#1094: How do I answer the “what are you looking for in a relationship” question when I’m not sure I know?

Dear Captain Awkward,

How do I respond to the ‘what are you looking for’ question? It feels like no matter what I say it’s never the right answer. If I say I want a relationship I feel like that reads as ‘I’m desperate to get married and have babies’ which I’m not (been there, done that). And, if I say I’m open to something casual then it reads as ‘I have no self-worth, this is an open invitation for you to use me for sex without any regard for my feelings or basic human decency’ (100% nope). I also hate that I might unintentionally give the other person certain expectations or drive them away before I’ve had a chance to get to know them and figure out what, if anything, I want from them.

Personally, I don’t go looking for a particular type of relationship. I just look for someone I connect with and hope that we are both on the same page. Sometimes it leads to a long-term monogamous relationship, sometimes it leads to something more casual but equally fulfilling, sometimes it leads to a whole lot of drama, and sometimes it doesn’t lead to anything.

Personally I’m open to a range of relationship options – depending on who the other person is, what our chemistry is like, and what else is going on in my life at the time. The only things I am 100% not open to are BS drama and being treated like crap.

So how do I answer the question in a way that helps me filter out the jerks and time wasters whilst still keeping my options open?

Hello!

Dating can often resemble a series of job interviews, and the “So, what are you looking for” question can feel like a conversation killer. It’s the “So, where do you see yourself in 5 years” or the “What are your biggest weaknesses” question of a job interview and the “You can write about anything you want, no restrictions!” assignment of a creative writing class, i.e., a recipe for the other person to become totally blocked and inarticulate. I get the whole “let’s not waste each other’s time” aspect of it, like, if you want a monogamous marriage & kids and your date is Casanova Of The Perpetual Seeking it would be good to figure that out soon. But I think it’s also worth asking “Hey, are you the sort of person I could see myself wasting a little bit of time with?” 

So, what if you used this question as a way to fantasize about the kind of person you are attracted to and compatible with rather than to define the kind of relationship you want esp. as you’re just getting to know someone?

When I was online dating 6+ years ago, this was mostly what was in the “What I’m Looking For” section of my OKCupid profile:

You are gregarious, outgoing, and have closely knit community of friends and/or family around you. That doesn’t mean “No introverts,” just that I want someone who draws people to him and welcomes them in.

You are physically and verbally demonstrative. The “strong, silent type” is definitely not for me.

You think a good evening would be scouting out a grocery store and making an ambitious recipe together.

You are passionate…about something. There is some subject that you love enough that it lights you up to talk about it and sometimes your friends have to stop you and say “Ok, enough about _____.”

When I say “I’m a feminist!” you say “Neat, me too!”

You live somewhere accessible by public transit.

You’re comfortable taking the lead sometimes in making the plans. It’s not your fault (we all have baggage from old relationships, right?) but right now the least sexy words in the English language are “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” and “I don’t care. Whatever.” One of my superpowers is finding neat, inexpensive stuff to do in the city – I promise I’ll pull my weight.

This isn’t personal: I get really bored with weeks of messaging back and forth, IMs, etc. Let’s meet up! How bad could it be?

This IS personal: Married guys, step off. I’m sure you have a very unique and complicated story. Tell it to me when you’re not sharing a bed and a bank account with someone else. Furthermore, I am categorically uninterested in any kind of “polyamory” setup.

Finally, I don’t read too much into OK Cupid match percentages, but based on 11 years of anecdotal evidence from dating in Chicago, if you have Guns, Germs, and Steel, American Gods, Devil in the White City, and a bunch of Neal Stephenson on your bookshelf, the chances are very high that we will make out at some point in our lives. I’m not even saying that those are my favorite books, or your favorite books – I’m just saying: It is our destiny.

Mr. Awkward read that in early 2012 and thought “Could she be looking for me?” and it turns out I was. Not to marry, necessarily, but to go on some dates with. Other dudes read that and thought: “NOPE!” and kept scrolling, and that’s a good thing. I didn’t want to find the widest possible list of matches, I wanted to find specific matches who might be a good fit for my brand of weird.

My list of what I wanted at that time won’t look like anyone else’s and that’s also a good thing. You can see me try to compensate or correct or some of the lessons I’d learned from other relationships and dating experiences. For example, I emphatically did not want to be someone’s Only Person (esp. right after meeting them), I didn’t want to be the person making all the plans. I wasn’t looking for a polyamorous setup and I wanted to be clear about that. Also, quiet people are great, but my wordy ADHD ass shouldn’t date them.

So, what if you said:

  • “I’m looking for someone who is as cool and kind and as funny as my friends.”
  • “I’m looking for someone who will come to the RenFaire with me and not be too shy to wear costumes.” 
  • “I’m looking for someone who does not talk during movies.” 
  • “I’m looking for someone who super-loves dogs, since I have 4 of them and they’re basically the center of my world.” 
  • “I’m looking for someone who loves to plan vacations.” 
  • “I hate talking on the phone, so I’d rather not do too much of it.”
  • “I really like my alone time, so I like to date people who have a lot of their own interests and friends.” 
  • “I’m really involved in my local political scene, I want to date someone who cares a lot about politics.” 
  • “I’m really involved in my church, I’m looking for someone who is also religious or at least spiritual.” 
  • “I hate cooking and would eat out every night of the week if I could, so I need to either find someone who really loves cooking or someone who really loves sandwiches.” 

What are you into? Have opinions. Have preferences. Be specific. Don’t be afraid to alienate people by having strong opinions and preferences. If I had a dollar for all the dudes who read my profile and wanted to argue with me about why feminism is actually discrimination against men I’d be rich. The fact that they honed in on that detail and thought I’d enjoy arguing about it was an excellent “weeding out” tool.

Speaking of weeding out tools, I also had full-body profile photos and language in the profile about being fat:

I’m fat. “Google ‘Beth Ditto naked’, subtract the tattoos and goth hair, and you’ll get the idea. If you’re not down with that, it’s cool. I don’t like smokers, ponytails, or people who pronounce library as “liberry.” Life is short; be picky!”

If I had a dollar for all the dudes who wrote to me about how they didn’t normally like fat chicks but they really liked my sense of humor so they were willing to give it a try but you know, “desire is really complex,” I’d be extremely rich. People’s reactions to that fact told me a lot about who they were.

Again, the point of dating isn’t to sand off your edges or hide your preferences in order to appeal to a wide variety of people and then narrow down the field to one lucky person. You say you’re worried about driving people away before you’ve gotten the chance to know them, but driving people who can be driven away by something that’s true and important about you is actually a good thing.

As for scripts, let’s take your letter as a guide. What if you were honest and told your dates what you told us?

  • “I never know how to answer that question, especially when I’ve just met someone! How do you usually answer that question?” (It’s totally fair to turn this around on the person who asked – if they are asking this question in this way chances are they have their own agenda).
  • “I guess I’d like to go on some fun dates and enjoy myself and then see if there’s enough chemistry for a longer-term thing or if it’s better to keep it casual.” 
  • “My answer to that really depends on the person. Why, what do you have in mind?” 
  • “I’ll know it when I see it. What’s the weirdest answer anyone has told you when you’ve asked that?” 
  • “I want to get married and have ONE MILLION babies. Also, are you rich? You seem rich, and that’s awesome because I’m quitting my job soon.” “Just kidding – I wanted to see your face when I said that, though!” (To be clear, if a person did want to find someone to marry, that’s good information and you shouldn’t have to hide it in order to pretend to be cool. “I know for sure I want to have kids someday,  and I’d love to settle down soon, but I’m not in a hurry to lock things down with you, specifically, right now – let’s just date for a bit and see how it goes.” If that totally scares someone off from you, let them get scared!)

