Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Profile. (Love me!)

My profile was... not the way I want to portray myself. The website folks throw this personal essay at you and won't let you finish the questionnaire until you finish it, and I did my extemporaneous best, but that wasn't very good. Full of making a first impression awkwardness, which fades off after some getting to know you. Here's what I came up with:

I introduce myself as a bit of a mystery. I'm shy and it takes a little effort to lure me out of my shell, but I become outgoing, carefree and really sweet once I'm lured out of my shell. Right now, I'm an aspiring writer, but I design websites and write Java code to pay the bills, because crumpled-up second and third drafts aren't legal currency. My humor is dry and sarcastic and occasionally pushes boundaries a little too hard. I love animals, not so much kids, play the piano, and bake the world's best cinnamon-kahlua brownies, not that I like to brag or anything. I get off on learning new things and exercising my mind, so I've grown into a profound well of useless (and sometimes useful) knowledge. I'm open-minded, or at least I try my best to be, but also pretty picky -- life is short, so why spend it on things that aren't good, right? But at the same time, you never know where you'll find stuff you like.

Likes: tropical fish, fast elevators on the way up, those fringe sports they show on ESPN2, Nintendo Wii, empty amusement parks, the smart car, Wile E. Coyote, Venice in the early morning...

Dislikes: ferns, socks, Wal-Mart, fast elevators on the way down, passive-aggressiveness, the word I missed in the fourth-grade spelling bee ("villain"), ten-lane highways, movies that have the main character's name in their title...

Here's the part where I describe who I'm looking for. I could list a bunch of standard traits: honesty, sense of humor, independence, etc., but that's what everybody says because they have no idea what to put down here. My sense is that you can have an meaningful, intimate relationship with just about anyone, and your soulmate is somebody who shares your emotional maturity, who's different enough that they make you a better person and similar enough that you make them a better person. That's vague. Sorry. I did say I was a bit of a mystery.

It's not the world's shiniest sales pitch, but I feel like it gives you a good sense of who I am. I had a hell of a time writing it, even after some brainstorming sessions, because it's not like you're introducing yourself to anybody and it's a super one-way conversation. What I did was go to and pretend to be the person I'm looking for — twenty-six year old woman seeking twenty-four to twenty-eight year old man — and get a sense of what other dudes are selling.

This, accidentally, became a really fascinating glimpse into other people's psyches. Oh yeah, the other thing I did cause I wasn't really thinking about it, was I typed in Fanwood as my location and among what the Romance-O-Matic™ spit back were profiles of a few people I've known since I was wee high. Not great friends or anything, folks I'd say to if I saw them in the post office or if I needed to know what last night's homework was or whatever. But I only know them through the persona they show in public, and it's interesting to see the contrast between the straightforward facade that I know (or interpret) and the mess of contradictions that they believe about themselves. No way in hell he's "kind of shy." He's the biggest sycophant ever and he "values independence in a woman." Bullshit!

You know you're supposed to put your best foot forward, but you're also protected behind the anonymity of a username and IP address, so the profile winds up being a mix of how you actually see yourself and how you want to be seen, and the balancing act between the two. My hypothesis is that the pretense in somebody's public facade is inversely proportional to their profile's ratio of punctuation to misspellings.

My favorite, least expected motifs in guys' profiles (not sure if it holds for the girls') is the subtle apologetic tone that sneaks in. "I'm not sure what to write. I've never done online dating before, I'm no good at talking about myself." Lowering expectations, and boy does that sound nice. I probably slipped in some temptation to do that in my own profile, trying to come off as good enough to date but so good that she'll be disappointed when I my nervous, stuttery first date doesn't live up to the hype preceding it. Many of the profiles, almost all of the profiles are so generic and bland that they're almost meaningless. "Sweet, sensitive" guy who "also has a wild side" enjoys "a night out on the town" but also sometimes "wants to chill at home" — editorial note: no matter what's on a list of thing's he'll do, play sports, travel, go to museums, fly on a trapeze, whatever... "chill out at home" is always last on the list. — Looking for a "cute girl" who "has integrity and independence" and "values honesty" with a "good sense of humor" and "up for anything."

How is that useful? It's like contrasting to a dating profile that says, "Yup, I'm a loner who quit his job and spends all his free time stocking my basement with bottled water and canned food. I'm on the hunt for a disrespectful, stern lady with low self-esteem to repopulate the world after the dirty bomb." I'm a little curious how that profile would fare; this is a world where death row inmates receive marriage proposals and fringe weirdos make a living selling fallout shelters to other gun-toting backwoods crazies. I guess what I'm saying is that maybe there's someone for everyone.

I really don't want to know. I'm little afraid the millennialist profile would get more responses than mine.