Just about every dating site-even those with minimal profiles-have space for you to write about yourself and the person you'd like to date.
This is one of the most important parts of the profile. It's the one chance you get to use your own voice and describe exactly what makes you tick and what you'd like to make your heart tick faster. How you describe yourself, the parts of your personality you choose to describe and the words and phrases you use to put yourself forward can either help you stand out from the online crowd or make you look like just another online hopeful.
In this section, we'll help you produce a description that attracts singles, invites emails and gets your dating life rolling faster.
It's important to remember that whatever you mention on a profile will always look far more important than it does in real life. You carry a whole range of different identities, characteristics, likes and dislikes. When you meet someone, they meet the whole package at once; no one aspect of who you are dominates. When someone sees your profile, they only see what you choose to put on it-and those few facts will paint completely their picture of you.
If you mention specifically that you're a vegetarian for example, meat-eaters will assume that you've mentioned it because you don't want to date one of them. After all, why did you highlight what you eat and not the fact that you like reading thrillers or watching CNN? If you say that you're a conservative, liberals will believe that you're only looking for a small-government type, otherwise why bother putting your political views front and center?
Because they don't know anything else about you, readers will assume that what they see on the profile is not just one part of you, but the most important part of you.
That means before you even begin filling in the spaces, you have to decide which parts of your life you want to highlight and which parts you want to hold back and slip into the conversation during the first date.
Some things will always be worth highlighting such as the fact that you have a child at home or that you have a disability or that you spend every spare minute looking after an aged parent. Parts of your life that you can't negotiate should certainly be included on your profile and not hidden. That way your profile won't just be a net to catch free-floating singles, it will also have holes big enough to let out the fish that you wouldn't want to waste your time trying to catch anyway. If someone isn't looking to become a stand-in parent, it's best to let them know that that's included in the job description right from the beginning.
Picking out the other characteristics to include in your self-description though is a little trickier. You only have a few hundred words to give potential dates a taste of who you are, and while that's very little space to sum up your entire personality, it does keep the whole thing mercifully short.
The easiest way to write a great description is to use a tight structure that covers the most important parts of your personality, lets people know a little bit about you-and makes them curious to find out more.
The most basic structure you can use has three short paragraphs. The first paragraph will talk about your work-the part of most people's life that takes the most time; the second paragraph will discuss what you do in your free time; and the third paragraph will talk about your personality:
I work as a tax attorney but I try not to talk about work too often. Few people let me. The work is actually less boring than it sounds and there are times I even catch myself wide awake in the office. I promise not to discuss work on a first date (unless, of course, you insist.)
Fortunately, I'm not the kind of person who can call my work my hobby. My hobby is sailing. I have a fifteen-foot boat that I take out on the sound most weekends. There's room -- and sail-work -- enough for two and the views of the town from the sea are fantastic. If you've ever fancied taking a slow, very cramped, boat to China, I'm sure we could arrange something.
I find that I laugh at an odd mixture of things. Tom and Jerry still cracks me up, but so does Groucho Marx, the captions in the Economist and Section 342, Paragraph c of the corporate tax code. (That one makes milk come out of my nose). I do laugh a lot, but I also listen a lot too and I get a kick of helping when I can. I can be thoughtful, passionate, inhibited, sensitive and opinionated -- but only in a nice way.
That's a basic model for an effective self-description.
The first paragraph answers the first question that most people ask when they meet someone new: "What do you do?"
You don't have to go into great detail-and it's rarely a good idea to go into detail-but describing your occupation is an easy way to introduce yourself and get the description rolling. You should also describe how you feel about your job (remember, no one's going to know who you are so there's no danger that your boss will read it and make you change your description to 'unemployed'). But you should still stay positive; no one likes to go out with a whiner. If you don't like your job, you can say something like: "Right now I'm working in sanitation so I'd be a liar if I didn't say my job stinks. It does. But it's fine until I finish medical school and can start treating sick people. (I promise to wash my hands first)." If you've got nothing good to say about your job-or you don't have one-then the best bet is to say nothing and talk about the job you'd like to do.
For the second paragraph, simply pick the one activity that takes up most of your spare time. It doesn't matter what that activity might be. In general, good-and easy-topics for this paragraph include your favorite sports activity, your top-choice hiking destination or the place you most like to kill an afternoon with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Be honest. If your evenings, weekends and holidays seem to be filled with reruns of I Love Lucy or trips to the zoo with your son, don't try to hide it. You can mention it, boast about or make a joke about it. On the other hand if you're a bit embarrassed by the fact that your spare time seems to be eaten up by the Playboy channel, you can pick the activity that takes up the second largest amount of free time.
