Just please don't include a picture of you with a passed-out tiger in Thailand . . .
Dating is gross and weird and awkward and uncomfortable. Trying people on for size is a strange undertaking, and breeds strange moments of miscommunication, misanthropy, and in my experience, misandry.
But online dating doesn't have to suck. Actually, that's not true. It's going to suck. You will go on dates with people you will never speak to again, and for good reason. But it doesn't have to be a ubiquitously awful experience. More and more people are meeting this way, and whatever—are the people you meet on OKCupid really any different than those you meet at a bar?
Making your online dating profile is about creating a document that honestly conveys what you want and who you are, while also providing fodder for conversation. There should be room for follow-up questions, and reason to be curious to hear the answers. The people who ask the questions you're most excited to answer are likely a stronger match for you. The people who do not ask questions related to your thoughtfully created profile are likely worth ignoring.
Think of it as an exercise in marketing. You don't want to oversell ("MY PUSSY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!"), you don't want to turn off matches ("SOMETIMES MY PUSSY SMELLS LIKE GRAVALOX!") either. And what's kind of cool about this is that you're creating a snapshot of yourself that presents what you want to be liked for—or in other words, you are whittling down the population of potential partners to those who would be attracted to that which you are most invested in being attractive for. Don't worry about being cool, don't worry about being funny. Just consider if what you see seems like a fair representation of how you feel about yourself on a good day.
It's a pain in the ass to write, and it's a pain in the ass to use. But you could potentially write a profile that will help you meet someone who is offering exactly what you want, and who wants exactly what you're offering. That might be your future spouse. It might be your most drama-free fuck buddy. So answer every question. Check for typos.
You can do it. I believe in you.
Below is a handy guide for creating your OKCupid* profile.
My Self Summary:
Think of this space like you would the paragraph on the back of the book. It's most intriguing if there isn't too much information. But just saying "ASK ME" is lazy. Lazy answers beget lazy messages. So. Think one (shortish, 3-5 sentences) paragraph. It's okay that not everything about you fits in here. It's also okay that you don't love talking about yourself. But there should be enough information to keep you reading. There should be room for at least one follow up question.
For instance, if you moved around a lot, saying, "I've followed my career all over the country, and now I'm in San Francisco where I belong," is more interesting/easy to start a conversation with than, "I lived in Fresno, and then I moved for work to Philadelphia, and then briefly to Seattle, but now I'm in San Francisco, because I got a new job selling dishwashers."
What I'm doing with my life:
One sentence, that's all. It should be a reflection of whatever it is you are most passionate about. Playing it a little bit coy here (hence one sentence) creates more room for chatting about that thing you are most passionate about, later.
I'm really good at:
Don't say sex. What does that even mean?
Give specific examples of things you are proud of, but probably no more than 10. Be as specific as possible. Don't say cooking, for example. Name that one thing you cook like a motherfucker. These kinds of specifics make sending you a thoughtful and specific message easier.
The first things people usually notice about me:
This can be a good place to mention something that could potentially be an elephant in the room. For instance, you could say: "That I'm in a wheelchair. Then they move on." This is not to say you're obligated to mention these things, but do remember the person you're meeting here has NEVER MET YOU BEFORE. Sometimes a heads-up is a good thing.
Otherwise, it's one of the questions that can be shunted off with silliness/irreverence because let's be real, it's a dumb question. It's basically an invitation to present the most superficial version of yourself possible.
Here are things people say way too often: eyes, laugh, smile. This may be true, but clichés are clichés because they're true. And you're not a cliché.
Favorite books, movies, shows, music and food:
It is tempting here to list EVERYTHING that you think is cool and interesting, but please don't. Choose a few from each category. If you're a HUGE music buff, then make a longer music list. But don't scroll through your iTunes seeking out names of bands you think may be cool, or that you like. If you're not passionate about a category, don't list anything. Or even better, ask for recommendations. People LOVE giving recommendations, and, again, it makes starting a conversation much easier. It allows them to start a conversation in which they're an expert.
