I’ve spent plenty of time on dating websites. So, as a public service, I’m going to tell you what I’ve noticed a lot of women saying in their profiles that is probably not a good idea.
Disclaimer: I specify that these are cliches for "women" to avoid only because they’re the ones whose profiles I've looked at. I'm not saying men don't make the same mistakes; I'm simply not qualified to judge their profiles.
1. "Attractive, interesting, intelligent, active, fun, funny, sweet, simple," and other such generic adjectives to describe yourself or who you’re looking for. One or two of these might be OK, but a whole string of these adjectives is not really describing yourself. You’re just describing how everyone wants to be perceived. The worst adjectives are "loyal," "spontaneous," "open-minded," and "laid-back." Does anyone ever use those words to describe themselves or others aside from on dating sites? "Oh, she’s really spontaneous!" No one talks like that in real life.
2. “I love music, travel, sports, the outdoors, movies, shopping, drinking, going out." Again, there’s nothing wrong with any one of these on its own. Any one of those could be great with some more detail. But a list like this is so generic as to be almost meaningless.
3. Three seemingly off-beat things that everyone claims to be interested in: "road trips," "dive bars," and "sarcasm." These could be perfectly fine details to mention -- except for the fact that everyone mentions them. As a result, it becomes hard to believe that everyone is so enamored of these things; they just sound good in a dating profile. It’s like the cook who garnishes every meal with a sprig of parsley out of habit. You don't especially want people to eat the parsley -- you’re just putting it there because it's a foolproof way to make the dish look nice. If you’re going to mention "dive bars" or "road trips," it’d be a good idea to be more specific: which bar or destination have you particularly enjoyed recently, and why? As far as "sarcasm," it’s probably better just to use it rather than mention it.
4. "Sometimes I like to go out, and sometimes I like to stay in." Is there anyone who couldn’t say this? Sure, it might not be true of hermits or agoraphobics. But it's true of just about everyone else. Another cliche that should be banned for the same reason: "Comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans or an evening gown." I understand what this line is meant to convey, but it's been overused to the point of meaninglessness.
5. "Friends and family are very important to me." That describes just about everyone. That's the point of friends and family. Even if you write this sentence with the most heartfelt emotion, it doesn't say anything about you.
6. "Love to laugh / love to have fun." The definition of the word "fun" is that it’s something people enjoy. And it’s hard to imagine someone who finds it unpleasant to laugh.
7. "I can’t believe I’m doing this! / My friend told me about this site, so I thought I’d try it out," etc. The fact that you're posting a personal ad is the one thing that can't possibly distinguish yourself from anyone else on there. You don't need to make excuses for why you're on a dating site. You probably have the same reason everyone else has: because it makes dating more convenient. Skip the apologies and move on to what makes you different from other people.
8. "My friends say . . ." No, we want to know what you have to say. If you're not sure whether your friends are right, then it’s not worth including in your ad. The "friends" line just makes you seem evasive, as if you want to be free to put potentially misleading information that you can never be called on because hey, that wasn’t you saying it -- it was just your friends!
9. "Looking for someone who can put together a complete sentence / someone who uses correct grammar and punctuation." There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s clearly a preference of every woman in the world (aside from those who themselves can’t put together a complete sentence).
10. "Looking for someone at least 6 feet tall." Do you really want to limit yourself to 15% of the male population? Are you sure you’d reject someone who’s 5'11" -- even if he’s intelligent, attractive, interesting, and successful? Also, consider how you’d react to a man’s profile that said he’s not interested in women over a specific body-mass index or under a specific bra size. If your reaction would be, "Ugh, how shallow!" . . . then think twice about specifying height.
11. "Looking for Prince Charming / my knight in shining armor / someone who slays dragons." How did we get to the Middle Ages all of a sudden? You might as well just say: “I’m living in a fantasy world.” And a pretty cliched fantasy world at that.
12. "I’m tired of drama / games." Two strikes against this one: (1) it’s plagiarized from a million other profiles, and (2) it's code for "I still have lingering feelings of resentment about past relationships." Keep your relationship baggage out of your profile.
13. "I hate liars." Really? How odd -- I love them!
14. "It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about, as long as you’re passionate about something." This might be a mildly impressive insight . . . if it didn't appear in about half the dating profiles out there. Also, would you like me to set you up with a passionate white supremacist?
15. "I like all kinds of music." I doubt that you're typing these words while an atonal composition by Schoenberg is playing in the background. The truth is that you like some kinds of music, but not others. Everyone does. "I like all kinds of music" is a red flag that you're afraid to share anything about yourself.
16. "Looking for a partner in crime." This is adorable . . . the first time you read it. And maybe the second or third time. Once you've read it 100 times, not so much.
17. "I work hard and play hard." Same problem as "partner in crime." You’re clearly not working hard at coming up with your own words to describe yourself.
Look back over your profile and see what happens if you delete all the cliches I've listed. If your response is: "Hey, I can't do that, or there'd hardly be any profile left" . . . then that suggests you haven't really expressed yourself, which is all the more reason to overhaul your profile.
So please, tell me about the album you've been listening to every day, or something interesting about the last place you traveled to. But don’t just tell me you like music and travel. Be specific, and -- if you’ll forgive the cliche -- be yourself.
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