I was sitting at home on Saturday writing my friend’s online dating profile.
I’d say a successful profile is 60 percent: good profile picture (cute, flattering, not overly trying) and 40 percent: self-description and responses to questions (smart, sensitive, try to be witty).
I was going through the questions quickly. Describe yourself (my friend): People person. Compassionate. Down to earth.
It was easy to describe my friend. I’d rather describe her than myself.
What do you want to do with your life? Easy! I want to make a positive impact in the world.
What would you be doing on a typical Friday night? Dinner with friends. Plenty of good food and wine.
Then I got to a stumper. What are your favorite movies, songs, and books?
My hands came to a screeching halt.
What were my friend’s favorite books? I had lost touch with what she was reading lately. She used to read Barbara Kingsolver and she’s read most of Michael Pollan’s books, but was, probably, mostly reading The Wall Street Journal now.
I could go into the other room and ask her (she had no idea I was beefing up her profile)
but the question reminded me of the many conversations I’ve had about how our favorite books reflect who we are.
My colleagues talk about books being a factor in the men they choose to date. If he doesn’t read—that’s a deal-breaker for most women in this building. I get why it matters. If your relationship works out, you’re going to hear a whole lot about what they’re reading. Do you really want to know what happens in the last chapter of every Clive Cussler book? And I understand that men are increasingly turned off by women who read Elizabeth Gilbert and Julie Powell.
In fact, a couple of years ago The New York Book Times Review ran an essay about a woman breaking up with man over his failure to get a Pushkin reference. But this book-branding concern had never jumped out at me until now.
I wondered—of all the many books my friend has read and liked, what books would portray her in the best way? How will her favorite books brand her to the online community of date seekers?
In real life, if you don’t like a guy because he doesn’t pick up on a nineteenth century Russian literature reference, it’s because you simply don’t like the guy. And what woman wants a man who can’t handle a memoir about a female’s journey in life? In the end, putting a lot of weight on what your partner reads is taking yourself a tad too seriously. On the other hand, in the online world of dating, first impressions matter, a lot.
So, in good fun, I’d like to suggest some titles to keep off your list—even if they are your faves—to avoid having potential soul mates cringe at the sight of your profile:
Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler (poor title, even if the book isn’t half-bad)
The Invaders Plan by L. Ron Hubbard (too frightening)
The Anarchist’s Cookbook by William Powell (we don’t want him think you’re cooking up firebombs)
The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right by Ellen Fein, Sherrie Schneider (these are secrets for a reason!)
Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save & How You Can Stop by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome, Ph.D. Bubrick, Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias, and Patricia Perkins (no need to mention this on your first date)
Naturally Thin: Unleash Your SkinnyGirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting by Bethenny Frankel (there are other people who can tell you how to lose weight)
It’s Not That I’m Bitter . . .: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World by Gina Barreca (although I’m usually keen on the term panty lines in book titles, this is a bit overwhelming)
How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter by Ann Coulter (if you’re going to be conservative, you don’t need to be so mean about it)
LA Candy By Lauren Conrad (stick to clothes, Lauren!)
Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb (he’ll never get it, too complicated)
Oh, there are so many more. What am I missing, dear blog reader?