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10 Online Dating Tips (For Men) From Possibly the Most Unqualified Source

July 28, 2014

I recently (as in, this past weekend) ventured back into the world of online dating. Please don’t ask me why, because there isn’t any one reason, much less a logical one. (I hang my head in INTJ shame.) In browsing different dudes’ profiles, I’ve noticed quite a few trends that range from the terrifying to the mildly annoying. Surely I’m not the first person on the Internet to point these out and offer some suggestions, but I can’t resist.

A Lady’s Online Dating Tips — For Men! 

1. Resist the urge to say, “I never know what to write here,” or “I don’t like talking about myself” on your profile. So many guys have variations of this that it’s an instant snoozefest. Here’s the thing: that’s what the profile is FOR. Start with a few traits or desires that you consider important for a dating partner to know about, share a brief but amusing anecdote, or mention an unusual hobby or skill—without getting too personal right away. For example, it’s perfectly fine to admit you are shy, but to go on at length about crippling social anxiety is a bit much.

2. Don’t waste time talking about how nice/chivalrous/gentlemanly you are. This area is “show, don’t tell.” It should be obvious by the way you communicate and the way you behave, and not because we took your word for it based on your screenname (I’m looking at you, nicechivalrousguy4u). Basic human decency should go without saying—and if you don’t have it, we’ll figure it out pretty quickly.

3. Don’t talk about “those other guys” you claim not to be like. This makes you sound defensive right out of the gate. You shouldn’t have to put others down to try to make yourself look good. Ignore those other guys.

4. Too much self-deprecation is just as off-putting as too much arrogance. Having a sense of humor about yourself and a little humility is totally attractive, but too much makes you look, well, pathetic, self-pitying, and like you have nothing to offer. Talk up your good points! Focus on something you’re proud of! Post a picture of yourself with that delicious cake you baked. Go ahead, strike a pose with the classic car you just restored. If you have a disability or other limitation, mention how you work around it. At the same time, don’t be an arrogant jerk who acts like he’s too good for a dating site. (You’re on there for a reason, right?)

5. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYTHING. You are not entitled to a date, or to sex, or even to a reply to your message, whether it’s your first or fiftieth. No woman is obligated to find you attractive or interesting, or to explain why she is or is not interested. If a woman isn’t interested in you, then respect her choices, and make like Elsa and let it go. Keep looking for someone who is interested.

6. If you must ask why she’s not interested, be ready to hear the truth. Some people won’t give you the whole truth, wanting to be nice, but some other women ::cough:: will give you both barrels if you do ask. If this happens, don’t get defensive–just move on to someone else. One guy asked me why I wasn’t interested, so I told him that his shirtless selfies were a turn-off, that I wasn’t interested in someone who already had a kid, and that his terrible grammar was another turn-off. He responded with a huffy, even-more-typo-filled message about how educated he was, and also mentioned a tragic backstory that I could only assume was an attempt to manipulate my emotions. Nice try.

7. PROOFREAD! Proofread, proofread, proofread!!! This goes for both your profile and your messages! Use spell check, read your writing out loud, hire an editor, ask a trusted friend to check it, use whatever you need to find typos. Don’t use text-speak, don’t use poor grammar, don’t use “lol” or emojis or hashtags. We’re not looking for a chapter worthy of Charles Dickens here, just complete sentences! If good spelling and grammar doesn’t come easily to you, put in the effort to make it look like it does. Leaving a bunch of typos, your/you’re confusion, and sentence fragments makes you look lazy and careless, and I can promise you that no woman wants a man with either of those qualities.

8. Use a different message for each woman. Don’t send out a ton of copy/pasted messages. It’s lazy and it’s more obvious than you think.

9. Write a message that’s more than “how r u?” or a one-word greeting. Take the time to read her profile. Ask about what she’s doing in her photo, or the people she’s with. Comment on an interest you both have in common. Ask about her job. Ask for clarification about a preference she indicated on her profile. Make an effort at starting a real conversation that shows you did read her profile.

