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Romeo online

Truth in advertising apparently does not extend to Internet dating

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I was having dinner with friends when the topic of computer dating came up. I laughed. “Only losers would search for lovers on the net,� I said. As it turned out, I was talking to three couples who’d all met online.

“Looks like you’re out of the loop,� one of my buddies said.

I denied it but he didn’t hear me. His luscious new girlfriend had her tongue in his ear.

Matchups.com makes finding love easy, screamed the banner on their home page. Little did I know I’d have to hack through a jungle of essay questions I’d never given any thought to. They wanted my religious beliefs, my political beliefs, my income, spending, and eating habits. What an ordeal! I haven’t had to come up with that much b.s. since the last time I went on a date.

Then they wanted a photo to post. I never knew the depth of my vanity until I tried to find the perfect picture of myself to lure the opposite sex. I spent most of a weekend trying to escape that quagmire only to fall into the trap of decided to give it a light retouch. In my obsession to remove a nose hair and a wrinkle or two, I electronically botoxed myself into a hybrid of me and Joan Rivers. All things considered, it would have been cheaper to fly Annie Leibovitz to my house to shoot new pictures from scratch.

Finally my profile was as good as I could make it. I decided it would be wise to get a woman’s perspective on it before submitting it for the world to see. In situations like these, I know I can count on my good friend, Wendy. She read my profile, glanced at my picture and nodded.

“Good,� she said. “If I didn’t know you, I’d probably find you attractive.�

It’s affirmations like this that have made me the Romeo I am today.

As it turned out I was attractive to all kinds of women. Women in Bulgaria. Women weighing 300 pounds. Women with buns of steel. And I don’t mean well-toned glutes, but tightly coiled hair like my old civics teacher, Miss Govednik. That’s not to say there weren’t a few beauties that wanted to date me, but they all live on the opposite side of the planet and wonder if I’m willing to relocate.

When I went on the search it didn’t get any better. No matter how many times I selected “women looking for men,� all I ever got was women who looked like men. It was the basis of Dean’s first rule of Internet dating: the closer a prospect lives to my house, the uglier they’re bound to be.

I also drew a vast array of weirdos. Can someone tell me why so many women post pictures of themselves that look like they are in a state of panic? I’m thinking of one in particular who looked like she was being photographed from the cowcatcher of an oncoming train. It might have made a good Hitchcock poster, but it didn’t turn me on. It scared me so bad I couldn’t log on for a week.

Eventually, I learned not to get hung up on details. Today, I’m able to review hundreds of prospective dates in just a couple of minutes. First I glance at the photos, summarily rejecting women in scuba gear, on motorcycles, women with Leslie Gore hair, or women holding up giant sport fish. I also bypass women with gothic tattoos, women in Playboy bunny outfits who obviously aren’t, and women thrusting babies at the camera as if to say, “Here, take on this liability too.�

I also scan for buzzwords I construe as red flags, rejecting women describing themselves as either “bubbly,� “sassy,� or “spunky.� I’ve also learned it’s a good idea to blow off anyone using the words “tomboy,� “therapy� or “soul mate.�

Finally, I look for incongruities. These usually show up in statements like, “I’m a well-manured woman.� Did she mean, “I’m a well-mannered woman� or was this a Freudian slip? You can’t be sure until you meet them and that’s the problem. There’s often a great deal of difference between what a prospect says about themselves and what they are like in person. I met one woman whose profile was labeled “Beach Babe.� Beached Whale was more like it. There was another who called herself “Sexy Vixen.� OxyToxin was more like it. These kinds of misrepresentations have become my pet peeve, and one of these days I may hack the Matchups web site to assign these liars nicknames more appropriate to their appearance. There’s a lot of “ReadyNWillings,� LotsOLaffs,� and “FitNFuns� who should be relabeled, “2DatesNGone,� “1BigHeadache,� and “NoCarbsForYou.�

I’ve even e-mailed my Senator to have truth in advertising laws applied to the Internet, but I later dropped that idea. If honesty were a prerequisite to joining a dating service, I wouldn’t be allowed online either.

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