Your Dating Profile Sucks

Part 1: Photos

So here you are online dating, but is your profile working for or against you. I can definitively say you’re making a number of mistakes that are hurting your chances at matching with someone else.

I suppose your first question should be “why should I listen to this guy?” I understand completely. I mean who the fuck am I anyway? It’s true that I’m pretty run of the mill and maybe not the person most people try to attract. I’m just a radical, feminist kinda guy who loves to paint his nails and wear women’s clothing. It’s all pretty standard conservative stuff really.

However, all of that awesomeness aside, you should listen to me because I have read literally thousands of dating profiles. More than that I examine them. Have you ever looked at someone’s profile and known that something about it doesn’t sit well with you but you can’t place it? Well, I can place it. I know what mistakes people make because I see them over and over, every day. These mistakes in wording and judgement are pushing people like me, or someone who doesn’t cross dress if that’s not your cup of tea (weirdo), away. You are missing prime opportunities to draw in quality people no matter how attractive you are.

The good news is that while the mistakes are many, they are super easy to fix. Moreover, correcting these missteps will almost certainly improve your chances and make you stand apart from the crowd. Let me help you to create a better profile.

As an aside: I’ve found that I can’t, nor do I want to, write this without being snarky. So just keep in mind that this is all in good fun. Except for my tips, those are dead serious.

Today I’m going to deal with photos. Since that’s a major part of a profile, and something you really can’t have any luck generating interest without, it’s a logical place to start.

Photo Tips For Everyone

Your photos are supposed to generate interest about you and make someone actually want to meet you. Ideally each photo should be about something different. In my case, this means I only post one of me cycling. Any more than that and someone is going to think “Alright lycra boy I get it. You ride a bike. My five year old can do that.” Even though it’s a big interest of mine I don’t want to make someone think negatively if it’s perfectly avoidable. Plus, my interests are more varied than cycling anyway. I’m more than a one trick pony and so are you.

So as you read through these tips keep that in mind. You want to avoid the pitfalls listed below while also creating some variety.

