Imperfect Pitch: Men, Women, and the Art of Selling Ourselves

This morning, Choire Sicha at  The Awl wrote a post titled, How Men and Women Pitch Stories: A Disturbing Sampling, in which he illustrates with examples how men and women differ in their pitches to The Awl.  In one “Inquiry letter from a man” that Sicha quotes in his piece, the sender writes, “Do you take pitches? Should I just write something and send it? Do I have to tickle the balls? I want to write for the awl, dammit.”  Sicha then compares this letter to a sample “Inquiry letter from a woman” who says, “As [a] long-time admirer of your site (and non-too-frequent registered commenter), I’ve been too shy to pitch as I’ve never felt like my work measured up to your fine standards.”

So the male quoted here has a sense of entitlement (“I want to write for the awl, dammit.”), while the female seems almost embarrassed to be offering her pitch (“I’ve never felt like my work measured up to your fine standards.”)

Sicha notes that it probably is “not bad that many people [in this case, the women] are polite and self-deprecating!” and says he understands where that’s coming from, confessing (hilariously) that even he has “a tendency to file stories to editors with the preface ‘HERE IS MY GARBAGE, SORRY.’ “

Because right now I am both looking for a job and spending time on Match.com, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between how people “sell themselves.”  And, in fact, one of the things that has made the Match.com experience so frustrating for me is the frequency with which men “pitch” themselves in the same manner in which Sicha describes in his blog post–that is to say, with a good measure of off-putting arrogance.

I realize that I’ve already written about Match on my Tumblr, but after reading Sicha’s piece this morning, I decided I wanted to see how the male profiles I had looked at stacked up against female ones.   Perhaps I have unfairly judged the male profiles–what if the female profiles are just as bad?  Or, maybe, in comparing the two sets, I would find that men and women at Match.com pitch themselves to an audience in the same way that men and women pitch to The Awl.  In other words, would the men seem entitled to female attention (“I want you to date me, dammit.”)?  Would the women demure like the ones Sicha quotes (“I hope I measure up to your fine standards.”)?

For my very informal but still, I assure you, unbelievably scientific and accurate study, I surveyed the section in which each member describes the person he or she would like to date.  Full disclosure–here’s what I say about the kind of person I’m “looking for”:

I’m attracted to all different sorts of people; I don’t think in checklists but instead have learned that chemistry just happens, though it happens most often when the two people involved share a sense of humor.

Basically, I’m just trying to say I’m open to meeting lots of different types of people, but that what determines whether or not we’ll “hit it off” is whether or not we laugh at the same things.  I don’t tell my intended audience (the straight men of Match.com), “You should like this,” or “You should want to do that,” because I find that comes off as a list of demands and that makes me feel icky.  But I see this approach a lot in the male profiles I’ve read.

What I found this morning as I surveyed about twenty female and twenty male profiles is that other women, like me, never seem to use the second person (“You”) to describe the kind of man they’d like to date (in fact, of the twenty or so profiles I looked at, I didn’t find anyone who used “You” in describing her ideal match).

Instead, women often listed the personality traits they are looking for, as in this example: “Looking for – single, appreciative, caring, understanding, loving, romantic, honest person.”  Also common is for women to list the things they’d like to do with a partner, as in the case of this woman, who said she’d like to meet someone with whom she could go “hiking, [and] birdwatching,” and who would be up for taking “a spontaneous road trip.”

Lots of men also list desired traits and favorite activities; but in addition to that, they often have what I describe above as the “list of demands.”  Below are some examples, with my “reading between the lines” commentary in italics.

Example One:

No drama queens, just looking for someone who loves who they are and are happy. Simple right? Unfortunately it’s getting annoyingly difficult to find someone that matches that simple premise.

Shit, man!  After my last Maury appearance, I swore I just wanted a life free of drama queens!  You’re thinking, “Sounds simple enough, dude.”  I know, right?!  But sadly, I can’t find a woman like that anywhere.  Probably even you, the chick reading this, is just some huge drama queen.

Example Two:

Surprise me. Keep me on my toes. During a debate when I am too long on the soapbox, knock my rhetorical ass off it. If you play Scrabble, challenge every word I will try to sneak past you. Creep into my mind during the middle of the day and refuse to leave. Be my last thought in the evening and my first thought when I awake.

Be all these things for me, and I might love you.  I say “might”–there are no guarantees in this life.

Leave the games at the toy store.

Women are just always playing games.  Well, if you wanna be with me, you can just leave the games at the toy store, girl.  This site is called, “Match.com,” not “Match Game.”

Okay…so this is not to say that every guy on Match.com is just some greasy tool who thinks that women should think about what they could do to earn his attention.  I am merely pointing out that men are more likely than women to portray themselves as a prize to be won.  In fact, it’s somewhat ironic that the last example asks that women “Leave the games at the toy store,” because men often use the language of game-playing when they describe the person they’d like to be with.  Especially common is the phrase, “You get bonus points if you,” which the writer will use to introduce a list like the following:

* Play ping pong
* You submit your own words to urbandictionary. com
* Can recite the lyrics to the Reading Rainbow theme song
* More then one adult has called you sassy or outrageous

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the “bonus points” are almost always impossible to “earn” because they invariably describe things that very few people do, have done or have experienced.  Do you “submit your own words to urbandictionary.com“?  I don’t.  Should I have been doing this?  If so, why?  And has “More than one adult called you sassy or outrageous”?  Sadly, I come so close to scoring that bonus point, but I miss because the last person to call me “sassy” was only five years old, while the last person to remark on my wacky outrageousness was seventeen–not quite yet an adult.  Actual adults, it seems, are reluctant to comment on my sassy, outrageous ways. *sigh*  No bonus points for me.  Maybe someone needs to write to this guy and say, “Leave your games at the toy store, dude.”

Ultimately, how men and women describe themselves and their “ideal match” on a dating site is rather less important than how they sell themselves to future employers–or at least, there is a lot more at stake in the latter.  The question is: which approach is more effective?  Does it garner better results to be direct or even demanding, or is a more conciliatory tone likely to take people where they want to go?  Personally, I’d like to see some dialing back of the demands on the male dating profiles; a little deference is incredibly attractive.  But it might also be wise for women to apologize less and assert ourselves more–to spend less time thinking, “I’ve never felt like my work measured up to your fine standards,” and instead say to ourselves, “I want to write for The Awl, dammit,” and then to proceed knowing we have the skills to do so.

Bonus points if you can assert yourself and retain a measure of humility along the way.

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About Sarah

Grammar goddess, cultural critic, full-time media junkie. I read, I bake, I watch tv. And then I write about it.
This entry was posted in Alternate Realities, My SF and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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