10. Don’t just comment on her looks. A woman doesn’t want to spend time filling in a profile and considering how she is portraying her personality only to have a guy open with “wow you are pretty.” If there’s nothing on her profile that interests you except her looks, move along. If you do find something interesting, then please refer to #9.

And if you cannot manage all of the above, then just straight-up shoot for the impossible…

11. Be Tom Hiddleston.



Of course, the problem with a post like this is that the guys most in need of it are the ones least likely to heed such advice, much less seek it out. Still, I live in hope. (Especially for #11…sigh.)

Two Fangirls on the Loose

July 26, 2014

The updates, anecdotes, and photographs of my journey across the United States are now not only severely backlogged, but wildly out of sequence. But I had to post about yesterday’s adventures quickly, because they are enormously relevant to my previous post.

The short-version intro is that friend, fellow-blogger, and fellow-Lewis-fangirl Joy met up with me in the area of Wheaton, Illinois, to venture to the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. The reason is that this building houses a large number of materials associated with C.S. Lewis and other authors connected to him, including G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers. It was originally going to be a stop on my road trip, but it turned out to be a sort of day-trip away from Milwaukee before I came back.

It looks overcast, but the clouds parted and a choir of angels descended as we approached the building...or at least that's what it sounded like.

It looks overcast, but the clouds parted and a choir of angels descended as we approached the building…or at least that’s what it sounded like.

What we found within was nothing short of MAGIC.


If you’re wondering if that’s what you think it is, the answer is yes.


Lewis' pipe and pen

Lewis’ pipe and pen; cue the internal screaming


Left to right: First edition of “Till We Have Faces,” first American edition

Lewis' dining-room chair

Lewis’ dining-room chair

The desk of JRR Tolkien, upon which most of his famous works were composed (or illustrated, as with "The Hobbit")

The desk of JRR Tolkien, upon which most of his famous works were composed (or illustrated, as with “The Hobbit”)

Yours truly, hanging out with Lewis himself (in bust form) at the desk he used at Oxford

Yours truly, hanging out with Lewis himself (in bust form) at the desk he used at Oxford

(Sorry about the poor quality of some of these photos; they didn’t allow flash photography so that left only my iPod.)

After browsing the more public areas, we entered the sacred Kilby Reading Room, which has every book Lewis wrote, every book written about Lewis, and probably every book that mentions his name. The same goes for the other authors featured at the center, as well as books remotely relevant to their subjects, such as mythology, the Christian faith, English history, and murder mysteries.

By now you’re probably wondering if I’m ever going to get around to explaining how this is all connected to the last post, except that Lewis obviously features prominently in both of them. So here it is: Once we had browsed the reading room, signed papers to mark our presence and promise not to damage anything, I settled down with an annotated edition of The Screwtape Letters, and Joy chose a slim volume titled Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem? It was the published transcript of a Shakespeare lecture that Lewis delivered on 22 April, 1942. Within, she found this gem:

When I tried to read Shakespeare in my teens the character criticism of the nineteenth century stood between me and my enjoyment. There were all sorts of things in the plays which I could have enjoyed; but I had got it into my head that the only proper and grown-up way of appreciating Shakespeare was to be very interested in the truth and subtlety of his character drawing. A play opened with thunder and lightning and witches on a heath. This was very much in my line: but oh the disenchantment when I was told—or thought I was told—that what really ought to concern me was the effect of these witches on Macbeth’s character!

I am not exaggerating when I say that I almost shed tears, I was so delighted. It might have less of an impact out of context, but it comes close to summing up my last blog post, only using Shakespeare rather than art films. I believe it is further evidence that Lewis would have agreed with me. And maybe I was wrong–maybe he would go see Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Emperor’s Game of Clothes

July 24, 2014

In some strange fluke of fate, I have managed to convince some people that I am rather intelligent. Sometimes I even believe it myself. Even so, often I feel like society is playing a huge joke that I’m not in on. As if there is some kind of required cultural reading I didn’t know about.

