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Ask Lynn-How Can I Better Market Myself Online?


One disabled widow still hasn’t had any luck with online dating. Should she change her profile, or are all men this shallow? Lynn has suggestions on making a more positive shift in her profile (and tactics!).

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
I’m a 56-year-old widow. I have been trying to find someone with whom I can get acquainted, and possibly lead to a casual date. The guys that I have contacted so far are all about “Let’s meet — let’s have sex.” I do clearly say in my profile that I do not believe in either casual sex or one-nighters. If I write an email, I try to give a little info about myself and ask a few questions. I only ask for
Am I realistic in wanting to get to know a person.
honesty from others and say that I am willing to answer any questions they might have. All I seem to get in return are one-liners, and somehow we always end up on his wanting to “spend the night” with me. Am I realistic in wanting to get to know a person a little bit before going to bed together? A few emails, maybe some chatting? And can I at least know your name before we even talk about having sex?

My second problem is that I do have a couple of disabilities. I am on oxygen for emphysema and am somewhat limited in mobility due to a severe back injury. How do I introduce that into conversation without chasing anyone off? I am handicapped, not dead! My husband of 22 years passed away from cancer in 2003, and I have not had a “good” date since then that didn’t end up with someone rather aggressively trying to get in my pants. I have a lot of interests and am reasonably intelligent and self-supporting financially. More to the point, I am really lonely and would be happy with finding someone to watch movies with, at least. What am I doing wrong?
– Solitary Sue

Dear Sue,
You know, my dear friend Judy (back before she met her now-husband online) stated specifically in her profile that she hated museums. Guess how many emails she got from guys who were all saying, “Let me know if you want to hit a café or a museum sometime” — a lot! So, speaking of museums, here’s Exhibit A for you: Suitors (of the male and female kind) don’t necessarily read other people’s online dating profiles very carefully. Exhibit B: There’s also the possibility that some men do read your profile’s “no casual sex” statement, but what they think is: Here’s a challenge! I don’t know, maybe it’s more fun to try to chase after the gal who says she’s not up for one-nighters than the one they find in the “not looking for anything serious” category, you know?

Anyway, that’s just one hypothesis. The real issue here is how to help you find your movie-watching partner (and beyond, hopefully). I’d start by revising your profile. Take out the stuff about casual sex if it’s in your written description of yourself and what you’re looking for (as opposed to some kind of checked-off option, which you can leave the way it is if that’s the case). Why? Mainly, because it’s not working for you right now. While it’s a perfectly defensible position to take, it’s also taking up space in your profile that you could be filling in with other, more positive (and specific) information about yourself. You say in your letter that you have “a lot of interests,” so make sure you describe them with some passion and
If anything, others will appreciate your candor.
liveliness in your written essay. That way, your profile becomes a much stronger magnet for attracting people who share those same interests with you.

Speaking of interests, I recommend that you also pursue them elsewhere. I’m not sure how limited your mobility is (and you may be way ahead of me on this), but I have to say it: Whatever you can do in regards to participating in and enjoying your hobbies, be sure to do it out of the house and with groups of other like-minded people whenever possible. Even if none of them becomes a love interest for you right away, getting yourself out there and finding a community or two to be a part of will help chip away at your feelings of loneliness. This, in turn, will put you in a more positive, buoyant mood — perfect for attracting not just platonic friends, but boyfriends, too!

And about your disability: I would mention it early on. Not in the first five minutes, but not longer than after a tendril of interest has begun to take root. And when you bring it up, do it forthrightly, not ominously, by offering only the facts: this is what I can’t do, and this is what I can; then, say you’re happy to answer any questions the other person might have. People are entitled to bail out — even if it’s for dumb and limiting reasons — but at least then you’ll know it won’t be due to the way you shared that information about yourself. If anything, others will appreciate your candor.

If you like, you could also check out websites specifically for people with disabilities. I’m not suggesting that you — or anyone with disabilities — must relegate themselves to some sort of marginalized social circles… not at all! But I understand that when disclosing a disability has presented itself as an obstacle to finding a relationship, these confidence-boosting and community-building sites — especially when they’re just one element within a larger, overall meeting-people strategy — can make connecting with others a whole lot easier. Surely it’s worth a try?

I’m sorry about your husband, Sue, and I’m sorry it’s been a hard and lonely few years for you. But making a few small revisions (both in your profile and in your plans) should help you write another happy beginning for yourself!


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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