In a lot of ways, though, this is the least important question here, and the one people waste the most time on. Like really, are you NOT going to date someone who's otherwise really attractive because she likes Love Actually?
The six things I could never do without:
This is my absolute favorite question. It offers ample room for both earnestness and humorous irreverence. What more could you want? It's also the one I have the least pointers for, because it will be the most specific to your personality. Maybe you ARE more earnest, and you want to be found by someone else who earnestly wants things like family, partnership, and children. Then your six should reflect that. But maybe you're more into dating a wide variety of people right now, who want to do things like eat strange foods and have sex in curious configurations. Being more flippant with this question will communicate that just fine.
Things people say way too often: Sex, my friends, oxygen (YOU'RE SO CLEVER), my cat / dog. These may all be true, but try and think of a more specific way to allude to them. Instead of saying "friends," say "Tuesday board game night" or whatever thing it is you do with your friends that you really love. Again (and over and over again), it makes a thoughtful conversation-starter with you easier to write, and gives a clearer picture of who you are.
I spend a lot of time thinking about:
This is another question with some good wiggle room in it. Which way you wiggle—toward seriousness or irreverence—is completely up to you and your priorities. Are you an activist? Then by all means, mention that here. Your passions and preferences should be starting to crystallize to the reader of your profile by this point. This is a nice time to hammer that home.
On a typical Friday night I am:
This is just a way to glean your lifestyle. Are you partying your face off? Enjoying a knitting circle? Frequenting your favorite sex club? Binging on Netflix? Bent on world domination? One honest sentence about that here, to make sure that your lifestyle is compatible with whoever is talking to you, is probably a wise choice.
The most private thing I'm willing to admit:
Ugh. This question. Don't fucking write "I'm here" because WE KNOW. Personally, I can't help but regard this one with anything but eye-rolling. I like to think of it as a moment to say something that's just shy of being truly embarrassing. One sentence. For instance: "My socks never match." Probably not: "My father used to beat me." That may be true (and I'm sorry to hear that if it is), but that's not really what you want to be attractive about you. You are not only your past trauma, so why date that way?
You should message me if:
This is the most important question, because it's the call to action. Don't say, "If you feel like it" or "you want to." Those are both cop-out answers that will in no way embolden that nice, shy potential future partner who was trying to rack up the nerve to reach out to you.
Say something specific (ALWAYS) again. "You want to try that new coffee shop at blank and blank" or "You want discuss the season finale of House of Cards" or whatever it is that is actually a thing you want to do.
For your pictures:
Minimum three. They should all be current, within the last year.
One should show your face (and not under pounds of makeup).
One should show your whole figure. Yes, this is a superficial thing. Dating is always, at the onset, superficial. So put your real figure there, not the figure you had when you were in college, not that one picture where you look completely different. Wouldn't you rather date someone who's into exactly what you're offering, rather than someone who needs to be coaxed in by your most desirable body pic?
And one can show whatever you want; just please don't make it a picture of you with a passed-out tiger in Thailand. Don't include pictures of your friends. It should be just you. You're lovely, so don't just select for the single best pictures of you that have ever been taken. Select the ones in which your personality is most visible. This is a good one to crowdsource from your friends, if you're comfortable with that.
You're done! Or at least, you're done writing your profile. I know a lot of women don't send messages (why would you; women are often bombarded by messages, so I understand the sit-back-and-wait method), but I would still recommend that you do. Assertively pursuing what you want is what online dating (can) be all about. This is a chance to meet people completely outside of your friend group, your work life, and your mom's friend's neighbor's cousins. Just by making a profile, you are saying, YES, there is something I want, I am looking for someone. So you might as well get the most out of it. After all, the more active you are on OKC, the more frequently you will appear in people's feeds. So: Get some. Life is short, and you already spent way too long making your OKCupid profile.
Oh, and also:
Report any abusive /creepy/inappropriate messages. Never respond to them. If someone gives you the creeps, block them. Do this guilt free. You are helping the system be better when you do.
*Why not Tinder? Because fuck Tinder. Also because I never used it.