I was reminded, not all that long ago, that my online dating profile was ripped off. A reporter from the Wall Street Journal phoned to ask me some questions about it. Plagiarism isn’t a fun word, especially not to a memoirist. I do understand the accidental seep, if a line stays in your head for years until you don’t remember it was ever anyone else’s. Lifting paragraphs only to change a sprinkle of the words, however, is a different story. The reporter was very thorough, as one would expect; she’d even emailed some of the readers who’d left comments (this is one reason I now sometimes conceal email addresses). At first her questions were light and funny-ish, how bizarre that people would purposefully knock you off, ha ha ha, over online dating, ha ha, and with a name so similar to mine, ha, "But did you find it at all vengeful and malicious to post his photo on your site. Was it really necessary?" Ouch.

The reporter actually wasn’t personally attacking me. She was doing her job, and doing it well. I mean that’s what we all look for in a story: a truth. Put a new angle on an old idea, grab it by the braids, give it a shake, and see if she’ll scream for you. I didn’t scream; I totally respected her. And it wasn’t just the reporter who’d asked, as the question had first been formed in the comment section on the day I’d posted the impostor’s profile and photo. I hadn’t really thought twice about posting a screenshot of his profile and photo, figuring he had it up for months on a public website, so it’s not as if privacy was a major concern. He was fine presenting himself to the world as someone he wasn’t; I was calling him out on it.  He’d clearly knocked me off, so he could deal with the consequences of his actions, I reasoned. But did I reason correctly? I could have outed him and still saved him some face (by not revealing his face). Or was it really that wrong of me to call him out, given that he showed no remorse, made no apologies, and claimed that his "friend" did it?

I actually did a writing exercise in my written journal (which I’d copied into a post and published onto this blog, before I’d created the writing exercise category), where I’d copied three lines, word for word, of the actual writing exercise, working it into my diary entry. I hadn’t remembered ever doing so, so I’d posted it online. As soon as I became aware that I did this, I removed the line (and publicly explained why I’d done so) and wrote to the author of the writing exercise to apologize. As unintentional as it was, I still felt terrible.

I cannot understand how people (myself included sometimes) can undervalue their own voice and thoughts and believe so strongly that the work (body, negotiation skills, oration style, cooking, painting) of others will always be immeasurably preferable than their own. It’s a self-esteem issue. Yes, without question, we can recognize and admire great talent, can aspire, or even come to terms with the fact that we’ll never be that "good." But what we sometimes fail to recognize is that we do everyone a disservice when we undervalue our worth, when we undermine the power of authenticity. I forget this sometimes and want to trash all my work, frustrated that in more skillful hands it would be done better. When we use the term "better" we’re hung up on convention, on how others choose to value and prioritize. Instead we should better appreciate (or strive to excavate) what it is that makes us unique. So quit asking your friends to write your online dating profile, dammit!



  1. I adore quotes. I love to read a quote and I do my best to memorize the qoute and the name of the person who said it. Years later.. I remember the line and haven't a clue who said it! lol

  2. I loved this post. Sometimes I struggle with my words, wanting to be more deep, eloquent, and original. Never measuring up to what I wish I could say.

  3. So weird. I thought it was a rarity unique to myself to have a dating profile knocked off. (Of course I thought it was just me- I'm a Leo). Then, it happened on myspace where a girl used all her own photos, but copied my entire profile, paragraph by paragraph AND my blogs, as her own. I found out because a guy who happened to have seen me on dating sites and had read my blogs over the years said he recognized the writing and knew it wasn't me. I was floored that this girl had the balls. It was a b*tch to get it removed too, but I did win in the end.

    I agree with what you say about people undervaluing their own written words. It sucks to second-guess your writing. BUT, online dating is hard enough with the buffet of people in your face moment by moment. I do write people's profiles, so far just friends and their friends. They need it.

    In online dating, everything comes down to first impression- first the photos, then the written. People are rejected so easily online that they really need to have their best written foot forward to get even that first response back. So- I don't think it's a bad thing to have a better writer express yourself for you. THey have other strengths- not everyone can get out there all of what they want people to know in one tiny paragraph. Incidentally my BFF had her whole "What I'm looking for" (that I wrote) turned into a guy's "About Me" section. We got him banned from Jdate, but I wonder if it was the same guy.

  4. I've helped a couple of friends with profiles and whatnot and generally find that their problems aren;t with self esteem, but with modesty. They know they're accomplished, interesting people- they just don't want to brag.

    As a side note, the only anonymous personal ad I ever placed for myself was in the local alterna-weekly. I knew I had hit the nail on the head when my best friend read it aloud to me (not knowing it was me) and said "THIS is exactly who I would want if I was looking for a woman." Bingo.

  5. I don't understand this post, but I did find your site via a and I am so glad I did! I thought they were just poking fun, and ultimately it lead me to an even better read.

  6. Kind of like when you wrote "do these shoes make my ass look fat"? You know that had been coined many times over before, correct?

  7. My profile was the best writing I have done in years and I am a writer for a living. LOVE your site.

  8. Have you ever considered doing a webcast series. I watched your videos and they are awesome. Couple that with your interesting take on things such as this post and I'd watch. Hell, I might even click on a few ads.

