Are you out there in the crazy virtual world of online dating, where the first impression of anyone you meet is their self-constructed profile? Jed Ringel, author of the new memoir Stuck In The Passing Lane, sure has. And he’s learned a few key things about who women are—by their very own words.

Online dating profiles aren’t exactly resumes, which list specific qualifications that can be verified. Instead, much like college application essays, they’re subjective, unverifiable, and designed—like advertising copy!—to convey impressions. And like abstract paintings, they’re open to wide interpretation.

Consider this: In this sales-hype-weighted environment, what actually can be gleaned from what people say about themselves in their dating profiles? A lot, it turns out. In fact, their descriptions may prove to be the very antithesis of who they are in real life. To avoid inauthenticity, what should you keep in mind when you’re reading or crafting an online profile?

We’ll let Jed explain.

5 WOMEN YOU’RE SURE TO MEET IN (ONLINE DATING PROFILE) HEAVEN 

The Five Women You Meet in (Online Dating) HeavenOver the course of the nine years I spent off-and-on online dating, I ballpark that I emailed about 2,000 women, of which I heard back from around 400, of which I met around 200, of which I had various types of relationships with around 15 (before finding the woman with whom I’ve now spent almost three years). This, I venture, qualifies me to speak with some authority about what women who say certain things about themselves actually are like. Self-descriptions are often what I’d call subliminal misdirection. Like sales people who precede everything they say with the word “Honestly,” or Gucci shoppers professing how much Buddhism has totally changed their lives, they’re describing the opposite of what they really are.

I’ve identified five categories of phrases that, when used, often mean the opposite of what’s being said. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying these ladies are lying. They are, I believe, mostly unaware that they are describing personal aspirations; goals that just happen to be 180 degrees from where they are.

No baggage, please! 

The profile says the writer wants only men who must have put their prior relationships behind them so that, just like the writer, they’re not carrying any baggage. I can almost guarantee that the woman who says this will, while still standing in line with you waiting for your first date coffees, mention her ex. The comment, in light of her profile, will take you so aback that you’ll find yourself wondering if she’s testing you. She isn’t. She’s just desperate to move beyond what’s bothering her about men that, like a secret you’re dying to tell, she just can’t stop talking about it.

I can’t believe I’m doing this…

Oft-repeated and easy to spot, this phrase often debuts in the first sentence or two of a woman’s online dating profile. Mostly, it means that this person has had decades of relationship failure. It’s essentially evidence of their internal conflict between, on the one hand, desperately wanting to be in a relationship, and, on the other, being quite intolerant of and uncompromising about people’s behavior (except, of course, their own). Despite this, they think the phrase tells people that they’re so great that online dating shouldn’t be necessary.

My friends say I’m…

This phrase (or its variant, My mother says I’m…) will be followed by a list of superlatives as long (and sappy) as the Boy Scout Oath. Women deploying this phrase are, variously, beautiful (often “inside and out”), smart, classy, have loads of friends, a loving family, and a great profession in which they excel and that brings them tremendous gratification. They have everything except that special someone to fill their relationship niche. This is almost guaranteed to be someone who’s trying to seem humble—mainly because they’re not.

You must be…

This one is very common. It precedes a list of qualities that a man who wants a chance of even trading emails with her must have, including, usually: height, body type and facial hair restrictions; profession and income criteria; social aspects like frequenting opera, ballet, “destination” restaurants and social gatherings that use charitable donations to subsidize champagne consumption; and intimate aspects like your wardrobe and—yes, this is true—always smelling good. The criteria usually go on and on, but you get the idea. This is someone who feels rejection deeply and often, wants desperately not to, and who thinks that projecting themselves as someone who’ll only go out with superficially spectacular men will help them get over it.

The Essayist

This one is easy to spot, because their profile is around the length of The Iliad. Before messaging them, you’re already privy to their views and theories about the world, their political leanings, the literature they love, and their opinions on pooper-scooper laws. There won’t be much that’s specifically about them beyond what the breadth of their essay has told you: They think they have a lot to say, and no one much listens to them. Want to be their “designated listener”?

5 Things You Should Never Say in Your Online Dating Profile

* * *

This isn’t to say that everyone speaks unreliably about themselves. The online dating environment encourages a “promote yourself, but don’t” mentality, and many, many women—and men, I expect—are much as they say. A blessedly few sentences (correctly punctuated with no misspelling), explaining where, generally, they are in life. A humble-seeming admission or two, such as that they’re not sure what they’re looking for, and that they’re open to meeting new people and new experiences. That, generally, is about all you want for starters.

Unless, of course, your own profile says that anyone you date “Must be…”—in which case, good luck out there.

The Five Women You Meet in (Online Dating) HeavenJed Ringel is an Ivy League dropout who’s been a failed sculptor, a morally bankrupt Wall Street lawyer, and the founder of an IT company, the sale of which allowed him to retire at 50. A father to three daughters and a mentor to children aging out of the foster care system, he is an avid cook and award-winning gardener. Jed splits his time between Montauk and New York City’s Lower East Side—where, along with far-flung locales like Russia and Singapore, many of the events that inspired his debut published memoir, Stuck in the Passing Lane, take place.

Stuck in the Passing Lane [About Face Press] is currently available through AmazonBarnes & Noble, and in brick-and-mortar bookstores nationwide. Find Jed on Goodreads and at http://jedringel.com/.

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