When I was a teenager, the idea of "online dating" was still completely new and insurmountably alien—if someone told you they met their boyfriend "on the internet," it was an occasion to limber up for some epic side-eye. But over a miraculously short period of time, online dating has shed pretty much 100% of its stigma and is busy facilitating tru lurv all over the goddamn place. Hooray for all that! But like any mainstream social institution, online dating is prone to the same old-timey gender-conformity pitfalls that us thinkin' womens have been dodging for a dillion years. And nowhere are the old familiar disparities as clear as in each website's "advice" section. How do you snag the perfect bang-partner or sister-wife or personal pizza or whatever it is you're looking for? Be a boring stereotype of your gender, apparently.
After my foray into the jungle of eHarmony dating advice last week, I got to wondering exactly how America's online dating gurus treat their female customers versus the menz. So I poked around in a couple of popular dating sites (there's now a goodprsonality69 registered at eHarmony, match.com, and Christian Mingle if you guys want to honk my internet boob or whatever) and found some interesting bits of gender-specific wisdom.
Generally, the advice directed toward women is all about softness and flexibility. Make yourself available. Go where he wants you to go. Don't judge him too early. Ask questions and listen. If you don't hear back, just keep waiting! Advice for men, on the other hand, is all about action. Be interesting! Talk about the stuff that makes you an individual. Take charge. If she acts aloof, drop it. In other words, the tips for women are all about men (they're strategies for making yourself into the most appealing possible set of holes—both literal and figurative), while the tips for men…also all about men. The differences are subtle, and perhaps you think I'm going out on a limb here (though I'm not so cynical as to think that any of it is deliberate) but it's in there. Women: be willing to change yourselves to make men like you. Men: Be yourself and the ladies will find you. Because nothing's as sexy as pointless and reductive gender roles! Anyway, let's take a look.
Post Multiple Photos
One head shot is not enough, ladies. Our visual counterparts want to check you out…that is a reality! So give them a nice representation of who you are and what you like to do by posting a variety of photos. Oh and pics with your girlfriends are totally fine, just make sure you are recognizable, and not holding a bottle of Budweiser! (Might send the wrong message!)
No, you certainly don't want to make it seem like you do that thing that you like to do! But you definitely want to make sure that eligible males have extensive photos of your face and body from every angle. Because they're visual, you guys. You know, like the opposite of cares-about-your-personality.
And let's contrast that with the photo advice for the men:
Including one photo of yourself is not really enough. Women want to get a sense of who you are – and this can be done through photos very easily. Love dogs? Then post a pic with one. Love your nieces and nephews? Then show that side off too.
So, sure, both women and men were encouraged to post multiple photos. But women are supposed to do it because our "visual counterparts" want to "check us out" physically (i.e. see what we are), while men are supposed to convey a sense of who they are. That is a significant (problematic!) difference.
The idea that men should play up their personalities repeats over and over again:
Women love a sense of humor, so tap into that funny bone – or maybe even include some quotes from favorite comedians. Infuse your profile with humor, and she will definitely take notice.
You have to stand out, so be interesting. Share the parts of you that are cool and worthy of discussion.
You, you, you! You are your biggest asset. But women? Not so much. Here's what we get:
Appreciate his effort
Odds are, the guy planned the date. He knew from your profile that you liked Mexican food, so he asked all his friends and scoured the web to find some cool new place where he could say, "Try the fish tacos… it's what this place is known for." So let the guy know you appreciate his work on your behalf—dash and the fact that he's taking you out, period.
Let him know you like him… you really like him!
Provide the positive reinforcement
Simply put, people like people who like them back. So if you're having a good time, don't be afraid to let your guy know how much you're digging him.
Turn off your cell phone
Lots of people are obsessed with their cell phone or Blackberry, but taking calls in front of your date sends serious signals that he's not worth your undivided attention.
Don't just talk over him. Draw him out on topics he clearly cares about-why did he have a hard time deciding between the Shiraz and the Pinot Noir? How did he learn about wine? By helping him find his comfort zone, you'll help him feel great about the date.
Him, him, him. Make sure you listen to him! Ask him questions! He worked really hard on this date! And he's paying for it, apparently! You want him to feel great about the date, don't you? He deserves your UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. After all, he's in charge:
Have a plan
It's not that "So…what do you want to do?" is a bad question, per se. I mean, of course you want to choose an activity that you know she likes. The thing is that, in asking her to come up with her own plan, you're not establishing yourself as a leader. And generally, that's what women want. A man who has ideas, a man who knows cool places, a man who can make reservations, name a time, and tell her when to be ready.
Yes, that's exactly what "we" want. Some pickup-artist alpha douche bossing us around all night and presuming that our gushing praise and undivided attention can be bought with a plate of fettuccine alfredo. (Also, I have never in my life been on a date and expected the man to pay. None of the women I spend time with think that way either. Because, for the millionth time, "WOMEN" ARE NOT ONE BIG THING.)
Over in lady-land it's passivity, not take-charginess, that's the key to "success":
Be Flexible with your Settings
What if an amazing guy lived just outside of your 30 mile perimeter? Seriously, take a good look at your settings and consider being more flexible...If the settings on eHarmony confuse you at all—contact customer care and they will happily help out.
Rethink your Must Haves and Can't Stands
There is no such thing as a perfect person – so getting realistic about what you are looking for (and what is out there!) will help open the door to more potential partners.
Don't Make a Rush to Judgment
If you are looking at a guy's profile, and there is something that concerns you, instead of just closing the match, why not reach out and ask a question?
Finding a great partner takes time. There is no magic formula to this, so adjusting expectations and settling into the journey with a patient mindset will make the process a more positive one. If a match doesn't get back to you immediately, instead of assuming they aren't into you, keep an open mind and have faith that everything will happen as it should.
So basically, those last four tips are all about being flexible, pliable, and willing to loosen your standards in hopes of trapping anyone who will have you. Instead of moving on with your life, just wait around hoping he'll write back some day! Make sure he knows you're willing to drive 30 miles to receive intercourse from him. If you see something you hate about him, just give him a chance anyway—maybe you're wrong about the stuff you think you hate!
The corresponding man-advice, strangely enough, says just the opposite:
Don't Give into the Fear...
...of rejection! If you reach out to someone and never hear back, move onto the next. Don't look back or think about why she never contacted you—because you will never know why. Concentrate your energies on future matches.
Yeah! Don't spend a bunch of time dwelling on her—that's her job! There are a million hers out there, but only one of your penis.
Again, I'm not saying that any of this is a deliberate attempt to enslave the ladies and herd us into aloof, sticky man-webs where we'll get the shit domineered out of us until we're dead. But I am saying that this kind of subtle language is the status quo, the default way that we talk to and about women. Until we stop thinking of women as passive, precious flowers, people are going to continue treating women like passive, precious flowers. And that shit is bad for women. The end.