You see, I’m one of those terrible boors who wrinkles her nose at modern art, who doesn’t know anything about wine, and who gets bored watching slow-paced, “artistic” films. Sometimes I’m sad about that, because it makes me feel like I’m not smart enough or “cool” enough. Then I get annoyed, because what difference does it make and whose business is it, anyway?

Joy and I compared this social tendency to the Emperor’s New Clothes. We wondered if everyone else is just as clueless about what this movie or that song was trying to say, but are afraid to admit their ignorance.

This seemed to start when I saw Lost in Translation in college, and was so bored. It’s a beautiful film, technically, but that’s not enough for me—I need plot and story, I need at least one character to connect with. The movie was a big hit, and I was left wondering what I had missed.

This wondering recently resurfaced in a discussion of my favorite actors and some of their quirkier roles. Being mostly British, they all seem to make small, artistic films when they’re not filming action/sci-fi-movie franchises or performing in yet another classic-literature adaptation. As much as I want to support their work, I often cannot make heads or tails of it. (I did love Third Star, partly because it touched on a topic close to my heart, and also because I love movies about dudes being dudes, which is a whole other blog post in itself.)

Pictured: Professional British thespians taking their craft very seriously

When discussing a more artsy, less “commercial” film, I hear people say stuff like, “It is so profound, all about love and time and the decay of society and ennui and the burden of existence.” (Granted, the people saying these types of things are usually the filmmakers and the critics.) I end up in an imaginary conversation like this:

Me: But nothing is happening.

Them: Yes, well, it’s all subtext.

Me: I’m pretty sure this is just a dysfunctional relationship, only with vampires.

Them: One man’s dysfunction is another man’s existential crisis.

Me: If I wanted to watch people mope around and be angsty, I could go to any coffee shop within a mile of a college campus.

Them: But this film is a great work that speaks to us as a society!

Me: I’m gonna go see Guardians of the Galaxy. That one has a speaking raccoon.

Coming Soon: My next obsession, probably

This phenomenon isn’t just related to art and other luxuries. Last week, AirBNB unveiled a “rebranding,” with a new website design and a new logo that symbolizes “belonging” because evidently that’s what AirBNB is “about.”

I’m reading articles full of marketing jargon and BS and emotional nonsense and people falling over themselves to weigh in on the changes, and I’m going, “But you’re still just getting people to rent rooms, right? That’s what the company is about.” I saw the new logo and went, “It’s just a squiggle.” Again–was I missing something?

I can understand a company wanting to spiff up and try to develop a plan for what it does and what it’s all about. What annoys me is when they get so feelsy. AirBNB talks about people wanting to “belong” in the most saccharine way possible. Get to the point. We know you’re trying to make money by competing with hotels. Find me a cheap, safe place to stay—I don’t care about your squiggly logo.

I’m wondering if people who aren’t marketing execs really care about this sort of thing. Are people actually touched in their deepest hearts by AirBNB’s blatant efforts to cater to their emotions? Or is it something that, much like with artsy films, is primarily of interest to critics and the people who made it?

Based on a quote from C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, I think he would say that it is just the insiders—the filmmakers, the artists, the critics, the marketing executives—who really care. We peasants are the ones left desperate to feign interest and expertise, or shrugging and saying “I don’t get it,” and buying tickets for blockbuster action films and $5 bottles of wine at the grocery store.

“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”

(So who’s really the dumb one here?)

I’m still insecure about it, and about anything that makes me feel unsophisticated or unintelligent. I wonder if that’s just the human desire to be part of a group, to not be an outsider. In a way, AirBNB is correct to say that people want to belong. That’s a major theme of That Hideous Strength—young aspiring academic Mark Studdock takes a wrong turning because he desperately wants the approval and inclusion of his superiors. Eventually he joins the circle he had been seeking.

