Commentary
10:00 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Essay: Looking For a Valentine, Online

A cross-dresser wasn’t what I had in mind when I logged in to my online dating account the other night. 

She/He had lots of colorful pictures of herself/himself in a flowery dress but it seems to me that she/he should have been on the other “side” of the school gymnasium, you know, the side for the girls – so that the boys would find her. I sure wasn’t going to wink at her.

You never know what you will see on a dating site, which is why I find them so intriguing. I swore I would never go on another site after one fiasco when the guy I met up for coffee turned out to be about 20 years older than his photo. Not to mention he wore white pants. Total deal breaker.

Candy hearts might be easier to interpret than some online dating profiles.
Candy hearts might be easier to interpret than some online dating profiles.
Credit Wiki Commons image

Speaking of deal breakers, I have discovered a few more brought to my attention from well-meaning friends who counseled me after their own trials and errors online:

  • “Not married?” (Don’t bother, he’s afraid to commit.)
  • “Legally separated?” (“He’s still leaving his marriage, better hold off.)
  • “Has four kids and lives with four kids.” (Oh boy).
  • “Lives in North Carolina/Texas/New Jersey/California/Any State Outside of Wisconsin” (Why even bother unless you plan on starting a whole new life with a complete stranger, including his family!)

I have explored the dating sites for a year or so now that I am single, mostly out of curiosity about other singles and how they play the Dating Game. Match, OKCupid, OurTime and E-Harmony have hooked me with their clever tools like “winks”, “flirts,” personal questionnaires and other tricks for making me look good while catching someone’s eye.

As someone who is extremely shy with strangers, especially men, “hiding” behind a computer screen is way easier than walking up to a cute guy in a bar and asking him what his favorite sport is. Part of me feels like I’m cheating when I talk to more than one guy at a time, even though that’s what you are supposed to do, I’m advised. And it totally lacks the spark of a real face-to-face connection, I admit. But what is the alternative? A blind date? Not gonna happen.

It’s funny how you could be standing in line at the hardware store next to someone relatively attractive, and you instantly become speechless and your eyes dart away. You’d think this personality trait would fade with time and maturity, but it doesn’t.

On the other hand, there’s my charming friend, Barbie. She isn’t shy at all around guys and blurted out to the (single) “Helpful Hardware Man” one snowy Saturday morning, “We don’t have boyfriends, so we are looking for sleds!” Even that friendly statement made me cringe and I made my way silently over to garden supplies while she chatted with the sales clerk.

Go online and the high school introvert transforms into “most popular girl” status for me. No inhibitions here and the atmosphere is always upbeat. “Who me? Travel? All over the world!” “Am I athletic and toned? Well, that’s a matter of opinion, but in my opinion, I am!” “Do you like dogs? Sure, yes, of course! (… but I live in an apartment with a cat).” “Do you like the outdoors? Yes! (but I work in an office 5 days a week and stay inside when the temperature drops below 10 degrees)” “How about those Packers??!! I love the Packers/Brewers/Admirals – any sport! (always the right answer).”

I think we all agree that it’s a kick writing and posting photos of ourselves for others to see. Who doesn’t want to be admired and liked? Think Facebook. What would any of us ever do without the “Thumbs Up” icon? It’s the same with online dating sites. A couple of “flirts” or “winks” in your inbox and you begin to think you’re middle-age self is not so bad looking after all.

So, I took a lot of time to find the best photos of myself and to write my profile – not too self-serving but just enough to highlight my good points and through this process I’ve discovered I have several, at least! Photos show my “fun” side, but I don’t overdo it with lots of pictures of me and my friends because then I appear like I’m having WAY too much fun on my own. And that’s what I look for with men and their snapshots. But guys, come on, I’ll be frank. Posting a photo of yourself staring into your computer with your face taking up the entire screen is NOT attractive. Neither is a nude torso shot. Oh, let’s please also stop with the selfies and photos of sunsets and beaches. I want to see YOU, not your vacation.

Finally, Romeo, do not write how great a lover you are - not interested in that yet.

Remember, girls just wanna have fun.

Lake Effect essayist Heidi Friedrichs lives and writes on Milwaukee's west side.