|by Pierce Thorne
In Search of ... a New Cliché
A colleague at work came (somewhat sheepishly) to ask me for some help. He had been through a rather messy divorce and was having a bit of difficulty re-acclimating himself to the singles scene.
I mean, of course, dating.
This fellow, a Clark-Kentish guy whom women would (theoretically) throw themselves at his feet over if they only knew his whereabouts, wasn't sure how to go about it. Bars weren't his thing (he's one of a growing number of teetotalers <sigh>) so hanging around the watering hole with a gin and tonic, hold the gin, didn't quite seem sensible. Besides, he didn't think he'd meet the right kind of woman there. No, he decided he would try an online service. I won't say which, but it advertises on TV....
Well, we took a look. After some initial awkwardness (admittedly mostly on my part: "Hi honey, what did you do today?" "Oh, a guy from work and I checked out an online matching service...") we were starting to get the hang of things. Some rather interesting women there, if the pictures and self-professed credentials can be believed. He had connected earlier and had taken some notes, had finally built up the confidence to contact a couple or three, but had run into a snag.
You see, for this particular service, anybody can post a profile for free, but you have to pay the service if you wanted to contact any of the other profiles. But paying requires you to create a profile of yourself. And this is where I was supposed to come in... to help him do the word-smithing to really charm the femmes off their feet.
I convinced him that, just like for a resumé, we had to stand out from the rest of the field. This required that we do some "market research," shopping at the competition as it were. We logged back in as a hypothetical female looking for a guy that resembled our Mr. Kent.
After a few minutes it became clear that this wasn't going to be very hard. The utter banality of most of the profiles was staggering. In fact, as a public service, I've posted a form that the creativity-challenged (or is that conformity-challenged?) can use to generate your own banal profile narrative. Hit submit and I'll compose one for you, gratis. I can't promise that it will work. Let's face it, these guys are still single -- even after a week of trolling -- so this isn't power-bait that the women are swallowing hook, line, and sinker. But if random chance is the only determining factor, at least you won't be at a competitive disadvantage.
The good news is that we got a nice little profile written; mostly his words, with only a few pointers from me (I'm not about to become a Cyrano de Bergerac!) And he seems happy with it.
But will it work?
I honestly can't say. For all the profiles that we found, most women say they are looking for a "nice guy." But I'm not convinced they really mean it. Given the choice, they always seem to go for the dangerous, exciting loser. How else do you explain women constantly grousing about how the low quality of their significant others, and the lyrics to Dan Fogelberg's song "Same Auld Lang Syne"?
Well, come what may, you only live once, and life's too short, so you have to try something new at least once.
I hope that nice guys don't always finish last.
Create Your Own Banal Profile!
Well, a few weeks have passed, and our Mr. Kent has had less than stellar results. Seems that the well has come up dry. He's sent emails to women in his match list that appealed to him. Not a one has sent anything back.
I've tried to comfort him, reassuring him that this is par for the course; we can't expect results immediately. And the Internet is just a different world.
But it's easy for me to say these things; I've got my Lily. Somehow, I don't think my words are that much consolation for him. And I suppose I feel just a teensy bit guilty: might it be my help that has given him Digital Dandruff? One has to feel for the guy... I may be a curmudgeon, but I've got some capacity for empathy.
Picture this: you're a guy at a party for singles. There are women throughout. They're each obviously looking for a man. One sincere looking woman catches your eye, so you approach. You're not doing anything goofy or sleazy. Just a nice introduction: "Hello, I'm so-and-so," and so on.
Now imagine this: she gives you the once-over, and without saying a word, looks the other way.
Okay. You get the hint. You mutter something under your breath about her canine ancestry, and look elsewhere. Ahah, another woman grabs your attention. So you go and introduce yourself.
Same thing. She completely ignores you. Not so much as a word, a smile, or any acknowledgment of your existance.
Imagine that. At least when I tried a pick-up (way back when) I got a wrinkled nose, and a "you've got to be kidding." If I was lucky, it was "Hah! You're not my type."
In retrospect, I have to laugh. I had some really cheesy lines back then. The rejection hurt at first, but I got over it. I was young and glib and about as sincere as an unsigned birthday card. But you see, at least I was recognized for my efforts, transparent as they were.
But our Mr. Kent put an earnest bit of himself into these letters. These were not "Hi, have you seen the beast with two backs?" sort of come-on lines. Honest, sincere investments, reaching out to someone who asked to be reached out to. I reminded our Mr. Kent that the Internet was a different world, with different rules. He simply retorted: why? Sure, the medium is impersonal, but why did the interaction have to be?
I had no answer for him.
He makes a compelling argument, for all the good it will do here. I champion it in this column only because I fancy myself a whistle-blower on hypocrisy, and that's what this seems like to me.
Let me explain my perspective. He was drawn to women that touted their honesty, sincerity, courtesy, and similar attributes. More than one of these said words to the effect of "take a chance on me, let's see what happens." But can these women really lay claim to said attributes, or are they being hypocritical. If a nice guy approached an honest, sincere, courteous woman in person, would she simply turn away? Probably not.
So what's different about the Internet? Well, she might have gotten a ton of responses from guys that are interested in her. If so, it doesn't seem unreasonable for a courteous person to draft a reply "Wow! I'm so incredibly touched by the number of messages that people have sent. Thank you for taking the time to compose a message to me; it is appreciated. With the number of messages, and how busy life is in general, I'm caught sorting through all these messages. Obviously, there is only one of me, and I have some serious thinking ahead of me. When I get to a short list, I'll get in touch. Again, thank you for your message." Sincere, honest, courteous, and general enough to be copied and pasted into any number of replies.
She might not find a particular suitor attractive. The less-than-courteous reply would be "Thanks, but you're not my type," though the more courteous person might also spend a moment to make it seem less like a jab. The honest person isn't going to say "Oh, I'm already seeing somebody," and keep their profile visible for weeks thereafter.
She might think that replying could be seen as being coy, and encouraging the prospective suitor. Maybe so. But a courteous, unequivocal "No thanks," is no less a deterrent than silence. And most of these online dating services have means of blocking unwanted advances of the persistent clueless types.
All of these should serve to recognize a sincere person's sincere efforts. One can save the cold shoulder for the sleazy guys that give you the willies (like I might have) or for somebody who hasn't taken the hint and replies to your reply. But if you claim to be sincere, honest, and courteous, isn't it better to back your words with substance, if the sender seems to be the same sort of person?
I mean, yeah; unreturned emails are just the way things are, and we'd probably be well to just accept this fact. But Mr. Kent makes a good point: why does it have to be? Not getting any reply from somebody is about as satisfying as getting cheated at a vending machine. Only you're looking for a bit of human kindness, not a pack of gum or a coke.
Personally, I just say those women unworthy hypocrites, and he deserves better than them. You Go, Clark! Ms. Lane is out there somewhere!
PS: Women: do you think I'm full of hot air? I'll concede I've been somewhat guy-sided, but if you've got a counterpoint, feel free to share your point of view. Will I ignore you? Well, take a chance and find out!