Search "online dating ghostwriter" and you get a lot of hits, both from aspiring Cyranos-for-hire, "coaches" hoarding The Secret to profile gold, and would-be-wooers eager to shell out for some professional help.

"I'm looking for a creative and well-written person to help me with online dating," says one ad on a freelance jobs search engine. "I've set up a profile, but don't have the time to tend to it. I'm hoping to pay someone to write emails to girls on my behalf." In this case, the romantic merely wants his hired gun to procure the "dates" - it's unclear whether or not he's supposed to, y'know, pretend to be the guy and make him sound smart/romantic/invested in the process.


Max Hartshorn, a 24-year-old Montreal denizen profiled in today's Washington Post, is the latter varietal, a ghost-dater for Internet-outsourcers Virtual Dating Assistants that's about as bloodless as it sounds. His M.O.? Be that elusive asshole that women apparently want: "He's never needy — always charming and a little flirtatious. He keeps his missives short and usually includes a question or a subtle challenge. He's witty, a touch aloof and not overly complimentary." And he's got incentive: like a less-desperate Greenpeace canvasser, he's paid for every "positive response."

The company, one of several catering to the deep-pocketed cyberdater, was founded by a youthful workaholic who, when he found such an operation wasn't extant (and that his secretary didn't want to handle his online dating correspondence) decided he needed to invent it. And the rest is depressing Internet history. Today, VDA employs 45 writers who write profiles, screen potential dates, reel them in and make dates for a clientele that's 80% male, and many of whom claim "extreme busy-ness." Another quoted in the piece, however, admits that he's just trying to avoid rejection, saying, "Most women you e-mail don't respond. Some look at your profile and don't even read your message before deleting it...That's just the nature of the game — intellectually, I know that. But still, emotionally, I do feel a little small pain of rejection every time that happens."

We feel that, we do. But as a woman, I can tell you that for most of the women I know, finding out we've been courted by a surrogate is going to lead to a much harsher - and more personal - form of rejection. Now, to those who may argue that this is no different than having a savvy friend help with a profile, let me preempt it by making the point that said friend knows you. And further, that there are many bad romantic comedies that will attest to the fact that whoever is actually writing the letters is invariably the one who ends up finding happily-ever-after.

Online Dating Assistants Help The Lonely And Busy [Washington Post]

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