Help Me Do Better At Personal Ads
May 16, 2012 8:49 AM   Subscribe

At my wits end with personal ads (and photos). Sorry guys, this one is long. You've been warned.

So, I'm a woman who has been doing online dating for sixteen years. I had quite a few responses when I was younger, but only a dozen or so since I hit thirty. I'm late thirties and I think I'm decent looking, but not stunning, and I photograph really, really badly. As in, my friends tell me I look terrible in photos. I've also had first dates comment on the fact that I'm cuter than my photos led them to believe. In spite of that, about half of the last dozen responses I've received were the "Ur hot," or "Wanna have sex?" variety. I'm absolutely not interested in something casual. I date both genders, but I've tried ads that are strictly tailored to one gender or the other. I get slightly better results that way, but not by much.

I don't have recent photos (took a break from dating for a year and my photos were about a year old then), and I'm currently living in an area where I only know a few people, none with any camera skills or interest in trying. I know the problem I need to solve right now is photos and I've read through previous threads and seen the suggestion that I post an ad on craigslist asking if someone can take photos. Has anyone successfully done this? I pay my bills and am hoping to be more well off in the future, but that's a long-range plan I'm working on. Currently I cannot afford to pay someone any decent money for photos. I'm willing to offer a trade, but I'm not sure what I could offer, other than dinner or drinks or something (or the equivalent in cash). I'm in the Seattle area, and there are a few ads on craigslist offering free photos if they can use them for portfolios, but those seem to be mostly the "Will take hot boudoir photos of you!" variety. I'm already nervous about the idea of letting a stranger take pictures, for obvious reasons. So, has anyone done that successfully? By the way, I've seen the okcupid advice about photos, and that's great, but I literally have no one who would be willing to take photos of me right now.

Second item: I'm pretty awesome, but I don't make piles of cash, and I'm not gorgeous. And I keep meeting people who want casual relationships, which is not what I want at all. So I must be doing something wrong with my profile. I've done a complete rewrite...would anyone be willing to take a look at the new profile and the old, and tell me if it's improved? I'm having enough trouble, and everyone googles these days, so I'm not willing to post my profile text publicly.

Item 3: I've got a serious disease (not an STD, not visible, and it's not going to kill me, but it is expensive and it's one of the reasons I'm too broke to pay for a photographer), and I have no idea when to share that information. I'm absolutely not going to put it in my ad, because people are turned off by that, and with only a couple of responses a year already...but when do I say something? It does affect my life, and has helped shape who I am, both good and bad, and I have a strong desire to be up-front with people. But the first date feels weird. I've hinted at it in my ad, in a humorous way, but maybe that's part of my problem?

I'm pretty down right now. I've got friends, interests, hobbies, purpose...but I would like to be in a relationship. I've been on every dating site there is, I volunteer regularly, at several different places, and I keep busy. I go out with my friends, and I've broken up with a couple of people over the last few years when I felt like it just wasn't going to work (so I'm not desperate). I'm also not picky about: looks, job, education, health. Things I don't compromise on are personal cleanliness (someone showers regularly and washes their clothes), pays their bills, and are generally decent people, and finally, over the last few years I haven't compromised on wanting monogamy (it seems like everyone in Seattle is either looking for casual sex, or polyamory) and a relationship that has the potential to become serious and committed (although I don't rush into anything). I've tried giving up internet ads, and only dating people I meet in real life, which leads to me dating people with whom there is chemistry, but not mutual life goals or interests.

I actively respond to ads; I don't just wait around. I've tried everything. Lately I've just been wanting a coffee date at least. Someone to chat with who is interested in having a chat. And I can't even seem to get that, now that I've hit late thirties.

Ok, so to recap:
* How should I approach trying to get photos? Has craigslist worked with regard to finding someone to take free photos?

*Would anyone here proofread an ad for me? I've rewritten one, but not posted it yet because I dearly want someone's opinion. I don't think my friends would be brutally honest because they care about me too much.

*How can I handle disclosure of the health aspect?

Please, please don't just tell me to get a hobby (I have tons of those) or volunteer(I do it already), or meet people in real life (I do that too). And I've heard plenty of success stories and they're just starting to make me sad and wonder what's wrong with me, so unless you want to include serious advice with your success story, please don't. I've also tried pay sites and free sites, and being active on forums. I'm not trying to forestall advice, just forestall stuff I've already tried! I've also read through all the personal ad advice here, and a number of years ago I posted a much more general personal ad advice question.

