“This is me – deal with it.”
Well, the intro paragraph of my CatholicMatch dating profile wasn’t quite that terse, but it was close. When I look back at it now I realize that I sounded more than a little arrogant. You see, there’s confidence and then there’s arrogance.
Do you know the difference?
As an online dater, are you presenting yourself as someone who’s sure of his worth and not someone who has a big head? I wasn’t. I came off as a cocksure know-it-all. Me, Tarzan. You, impressed. It was a miracle I ever managed to meet my fiancée.
I hadn’t always been that way. At least not in print. When I first posted my profile I presented myself as someone who was as non-threatening as possible. After a few years of lukewarm responses to my emotigrams and emails, something in me snapped. I had become a milquetoast. I was so careful not to offend a woman or to scare her off that I had buried any trace of assertiveness. That is not an attractive trait.
“No more mister nice guy!” became my motto. “Mince no words!” was my new battle cry.
My sentences became short and not that sweet. “I’m this. I’m that. I don’t do this. I don’t do that.” I was going to tell it like it was. The responses were going to fill my inbox and I would have to apologize to CatholicMatch for crashing their server.
The initial response was good (and a little surprising). “Breath of fresh air” was mentioned a few times. “Finally, someone who tells it like it is” was a recurring theme.
But after a few weeks of that the responses tapered off. What had I done wrong? Almost everything. Somewhere along the way confidence was replaced by arrogance. I think we men sense deep down that we need to be assertive, but unless we are taught how to do it respectfully we fall back into caveman mode. There’s nothing wrong with being confident or in presenting yourself as a good catch. But do it right. Here are a few things I leaned along the way:
1. Don’t try to out-man the other guy
Focus on why you’re a good catch, not why other men aren’t up to snuff. My profile had a whiff of self-satisfied superiority. It was almost confrontational. I had taken what I perceived to be the emasculation of the American male and turned my rejection of it into a mission. Look at me! I’m not a modern girlie-man! I can hold this chip on my shoulder all day and not get tired! Ha!
2. Avoid bitterness
Comb your profile to detect bitterness from past relationships. No one wants to contact someone who sounds as if they are fed up with certain behavior. No one wants to walk on eggshells when they’re getting to know you. This is a fresh start. Leave that negativity at the curb, please. Pickups are Tuesdays and Fridays; please call to schedule bulk items.
3. Avoid sweeping statements about life issues
Sweeping statements can appear judgmental. “I want someone who’s not wedded to her job” might turn off a good match who is temporarily burdened with a long workday. “I believe daily Mass is important for a strong faith life” might mean you are looking for someone who has a strong faith, but the person who is viewing your profile may live in a parish where daily Mass may not be available at all. Sweeping statements can imply that certain people “need not apply.” You’ve just made sure some good prospects feel as if you’ve slammed the door before they’ve even knocked.
4. Avoid sounding self-satisfied
Does your profile make it sound as if you have it all together? That lacks self-awareness. I was struggling with a key point of the faith that I knew was important to the type of woman I was trying to attract. I was honest about that, and as it turns out my fiancée found that part of my profile very attractive. If your profile smacks of know-it-all spirituality (or know-it-all anything), you’re trying too hard to impress. You’re telling everyone that you have no growing left to do. You’re saying you have no flaws. We both know your biggest one. And guess what? Now she does, too.
5. Don’t jump to conclusions
When you are communicating with a contact, reread your responses with this question in mind: “Am I making any assumptions?” Don’t assume you know a lot about someone from cursory contacts. Email is tricky and lacks inflection. At the beginning stages of communication a lot of missteps are made by people who assume they know exactly what someone is saying. Slow down. Ask. Clarify.
And be patient. Patience, like humility, is a virtue. And practicing virtue means you can never go wrong.
I was lucky in spite of my arrogance. It could have been worse.
My fiancée, God bless her, said that she thought I was so no-nonsense that I would not have been interested in her. She also thought I was a bit arrogant and that probably kept her from reaching out for almost a year. In the end it was only because I viewed her profile that she felt comfortable contacting me. If I hadn’t, she never would have sent so much as an emotigram. And I would have missed out on finding the love of my life. How’s that for a lesson in humility?