”.


“Woman Who’s NOT Honest Seeks Man Who Is”

Shocking though it may sound to some men, not every woman feels honor-bound to be unflinchingly accurate with respect to her age. In what seems to be a fairly common scenario, she enters a much later birth year when she initially creates her profile (thereby insuring that she shows up in more searches), and she then acknowledges her real age in her “About Me” section. Properly handled, this contradiction can serve as the starting point for an entertaining ice breaker of an email, but be careful, because the path that I’m proposing is fraught with peril. That said, here’s an example of one that was very well received. 

What you wrote in your profile amused me no end. I burst out laughing when I first saw it, and I’m still laughing as I type this, hours later. For that reason, I fervently hope that you will have as much fun reading this as I had writing it.

 Soooo …. you’re 52 instead of 44. Tsk, tsk, tsk …. while it’s admirable of you to confess that minor(?) transgression at the outset, don’t you think that you should modify your headline as well? Perhaps you could change it to something a bit more succinct and concise (not to mention accurate) such as, “Woman Who’s NOT Honest Seeks Man Who IS”, or maybe it flows better the other way around, “Female Who Is Dishonest Wants Male Who is NOT”  ……. (I’M JUST KIDDING!!!! )….. Incidentally, I also loved the instruction (order?? command???!!!) to those men who were not “put off” by your actual age to “please read on”. (Did you forget that men NEVER follow directions?) I mean it was a superb diversion; you refocused attention away from your misrepresentation by indirectly accusing the entire male population of age discrimination. (I’m not suggesting that we aren’t all guilty as charged, but your tactic was still hilarious … and completely charming.) Finally, I really liked the photographs. Were you actually in any of them, perchance? …. I’M KIDDING!!!  Really, I am, but I do hope that you laughed, and that you will reply.” 

A final thought. At 229 words, this email was 10-15 times longer than the “ideal” length that I see widely recommended, and it took far more than 10 minutes to write. On the other hand, the woman replied very favorably and promptly decided to meet the man. So once again, it appears that when it comes to the “online” part of online dating, your future is governed by only two things – how good you look (in your photograph) and how well you write. You can’t do much about the former, but improving the latter is simple. It’s NOT quick and it’s NOT easy. It takes effort and most importantly it takes time. But writing better profiles and emails is fairly simple.

“… highly entertaining and completely characteristic …”

An aspect of eHarmony that I find hugely amusing is how women will send  “prewritten” questions to men, and then express disappointment when they get back “prewritten” answers from them. So based on what I have personally heard and read,  the fact that you choose to check a box (instead of typing your own words into a field) apparently tells a woman far more about your deficiencies than you could ever imagine.  From this one single act (clicking instead of typing) they can immediately determine whether you are unmotivated, uncreative, uninteresting, unengaged, lazy, dull or any combination thereof. (Interestingly, the fact that they routinely send “prewritten” questions indicates none of the above.) But while the unfairness of this view is blindingly obvious (not to mention highly entertaining and completely characteristic), in this particular case I have to side with the girls. Most of the “stock” answers (and many of the “stock” questions) should probably be retired on the grounds that they are indescribably boring.

So, as part of my ongoing effort to eradicate unimaginative online dating email material, I have written alternatives, a few of which appear below. All of them will fit the eHarmony field (200 spaces). If they don’t reflect your views exactly (which they probably won’t), I would suggest that you modify them until they do, and (as always) I don’t think you should be reluctant to admit that you had help. (Or better yet, pony up some cash to pay my customary confiscatory rates, and actually get some.)

Here is the “prewritten” eHarmony “travel” question, along with the four “prewritten” answers:

What’s your philosophy on travel?

a) When are we leaving. My bags are packed.
b) I like to take a couple of big trips a year
c) I generally plan one trip a year to a domestic destination
d) I’m not a big fan of travel. I like to stay home.

Here’s a more engaging response:

Presumably you mean “leisure” travel (as opposed to the obligatory variety), so provided it does not include tents, campers, staying with relatives, coach seats or sweaty guys with guns, then I’m in.

Then there’s the frequently asked “bad day” question:

If I had a bad day, what is the first thing you would do for me?

a) Cook you dinner
b) Rub your shoulders
c) Talk with you about your day
d) Take you out on the town.

A more original reply might be this one:

Clearly these answers weren’t written by men. I might talk with you about your day (but only under duress), however I’d then expect you to rub MY shoulders and cook ME dinner for being so nice. 🙂

One last point, the problem of drab, leaden answers also extends to some of the more philosophical questions. For example: 

Which of the following things would you rather have lots of?

a) respect
b) money
c) fame
d) power

Here’s a more thoughtful answer:

Fame is being known and respect is being admired, but both things derive from the opinions of others, not from your opinion of yourself. As for power, it can usually be bought. So, money.

Remember, skill helps; talent is even better, and genius is a wonderful thing to have. But the only real requirements for writing reasonably well are time, effort and a Thesaurus. 


What women may (or may not) want – the direct approach

(As always, every bit of what follows is true. However, certain key details have been omitted to protect identities. )

After using an internet dating service without much success for what seemed like far too long, our frustrated (but perceptive) hero realized two things. First, many women posted profiles in which they were ambiguous (or even contradictory) about what they wanted from a man – “someone who is careful with my feelings and always tells the truth”, for example. The second thing the guy recognized was that he had no earthly idea how to respond to such a situation. So, he decided to use the direct approach – ask. A woman whom he found extremely attractive had written that she wanted a man who was not only “very strong”, but who also had a “soft, sensitive heart underneath – a real gentleman with a warm sense of humor, who is honest to fault”. In reply to that, he laboriously composed a very nice email that ended with the following paragraph:

“There is one more thing that piqued my curiosity. When you ask one of those quintessentially female questions (“Do you think I’ve gained weight?” or “Does this dress make me look fat?” or “Don’t you just love ….. whatever or whomever?” or “Do you ever fantasize about someone else when you’re with me?”), should a man be “soft and sensitive” (big hug, no words); should he show his “warm sense of humor” (by laughing until he cries, without actually answering the question) or should he be “honest to fault”? “Yes, you’ve gained a LOT of weight. Yes, it makes you look enormous. No, since you asked, the truth is that I loathe it (or them), and yes, I frequently fantasize about other women, usually one of your closest friends”. 

Apparently entertained, the woman replied with, “Soooooo glad I amused you! Only have a minute this morning. More tonight, I promise. You must know that your message “amused” ME! kiss,” 

Emboldened by her flirty response, our hero decided to push the envelope: “Hmmm, ….. a kiss and a promise. 🙂 Were we ever married …. to one another? I send an email of 296 words and get back 24, along with a kiss (the word, not the act) and a promise of more …. more words!!!! Sounds suspiciously like a marriage to me …. although …. now that I think about it for a minute …. it seems pretty typical of my interactions with the fairer sex.  :-)” 

That’s all I’m at liberty to write about this particular topic for the moment, but there’s more …. I promise …. and there’s a point. The 296 word original email took more than an hour to write. You may want to bear that in mind when you read all that stuff about extremely effective first messages that are 25 words long and can be composed in five minutes.