Imagine, you want to meet someone.

You could hang out in a bar—but since you had kids, bars really aren’t your thing. You could date someone at work, but everyone knows that can end badly. You could try speed dating, but that’s just, well…weird.

So, you decide to give the Internet a shot. Even if you’re over 40, you still know how to use a computer (forget Gen X—I’m from the Apple II Plus generation!).

To get started, you simply have to describe yourself in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a complete lunatic. If you come off too strong, others can be intimidated. Come off too weak, and they think you’re a ditz. Too neutral? You’re just boring.

You’ll find some people who have figured out how to avoid this whole dilemma. They write about two lines, that says something like: “I hate trying to describe myself. Send me a wink and I’ll tell you more.”

Intriguing! Hold me back!

Of course, there are those who simply sum themselves up in a bulleted list of their favorite sports teams. Or those who demonstrate that they have managed to live this long without ever being introduced to the basic comma.

You’re supposed to include photos, as well—to give people a sense of what you look like. But some post only one fuzzy photograph of themselves, where they’re about as big as a caterpillar. So to win you over, they accent their ridiculous profile shot with photos of every landscape they’ve witnessed since they turned 15 (I’ve seen the entire Appalachian Mountain range on one site alone).

Why do people include nature shots? Do they want others to know that they appreciate nature? Are they trying to exhibit their closet photography skills? Or are they just showing how they’ve traveled half the northern hemisphere?

A significant percentage post pictures of their Labradors, subconsciously admitting that their dog is much cuter than they are. (“Hey, if I can’t get a girl with that shot of me drinking brewskis with my buddies at my cousin’s wedding, maybe my dog George will pull ’em in.”)

Unfortunately, profile writing is just step one of the process. The whole social phenomenon comes to life once you actually engage with someone on the site.

I once had a guy email me six times in one two-hour period. 

From his photo, he looked normal. He was divorced, had two kids, claimed to have a respectable profession, and lived only 20 minutes away.

The first email was a simple hello; he said he’d love to meet me for a drink sometime. But then he signed it with his first and last name and gave me his cell phone number. Hmmm, that’s a red flag. Everyone knows you don’t send your phone number in the first message.

His profile had no photo. So I emailed him back, ignoring the drink offer, and asked him to send a photo (“It’s only fair!”).

He responded immediately (a second red flag—don’t you have anything better to do than to sit and wait for me to respond?). He said his primary photo was awaiting approval. But meanwhile, he sent me his personal email address and said he’d send a photo if I sent him my email address back. Hmmm. Another red flag. Why do such sites have double-blind email addresses? So you don’t have to share your contact information with crazy people on the other end until you are ready to!

Before I had a chance to reply, Mr. Overzealous emailed me again. This time, he simply wrote, “Oh, I see your email address, let me send you a photo.”

So then he sent me a photo: email number four. But he included the caveat that the photo put about 15 pounds on him (what one doesn’t?), and said, “Let me send you another, better one.”

Note that all of these emails came within one hour. And I had only replied once. By the time the fifth one came in, I had signed off and was doing something more stimulating, like organizing my Tupperware cabinet. Attached to this one was another photo, and this time he wrote, “Sorry, I can’t crop it, don’t know how to do that yet.”

Can you guess what was in email number six? It came an hour later, about the duration of time it takes for someone to learn how to crop a photo. By that time, I was off vacuuming my lawn. In this email, he simply wrote, “I think you’ll like this one. –Lar.”

Lar? I don’t even know you! Don’t abbreviate your name! That goes way beyond any boundary of knowingness! You’re freaking weird!

That was the beginning and the end of good ole “Lar.” I added him to my blocked profiles so we would never find each other again.

Poor Lar. He’s probably still on the site freaking out women left and right.

Still, it’s a fun way to meet people. If you have low expectations and see it as a social experiment, you can have a blast. So, if you’re unattached and on the lookout for a new love in your life, see if you can find Lar on one of these sites. You don’t even need to plunk down your credit card for three months if it’s a “view your matches for free” weekend.

Just to be safe, say you live in San Diego, and call yourself Barbara.

Even if your name is Tom.