You don't have to love Lena Dunham or her TV show to admit that there's something about Girls. Like a portrait of the positive, upbeat women of Sex and the City done in negative colors, the young women of Girls represent us in our darkest and most desperate moments. They're the parts of us that drunk-dial our exes, sleep with guys we shouldn't, pick petty fights with our friends, and spend a lot of time loathing ourselves. You know, the parts of us that we aren't so proud of.
It's the part of our personality that will reveal itself over the course of a romantic relationship — but it's not usually the side that we lead with. But what if we did? Could it maybe, just maybe, cut through all the bullshit? People respond so deeply to the show's portrayal of the inner darkness of regular young women — so isn't there a chance that the dudes of OkCupid might feel the same? If you filled a dating profile with your greatest fears and frankest emotional concerns, could you maybe just skip all the fakery, and jump straight into finding a guy who's interested in who you really are?
This was the fevered, foolishly idealistic, Hannah-like state I was in when I pulled together OkCupid profiles for each of the ladies from Girls. But even as I assembled them, I knew this was going to be tougher going than when I created profiles for the Sex and the City women. For, while the quotes I used for the SATC dating profiles were hopeful, positive, and emanated a sense of possibility, every Girls quote I found, when removed from the context of the show, read like something you would have found on LiveJournal in 2004. Basically, the kind of stuff only a sociopath would put in their online dating profile.
I knew the Girls girls would be a hard sell on personality alone; absent Jessa's raw sexuality, Shoshanna's amazing hair-dos, or Marnie's slutty Von Trapp child outfits, how would guys respond to their dark, self-involved ramblings? Would anyone message them at all? If we put our real, darkest selves out there, would people be moved by our honesty? Or just skip over them in favor of some girl whose whole profile was just about how much she liked autumn? I had to know.
So, I pulled some pictures from my own Facebook archives, drew together all the most relevant Girls quotes that I could find, and prepared for my week-long voyage into the pool of ultimate darkness and despair that is...the girls of Girls dating online.
Stats: 9 messages, 29 visitors
Though Hannah is obviously a self-absorbed mess, I thought she might stand the best chance out of anyone to land some dates. Even in her neuroses, she's funny and well-spoken, and I thought her more out-there moments might even reel people in with their surprising honesty.
"hey, how was your weekend"
"Hi. You Seem Like A Big Fan Of The Beagle Dog. Beagles Are The Master Breed."
Conclusions: Or they might not. Rather than go for Hannah because of her disarming honesty, the few dudes who reached out to her seemed to be looking for the blandest (or weirdest) possible way to talk to her about anything but the stuff she mentioned in her profile.
Stats: 8 messages, 22 visitors
I thought that people might relate to Marnie's forthright admissions of her own vulnerabilities — her quotes had the least show-boating, the most genuine confusion about life, and were honestly probably the closest to my inner monologue in my early twenties. I couldn't be the only one who read this and identified a little bit, right?
"Do you like Kelis?"
Conclusions: Marnie's stream-of-consciousness-like confessions (and my Ann Taylor Loft dress) did not seem to garner her much attention, and the attention that she did get seemed to be, once again, focused on anything besides the things she said in her profile (Kelis?).
Stats: 31 messages, 125 visitors
At a bit of a loss for to how to capture Jessa's omnipresent sensuality in this profile, I decided to use the most cleavage-heavy shot I could find of myself. So I'm not sure if the fact that Jessa got the most responses out of the group should be credited to that, or her sassy and freewheeling use of the word "vagina" in her profile, but she seemed to be pretty popular.
"Geez how am I supposed to make you feel that way? I'll lose everything I love. Your heart and your vagina haha."
"I pet your head and take off my clothes as you playfully rub my cock through my underwear."
"Are you open to bareback?"
Conclusions: Of course, popularity isn't always a great thing. Though I had thought that Jessa's profile might make her come off as a little flaky or immature, the responses she got skewed towards the straight-up bizarre. And what was up with the guy who sent her a 200 word, first-person creative writing piece about having S & M sex with her? Is that the world of sadness that every woman who is open to casual sex on Ok Cupid is thrust into? I felt like I needed a cold compress every time I opened her mailbox.
Stats: 11 messages, 26 visitors
My favorite character by a mile, I thought that Shosh stood the best chance of getting some actual, normal responses — especially since her quotes seemed closer to the kind of things you might actually say on a dating profile (as opposed to the quotes on everyone else's profile, which sounded more like stuff you might say to your therapist).
"Girl, if you were a fruit, you'd be a fineapple"
"What's your name? Carrie? Samantha? Lol...or is that just some personality that comes out?"
Conclusions: Shoshanna didn't find passionate true love, but she did nab the most normal-sounding responses of any of the Girls. And by the end of this experiment, I was willing to settle for that.
So it turns out that disarming honesty about your deep inner darkness is a good way to create a highly addictive cable TV drama, but it may not be the best online dating strategy.
But I was struck by the way that it didn't seem to put guys off the Girls entirely. I had assumed that guys would either steer clear entirely, or try to engage the Girls in their madness, but the most popular strategy seemed to be to just disregard everything that each character said in her profile and try to start from scratch. The vast majority of messages that everyone got (except for Jessa) were of the "hi" or "How was your weekend?" variety. Much like the rando dude at a bar that you end up accidentally baring your soul to after you've had a few too many, these dudes were eager to change the subject any way that they could (random pop stars? Beagles? Gross sexual fantasies?).
Which is a little depressing, of course. My moment of heady idealism was wrong — there's no place in online dating to lead with your worst self, because people assume that you're leading with your best self, and thus don't really seem to know how to respond.
But at the end of the day, I found the experiment's results to be strangely heartening. If people are willing to give a "what's up" to Marnie's raw ego or Hannah's strange egotism, there really and truly is hope for every one of us.