Bonus question: I don't really have a "career" right now. I'm working on it, but when I do get there, this is not something that is ever going to make a ton of money. That has seemed to matter to the last few people I dated over the last ten years. I need to write my profile to reflect this, so people know right away, but not in a way that would be negative or turn people off who might be ok with it. Any specific tips on how to do that? Actually I guess I should just refer back to "Please, please proofread my ad and tell me if or how it can be improved!" I can email anyone who's willing to offer, since this is, after all, anonymous.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How should I approach trying to get photos?

In my experience, the best way I've seen anyone intentionally get a good "free" photo is to ask friends to bring cameras to an event they were attending, something outdoors during daylight hours (so the pics will be technically good, because they'll have enough light, and the backgrounds will be varied and distant), and ask them to simply take as many candid photos of the person as possible, rather than posed ones. Then, have a few friends whose taste in photography you trust go through the images and pick the "good" ones. You shouldn't really pick the "good" ones yourself, because people generally do a terrible job of finding photos they look good in.

Would anyone here proofread an ad for me?

I'll take a look, sure.
posted by davejay at 9:04 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

How can I handle disclosure of the health aspect?

If it's not an STD or something communicable, I'd say hold off on discussion about it at all until you're well into dating. Not so far in that the revelation would be considered a lie by omission, but honestly, your personal health matters, if they're not something that could affect someone on a casual date or be transmitted to that person, aren't your date's business.

As to photos, digital cameras and webcams are cheap and the photos they take are free, so just take a ton and a half of pictures of yourself, in all sorts of settings, using timers and web apps and just holding the camera at different angles. Eventually, you'll probably stumble across something that will work.
posted by xingcat at 9:08 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in Seattle and have a friend who is a photographer. I'm getting together with her soon to get online dating pics taken. Memail me and we can connect. I'm bringing another friend too.
posted by jennstra at 9:09 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

As for photos... In bigger cities, I often had volunteers from art schools doing photos at events for free or little cost. I'm sure they'd have done portraits as well. How about posting an ad to find a trustworthy, non-"I take photos (of nude people) for free" person, offer that the photos can be used for portfolios, but stay away from the breeding grounds of weirdos? I usually found the photographers through blackboards on art schools/universities. If you wanna play it really safe - tell them you want nice portraits to send to a friend or relative, and don't mention anything "dating". That doesn't give potential creeps the wrong idea.
posted by MinusCelsius at 9:10 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

The way professional photographers take gorgeous photos of models is as follows:

A) Model wears stage makeup;

B) Lighting, lots of lighting, flooded with light;

C) Photographer takes hundreds and hundreds of pictures and discards all but a handful.

So I would recommend wearing slightly more makeup than usual, being in a well-lit space, and getting someone to take a bazillion photographs of you, several exposures each in many different photos.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:12 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

One way to take a reasonable self-portrait snapshot is to put your camera in video mode, then sit in front of it and interact with something you like. Maybe that's your cat, or a craft/hobby, or having a speakerphone call with a friend while holding a bowl of ice cream, but just have a prop or distraction of some sort, and think happy thoughts. Then watch the film for moments that you look good, and engaged, and happy, and pull out that frame. This is basically what professional photographers are doing when they're telling you jokes and shooting in burst mode, only you need it to be an unmanned camera.
You will need a camera that records video with good frame-size, a tripod to put it on, and an editing software that lets you grab frames.
You'll need to be kind of aware of the camera, make sure you're facing in the right direction, with good lighting. Watch yourself in a mirror to figure out what are neck/head postures to be aimed for or avoided. Remind yourself to be extra smiley and engaged - the length of the performance will damp down on the first few moments of mega-fakeness, and there will be spots that look natural.
posted by aimedwander at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Forgot to say, pics wouldn't cost anything. Photographer friend is new to online dating too, and appreciates the value of good pics.
posted by jennstra at 9:15 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Memail me if you'd like me to proofread your ad. I'll be truthful but nice!
posted by peacheater at 9:16 AM on May 16, 2012

We have a resume review group here, why not a personal ad review group? I would also be willing to look, I have online dated in the past and would be in one of your target demos, flexible mid thirties female, if I were single.

