"Smell this," I said to the strange woman walking down the aisle of the cleaning products line of the supermarket. "Does it make you want to puke?"
She looked at me a little oddly, I'm not sure why, but then she leaned forward to sniff the scented candle I was holding.
"Oh, I like that one!" she said. "That smells like my grandmother."
"Was your grandmother a large-breasted woman who liked to give hugs?" I asked, in all seriousness.
"Ye-e-e-sss," said the woman, now looking at me as if she'd suddenly realized she was talking to a complete stranger in the cleaning product aisle of the supermarket.
I held out the candle with the label facing out. "It's called Lavender's Warm Embrace."
"And if you think that's weird, just wait 'til you smell Tequila Lime Tranquility," I said. "That smells like lying drunk on a beach in Mexico."
My new friend and I spent five minutes sniffing candles and marveling at the names. In the olden days, candles had names like Vanilla, Freesia, Orange Spice, and Bayberry. But no longer. Now candles don't have scents... they have lifestyle aspirations.
Vanilla is "Open Your Heart".
Orange is "Fresh Start Citrus".
Bayberry is "Homecoming and Togetherness".
Freesia is "An Angel Whispers 'You Can Do It!'"
As much as I dislike clever marketing for being manipulative, I have to acknowledge that it works. You aren't just buying a new candle. You are buying a new life. Most marketing works like this. These jeans will make me skinny. This phone will make me cool. This sports car will make me a hit with the ladies.
With a farewell to my cleaning aisle friend, I thought about how online dating profiles are marketing campaigns for the lonely.
I'm no marketing expert, but I'm clearly better at advertisement than most of men whose profiles I'd been reading. In fact, lately I'd read so many profiles that I was starting to see distinct patterns. Profile types that were selling essentially the same product, in spite of the fact that they had been written by dozens of different men.
Consider the gentlemen below. I've given a cutting-edge candle scent to each of them, to help you fully picture the lifestyle you get with your purchase.
Scent: Clove and contempt
"Im a quality guy. Im really hot. Im smart. Im so funny I should be a comedian. If u are not top quality material then dont message me. Im serious. If your fat and ugly then dont bother. Im not going to settle for some loser bitch."
What I think:
And you shouldn't settle, sir. Your perfect the way U R.
Telling me that you are awesome and I suck doesn't make you sound awesome. It makes you sound like a jackass.
Scent: Stale beer and desperation
"I lost a bet. My friends are making me do this online dating crap. I told them that everyone on these sites are losers. Now we've got another bet that no one will write me. Prove me wrong."
What I think:
I know for a fact, sir, that there is at least one loser on this site.
Don't insult me. Don't insult yourself.
Scent: Fury and pine
"No cheaters. No liars. NO FAKES. IF YOU ARE A FAKE I WILL FIGURE IT OUT SO FAST IT WILL MAKE YOUR HEAD SPIN. DON'T EVEN TRY ME."
What I think:
Sir, we haven't met, and I haven't done anything to you. Why are you YELLING AT ME ALREADY?
No matter how passionately you feel about something, don't use all caps. It makes you look like the crazy guy at the bus stop who yells at strangers.
Scent: Man sweat and contagion
"I will treat you right. I will lick you from head to toe. Will you let me lick you?"
What I think:
No. No, I won't.
What I will do, however, is give you this tip:
If you were walking down the street and you said that line from your profile to a woman on the sidewalk, she would mace you. I realize that the Internet is a Wild West of social interaction, but generally, if something in real life would put you on the business end of a can of pepper spray, it isn't polite to say online either. And even if it were polite, dude, you just simultaneously propositioned every woman on the Internet. Disgusting.
Scent: Sandalwood and bitterness
"I hate dating. I hate these profiles. I never know what to say."
Not saying that would be a good start.
What I think:
Why would I want to date someone who hates dating? That doesn't sound fun at all.
Which is pretty much the point. I don't want to date someone who hates dating. I don't want to date someone who hates himself. And I certainly don't want to date someone who hates me. If your profile tells me that you hate me, it isn't going to be very effective.
Well, it may be effective at telling me to stay far, far away, but it isn't effective at getting me to date you.
Okay, I fear that I have made a strategic error here. I take back what I said. Let me clarify my position.
Dear Men on the Internet,
If you hate dating, please tell me in your profile. If you hate yourself, please take out a full-page ad in the paper. If you hate me, please shout it from the rooftops. Don't follow my advice on appearing appealing and dateable. Please, please, please continue writing lousy profiles so that I can tell you'd make a lousy boyfriend. Thank you.
**Disclaimer: All of the names for candles in this essay are fake. However, the names for actual candles are so ridiculous that I may have accidentally made up a real name. If I have, I offer my sincerest apologies.
Oooh. That would be a great candle scent: My Sincerest Apologies. I'm thinking of a heady floral with a hint of musk.