Thursday, April 3, 2014

How I Found Online Dating Success, Gluten Free!

Most of the time, I reveled in the single life.  I did have times where I'd wished I'd stayed home (click here for my list of dating don'ts), but that still happens even now that I'm contentedly coupled...).

Anyway, in my late 20's, a coworker who'd enjoyed her experience talked me into trying online dating.  I signed up for a three month membership went better than anticipated.   I just had a knack for it.  Attribute it to inbred Midwestern pragmatism (I was seeking less of a 'soul mate', more of a quality companion), enhanced by innate Scorpio(n) skepticism (weeded out the exaggerators), a highly accurate "gut feeling" for gauging people (law enforcement trait, helped weed out the scaries and players), and the art of UNDERSELLING oneself (I posted work photos, for example, and showed up prettier).

Dating online (I continued after the 3 months) resulted in 3 relationships lasting 9+ months (including the current 4.5 years and counting), lots of fun experiences, and several rewarding friendships.  When people ask how my beau and I met, I'm proud to say I shopped for him online.  In more formal settings, however, I just skip to discussing the casino lounge (our first date venue).
Get over your discomfort with online dating.

Here are the Online Dating Strategies that paid off for me:

---> Don't fall for the fakes/Don't go for the gimmicks:  As with infomercial ads, this goes for dating
For example, when you are in the thumbnail picture view, scrolling through Man-a-palooza, 
ignore any photos that are: 
  • black and white or artistic photos (the person isn't comfortable with his own self and feels the need to embellish), or they are using a REALLY outdated photo.
  • wearing sunglasses over eyes (on a photo that is advertising you for a relationship, hiding the eyes is a sign of dishonesty-especially mirrored lenses- a guy pal of mine divulged to me that he wore them so women wouldn't see that he was oogling things he shouldn't be)
  • headshots only- if there is more than one photo, and none show the whole body (in clothes, of course), the person is likely being dishonest about their physical specifications.  A friend of mine showed up for a date where the man had only a photo of him in a car, and he turned out to be obese.  Even if he's a Nascar driver, he should show helmet to racing boot.
  • wearing a hat- often used to conceal baldness...or toilet seat hair.  I actually like bald on some men.  There was a time where I took a risk on a hat-wearer and when we spoke by phone he said he was not bald.  When he showed up at the comedy club, luckily he walked up to me, because I never would've recognized him- he was a redhead!  If only he knew, he was selling himself short- I have an affinity for Ginger Men.
  • Childish- wearing hats on backwards or drunken photos with a bunch of guys or riding snowmobiles, dirt bikes, skateboards, or shopping carts, this guy is immature
  • Professionally Done pics:  superficial, self-absorbed likely
  • Photo overload- too many pics can signal a narcissist.  Same goes for men tanned, waxed, and posing in tight shorts by the pool- yes, these are out there
  • with hot women- he's either a playboy or wants to be seen as one, or doesn't know how to use the cropping tool, in which case, keep on scrollin!
Other Man-shopping tips (as far as EVALUATING PROFILES- of those who email/message you, and of those you are considering emailing/messaging):
Some of these were automatic dealbreakers for me, others I'd peruse the profile, and keep track of "strikes" on my hand.  3 strikes, and the profile was a no-go.
  •  If (in his "seeking" age checklist) he has 18+ picked, and you are 25 +, you are too much woman for him.  Any man who's dating 18 year-olds isn't looking for conversation or a relationship.
  • If he left most of the profile areas blank.  He's not serious about finding the right person.
  • If his profile is very negative, stating everything he does not want.  
  • If he only talks about what he is like and not what he wants, or vice versa.
  • over-generalities- likes to walk on beach and travel, but lists no specifics.  