Also....don't beat yourself up isn't just your profile or photos, guarantee it. Part of it is a shrinking pool to choose from because many of your peers are married. So don't blame yourself so much.
posted by supercapitalist at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Memail me your ad, I will also proofread!
posted by corb at 9:20 AM on May 16, 2012

Memail or email me your ad - email is in my profile. I'm a woman who dates women, so I could help with that particular version.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a thing that actually is worth some dough to do. I had a professional headshot taken and photoshopped.

It cost me $200, and I use the pic on a lot of websites including LinkedIn and Facebook (when I don't use my Futurama-Head-in-a-Jar avatar).

There are some pretty cool software that will allow you to doctor your photos so that you look more like yourself and less like a gargoyle.

I met my husband in a chat room. We knew each other on-line for about a year before we dated. We've met some pretty cool friends too, so instead of dating, you might find a chat room for one of your interests. That way, you've got one thing you know you have in common.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:27 AM on May 16, 2012

about half of the last dozen responses I've received were the "Ur hot," or "Wanna have sex?" variety

This is not because there is anything wrong with you or your ad. This is because if a person sends out 100 "Wanna have sex?" messages, someone somewhere will probably say yes. This is how some people use dating sites; it's likely they haven't even read your ad, and they don't care what it says. Treat it like spam.

But in a similar vein, if you stand facing or sideways to a window for natural light and take 100 photos of yourself with a camera phone while thinking happy thoughts, at least one of them is likely to be decent.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:27 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Guy here: I might be a shade outside your max age preference, but it sounds like I'd take a look at your ad if I was in your area, looking at online sites, and it sounds like I'd probably respond if I wasn't outside a stated age range... so I'd be glad to share thoughts from that perspective.

That said, it's been a long time since I was out for action, though it seems common enough that men stick with that approach well into their 20s and far beyond; I've heard scads of women your age and older say they get plenty of swinish responses from men your age and older....

Oh, your illness; off the top of my head, I s'pose I'd prefer to know on or about the second or third date, which seems about the point when there's some wee sense of relationshippy things being a possibility.
posted by ambient2 at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sure, I'll proofread. As for the serious disease thing.. hmmm..

Is it something that would be readily apparant? Like, obvious something is 'off'? If so, broaching that more up front than latter would be good. But if it isn't something obvious, probably keep it in the back for the first couple of dates, as you don't want it to monoplize the conversation that should be more towards getting to know the sort of day to day people you are.

And bringing it up.. you don't want it to be a big production and turn into a thing.. so depending on what it is really will guide the best way to weave it in and eventually bring it into the open..
posted by rich at 9:31 AM on May 16, 2012

Ah, the dilemna of being a woman in the dating world - you have infinite possibilities to choose from if you're young and attractive, but once you hit a certain age it's like slamming into a brick wall.

Have you considered that maybe you're approaching guys from the wrong angle? One of my close friends is really ugly (I feel bad for saying this, but it's unquestionably true), and yet she often seems to end up with guys who are way out of her league. I'm does some surreptitious investigating, and I think that part of her success can be attributed to her sunny personality: she is very encouraging and makes everybody around her feel good about themselves. The other part is that she's non-demanding - even though she wants a monoamous relationship, she doesn't advertise it up front because, in her words: "it scares men off." I've seen quite a few guys hook up with her basically just intending to use her for sex and then break things off once they find somebody cuter, but then they end up completely in love with her and are devastated when she breaks up with them.

I'm not saying that you're ugly; my point is just that if my friend can accomplish this, you can definitely do it too. I just can't help wondering if maybe laying the expectation of a "commitment" at the very start makes people factor the cost-benefit analysis of dating before they've had a chance to get to know your personality.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:34 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would also be happy to offer my thoughts on your ad.

Okay. I also think the problem may not be (or may not just be) your pics or your ad, but may be quite simply that most men just don't use online dating to seek relationships, particularly men in your age range. I think the pool just might not be there. Also, in online dating, age is this BIG THING but when you meet a guy in real life he's not going to know how old you are until he gets to know you, and it's way way less of a thing. I'm saying this just because you said you feel down, and I think you may be feeling discouraged because it seems like "men" are reacting to you in a certain way, when in reality how these particular men online are reacting to you may not at all be how most men would react IRL. I know you said.: I've tried giving up internet ads, and only dating people I meet in real life, which leads to me dating people with whom there is chemistry, but not mutual life goals or interests. If you've only gotten a dozen replies from online dating since you turned 30 and now you are in your late 30s, is online dating really that much better?

