I’m forever in an on-again, off-again relationship with Online Dating. I’ll go from hopelessly relying on it to absolutely despising its presence in my life. We’re like Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook: we fight, we do the dirty in an old home he wants to buy, I go away to college/be a nurse during WWII and my mother hides the letters he writes me and in the end I leave James Marsden for my OkCupid account. Eventually I’ll be put in a home while I read old correspondences from past suitors.
A few weeks ago I was catching up with a friend over coffee so obviously my dating melancholy was brought up. He gave me an inspiring little pep talk wherein he reminded me that I’m a great guy and I don’t need those apps to find love. Real love will show up when the timing is right and it will be amazing.
After I woke up from my romance coma, I marched home with a new found zeal and shut them all down.
I was home alone eating a peanut butter sandwich in my pajamas on a Friday night a few weeks later when it suddenly dawned on me: What the hell does he know?! He’s beautiful, kind, smart, artistic, bearded for the gods and always in relationships with outrageously attractive men. His advice may have given me the vapors but this realization woke me up like an old peddler’s smelling salts (Yes, I did just take you to Oklahoma!)
So here we are. Online Dating 2: Back in the Habit.
For those of you who read this, you’ll recall I’ve been painfully unlucky with Online Dating (Revisit my worst encounter here.) This time however, I’m changing the game. During my first foray, I faced so much nonsense that I have taken it upon myself to lay down some ground rules. No longer will OkCupid Dating (OCD) be the wretched affair of the past. No more will I feel digitally molested by the predators on Grindr and Scruff. No more shall I face the tyranny of the Hot or Not rulings of Tinder!
If all of us abide, we’ll survive the Online Dating Battlegrounds with our faith in humanity in tact.
1) Make sure all photographs look like you.
I once met a guy for an OCD and when he arrived he was at least 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds heavier than his pictures lead me to believe. Looking back on the photos, I was able to understand where I might have been lead astray. I’m pretty sure the camera was on the floor for each shot and his clothes were awfully baggy.
Everyone is entitled to present themselves in the best way they possible can. However, honest representation will spare your potential suitors from politely trying to hide their shock and disappointment when LaFou arrives when you thought you were meeting Gaston.
2) Always begin with a greeting.
This goes for all dating applications. Especially Grindr and Scruff. I’m not opposed to receiving nudey pics but nothing makes me feel more repulsed or violated as when I see I have a message in my inbox only to find an unexpected picture of a dick.
Even if your penis is made of gold and sculpted by the Zeus himself, I will see all surprise dick pics as if it were a mushy brown banana resting on two overripe avocados.
Always start at least with a “Hello,” then you may follow up with, “Can I interest you in a picture of my penis?” It’s called consent, people!
3) Do not shame yourself for being on any Online Dating sites.
“I don’t usually do these things,” or “I thought I would give this a try,” or “These are so cheesy” communicates one of two things. 1) You’re really embarrassed of being here and admitting you’re lonely. Or 2) You think you’re too good for this website.
Let me help you out: Nope. Both are wrong. You’re just like the rest of us losers. Embrace it.
4) Do not try to tease out personal details you might learn over the course of several dates before actually meeting in person.
Online dating accounts are simply devised to make a first impression. If you find some one attractive and had a few witty or pleasing exchanges, be bold and ask them out for drinks or coffee.
Asking personal and invasive questions through Grindr chat or OkCupid messaging tells me you’re trying to figure out if I’m worthy of spending $2 on a cup of coffee and an hour getting to know me better. It is not flattering.
Also, so much typing!
5) Take your opportunity to sing your own praises.
Being withholding may cause you to think you’re coming off as modest and demure (which is a persona I regularly use at the bars.) But more often than not, I interpret it as a lack of confidence and pride. And honey, I’m a Leo.
6) Do not transition your digital relationship to other social media platforms until given explicit permission.