You would never have guessed from the tone of Studdock’s reply what intense pleasure he derived from Curry’s use of the pronoun ‘we’. So very recently he had been an outsider, watching the proceedings of what he then called ‘Curry and his gang’ with awe and with little understanding … Now he was inside and ‘Curry and his gang’ had become ‘we’ or ‘the Progressive Element in College’. It had all happened quite suddenly and was still sweet in the mouth.…He did not like things which reminded him that he had once been not only outside the Progressive Element but even outside the College. He did not always like Curry either. His pleasure in being with him was not that sort of pleasure.

Then I go, “Well, Em, what would dear Jack say to all your angst about being cool and artsy?” He probably wouldn’t go see Guardians of the Galaxy with me, but he would say that it is a matter of taste and not morality, and therefore it doesn’t matter a jot whether or not I actually enjoy a film that Society or a critic says I “ought to” enjoy.

Lewis actually gave a lecture, called “The Inner Ring,” about the human desire to “belong” and the fear of being an outsider, in 1944. In purely secular terms, his solution to the desire was essentially to do one’s work, or duty, to the best of one’s ability, without trying too hard to “belong,” to keep company with the people you like, and do the things you genuinely enjoy, and you will realize that belonging, that “inner ring,” has found you.


At that point, you are untouchable by many burdensome concerns and distractions, and can simply live your life. In his letters, the demon Screwtape advises his nephew Wormwood,

The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring two-pence what other people say about it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the ‘best’ people, the ‘right’ food, the ‘important’ books. I have known a human defended from strong social temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.

In the end, Joy was kind enough to point out that if someone looks down on another for not liking artsy films, “then they are rendering an objective judgment over something subjective and that would be dumb of THEM.”

…And Neither Does This One

July 23, 2014

I can definitely promise fun pictures in the next blog post, though (just not of my trip, yet).

I certainly did not expect to start posting again mere days after my last post, but yay, here I am. Before I publish the next “real” post, though, I want to thank those of you who have been praying for me and/or took a moment to write very kind comments. They were most welcome and appreciated.

Just as it was a big woven mass of things that dragged me down into a dark and discouraging place, it’s been a mix of things pulling me back up. God spoke to me this week (I know there’s no way to make that sound not-creepy, so there it is) and encouraged me to really focus on taking things one day at a time, instead of putting too much faith in, or taking too much anxiety out of, the future. This has been massively helpful for my attitude. I’m not saying it’s a big cure-all, since there are a lot of things in my life that remain unresolved (like what I’m doing for my birthday in a fortnight, or where I’m going to be living in three months). But right now, everything feels a little less overwhelming and hopeless, and I have some renewed inspiration.

A few blog posts have been in the works for a while, and a clearer head and calmer heart has given me the energy and enthusiasm to work on them, and finish at least one. I’ll be posting it later, but for now, thanks again, and I will see you again very soon.

This Post Does Not Contain Fun Pictures

July 19, 2014

I don’t know if anyone reading this has been concerned about my safety or anything, since I’m still technically on my road trip and I haven’t updated in a week, but just in case, I am here, I am safe, and I am physically fine.

This isn’t a usual trip update, but more of a life/state-of-the-blog update.

Right now, I’m in Milwaukee, a city I have never been before this trip and, frankly, I am not impressed. Well, OK, I kind of hate it–not the company, just the environment–partly because I miss the West and want to go back (so many mountains and pine trees…).

The last few weeks have been really, really tough. I’m in a spiritual slump that has been ongoing and fueled by a lot of things (and not helped by the fact that I just can’t summon the energy to open my Bible and that sometimes prayers feel like “posting letters to a nonexistent address” as Jack C.S. Lewis described it). Some of the hopes I had for this trip have fizzled out. Some are small, like this or that museum was closed, or the weather wasn’t good for hiking in Seattle. Other losses are bigger, like the hope that I would get some kind of clarity about my life. I still have no idea what hell I’m doing, where I want to move, and so on. There’s been a lot more loneliness than I expected, especially at this point. Shortly before I got to Wisconsin, my depression began to flare up. Right now it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole with my feelings, where I have one trigger smacked down and something else pops up to tell me something else horrible about myself. All this has drained into my work. I’ve already been struggling with a change to my workload and schedule, and depression/anxiety/sleepiness kind of made things worse to the point that I think I made more mistakes in a week than in the last three years. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, I am just exhausted, and every little thing feels like a Herculean effort.

