Online Dating Wars!

From online dating pundit, Virginia Vitzthum:

My competition for online dating talking head status gives women tips in the form of blame. He first directs women not to believe anything a man says on a date. He also gives contradictory advice in two of the steps — contact men, we love that, says #8; only go for men who are searching for you says #4. This is the guy I paid for online dating advice — for book research — who told me to lie.

Now, let me be clear. I respect Virginia Vitzthum. She writes well. And I have no trouble with her mentioning me in a blog.

It’s the “taking things completely out of context” part that doesn’t work for me. And because there’s nothing worse for a writer than to feel misunderstood, the instances where I’m taken to task can be explained thusly:

“He directs women not to believe anything a man says on a date”

Actually, I said that women shouldn’t think that having a great date means anything more than “I had a great date”. Women are often hurt and surprised when their incredible nights lead to nothing. I was merely trying to point out that if a man’s job on a date is to show you a good time, don’t be surprised if he shows you a good time. It just doesn’t necessary portend a future relationship. I emphatically did NOT say that everything that comes out of a man’s mouth is a lie. If you read it that way, as Virginia did, you’re getting it wrong.

He also gives contradictory advice in two of the steps — contact men, we love that, says #8; only go for men who are searching for you says #4.

These points do not contradict each other whatsoever. The only thing that would contradict my advice that says “Contact men” would be “Don’t contact men.” But I never said “don’t contact men”. What I said was that, if you’re a 45 year old woman who wants to date a 45 year old man, and you find that he’s only looking for women 21-31, don’t waste your time. Instead, focus on the men who ARE interested in dating a 45-year-old woman.

As I’m writing this post, I can’t even believe that my words could be so wildly misinterpreted, by an intelligent and experienced writer, no less. What’re ya gonna do?

But finally, the juicy stuff. The lying.

When Virginia recounts her story of how I encouraged her to lie, I can only assume that this, too, has been taken out of context. Any reader of my books or of this blog knows that I’m not an absolutist on anything. It’s never my way or the highway. I look at a situation, try to assess it as objectively as possible, put myself in the other persons’ shoes, and offer my two cents. When a man who is taking care of his sick parents asked me if he should lie about his living arrangement, I said yes. This doesn’t mean I am an advocate of lying, per se. It means that there’s far more nuance than moralists like Virginia would have you believe.

And let’s face it, it’s not taking much of a stance to come down AGAINST lying. It’s quite stronger to empathize with a woman who has gained twenty pounds and would rather not list her weight, or to understand how a woman who crosses the border from 49 to 50 might feel insecure as she drops off many men’s radars.

Finally, there’s a HUGE difference between “lying to be seen” and “lying to deceive”. Lying to deceive is claiming in your profile that you’re 35 and saying when you meet that you’re 40. What I advocate – what I have advocated – and what I most assuredly advocated when Virginia Vitzthum called me for research on her book – was this stance, which has been my answer to the lying question on the E-Cyrano quiz for four years now.

It’s okay to lie about your age (within a couple of years) as long as you tell the truth later in your profile.

If you list yourself as 49, but come clean in your profile that you’re truly 50, and the person still chooses to contact you, I’m not sure exactly who’s getting hurt. One thing I am sure of: this kind of lying is not indicative of any character flaw beyond insecurity.

Virginia and I exchanged pleasant emails after I read her post, so this isn’t any sort of Online Dating War as the title might indicate.

I was just hoping that someone would take the headline out of context and run with it.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    virginia

    Fair enough, Mark. I am a a moralist, and an anti-ageist. Fortunately I’ve always found ageism confounding, which makes experiencing it less traumatic. When I was 9 and first heard the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” my first thought was “That’s dumb. What happens when the person who says that turns 30?”

    In my day-to-day life I’m not so obsessed with it; if I like a band, I’ll go see that band and not really worry if most of the other people there could be my kid. I make it a point to never hide or lie about my age because I’m not ashamed of it and it is a central piece of biographical data. I was born in 1961. I graduated high school in 1979. I remember the Vietnam War and Patty Hearst. Many of my friends have children in college. This is who I am. We all want to know how old people are because it places them, not just in pop culture references, but in life experience and stages of growth.

    And I maintain that to begin lying to conform to a system that encourages lying is to do violence to one’s sense of self. I can get off my high horse and not brand everyone who does so “a liar” across the board, when in Rome and all that. BUT they are at best a wimp. Honesty and courage matter to me, so I want to present myself that way, and I want a guy who does too.

    I won’t lie that being 45 and single is always easy — and the fear of that is enough to make people start pushing that birth year forward. But it’s certainly better and more fun to be those things openly and unashamedly.

    And hence my beef with your good-intentioned advice to me to be 39 in my profile. You just hit one of my buttons.

    Thanks for being reasonable, though we’d probably get more blog attention if we were nastier,
    Virginia

  2. 2
    Anonymous

    Evan, you used to do great profile makeovers for Happen Magazine- any chance of them making a comeback?

  3. 3
    Evan Marc Katz

    @ Virginia:

    Have it your way. But in my universe, listing yourself as 39 but admitting that you’re 42 in your profile is the definition of a victimless crime.

    And by the way, my name is Evan.

    @ Anon:

    Yeah, those profile makeovers were back in 2005. I think the problem was that there’s only so many ways to dissect a profile. So after 10 makeovers or so, it became a bit redundant to tell people to cut their adjectives and skip the negativity. Since then, I’ve written about a dozen freelance pieces for Match, including this one, a personal favorite:

    http://www.happenmag.com/magazine/article0.aspx?articleid=6866

    Thanks for your interest.

  4. 4
    virginia

    I’m so sorry, *Evan*! We old people get confused.

  5. 5
    J

    To each his own as to the putting your age down as 39 and then later in the profile admitting you are 45, 50 or 60, but you look 35. For me personally, it is someone who is altering information so they can try and score a date with someone who wasn’t looking for someone in their age bracket. It can be very disheartening when you see a photo, take the time to read the profile thinking a guy is your age and then finding out he is 15 years older. For some of us, that is a real deal breaker for very personal reasons and it seems like cheating to me. IF I meet someone I like and they turn out to be older than I want, but I like them, then I can consider what to do then. Match often sends people to you as Mutual Matches that a are a little out of your age range or you are out of theirs. If we are talking within a year or two of my specifications, then I will look at them. If I am outside their stated acceptable age range (or whatever else I don’t meet and it is something fairly significant), I will write back to them if they chose to overlook that and contact me. Very few people will tell you it is ok to post a photo of you 30 pounds or 30 years ago. Or to put up one as your main profile shot with a full head of hair when you now possess but a fringe or are bald. I am more likely to distrust someone who posts untrue info. even if they refute it later. To me trust is one of the keystones of a really great friendship, much less, relationship. I won’t say that it is wrong across the board – just that I don’t care for it and have never written to or responded to a man who felt he had to resort to that particular tactic. I have a great picture (almost everyone says so) of me that was taken at least two years ago. It was my main profile shot, and while I still looked exactly like it, I used it and supplemented with even more recent shots (because people were saying I looked exactly like that photo or better in person). When I got less fit and then gained some weight (after losing 6 people in my life in one year – they passed away), I had two choices. Take new photos that reflect what I really look like and live with how I’ve changed and my physical appearance or don’t internet date until I can get an accurate photo taken that I can also live with enough to post it for people to see and judge. I’m not there yet. Putting up the older photo that was a misrepresentation of who and what I am was never an option. No matter how good it looks(ed). I understand trying to state things in positive terms and to put your best foot forward and accentuate things that will attract others. But I still think you have to stay within the bounds of what is based in fact.

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