My older -- and only -- sister is awesome. She is brilliant, successful, fun-loving, adventurous, attractive, fit, well-traveled -- all the adjectives you’ll find in the typical online dating profile. On top of that, she owns her own apartment in London with a washer/dryer which, at least from my NYC perspective, is the equivalent of finding a pot of gold with a four-leaf clover sticking out of it.
All this and yet, as I have heard over the years, she has had no small amount of difficulty meeting people in the online dating world. A world that, I would venture to say, has become the main terrain for meeting prospective mates. So what gives?
While we were vacationing with one of my dearest friends -- the kind of friend who would travel with two sisters to South America over Christmas -- we grilled him about his take on this, as a single, heterosexual man who similarly utilizes online dating. After looking at my sister’s profile, he came up with an answer for us. In a word, my sister’s profile was lacking one essential thing: edge.
“Edge?” we asked. Edge.
He described "edge" as the quality that separates the typical dating profile from the rest -- for example, the difference between my sister listing yoga and reading as her interests and someone listing smoking at cigar bars and playing the fiddle in a strings band. The quality that shows that you are unique and interesting.
While I lack in all the aforementioned categories -- I am not well-traveled, adventurous, brilliant, fit, etc -- I have edge. So an idea was sprung -- he and I would rewrite her online dating page. I would own and operate her profile on a How About We-esque London-based dating site where people suggest date ideas, and those who are interested agree to join them.
Full disclosure: When my sister asked me to do this, not only had I never online dated, but I had been dating my girlfriend for over a year. My sister’s interest in having me do the work was rooted more in frustration with the process than in any actual belief in my skills at heterosexual, online dating. And, as I would soon find out, she is hardly alone in her frustrations -- a recent article about “online dating assistants” even gives a name for people, like myself, who are called upon to do the dirty work: Personal Dating Assistants, or, of course, PDAs. A PDA will present you in your best possible way, so as to relieve you of the time and effort. It's kind of a dating agent.
As her sister, I knew her well enough to both understand who she would like and to represent her in speaking with them. I would do all the introductory conversation, all the sorting through photos and profiles, and then simply tell my sister where and when to show up.
First things first -- a rewrite of the profile. In her initial draft of her bio, my sister answered the question, “What do you look for in a mate?” with the following: “When I was younger, all I wanted was someone to stand outside my window with a boombox over their head, but now, as I get older, I just look for someone with a nice smile.”
No no no no. In one sentence, she reminded people that she is aging and, from the sounds of it, lowering her standards rapidly. Additionally, a “Say Anything” reference might work in the U.S., but in London it runs the risk of being misunderstood.
We eliminated all references to any solitary activities, like reading and yoga, and we pushed forward the more active ones, like going to secret cinema or going out dancing. We wanted to present my sister as an active, all-around good-time gal who also had the so-called edge. The goal was not to lure strangers in with lies, but rather to help my sister in seeing her best attributes, instead of listing the ones with which she feels most familiar.
We added what we thought were clever jokes and fun quotes and tried to give her an air of mystery. We changed her photos to what we thought were her best shots (something, again, that can often best be determined by someone else), and deemed her profile ready to launch.
My friend left, and alone, I began operating the site aggressively, utilizing the “machine gun theory” of maximum outreach with the hope for at least some form of acceptable return. On the site, one can “like” someone, as a form of expressing interest, or -- more boldly -- can hit a button on a gentleman’s date idea, thus confirming that you would be willing to go on such a date with him.
I filled my days and nights liking and confirming date ideas, and sending messages to promising candidates. I sat back and waited for the maelstrom of attractive men to respond to me/my sister and ask her out. I worried that I simply wouldn’t have the time to manage so many online conversations and arrange her schedule appropriately to accommodate all of the men who responded. I laid in bed, next to my girlfriend, in the dead of night, sifting through online profiles and looking for acceptable fellas. I was obsessed. And then, rapidly, I was crushed.
No. One. Responded. Not a single person I liked, messaged, or suggested a date with responded to my intimations, and there were literally hundreds of them. The swift move from pure elation to profound rejection was staggering. Men would “like” or offer to join my sister on her date ideas, but the majority of them were the kind who would upload a photo and not add a single thing to their profile.
My first foray into online speed dating, and I was, all at once, rejected by more people -- and certainly more men -- than I had ever been in my entire dating life. My online dating innocence had been lost and finally, after years of being encouraging and supportive, I at last empathized with my sister’s frustration. Is there a secret art that is eluding us, or is it simply a game of chance, continuous effort, and sheer resilience? Help. Us. Please.