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I’m an online dating veteran. I’ve done Nerve, JDate, Three Day Rule, OkCupid, and possibly some others I can’t remember. I did Nerve back in 1999 when I was still living on Second Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in NYC. In other words, a lifetime ago. In other words, I’ve been doing this a long time. I haven’t done it continuously — because I’d totally lose my faith in humanity, plus there have been a couple relationships between 1999 and now — but I keep dipping my foot in the pool, what with my hope for romance and my blissful dreams of a soulmate.

At the beginning of this year, I gave up on dating. I realized I was just spending way too much time on these sites (and way too much precious psychic energy) and so I deactivated my profiles and turned all that psychic energy towards my work (hence the four books coming out this year). But then I auditioned for an appearance on a Bravo reality show about dating in Los Angeles and one of the criteria for the appearance was that I had to turn my online profile back on for at least one site during the audition/callback/filming process.

So I’ve been back online for about two months now, and I do not cease to be amazed at some of the letters I get sent. I can’t believe some women play along, but maybe they do. Or maybe they don’t, and the men can’t figure out why they’re striking out?

Since I’m a giver, a little primer for that very important, very daunting first message:

(All of these actually happened.)

1. If your profile does not include a photo, I’m not going to respond. I don’t care how charming your message is. If you’re an undercover agent, you shouldn’t be online, anyway. Also, if you have only one photo, I’m not going to write back. And if you include photos of yourself with dolphins or showing off your six pack, I’m not writing back, either. I know you’re manipulating me with photos of your sister’s kids or your puppy dog, but I’m okay with that.

2. Not to sound bitchy or superficial (even though that’s exactly how I’m going to sound), if you are very overweight, short, and balding, I’m probably not going to write you back, so why waste your time writing to me? Unless you write like David Sedaris, it’s not happening.

3. “Your sexy” is not only grammatically incorrect, it’s also not long enough of a message to warrant a response.

4. “Hi” isn’t long enough either. If you don’t have more to say, this relationship isn’t going to go anywhere.

5. Sending me links to Sun Ra videos is not an act of seduction.

6. Getting defensive when I ask why you are sending me these video links isn’t an act of seduction, either.

7. “You so sexy!” is not a terribly intriguing or impressive message. While I’m flattered that you find me sexy, I also like longer sentences, a bit of eloquence, and some attention to grammar.

8. I remain mystified by men who email me back-and-forth (sometimes for a week straight, sometimes more) and then just disappear. Are you in prison? Why would you invest that amount of energy and not want to meet? Are you married? No, that can’t be, because married men still want to put out. So you must be gay. Or just a pussy.

9. “Wow if it didn’t sound so crazy I’d ask if you to just pack our stuff and head to exotic island with me like right literally right this minute. You are beyond beautiful, hope you’re having a good night pretty lady.” Okay, first of all, grammar. Second of all, did you mean “our” stuff? Should I be packing your stuff? Or did you mean “your” stuff, in which case, proofread. You’ve only got one message in which to make a first impression.

10. “well lets go row a boat, get into something?” Nope. Not rowing a boat.

11. “Hi your beautiful.” Is the your/you’re thing really so hard to figure out? Because not only is it pretty straightforward, but if you’re writing me a message that only contains three words, you’d think you could get those three words right.

12. “hello how r u? my name is jeff i was born & raised here in pasadena my nationality is syrian/lebanese but most people think im hispanic but im not looks r deceiving. once u get to know me u will see im a easy going gentle affectionate open & honest man looking for the same in a woman. would u like to chat so we can get to know each other better so we can meet sometime?”
If you are so busy that you can’t write out words like “are” and “you,” we’ll never have time to meet.

13. “I really liked your profile. Yada Yada Yada. We have a lot in common. Yada Yada Yada. You are smart, gorgeous and overall frankly unbelievable. Yada Yada Yada. We both know that whatever I write here doesn’t really matter. You are just going to check out my pictures and see if I have anything interesting in my profile. That’s what I did and this is why I am writing you and to see how you would go about making me think.”
Actually, yada yada yada, what you write does matter. Because I’m a writer, I’m partial to people who can form complete thoughts and lovely sentences. And since I’m not meeting you in person, I’m getting to know you through the written word. English. It matters.

Online dating is weird. I know. I get it. But that first message means a lot. It’s your introduction to me. Don’t you want to impress me? Don’t you want me to write back? Because if you can’t be bothered to proofread, to read my profile and write something at least thoughtful, if not clever and perhaps pithy, that doesn’t make you look terribly compelling.

And with that, now that the Bravo episode has filmed, my online profile will be turned back off, and I will resume my blissfully naive quest to find a soulmate who cares about grammar, respects words, and likes me enough to craft the occasionally stellar sentence.

(OMG, I’m not kidding, but just as I posted this entry, someone messaged me, “Your hot.” Sigh.)