Let’s Get This Party Started….Riiight!?

A couple of friends have asked me my advice on getting started (or…in their cases, restarted) in the online dating world.  So, I’ve decided (as part of my cyber charity work) to write a 2-part post on getting back in the game.  Apparently I’m a love doctor now?  I’m more than ok with that.  The Doctor is in.  The first post will be about creating a profile and communicating with potential matches, etc. and the next one will be tips and suggestions for actual dates (including, but not limited to: talking points, how to eat “sexy,” etc.)… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – first we have to GET the date(s).

(Cracks knuckles, clears throat, does some basic lunges…)

Ok – if you’re wanting to ease back into the scene, I suggest taking an evening to create the perfect profile.  Obviously I don’t think mine is perfect, but I DO think it represents me, and thusly – it constitutes “perfect.”  So, crack a bottle of wine, put on your comfiest PJs and enjoy painting a picture of who you are and what you want.  This is the fantasy portion of the process. Isn’t it fun?  We’ll get to the debilitatingly disappointing portion later…after all – I want to give you something to look FORWARD to.

First – which site to choose?  If you’re wanting to dip your toe in the online waters of love, I’d suggest a site that lets you do a fair amount of “shopping” – like Match.com.  I know I talk a big talk about Match being full of men trolling for sex (and I stand by that), but it also has a lot of men (and women) to choose from – and seems to have the highest percentage of “normal” on there (which…to be fair, is still a pretty small margin…but still.)

[Update – Coming back to this post months later and I would NOW suggest…if you’re just dipping your toe in the uncertain waters of online dating – to do OK Cupid.  It’s free, easy to use, and has a decent smattering of singles.  Trust me – go try it.  And answer lots of their questions too – it helps them match you up!]

A note about eHarmony.  Some of you who know that you can only be with someone who shares your faith may be thinking – “why use a ‘secular’ site and not eHarmony, where I’m ‘guaranteed’ to find a Christian?”  eHarmony may be great for you LATER, but it doesn’t allow you to hunt/shop with the same ease and anonymity that Match does.  eHarmony does the work for you and at their own pacing…so you’re kinda held hostage to their methods, whereas Match allows you to navigate your own search in your own timing and style.  Just my thoughts…

First things first – do NOT start by putting a photo up and then writing your profile.  They’ll approve your photo and then, within moments, the smarmiest of men will start descending on you like a pack of rabid hyenas, based on nothing but physical attraction.  Those are not the animals…er…”men” you want.  Begin with the words and add the pictures last.

Some tips for writing your profile (and to be fair, many of these suggestions have come from comments made by some of my guy friends including John and Kevin…you know who you are):

– Don’t SAY that you’re smart or funny – just BE smart and funny.  Anyone can say that they’re witty or clever, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  And, as a woman, when I see something clever on a guy’s profile, it grabs my attention so much more than someone claiming a rapier wit, but never demonstrating it.

This begins with your tagline.  This is what will show up when people see your profile in a list – so don’t put something generic like “single mom looking for a nice guy”… snore…no, seriously – I just took a nap.
Put a funny line from a movie that you’ve tweaked, or a random fact about yourself, or even just plain ‘ol goofiness.

– Don’t put a list of things you DON’T want in a potential partner.  It’s fine that you HAVE this list – of course – we all do!  But, it’s off-putting – moreso to men than women, I’ve found.  They are particularly sensitive to negative energy and I think their ears perk up to the motherly tone found in that “If you…… then we won’t work out” kind of language.  So, be positive about who you are and what you want.

– There’s no need to list the same junk EVERY person has on there – all that does, is basically say, “move along to the next profile, because I’m boring.”  You don’t need to write on there that you are looking for friendship that turns into a relationship – anyone worth their salt is looking for that.  You don’t need to write that you’re looking for someone friendly, nice, honest, etc. – everyone is!  You don’t need to spell out the fact that physical chemistry is important…der…  No, instead, spend MORE time writing about what sets you apart.  Talk about your life – are you an extravert?  What are your hobbies and interests?  Are you a word nerd?  Into politics?  Artistic?  Musical?  What are some interesting random facts about you that, while not important in the grand scheme of things, are endearing to read?

– If you’re a parent, don’t put a line in there about how your kid is the most important thing in your life and that no one will ever take priority over him/her/them.  This may very well be true (and I’m really resisting opening up a hearty debate about the roles and priorities partners/children eventually play in a monogamous and committed relationship…resisting…but it’s hard!) – but when you say it this way, not only does it read negatively, but it gives off the vibe that your heart is closed-off for anyone else.  What guy/girl wants to initiate conversation if s/he thinks they’ll only ever make it to second place in your heart/life?  All of us parents know that we’re not going to neglect our children for our dating life – we wouldn’t be good parents then.  So – you don’t need to specifically state this.

