After swapping online dating disasters with friends for hours, writer and poet Erin Bealmear decided she didn’t want to be the kind of woman who spends all her time “talking about boys.”
She joked with these friends that she was going to create an OkCupid profile for Emily Dickinson, to see how she’d “fare in the world of online dating.” She pondered, “Would a lovelorn poet, obsessed with death and privacy, be able to woo a modern man?”
Then Bealmear took it one step further and started humorously answering the dating site’s questions, imagining how Dickinson herself would answer them. For an extra layer of authenticity, she included specific details from the 19th-century American poet’s life:
What I’m doing with my life
Being a hermit. Overusing the dash.
I’m really good at
Breaking rules, specifically capitalization and punctuation.
Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
Movies: What is a movie?
Books: Wordsworth, Browning, Keats, Emerson, Shakespeare (i.e. dead people)
Music: Yes, I do enjoy playing the piano on occasion. Thank you for asking.
Food: Baked goods, especially my famous gingerbread. I love making it for the neighborhood children, but I can’t leave the house. Instead, I stand at the window and lower it down to them in a basket. It’s so much easier that way.
Then, she decided to publish it under the moniker “CertainSlantofLight.” a reference to one of Dickinson’s poems. Once she did, “Emily’s” inbox started filling with messages. Some men were amused, others were not. Many were just confused. Some curious responses came from men that Bealmear calls, “‘Hi’ guys.”
Every woman who has participated in online dating knows them. A man sends you an email that reads, “Hi, I’m John” or “Hi, I’d like to get to know you.” The messages aren’t offensive. They’re just boring. A “Hi” message is equivalent to saying, “Hey, I didn’t read your profile and I don’t care about your brain or your personality, but we should go out sometime.”
And then she started getting messages from guys who wanted to date her, the unknown puppeteer behind “Emily.” That’s when she started pondering, “Why was Emily Dickinson succeeding at online dating to a much higher degree than I ever had?”
Read the full article on Electric Literature: I Pretended to Be Emily Dickinson on an Online Dating Site