Match.com sent my “Daily 5” every morning and I looked forward to finding the profiles in my inbox. This time I had limited the criteria to men aged 63-72 who lived within 100 miles of San Jose. More realistic, I thought, in terms of who would be interested in me and how far we’d be willing to travel to check each other out.
By this time, I realized how superficial this online dating process was. In fairness to Match.com , they didn’t hide the fact that they weren’t plumbing our emotional depths in search of matches. “Like you,” a box next to one man’s photo would exclaim, “he’s not a smoker, he’s the middle child, and he digs dining out.” Or “like you, he enjoys movies, likes to lift weights, and has a graduate degree.”
Then again, no matter how detailed and honest we try to be in describing ourselves, they’re just words. Some wag compared the self-portraits we provide on dating sites to the list of ingredients on a box of food: Reading the list won’t tell us how the food will taste.
At least this dating service was less controlling than eharmony in that I wasn’t expected to explain why I wasn’t interested in its choices for me. And if I were interested, I could “wink” or go directly to email.
No way would I wink, regardless of the yellow smiley face and message from Match: “He just winked at you! Out of millions of members, he picked you! Flirt right back with a wink, or even better, an intriguing email!”
“Intriguing” sounded like code for coy and wasn’t my style either. Instead I sent friendly opening gambits similar to ones I had received, in which the writer highlights a few things in the other person’s profile that struck a cord or that we have in common, followed by a suggestion that we meet or at least chat on the phone.
So how did I decide on whom to contact? What got my attention?
For starters, I immediately discounted men who didn’t include a photo and who had never been married. Not having kids made them suspect but still in the running, while being shorter than I automatically eliminated them. A profile full of tired buzz words like “easy going” and “laid back” and “what you see is what you get,” often accompanied by the faintly misogynistic dislike of “drama,” usually ended up in the slush pile. A snappy opening could make me receptive to whatever else followed (a personal favorite: “ ‘I went to Stanford, and I want to get married.’ This line worked for me thirty years ago so I’m trying it out again now.“)
Of course it was unfair of me to judge someone on such shallow criteria as his height or creative writing skills. Which is the problem with this process. It reminded me of my Human Resources days and reading resumes. I had to whittle down the stack, so looked for reasons to reject rather than accept. It was a process of elimination, just like reading personal profiles, that resulted in perfectly nice strangers being designated as winners and losers.