I was expecting a grand, epic, joyous, heart-bursting, spiritually refreshing adventure, and although it definitely has had its moments, now I just feel like I’m desperately fighting to keep my head above water. I keep thinking, “I want to go home,” but I don’t know what “home” is right now. I can’t tell you how many people say how “brave” I am for taking this trip, and how “blessed” I am to have the opportunity, but I’d be lying if I said I felt at all brave or blessed right now.

All that being said, I want to apologize for the slow, scanty blog posts lately, but it may be another week before I post anything more. It may be two weeks. It may be two months. Or I may be suddenly inspired and post something tomorrow. I will definitely be back, I just don’t know when. Right now I need to relieve some of the pressure I’ve put on myself, and one way is to release myself from a sense of obligation to this blog.

I will hopefully see you sooner rather than later, though.

Day Seven of the Oregon Trail: Oregon at Last!

July 11, 2014

I guess I don’t need to apologize for how far behind I’ve gotten on these Oregon Trail posts, because it should just be taken for granted at this point. Argh. In the last week, I have been absolutely exhausted, mentally and physically, and work has been awful and stressful, and I just haven’t had it in me to blog. But I need to do something, so blogging it is.

Day Seven saw your plucky traveling blogger arrive in Oregon, the Promised Land!

It would be a few days before I reached Oregon City and the end of the Trail, but I was coming closer.

As I had traveled from landmark to landmark, seeing different museums and learning more about what kinds of hardships the emigrants endured on their journey, I started to think that these people must have been not only brave and hardy, but dumb as a sack of buffalo chips. “Those people are ridiculous,” I thought. “Nothing could be worth that.”

But when I passed into Oregon and got a good look around me, I had to say, “All right…I get it now.”

The first major stop in Oregon was Farewell Bend, where the Trail finally left the Snake River that it had been following for many miles.

Sorry for the spottiness of this photo, but I took it from my car, through the windshield

My final look at the gorgeous Snake River


Then I traveled through the gorgeous landscape…

…to Baker City, where they had one of the better Oregon Trail-centered museums.

What a surprise, another model wagon

The museum (sorry, “interpretive center”) had a lot of displays of things that I took pictures of and now I can’t remember what they were. Because it was inside, I took pictures with my iPod, but the quality was so bad I can’t even read the signage.

Clearly this was a map…of…something…

There were a lot of interactive exhibits to make you think about what the pioneers had to take or leave behind, what was essential or not

I dunno, if it’s leather-bound, it probably tastes like jerky

They had some very detailed and lifelike, if slightly creepy, displays of what trail life might look like

Loki and Thor came along for the experience

I did have to keep them from being trampled by the wagon master

The interpretive center itself was on a high hill in view of the Blue Mountains. Not so shabby a vista, I have to say.

And Baker City was a decent little place with a cute downtown area, but I didn’t think to get my own photos of it. I tried to do a Google Image search for a picture or two to “borrow” but I didn’t find anything good enough there, either. Oh, well.

Oregon Trail Day Six/Seven: More of Idaho

July 6, 2014

After I wrote and published the previous post, I looked through my photos and realized that there were other cool things in Idaho that I saw on days Six and Seven (June 16-17) that I kind of accidentally skipped. So here is what basically amounts to the rest of my Idaho experience…

More of the Snake River

Three Island Crossing, on the Snake River

Idaho loves their pioneers

Near the Three Island Crossing

The islands, again

Bonneville Point, another Oregon Trail landmark, is a little out of the way now, but well worth it. As you will see, it was a beautiful area.

I wasn’t impressed with the location or the exterior, so I didn’t go inside, but I figured it was worth a stop and a photo, at least.


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