Yesterday was a very big day for New York magazine where, full disclosure, I was an editorial intern for seven months. For the first time in its 46-year history, the magazine is completely bi-weekly. To celebrate the occasion, New York kicked things off with an already-viral “Goodbye To All That” cover story written by Alec Baldwin. But I was really drawn to a story in the inaugural print version of New York’s fashion website, The Cut.
For their first print appearance, The Cut recruited freelance journalist Logan Hill to write a feature story on New York City’s four most desirable people according to OK Cupid (and their willingness to talk to a reporter about their curse’d attractiveness.) Hill ended up interviewing the top person (as determined by the number of messages received in a one-week period) in four categories: straight and gay men and straight and gay women.
So, who were these devastatingly good-looking people? A 23-year-old makeup artist (straight woman), a 29-year-old real estate agent (straight man), a 26-year-old fashion designer (gay woman) and a 24-year-old integrated-marketing manager (gay man). Give them a gander here. In terms of age, that’s pretty varied for the OKC crowd, but that’s pretty much where the diversity ended.
Let’s start with the findings’ most obvious problem and the one least likely to change: the lack of people of color. Maybe I’m feeling a bit sensitive because the Brooklyn Nets made history and signed a gay black man the same night this article went live, but scanning through the studio-grade photos of NYC’s most desirable singles was like browsing Ralph Lauren’s fall/winter collection: overwhelmingly white. What this article tells us is that all races still regard people with Caucasian features as the most desirable and by that logic most attractive, even here in New York City. And that isn’t conjecture. OKCupid wrote an entire blog entry about it back in 2009.
Another depressing aspect of the story was two of the subjects’ methodology for attracting potential partners. Both the straight and gay males in this story admitted that they blindly give five stars to everyone they come across regardless of appearance, personality or background. It sounds enlightened, but it’s actually far from it. The straight man, James Hawver (username: MyTiesAreSkinny) admitted that he wouldn’t go on to message a woman unless she reciprocated and gave him 5 stars as well. What’s more, he sends every interested woman some form of the same message: Hey there [insert woman’s name]. What kind of trouble did you get into this weekend? 🙂 Not so sure if he’ll be NYC’s most desirable man now.
For the gay man, Thomas McKee, the 5 star strategy served far more devious purposes. Previously, his profile read that he “replies often.” In order to get that down to “replies very selectively,” McKee, like Hawver, handed out 5 stars like candy and then purposely failed to respond to interested parties. Pretty disgusting considering the fact that women and men alike got their hopes up for these people.
But overall, the worst part about reading this story is the fact that it’s yet another piece in the ever-growing compendium of “how to jailbreak OKC” articles out there. In January and February, Wired published two heavily-trafficked stories about the subject with “How A Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love” and the now-viral “How to Create the Perfect Online Dating Profile, in 25 Infographics.” The latter whittled the science of profile-making down to truisms like “men are more attracted to women who enjoy yoga” and “women are more attracted to men who surf.” The big conclusion: “Upper middle class sports appear to be more desirable.” Mentioning your children is a markedly more attractive trait in men than it is in women. It’s unattractive when women refer to their cats as “my cats” rather than “cats.” The list goes on.
Some may regard these as guides for helpless individuals in the world of online dating, but I see them as illustrations of the fact that if you don’t look a certain way or don’t enjoy certain activities, you don’t have a chance out there.
Buck up, weirdo. You’re not gonna find someone by being yourself.
This Desirable People article isn’t what I, or anyone else for that matter, needed to see. Are we supposed to be envious of these people? Are we supposed to sympathize with them? This isn’t the type of story that inspires confidence in people who look nothing like these four individuals. Articles like this are the reason we’re still fighting for more realistic portrayals of men and women in every facet of American life and the reason why many people are so afraid to put themselves out there. It all feels like a competition when it shouldn’t be.
When you continuously tell someone they’re helpless or don’t quite fit the mold they eventually begin to feel that way and that’s what this article and many of these articles say indirectly and directly, “You’re helpless. You’re hopeless.” The right way to make online dating easier for everyone is to help them figure out how best to portray their true selves (i.e. more succinct answers, less truth-fudging) and I fully acknowledge that some outlets have helped people do that even though they’re not as click-attractive as hacks and pictures of desirables. More of those, please!
Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk