7.18.2007

You Gotta Be Good at Something

A funny thing happened on the way to this post. I became an “expert” (picture my fingers miming in the air) on internet dating. Yes, I have people ringing me up for advice that ranges from which sites to join, which includes questions about the peculiarities of each one (an acknowledgement that points to my site hopping tendencies) to how to conduct the entire process.

Once I place my friends onto the appropriate site for their personality and goals, I graduate to an actual Cyrano, which is great because I love that my writing skills aren’t going to waste. These friends audition their email responses seeking my input on tone and word choice, and allow me small tweaks to rein in over-eagerness or to up the level of enthusiasm. Balance, I say. You must maintain balance. They then seek further guidance when trying to decipher a response by way of “What does he mean by that?” I cheerfully weigh in, tossing around advice as if I actually know what I’m doing. It is fun.

But I must pose the obvious question: Why would my friends want my advice on internet dating when I am impressively single after journeying around these sites on and off for years? Yes, I’ve developed a wealth of good stories, have tucked away a healthy dose of flings, and can entertain with tales of younger (and I mean younger!) men. But would you want me helping you to find the love of your life? Doubtful. On the other hand, if you’d like guidance as to how to become a career internet dater, I’m your go-to girl.

The first thing to know is not to take it too seriously. In other words, don’t agonize about what you write on your profile, and those self-timer photos with dodgy lighting and focus are just fine. Only the truly serious run their writings past friends for feedback and enlist others to snap the stills. Jeez. That would be too much group activity for me, not to mention far too revealing. I’m fine with strangers hearing my wacked words on how I present myself, but I certainly don’t want to reveal the five things I can’t live without to my friends.

The first thing you need to know if you want to remain in the dating pool is to be sure not to be too flexible. My age range is nice and narrow – 40 to 50. At least that’s my public declaration. The reality is that I’ve dipped into the 20s for the right letter writer, but I’m certainly not going to post that option for fear of being labeled as one of those ‘cougar’ types. I’ve yet to cross the divide past 50, which I know is pretty brutal of me, but remember the goal here: Remain single!

Create a healthy list of reasons to knock people out of consideration. Wrong job. Wrong height. Wrong part of town. For the unplanned accidental meeting with a charming lad live in front of you in line at the dry cleaners you can be flexible and toss all these requirements out the window, but in internet dateland you’re hiring and it’s all about the quick romp through resume. This is what makes it so efficient. You don’t want to wade too long in the vast pool of probably nots.

If you’re a man, this process is far quicker and simpler: Don’t bother reading anything but just scroll through the photos in gallery mode. Distracting yourself with words will just get confusing and is counterintuitive to the male dating model. Remember, if you want to remain single, basing all you criteria on appearance is the perfect way to assure delightful flings with no risk of long-term connection.

Much gets debated as to how quickly to respond to emails. Too immediate and you seem desperate and without a life. Too slow and you project a lack of interest. With this I say, “It doesn’t matter.” Most email exchanges vanish after two back and forth letters, which is just enough to allow you to maintain the illusion of ‘polite.’ Usage of a nails on the chalkboard phrase, such as ‘nails on the chalkboard,’ can speed this demise along. Other common clichés that knock you out of the running are ‘I love walks on the beach at sunset,’ ‘I’m as comfortable in jeans and T-shirt as a little black dress,’ and ‘don’t be on meds.’ That last one really limits the pool in my town, for nearly everyone I know is on meds.

I warn women that guys offer up their phone number almost immediately and expect a call often before you’ve revealed your name, so you must come up with a way to identify yourself. (Funny, guys don’t care much about getting that name first.) So, while you’re dialing prepare yourself to say, “I’m the woman from the email,” and then be ready for a long pause as he runs through the lengthy list of woman he emailed his number to. The other option is to refer to yourself by your screen name, which should be the first cautionary tale in internet dating: If you can’t say the name out loud, you might want to choose a handle besides the boastful ‘GoodInBed.’

Don’t worry too much about what you will say on this preliminary phone call. Basically, it’s just the equivalent of looking at a photo. You’re sizing up each other’s voice for desirability. If you have a tendency when nervous to constrict and screech, this would be a good time to rein that in unless you actually believe that your soul mate would love that quality in you. Of course while this isn’t about finding your soul mate (remember goal: Lifetime internet dater!), even the short-termers don’t like screechers.

If you actually decide to meet, enter Starbucks – why doesn’t Starbucks just have it’s own online dating site and cut out the middleman? – and scour the room for someone who once upon a time might have looked like the photo you saw online. As mentioned, I’ve been dancing with this process on and off for years and several of the men I met still have the same photo posted from before our meeting four years ago, and even then it was hard to match photo with face. Men, you have no authority to complain about old photos of women. You can claim laziness when it comes to putting down the toilet seat, but that camera on your cell phone? It’s there for a reason.

One side note on dating the younger men: You don’t have to worry about looking too old when you show up for your date. They want old. That’s why they emailed you. You can’t fail in this arena, so relax and let the guy pay for your drink. He’ll want to, trust me, to prove that he’s old enough to have a job or that he’s good at saving his allowance.

Gosh, I could go on and on here, but I have an email in my inbox demanding my attention. If you want more of my pearls of wisdom, just drop me a note. I’m excellent at the one on one. I love my expert status.



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Unrelated piece of trivia:
For those locals who would like an opportunity to experience me in person, I’m reading Sunday, July 22nd at 2 p.m. on Dutton’s patio on San Vicente in Brentwood. I’m not trespassing; I was invited.

If my words and those of my fellow readers don’t lure you (some stellar folks who far outshine me in their brilliance), perhaps the offer of free wine, cheese, and home-baked goods will. Go ahead, pull yourself away from your computers and face the glare of the outdoors.

As far as you singles, you may meet someone to add to your list of, “I can’t believe I ever went out with him/her!” That alone is worth the trek.

6 comments:

flutter said...

I am printing this and sending it to my sister.

The Old Rogue said...

I love internet dating sites. It's strictly a numbers game. I put up my pic, my age (60) and tell women over 35 not to bother me because I won't reply.
It's amazing how many replies I get and the close rate has been beyond belief. It doesn't hurt to have enough money that you are willing to travel to wherever they live to meet them. They know exactly what the expectations are if they agree.

jen said...

i would absolutely go to you for advice too. i loved this post.

and a reading! i so wish i could eavesdrop.

kristen said...

I think your advice here is very sound, especially the bit about younger men, wouldn't have thought that but good to know.

I also didn't know Starbuck's was an online dating meet-up place but it makes sense. And you know I'll be looking at the patrons very differently now.

I wish I could go to your reading -maybe you'll have one when I'm in town again...

QT said...

This was awesome and I will have to tuck it away for future reference...you never know.

I wish I could come to the reading too!

Mel Kirk said...

I think internet dating is so fun. As someone who's tried various sites and has just started work at an online dating company (4 days ago!), this was a very amusing read! :)