This might not be about you. Maybe you don’t even have a personal ad. You’re not even looking, you swear: not for love, or an LTR, or a no-strings encounter. But maybe this is for you. Maybe you are looking, and you’ve got an ad, and you are bracingly honest in it, in every single way, down to the live webcam feed of you in your work cubicle proving that you are who you say you are. (I’ll be writing another article for you, TMI guy.)
But! There’s a chance that you are already lying in your personal ad and that you don’t even know it yet. If someone has sent you the link to this article, maybe this is your memo:
M E M O R A N D U M
Subject: Your Personal Ad
You are lying in your personal ad, and it’s time to stop.
These are the top four ways I see you lying in your personal ad, and how to be more forthcoming. Far from scaring off the right person, the one who is right for you will accept you for who you are right now, even if you don’t look as good as you think you used to.
1. You don’t look like that.
How old is that picture? Only a few years old? From some people’s perspectives, you’re only “a few years” old, buddy. Life is short and “a few” is a relative measure. If the picture you’re using is “from the summer you were fit,” and you can finish that sentence with something like, “before I got hurt, quit that sport, and my wardrobe narrowed to pants with elastic waistbands,” you’re living in the past, and that picture is of a ghost. That’s not you, any more, and if I can’t tell from discrepancies in your ad* that your picture is a lie, I will find out when we meet.
*And we know what your age is, unless you’re lying about that, too: if you look 24 in the picture and OKCupid says you’re 31, I can tell the difference. You’re not a young-looking 31: you’re a 31-year old who’s afraid to update the image of himself from his mid twenties. Take a new picture.
2. You don’t do those things.
Stop lying about all of the sports you play, and activities you regularly participate in. You selected some check boxes: that’s the only activity I can be sure you have partaken of lately. You sound like an energy drink ad. There’s no way you earn a living, do all that, and have time to write your own personal ad, much less date me. (And if you don’t earn a living, then what is it, do your parents support you? Did you invent silent velcro for NASA? How you keep body and soul together reveals character traits.)
3. You do do those things.
Quit being coy about your daily habits. If you wake up, smoke a cigarette, roll out of bed, go to the bathroom, inject some heroin, and start the coffee grinder, you should not leave “Drugs” unchecked in your personal profile, as if it’s not a relevant question. It’s how you start your day: it’s relevant. Come out about being a druggie. Maybe you’ll meet another druggie and you can shoot up together: at least you’ve got something in common.
I’m just saying, if you’re good with your scary lifestyle, be up front about it or change it. Don’t front like you’re straight edge. If you’re doing it to change yourself, that’s wrong because people are not your tools, to be used without asking their permission to use them that way. If you’re doing it because you’re ashamed of what you do, well, at least you know why you’re lying. Now stop lying. Please.
While we’re talking with radical honesty, include those other things that you consider just part of a day’s living. Maybe your life is boring, but it’s specific to you and it pleases you.
Describe it so I understand why it matters that you use exactly 13 books to prop up your microwaved Swanson dinner in front of you while you game. How many hours a day do you play that game? Your future prospective partner wants to know.
If your idea of the consummation of a successful first date includes knives and watersports, you owe it to yourself to tell prospective dates this, or it’s going to be a long string of disappointing first dates, in which you edge closer to telling your secret until you really like this person and are afraid of losing their interest.
When the stakes are that high, it’s hard to do this calmly and well. So do it now, while you’re alone at your computer screen. What are the things you do every day? What is it you always hope you’ll get to do with someone you’re attracted to? What do you hope to do every day with someone you’re in a relationship with?
You can save your ideas of special occasions** for later; this is about finding compatibility at the 24-hour level.
**If it’s “candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach,” it’s time to update your game.
4. You neglect to state the obvious.
This is a lie of omission, and it’s more of a pain in the ass than the kind of thing that may suddenly truncate a first date, but it will help you write a better ad if you avoid leaving out the very important, possibly obvious facts.
Consider the typical user of the site you’re placing a personal ad on. Are all of the ads clumped together, or can you filter them? If they’re all listed together, you should specify the most basic info in the subject line, so the right readers will know that clicking your ad will give them someone who is at least in the right categories.
Are you a man or a woman, or is some other gender category more relevant for your ad? Are you looking for a man or a woman, etc.? Only you know. The point is to think about basic categories that your intended will use to look for you. If the site lets you filter for facts like age and location, concentrate your subject on the next tier of important things to know about you and what you’re looking for.
“Looking for love” might not be enough info to convince someone to click, no matter how much the search results are filtered, whereas a more specific subject line like “Contra dancing Manhattan man seeks woman 40-55 for Thai food, geocaching, LTR” is compelling to exactly your target audience, while allowing others to scroll on.
Remember, the point isn’t to make lots of first dates that never go anywhere because you disappoint upon meeting. It’s to create the most appealing truth in advertising, that draws the small audience of people who think you are great, right now.
Reprinted with permission from The Good Men Project. Want more?