Online Dating Profile “Dos and Don’ts” for Women


Many – myself included – have used online dating services to fill what Margaret Mead called one of the most basic of human needs, to have: “…someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night…”. (No, she didn’t mean your probation officer!)

Everyone deserves a chance to find that person who completes their sentences, stirs their pot in the kitchen (and bedroom!), and thinks her collecting barbed-wire (really: there is a museum dedicated to barbed-wire….)  and him loving bisque dolls is just fine…though  pretty kinky displayed together in the  same cabinet!  (For the record, I collect(ed) fountain pens, hip flasks and single malt whiskeys, mechanical watches,  stones from places visited, and stories about stupid criminals.  Nothing eyebrow-raising…)    To each their own, and each of us deserves the best chance possible to find the right cell-mate for that special asylum of two that is a marriage or a long-term relationship.

Ever wonder what men think when they read an online dating profile?

It’s been cringingly painful – NOT entertaining – to see how so many of these profiles, particularly when it comes to the use of photos, do a disservice to the women posting them.  This happens because they are not thinking about the way the average man will react, no matter how “evolved” he is (or thinks he is).  Reams of research show men to be “wired” to be more visual and women’s online profile photos should reflect that awareness when making choices about what they show (or hide).

Below are some examples and my observations.  Since there is a focus on what to avoid, please do not castigate me for “cruelty” or “insensitivity” in my use of photos from real ads. First, they are in public view already – and downloadable, which should serve as warning about what photos you want strangers to not just see but “keep” – and, secondly, there is no better way to illustrate the issues.  However, if one of the photos happens to be from your profile, just email me about which one and I will substitute another.  (Sadly, there are so many…) My comments are meant to be humorous, not mean-spirited, so I apologize in advance if they miss the mark with you.   (And if it does, it means we are not a “match”!)  So.

If men had their choice, the women’s photos in an online profile would mirror the requirements of The Miss America Pageant.  Plus one.  Every woman’s posting would be required to have:

a) a swimsuit photo
b) an evening-gown photo
c) a well-lit head-shot
d) an activity photo.
e) a photo showing all the pets in the household

“A” through “D” are obvious.  “E” is to prevent the surprise of a large and/or exotic menagerie.   As you will see, this set of rules would save many from making egregious choices!  (Aside: there is a wonderful scene in the early Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper where he is suffering a mental breakdown and thinks that he’s competing for – and is crowned! – Miss America. It’s hilarious and priceless, complete with the vapid answers to the inane questions that contestants are asked!)

I am certain that men’s profiles can be as ridiculous, if not more so.  In fact, I count on that being true because it just might make mine a little more normal!  And yes, I didn’t practice what I preach here about my photo selection.  That’s because I am a man.  (Another aside: there is a hilarious Canadian comedy show called “The Red and Green Show” where the members of the men’s lodge have a Man’s Prayer that goes: “I’m a man. (pause)   But I can change. (long pause)   If I have to.  (longest pause)   I guess.“)

By the same token, and to pre-empt charges of “sexism” on my part, I also propose that male profiles would have to have the following:

a) a shirtless profile-shot wearing pants and belt (to show any belly overhang);
b) a photo in a tuxedo (black or white tie)
c) three mug-shot style photos: clean-shaven, 2-3 day stubble, and with beard and/or mustache
d) wearing a clown-costume and make-up (clown-shoes the only optional out) to make amends for the woman’s swim-suit photo

Optional photo: police booking-shot with the height scale IF the women’s includes one on a scale. (Studies show men lie about height and women about weight…)

Satisfied?  (Sorry, this is a G-rated blog by choice, so I won’t add the other requirement  you are thinking.)

