As a writer perusing online dating profiles, I’m probably more critical than your average user. I won’t open a profile if I can see “work hard, play hard” or “living the life to the fullest” anywhere in the preview. Ditto for “laid back” or “down to earth.” These are not bad qualities to have but given that everyone cites these traits, they have basically become meaningless as far as being a gauge for anyone’s personality. And if in the “What I’m Doing With My Life” section a guy writes, “Living it,” I’m so out of there. So out of there.

J. wrote to me first though I believe I had clicked on his profile before I had ever heard from him. This is what he wrote:

Hey what’s up? You seem cool, and intelligent…which is not all that common on this site I find. I tend to think of myself as a good talker also, and as for dancing..I love it, though I wouldn’t classify myself as having much talent haha. Anyways, figured I’d say hi. So, HI!!!

Now, this message didn’t exactly thrill me. I noted the unnecessary ellipses and the excessive use of exclamation marks. Normally, I would ignore this sort of message, categorizing the sender as slightly dimwitted or at least not up to my verbal level. (I can be quite arrogant.)

But lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps I’ve been too harsh on the men in the online dating universe. After all, I’m not looking to meet a fellow scribe but a boyfriend. My approach was weeding out guys who might not be able to write a clever email, but may be great in many other ways. I can be clever for the both of us, I decided as I embarked on my new online dating adventure.

So I perused his profile, which I found to be adequate. It had some moments of cleverness, which is better than most. And he was cute–at least in the photos he posted. You can get away with so much if you’re attractive.

I responded thoughtfully (as I tend to do), both to what he wrote in his message and to information I found in his profile. And so began a back and forth. His subsequent messages didn’t exactly excite me–he continued to abuse ellipses where simple periods would suffice. (Were his thoughts always trailing off?) He also seemed to be really excited about everything. So many exclamation marks. No one can be that excited, I wondered as I read. My declaration that I prefered coffee to alcohol elicited the following:

Funny you say that because I actually much prefer coffee to alcohol!!

First of all, there’s nothing funny or unusual in a Starbucks world to really liking coffee. But secondly–what was with all of those exclamation marks? One would’ve been too much. Two was over the top. The chances of having a fun, sarcastic conversation with him seemed to be steadily diminishing.

Yet once again, I put my skepticism aside because he looked really cute in those photos. I’m such a sucker for a hot guy. I agreed to meet up for a drink, hoping that in person he would dazzle me with his intellect.

And that’s when the cancellations began. Drinks for Monday night were called off a few hours before we were set to meet. We rescheduled for Thursday but on Wednesday night, he texted, saying that he would likely have to stay at work late tomorrow night too so he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t actually texting to cancel–he was just warning me. I was a little annoyed at this. He seemed to want me to keep my night open to meet up on the off chance that he wouldn’t have to stay late at the office. I’m not exactly Emily Post (as a lot of material on this site proves) but I am quite serious about respecting other people and their time. I’m rarely ever late and if I am running even five minutes behind, I text to let the other party know. After ascertaining that it was highly unlikely that he would be out of work at a reasonable hour, I suggested we call it off. I thought about letting the whole matter drop there, but I agreed to meet up over the weekend. We made plans for Sunday afternoon instead

He agreed to meet in Brooklyn–I felt it was only fair after all of the scheduling shenanigans–and gave him a location. “Noon or one,” I texted. I never heard back. I texted last night to confirm the time. Still nothing. And though I knew we clearly weren’t meeting up, I texted yet again today, mostly because I wanted him to have to man up and actually cancel.

An hour before one, he finally texted. “Really sorry. Can’t meet up.”

At least J.’s text messages, unlike in his online messages, didn’t contain any exclamation marks or ellipses.

I briefly considered ignoring the message and moving on with my day. Obviously, there would be no rescheduling, no more chances. But I didn’t want to let him slink away so easily. What he did–canceling on me several times and this time at the last moment–was unacceptable. So I fired back, pointing out the rudeness of his behavior. He tried a couple of excuses, even saying that he was new to the online dating world as though that somehow rationalized his behavior. I can’t stand it when people try to pretend the Internet, the place where many of us work and spend most of our days, is somehow distinct from reality.

I pointed out that this was not a matter of online vs. “real” world, that he was merely disrespectful and that his apology was insincere. And then I thought back to all of those exclamation marks and how insincere they had seemed at the time. Of course, he wasn’t actually that excited that I drank coffee. He wasn’t jumping up and down as he typed. Though he wanted to argue for a distinction between real and online, his insincerity seemed to move easily between the two spheres.

I’m not sure what this means for my new approach–will I continue to give guys with less-than-stellar writing skills a shot? Or should I limit myself to the guys who write with an Oscar Wilde-like sort of wit?

I am not sure yet. I guess it’ll depend on how cute they are in their photos. I suppose that in the “What I’m Doing With My Life” section, I should answer, “Living but not learning.”

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