  • To start with, you need at least four current pictures. More than that ideally. If you can max your profile out with photos then do it already. The photos should be within the last six months and absolutely none outside of a year.  Anyone who has dated at all has had the experience of meeting someone who looked a bit more ragged than their photos suggested. Trust me, you don’t want to be someone else’s horror story.Having said that, I think it’s reasonable to have one photo that has been edited. I go back and forth on this truthfully, but I have never been offended by one retouched photo. However, if they all look edited no one is going to trust what they see and with good reason.
  • Have a full body pic. If every pic is from above looking down or only shows you from the shoulders up then people are going to assume the worst and not give you a chance. I know this is going to shock you but unless you have a complicated system of pulleys and mirrors people are going to see your whole body when they meet you for a date. You might as well show them ahead of time. If they don’t like what they see and bug out then you’ve saved yourself some time, cash and maybe self-esteem. Maybe it is shallow that someone disregard you for your body type but wouldn’t you rather that shallow person dismiss you at your profile rather than on a date with you. This is one of those times when it’s okay to weed people out from the start.
  • Find out what people are posting photos of in your area and don’t do that. Seriously, If I see another photo of a woman doing yoga on a mountaintop or in a meadow I’m going to start dating out of state. Boring! Mix it up people. Use a friend’s profile or change your filter settings for an hour or so and do a little perusing. Hell, just ask your friends what they’re tired of seeing. If they use a dating service at all they will be able to tell you pretty quickly.
  • Stop posting “I help third world country” pics. Look, it’s great that you took a week’s paid vacation to go show some people in Africa the abundance of America’s agricultural products while posing for a selfie or two, but you’ll look like the asshole I just described even if your heart is in the right place. Just say that you were fortunate enough to be able to volunteer with the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders rather than showing it. The same goes for missionary work.
  • No memes. Your prospective date doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your gym/love/life philosophy (or whatever your favorite quote is). You’re losing a prime opportunity to showcase something about yourself to the world through a picture. Plus, it screams “I’m not interesting so here’s some words in the form of a photo.”
  • No artistic work. So you’re a photographer or a painter; that’s cool. Look some people prefer the artistic types (I tend to), but just like with memes you are losing a chance to have people get a look at you. Send them a link to your website or a photo if they ask, but make your profile photos work for you not your hobby or career. Plus, it makes it seem like you care more about your work than your dating life. Maybe that’s true, but you don’t want to insinuate it right from the start. – There is one way to pull this off. If you have a photo of you standing in front of your art gallery or holding a painting then use it so long as you are clearly featured. Only do this once. Remember you’re selling you not your work.
  • Pets and children. Of course, I lumped them together. They both drool, love chew toys and you can’t leave either one unattended in a car without cracking the windows. Everyone knows you love them, but unless you are in the photo with them leave that stuff on your Facebook page where it can annoy the people you know and not the one’s who might want to date you.This is especially true if they aren’t your kids. Instead of having a photo with some children and saying, “these aren’t my kids” just don’t post the photo. If it’s important enough to specify that they aren’t your own children then you shouldn’t have it there in the first place. Eliminate the confusion. Your date can find out about your wonderful nieces and nephews through conversation or a creepy first date family slide show.
  • Leave your good looking friends at home. Yeah, I just went there. I know this is horribly fucking shallow, but remember you’re on a dating site where people are using photos as a measure of attraction. So if you’re not the most attractive body in the photo guess where the attention is going to go? There’s a reason people write “can I match with your friend” on their dating profiles (don’t do this either by the way unless you want to look like a giant dick). The point is, don’t give people a reason not to look at you.
  • So by now you should understand pretty firmly that any photo not of you is dead weight and actually a hindrance on your profile. However, if you decide, against all of my stellar advice, to post a photo of scenery or some other asinine thing do not make it your first picture that everyone will see. If you do people will pass you by without a second thought.
  • No grainy photos. I shouldn’t have to say this. Even the crappiest of cameras produces a usable image nowadays, but somehow people keep posting these horribly pixelated images. Your prospective dates want to see you not Qbert.

Here are some specific tips for the masculine and the feminine among you. I’ve only grouped them this way because they are common mistakes that I see primarily men or women making. However, I still recommend reading all of them because they can still apply across the biological and gender spectrum.

Women: First, if you want to stand out from the crowd then you have to actually get away from the crowd! No group pics! Okay maybe one, but only if your photos number 5 or more. Here’s the deal. No one gives a rat’s ass about your friends. Don’t get me wrong, your friends are awesome to you and when you find someone to date consistently hopefully your partner will come to love your friends as much as you do, but they’re useless on your profile and they detract from you. Put up one photo to prove you have friends and focus the rest on you. Avoid groups of five or more because no one can see you anyway. You might as well post a photo of the Milky Way with an arrow saying “I am here.”

The above rule includes photos of you and one other person. I kid you not, I’ve looked through numerous dating profiles where every picture is of two people. If someone has to keep swiping back and forth to compare features like they’re part of some C.S.I. facial recognition team then expect them to not even bother.

I know we’re all special snowflakes and I appreciate that, but even snow flakes have to be examined under magnification because from a distance they all look the same. So make sure people only have one flake to look at, you.

Guys: For fucks sake! Stop taking selfies in your car or in front of your bathroom mirror or any mirror for that matter. You know how you look at people who make a duck face in their pictures, well that’s how they’re looking at you. It’s that bad.

While we’re at it. You only get one picture where you are wearing glasses and/or a ball cap (anything that obscures your face). What’s that? You have four photos and you’re wearing sunglasses in each one of them? Well, unless you’re Cyclops from X-Men lose the damn shades! People want to see what you look like, not imagine it.

All of these things hint at insecurity. It says that you’re more comfortable taking the picture yourself than having someone else do it and that when you’re in public you hide behind fashion accessories. (I’m playing fast and loose with the term fashion since we’re talking about baseball caps).