Moving on…

A photo should NOT scare a viewer – male or female – into having concerns about either your mental state OR their safety. I thought that this would be obvious, but seeing the photo below made it clear that if noting the obvious helps just ONE person, it was worth doing: 

Likewise, a photo with a WAX likeness of Woody “I-don’t-know-the-boundaries” Allen makes the Creepy-Factor needle jump into the red zone…. It’s also completely distracting and takes the viewer’s mind to places that have nothing to do with her.  Besides, he (it?) looks like he’s doing his best to avoid having anything to do with her!  (And if even Woody Allen is slinking away, would a normal guy stay??)

Avoid group shots. At best, it’s distracting, especially trying to hunt a new face among several.  I still have NO idea, despite several other photos, about which one was the ad-placer in the group photo below:

At worse, it makes him think he could do better:

Or both at the same time :

…..unless you are calculating and cunning enough to make sure you are the most attractive woman in the group shot.  And if you did – and are THAT cunning! – would you really want him to find that out about you THIS early?  (And yes,  for most men, ONE of these women below is decidedly cuter than the others.)

Avoid photos with a hand over the shoulder, around the waist, or – especially! – a partial male face….but missing their owner. (This one below commits two of the those three sins PLUS the bonus one of not knowing her dress size…)   

However, if you like a particular photo of yourself THAT much, then get Photoshop, learn to use Photoshop, and make the cropping look professional ….. which also applies to both photos.

Here it is, bluntly: to the average male viewing profiles, a photo that adds NO information about body-shape, size, and/or facial features is not going to be of real interest.  Not photos of your kids – I personally believe one should NOT be posting photos that have their children in them – not your pets, not your parents (!).  Really.  Photos in exotic locales are fine as long as you are in them AND the shots provide the information listed above, i.e. no large-brimmed hats and sunglasses, and you are not the size of an ant.

This particular one goes out of the way to be unhelpful towards that goal:

It also suggests that she won’t be a good pole-dancer, as her sense of balance is questionable.  (Not quite sure what is being demonstrated, but one hopes she has a good chiropractor….)

Skip vampy, “peek-a-boo” or any photo deliberately trying to be sexy. Unless you are a trained model or actress.  Remember that men don’t need much to think about sex early and often, so you are throwing oil on the fire with poses like that.  (A great motto to keep in mind,  for this and for many other life-situations is :  Under-promise and OVER-DELIVER!!)

By the way, the last person to pull off “peek-a-boo” with success was Veronica Lake (“Who?”)   Besides, do you REALLY want sex to be the focus of his thoughts when you just spent dozens of words on all the wholesome activities – not that sex isn’t wholesome, if it’s done wrong – for which you want to be loved, first?  (And could there at least be a smile, to show that you would actually enjoy the act(s) seemingly being suggested?)

Watch out for inappropriate photo props. A pool table is to be used for …. well, playing pool!   Its use for other purposes is ingrained in the public imagination thanks to depictions in movies and horrific accounts in news stories.  Either way, the associations are not, shall we way …..  “classy”.  So, better know what you are suggesting (and saying about yourself – hint: rhymes with “stamp” ) with this photo (and the poster on the wall behind).

About pets. Photos of the dog or cat propped on cushions and – worse! – in bed with you are NOT a turn-on for 99% of men.  And you don’t want the other 1%!  Men aren’t looking at photos to admire your dog’s “cuteness” factor.  ONE photo is sufficient, preferably without any props and with “Scout” or “Old Yeller” doing something active or, at least, normal.  (If you don’t get why just one photo, how many photos of a guy and his truck/car/motorcycle/boat or 2nd-second favorite tool would it take to turn YOU off?  Also, notice the names I picked for the example, both are names the future love-of-your-life can roll off his tongue without embarrassment,  unlike: “Pookie”, “Polly”, or “Patty”.  (Now, if your dog’s name is “Palin” or “Bachmann”, I would award extra-points, simply for being able to answer: “Palin/Bachmann is spayed”, if asked.)