  9. I just found your blog through Glamour Magazine and i'm glad I did. You write so refreshingly honest posts. I dated a guy who I later found out his friend had written his online dating profile. I married his friend.

  10. My best friend put the same profile on different sites with different pictures and you know she got so many more inquiries with the boob shot. My analysis- Men don't read.

  11. As a guy I can relate. We all have insecurities and self esteem issues. Might not be about our looks all the time(although that is paramount) but our abilities in other areas. FYI- My grilfriend sent me this post and now i'm hooked.

  12. Do you really have time for kids? Shut up and get over yourself! (uh, not claiming to own that expression)

  13. If it weren't for dating ites i'm not sure i'd ever date. I'm such a homebody. Not ugly by any means but ugh..bars.

  14. The obsessing over what to write, how to emphasize your positives while being true to who you want people to see is hard. I prefer Craigslist where you know everyone is just hooking up.

  15. I think there should be a dating site for men who like women with multiple cats.

  16. ever consider asking people to post their online dating profiles? Could be fun to read and who knows? Maybe some matches.

  17. What do you do when you find out the guy you've been seeing has a profile on a site other than the one you met him on which states a different religion? Ugh!

  18. So much for what you see is what you get. I once agreed to date a guy I met online who said he was white and when we met he was Indian. How do you pass that off? Nice guy and all but could I get over the misrepresentation?

  19. I don't think it's necessarily a self-esteem issue. Some people don't value writing that much, or they're lazy. They like what something says and they think it sounds like them, so why not? They don't think it's important for them to write about them. OR they like what you say so much, they're jealous they didn't write it. Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you wish you'd created it? It doesn't mean you have low self-esteem, and it certainly doesn't mean you should steal it, but I understand the feeling.
    Also, some people are just bad writers. My boyfriend, for example, is very funny. Not so much in writing, though. I can write a joke, I can't tell a joke. So, guess who does his writing for him?

  20. … doesn't matter who they're stealing from or what they're taking, you want to see them get caught. It's the same reason why, if I see someone shoplifting, I call them out on it. It's not -my- stuff that's being stolen, but it nevertheless violates my sense of right and wrong, and with words, it's a slippery slope. What else are they getting away with?

    Since last week I've been stuck on a team project with someone who lifted material off the internet, changed verb tenses, and presented the work as her own. I told her in no uncertain terms that she was a loser, and with very little time or trust left for her, I ended up finishing the project solely on my own. We still have to give a presentation of "our" work. I want to tell her to **** off. Alternatively, I may just decide to vote with my feet and call in sick. Ironically, the subject is strategic games, and this is my only chance at retaliation. I just hope it doesn't backfire.

    There is absolutely no justification for plagiarizing, whether it's a dating profile or a paragraph in a book. Quotation marks were invented for a reason! The world's full of words; if someone doesn't bother to construct their own sentences to get the reward they want, whether it's a grade, a bonus, or some nookie, I have no respect for them. How hard is it to give credit? Ah, but it isn't about some other random person's effort, it's all about "me"… Ugh.

  21. Is that how you met your husband? If so, he really can't complain since you spelled it all out pretty clearly.

  22. My heart goes out to this guy. It's so hard writing an online dating profile. He was just looking for love, aren't we all?

  23. Is online dating a metropolitan area thing? None of my friends do it but probably because to meet someone would take planning vs hoping to a bar or restaurant in a place like Boston.

  24. Sometimes I post a personals profile just to be creative. To meet someone new in a new city i'm traveling to on business. It is fun actually. i never say i'm looking for a long term commitment just a date. met some really cool people.

  25. Lasa Asa- you wouldn't be in NJ, would you? haha. I have one friend on Jdate and one on Match. I went on both accounts to see if they're "talking" to anyone good. Both talking to the same guy- he's Jewish on jdate and christian/catholic on Match. I was floored. If I wasn't friends with both of them we'd have never known. As I started looking through Match, I saw A LOT of the familiar faces I'd seen already on Jdate and vice versa. Talk about maximizing your dating pool…

  26. Maybe there is a business opportunity in writing other's personal profiles.

  27. My fiance has the opposite problem- He sounds awful on paper but is the best, most caring, smart guy who's ever not cheated on me.

  28. "Imitation is the highest form of flattery."

    Have no clue who wrote it.

    I think it came out of a fortune cookie or something. I may have used something you've said – you say a lot of funny things and have definitely inspired me to not fear writing with candor. I'm a self-published nobody in the writing world (aspiring writer I guess you could say)…but overcoming the fear of what other people think is something that you've had a lot to do with.

    FROM SK: Thank you. I'm so happy to hear that.

  29. I confess to stealing things like "Fourbucks" and "Upper Least Side" from your posts, I use them in conversation when appropriate. I like picking up expressions and phrases from other people that are funny or witty. Sometimes I'll exclaim after someone says something I like "I'm totally stealing that!" Hope you don't mind…

  30. I wrote part of my sister's dating profile. I did it because she wouldn't brag enough about her own accomplishments (which are many.) But the profile said "I'm ___'s sister. Here's what's great about her" so that there was no misunderstanding.

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