Most people are familiar with the fictional title character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, a man who was so self-conscious about his big nose that he hesitated to declare his love for the beautiful Roxanne because he thought it was hopeless. However he was willing to compose beautiful love letters that Christian, his inarticulate rival for Roxanne’s affections, could pass off as his own, and Roxanne is so charmed by Christian’s borrowed eloquence that she falls in love with him. We might think that Cyrano was a bit of a dope to be so self-sacrificing but people can do surprising things when they are in love.
Cyrano could have made a killing today as a Virtual Dating Assistant because this company offers to actually pay people who have the kind of specialized literary skills to flirt online posing as a client and thus attract desirable partners. They offer to save clients from the tedious preliminaries of online dating where you have to work hard to get the other person interested in you, so that all you have to do is show up for the first date. Part of the preliminaries involves exchanging communications with the prospective partner and this is where the new Cyranos come in because April M. Short has discovered that the company is recruiting expert flirters on Craigslist to work as ghostwriters.
“We need a wordsmith at the black belt level to join our team ASAP. You’ve got to be good, really good. As Witty, Creative, Charming, Hilarious, and as ‘Cool’ as they come. Your emails and profiles must grab the reader’s attention and make her feel that strange pang some refer to as ‘attraction,’” reads the ad.
As stated in the ad, the task of this ghostwriting job is to “make her feel” attraction. This company is preying on feelings for cash.
Sure, ViDA’s ghostwriters may be trained to include only facts that are true about the clients they represent, so they aren’t lying, exactly. However, there’s certainly nothing honest about a situation in which a person thinks they’re talking to a potential love match who’s been verified by a dating site, but they’re really talking to some random writer.
As a total stranger to online courtship, I have no idea how this kind of thing eventually plays out. The obvious question is what happens when the couple actually meets and the other person finds that you are nowhere near as witty and fascinating as the character who was portraying you in writing. Wouldn’t that be a huge let down? In the original play, much later Roxanne discovers the truth and tells Cyrano she loves him, big nose and all. But there is no guarantee that the online partner will be so willing to overlook your deficiencies. Maybe people who use the online world to form relationships are more cynical and realize that people’s online personas are often exaggerated and are thus braced for disappointment, so it does not really matter.
Incidentally Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah starred in a comedy Roxanne (1987) based on the Cyrano story that I saw a long time ago. Here’s the trailer.
Just for fun, here is the Sesame Street version of the play.