On-line dating has been getting a workout in the press lately. Shows like Oprah, Good Morning America and others have had shows on both the pros and the cons of finding love online. Everyone on those shows seems to have their own personal story about the cyber date from hell. From what I’ve been able to tell from these interviews, very few of the stories are successful. So I have been doing some research on my own. Here are some of my “insights”.
“Be Yourself” Means Be Yourself, No Matter What
Some one once told me that when two people start dating, they don’t actually meet each other right away. Instead, they meet each other’s “representatives” and they only meet the real person after they move in together. Funny, yes. But it seems that it should be clear that this is not a recipe for success. Why send out your representative? Why not send out the real you, and risk the possibility of rejection? While you are risking rejection, you’re also risking somebody getting to know and like the real you. And in the long run, isn’t that what you want? Some one who actually likes and accepts the real you?
So, in your ad, be honest. If you’re overweight (or undertall), be honest. Say that. Put a picture on that shows you as you are at this very moment, not one from your senior year in high school. So many people lie and try to get that first date under false pretenses, and then are angry when the date doesn’t work out. Well, duh. If you are 5’5″ and you weigh 200 pounds, don’t say that you are “athletic”, unless you are a sumo wrestler. If you are bald, and I don’t mean in the sexy way, you better be honest. Put up a picture that shows that aggressive comb-over. Don’t try to hide it with a hat and then surprise her at dinner. But wait, you say. Won’t that cut down on the amount of responses that I get? Yes, it will. But, the people that respond are going to happy with your honesty and their response to your ad says that those issues aren’t that important to them. The weeding out process that on-line dating allows is working!
Up-to-date pictures are a must! This is the number one pet peeve of most people. They like what they see, they arrange for a face-to-face, and in walks someone 15 years older, 50 pounds (or more) heavier, balder, uglier, etc. than the person they thought they were talking to. This kind of sneak attack does not sit well, so just don’t do it.
Pay Attention To What The Ad Actually Says
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s one a lot of people seem to have difficulty with. So, for the record, read what people write and believe it. Don’t make excuses for it, don’t try to read between the lines, don’t assume something that isn’t in the ad. For heaven’s sake, a person’s ad is their best face forward. If the ad sucks, this should tell you something. Poorly written, badly misspelled, awful grammar, booorrrrinnng. These are huge signs. Pay attention! A person who is that careless, stupid, lackadaisical, or lazy when they are trying to impress others, will definitely be that way once they’ve “got” you. Do you really want that in your life? No. Delete and move on.
There are the other clues, some less obvious than others. For instance, are there references to past relationships, overtones of anger, laundry lists of all the things they don’t want? Bitter! Table for one! Delete and move on. Look for ads that have a positive outlook and that display humour and some mature perspective. Also, very important, when someone assures you that they have good manners, an excellent sense of humour, are kind, sensitive, etc., be wary. Someone with these wonderful attributes should not have to tell you about them, they should be self-evident. Really. If someone tells you that they have good manners, they don’t. And if you are endowed with these admirable qualities, don’t create a list of adjectives. Try to write an ad that shows off your good points, without turning you into a show-off.
Read the bio section carefully. Most on-line sites offer a section for preferences and most often asked questions. Smoker or non-smoker? Religious? Children? These are very important questions. For your own sake, answer them honestly. And when you are looking at someone else’s bio, read and respect their preferences. If you don’t want kids, don’t waste a single parent’s time responding to their ad. If you are an avid smoker, avoid the ones that hate smokers. Allow that weeding process to work. It’s there for your benefit.
So You’ve Found Someone. Now What?
Ok, so after sorting through the myriad pictures available, you have seen someone’s picture and read their ad, and it’s a go for you. Have you made sure that your preferences match up with theirs? See, this is a test for you. Will you be honest with them the way you want them to be honest with you? Here’s an opportunity. If they say they smoke occasionally, and you are a non-smoker, be honest. Do not assume that they will be happy to quit for you. If they want to quit, they will, on their own. So, in reading someone’s ad and bio, be honest. Don’t pick someone that you think you can make over, or someone that is hot, but that doesn’t match you in any other way. If your likes and dislikes match up and you like their ad, shoot ’em a line, a smile, a thumbs-up. Never be afraid to make the first move. You did all the work to get here, now go get what you want.
Try to write to each other at least four or five times. Some folks forgo this and set up a date right off the bat. However, you learn quite a bit about someone through the writing process. What if they insist on meeting right away? What if they say something to the effect of “I don’t want to put time in on something that might not work out” ? This is a personal call and one only you can make. However, if you are a woman and a man tells you this, realize that this guy may be on-line for sex only. This may be just fine with you. In that case, go for it. But if you want someone who will spend the time getting to know you, defer meeting for at least a few letters. It’s a few letters, for Pete’s sake. If they can’t put the work into that many letters, maybe they aren’t that interested in a relationship after all. This can be a yardstick that you use at your discretion.
The First Meeting
Well, you’ve gotten this far and now you have decided that the two of you should meet. A word of advice, gleaned from several “interviews” with successful on-line daters? Coffee. Not dinner. Not drinks. Coffee. Or, if you prefer, tea. A casual, out-in-public meeting over a cup of coffee is perfect. If you immediately know that there is no physical chemistry, you can be out of there in half an hour. If you meet a soul mate, you’ve got all kinds of time and you can segue into dinner, drinks or whatever else tickles your fancy. Coffee is low pressure, you can go dutch, it’s manageable on a busy schedule and it lends itself to conversation. Perfect!
On a Personal Note
You might be inclined to ask if I have followed any of my own advice. Go ahead, you can ask. The answer is yes. I had a good time dating on-line. I kept my pictures current, my ad honest and funny, and my mind open (possibly the most important step in the whole process). I actually dated six men, out of the hundred and fifty or so that communicated with me. Two of them were nice, but there was no physical chemistry. Maybe not so important to some, but to me, if there’s no “utz” in my tummy, there’s no point. One guy turned out to be quite the A-hole. One guy was on his way to moving to England. One guy was more friend material than boy friend material. One guy had a hairlip and clearly had put someone else’s pictures up. And, four years later, I’m still with number six. By the way, his pictures were all current, his ad was funny and smart, and we wrote ridiculously long letters to each other for two weeks before we met. For coffee.