How You Reply To OkCupid Messages At 22 Vs. 28 Years Old, Because Your 20s Are For Learning

Of all the many, many things I learned between my early 20s and my late 20s — don't be afraid to speak up at work, don't cut your own bangs, don't let yourself believe that compulsively showing up 15 minutes late everywhere you go is "whimsical" — some of the most important lessons I picked up were about dating. I'm not saying that dating is the most important thing that happened in my life during my twenties; but the way I approached love and dating may have changed more than anything else in that time period (aside from my ability to drink on a weeknight, that is).

At 22, I was eager to please, wore my heart on my sleeve, was unable to tell when I wasn't really connecting with someone, and didn't know how to let down a dude who did nothing for me but "seemed nice." By 28, I was more aware of my tastes and values when it came to seeking a partner, was less likely to chase after uninteresting relationships simply to feel the buzz of being liked, and less likely to agree to a second or third date just because I was scared to be home alone, stuck with my own thoughts.

Do all people's ideas about dating change in the same exact way as they get older? No. (Is it easier to sit at home alone with your own thoughts since they invented Netflix streaming, which did not exist when I was 22? Maybe.) But for many of us, those years between 22 and 28 make us less afraid to be honest, less willing to go out of our way to get a stranger's approval, and less likely to get caught up in a mediocre relationship just to kill time.

As the great philosopher Cher once said, "If I could turn back time/If I could find a way/I'd go grab my 22-year-old self/And just shake her and shake her and shake her/And then tell her she didn't need to waste her time trying to pursue relationships with guys she had nothing in common with/ Just because she was lonely/I mean, who isn't."

But since none of us can turn back time — I mean, if Cher can't, what hope do you have? — I'll have to settle for responding to the 13 real OkCupid messages below. Culled from actual OkCupid responses I received as part of online dating experiments, as well as real message received by my online-dating female friends, these puppies represent some of the most common tropes you'll find on OkCupid, whether you're 22, 28, or 92.

1. "What's your perfect evening out?"

22:

28:

2. “After you post a head-to-toe pic, let’s sit down for a drink”

22:

28:

3. "hi"

22:

28:

4. "Hey, I know you said you were looking for..."

"...someone who lives in the same area as you, and I don't, but you seemed cute, so I thought I should take a chance and message you anyway :)"

22:

28:

5. “Hi Laura”

22:

28:

6. “Hey, I know you're probably not interested because I'm ugly but..."

"... you're so pretty, I thought I'd give it a try."

22:

28:

7. “So, obviously you’re aesthetically interesting..."

"...but a buddy of mine was looking over my shoulder just now and claimed that — without a doubt — your profile was written by a guy; he says any profile with so little information makes him suspicious. He claimed that there were a million dead giveaways. I came to your defense, of course, but it got a little out of hand and now we’ve got a $20 bet going fast to whether or not you’re really a girl. so, just between you and me, am I about to lose $20?"

22:

28:

8. "ur beautiful"

22:

28: *deletes message*

9. “wanna fuck around?”

22: *deletes message*

28: *deletes message*

10. “Are you ready for pumpkin spice latte season?”

22:

28:

11. “How you doing I’m Paul”

22:

28:

12. "Wanna meet up? I think we'd have beautiful babies together."

22:

28:

13. "How come you haven't replied to my message yet?"

22:

28:

*Closes computer, tells friends she is going to "go out and meet people organically;" watches Netflix*

TED-Ed on YouTube

Images: Flower Films/ Warner Bros. Films, Giphy (15)