It’s okay to have fun with this. There is no right answer, only your answer.

 

 

 

112 comments
  1. Jiu Jiu said:

    I liked saying “I’m looking for someone who is open to the possibility of marriage but not having more kids.” (I was okay with the idea of stepping 1-2 kids of a certain age, but not birthing or adopting).

    In some ways if that scared some folks off, awesome. So much of online dating is weeding out incompatible folks, so this was a great step. I actually put that in my profile so that I didn’t have to have the “so do you want to get married???” talk.

    It may be worth noting that I was in my late 30s, so I can understand that may be VERY different coming from someone early 20s.

  2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived said:

    Someone once mentioned on here that their criteria for whether or not they want to bang someone is that the person doesn’t want to make a lampshade out of their skin, and I think that’s a great place to start. Be with people who make you feel safe and happy and I think your relationship goals will become clear over time.

  3. Tea Rocket said:

    To be honest, I think this LW might be overthinking the question. S/he already had the perfect response to “What are you looking for in a relationship?” in the body of her/his question:

    Personally, I don’t go looking for a particular type of relationship. I just look for someone I connect with and hope that we are both on the same page. Sometimes it leads to a long-term monogamous relationship, sometimes it leads to something more casual but equally fulfilling, sometimes it leads to a whole lot of drama, and sometimes it doesn’t lead to anything.

    I think the Captain has some good suggestions about being honest about your dealbreakers (no matter how “stupid” they are) and not hiding the things about yourself that might be dealbreakers to other people. But if you’re dating to meet people and see where it goes—which may well be nowhere—then there’s nothing wrong with stating that.

    • JenniferP said:

      Agree!

    • Redgirl said:

      I had the same thought. Like, “take paragraphs 2 and 3 of your letter and…voila…you have your answer!”

  4. larielera said:

    I think LW should also know that it’s FINE for them to not know exactly what kind of relationship they want. Maybe just type up the second paragraph, then reiterate and get in depth a bit more within the first few dates, after they’ve had a chance to feel out whether they think the relationship would be a casual or long-term one. The same timeline, basically, that a person would need to bring up having kids or something else that would be a personal dealbreaker.

  5. Kat G said:

    “Again, the point of dating isn’t to sand off your edges or hide your preferences in order to appeal to a wide variety of people and then narrow down the field to one lucky person”

    Yes, THIS. If you’re apologizing for your most basic wants and needs before even meeting the person, it’s only going to go downhill from there. Writing a weed-out profile is an EXCELLENT skill to hone when online dating. It took me far too long to start dropping the f-bomb (feminism) in my profile. Same with mentioning that I’m tall. And opinionated. Turns out some people aren’t down for that, which is fine and dandy, but those aren’t people I should date (or who should date me). Figure out what parts of yourself you’re unwilling to compromise on, and put them front and center. It acts as a deterrent for people who are a bad fit, and an advertisement to those who are a great fit.

    Also: seeing ANY Ayn Rand books mentioned fondly in a dude’s profile was a hard pass. Of all the myriad filters I used to select potential dates, that was the simplest and most effective.

    • Sarah said:

      Oh, the “tall and opinionated” is really some serious Kryptonite shit in dating. I’m a loud, tall feminist who loves getting involved at church and bringing all those things up together was basically like lighting a fuse and seeing how long it would take for it to blow dudes’ minds.

      But here’s what I figured out, LW: my friends love me like that. They love me well and they love me HARD. So why would I expect any less from a guy I want to date? And they love me with my rough edges and opinions and even my friends with kids love me despite knowing I honestly kind of hate kids and don’t ever want to settle anywhere. So I put that stuff in my profile. I’m a Sunday school teacher who loves kids for all of two hours a month, adventure is my priority over literally everything (yes, even you, even if you’re super cute), and I want somebody who will be my pillow on long-haul flights. If you can swap book recommendations, you get extra points, and if you’re reading something outside of the Western canon I’ll probably kiss you at some point. If you think fat jokes are funny I’m never going to laugh at you (well, I might laugh AT you, but I certainly won’t laugh WITH you).

      You’re not trying to find somebody you have to change just to be around, or where you feel like you need to change to please them. So take that paragraph where you state – very clearly! – what you’re open to and use it. It’s really good! It’s clear and it leaves open all kinds of possibility.

      Also, Captain? I already knew I liked you because this blog is awesome, but that section from your profile is top-notch.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Yes! If I’m ever in the online dating pool again I have some really great weed out filters to use. The Ayn Rand thing is key.

    • Ros said:

      But life gets so much BETTER when tall opinionated people who hate Ayn Rand date people who LIKE those particular attributes.

      Or, as my husband told me last weekend: “you’re so stubborn, it’s really great – it means you hold firm with the kids and I can’t get away with shit. I really respect that!” (A. I’m bullheaded as hell, stubborn is understating it. I’ve gotten better, but… yeah. Defining character trait. b. Marrying someone who respected that as a quality and relies on it and respects me for it was an A+ move. Marrying someone who saw it as a flaw to overcome would have been a recipe for disaster.)

      • Thanksforallthefish said:

        Oh man yeah! Currently dating someone I love dearly but who finds some of my quirks frustrating. It’s hard. It’s an opposites attract kind of situation where the extrovert and introvert try to make it work but if I’m ever single again I’m taking a page out of CA’s book and requiring someone who enjoys my rambly chatty extroverted ADHD self.

        • Ros said:

          Oh, boy. I was the introvert in that particular situation once or twice, and… yeah. I just wound up SO TIRED. (Caveat: I’m someone who is happiest working from home where I don’t have to speak to anyone for days on end. I’m a hermit introvert)

          Now I’m married to someone who understands my preferred way of spending an evening (good food, good books, good sex) and who actually arranges childcare so the kids go somewhere else and we can stay home together. You can’t even know how much I appreciate that. 🙂

      • Sarah said:

        Yes! I was seeing somebody for a little while who was all the things I’m not but that I really value in a partner – he was essentially my foil. But the thing is, we liked being each other’s foil. I loved that he calmed me down, he loved that I brought excitement into his life. It was maybe the first time I’d really felt appreciated for being exactly who I am and it was GLORIOUS.

    • Britpoptarts said:

      I find the idea of appealing to a wide variety of people exhausting before I even begin. I’m an introvert. Can’t I be picky and chase off all but the most suitable-for-me?

      I haven’t looked at dating sites in ages (not since I was working on a thesis project ages ago) and one thing that I found immediately distasteful (besides Ayn Rand, “no fat chix,” fedoras for no good reason and professions of being a really Nice Guy to whom the bitches just don’t give a chance) were multiple egregious grammar and spelling errors. I have friends with learning disabilities who occasionally will type a homonym or misspell something and I do understand that not everyone is a walking Strunk and White or Harbrace, and that’s fine. Typos also happen. But there were SO MANY adults who could not write coherently, or like grown-ups, that I got very discouraged. I know I’m a reader, education matters to me (so many friends and relatives are teachers, I have multiple degrees), and that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life automatically mentally proofreading everything my significant other writes down (or cringing internally over horrifyingly bad spoken grammar faux pas). Not being great at spelling or grammar OBVIOUSLY doesn’t make anyone a bad person, it is just one of my pet peeves.