One thing kind of jumped out to me in what you said:

I would like to be in a relationship. I've been on every dating site there is, I volunteer regularly, at several different places, and I keep busy. I go out with my friends

I know you said you date both men and women but for right now I will just talk about men. These places where you volunteer regularly, are they chock full of single men or is it mostly women or coupled-up people volunteering there? When you go out with your friends, is it to places where lots of single men are in situations where you are meeting them? What about your hobbies, are they mainly "female" hobbies? It just sounds like you might not at all be going to where the men are and it might actually be pretty easy to make a little bit of time for some man-heavy activities.

In Seattle I bet there are tons of single men and tons of events that are chock full of mostly single men. There are tons of tech events where if you went to them, lots of men would talk to you and you would feel like a supermodel because you would be the only woman on the horizon. Co-ed rec sports teams are always hurting for women and you do not have to be athletically skilled at all to find a team to play on. And even if you're not into any of the men on the team you can become friends with them and socialize with them and meet their friends. I don't know how you feel about guns but just to give another example, if you got one and started practicing using it, and joined a gun club you'd meet tons of men. It might be worthwhile to brainstorm about the places that are full of men, if you are feeling hopeless because of your online dating results. (I just used the example of men here but the exact same thing goes for queer women, just the places where you will find concentrations of them may be different).
posted by cairdeas at 9:34 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would be interested in reading your ad.

I know this may not be the most mature tack, but if it was really this much of a hassle to get a good photo I would put something non-traditional up. I have a funny portrait drawing I would personally use. Is that allowed?

As for the disease thing...I wouldn't mention it until it was relevant, i.e. if you're going on more and more dates and perhaps will be spending a lot more time together. It doesn't matter in the beginning the person is basically a stranger, and you're not telling strangers about it.
posted by amodelcitizen at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2012

I'll be happy to check out your ad.

I recently mailed a woman on OKcupid who asked, in her ad, why she wasn't getting more responses. We ended up exchanging a series of emails and, by going over it, we discovered that she was sending out a lot of implied messages about we she wanted in a relationship that were not things she wanted, or messages she intended to send. She ended up changing everything from her username down.

I'm saying this because this was a woman I would have been interested in (in her early 40's, I'm precisely 40) had her ad been accurate and she not lived so dang far away from me. It's possible you're cutting out people from writing you because of some message you don't even realize your sending.

Incidentally, for the curious of metafilter her profile was making her sound like she really really wanted children right now, while she actually didn't want children. I know I've never wanted children and so won't answer profiles where the person makes it clear that's what they want.
posted by bswinburn at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2012

Also volunteering to be a proofreader, feel free to memail me.
posted by Wolfster at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2012

A few things:

1. I met my current boyfriend right after I turned 40. Right before I met him, I met a guy online who turned out to be a con artist and sociopath. Yup. That was rock bottom for me. I kept at it. I kept tailoring my ad, putting in specific buzz words (a tip I got right here from AskMefi) until I found a man who met my criteria. We're moving in together this summer.

2. I took pictures myself with a cheap digital camera and I got pretty good at it. I liked this because I could shoot a pic, delete it if I hated it, and keep snapping until I found something that made me look good. I really recommend this. I would get dressed up, put on a little make up and have my own personal photo shoot.

3. I got a TON of "you're hot, you wanna have sex" responses and I want to confirm what others have said: Those people send out 100s of those responses a day hoping some desperate person will bite.

4. I don't know what your age range is but once I hit 40, I increased my age range to 55. I'm kind of an old soul so this didn't bother me. My guy is 12 years older than me and I think he's pretty hot and we have a ton in common. The hard truth is men your own age are often looking for younger women ... and that's fine because that's not likely the kind of man who would interest me anyway.

5. I'd hold off on discussing the disease until maybe the fourth or fifth date ... when it seems you might be interested in spending some real time with the person.

6. I met my guy on Craigslist ... often the skankiest of the skanky sites in most cities but what I've discovered about CL is that a guy who won't bother to put up a paid ad on say, or something, will wander over to the personal ads section on Craigslist right after posting an ad to sell his old amp. It seems to cater to the people who want to do online dating but don't want all the trouble of posting and paying.

