Niche Personals

With the advent of Summer, I’ve been lulled into a feeling of well-being and camaraderie, and I’m feeling so good that I’ve been feeling like going on a few dates. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been feeling like updating my OKCupid Profile to see what happens. It would be nice to share what I’ve got going on, such as it is, with someone remarkable.

It took a while to figure out how to approach this, as this is not the kind of writing I usually do. How do you make a positive impression, through text, on a smart and beguiling woman? The odds are stacked against us; I’ve heard anecdotal reports that women are bombarded with SO MUCH SPAM from ham-handed guys, not to mention the horror stories about outright lies about one’s appearance and age that frankly, I don’t see why anyone would want to use these sites at all. As a marketing channel, it’s full of deception and noise. Still, for a lot of us the promise of real romance is a heady-enough draw that we keep going back to the well. A big online dating site has the appeal of playing the Lottery, with slightly better odds, if you’re willing to plunk down your $19.99 a month and spin the wheel.

draft 1

Here’s what I wrote:

I run my design business from home, so a big part of my day is sitting outside at Starbucks every morning. This is important because it makes damn sure that I’m in regular contact with real live people, which I’ve discovered I can’t live without. Over the course of the last two years I’ve gotten to know the names of the barristas and other regulars, chatting outside while savoring out minutes together over hideously-overpriced beverages, taking the scenic route to friendship a few minutes at a time. It’s amazing what stories you’ll hear from your fellow townies, if you just bother to show up at the same time and same place every day. Here on OKCupid, I don’t have the luxury of helping you to form an impression of me over months of casual observation. You won’t have seen, for example, that I’m an enthusiastic and warm person that says “thank you” after every transaction. You will not have seen the piles of books, toys, gadgets, fancy pens, and other ephemera I haul in every morning, so you will not have had the thought that I must be possessed of an eclectic and somewhat alarming range of creative interests. Your curiosity will not have been piqued at the sudden outburst of snickering erupting from my table, nor will you have been slightly shocked at the heartfelt-yet-kindly use of cusswords to properly convey the nature of a situation. Therefore, you will not have had your initial impression totally thrown off by the care and intensity with which I counsel my friends through tough times, measured tones punctuated by silent listening. I’m sorry that you weren’t part of our committee to roast an entire pig for our first luau; we’ve got the equipment and costs down, and we just need a place to do it with 40-50 hungry friends. And you missed last week’s symposium on how to take over the world, WITHOUT spending a lot of money. Because you’re not here in the room with me, I’m just some Asian guy with a couple of lousy photos. You don’t know me at all, not one tiny bit. You didn’t even get to see my new scooter…it’s really cute. Now, you could take a chance and message me back, but I don’t blame you for not wanting to try. There are TONS of guys, some of them pretty good-looking, that are vying for your attention. The preferred strategy, I’ve been told, is to carpet-bomb every eligible female with compliments and invitations to hook up. And some of you are buying into that, when the photo is hot enough, but I’m not writing to you anyway. Still, I know we all want to feel that tingle of sexual interest as we scan the photo galleries, and there’s a good chance that my photos didn’t do it for you. It’s my fault that you can’t imagine us together, and as a designer I should know better. If you’ve ever compared the photography in, say, “Vogue” with the ads in “Men’s Health” or “Maxim”, you’ll see that Vogue’s spreads tell stories about relationships. Men’s magazines tell stories about power and utility. My photos are more like the latter: I’m showing you that I’m a pretty average guy, so the best my photos can do is help you rank my desirability based on apparent fitness, fashion, and hair. Or you could look past that. I clean up pretty good, and I’m getting more toned every day at the gym. What matters is that you and I want the same thing: We want that breezy feeling of possibility, built on a foundation of trust and passion. We want to be free to pursue what we individually hold dear to us, and at the same time be strong “together”. We both have a unique blend of skills and experiences, and it’s going to take you more than just a bad photo to tell you the shape of our possible future. I could try to spell it all out, but I’m just going to be straight with ya: I don’t know what you’re looking for. What I can tell you is that I will not change myself to match what I think your expectations are. That’s something we will discover together, over a tasty ethnic dinner in a strange new city, pairing local wines with our favorite artisan blue cheese. We’ll find it in the forest, dwarfed by ancient trees, as we hunt for unexpected treasure. It’ll come out when you admit to liking something pretty amazingly crappy and embarrassing, and I’m sure you won’t be too impressed by what just came out of my mouth either. We might find it inside one of those mini rooms at IKEA, as we try to balance a tricky space constraint against our desire for ergonomic nirvana. And we’ll zoom by it on the road, the GPS ticking off the miles, as we search for the only North American distributor of that specialty product you suspect you can not live without. We’ll celebrate our experiences with our friends and peers, together dreaming and scheming our way to a shared prosperity. And when we fall asleep each other’s arms, groggily looking forward to synthesizing a better tomorrow, we’ll know that what we’re doing would have remained mere possibility in the hands of another couple, the shadow of a memory of a path not taken. So why not say hello? It’s a small word, easily said, that just may open the way to something grand.