      But, yeah, I’d take a thousand “ain’t got none”s or “he done good”s over a large collection of Ayn Rand (or Scientology) books.

      • johann7 said:

        I find the idea of appealing to a wide variety of people exhausting before I even begin. I’m an introvert. Can’t I be picky and chase off all but the most suitable-for-me?

        I sort of thought that this was the entire point of profiles on dating sites, and especially those compatibility quizzes where one can identify acceptable responses as with OKCupid. A majority of people don’t appear to agree, given how bland and general most of the profiles I’ve seen are. It actually seems like a lot of people would rather avoid rejection (for good reasons of likely incompatibility) than use it as a tool to help filter people with whom one isn’t compatible for whatever reasons. I find it baffling. Online dating hasn’t worked at all for me, and I think part of that may be that I wasn’t using the systems the way most people were.

        Unfortunately, given the popularity of Tinder and clone services, I really haven’t tried again in years, becasue I refuse to link third party apps to my Facebook profile for reasons that should now be obvious to everyone (and I thought were clear all along, hence my refusal to use services like Tinder, but apparently not given how many people are upset by the fact that their Facebook information is functionally public).

        • I sort of thought that this was the entire point of profiles on dating sites, and especially those compatibility quizzes where one can identify acceptable responses as with OKCupid. A majority of people don’t appear to agree, given how bland and general most of the profiles I’ve seen are. It actually seems like a lot of people would rather avoid rejection (for good reasons of likely incompatibility) than use it as a tool to help filter people with whom one isn’t compatible for whatever reasons. I find it baffling.

          So here’s the thing–the point of profiles on online dating sites is whatever the people constructing the profiles think it is. Some of them are going to use that profile to represent themselves really well and see who messages. Some are going to use the profile to screen out the people they don’t think they want to talk to. Some are going to use the profile to attract as general a range of potential dates as possible. If someone isn’t using the site the way you want them to, it doesn’t mean their way is wrong, it just means that they are using it differently than you. Perhaps their goals are different. Perhaps their methods are the ones that work for them. Regardless, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong, it means they’re doing it their way. If their way is one that you find pointless or bland or repugnant, clearly they are not the person for you, and that is okay. Because not everything is for you. Neither is everyone. Rejoice in the fact that you have discovered that people who use OKC are not for you.

        • When I was on OKCupid (years ago) they were definitely playing both sides of this. They had the quizzes, but they also had a ranking system of “attractiveness” based on how many people interacted with your profile. Then they showed you potential dates that matched your level of “attractiveness.” This incentivized rejection-avoidance behavior so that you would actually be able to look at a larger swath of dating profiles, and it was p garbage. CA’s advice is on point, but OKCupid should stop that nonsense if they haven’t already.

          • wordsintheinterim said:

            They definitely have. The “attractiveness” slider still exists, but it’s exclusively for people who pay to use the site, and I’m not 100% sure that it even DOES anything. They’ve changed the system a lot in a way that I feel leads to more real interactions – seem to be trying to position it as NOT like Tinder or other similar “swipe” apps.

    • sunny said:

      Ha! Ayn Rand was a firm pass for me, too. First scan was for that, second was for any sweeping comments about “how women are” or anything angry (I don’t do well with angry, plus the angry ones seemed to be mostly angry in a punching down kind of way). Messages about how I’m too (pretty, interesting, whatever) to respond to poor, nice guy him were immediately deleted. I was also honest about my appearance/height/weight, general possible dealbreakers (feminism, being a take charge woman, etc). It worked out well.

      Found my husband online – he was wonderfully open and honest about himself and his message showed he read my profile, had zero entitlement re: my response or interest, and was just introducing himself. I could still swoon over how respectful and nice that message was.

    • Unpack Your Habitus said:

      I cannot overstate how empowering it can be to put your basic wants and needs out there and be as specific as possible before even talking to the person – as Kat G says, it will really help you deter the people who are a bad fit and draw in those who are a great fit. I’ve been on Okcupid for slightly more than a month, and from the beginning my “You should message me if” section included these criteria, inspired by Captain Awkward’s profile:

      – You’d like to date someone demonstrative. I’m not a fan of frequent “I love you”‘s, but I don’t want to feel anxious about making the other person feel weird/uncomfortable when I tell them what I like about them or show physical affection. It’s also really important for me to feel secure that they will appreciate my impulse and mirror my feelings. If this sounds good to you, we might as well meet up and see if our definitions of “demonstrative” mesh.

      – You like showing affection physically and verbally. I feel closest to people who reciprocate enthusiastically when I express physical and verbal affection. If you mainly feel comfortable showing your love in non-verbal ways, that’s absolutely not my thing, and I hope you find someone who better appreciates you!

      – You are able to verbalise your needs and feelings, and are willing to start a conversation about issues in a relationship. I’m pretty upfront when I feel there’s some issue in a relationship, and I need someone who shares this approach. I feel kind of wary of people who are deeply non-confrontational, because it makes me wonder how much of what they do/say is just to placate me, and whether there’s a seething mass of resentment building underneath that.

      – To quote my favourite advice columnist Captain Awkward, “Introverts are welcome, but the strong silent type does nothing for me.” This goes for online communication too – I’m looking for someone who’s also interested in an ongoing daily conversation where we can build a repository of in-jokes, shared references, issues we feel passionately about, funny/cute things, etc. If this sounds stressful rather than exciting, we’re probably not a good fit.

      ——————————————

      In the four messages I’ve sent in my first month on Okcupid, I’ve engaged with their politics, interests and humour, but whether/how these guys responded to the rest of my profile (and photos!) tells me a lot about whether we’d be a good fit for each other. I’ve had two guys reply enthusiastically; I was texting the first one every day for the week before and after our wonderful 5-hour first date, but he became less and less communicative when stressful stuff (which I believe, since we disclosed mental health stuff early on and he told me a lot about what was happening) came up. (We were both travelling in the three weeks after our date, which didn’t help.) No matter how attracted I’d been, it subsided once I’d experienced two rounds of anxiety and sadness due to his disappearing for a few days and leaving me convinced I’d been ghosted, then reappearing to Share Feelings (and get free emotional labour I guess, no sex had been involved). After about a month, I ended things via text, saying that I really liked him and had wanted to see where things would go, but his need for space interacted badly with my anxiety if I don’t hear from someone every day. I also said that it looks like we both know what worked for us, thanked him for a great first date and opening up to me, and said (after a few hours’ of thought haha) I’d be open to hanging out as friends occasionally if he was. (Reading Capt Awkward also prompted me to end with “If not, good luck with things and with your Okc search.”)

      I feel that it was because I was selective about that I’d chosen someone who responded well – he replied saying friends would be better, and wanted to meet up after he’d had time to decompress from [stressful events]. I’m not entirely sure I’ll hear back from him, but it was a really amicable resolution to that episode, and I’m glad I gave it enough time to see how compatible we were. Literally hours later, I got a reply from another guy I messaged the day before, saying mine was the best first message he’d ever received in his experience of online dating (and he’s been dating way longer than I have, despite being several years younger), and apologising profusely for the “lateness” of his reply. Our opening exchange was about Edward Said and Alison Bechdel, wand he couldn’t have responded better to the things I disclosed if he’d been following Captain Awkward scripts. On our first date, he was also very (disconcertingly) explicit (but not pushy!) about his attraction to me; I found this overwhelming because I have had so little experience of this, but also very reassuring. So I’m excited to see where this could go, and two great first dates are more than I expected to find.

