Every so often while looking at men's profiles on dating apps, I come across a photo of a man holding a child. Usually, the bio below reads, "That's not my kid."
First of all, if you are a man on a dating app with kids, that is obviously totally fine.
The issue here is that clarifier, which, whether intentional or not (and I hope it is not), sounds kind of like this: "Calm down, idiot, of course this child I'm holding in my dating profile is not my child. Granted, my profile consists of two or three photos only, so 33 to 50 percent of my dating profile is me holding a child, which understandably resulted in you wanting to know if I had a child because maybe you aren't ready to be a mom, or you wonder if I'm cheating on my wife or something. But whatever, I am still mad you did not correctly guess I am totally single and this kid is my friend's kid or my nephew. Like, learn to correctly guess a total stranger's relation to a child they made a point of letting you know is a big part of their life, jeez!"
To be clear, I totally get why a guy would want to feature himself holding a child. You want to show us you like kids, or at least do not hate them, and would maybe make a good dad (whether you want kids ever, or even in the next 10 years, who knows). Because you know even if a woman does not want kids, biologically, some part of most women's brains sees a hot man holding a child and thinks, "Man provide for child. Attractive quality yes."
But if the way you are choosing to do it is resulting in the opposite reaction from every woman you message, why wouldn't you just take that photo out?
Psychotherapist Stacy Notaras Murphy says she thinks men include the photo because "having a child in the photo might convey approachability and safety — a message certain men are particularly wanting to get across these days".
She adds, "Men also may have learned that women will ask a question about the kid — creating a dialogue which could be seen by the men as a more neutral conversation starter, the ultimate purpose behind posting any photo, right?"
Perhaps they intend it that way, but many other women and I read it less as "Aww. Who's that cute kid!" and more as, "Wait, what's going on here?"
Murphy also says, via email, that many men she has spoken to may simply be including photos based on, "Wow, I don't look too *insert self-loathing fear here* in this photo, I should use it!"(I will note I have not known women who do this in their profiles, and women-seeking guys do not typically mention this as a trope they have witnessed, but I will bet it happens occasionally.)
One man I spoke to during Tinder Live — a dating comedy show I host, where I swipe through my Tinder in front of a live audience — included a photo of him and his nephew in his profile and told me he did not think anything of it. He is just close with his nephew and liked that photo, and he was so confused as to why women kept thinking it was his kid. As though we all have intimate knowledge of this total stranger's life.
Still, when I asked him, "But if women are constantly assuming it's your child, and you're tired of having to tell them it's not, wouldn't you just take it out?" he seemed to not care enough to do that. It was easier to casually resent every one of his matches for not "getting it".
Even if you do not take out the photo, why not just change how you clarify it?
Why not say, "Hey, here's a fact about me. Also, the kid in the photos is my sister's son Gabriel, and he's one of my favourite people to spend time with."
How cute is that? And now, the woman who reads that is excited to ask about them because she does not wonder what she is walking into.
She will see you as you (probably) truly are, which is a super-sweet dude who she would be lucky to date.
Lane Moore is a comedian, writer, actor and musician. Her book How to Be Alone is coming out in late 2018.