The one general rule that's always worth keeping here is to be as specific as possible. Don't say "I like reading"; say "I like reading the early novels of Zhang Ailing -- she's a bit maudlin but I just love her introspection." Instead of saying "I like to spend Saturdays hiking," say: "On Saturdays, I tend to head up around Los Olivos, taste a bit of wine and see if I can wear a hole in my boots." The more specific your description, the more you'll give a taste of who you are and not just what you like to do.
The third paragraph of this model is the toughest. It's always hard to pick out aspects of your personality and character and describe them. It's almost unnatural. No one ever does this. You might tell someone what you like to do in your spare time. You almost certainly tell people what you do for living. But only for matchmaking services are you expected to describe your personality; usually people make their own minds up-and then keep their opinions to themselves.
There is always a temptation here to begin by saying, "Friends say that I'm..." or "I've been known to be...". It's an easy solution but it's a bit dull and shows a lack of imagination. Probably about half of all dating site profiles grab at that straw. A better bet is to grab the bull by the horns.
Starting by talking about what makes you laugh is always a good way to make a positive impression. Again, be specific and cover the full range. If slapstick makes you giggle, put it down. If Woody Allen gets you going, put that down too. It doesn't just tell a potential date what kind of humor they can expect from you, it also tells them that you're the kind of person who laughs easily and likes to do it.
To round the description off, you can pick up a thesaurus and find yourself a handful of cool descriptions that describe the bits you didn't cover. Steer clear of the kind of boring clich?s that you can find on just about every profile. Using the kind of words that people don't use every day shows off your education, moves you out of the pack and makes your profile a more interesting read.
A profile like this is pretty straightforward. An alternative method is to be a little more creative. Instead of using three paragraphs, you can do the whole description in two, starting with a general comparison before moving onto a specific event that gives an idea of who you are:
I've always wanted to have the cool sophistication of Cary Grant, the laid-back loucheness of Gary Cooper and general oddness of Euan MacGregor. I think I just got the oddness right but without landing the nifty accent.
It's probably because I've never been to Scotland. I have been to Africa though. I spent a year there with the Peace Corps digging wells for villages. They took us to holes in the middle of nowhere and made us dig more holes in the middle of nowhere. I've never seen so many people made so happy by something so simple. If I could spend the rest of my life making people that happy, I would be a very happy man too.
Again, this is a very simple model that's very easy to copy. It contains just two ideas but that's enough to attract interest.
For the first paragraph, try to think of three celebrities that you resemble or would like to resemble. That will leave the reader not just with some idea of who you are but who you'd like to be and the kind of style you admire.
For the second paragraph, pick one incident in your life that you found particularly meaningful. Ideally, it should be something unique and interesting: the most fascinating thing that you ever did in your life. If you once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, then find an excuse to write about it. If you took a cruise to Antarctica and it made you think deeply about the environment, write about that too.
Remember though, this one event is going to stand for your entire personality and leave a lasting impression in the reader's mind, so whatever you write about it has to be something that made you the person you are.
If you say that your service in Desert Storm led you to think deeply about international conflict and led you to return to school in order to study international relations, anyone who writes to you after reading your profile will want to meet that internationally engaged person. If you've changed your mind since then, there's a good chance that your first date is going to be a little disappointing for both sides.
Try to think of one event in your life that sums up your personality, and writing your self-description should be a breeze.
A third way to write your self-description is to toss out the rule-book altogether. Instead of talking about yourself the way the dating site would like you to do, by laying out your details in neat paragraphs and sentences that lead from one to the next (just we've described so far), you could interview yourself.
Think of five (or so) questions that you wish the site had asked and which you can answer easily, and list them in the self description:
Best thing I've ever said:
"What about Zambia?"
My biggest regret:
Agreeing to go to Florida instead of Zambia.
My favorite book:
Used to be Dr. Zhivago but lately I've been leaning away from the Russians. Probably now The Rock by Kanan Makiya.
Person I'd most like to have lunch with:
Gandhi. He was vegetarian like me. But he didn't eat much so we could share.
Person I'd most like to be:
Kofi Annan because I like meeting people from around the world and I'm sure he has more influence than he's letting on.
The biggest advantage of using this model is that you get to say more by writing less. Each answer is just one sentence so you don't have to beat your head against the wall trying to come up with nice flowing paragraphs. The questions also say as much about you as the answers and because you're only going to ask questions that you can answer well, this kind of model doesn't take long to write. Finally, on a site stuffed with paragraph descriptions your mini-interview should help you stand out as a creative thinker.