You’re going to have to make a bold move here. Next time you’re out with your friends have them take pictures of you doing whatever it is you’re doing. People don’t need to see your friends in the photo but they’ll know that your phone doesn’t have iHover so there must be someone holding it.

On the flip side of things, if you’re secure with yourself it is imperative that you keep your shirt on at all times. If you don’t most people are going to think you misplaced your Grindr/Fetlife photo and/or that you are a tool. The one exception would be a beach photo and you should only have one of those unless having two means one of them shows you buried in sand up to your nipples.

While we’re at it, consider it a good idea to leave those dead animal photos off of your profile. By all means, go ahead and mention that you hunt and/or fish. This way you’ll still scare off the animal rights activists, but people who are fence sitting won’t be repelled by the site of you and a carcass.

True story: I used to hunt (still would if it were easier to do where I lived) but the idea of someone posing with an animal they killed is completely disrespectful to me. Almost nothing makes me run from a profile faster and I guarantee I’m not the only one.

And for the love of everything good in the world, please consider smiling. I don’t want to talk to the guy who looks like he was just told he has two weeks to live, much less date him and neither will anyone else. I’ve seen guys who actually look mean and scary with their somber countenance. I know it’s unfair to tell another person to smile. I’m sorry and I fucking hate it when someone tells me to smile.  It’s arrogant, condescending and an insensitive form of emotional erasure. However, almost all of us smile at some point throughout the day. Consider showing that in at least one photo (ideally more) so people know it is part of your life and that you aren’t so dead serious.

Take a number of photos and have someone who knows you pick out the best one. It may not look natural because you never allow yourself to be photographed that way, but a close acquaintance will know because they see you smile often. Trust their judgement.

Finale

Well there you have it; a whole fist full of pointers about how to better your profile photos. Stay tuned for more dating profile advice down the road. Next I’ll cover what your writing should include and what you should leave out.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is there something I forgot to include when it comes to profile pictures? Sound off because I’d love to hear from you. Give me your love & ire.

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Biphobia & Orlando: Am I gay enough to grieve

So this woman wrote a wonderful article exploring the competing feelings that she experienced as a bisexual after the Pulse night club massacre. It’s about a two minute read and well worth your time.

https://medium.com/@elledowd/biphobia-and-the-pulse-massacre-add1dd9b27be#.a2fz3vk6n

By contrast: for me this was the first time I felt gay enough. The knot I had in my stomach for the two days after told me that every fiber of my being belonged to the queer community.

The Little Pink Bottle That Could

DSC_3842cThis may look like an ordinary water bottle (I don’t know anything about the bike shop so don’t ask) and you would be correct. However, at one time it’s symbolism extended far beyond its function.

I acquired this sports bottle semi- unintentionally. I had entered a mountain bike race at Kickapoo State Park in Illinois which was put on by a wonderful local group called the Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club. As is part and parcel of mountain bike races (at least in Illinois) the organizers were handing out grab bags for racers part of which was a clear or pink bottle. As you can well imagine, being a guy, I was handed a clear bottle. I took it and began to walk away from the registration table.

Then I stopped and began to think better of my decision. You see, ever since I watched the Giro d’Italia, which is a nearly month long bike race around Italy, I fell in love with pink as a color for cycling. In the Giro the leader’s jersey is called the Maglia Rosa and as the name might suggest to you the color is a brilliant rose pink. The pinkish hue is everywhere; on the cars, billboards, podium, bikes built especially for the occasion and on the confetti that falls precipitously at the finish. Yes, by the end of that twenty-some-odd day race I could never see pink again without seeing it for it’s flashy, race worthy badassery that is on display during that event.

The truth of the matter was I became hooked on the pink bottle as soon as I saw them, but until this very moment I had accepted the clear bottle as a matter of social conditioning even though I didn’t want one. I was about to remedy this. I turned around and asked, “Actually, could I get a pink one instead?”

That’s about all I remember. I don’t really remember the event itself. I think there was a little blood, a shitload of sweat from that good ol Midwest humidity and a mid pack finish for me.