– In the more directly pointed questions about musical interests, movies, books, faith, etc. – DO put as much information as you can here – partly because it’s your chance to show your personality, but also because any little thing you write could be the “hook” a guy uses to spark up a conversation with you.  Think about it – if you write something generic, like “I love music,” there’s not much there for someone to follow-up with, but if you mention that you have an unhealthy obsession with Jimi Hendrix, then a guy can write to you and say, “you love Hendrix, eh?  What’s your favorite album?”  and you’re off to the races.

– Don’t lie.  You might think this is obvious, but when you start writing…you may be tempted to “embellish” the truth (ahem…lie.)  Resist.  This will invariably come back to bite you in the more-ample-than-you-represented-hiney later on.  Don’t say that you’re taller than you really are (*coughs* – MEN…); don’t say that you’re skinnier than you are; don’t say that you love (fill-in-the-blank – animals, sports, etc.) if you don’t; don’t say you’re younger than you are; don’t purposely leave out the fact that you are a parent; don’t say you’re “never married” if you’re actually divorced – that MATTERS; don’t fudge your income or embellish your job description; and any other arena where you’re tempted to tweak the reality of things… resist.  The purpose of this is to find someone who will know you and love you for who you are, so – how about this novel idea – BE who you are from the get-go!

– Ok – let’s talk profile pictures.

DO have at least one close-up shot of your face where you can actually see what you look like.  No sunglasses, no face in the shadow… just YOU.

DO have at least one full-body shot that is recent and accurate.  A guy would much rather see a curvy woman who owns it, than see a photo of you from your “Spring-Fling” in 1992…all pre-baby and Spanxed-out.

DON’T crop your girlfriends out of photos.  Men like to see that you have a vibrant social life and pretty friends!

DON’T have a photo of you with a guy who could be misconstrued as competition (boyfriend, unlabeled brother, etc.).  Conversely, don’t have a picture of you with someone prettier than you!  Come on…this is just good common sense.

DON’T have more than one photo of you with your kid(s).  Your profile will say if/that you have children, but you don’t want to display this too much as it is a little intimidating right outta the shoot.  If the guy falls in love with you, he’ll fall in love with your children.  But we don’t need to throw that in his face from the beginning.

DO have multiple shots of you so he can see different facial expressions and settings.

DON’T have shots of you with your iPhone/Android in the picture.  Extra points deducted for duck face.

DO have a pic of you being goofy.  People like to find other people with a sense of humor and playfulness.

DON’T have a photo where the whole point is to show off your fabulous cleavage, or – for men – the shirtless pic.  If you have a great photo from the beach or lake, that’s fine, but don’t adjust your clothing “just right” to show off your ‘assets’ and then snap photos of you with your ‘Blue Steel’ face and upload them.

– Proofread

Once you’ve completed everything – go back and reread it.  If you’re going to be picky (which I think you should), then you can’t very well have a profile riddled with grammatical errors.  Check those yours and you’res, make sure every I’m has an apostrophe, for you men – make sure it doesn’t say, “I’m looking for a women who…”  – that kind of thing.  Spell check, have a friend read it – whatever it takes to make it correct.  This will allow for the greatest level of superiority and entitlement when shopping later.  🙂

– Commit to the membership/subscription.  Don’t do the whole free deal-y-o… where you can only see certain parts and can only “wink” or “flirt” or whatever your site’s version of lame-sauce is.  Be all in.  And only communicate with others who are all-in.  After all – if they’re not willing to shell out the $30 to find a soulmate…that’s a whole other kind of information.

– Communication.

OK – so your profile is up and running and all sorts-a-fabulous.  Now, you have two things to do:

1.  Read the messages that come in and respond to those worthy of a response.  Now, listen – every person is different about who they will and won’t reply to.  For me – if the photo looks like I could be remotely attracted to the person, and the profile is decently written and has even in a modicum of interest to it, and if the guy lists his faith as “Christian/Protestant,” or “Christian/Other,” I’ll reply.  I figure everything else is subject to further investigation/interpretation.  Now, I’m much more likely to give a longer more thoughtful and witty response to someone who’s profile is especially intriguing or unique, but I don’t require 10-outta-10 charming to send a Match.com e-mail.

On the other side of things – you have ZERO obligation to reply to all the messages that come in.  For those guys who don’t interest you, you have three options:
1 – write them back and just say honestly that you don’t think you’d make a good match, but best of luck;
2 – use the Match.com “no thanks” link, which sends this cute little note,
“TexasGuy1976 doesn’t know a good thing when he sees it….. etc. etc…. rejection with a condescending throw-away message about finding love in other places…blah blah blah”
…I mean… I’ve HEARD that’s how they go…(shifts nervously)…I’ve certainly never GOTTEN one of these messages…
(read: I’ve gotten plenty of them.);
3 – Do nothing.  It is OK to ignore messages.  Men will ignore you too.  Them’s just the shakes.

