Dear Chuck,

I have been doing online dating and frequently get emails from a lot of men who do not interest me. I am sure most are very nice, but I am just not attracted. I do not want to be rude and not write back, but I would like to let them know that they do not seem to be my type. Any suggestions?

Choosy but Polite
Cambridge, MA



Dear Choosy but Polite,

You are the kind of sensitive and courteous person that online dating needs. You have recognized that it takes courage for men and women to write to total strangers, expressing an interest in and an attraction toward another, and praying those quiet advances will not be rebuffed, ignored, or ridiculed.

“I like you,” is the plaintive cry of the lonely, who defenselessly expose themselves to judgment and possible rejection, in the off-chance to connect with a person who will be similarly inclined. Too often, the email, which leaves its writer open and vulnerable, is disregarded, and in words unwritten and unmailed, a non-response silently scoffs, “You laughable cretin. I would sooner be mauled by Dobermans than acknowledge that you even exist. But good luck in your seach. Theer is probably someone out there so desperate that you may be the person they are willing to settle for. And have a nice day.”

From conversations with my friends who are regulars on these online dating sites, I have determined that the majority of people whose profiles appear on these pages fall into one of 3 categories:

  • Group One: People you hope will write you but never do
  • Group Two: People you wish hadn’t written you but did
  • Group Three: People you write to because you find them interesting and attractive, but who will not write back because they consider you a member of Group Two.

To be fair, sometimes a profile does not accurately convey the person it depicts. A number of people do not photograph well, and while someone may be quite fetching in 3 dimensions, a badly lit, grainy photograph can easily add age and poundage or capture an expression that suggests “humorless wretch,” "dullard," or "hygenically inept." Some profilees may be so uncomfortable writing a shamelessly self-promoting biography that they underplay their attributes and interests. These are the people to whom we owe a closer look or perhaps should not judge until we follow up with an email, phone call, or face-to-face meeting.

On the other, there are some people you know from the get-go do not fall anywhere within your somewhat accommodating bell curve of tolerance and any follow up would only give your applicant false hope. You can tell immediately, maybe from a glance at the tiny photo or a few sentences of the text, that the only thing you have in common is that you’re both (1) probably single and (2) mammals.

While you may want to remain open minded, you might find the suppliant perhaps a wee bit more hideous physically than you can accept or maybe too close to your parents’ age. You might know immediately that there is no intellectual match, evidenced by an email says, “I wood like to spend nise times with you out side, irregardless of the whether.” It might also be clear that you have few shared interests, because you, unlike them, do not see “The Perfect Date” including good seats at a Tractor Pull. So how do you politely dissuade these potential suitors from pursuing you?

If you are a sensitive and compassionate person, you will find it difficult to write a letter of rejection.

Thankfully, not many people are so cruel to respond with an unnecessarily blunt, insensitive letter of rejection, liberally using phrases such as “my skin crawl” or “last person on Earth.”

In most situations, if you are disinterested, you are left with three options.

First, you can ignore the inquiry. While a bit rude, the ambiguity does not disclose whether you are dismissing the email or just never received it, letting the author, if a glass-half-full kind of person, think that maybe you have already met someone, your email is broken, or you have died.

Second, you can be direct and honest, but not mean spirited, saying you are so very sorry, but you do not believe that you are mutually compatible. For an added touch of humility, you can always say, “Its not you. It’s me,” which works so successfully in ending a long term relationship, it should work here as well.

Third, you can lie. Though benign fabrication may trigger some guilt, this action may still be less unsettling emotionally than bruising someone’s feelings or ignoring the person altogether. I recommend a hard-to-confirm excuse such as getting back with your ex, moving to Myanmar soon for work with orangutans, or being hospitalized for the removal of some thought-to-be important internal organ, which I usually recommend to be the pancreas. Your correspondent may know as well as you do that that the response is a bold face lie, but will respect you anyway for being nice enough to respond.

Sometimes it is easier not to be the one doing the rejecting, shifting the burden gracefully to the other person. Give the other person a deft way out, by making yourself out to be less of a good find than initially thought. You might want to read the profile, claiming a political leaning that your writer will find offensive, admitting that your picture was only somewhat accurate, but that was, indeed, the way you looked in 1981, or confiding that you have decided to give up sex and want to find someone with whom you can share a life of quiet, religious celibacy. Now the task falls on your on your suitor to either (1) ignore you, (2) be direct and honest, or (3) respond with an even bigger lie.

The following polite letter has always worked for me, leaving my pursuer to make the next move:


Dear friend.

Thank you for much for you nice note. I would very much like to date you. My doctors tell me that when I do not forget to take my medication, I can be quite safe to be around.



I hope this helps.