If you, like me, are a connoisseur of Internet dating horror stories, I'm sure you've caught the recent flood of bad online dating profiles that have gone viral. Cataloging such Internet romantic failures as "The Woman Whose OkCupid Profile Had Too Many Demands" and "The Guy Who Interviewed Himself In His Opening Message," these stories of fantastically horrible online dating profiles have become the campfire tales of the online dating trenches, digging into our secret fears about the wackos winking and swiping right at us. She opened the creaky old OkCupid inbox to find... a guy who sent the same exact mass email to hundreds of women! Ahhhh!
I laughed along with everyone else while I read these — and yet, I wondered about the people behind the viral urban love legends. Were the writers of these profiles just dense? Maniacs whose minds and spirits had been broken by the Internet dating grind, and now they had to walk the lonely moors of OkCupid and Tinder alone, muttering quietly to themselves about "having standards"?
Or perhaps, I thought, they know something that we don't. Rather than being failures for scaring off the majority of people, was it possible that these profiles actually succeeded by reeling in the one right person crazy enough to bite? Maybe these seemingly deranged and demanding online daters have a better system worked out than the rest of us, who are just writing about how much we like autumn and pub trivia. Maybe they were, despite all the Internet heat they had taken, actually getting what they wanted.
I decided that there was only one way to investigate this phenomenon: go undercover online as the most demanding dater the men in my zip code have ever encountered, and see what happened.
I created my demanding persona, "lemon_zinger," by dredging the deepest, grossest depths of my own mind. She was composed of one part "things I would actually say in an online dating profile now;" one part "my darkest urges, longings, and fears I experienced during my years on the dating scene;" and one part "deranged ramblings crafted to scare off literally anyone who reads this profile." She was a thing of terrible, terrible beauty, ready to destroy any man foolish enough to click on her profile pic. Here's how it went down:
After "extensive research" (i.e. googling "really bad dating profiles"), this is what I came up with. You might want to settle in for this one, because it's a doozy:
Exhausting, right? And you're not even thinking of dating me.
But as wacky as my demands all seemed, it wasn't hard for me to picture myself writing something not so different from this profile in earnest had I spent a little more time working the online dating scene. I met my boyfriend when I was about six to 10 months away from this kind of pained dating exhaustion. Who knows what would have happened if we hadn't gotten together? Maybe I would have written a tragically raw dating profile like this for real. Those viral profiles started to feel less like the handiwork of laughable weirdos, and more like the cries of people who unfortunately happened to hit personal low points while logged into eHarmony.
I even thought there was a small chance that someone might respond to "lemon_zinger"'s seeming honesty. So much of dating is about presenting an impeccably curated image of yourself — one that inevitably falls apart minutes into an actual date — that something as clearly un-curated as this profile might have some perverse appeal.
But mostly, I thought everyone would steer clear. Because even though she comes from the inner sanctums of my own mind, and even though her heart is in the right place, "lemon_zinger" is kind of a sociopath.
Just looking at "lemon_zinger"'s profile was so tiring — I couldn't even make myself check in on OkCupid to see what kind of responses it was getting. I assumed those perusing her words would find her even more tiring than I did, and that I would probably have two or three emails asking what was wrong with me, and one misspelled message about boobs.
So, imagine my shock when, checking in a week later, I saw that she had received 21 messages. 21!?! Yes, there were 400 plus other visitors who checked out the profile and sensibly turned tail, but 21 was still about 20 more messages than I had expected her to receive.
Who were these 21 men willing to be lured to their doom by a maniac who wants to make sure that you support her life choices, stance on Kelly Clarkson, and home craft business before even talking to you? Let's find out.
"Hi, I really enjoyed reading your profile and I think we have a lot in common. I'm not going to assume what qualities you will not like about me. Rather, I'll give you a more detailed description of the examples you provided: Hair Length: I refer you to my pictures (also taken at the Freehold Mall).Job: Legal Advice and Protection PeddlerBad Taste in Movies: 40 Year Old Virgin.Mother: I have one.Pet Snake: Roommate had one in college. I hated it and had nightmares about it. I eventually allowed my roommate to put it around my neck.Gross sex things I like to do: I'm completely comfortable and thoroughly enjoy all the sex things I like to do.I'll leave the credit card thing alone.
As for your questionnaire, I'd prefer to answer those questions in a setting wherein we're on a date."
"Not in your age range but wanted to ask... are you going to see Gone Girl since it was one of your favorite books?"
"Wow those are.big"
"How you doing I'm Paul"
It turns out that the guys "lemon_zinger" attracted were not all that different from the kind of guys most straight women's dating profiles seem to draw in: a handful of guys actually responding to the content of your profile, a handful of guys with something hostile to say, and a ton of dudes who obviously only looked at the picture.
The most depressing lesson to take away from this would be that there's no point in slaving over your profile, because almost no one is actually reading it. Part of me regrets not having thrown something like "I am responsible for about 250 armed robberies throughout the Southwestern U.S." into the middle of that bio, just to see if anyone was paying attention.But a more uplifting take on the same information would be that you don't need to kill yourself pretending to have no demands or standards just to get by on the dating market. I know that I spent the vast majority of my own dating years working hard to lie about my real desires or goals in dating, because I was afraid that admitting that I wanted a boyfriend would somehow keep me from getting a boyfriend.
But asking for what you want in dating isn't going to send everyone running away because, ewww, gross, it's a woman who knows what she wants! She must be a witch! In fact, "lemon_zinger" seemed to draw in a few more interesting dudes than I had while online dating (in a different life, I would have totally gone out with the guy who liked The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Letting it all hang way, way out didn't net worse potential dates than the impeccably "chill" girl I had pretended to be online all those years ago.
Profiles like these go viral because they tap into one of our deepest fears: that actually putting our real, unbridled selves out there in dating will result in pain, humiliation, and our possibly becoming an Internet meme.
But openly communicating your true desires and demands to potential dates isn't a one-way ticket to dying alone under a pile of discarded Lean Cuisine boxes, as I had always feared. Honesty in potential dates might just be more appealing than any of us give it credit for. After all, isn't the end goal of all these awkward dinner dates to find someone whose beliefs and values and hobbies and pet peeves line up with yours enough that you could actually spend your lives together? Isn't going out there with the real you in full bloom a not-terrible way to look for that match? At the very least, knowing that someone is kinda deranged is a little more interesting than just knowing that they love autumn and pub trivia.
So while I can't fully endorse over-the-top profiles as a dating strategy, I do think they have something to teach us: that we don't have to worry so much about being some imaginary "ideal woman" when putting ourselves out there. Our real, demanding selves aren't that horrific — they're just proof that we're actual human beings. And being an actual human being isn't a turn-off. I mean, if "lemon_zinger" can find a date, then there is hope for each and every one of us.
Images: Paramount Pictures, Giphy (5)