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What One Needs Before Posting an Engaging Dating Profile

Here are three things I always include.

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illustration of laptop with dating profiles on screen
Kiersten Essenpreis
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At last count I’ve written two dozen online dating profiles resulting in four marriages and eight long-term relationships. Not my four marriages and eight relationships. I write the profiles for friends.

“You should do this for a living,” my buddy Michelle Mosko (now with boyfriend Tom) said.

I told her, “I don’t think Randy wants me spending five days a week on Match.com.”

Randy is my husband, whom I met right before the dawn of computer dating. Both of us were divorced. Both of us 42 years old. He lived in New York City. I lived in Chicago. He had two kids. I had zero kids. We were fixed up the old-fashioned way — over the telephone — by friends who lived in California. Matchmaking was much less efficient before the internet. Twenty-five years of marriage later, that happy saga is relayed in my memoir, The Last Blind Date.

Though, if I were Randy-less today, you can be sure I’d be cranking out an online Linda profile right now. As awkward or self-conscious as posting photos and answering questionnaires may seem, according to the fine folks at Pew Research, over 30 million U.S. adults have used online dating sites, of which 32 percent are 50 or older. That’s 10 million age-appropriate people you probably haven’t met yet and maybe, just maybe, one of them is someone you’d like. So, with my .500 batting average in the profile-writing department, I now offer some pointers. Starting with photos.

Yes, it’s a shallow world out there, but put on some lipstick, stand in soft lighting and smile big. Just don’t place yourself among any other crowds, parties or faces to demonstrate how likable you are. Especially other girlfriends. I learned this the hard way, pre-Randy, when a friend serving as a matchmaker passed my photo along to a man she felt certain was my destiny. My friends Janet and Lynn were also in the photo. Mr. Destiny apparently returned the picture to the matchmaker friend, saying, “I like the one on the left.” I was on the right.

So, keep those pix solo. (Exception to rule: You can include a dog. As long as it’s your dog. Do not rent one. That’s cheating.) On the flip side of the photo equation, don’t be too quick to criticize when you’re the one viewing potential candidates.

My mother and I used to debate about first impressions all the time. I’d return home from an evening out and report, “Didn’t go well. He sweats too much.”

Then, much to my ongoing amazement, she’d always say something like, “Are you going to see him again?”

So. I’d repeat the sweaty part of the conversation. “Give him another chance,” she’d say. “Maybe he was nervous. Or maybe his forehead needs a mop.”

Then I’d mumble how you don’t have to eat a whole egg to know it’s bad. She’d mumble how I was too judgmental. OK, she was right.

When I first met Randy, he was slim with a headful of dark, curly hair. Now he’s less slim with zero hair. At no point during my dating life did I ever say, “I’ve got my heart set on finding a bald guy with a belly.” But as it turns out — that’s now exactly the type I’m in love with! What matters to a teenager or a 22-year-old (he owns a motorcycle!) might not be what you value at this stage of life (kindness, companionship). Dismissing someone based on looks is, well … shortsighted. Or as my mother also said, “Everyone looks the same in the dark.”

As for the written part of profiles, here are three things I always include.

1. The word “cherish” — usually in a sentence that goes something like this: “Is it uncool to say I want to feel cherished — and cherish someone in return? And laugh. A lot. And kiss. A lot.” Lay it on the line. A word like cherish will attract the sweet men and scare off the jerks. Besides, you deserve to feel cherished. I know this for a fact.

2. Be specific. Rather than, “I like discovering new restaurants,” say, for instance, “I’m searching for Chicago’s best roast chicken.” It will help you weed out anyone who hates chicken. 

3.  Don’t say, “A sense of humor is important to me.” Instead, say something funny. Then see if you get a makes-you-laugh response in return. For a bonus, here are three red flags (abandon ship!!) to watch out for once you’re on an actual date.

1. Anyone who starts a dinner conversation with the words: “My ex is a bitch.”

2. Anyone who divvies up the check by items. “Your coleslaw cost a dollar extra.”

3. Anyone who’s rude to waiters, doormen or taxi drivers. Even if you’re not on a date, avoid all number 3s.

There you have it. Everything I’ve learned writing online dating profiles even though I’ve never gone on an online date. But I know love via cyberspace can work. Randy and I recently attended the wedding of a bride and groom in their 60s who’d met online. Or as the rabbi said, when beginning the service: “I’m here today, to join in marriage, Manhattan 10023 to Ruby Red Slippers.” 

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