      I’ve only been using Okcupid for slightly more than a month, so I have no idea if this approach, together with some dumb luck, will lead me to the long-term relationship I want, but it’s amazing to be able to use my profile to draw in people who think I’m cool and attractive but whom I’d never cross paths with socially. I think two things make me feel more secure when reaching out to people I think might be a good fit:

      1) Besides the dealbreakers, I figure the level of detail I go into, what I say about my decision-making process, and the language I use to discuss relationships will deter anyone who sounds cool, shares my interests and politics, has no problem with me being 35 (if they’re younger), thinks my photos are cute, but doesn’t want to be with someone who processes their emotions and needs this way.

      2) My mantra for online dating is that I want a long-term relationship that brings me joy and security, and I want to put time only in the people who make me feel early on that they want that with me too. Despite my numerous insecurities, this approach makes me feel that I can centre my needs, and that I’m always in a position to reject those who end up not reciprocating my enthusiasm about them. Hopefully there are some who can; the good thing is that I really only need to find one of them!

  6. “There is no right answer, only your answer” — Love that!

  7. If I had a dollar for every guy that messaged me to tell me I’m fat, I’d be rich. Like, uh, yeah, I posted full body pics and said in my description that I’m a fat kid. I always wondered if it was an extremely lazy version of negging.

    But it worked wonders for weeding out the guys I didn’t have to waste my time with. Guys would tell me they’d screw me, but not date me. Bye! Or the guys who gave me back handed compliments like, “You’d be pretty if you lost weight”. Well, I’m losing a solid 150 lbs by blocking you, thanks for the boost!

    Being picky about who you spend your time with is one of the best things about online dating.

    • BetsyBleedingheart said:

      I rejected a dude once and he responded by calling me fat. I was like…the worst thing you can say about me is the truth? Try harder, dude.

    • Flutterspark said:

      “Well, I’m losing a solid 150 lbs by blocking you”

      Stealing that line for the rest of my life, thank you.

    • Kaos said:

      What I love are the ones that explain o me how I just don’t quite do it for them as if 1) it will shatter my world and 2) they are assuming that *they* do it for *me.*

  8. slythwolf said:

    “I didn’t want to find the widest possible list of matches, I wanted to find specific matches who might be a good fit for my brand of weird.”

    This just gave me a lightbulb moment. Thank you, Captain.

  9. KateA said:

    “There is no right answer, only *your* answer.” I needed to read exactly this today. Starting dating again in my early 30s following a divorce and need all the good advice I can get!

  10. darthtrina said:

    LW, you say you are 100% not into “being treated like crap.” There are some universals, but might you drill down on that a bit of what’s specifically felt like crap to you in the past and express a wish for the inverse? When my first relationship ended after going a decade plus, flipping what was missing led to a list for me with items like wants to spend time with me in public, respects my knowledge of myself, wants to make out with me, compatible worldviews, and so on.

    • Redgirl said:

      This is genius! (I’m probably going to be diving into the dating world again soon, and I’m totally going to use this.)

  11. Other Jen said:

    Ooh, I got bookshelf bingo! 🙂

    • JenniferP said:

      Ha!

      • SassQueen said:

        At first I was like “oh crap, Mr. Sass and I have exactly all of those books on our shelves right now, am I about to get internet broken up with by CA?!?”

        And then I realized it was the opposite and was so happy.

        • Ros said:

          Me too!

          Clearly a self-selected community. 🙂

        • Thanksforallthefish said:

          “internet broken up with by CA!” I love it! I sorta started having that moment too.

          • Kaos said:

            Likewise.

        • Britpoptarts said:

          Same! I think our bookshelves should date.

          • Naphtali said:

            Clearly we need an Awkward Army book orgy at some point.

            Also, if any of you haven’t read “The Rise And Fall of D.O.D.O” by Stephenson and Galland yet I strongly recommend it. It’s not his usual but I loved it.

  12. B said:

    “What are you looking for in a relationship”
    “A new species to name after myself!”

    Anyway, as above, LW I think you sort of know what you want and it’s okay to say that. “Someone who makes me feel good!” is a reasonable answer!

    • yikes! said:

      Something prickly and hard to eradicate?

      • commanderlogic said:

        Nonsense! A tortoise, surely.

  13. BetsyBleedingheart said:

    I definitely agree with the Captain about her dating philosophy. My friends who read my profile before I met my husband were fond of telling me that my profile was too sharp and exclusionary. My response was that I didn’t want to meet everyone in town. I wanted to meet the right person. Apparently what finally sold my husband on me was the addition of “I bathe in male tears” to my About Me section. I got a lot fewer messages after that but one of them was the right one, so.

    • Indie said:

      “too sharp and exclusionary”
      Not possible. Similar people I know ended up with generic mansplainer, mediocre white guy and the most boring man alive. Cookie cutters are for cookies.

    • Ros said:

      I have yet to see what the problem is with being exclusionary though. Like – being single is better than being in a bad relationship, dating the wrong person leads to a bad relationship, excluding the people who you’d have to contort yourself into a pretzel to date leads to fewer bad relationships… therefore, being exclusionary seems like the right path? Or the one that leads to the least negging/wasted time, anyway.

      • Jadis said:

        I literally, just last night, was talking to a dude who said “Maybe you need to meet me and not judge me!” I told him that everyone judges. Otherwise, we’d all be obliged to date everyone we’ve ever met.

      • TO_Ont said:

        I think the reasonable side of ‘don’t be exclusionary’ is something like ‘think about what your real priorities are and don’t get distracted by things that aren’t actually that important to you’.

        E.g., lots of people apparently ignore profiles because they don’t like the same music, or have different (non disturbing) hobbies.

        For some people these things genuinely are important, which is fair enough, but sometimes you just vaguely assume ‘oh that person won’t like me, my music isn’t cool enough’ or something like that.

        So keep an eye on what are the important things (for you) and don’t get too distracted by things that actually you might not care about.

        When it gets nuts is when people say ‘don’t exclude people based on politics or values or…’??? wtf?

        • Ros said:

          Oh, no, for sure – I mean, I’m thinking of one old colleague who refused to date men under a certain height, like, seriously, that’s the hill you wanna focus on?

          But in terms of values, being exclusionary is normal (I won’t date a pro-lifer. period. We’d both be miserable.) Or picking similar general interests/openness to the other’s interests (my husband is into music, I’m vaguely indifferent but totally willing to listen to about 80% of what he likes. I like books so much, he’s willing to find space in the family budget and sit on the couch with me while on his ipad while I read every evening).

          You gotta have a good starting point, or it’s a non-starter, and saying you don’t want to spend time on a non-starter seems so totally fair that I’m always taken aback by people arguing, in good faith, that everyone should be given a chance. Like: my not being willing to go on a date isn’t a judgement on your date-ability as a concept, it’s a reflection of how I’d rather spend a few hours of my time. There are other people who would be better suited to specific qualities or hobbies – find them.

          • Vicki said:

            I’d take the “everyone should be given a chance” a little more seriously if they were pressing straight men to date other men, and young men to date women much older than their stated preferences. I’d still disagree, but it would feel a little less patriarchal and (usually) self-serving: what most of them are actually saying is “women should give all men a chance.”

            And, no. Just no. If you realize you’re entitled to say “no, I’m not into guys,” a woman is entitled to say “no, I’m not into frat guys” or “Republicans” or “poets” or “people who only speak one language.” Just as a 35- or 40-year-old guy gets to say “she’s too old” about a woman ten years older than he is, a younger woman gets to say the same about him.