At this point in my life, I had firmly accepted that I was pansexual but it seemed a rather academic point rather than a pragmatic one. I was married so exploring this newly realized identity was not exactly a viable option. I was comfortable with this. Plus, I didn’t solely like guys so being married to a woman didn’t undermine my identity.

If I can offer an aside, It’s important to note that I was also living in a conservative part of the country where being different isn’t exactly accepted. People aren’t wrong when they say the Midwesterners are nice. You can have a conversation with almost anyone on a whim. Just make sure to keep things on a superficial level or you may not like the topic once it shifts from the weather.

I always tell people that the Midwest (at least the rural portion) consists of a thin veneer of nicety concealing a seething cauldron of hatred beneath. At least every other day I had to back someone down from making some kind of horrible statement. Whether it was demonstrating xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, transphobia or what have you. It was tiring to say the least.

In fact, right around this time I remember a coworker/neighbor of mine taking a line of joking, that she started, the wrong way. Through the drags of her cigarette and with a good amount of hatred and disgust she called me a faggot as I parted her company. All of this before anyone aside from my wife at the time even knew that my sexual interest deviated from women.

I should say at this point that there are also some quality people in the Midwest and they deserve their credit. It must be admitted though that the small town mind pervades this geographical area more so than other parts of the country, save for the south perhaps.

I’ve lived in my new home state for almost two years now and I’ve been 100 percent out the entire time and have never had to back anyone down from anything racist, homophobic or the like. It feels like an emotional vacation, but I digress.

So now I had this pink water bottle which I loved, but did I dare use it in rural America? At first I began using it just as a way to haul extra water in my cooler on ride days. So when riding laps at my local trail I could stop by and refill my Camelback. I had to take a few friendly jabs about it but it was easy to say it was my Giro pink bottle even though the color didn’t match the Maglia Rosa. Then I started taking it to work daily as my go to bottle for the day. When anyone said something about it I quickly stated my fondness for it, “Are you kidding? I love pink, that’s my favorite bottle!” All of it was true.

What went unspoken was that in a weird way this became a means for me to push a boundary, admittedly a small one, on gender norms. This was literally the only pink thing I owned because as a man I wasn’t supposed to. If this sounds like bullshit, it is, but I swear to you this dynamic exists and is alive and well. Carrying this bottle was a way for me to signify that I was different.

Yes, I loved the color and I would have used it regardless of my sexual orientation. Even though the color pink has nothing definitive to do with being queer, it became a secret symbol of my queerness. It was a way for me to take that part of me out into public even if no one else knew what was going on. This gender-bending symbolism slowly gave me confidence.

Before I left the Midwest I came out to a few people close to me. It was the next step in my evolution and as weird as it may sound that pink bottle played a role.

Recently, I noticed this bottle was missing from my collection. I had long chalked it up as lost and had forgotten about it until my ex-wife walked into my place with it the other night. I had left it in her car and so it had remained for months.

As I washed it and placed it in the dish rack I realized that I still loved the color. A pink bike or team kit? Yes please. However, the bottle itself had lost it’s hold on me. I still like it but it’s no longer my favorite. It’s a bottle now, nothing more than a utilitarian object with a symbolic past.

I’m out! I’m queer, bisexual, and/or pansexual. I’m a faggot, whatever you want to call it I don’t really care. I paint my fingernails and toenails, I cross dress for myself and for my partners. You see, I don’t have to deal in hidden symbolism anymore. I am my own living symbol and that feels better than carrying around that pink bottle ever did.

 

Orlando, You Have My Heart

I can’t fully explain to you what the shooting in Florida means to someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Even though this country has taken a number of positive steps recently to show us a measure of respect, legal measures do not constitute social acceptance.

Night clubs such as the one in Orlando are sanctuaries. Places where those of us in the queer community can seek the comfort of like individuals. Even if we’ve never walked in the door there is something reassuring about knowing those places exist.