Try NOT to combine a photo of yourself AND your dog (or cat) in an other-than-normal pose.   Especially when the dog looks like it’s been grafted onto you like a science experiment gone wrong!  Is this one wearing a matching sweater (eccentric) or is it INSIDE her sweater (kinky)?  It also heightens the Scary Factor when both human and pet have the same wistful expression…)

A bonus-tip re: pets: generally, from an informal survey, men aren’t crazy about  “accessory” dog-breeds.  It’s up to you whether you want to get him “hooked” before he sees yours OR screen himself out by showing a photo of “Precious” or “Peaches” in your purse.  Personally, I prefer the honest approach.  You’ll lose some guys, but better early than after wasting both of your times.

This one is actually one of the less objectionable, as the dog is at least NOT a purse-dog.  (I LIKE dogs, so it’s not about them.  It’s about owners not making them into a liability in a personals ad!)

Especially avoid photos of your dog wearing clothes. IF there is justice in the next world, there is a special circle of Hell for people who do that to an animal’s dignity.  There is nothing wrong about an utilitarian winter-coat for a short-haired dog to keep warm while stepping out for a brewski: 

I’m talking about something that robs the last vestige of nobility from a helpless animal.

Below is probably the worse offender I’ve yet encountered:

Pleeeease understand that a man’s reaction to this photo is NOT: “Aww… isn’t that cute!”   He’s looking away to check for the nearest exit before he becomes the next model.

(Can someone please explain what would make a woman – no regular guy would EVER! – do that to a defenseless animal?  Or think that a man is going to find that “cute”??)

On the general subject of photos, using a blurry photo is inexcusable, be it of you, your house, the Taj Mahal or the pets.   At the least, it’s annoying: these photos are tough to see already, and if your readers are in the 40+ age, they don’t need the aggravation of squinting or getting out the reading-glasses.  (Also, unless you are planning to NEVER meet, that one photo that hides the botched surgery and/or tattoos from your Motorcycle Momma days is only postponing a moment of reckoning, be it at the first meeting or the first, ahem, intimate encounter….)

The last word on photos. NO photos in swimsuits or bikinis unless the dating site makes it mandatory and everyone has to submit one.  (See earlier comment about “Miss America“.)  Otherwise, you lose either way.  If you have a stunning body, you’ll attract the wrong attention…. unless that’s the kind you want. If you don’t, you just opened yourself to being judged.  And judged cruelly, not because they are men, but because they are human.  (I have been privy to women dissecting other women’s looks with an intensity and detail that made me glad I wasn’t a woman….

Onto the ad copy.

If you have posted a photo, avoid using “pretty” or “beautiful” in the self-description. Yes, you have overcome body-image issues and are proud of how beautiful you are, inside and outside.  This is NOT about that.  This is about that shallow external-beauty aesthetic of which we are all guilty.  First, the reader has eyes.  Secondly, rare is the man who hasn’t calibrated his definition of those adjectives by certain society and media-provided standards and examples.  Unless YOUR image jumps up first when the term “beautiful woman” is uttered – thus beating out every lingerie and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model –  your looks will be measured against those images.  And that’s not fair to you.

Skip descriptors such as “witty”, “funny”, and “smart” unless the rest of your ad copy supports the claim or, at least, doesn’t display the opposite. Nothing is more counterproductive than building an expectation for the reader….. and then deflating it.  (Remember: “underpromise, overdeliver”?)

Don’t use words whose meaning you are unsure about or can’t spell!!  Yes, grammar and spelling count when one claims to be “intalligent”, because if  one were smart/intelligent, one woulda knowed better than to misspell wurds when trying to make a positive first-impreshun…..  Did you know that even poor spellers don’t like seeing poor spelling and will “grade” them down?  Really!

It’s baffling that women will spend time making sure every single eyelash is in place – something few (heterosexual) men would notice! – before a date, yet will write a personals ad copy that is the equivalent of walking out wearing their bra on the outside, hobbling on one shoe, and with spinach on their teeth!  But then, Oscar Wilde wrote that: ” Women are made to be loved, not understood“….. something that a man never ceases learning.