Good luck. When I posted my ad after the con man, I looked up and said, "Dear Universe, the next man you bring me who claims to be a Buddhist abbott and turns out to be an unemployed, lying, disgusting philanderer is going to get cut. No, not stabbed ... cut ... Old school. I'm just gonna leave him there bleeding. Amen."
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:03 AM on May 16, 2012 [13 favorites]

Sure, I'll proofread it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 AM on May 16, 2012

I'll proofread the woman-for-woman version.
posted by valeries at 11:16 AM on May 16, 2012

I have some insight on the 'disclosure of health problems' side of things. I definitely don't think you need to put this in the ad. I would try disclosing in a casual way, during the second or third date. Rather than making it a big "moment", see if you can work it into the conversation in a natural way. This gives the impression that this is something you have dealt with for a long time and have a handle on rather than a sudden crisis that you are expecting your date to do something about/support you with in that very moment. As an example, my current boyfriend disclosed a serious disease on our second date by making a joke about the food we were eating ("Oh yeah, well, I really do have to count my carbs because... Doesn't fiber always balance out carbs? Wish that were the case!"). It was casual, and I didn't have to come up with any response other than to just laugh with him. Doesn't mean this is not an issue I had to eventually think about more seriously (and we did talk about it more seriously once the relationship got more serious), but I liked this approach in that it clued me in to an important fact about him without making it a huge conversational crisis and without forcing me to come up with a perfect response immediately (which I am terrible at doing).
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, the dilemna of being a woman in the dating world - you have infinite possibilities to choose from if you're young and attractive, but once you hit a certain age it's like slamming into a brick wall.

By way of encouraging the OP, and counter-acting that statement, I'd just like to point out that this statement fails the reality test for me. I'm longer in the tooth than the OP by a good measure, I'm online dating, and I'm here to tell you that, based on my experience and that of my peers, there are good, interesting men of character who are looking for what the OP is seeking.

You don't have to be a glamour puss, or in perfect health, or in a splashy career to be part of a loving couple. I'd caution you, anon, to not fall into the perfectionist trap, and psyche yourself out. (I've fallen into that trap myself in the past.) Stay in the game, girl!
posted by quivering_fantods at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Photos: you can get a single standard studio portrait shot, as an 8x10 print, at a J. C. Penney Portrait Studio for $4.00. It is their always running loss leader special, and it could be very good, as one of a few pictures in your ad.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:19 PM on May 16, 2012

I'll give you an honest opinion of your profiles, for sure. Send a Memail.
posted by readygo at 9:44 PM on May 16, 2012

I'm happy to take a look too, if you memail me. I can address your more specific questions in reference to the ad.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:42 PM on May 17, 2012

Not many folks are answering the health question. I think maybe date three? Or whenever you both start to feel like you're on the cusp of really caring for each other. It sounds like a big deal and when I'm falling for someone I want to know what's a big deal for them.
posted by manicure12 at 10:41 AM on May 19, 2012

Mod note: Followup from the OP:
I wanted to let you guys know how things worked out. First, you are all rock-stars, especially those of you who provided direct feedback and suggestions on the ad. The effect was immediate and favorable. My ad went from maybe five responses a year in a good year, to ten responses a month after the revamp, even before I added pictures. After I added pictures that doubled again. I was looking forward to seeing if the rate of response to my initial emails to profiles changed, but I actually stopped initiating because I just didn't have the time with all the emails that came in.

My immediate goal was just to have a few good dates, and have a nice time with friendly people. This was a raging success: I went to comedy improv, the symphony, and laser tag, among other fun things. And I absolutely attracted the quiet type I'm most interested in.

This is a weird thing, but might be useful to some, so I am going to include it. My life has changed a lot over the last year. Among other things, I moved to Scandinavia. OkCupid is not big here, so I signed up for a local site, and I get around 40 responses a month. I had to take my profile off an even chattier site because I couldn't deal with the volume. Why such the huge increase? The gender ratio is no more favorable here, and I am not considered exotic by any means. I am usually taken for a local, and when I open my mouth and they hear an accent, they just assume I'm from another part of Scandinavia. The difference seems to spring from two things 1) Guys close to my age seem to be much more likely to be single, and 2) They are absolutely not afraid of older women. The difference in attitude is pretty stark and startling.

So, my takeaway from this it that the world is even more different than I thought it was, and sometimes there's a better place to be, so no matter what the problem seems to be, there's always hope.

My second takeaway is maybe ask for help sooner. You guys made a big difference, even if I'd stayed in the US. Those first couple of months after the revamp, before I left the US, the response was still big and rapid, and a huge improvement over my solitary efforts.

So if this is something you're thinking about doing, I can recommend it. For those who are interested, I am currently dating someone. Thank you for your help.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:52 AM on December 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

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