Now that feeling of safety is shattered. The camaraderie we seek and need has been used against us. Everyone in the queer community across America has the same sick feeling in the pit of their stomach today.

To my gendered and agendered family you are not alone in your pain or in your hope. The same desire for togetherness and community that brought us together in Orlando on that fateful night will see us through this tragedy as well.

My heart goes out to all of you in Orlando. My heart goes out to all of you everywhere. I love you.

Sometimes Love Isn’t Enough: State of the Relationship Address 3

queer_house

 

I just had a two month relationship end and I’m heartbroken.

I never thought this would happen to me; that I would be so in love with someone and them with me but that ending the relationship would be the best way forward for me. It’s kind of like a movie where there are irreconcilable forces at work which drive two lovers apart. Except at the end of my story there’s no metamorphosis which causes one or both people to change, making them get back together and live happily ever after. Real change is hard, sometimes it never happens. Reality can be shitty like that.

A general statement of why we separated would be that our relationship consisted of a continuous cycle of highs and lows. The highs were amazing and those moments led me to believe that we would have a wonderful future together. The lows on the other hand were unbearable to the both of us, but in very different ways.

This high-low cycle would repeat itself every 4-7 days and I struggled emotionally and intellectually trying to cope with the varying circumstances and the different treatment I would receive with each mood. I tried to handle it, but I couldn’t.

Instead I started to break. One moment I felt like I was allowed to be happy and the next I wasn’t. I felt like my every move was being acted out under surveillance, my every word transcribed and analyzed to be used against me. I started to doubt my own experiences and my thoughts. I lost who I was as a person and I felt like I was sinking. One day I realized that the happiness that took me two years to build was gone. I knew I had to stop the cycle while there was still enough of me left to do so.

And yet, I love her. Does that sound weird? Fucked-up even? It no doubt reads that way and yet if you’ve been in a similar situation you’ll probably understand. In fact, maybe that’s the only way to really comprehend it all. You see, it’s not that she wanted to do any of those things to me or make me feel that way. Rather, she was gripped by fear and insecurity which led to our ruin. The effects it had on her were no picnic either I’m sure. No . . . we didn’t mean for it to go down like that, but it happened nonetheless.

It’s hard for me to go through this knowing that we could likely still be together if I wanted to (or so it was at one time). I miss so many things about her. I miss the way things seemed natural and easy with us in a way I had never experienced before. I miss her caressing my body as if she were worshiping me. She had the darkest brown eyes I had ever seen. So wonderfully dark and glossy that it was near impossible to tell where her pupil stopped and her iris began. I’ll never get to gaze deeply into them again or kiss the spot where her nose meets her forehead. I’ll miss all those funny expressions she made when we were goofing around and the way she jokingly said she “was very serious.” I miss the life we had begun to lay out together and the feeling that it had the very real potential of being the best relationship I ever had. I will miss so much more of her than anyone else will ever know.

Yeah . . . this really fucking sucks. I want to go back and tell her I’m sorry, I made a mistake, we can start over again and that I love her. Only two of those things would be true. She tells me I gave up on her and maybe I did, but it was to save myself. It wasn’t a mistake (I wish it was) and I can’t go back no matter how much I want to.

As of this writing, it will be a week since we went our separate ways. This is also the day that I’ve hurt the most.

Between the pouring of tears (of which there were many writing this) there are a few glimmers of hope. Every now and then I find that my happiness is reemerging. I’ve also started to work on my dating profile. I have no immediate desire to start dating again, right now dating feels like doing a disservice to what we had, but the fact that I can see a future where that can happen is a promising sign for down the road. The profile is just a small step among many.

For now, I’m healing through hurting in that cathartic way that only pain can sometimes do. While I know that this will eventually pass, I also know that this is something I must experience. It’s where my head and my heart currently reside and that’s okay.

 

A postscript to my former lover: If you read this I hope you know that I love you very much and that I’m extremely grateful for all the wonderful moments we shared. I’ll never forget our time and what you meant to me. With all my heart, I thank you.