In general, stick to adjectives where evidence for – or against – their truth cannot be gleaned from the rest of the ad.  Adjectives like: “kind”, “compassionate”, “happy”, “loving”, “strong”, “independent” are good examples.  None of those can be disproved at the stage when the poor sucker – I mean, the future love-of-your-life – is reading the profile.  (He’ll have plenty of time to learn the truth later….)

Speaking of adjectives, my personal pet peeve is “classy”. Pleeease NEVER, EVER use “classy” because truly “classy” women do not self-describe as that!!  It’s part of BEING “classy”, DUH!  It’d be like a man saying he is “debonair” (especially if his French is poor and he tells you: ” I am de-boner“….or, worse yet, he is a Boehner – c’mon, you KNOW how the Speaker’s name SHOULD be pronounced!). Like “charming” and “elegant”, “classy” is a term others will use about you IF you qualify by your comportment.

Lastly, since a man can give any word a sexual meaning, it’s critical to avoid using certain ones in a profile…. unless you want that interpretation.  (My particular super-power is being able to make anything become a double-entendre.  But I only use for Good.)  It’s not something we do on purpose.  Really.  It’s part of that faulty male “wiring” and in the fact that, in the context of a dating site, sexual tension is ever-present (or should be).

Granted, it’s a delicate – and tough – task to let your readers know that you are not an ice-maiden, indiscriminate with your affections, or inexperienced. (Consider how even MORE difficult it is for men to allude to their virility and/or “qualifications” or expertise as a lover!  There’s just no way.)  Ladies, men need little encouragement in order to read so much into certain words!  Below – only slightly tongue-in-cheek – is how certain descriptors in your personals ad might be being read subconsciously:

  • o      Passionate (“hot sex”)
  • o      Sexy (“easy sex”)
  • o      Fun-loving (“kinky sex”)
  • o      Creative (“really kinky sex”)
  • o      Playful (“anywhere sex”)
  • o      Loving (“submissive sex”)

Is that really what you wanted?  (If it was, couldn’t you have written to me first?)

Oh yeah… NO emoticons in your ad, please! 🙂

Good luck and happy hunting!

About Drachenfutter

It's all in my blog....
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17 Responses to Online Dating Profile “Dos and Don’ts” for Women

  1. dgreenleaf says:

    Harrison: this is hysterical. I actually chuckled at a few of your jokes. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have admitted this; it will just spur you on to more. I especially liked the man’s interpretation of certain descriptors. If I knew any single women, I’d certainly pass this on. Unfortunately, I do not, so once again you’re out of luck. 🙂

  2. Arron Knight says:

    Appreciating the commitment you put into your blog and detailed information you present. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  3. Sue Greenhause says:

    Harrison, you have a future writing comedy skits….I could imagine this entire piece in any number of sitcoms. Having used a few of them myself, the advice about adjectives made me laugh out loud…and cringe at the same time. Hysterically funny writing.

  4. Wow! Those are some scary photos. I wondered what women were posting on dating sites…. now I know. I always thought women probably had better pics, but I know that is wrong now. I recently went out with a guy I met online and he was pleased that I showed up wearing real clothes and not pajamas. Wow, that says a lot about the women he’d found online before me. Thanks for visiting my hub about online dating for men. This is an awesome blog!

  5. Debbie says:

    I am laughing quietly to myself, and wondering why I never knew you wrote so many blogs! Hiding your light under a bushel? You are delightful and it is incomprehensible to me why women aren’t chasing you all around the world. (Wait, that’s a good example of something that can be misunderstood…. I meant it in a GOOD way! LOL! (are texting abbreviations allowable in dating profiles?)

  6. sjkann says:

    Loved this! Still smiling…
    Jan

  7. akann says:

    Still laughing– Excellent reporting!

  8. Vivien Besoner says:

    It was rude for women just to delete you when you took the time to write! Are you the same guy from guardian soul mates? I was just looking through it. Not a member. Chinese?

  9. Hard to find true soul mates . Just stumbled upon your blog.

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