            </soapbox> I’m probably preaching to the choir, here, but sometimes it seems worth repeating certain things, and “lots of guys expect as a right something they won’t give women” is one of them.

          • It may seem like nothing to you, but maybe your former colleague didn’t get hot for short people.

            I think physical preference is a good hill to focus on.

          • Muddie Mae Suggins said:

            @ Mrs Morley, physical preference isn’t the same as a hard rule, though. I don’t believe there’s anyone out there whose gonads can tell the difference between someone who’s 5’11 and someone who’s 6’0”, or 150 pounds and 160 pounds, but I did see a lot of people with strict height or weight limits on their profile.

          • thecynicalromantic said:

            I had a friend who did several years of being nice and nonjudgmental and dating guys who were shorter than her, and eventually developed A Rule that she would no longer date guys who were shorter than her, on the basis that if a dude was shorter than her there was a nonzero chance he would have Feelings about being shorter than her and she didn’t feel like putting up with that again.

            I have similar apprehensions about tall dudes; my experience with them has been that they’re much more impressed with how tall they are than I am, and they feel rejected when I don’t care about their height. So now I care: No dudes more than three inches taller than myself.

            (I don’t even know why I’m weighing in here–I don’t date, because my dealbreaker is basically “Have you been socialized as A Man under patriarchy? Then I probably don’t want to deal with your expectations. Call me when the patriarchy is smashed.”)

          • Ros said:

            @Mrs Morley: This particular woman had a firm ‘no men under 6ft’ rule. I believe she eventually relaxed it to marry a dude who was 5’11”.

            I totally get what you mean about physical preference, but there’s a difference between preference (in this case: I’m into dudes who are significantly taller than me’, which: totally fair) and ‘must meet this specific criteria’ (… like, sure, but…)

    • I'll come up with a clever name later...maybe. said:

      “Apparently what finally sold my husband on me was the addition of “I bathe in male tears” to my About Me section. I got a lot fewer messages after that but one of them was the right one, so.”

      I met my husband online but in that time before all of the dating sites broke through. We literally met in an AOL chatroom (remember those?). I used to sit in a chat room and watch the scrolling conversation go by for sheer entertainment value. My husband was in the same room, bored like me, and he DM’d me because he noticed that I was in there but not participating. This was common, but I used to throw off the guys who were interested in me by asking them to answer weird ass questions (if you were a color, what color would you be and why? -or- You are invited to meet your favorite celebrity – living or dead – but you have to tell the story about the worst thing you’ve ever done. What is the story you’d tell?, etc) Most guys never responded. He did. To all 23 questions I came up with. He thought that I was interesting and we met two days later. To this day he still ‘gets’ me and thinks my weirdness is what makes me special. 🙂

    • erika said:

      I would like a dollar for every man who messages me to tell me that I’m doing profiles wrong, and that if I’m so picky I’ll never find someone. Please and thank you, I have a mortgage to pay. Jackasses.

  14. Jean Jiminez said:

    Thank you to everyone who has written a comment and of course to our wonderful CA, for her on point advice! I’ve recently come all the way out of the bisexual closet and at middle age am challenged by women who don’t read my profile but never respond when I answer their flirt/wink/whatever! I won’t ever change myself again to be who my ex-husbands wanted me to be! More power to us all!!

  15. Man this is such good advice. I kinda wish I’d had it 10+ years ago, I would have had a much less rough time dating back then!

  16. amarie said:

    LW I have been asking myself this SAME EXACT QUESTION for the last two weeks. Thank you for asking it!

    Captain, that is the best answer ever. I’m so excited to get back to online dating (I turned off all of my accounts literally because I didn’t know what to do with this issue and it was too much to deal with).

  17. deep6 said:

    Dearest OP — I love this question. Thank you for submitting it.

    1. Just want to be clear, if you go to the /r/okcupid subreddit or the vast majority of online dating advice sites, you’re going to get the exact opposite advice of what the Cap just wrote. (Want to prepare you for that if you haven’t already encountered it.) My advice is to not spend a lot of time perfecting your profile. Let it be fluid, your real voice and your authentic self, even if that means (god forbid!) there is some negativity in there or a list of things you’re looking for in a partner or trying to avoid in a partner. When you have time to peruse the site, spend it looking at profiles and messaging people YOU find interesting. Considering the vast majority of users don’t fully read profiles until after they start talking to someone they find interesting, maximize time to your advantage, empower yourself to be the initiator and have at it. Block/delete The Unworthy.

    2. It’s been a couple years since I last surfed the OLD wave but if there is a question “What kind of relationship are you looking for?” that’s promoted by the site for your response, usually they try to pigeon-hole you into a category like “long-term” or “casual dating,” etc. If you’re really open to them all, then choose them all! If you’re prompted with a text box to answer in essay format, as others have mentioned above I think what you wrote in your original letter sounds just ducky.

    3. I always had only “long-term dating” selected on my OKC profile and made mention in the comments I wasn’t interested in hookups. I eventually realized that for me, casual sex wasn’t orgasmic. Gotsta have the feels for my partners. Physical holes were being filled, not emotional ones, and damn did I want something real. I noticed there was a small contingent of dudes (I’m a cishet woman) who in the initial chats would specifically ask me what kind of relationship I wanted. I learned to identify this as a sign that they were just out to fuck around because to a T, they would always be the ones to space out on dates or ghost post-sex. Now, my experiences are not universal — I’m sure there are people who had someone ask them that and now they’re married with 10 kids — but overall that became a red flag, especially because it was clear from them asking the question they hadn’t bothered to read (or remember) any such references in my profile. By virtue of that question these men became The Unworthy.

    4. Lastly, and I know this isn’t what you asked but it took me years to figure this out so I just want to share something I hope will shed some light in dark times: you can’t stop The Unworthy from messaging you. Don’t feel like it’s your fault if they do. I never understood why I got so many creepy, inappropriate, or throwaway messages from “legitimate” OLD site users. I thought there was something I was doing to prompt it, and so I thought I could do something to change it. I spent DAYS of my life rewriting my profile, coming up with pithy Q&A responses, updating pics and constantly tweaking the online representation of myself. I would have been far better off had I spent that time doing stuff that makes me happy or really just . . . anything else. In the end, you can’t stop randos from being randos. They don’t care. So chin up: you are the best advocate for your own needs and boundaries.

    P.S. When asked the “what are you looking for in a relationship?” question by a dude, I’d respond, “I’m lookiing for someone whose company I enjoy enough for 60 minutes that I want to spend another 60 minutes with them and go from there.”

    • jenfullmoon said:

      The Unworthy is why I could never stand to do online dating in the first place. God, I don’t want to read those things and have them in my brain. I already have everyone at my job to tell me I’m crap for 8 hours a day as is without asking the rest of the world to join in.

      Okay, after that rant I was just going to post that I liked the Captain’s ad very very much. It almost made me want to fill out one myself except uh, see above.

      • Zooey Glass said:

        I don’t know if I was just super lucky, but in my brief period of online dating I used the Guardian newspaper’s Soulmates and I never got any gross / unwelcome messages. I’m sure I would have got some if I’d used it long enough, but it has the advantage of being fairly expensive to subscribe to (and you have to be a subscriber to send a message) which I think helps cut down the onslaught of stuff you get in other dating sites. (Also, I was only on it for a short period of time because I wound up clicking with the first dude I actually went out with. It’s our first wedding anniversary this month!) Anyway – a lot of luck went into my experience but I do think it helps to use a site which you have to pay for, if that’s an option for you.