The interesting sensation I had, after polishing up this essay, was that I could feel it because instead of writing what I thought women would respond to, I wrote what I would respond to. It’s a narrow filter, I suspect, but I am hopeful that anyone who is so moved will be more likely to be compatible, at least on the level of personality. That’s niche marketing, applied at the individual scale. Of course, I’m just a guy that doesn’t really understand women, so if any female readers want to set me straight, that would earn you big karma points from me and any other hapless males that stumble upon this page.

draft 2

After all the brutally excellent commentary in the comments, I shortened the essay and tightened it up. Hopefully, it is now truer to certain aspects of myself while still retaining a core of dreaminess that is important to me. Big lessons learned: anything that is not strong or is self-deprecating is automatically interpreted as weakness, aim to get the introduction, not the relationship, shorter shorter shorter, and have a call to action. I retained some of the verbosity because that is actually something that is part of my personality; perhaps the right woman for me would have the soul of an editor ;-)

Since you’re looking at my profile on a computer, you don’t have the luxury of forming an impression of me based on chance observation, as local people can when they see me every day at the nearby Starbucks. Therefore, you won’t have noted that I say “thank you” after every transaction, nor will you have intuited that I’m an enthusiastic and warm person from the way I smile at the barristas that know my name. Your eyebrow didn’t arch skywards when I hauled in that odd collection of books, gadgets, tools, and other surprising ephemera to share with my friends; the passing thought that I must be possessed of an eclectic and somewhat-alarming range of creative interests therefore didn’t flit across your mind. And sadly, you missed the opportunity to sit-in on last week’s informal symposium on how to take over the world–just enough of it, anyway–so we can fund our own ideas of purpose, fun, and adventure. If I’d caught you looking our way, I would have invited you to come sit with us. And that would have been the beginning of our friendship. I’m looking for a long-term relationship with a partner who can also be one of my best friends. I realized long ago that trying to define exactly WHO that would be is an absolutely futile exercise because THE SPARK is mysterious and unpredictable. It’s something we will discover together, perhaps over a tasty ethnic dinner in a strange new city, pairing local wines with our favorite artisan blue cheese. We’ll find bits of it in the forest, our presence dwarfed by the grandeur of ancient trees, as we search for unexpected treasure. It’ll start to come out after you admit to liking something pretty amazingly silly, both of us choking on our own laughter when I confess to something even worse. We may find it at 90 miles per hour, GPS ticking off the miles, as we seek out the only North American distributor of that specialty product you suspect you shouldn’t live without. And when we fall asleep each other’s arms, groggily looking forward to creating our better tomorrow, we’ll know that what we’re doing now would have remained mere possibility in the hands of another couple, the shadow of a memory of a path not taken. So why not say hello? It’s a small word, easily said, that just may open the way to something grand. I’m very personable. I’ll show you my favorite table at Starbucks, and we can take it from there.

The rest of the profile has also been tightened up and is less wishy-washy. I have a tendency to water down the strength of what I believe in certain situations because I worry about sounding pushy. This profile will likely now become the model for updates across other online personal profiles I’m maintaining.