Love & Tinderness: Down the rabbit hole

Online dating is shockingly like The Matrix. Don’t believe me? Ask Orpheus.

You don’t know me. We’ve never spoken, never exchanged favorite albums or flirtatious remarks. But perhaps you know Steve. Or Tom. Or Amir. In which case, we’ve been talking for weeks.

Let me explain. I’m a Virtual Dating Assistant. I help lovelorn men find romance by writing their profiles on major dating sites, editing their (usually professionally taken) photos, and corresponding with tens of women on their behalf until I score a phone number or a date. I’m a real-life, modern Cyrano de Bergerac, and one of the few people on earth that can claim the dubious honor of being a Professional Online Dater.

Which brings us to our first topic: Truth, and how online dating is like The Matrix. Go with me on this.

Now obviously — apart from the one big lie that a 40-year-old man is being impersonated by a 27-year-old woman and is fundamentally not who he says he is — I encourage my clients to be honest. Sure, maybe shave down your age here, bump up your height there. But basically, stick to the facts. In my own dating travails, I think I’m pretty candid. But on the deceit-vs.-repellant honesty spectrum, you want to be in the fertile middle third: curation.

Take Andy, a guy I was chatting to on Tinder. I should make clear, I was talking to Andy as myself — part of my very own dating saga. He was a catch. Handsome, a Georgia Tech grad, and in possession of more than one T-shirt. When I revealed I’m a virtual dating assistant and originally joined Tinder for work, he was so traumatized by the idea he completely dropped me. I showed him how deep the rabbit hole goes, and all he wanted was The Matrix. But whatever, Andy. Everyone has misdirected phobias crippling our potential love connections.

I should have heeded my own advice, but in the wise words of Orpheus, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Given another chance at bagging Andy, I would tell him that I’m a freelance writer, which is true. I would not raise the curtain onto the gaping maws of Internet duplicity, birthing the harrowing possibility that while a man may think he’s talking to Jane in West Midtown, he might actually be talking to Doug, a middle-aged man in slack gray undies, feeding popcorn to his Dachshund in Smyrna.

Identity curation is useful on both a large and small scale. Did you have an unhappy childhood? Vent those feelings over Thanksgiving dinner. If asked what you do to unwind at night, go with something vaguely dishonest like “grab a drink in EAV with friends” over the potentially truthful “tweeze my chin hairs and eat my feelings.” Unless you’re conducting an experimental performance art piece, do not treat online dating like LiveJournal. I can tell you with grief in my heart, as a person who corresponds with countless strangers on various dating platforms, this is fresh and relevant advice for most of the population.

We are familiar with the red pill/blue pill decision — the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red pill) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue pill). The critical difference between online dating and The Matrix is that the blue pill is where it’s at. No one, not even The One (in this instance the guy you’re flirting with on Tinder, not Neo), is ready for the truth.