I always try to find the guys I chat with on OkCupid on Facebook. Tinder basically does it for you. BUT you will always come off creepy if you try to friend them before you at least exchange last names. There is no way to make “Well, you told me your first name and what you do for a living and where you went to school so it was easy to find you using Facebook search filters,” sound sexy. Trust me.
Addendum: If you publicly link your dating page to any of your other social media accounts, you have thereby invited any one to stalk your life and revoked your rights to complain about consequent stalking. And fellow stalkers, yes, go ahead, but be careful not to be that stranger liking your crushes every photo on Instagram.
7) Take responsibility for what you say.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago about a white gay man who tried to argue it’s not racist that his Grindr tag reads, “Whites for White only.” (Read here.) I also recently talked to some one who made a Nazi joke on our third exchange. And neither of these boys seem to think what they said was a problem.
Possess a higher level of awareness that some jokes or statements might offend an absolute stranger. If you catch yourself thinking, “I wonder if this is going too far,” then you probably shouldn’t say it.
8) Exercise fiscal responsibility.
Dating is super expensive. Dinner at any moderately priced restaurant is probably going to run you $30 a person these days. (This is assuming you have any amount of alcohol, which I highly recommend for all first dates.)
Those of us who work in the non-profit sector (me) or in the arts (also me) may not be able to budget 10 dinner dates a month (HA! Oh, that I had 10 offers a month… moving on.) A coffee shop will always be an ideal location for your first meet-up; low key, inexpensive, and, if you actually like the person, you’ll be revved up from the caffeine that maybe you’ll want to prolong the date into a meal or jaunty walk through the park.
Addendum: I will go anywhere you want if you promise to pay for everything.
9) At least acknowledge that some one contacted you.
I’m typically all for returning the greeting in most cases. I mean, what could it hurt? And if the interest isn’t there then the conversation will fade organically.
However, if you do not wish to even start the conversation, please politely visit my profile so that I may know you at least saw it and have chosen to ignore me. (This works in cases when the service allows you to see who has viewed your account.)
Currently, I am waiting on a reply from a man who I’ve already convinced myself that I could fall in love with forever and ever. I messaged him a week ago and he hasn’t so much as viewed my profile, which has caused me to obsess over how I may go about nudging him for a response. And then I wonder if he selected that option where people can’t see you’ve looked at their profile, thus denying you the ability to see who checked you out. And if that’s the case then I can read over his as many times as I want, right?
Heaven, help me.
10) Check your account daily.
I understand that an online dating profile may not be any one’s number one priority. Reasonably speaking, it should probably be some where in the double digits on your daily list of things to do.
However, there is absolutely no reason you can’t open your account and see if any handsome Future Husbands have been trying to get a hold of you. Lord knows, we all squeeze in a moment to check all the other social mediums. Add this one to your list ESPECIALLY if you have already been in conversation with some one else.
11) The people you talk to are strangers. Treat them accordingly.
I’m generally a friendly person and will strike up a conversation with any one who seems willing. But I’m a reasonable human. If some one isn’t interested in hearing about my relational woes in line at Starbucks, I can take a hint and move a long.
People can ignore you for any reason. And you don’t know them or have any idea why. Don’t assume anything.
12) When some one breaks any or all of these rules, LET. IT. GO.
I know how vulnerable we are exposing ourselves like this publically. And I know the sting of one too many online rejections. But it doesn’t do us any good to hold grudges or stamp or feet or verbally assault the men who hurt our feelings over the interweb.
And you will never come off as cool or empowered if you tell them off in the bar for not messaging you back. Don’t take Julia Roberts advice to Jena Malone in Stepmom. No one knows what snow blowing is.
If some one doesn’t see how wonderful you are (which how much can they really glean from a few pictures and paragraphs) then they aren’t worth your time any way.
At the end of the day, my friend’s advice is probably right. You probably can’t find love browsing a website like you were looking for a copy of Homeward Bound on Amazon. It will show up at some point. Maybe even when you’re sipping coffee with an old friend.
But in the meantime, I’m going to at least give myself a shot here and with these new rules, I’m determined to succeed.
Because rules make everything way more fun, right?