*She is in her 30s and more than attractive. Her pictures are in focus and there are plenty of them. But according to Lonnie, that’s precisely the problem.
“The girl’s got 15 photos on here,” he says as he scrolls through her dating profile on his smart phone. “Anything more than four means she’s stuck on herself.”
Lonnie should know. That’s because Lonnie is an online dater. And not just casually. By his own admission, Lonnie trawls Yahoo! Personals, Plenty of Fish, Match.com, OKCupid and eHarmony, among some other sites I’d never heard of, with the vengeance of salmon headed upstream.
“I haven’t met a woman in the regular way in a long time,” concedes Lonnie, as he glances at the face of his Tag Heuer watch. “At this point, I prefer meeting them online as opposed to walking up and introducing myself.”
Right here I should say that I don’t really know Lonnie. A forty-three year old midlevel executive for a major U.S.-based corporation and father of two, we met one afternoon at this very outdoor cafe several weeks ago, when he took a table next to mine. As he waited on his date, a conversation ensued.
And here we are again. Lonnie–tall, in a tan wool blazer and jeans with close cut hair and fashionable five o’ clock shadow on an angular, expressive face–waits for yet another woman. In the meantime he uses his phone to check his traps, showing me the profile of the fifteen-photo woman. Since my chicken parmesan hasn’t yet arrived, I’m his captive audience. Today the subject is online dating.
When Lonnie divorced five years ago, cyberspace romance was all new to him. “I knew who I was looking for,” he says, giving more than a passing glance to a woman walking by in a blue suede pant ensemble, “but I didn’t know how to use the dating sites to find her. What I found out is that I could always find somebody to date online, but to find someone especially for me, I needed a different approach.”
A seemingly hip guy, Lonnie says his inner nerd has served him well in his work. He decided to apply that science to Internet dating, logging the trends and quirks of women and their profiles.
What he says he learned through meeting a cross section of women online: the profiles they write about themselves don’t always reflect who they are, but rather, who they think they are or want to be.
“The woman who says she’s all spiritual-minded and compassionate won’t even give you the courtesy of a ‘no thank you’ response if she’s not interested,” Lonnie says. “Women who write that they are ‘happy all the time’ tend to not do well facing any issue that makes them uncomfortable.”
He created a category he calls “Fairytale Females:” women whose profiles use such terms and phrases as “Knight in shining armor,” “looking for my last great love,” “Sweep me off my feet,” “Love of my life,” “Happily ever after,” “Mr. Right,” “looking for someone who completes me” and the ever venerable “Soul mate.”
“These women are on some ‘Pretty Woman’ shit,” he says, referencing the idealized 1990 Julia Roberts/Richard Gere movie about a call girl and a wealthy businessman who fall in love.
“The ones I went out with had an unrealistic view of a serious relationship. You don’t just order up the ‘love of your life’; you develop that. But ‘Fairytale Females’ want it ready-made, like a microwave meal.”
Lonnie passes up profiles featuring overtly sexy photos. “They are leaning on their looks, which means they’re insecure.” He steers clear of women in photos posed next to cars and other vehicles. “Even if it’s theirs,” he says. “It’s tacky and superficial.” And, he advises men to be wary of women who include on their profile a photo of their pet.
“Posing with the animal in a picture is one thing,” he says, glancing at his watch again. “But if Fido has a photo or two of his own, watch out–that animal’s going to be your competition.”
You don’t have to say much with Lonnie, which is cool, because here comes my food.
“Ah, that looks great,” he says. Glances at the watch again. By the way, it’s dangerous, he surmises, for women to include on their profile photos of children and grandchildren. “It’s an invasion of the kids’ privacy. Plus, with all the crimes against children, you don’t know if he wants you or the kid.”
Lest you think Lonnie has words for only women, guess again. In order to write a great profile, he went to the men’s sections of dating sites to see what they were puttin’ down.
“It’s pitiful,” he says. Between what he read and what women have complained to him about men’s profiles, Lonnie had this advice: fellas, put your shirts back on. “Man, that shit is corny,” he says.
And take off the sunglasses in the photos. “Women like eyes; they read ’em.” Say more than “What’s up. Write about yourself without sounding so conceited.” Stop lying about your height and weight: “If she meets you, she’s gonna see the truth immediately,” laughs Lonnie. “And she’s going to be pissed.”
Don’t talk about sex in your profile, says Lonnie. Don’t lie about being single, about the kind of car you drive, where you live, the amount of money you make or what you do for a living.
And to both genders of a certain maturity: “Stop lying about your age,” he pleads. “Just stop it. And quit with the high school pictures. Stop writing that ‘Friends tell me I look younger than my age,’ because, one, your friends are lying and two, there is nothing wrong with looking your age.”
And never, ever, says Lonnie, post a photo of yourself with someone in it who is hotter than you. “That’s just suicide.”
He says online daters need to stop bitching in their profiles about what they’re NOT looking for, based on past online experiences, i.e., no baby mama drama, no players, no people still in recovery, etc. “That’s not going to stop players and crack heads from writing you,” he says. “It just makes you sound bitter. “You don’t have to meet these people.”
At this point, I’m the one looking at my watch. I consider dessert, but decide I’ve heard–I mean, eaten–enough. I now know more than I ever hoped to about the gospel of online dating according to Lonnie. He made a lot of sense. I pay my check and wish my man well.
However, walking down the street, I wondered: following Lonnie’s advice, what would the online dater be left with? Depends. A discerning person wouldn’t date most of the people they’d encounter at a bar or somewhere out in public; why should it be any different online? The cyberspace dating smorgasbord is deceiving. In the end, both on the Net or the “regular way,” it’s about personal compatibility. And for many of us, that particular air is rare.
That said, I’m wondering with whom the woman coming down the street would be suited. In her 30s, the cut of her formfitting white skirt (summer garb in the dead of an L.A. winter) looks to be from the ’40s. That walk deserves its own rhythm section. Her breasts are pushed up so high that at the end of the day, the bottom of her chin will be chafe.
I don’t know how fond she is of animals, but I’d say this is a lady who has slinked up along side an expensive automobile that wasn’t hers for a photo or two. She offers a flirtatious smile, but I’m sure of where she’s headed. Man, the situations Lonnie endures for the benefit of us all.
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected].