I’ll start with a story that I’m absolutely not proud of and is no way characteristic of how I comport myself today. Honestly.
Nearly 13 years ago, fresh off a breakup with the college sweetheart and living in Rockford, Ill. – which is Utopia if you want a whole family by age 25 and a BDSM porn addiction by age 30 – I got balls-deep in online dating for the first time. I met a woman on MySpace(!) who lived in a far-west Chicago suburb, and we spent a lot of time numeric-keypad texting on our Motorola flip-phones.
Each of her MySpace pictures were extreme close-ups of her face. She sent me one half-assed cell phone video of her frame, in which she was wearing a black sweater during a historic and unforgettable Midwestern heat wave. I knew nothing then, so I kept hope alive.
We set a date to meet at a Bennigans-esque restaurant in the suburbs. When I arrived, she was in the bathroom, so I took the time to freshen up in the men’s room. When I made my way back to the table, I saw her from across the restaurant…not looking how I hoped she would look in person.
I looked at the hostess, looked at my date, looked at the door, looked back at the hostess, paused contemplatively for a second, then bolted for the door toward my Hyundai Santa Fe. I pulled a Lolo Jones over the lawn fence and darted toward that big blue bitch like the restaurant was engulfed in flames. I drove to Chicago, switching off my phone as she sent texts asking where I’d gone.
After cracking up, my mans told me that my reaction was a protective mechanism, which made me feel better about my actions at the time but stands as a testament to the general ain’t-shitness of niggas.
Everyone who has dated online for a substantial period of time has showed up for a first date, laid eyes on who they came to meet, said “fuuuuuck” in their head and worked through the mental gymnastics of how they would endure it. It might be common, but it’s not okay that so many people break the foundational rule of online dating: don’t fucking misrepresent yourself physically.
Seems like avoiding the borderline-catfishing of someone you’re hoping might let you into their home, life and draws at some point should go without saying, correct? Well, common sense ain’t so common.
Penning the right words for your profile is a tangential issue – there’s an art to finessing words on paper to present the best part of yourself, as you would on a resume or a curriculum vitae. But that’s the only challenging part of setting up your profile; it’s easy not to present yourself how you looked seven years and 25 double-bacon cheeseburgers ago. Everyone takes shitty pictures from time to time – I’m sure even Condola Rashad has untagged her galactically fine ass from pictures on occasion – but there’s a way to capture your physical essence without bullshitting everyone.
For example, I inherited my mama’s robust cheeks, so when I put on weight, it looks like I’m perpetually hoarding a mouth full of nuts (let my childhood taunters tell it). Before I started exercising obsessively to keep the jowls at bay, I’d simply make it a point to take photos that show them in their best “light” – usually with one of those silver point-and-shoot cameras that produced pictures that looked like they were smeared in Vaseline because I didn’t know what I was doing.
But shit has changed. Now we all have high-definition cameras attached to our phones, along with a bunch of apps with filters that make it look like you landed a goldmine online when you actually got one those calcified briquettes of dog shit that you find in your yard in the spring after the snow melts. Technology is the poor man’s penis implant.
Both genders are responsible for the online fakery (and fuckery). Dudes lying about their height is among the more egregious transgressions; everyone knows how much women care about height if nothing else physically, so I’m not sure what gives a dude the presence of mind to think he can claim 6-foot-2 on a profile, show up on a date looking like Ed Sheeran and think he’ll skate by on a “winning” personality.
Dudes also like to hide their receding hairline by wearing hats in all of their pictures. As if the ladies looking at photos of you wearing your Detroit Lions fitted while in church, the swimming pool and alone at your crib won’t know your shit is off.
Getting back to the aforementioned ain’t-shitness of niggas, I fully acknowledge that women dating men have a steeper hill to climb with online photos – we’re superficial bastards who always wanna see more. It sucks, but trying to beat a system created through generations of conditioning only leads to more problems.
Ladies, if every single one of your profile pictures is of you from the shoulders up, you’re basically sending out the “send more pictures before we meet up ” distress beacon. I’m not saying you need to strip down and take one of those bathroom selfies that lands Instagram models Flat Tummy Tea deals (assuming you don’t want a sex buddy), but current head-to-toe photos are essential. There’s no non-awkward way for us to ask, so don’t make us have to.
“Current photos” needs to be emphasized for members of both genders. Finding your true boo online is not an excuse to put up that “trim” college photo of you when all you needed was a water-and-caffeine-pills diet to make it through that engineering class. I set up a date with a 36-year-old woman on Match.com before visiting her Facebook page, where I noticed that she looked a hell of a lot different in a recent public photo than she did on Match.
I asked her about it, and she told me the Match pictures were from before her “baby weight.” She had only one child, a daughter, who was 7 years old. Unless you’re Halle Berry or you spent your formative years sucking blood from the thighs of virgins (those aren’t mutually exclusive), you’re not going to look at 36 as you did in your 20s. I canceled the date.
There’s no perfect solution to avoid getting burned online. Again, if you do it long enough, you will come across your share of squidgety bald men, colored contacts, Spanx where you really weren’t expecting Spanx and extremely liberal understandings of “athletic and toned” body types. Just do your part, dear reader, and recognize that a dynamic personality and smarts aren’t enough to compensate for being a lying, deceptive assface going into the first date.
If any relationship can survive that lie, put them on a Match.com commercial.