Setting up an OKCupid profile is a lot like writing a resume—the stakes are high, it’s a pain in the ass, and the best ones are a study in creative rebranding. Whether in terms of job skills or your genitals, you want to emphasize the positive and downplay the negative. In fact, you want to spin the negative as a positive. Suckers!
ADHD thus morphs into the ability to multitask; anal-retentivenes into attention to detail; lazy motherfuckery into a positive attitude. On the relationship side of the equation, you don’t moan about being so desperately lonely you’ve considered converting to Christianity so at least you have something to blame, you say you’ve spent the last few years figuring out who you are and what you want out of life, and that you’re finally ready to meet that special someone!!
The same logic holds true for your choice of favorite TV shows, movies and music. People are watching, specifically people who might see you naked; you’re not going to publicly admit to liking something you know to be embarrassing, any more than you’d volunteer information about the increasingly depraved ways you would misuse office supplies at your last shitty job. Your old boss never found out, so why would you tell your potential new boss? Similarly, you leave out the part about Hoarders and The Real Housewives of Wherever and toss out a few respectable references, probably Mad Men or The Wire. Bonus points if you say you don’t even watch television.
I call this the cool-trap—cherry-picking media in order to make yourself seem more datable. Personally I’m not a fan, and when I did have a profile on the “OKC,” as no one should ever call it, deliberately avoided relying on transfer-coolness. It just seemed…unscrupulous, like the logic of resumes taken too far, especially since people only ever posted the good, never the stupid or otherwise shameful. And unlike resumes, which allow for and even encourage fact-checking, you can’t prove that a person actually likes Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. You can’t prove they actually watched Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. So I decided to opt out. I barely filled out my profile, responding “cool-trap” to any question I didn’t trust.
This was a mistake. By not providing a snapshot of who I was (or who I wanted to be), I could be anyone. I could be your dream girl, the person you’ve been waiting your whole life to meet. All because I didn’t tell you which TV shows I want you to think I watch.
To my surprise, lots of guys responded. At first I was excited. Maybe I cracked the OKCupid code! But almost immediately, a certain pattern began to emerge. One emotionally needy guy turned into two, and two emotionally needy guys turned into three. It took a painfully awkward date and the gift of a blood-stained leaf before I realized that it was my fault. I needed to stop being such a conspicuous emotional vessel.
This last guy’s name was nondescript; I can’t remember what it was. But he seemed nice, and was unusually interested in me, despite—or as I eventually realized, because of—the fact that I’d not given him any good reason to be. We decided to meet up at a coffee shop, and I arrived a bit early to position myself near an exit, just in case. He must have recognized me from my picture, because he wandered right to my table. I on the other hand couldn’t put picture to face, even after he introduced himself. He was wearing a basketball jersey, though he shouldn’t have been. And two of those plastic bracelets people wear when they want to take a stand against the scourge of cancer or sea turtles. His were green, and etched with something vaguely inspirational. A few inches up was a huge tattoo that spanned his entire forearm. Something literary, in Arial font. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, a whole lot. The second question he asked me, after “do they sell sandwiches here,” was why I didn’t talk about my favorite movies or TV shows on my profile. I shrugged, said something about brand management, which only upped his interest. He was dying to know what shows I liked. He swore he wouldn’t tell anyone, an exhortation that only activated my obstructionist gene. His face turned pink, then red, and before I knew it we were having the most unnecessary argument in the history of online dating. Who was I, to not tell people what I like to watch on television?
After a half hour of this—I knew the argument was stupid, but that didn’t mean I was willing to lose—I said I needed to get back to work. He nodded, and as we silently packed up, he reached into his bag and pulled out a leaf. “I got this for you,” he told me. I looked at him, then theleaf. “Is that…blood?” I asked him. He eyed the crimson spot I’d pointed to. “It’s probably cherries,” he finally answered.
The moral of the story is, it is better to lie about—“curate,” if you want to get value-neutral—what one likes than not say anything at all. At least if you lie, you’re fashioning tangible emotional scaffolding. Your date might not know who you really are, but at least they’ll think you’re something. And being a disappointing something is better than being a borderless anything.