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Kristin Armstrong on the Don’ts of Online Dating Apps

Kristin’s Column: Coming Unhinged

I am totally inept with social media. So when someone suggested I try some of the online dating apps, I laughed in her face. Shake it up, she said. Put yourself out there. Why not? What do you have to lose? I decided to try it as sort of an experiment, a way to peek into what most single people seem to be doing nowadays to meet people. I figured it would be good fodder for my writing, anyway.

You can swipe or X people you have zero interest in, which feels semi-cruel and shallow, until you realize that people are doing the same damn thing to you. I imagine this would be a lot more fun if I was in a different age bracket, rather than just looking for people who didn’t look too old, too unhealthy, too short, too … not my type. You can get totally sucked in and lose track of time X-ing people, which is unproductive and slightly depressing.

No more photos with your cat, your mother, your old girlfriend or smoking cigarettes. Even pics with your kids are kind of creepy, like the guy who borrows a puppy to go to the park.”

The best thing to come from this experiment was the brilliant idea that I could start my own company, a service for middle-aged men so they could get help making their online dating profiles. Here’s what I would say to my clients so far. Stop with the photos taken in the front seat of your car. Do not post a bathroom mirror selfie with bad lighting at a bad chin angle, showcasing pleated pants. Do not post a pic taken in your messy kitchen with dirty dishes and cheap cabinets in the background. You don’t notice this, but we do. No more photos with your cat, your mother, your old girlfriend or smoking cigarettes. Even pics with your kids are kind of creepy, like the guy who borrows a puppy to go to the park. We are happy you are fit and work out, but please do not post a selfie wearing a tank top, mid-flex in the gym mirror, with your headphones on. There are better ways to prove you go to the gym. Please watch your grammar, and for the love of God, do not confuse “there,” “their” and “they’re.” I didn’t realize proper spelling was a rarity or an aphrodisiac, but it is definitely both. At least to me. Do not post only photos wearing a baseball hat or a cowboy hat, we already know you are bald—own it. Do not lie about your height. We will know. I would also say, do not post pics of you and your wife, looking for a third party—there have to be special sites for that.

At least three men listed cunnilingus under “special skills.” This is not a compliment you give yourself; I’m just saying. Plus, it’s crass. Gentlemen have lots of skills, most of which they do not talk about.

And please, if you are newly divorced, do not even make a profile for several years. There should be a mandatory waiting period, like for guns. One guy I went out with called his ex-wife his wife four times at dinner. Yes, FOUR. I have also considered this experiment as a pro bono portion of my therapy practice. Only one session, though, because I had to retire from helping people heal who are not my actual clients. I’m not doing that, ever again.

The only guys I was brave enough to actually meet in person so far were men I already knew, or knew of, or had been vetted and preapproved by an outside party/friend in common. I guess I spent so many years talking to my kids about Stranger Danger that part of me is still leery. It was hilarious to me to hear what these men had to say about their online experience. The consensus from my limited data collection on the male perspective of dating apps is that women post photos that are many years younger, many pounds lighter, wearing huge sunglasses, or taken from far away. One guy I went out with lied about his age by six years. He said he was getting tired of “meeting grannies.” Maybe I will start lying about my age, making myself six years older, so men think I look amazing in person.

I think it’s about time to take my profiles down, now that this essay is written. Time to close up shop and X myself out. It wasn’t an entirely failed venture. It did lead to some funny stories and a pretty amazing conversation with my kids, who are mandating that I be done. My daughter got her serious face on and said, “Mom. Why would you think that you, of all people, would meet someone on a screen? You are an outside person. Running. Hiking. Traveling. Having fun with your kids and your friends. You have a graduate degree and speak three languages and can run 50 miles. WHAT are you doing? Your guy is not on a screen either. He’s out there living his amazing life. Go have real fun doing all the things you love and you will find each other there.” That sounds totally meant to be.