July 17, 2005

This is Sparky, filling in for Faustus and working that gimmick:

It’s Dorian Gray
In reverse: you aged and yet
Your photo stayed young

It’s happened to most of us at one point or another, especially those of us who’ve chosen to embrace our inner slut during the Internet Age. We see a suggestive pseudonym, a few compelling statistics, perhaps a blurb of some kind or another, and a photo. (I hope you all at least insist on a photo these days. These aren’t the early nineties for god’s sake!) It always amazes me that there are men out there who think they can get away with fudging the basic parts of this kind of rudimentary advertising. I suppose what really amazes me is the thought that there might be other men who fall for this bait and switch, who might see that guy at the door and not feel swindled. Or at the very least, not call their bluff and withhold the nookie.

Granted, I think there’s room for a little flexibility depending on what you’re really after at any given moment. I’ve been willing to overlook a little fibbing or the use of slightly misleading imagery if a guy was still attractive in person. It’s the nature of the business to put your best face forward, and I imagine it’s a slippery slope once you tell that first fib. I have a friend, for example, who dated a guy for years without confessing he was ten years older than this guy, and not five years younger. But he had the good skin and the limber body to inhabit the lie. I have — more than once — encountered guys who thought they could show a ten-year-old photo of themselves and assume I wouldn’t mind getting pawed by the cryptkeeper hands I eventually saw. When faced with such blatant, artless dishonesty, I’m too annoyed to even stick around (or play host) for small talk.

I’m often attracted to older guys, so it’s not a matter of age discrimination. But I like honesty. And the confidence that honesty requires. After years of trying my luck with personal ads (of both the reputable and tawdry kinds), I’ve lost a lot of faith in men’s ability to be upfront about what they have to offer, so I’ve learned to read those many little photos much more critically. Getting a good photo is much easier now than it was when I was more of a catch myself, thanks to the availability of scanners and digital cameras, which makes it even easier to assume that you can make a few key judgements about books from their covers.

A few of the guidelines that I’ve learned (the hard way) to follow over the years:

  • Never trust a blurry photo. If he can’t find anything that shows the details, than he’s probably trying to hide them.

  • That gets a little harder if a guy thinks his crappy cameraphone photo is good enough, but if he thinks that than his standards may be low in other matters as well, and so he can’t be trusted.

  • Even still, a crappy cameraphone picture has a very different quality of crappiness than a blurry scan of an old print or even an old digital photo. Learn to spot the differences if you want to give a guy that extra benefit of the doubt.

  • A young-looking guy doesn’t necessarily look like a young guy. He may look good, but it’s a different kind of good. If there’s any discrepancy between the photo and the age given, assume the worst. Either one could be a fib.

  • Look at where that arm is placed, or that unusual posture. There’s something flabby in Denmark.

  • And this is one you can only do if you’ve been around the block for a long time: if he’s still using the same picture for a couple of years, then chances are it’s been around for a couple more. At the very least, it’s probably not too accurate. If he’s still so damned handsome, then why can’t he ask someone with one of those fancy new little robot cameras to take another shot?

A little imagination, with a dash of loneliness and horniness, can make us see what we want to see, or read what we want to read. We fill in the details with what we hope to discover, and that’s where the trouble starts. We wouldn’t be silly romantic fools if we didn’t hope for the best, but we have to draw the line somewhere. I draw the line at that washed-out old wedding photo a guy shows when he’s trying to talk his way into my pants. Show a little effort, at least, before I waste the subway fare.

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9 Responses to This is Sparky, filling in

  1. Chris says:

    I once had a date with a guy from Nerve.com who, when he pulled up to the bar where we were meeting and leaned out of the window to say hello and tell me he would be back as soon as he found a parking space, was not only noticeably skeevy, but also clearly at least 20 years older than the photo he’d sent me. I waited until he went around the corner, and then I TOOK OFF RUNNING.

    Also, who drives in this city anyway?!

  2. David says:

    I am an expert photo retoucher who can work magic in Photoshop. If any old crank wants to pay me to take off twenty years or so, in a way that is completely undetectable to the naked eye . . . well, by all means. I can make you younger and thinner, pump up your body, give you a better hairline or a huge package. In other words, as long as you never leave the house again and only communicate by IM, the world will think you’re the perfect man. 🙂

  3. Mushlette says:

    What is the difference between putting your best face forward and lying?

    I’ve seen online profiles (of people that I know) that actually make them look less attractive than they are in real life… their self image is perhaps less than accurate, and they try to sell what they think they should be rather than what they are.

    Tough world out there.

  4. Groomzilla says:

    I fell for the blurry photo bait-n-switch once (strike 1 for him), but by the time I realized this we’d already met for our first date….at my work’s Christmas party (strike 1 for me). Then he got drunk and threw up in a urinal (strike 2 for him). But then I felt bad and agreed to a second date (strike 2 for me)….at a comedy club (strike 3 for him). Then I pulled the email break-up/ignorey thing (strike 3 for me).

    Between his poor taste and/or lack of honesty with regard to his personal appearance, and my own inability to say no and/or insist on more appropriate dating locales, I’d call it a wash.

  5. David says:

    I stopped using the internet for dating and hookups about a year and a half ago. The return on my investment of time, effort and resources was minimal. And quite frankly, I still get laid as much as I did when I was online.

  6. birdfarm says:

    Awwww…. I find myself feeling sorry for the guys who are trying to hold their arms or posture to prevent Sparky’s detection of any flab.

    Sometimes I’m glad I moved away from Manhattan.

    Nonetheless, I congratulate Sparky on the idea (when it’s a good idea, is it still a gimmick?) of using the Gay Haiku for his posts… so far, this seems to be a good strategy, creating an engaging and thought-provoking post, while managing to actually have a little morsel of gen-yoo-wine Dr. Faustus in each post just to tide us over.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Sparky says:

    Birdfarm, don’t feel sorry for anyone. I am drawn to all sorts of guy for all sorts of reasons, and flab is certainly not a deal-breaker. But I own up to the softness of my own contours, and I think other people should, too. I’m not critical of anyone’s age or shape — just whether or not they’re trying to lure strangers in under false pretenses.

  8. Brandon says:

    Quite an interesting post, especially considering my experience, use of gay.com. Considering what I have found there among most of the people, I have used some discrepencies in advertising, although for me, it isnt about hooking up( whatever, thats such bs and childish) as it is sort of social experimenting, and even sometimes in the purpose of revenge or somewhat getting even, as I have found more than just a few online to be fake, not so much in their pictures, but in their personalities. There is a story, from the 18th century, but I can’t remember the author, about a young woman who used several masks to sort of “check up” on and test her lover (or the man who was trying to woo her). I think it is quite an interesting play, to see how people will run for somethings……

  9. birdfarm says:

    I hear ya.

    Ok, how’s this. I’ll continue to feel sorry for them (after all, it *is* sad if you are so dissatisfied with yourself that you try to fake your own appearance, when you’ll obviously be found out–I mean, that’s not even semi-rational–they’re just setting themselves up for a much more painful rejection!). C’mon, ya gotta admit, that’s pretty sad, & I can’t help thinking so.

    But I won’t blame their problems on you, personally, Sparky.


    Keep up the good work.


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