So I finally broke into the bizarre and strange world of online dating in the last week. I have covered the gamut, I think, from Match.com, eharmony, Yahoo personals and yes... I have even ventured into the strange world that is Craig's List.
And while trolling this vast, virtual-reality meat market, I've come to the conclusion that precious few people know how to write / act / behave in the online world. So I've decided to offer some guidance to what I would assume are some of the basic rules of online dating....
1. Always post a photo
This may seem pretty straight forward, and you always see the disclaimers that "posting a photo will result in more responses!" Very true!! However, what they do NOT do is require that you post a photo of YOURSELF. Which brings us to the nuances of this fairly obvious rule number one:
a) Make sure it's a photo of ... wait, this may come as a shock... yourself.
b) Make sure it's a photo that's been taken within the last 15 years. We know you were hot when you were 22. But if you're now 48, that 22 year old doesn't exist any more. Love it. Leave it. And move on with your bad self.
This inevitably leads to other sub-rules, which are sometimes specific to the sites in question:
a) On Craig's List, don't post some stupid GIF image, just so you have the IMG marker next to your posting's listing. It's misleading and annoying.
b) On Match.com, try to post a photo that at least vaguely resembles whoever greets in mirrors when you walk in front of them. If you're 20 pounds (or more) heavier than when you took that photo, or over 5 years older, or have gotten you hair cut, shaved, grown out, or it's receded beyond recognition, then take another photo.
c) Yahoo and Match... smile!! For God's sake, if you try to look "tall, dark and and mysterious" you'll more likely end up resembling a child predator than a sexy date. Only a few men in this world can pull off that look, and they are famous for it. You are not one of them. So unless you have extremely bad teeth (in which case I recommend braces)... lighten up and SMILE!!!!
2. Be honest, with caution.
One guy I spoke with lamented that most of the women online posted their age as 10-20 years below their actual, real life age. Now, I'm a young woman, so perhaps this is a tad snobbish of me. But when you expect a 32 year old, and a 47 year old shows up for drinks, don't you think he's going to notice fairly quickly that you weren't honest? And I hate to be old fashioned, but when the first thought he has is "Oh, she lied to me," don't you think you're starting off on a bad foot? If you want to tackle this obvious age discrimination with a sense of humor, why not put your age at 102 years old? Sure, you will have to hit the online market a little harder when you don't come up in the "age match" searches... but at least it shows you have a sense of humor. This age issue, however, comes with it's own message for the men out there...
3. Date someone vaguely close to your own age.
Is it really all that ridiculous to be asking you to look for a woman that was born within the same decade as you? I'm amazed and flabbergasted by the number of 40- and 50- and yes, even 60-something men whose "age wanted" limits are 22-30. Are you kidding? I know that having a young, fabulous looking woman on your arm makes you feel better about your hair recession, pot belly and aching back... but you can HIRE a 22 year old for that. Why would you want to have dinner and a conversation with someone who wasn't even born when you graduated from college?
4. Fill out the form
While it's annoying, yes, the "fill in the blanks" really do help. Leaving everything blank except some random paragraph that says "Fun loving guy looking for a soul mate. Looking for someone who loves to have a good time, has no baggage, likes to travel, and likes to go to restaurants. If you're this person, we could be a match! Write me." I guess there is some really GREAT news for these guys! This just about describes EVERY WOMAN ON THE PLANET. You might as well type in something equally helpful, like "Wanted: Female with breasts. Write me!". After all, it's been a while since I've met a woman who did NOT like to have fun, who didn't like restaurants, and who didn't want a soul mate. The only hang up, really, is the "no baggage" part... and the bad news is - asking for no baggage is like asking for someone who doesn't breathe oxygen... they're there, but VERY hard to find and not very much fun. Baggage is what makes us ourselves, and if you don't want baggage, get a puppy. If you're looking for a real woman, instead of stating the unhelpfully obvious about what you want in a partner (and at the same time stating nothing about yourself), why not fill out those helpful little sections that ask for things like - favorite books, movies, hobbies, and other randomly lame yet somehow very informative things? Just give it a shot... take some time to introduce yourself... or have a friend write it... if not for anything else than for laughs.
This leads us nicely to the interaction phase of the rulebook... when the "winks", initial "hello" emails and nice little "courtesy responses" are all used up, and things are actually progressing to real words that humans use to communicate. It's at this point you want to try to stick to some of the following guidelines:
5. Attaching additional photos is good! Attaching photos of your genitalia is bad.
What, exactly, do you think we're going to do with a photo (usually about the quality of a poor cell phone picture) of your penis? Do you think this sparks some sort of desire to meet you for dinner? Do you think it inspires conversation, inspiration, and intelligent banter? Sorry, but it does not. There's no need to prove that you have a member... what we really are interested in is the head on your shoulders, if it exists. We'll just give you the benefit of a doubt that the rest of your anatomy is par for the course.
6. "You're Hot, Let's Meet" is not an appropriate way to ask for a date of anyone other than Paris Hilton.
In this day and age of Dateline child internet predator stings, I am finding that a few emails back and forth really bring out the best in men... and the worst. You'd be surprised how quickly the text deteriorates into a "you're hot, I'm horny, let's meet" kind of conversation. Yes, women like sex too... but we don't want to admit to that right off the bat!! At least make an attempt to fake some intelligent banter before you try to douse us with drinks and talk of your bedroom prowess.
7. Do your homework - read the posting. Yes, it's boring, and the photos are more fun, and yes, it's more fun to fire off an email than to read through the stuff that she took the time to type in. But it's better than being surprised that I'm 5'11" tall, even though it says so right on my profile.
I'm sure that this is just the beginning... since I've only just dipped my toe into the world of online singles, I can state the obvious when I say that it's pretty overwhelming and terrifying. Hopefully things will improve... I'll keep you, well... "posted".