2.  Go hunting!  This is the fun part.  Go to the Search option and put in all your parameters.  Be as picky and snobby and racist and age-ist as you want to in this part of the game…your ‘I-only-want-to-date-men-who-speak-Tagalog’ secret is safe with Match.  Use the “Advanced Search” option so you can put in items under education, faith, etc. and then start reading!

Check it out, ladies – you will have an advantage if you’re assertive and send messages to the guys who pique your interest.  Because, if you read my last post you’ll remember, men message women MUCH more than the other way around.  Men don’t get that much attention in this way, so if you put yourself on his radar, you’re already miles ahead in the race against the other ladies out there.  And don’t just click the “wink” button – have the bollocks to send an actual message.  It doesn’t have to be long.  Just find something in his profile that caught your eye and say so.  It could be something like this:

You had me at Texas Country.  I could listen to Chris Knight the rest of my life and be a happy girl.  🙂
Your profile was refreshing to read – you seem like an authentic and intelligent guy.  I’d love to chat more…check out my profile and let me know what you think!  Cheers.  – Sarah- “

Note:  you may want to change the name.

That’s not hard, is it?  Obviously – make this your own.  Be more flirty, be more succinct, include an open-ended question, whatever matches your personality.  And hopefully – watch the responses roll in!?

– Take it to the next level.

Rewrr…. that sounded saucy…

No, I just mean – once you have a dialogue going on Match.com’s e-mail system, I think (and this is purely my opinion, but it IS based on interactions with lots of men in this world) it’s best to quickly take it to the phone – either text or talking, pick your poison.  I’m a texter, but that’s just me.  And I’m also quick to propose meeting up.

I want to take a moment to talk about my philosophy about dating – and how it affects the MANNER in which I date – and why I move quickly to the meet-n-greet.

Let’s return to the shoe shopping metaphor.  I am in a season of searching for the perfect shoe.  I’m trying on lots of pairs, but I’m eliminating quickly the ones that I know aren’t the right fit.  That’s the key – eliminating quickly.  I’d much rather go on lots of quick dates (coffee/drinks/lunch/etc.) and assess if there’s sufficient interest/potential connection to warrant a full-on date-date.  Think back to the shoes (sorry, men… feel free to insert your own tool metaphor in lieu of footwear.  Unless you’re all in-touch-with-your-metro-chic-ness and can hang with this).
There are the ones that are SO pretty… but they’re way too expensive (for those of you who can’t crack the code – I mean to say that the guy is dreamy and makes you feel good, but it comes at an unfortunate cost…(critical, short-temper, etc.).  There are those that seem like they’ll go PERFECTLY with your outfit, but they’re prohibitively uncomfortable (we’ve all bought these shoes, haven’t we?  And halfway through the next day we’re cursing our earlier impulsive selves that strapped our feet into tiny torture chambers of pain.  Do I need to spell out the metaphorical corollary?)  Then there are the shoes that are sensible.  They feel good – you know they’ll last.  They’ll walk you faithfully through Disney or your trip to the Burgundian countryside… but darn it they just have no razzle dazzle.  I’d like to say – unequivically – that I am DONE buying those shoes as well.

No, I want THE PERFECT pair.  Gorgeous, versatile, comfortable and make other women insanely jealous.  Ok, ok… perhaps I’ve pushed the metaphor a bit past its prime…

And I haven’t yet grown so cynical about love that I think this is an impossible dream.  I DO know there isn’t a perfect pair of shoes out there – I have a healthy grasp on the flawed (dare I say it, ..sinful) state of man, but I DO believe there’s a perfect pair out there FOR ME.  And that means two things as far as the shopping and ‘trying on’ phase:

1.  I’m going to try on lots of pairs (don’t go gettin’ all naughty on me here… I just mean interacting with a fair number of men).  And I’m probably going to have a lot of first-dates-only because I know pretty quickly when the pair isn’t a good fit.

2.  When I find a pair I like – I’m going to use all the tools in my arsenal to wear them, enjoy them and decide if they’re worth buying.

I guess what I’m saying is – take the online interactions quickly into the land of the living – where people have no choice but to be their real selves.  Don’t WASTE your TIME sending e-mails back and forth or texting for weeks – the most accurate representation of a person – is the person.  In person.

So – don’t be afraid to just say – “Let’s meet up for a drink!”  or “I’d really love to meet you – wanna grab coffee later this week?”  It’s innocuous enough.  Contrary to what that nagging fear in the insecure part of your brain says, “Let’s do drinks” does not, in fact,  mean, “I want to have your baby.”  So – go for it.  Enjoy the drinks/lunch/coffee and take it from there.

…to be continued.

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