      • Speffles said:

        I’m so sorry you have terrible colleagues. I have to agree that internet dating (or any kind of dating) when your confidence is already being battered can feel like a step too far. I’ve always been an ‘I’ll date when I’m in a good place’ kind of person and for me it has paid off. It has meant some big stretches of single-dom, but I don’t do so badly with those.

        I’m going to spend the rest of my day hoping you can find a better job!

    • quirkyopteryx said:

      No indeed, you cannot stop The Unworthy from messaging you.

      However, you *can* make them stand out super hard, and prevent “good but not for me” people from messaging you. IME the vast majority of people who visited my profile would pass on by without sending pointless ill-matched messages, when I had a quick summary of myself and what I wanted in the first 3 lines. It seemed like all but The Extremely Unworthy would at least skim-read those first few lines, and instead message someone who was actually what they were looking for.

      So “polyamorous”, “bisexual”, “married”, “feminist”, “nerdy” and “opinionated” were all in those first few lines!

      And I got some really great well-matched messages, and a vast reduction in The Unworthy. And thankfully no more deeply heartfelt but *wildly* misdirected “I am looking for my soulmate, someone to get married to and grow old with”. (Great messages, but ZOMG I was not what they were looking for 0_o )

      But you will always get those random “hi”s from a 20% match on another continent who has at least 3 quickly visible deal-breakers. They’re just idiots who don’t know how to talk to anyone.

  18. Angle-a said:

    I love this question that answers itself & the Captain’s response too. For some reason it’s left me feeling hopeful for the future of the internets!!! Perhaps it’s the permission & insight it gives that to simply be here & human & not a brand that’s selling itself is enough.
    Thanks for this, I feel uplifted. Good luck LW, stay true. 😊

  19. adios pantalones said:

    LW, I love the Captain’s answers. Just so you know, there is a lot (A LOT!) out there for us social-justice types who give a damn about the world that asks us to ask ourselves a lot of questions about the ickiness of our own dating preferences. Said preferences may be indicative of classism or ableism, or many kinds of other -isms, that we have always had bubbling below the surface. For instance, I’m with the Captain on not loving ponytails on men: it’s worth it to ask myself if there is a certain internalized sexism going on there (do I secretly think only women should have long hair?) or if there is some class stuff (I’ve never met an upper-class man with a ponytail).

    This kind of interrogation is good to do for a lot of reasons, but please try to keep it separate from this aspect of your dating life for a while. In other words, don’t make yourself go on dates with men with ponytails if it’s not your jam. You won’t enjoy it and neither will they. And don’t feel bad about expressing those preferences on a dating site (everyone’s got a few) but do try to express them kindly and read over what you’ve written a bunch to make sure you’re not being gross.

    • adios pantalones said:

      It just occurred to me that one way the Captain makes this work is by being really, REALLY upfront about one of the primary ways she herself differs from the Supermodel Standard before listing a couple of her own dealbreakers.

      • JenniferP said:

        There are plenty of beautiful men with beautiful ponytails (HELLOOOOOO, THOR!) I was trying to humorously give dudes permission to like what they like but to not @ me about their feelings about fat chicks. And hey, Mr. Awkward wrote to me even though he was a smoker (since quit) and we liked each other fine and worked it out. Preferences/opinions aren’t destiny.

    • Purps said:

      I certainly agree with you that one’s pants are not the place to make societal advances for the sake of social justice. There is in fact a lot of discourse about interrogating one’s own desires into the ground. I personally would not want to be dated by someone who had really nobly struggled with their initial desire not to date me, decolonized their desires, and at long last have rendered themselves pure in the forty fountains of discourse and arrived to claim my hand.

      I’m wondering if maybe you wanted to make a front-on critique here directly to the Captain instead of sideways through the LW. It certainly seems like you do and maybe directness would suit your goals better.

      • adios pantalones said:

        Well, you certainly read a lot into my comment that wasn’t there! I was not trying to critique, indirectly or otherwise.

        I wrote my comment because when I was trying to write my own dating profile, I had read a lot of the existing discourse on attraction and various -isms thereof. I did not want to be gross, but I also wanted to date someone who could make me happy, and not “for the sake of decolonization” or whatever, which would be unfair to everyone. So I had to do a lot of thinking. For instance I knew I wanted to date someone who was a big reader like myself. But I also had to remind myself that being a big reader was something I could be because I was well-educated and given a lot of support for my reading, which not everyone gets. But after I sat with it a while I decided that even though I know that someone can be intellectually curious and passionate about other humans and their stories without specifically reading about it, I still wanted the particular experience of having a partner who would go to the bookstore with me and sit on the couch with me to read. So I put it in my profile, and now my partner is a big reader too. In other words having done that reading and thinking does not mean you have to stop having preferences, it just means thinking about those preferences is a good thing to do. It was a difficult conclusion for me to come to when I was in the LW’s shoes, so I wrote in case they were like me and had trouble figuring out how to live according to that knowledge and those principles while dating at the same time.

        • Ros said:

          I think the follow-up to that is not making the emotional weight of your decision be borne by the people you are (or aren’t) dating, and being clear on what you’re looking for.

          There’s a difference between not being into (say) fat ladies, and telling fat ladies that you’re willing to date them EVEN IF they don’t meet your ideal hawtness-scale (wtf, nobody wants to hear that, and it’s not up to other people to deal with your emotions about it). Like: come see me when you’re actually into me.

          It’s ok to say ‘I want the experience of reading, I enjoy books and bookshops and libraries and I want to be able to share my preferred hobbies’ (100% valid, and also a criteria I used when dating because books are my jam). Coming at it from a ‘I want someone smart and smart people read books’ is a) inaccurate, b) kinda privileged, and c) not likely to get you the dating experience you’re specifically looking for.

        • purps said:

          Yeah, looking back I think I actually read your perspective from the opposite point of view as what you were saying. I’m sorry. I have actually _been_ someone’s antioppression praxis more than once and it’s left me, um, mad.

    • Indie said:

      I really agree with you. Ponytail guys don’t want patronage, they want someone who thinks ponytails are hot.

      • Ros said:

        *raises hand*

        And, speaking as a fat woman – I don’t want to be with a dude who likes me EVEN IF I’m fat. I want to be with a man who sees me take my shirt off and goes ‘oh god you’re so hot’ and MEANS it.

        • slythwolf said:

          Everyone who wants that deserves to find it. ❤

  20. Indie said:

    Captain, love the person spec! Particularly the married guy paragraph. I said something like ‘I’m not interested if you’re my dad’s age. Some may be, I’m not. Especially if you only date women my age. I’m also not interested if you live on another continent. I’m here to meet people in person so good luck finding another pen pal!’ Still got messaged by retirees in the other hemisphere.

    OP, I’d go with ‘I’m looking for (personal quality) and good (chemistry, affection, conversation) someone who likes (style of activity); after that whatever happens, happens.’

    I think they may just be asking about your exclusivity policy though. Some people do that from the get go, just because someone’s promising. For others it’s ‘wait until we’re serious’ and for some they don’t want that ever.

  21. Am I the only person who hates this question so much that I usually stop the conversation right there?

    Q–“What are you looking for in a man/a relationship?”
    A–Someone who doesn’t ask me that question.