Describing Your Ideal Date
Writing about yourself is actually the easy bit. At least you know who you are and what you're like. Writing about someone you've never met requires a whole new bag of skills.
The goal here is to come up with a description that does three things:
Describe the person you'd like to meet;
Invite anyone you might like to meet to send you an email.
Of these, the first is the least important and the last is the most important.
When you first post your profile, you want to get as many emails as possible. If you find that you're getting too many responses, then you can rewrite your description so that it's a bit more selective. In practice if that happens, you'll probably be too busy dating to bother looking at your profile again.
The best way to approach writing about your ideal date then is to forget about trying to picture your dream person and describing them. The fact is, your ideal person probably doesn't exist but there are plenty of great people online any one of whom would make you extremely happy.
But how can you describe a whole bunch of real people you haven't met? Clearly you can't. And describing personality traits that you quite like is likely to be either too exclusive or too inclusive. Most people think of themselves as having integrity and compassion, and believe that they're kind and considerate. Saying that you want someone who knows how to listen will cut your ideal person down to about... everyone.
Similarly, you might quite like the idea of settling down with someone who likes budgies as much as you do but it's unlikely to be a deal-breaker and you could be just as happy with someone who doesn't give a hang about birds.
Instead of trying to describe an imaginary person, it's best to take a different tack: describe what you'd like that person to do for you or what you'd like to do with them:
My Ideal Partner:
My ideal partner would be smart, warm and witty, up for trips to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum and down with getting dirty on a muddy Sequoia trail. She'll be happy to stay in and sip coffee, to cuddle up on the sofa with a good book or two and ready to try Yoga, strange types of massage and the kinds of mushrooms you only find in farmers' markets.
The big idea then is to use the space given over to describing your ideal date to describe the things that you like to do. After all, ideally you're looking for someone who's prepared to share your life and fit in with your habits. You don't really want to meet someone who hates everything you like and with whom you have nothing in common.
Again, being specific about what you want and what you like will let your personality shine through. It will show that you're an interesting person and it will let a potential date picture you together doing fun, exciting things. A good Ideal Partner description should act like an open invitation to people who like the things that you like to write in and ask to join you.
What You Should Never Put On A Profile
All of the things that we've recommended for you to put on your profile in this chapter are things that you like to do. If you enjoy hiking, say you like hiking and say where you like to do it. If you like reading, say you like reading and put a word or two about the last book you read. If you're into cooking, say you spent a lot of time in the kitchen and mention which type of cuisine gets your taste buds flowing.
But don't say what you don't like to do.
Your dating site profile should always be positive. It should show that you're a happy, contented person who wants to be even happier and more contented, not a sad, lonely person who wants someone to cheer them up. Nothing puts people off more than the whiff of desperation. No one wants to be a cheerleader for a losing side; they want to be part of the winning team.
It doesn't matter how keen you are to find a partner, how many times you've been burnt in the past or how much you know what you don't want, stick to the great things you have and the even greater things you want to have.
Saying on your profile that you've just come out of a difficult divorce or that you don't want someone who plays head games for example, will do nothing but put people off writing. It simply declares that you're carrying giant, heavy trunks of baggage and anyone who dates you is going to be in for a rough ride.
Your profile should read like an advert for a happy life. It should look like a real estate ad that lets readers imagine how happy they'll be if they can just get past the admissions committee and win a chance to live with you. Of course, no one really believes that what they see in the ad is going to be completely perfect in real life. Every property has dust in the attic or cobwebs in the corner but no realtor puts that in the brochure.
Your profile should sell the joys of a life with you. You can then choose which person actually gets the sale. By the time your new partner finds the cobwebs and the dust, they'll already be sold enough to look beyond it. So keep the negatives out and accentuate the positive.
We said that the idea of your profile is always to get as many prospects as possible but that doesn't mean you want timewasters. If you're looking for a serious relationship with someone, you don't want your inbox bothered by people looking for quick flings. The best way to keep out the people you don't want to meet-without putting up a sign that's also going to put people off that you might want to meet-is to simply keep all references to sex off the profile.
That includes the name you choose as your online identity.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when dating online is to choose a tag that reveals your real name-or to choose a name that puts across the wrong message.
Names like SexyAngel, Hot4U or Randyandy can say far more than you intended.
It's much better to create a bland name with a string of strange numbers than to try to attract passing singles with a tag that says more than you want. If you think your name is creating the wrong impression, it's worth making the effort to change it. Unless you're looking just for sex, never refer to sex on your profile.
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