Who Are You?

Helen Patrice tackles one of life's Big Questions

Helen Patrice tackles one of life's Big Questions

Plain fat chick seeks guy who likes broccoli.

Beardy weirdy science boffin seeks biology major. Aim - mitosis.

Tarzan alone in jungle, seeks fat old Jane. Swing in jungle, swing on beach but no likem sand, swing in Brisvegas. When Tarzan's boat come in, he at airport. Likem white hair and wrinkles, no seekum young Jane. Send up smoke signal. Start off fun.

Man wants woman. Uggh! Ahem, but true.

Confession time: my girlfriends and I have cruised the cyber-highway of love. Or at least the personal ads. We don't know what we're looking for, but we'll know when we find it. We certainly know when we haven't found it.

"Oh no, here's another profile where the guy's put a picture of himself as a toddler. Cute kid, but I want to know what he looks like now. Do you think it's been all downhill since age four?" Marie looked up from her laptop. "Are you sure this is the way to find someone?"

"You want to go to another nightclub and spend all evening dancing with us?" asked Robyn.

Marie went back to her search.

I stared at the dating site I was on. Hundreds of men, all seemingly ready for a relationship. It was free to join, free to contact others. Free, free - didn't Janis Joplin say it when she sang, "Freedom's just another name for nothing left to lose"? I hoped I wasn't quite that bad.

All I had to do was put my profile up on there. The question was, who should I be? We all contain many selves, many personas. Which one was likely to garner me a date for Saturday night? Was it possible to attract someone for Valentine's Day, so that I didn't spend another night with a dvd and the popcorn maker, so as to avoid every café and restaurant in town featuring a special Valentine's Day menu?

First decision, which picture to use? The one of me doing extreme ironing on Black Rock beach, which turned out to be mild ironing, with absolutely no danger, a calm ocean, and a pleasant breeze? Perhaps best not to appear too much of a nutter at first glance. I guess the picture of me wearing a woollen beanie in Peru is out as well, then.

No pics of me with my cats. Can't appear as a mad cat woman.

I finally found a photo of me where I look relatively normal - no Star Trek costumes, no awkward yoga poses, no monster impersonations. I pasted it into my profile, and saw immediately that I didn't stack up against the woman who posed in a pale blue lace bra, one arm thrown casually above her head. Or the lady who just happened to be leaning forward over a red sports car. I wish I were that glamorous, but a photo of me leaning over my 2000 Mazda 323 was not likely to garner much excitement. Nor would displays of Berlei sports bras in boring white, or Target boyleg undies that said, "I believe in fairies."

"Sex kitten" would probably not be my first profile choice.

Sporty? Good gods, no. I failed Physical Education in high school due to a surfeit of sloth, and no aptitude to jump over high things. Did Middle Eastern dance, ballroom dance, and the ubiquitous beach walks count as sport?

I was embarrassed to type in "beach walks". It made me sound soppy, it made me sound like every other person on the site. If we were all out doing beach and bush walks, how come there was any coastline or bush left? I worried that "walking" was a euphemism for something and I'd been so long out of the dating game that I'd missed this cultural language shift.

"Does bush walking mean shagging?" I called out to my friends.

Stunned silence. Guess not.

So many choices to make. Did I reveal how much I liked being at home with a book? Too brainy, and some men listed "no brainy chix". No spelling either.

If I revealed the belly dancing, there seemed to be the assumption that I was a real firecracker with secret bedroom antics.

Ballroom dance - old fashioned, perhaps a bit formal.

Three cats - mad cat woman who likely collected newspapers and old bottles.

Likes science fiction - geek and nerd.

Reads tarot - spooooooky.

Oh, why couldn't I like drinking, nightclubs and Agent Provocateur underwear?

I sighed, and typed: "Brainy redhead who likes dancing, eating, laughing, reading, and walking. Does not play games, and is crap at flirting. Two teenage children (shock, horror, yes, I've had a life), and I'm nearly an empty nester. Writes poetry, reads science fiction. I like The Age's Odd Spot, and the movie Madagascar. I'm looking for a bloke who can handle his own issues, put down a toilet seat, is literate, gainfully employed, and who doesn't think a Bach Fugue is a batch of fudge."

I posted it. Within minutes, I was being told that I was not Jason's type, or George's, Peter's, Philippe's, Graeme's, Mark's or Stephan's or Xing's.

One man wanted to know if I'd write a love poem for a woman he was dating, so he could pass it off as his own. Another asked why I didn't like fudge. Five were keen to know if I wanted more children. One was concerned that my science fiction tainted views might not reconcile with his "Bible as manual" way of life.

On the other side of the room, Marie was chatting with a tradie who sparked her interest and they were going to meet in the Bunnings coffee shop next Saturday morning.

Robyn had yet to find the woman of her dreams, who owned a Golden Retriever and cooked Thai.

Cecily was looking confused, because the man she'd been messaging had suddenly asked if she liked a good Black and Decker nail gun.

"I think he wants me to build his house with him," she squeaked. She looked down at her manicured nails.

How to present ourselves to the world? Which bit of us, on the personality level, is going to peak's someone's interest? Who will accept the whole of us, woolly bedsocks and all? What do we choose to keep hidden?

Never mind "Where will I go today?" The question on everyone's keyboard is "Who will I be today?"