    Ultimately, IME, people will project all over your answer no matter what it is, and see in it whatever they want or expect to see, so it really doesn’t matter what you say. You can write a gorgeous essay of all of your must-haves and dealbreakers and guys will still ignore it. The number of times I’ve had people half my age contact me, convinced that they were going to change my mind on the age-difference thing, or people in other countries yell at me because I didn’t want to get a passport to meet them for a coffee date, or masturbate at me in a message posted to a profile on a relationships site–they see what they want to see and you can’t control it. Yes, a few brave, perceptive souls will choose to both listen and hear you, but they can generally be counted on to continue listening to and hearing you even if you decline to answer this particular question.

    • SingHallelujah said:

      Yeah I always feel like if I answer with something specific, they’ll tell me why they fit the bill. Another one that makes me skeeve: “What kind of men do you like?”

      • Yes, that, or they’ll tell me why I’m wrong to want what I want. “I know you say you want to date someone close to your own age but a younger man is actually better, I have more energy, you should want to date me.” Or “I know we live far away from each other and have absolutely nothing in common in terms of social or political values, but we’re both looking for relationships, so we’re looking for the same thing, and therefore you’re not allowed to say no to me.”

        The question just feels like an invitation for an up-sell.

    • Spuggy said:

      It’s a trick question isnt it? It’s really “I am looking for X, but I don’t want to say, so I’m going to give you the awkwardness”

  22. Megan_NJ said:

    Soundtrack? I learned a new song yesterday –

    The Dresden Dolls – Coin Operated Boy

    About the imperfections of trying to date & find someone perfect. Also, they say it’s not about a vibrator … but really, it can be two things.

    Good luck out there!

  23. devicat26 said:

    I must live in a bum area for OkCupid; I’ve tried it all. Simple profiles, complex profiles, funny profiles, absolute truth profiles and it turns out the majority of men just aren’t going to read the profile, besides skimming a couple of words. The replies I received from OkCupid always boiled down to either ‘wanna fuck’ or ‘too many words on your profile. Wanna fuck’ and dudes who wanted to cheat on their wives.

    The handful of actual messages I got were, count them, five. Four from dudes who weren’t quite divorced but were thinking/in the process of about it and one, ONE, single man whom I went out on a date with. The only date I got from OkCupid in almost nine months.

    • johann7 said:

      I had the exact same problem (or maybe exact inverse, with the same outcome?) trying to use OKC as a male-bodied* person looking to date female-bodied* people. I would read people’s profiles (and respect any boundaries they set) and contact people with a prompt to discuss some kind of shared interest rather than a generic message (or with whatever code phrase ze had specified to demonstrate that one had read the profile), with the same end result. I got almost no responses, set up a half dozen dates, and went on zero dates because everyone either canceled last minute with no desire to pick a different time or simply didn’t show and ghosted completely. That said, the handful of people who did respond to my messages actually did read my profile; what I found so odd was that the people with whom I set up dates seemed really enthusiastic before bailing.

      The only messages people sent to me first were very flattering and also from some distance between across the country and halfway across the world (every site really ought to have a way for people looking ONLY for a technology-mediated relationship to never interact with people who are looking ONLY for in-person dating; maybe they do now, it’s been years since I tried). I gave up after about eight months, since the zero reward from an hours-a-week time investment wasn’t anywhere close to worth it. Yet I know that the sites work fine for various people because I personally know plenty of people (of various genders and orientations) who have gone on lots of dates using them. shrug

      *I know those labels are also socially constructed and some people with one, the other, or an intersex embodiment may not identify with the descriptor I would use, but since I don’t care in the slightest about anyone’s social gender (including my own, which I label “no preference”) and do care about embodiment for sex partners, it’s the best language I have.

      • Dopameanie said:

        Hmmm….speaking as someone who was frequently consulted about potential dates on dating websites (how bout this one? Eh? Etc) you might want to Google yourself? You might be sharing a first and last name with some Unsavory Character.

  24. SingHallelujah said:

    I’m really confused about how OkCupid is set up now; I can’t tell if people are writing to me or not — or if my messages go to them or not.

    Definitely agree with the “sharp and exclusionary” point of view. Unfortunately the older I get the more cranky I am about dating, and the less likely it seems that I’ll find another person who interests me enough to date them. I wish there was a “smart-guys-who-like-to-read-and-think-about-how-to-make-the-world-a-better-place-and-also-want-to-date-kickass-fat-ladies.com” where I could just go and find them. :/

    • Katie said:

      You have to “like” other people’s profiles and have been “liked” by them in turn in order to message folks now. It is a sort of modified Tinder-style functionality that’s meant to cut down on randos blitz-emailing women, I believe. Also it makes people use the site a little more actively, rather than passively waiting around for messages. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

      • Emma9 said:

        …wow. I’m cringing reading that, to be honest. I finally clicked with someone via that site last fall and haven’t been on since, which is apparently for the best.

        Surely there’ll be as much like-blitzing as message-blitzing, probably way more. And where most lazy messages (‘Hi.’ ‘How’s it going?’ ‘Hey sexy.’ ‘[insert pargraph that’s well-written and thoughtful but non-specific and obviously copy-pasted into every single message they send here]’) were easy to ignore and didn’t necessitate a visit to the profile, ‘likes’ have no quality barometer.

        Plus, if you’re now required to engage with someone via return-liking before you get to see how they communicate, it would make it that much harder to DIS-engage if that first message is an obvious nope.

        • TO_Ont said:

          The thing I’m finding irritating is that you have to spend a long time going through profiles and liking people, and looking for people who have sent you messages. And then when you do like or message someone, there is very little chance that you will hear back since they have to do the same thing.

        • TO_Ont said:

          You don’t know they liked you though… People who liked you tend to be ‘promoted’ but you don’t know when you look at someone’s profile whether they have liked you or not. If you ‘like’ someone’s profile, at that point you will either get a popup saying ‘they like you to’ or not.

    • Medusa in the Mirror said:

      Amen. Let me know when the site is up and I’ll join.

  25. Yes!!! This is fantastic advice!! I’d had years of bad dating/relationship experiences and I actually took a self-imposed break from dating to figure out what I actually wanted/needed in a relationship. I say relationship because whether it’s short term or long term you are in relationship with another person the terms of which will fluctuate. Yeah. And what I thought I wanted changed the more I met people, talked with people, or the crazy, weird and fascinatingly complex online dating messages I got. Be picky. Definitely this. I read one dude’s profile and after getting this delightful IM from him. He was intelligent, articulate and specific about what he was looking for. He had actually read my profile and messaged me accordingly. He actually listened, how great is that?! His message was invited and the overall gist was BE PARTICULAR. And I was! I didn’t waste time with things that didn’t interest me and had resolved that I’d rather be single than waste my time. He wasn’t the ONE. And surprisingly, if I’m patient, what I need/want will always show up. It rarely looks like Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston but the depth, intelligence, compassion, vulnerability and silliness I was interested in showed up in a tall, blue eyed package with a handsome smile and sexy legs and I still can’t believe my luck. There is no Mr./Ms. Perfect and I don’t have to settle but I am willing to work at it. I found someone who is willing to work at it too. Be picky!! Figure out what you want. Identify the RED FLAGS. Be willing to pass and pass early.

  26. I learned to finally agree with the guys who said that I was expecting too much and would never find it. I would then tell them that, yes, I was expecting a miracle or I was remaining single. Guys who are already trying to bring down your expectations after asking about them are not worth a second date.

  27. I think I need to reread this about a hundred times if I ever decide to give dating a try again. As a fat, asexual, nonbinary trans person, it’s hard to convince myself that I deserve/can afford to be any pickier than “treats me like a human being, respects my gender, is cool with never having sex.” (And honestly, I have trouble being upfront with even that much.) Mostly dating doesn’t feel worth the anxiety, especially since it’s rare for me to be romantically interested in anyone. I kind of want more of a best friend/forever roommate who’s cool with cuddling but will keep their tongue to themself! Unfortunately that seems to be a fairly niche interest, and I suspect that most people who want the same are similarly discouraged by dating sites.

    • Nina said:

      Except for the trans part, I could have written this message. As an asexual, (very) overweight, and homosexual woman, I really understand where you are coming from and most of the time wish for the same thing.I also feel too much anxiety with dating, and doesn’t feel worth doing it, although I really feel guilty for giving up (one of my biggest qualities, perseverence, is also causing me great pain). At the same time, being single is slowly killing me, particularly after the frustration of meeting one person I did feel sexually attracted to, but who didn’t want to be with me (and feeds off of my pain).
      I have never had the guts to be upfront about my asexuality in dating websites (unless I was talking to other asexuals), but I realized that I probably came across as really closed off, as I’d spend the date imagining they’d want physical interaction with me, which kept me in a state of panic.
      I think many asexuals have given up. I know I am almost there.

    • Nina said:

      Oops, sorry, didn’t want to sound uber-mega-ultra-depressed in the comment below. In other words, yeah, I agree. (I think I just had a grad-school meltdown)

      • The grad school emotional chaos is real! I’m in the third year of my PhD program and I think I can say pretty conclusively that the mental health effects are Not Good.

        Re: your comment above, I know that panic so well! It’s extremely hard to be in the moment when I’m terrified of where the social scripts are leading.

    • GirlCalledBob said:

      As someone who is dating/basically engaged to a fat, ace, nb person, I swear to you there are people out there who can love you with the intensity you deserve. Maybe you find them on a dating site, maybe you don’t? But we exist, I promise you, and we think you’re wonderful! You can be totally honest and upfront about who you are and what you want, and you should be.

      • Thank you, it’s very kind of you to share that. Best wishes to you and your partner!

  28. Rebecca said:

    I get that it’s an old profile, but… Mind if I ask why polyamoury is in scare quotes?

    • Anon for now said:

      Not the Captain, but I suspect the word polyamory is in quotes because in my experience, for every married man who is genuinely polyamorous and is looking to date respectfully, there are about five assholes who want to legitimize their cheating by slapping the word “polyamory” on it.

      • slythwolf said:

        This was my general assumption, extended to also cover those dudes who try to convince you polyamory means they get to have six girlfriends who are all only allowed to date or sleep with the one dude.

        • Anon for now said:

          YES ALSO THOSE FUCKERS

          • Purps said:

            OH MY GOD THEM

            “Polyamory means throwing out society’s rules so that I, a straight man, can make all the rules for you instead.”

            I had two “polyamorous” guys reject my late capitalist construction of “dumping them” and insist that if I really examined my preconceptions I’d realize that I’d been bilked by society into wanting them to “stop calling me” and “go away”.

            THE FIRST TIME I ACTUALLY FELL FOR IT. FOR, LIKE, MONTHS.

      • ashbet said:

        My guess is that it includes both legit polyamory, and “Oh, I’m totally polyamorous, but haven’t told my wife yet” types.

        (I wish I could say the latter were rare on OKC!)

        If a given person is not open to non-monogamy, I appreciate it being said up-front, with or without quotes 🙂

        • Allya said:

          I once figured out that a lady I’d been on a couple of dates with was definitely not going to be compatible with me after a very silly conversation about polyamory/cheating between friends. She joked about cheating on one friend with another, and I joked back that if everyone involved knew about it and was fine with it, was it really cheating? This lead to me having to explain Hypothetical Friend Polyamory, her stating in no uncertain terms that she would /not/ be cool with that, and me politely passing on a third date.

          It doesn’t matter so much how you identify your incompatibilities as that you do.

    • JenniferP said:

      The other commenters nailed it – I wasn’t down for any version of it but definitely wanted to avoid a certain kind of sketchy dude who self-defined that word.

  29. anastasia beaverhausen said:

    I always was stumped by how to fill out dating profiles because I never knew what to say outside of, “I love sports and dislike being jerked around.” I tried a million sites a million times. One first date was so outrageously amazing I thought, “FINALLY I’M DONE” and then got ghosted. So I think I had to start writing – if you’re a ghoster, try Tinder instead. Ultimately ended up engaged to this guy who was right in front of me the whole time, I just needed to get out of my own way.

  30. Oh man. I am totally stealing all of this! (Is there a thing where you can’t to save your life answer an open-ended question unless somebody else goes first and you have something to react to?)

    Also: Can you please do one of these for jobs instead of partners? Thanks in advance. 😉

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      Can you please do one of these for jobs instead of partners?

      Seconded. Don’t need another husband, happy with the one I’ve got, but I could totally use those awesome skills for the ‘personal statement’ part of my CV.

      That was such an awesome dating profile. I’d never have written anything half as good, and part of that is, I think, lack of imagination, but another big part is that I kept thinking ‘you can do that’? I’d be so totally focussed on quantitative, obvious details (‘must have own hair, nonsmoker, must like animals’) that ‘your idea of a good evening out’ or ‘this is the communication style I prefer’ probably wouldn’t have occurred to me.

    • In 2013, my resume “Skills” section contained the phrase “spreadsheet wrangler,” among some other slightly off-center descriptors of my talents.

      The head of the department that hired me used to make fun of me about it all the time, until I explained, “That wasn’t a descriptor designed to get me a job; it was designed to weed out the jobs who wouldn’t appreciate my humorous approach to being awesome.”

      The number two in the department (who runs the department now that the first boss is retired, and who joyfully promoted me at the first opportunity) piped up, “I pulled your resume out of the stack for that phrase alone — I knew someone with that much confidence and a sense of humor could handle anything we had to offer.”

      That sort of thing seems to have fallen out of favor now, but I still use that much personality in cover letters and interactions with customers, et al. YMMV depending on your level of show-offy-ness, but there are correlations for every type of person, position, and preference. You can absolutely apply the same principles to jobs and partners.

  31. Aeyrun said:

    Huh, I read that profile just the other day. You are definitely being plagiarized by “Kat” in Victoria BC.

    • JenniferP said:

      Well, good luck to Kat.

  32. suddenly lonely said:

    Thank you, captain! I’ve spent almost all of my life being single, and most of that time being happy with my status. That has changed recently and unpleasantly– my mom had a stroke (at sixty-one, a total surprise), so now I’m almost thirty and aware that maybe I didn’t want the emotional closeness of a partner because between my amazing friendgroup and my relationship with my family, I didn’t see what could be added. Now I’m thinking that I do want someone– But obviously “I want someone who will stand in for the interest my mom had in my life while she focuses on her healing and I try to help her” is kind of… not great. And I’m not even sure I want sexual intimacy? I just miss sitting shoulder to shoulder with someone, or getting random texts asking what I had for supper, or having someone where I can say “I really need a hug” and they wrap me up because they’re very good at hugging people. and I’m like… maybe this is a boyfriend or girlfriend shaped hole.

    So it’s amazing to think about how to actually use a dating site in a positive and thoughtful way to present the side of me that can be prickly and a bit Much (according to 90% of men including my father) with the opinions, and to give myself some space and kindness to work out what partner fits the new spaces in my life.

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