Emailing tips:
  • Returning an email, keep it short, answer questions he asked in a mildly fun or flirtatious manner, and ask questions back.  Only respond if you are interested.
  • Emailing prospects you are drawn to:  I kept a few cute emails on file and customized them with one question asking about something on the dude's profile to make it personal.  The cute emails were on themes that men "get": baseball, poker, fishing, etc.  I'm a rookie at this... I decided to pitch you an email since your stats...check out my rookie card and see if you are interested in making this a ballgame.  In the subject line:  Hey there, sailor- or- Howdy, Slim- or- Irish Eyes a smilin'-or- from the Girl next door (if he lived in your same city).  Spend time on it the first couple times, then just copy them to a file for future reuse.  Don't talk about yourself much.
  • Keep emails light, you can ask delving questions on the phone or in-person, but DO ask clarifying questions related to subjective buzz words in their profile.  A big one is "laid-back".  They all say that, but believe me, there is a wide range of laid-backedness!!  Ask specifics.  Or if they like to Travel- where and when was your last trip?  
  • If the person writes in all lowercase letters or doesn't capitalize the pronoun I, or  types in all caps, or doesn't use punctuation, or misspells words, then take these as signs of immaturity or education level.  If the tone is negative or sexual or there is no clue that he's read you're profile, those are all very meaningful bits of info.  Dating is like detective work, you're always reading clues.
  • If the person doesn't respond, leave it alone.  Move on.  Don't take it personally.  Acknowledge that it sucks, attribute it to something benign like he went back to his baby mama or he thinks you live in the town by the rehab place he went to (bad memories), or he is busy w Fantasy Football. Scroll on.
  • If you feel like sending a rejection email, rather than just deleting an undesirable, keep it positive.  ie.  Thanks for the email, but you're not in my age range.  Best of luck.
--->Meet the person.  In person! My rule is up to 4 emails/brief messaging stints, then a phone call.  I'd say roughly half of the people that I talked with by phone "made it" to the meet-face2face-level.  (I didn't feel comfortable with the instant messaging deal.  I think it could rush things.)
Don't be like my neighbor, Wendy (who looks similar to Wendy Williams, actually), who was "pen pals" for months with a guy whom she never ended up meeting (big surprise) or Jenny (single mom) who was on Christian single parent dating site where, after months of time and no face-to-face contact, a guy asked her to send her money.   This stuff never happened to me, because I have a strong antennae for red flags.
**Gluten free people:  bring snacks, use apps to scope gf restaurants in the area (and have a few go-to's at-the-ready in case someone asks for a suggestion), and explain it in a concise but not too intense or gross way when the topic naturally arises.  You only have to worry about how accommodating the person is and how strong of an emphasis you need to place on it if you want to kiss them.  If they are truly interested in you, they will have googled it by the second date, which is impressive.
 Here are phone tips:
  • Some people have an aversion to giving out their phone numbers.  I usually emailed my # with a friendly and cute disclaimer that by calling the number the person was agreeing to use it respectfully and not leave messages with colorful language, etc.  But, really, if you only answer calls from contacts with names that come up, why be afraid?  If the person calls and leaves a voicemail, you don't have to listen to it.  I really only had one person leave a mean message, and as soon as it began, I deleted it, and then I created the disclaimer idea.  
  • Establish some questions that you may gain useful insight.  Avoid questions that only have one socially acceptable answer (this is what annoyed me about eharmony on the free weekends I used- what's most important in your life? the answer was always God or family- and that didn't ).  Are you honest?  Nobody ever says no.  
  • Good questions to ask:  Tell me about your last vacation?  What did you do for your mom on Mother's Day/bday/holiday?  Have you cheated? (Are you surprised to hear that some people do say yes to that one? Informative!)  What did you do last weekend?  Have you ever been arrested?  What did you learn from your divorce?  In your group of friends, which guy are you?  How do you celebrate Halloween/last year/examples....
  • Ask questions to clarify details in their profile- Here's a big tip--language is very subjective!  Especially when men and women are often planets apart as far as perspectives go.  There are very popular phrases (seen over and over and over) used to describe a wide range of people. (Laid back, no more drama, spontaneous- often are attributes people assign themselves, but in many cases it's just wishful thinking.  A guy I met who was deathly afraid of fireworks with an anal-retentive streak called himself laid back).  Consider the word "travel":  'Travel' to one person may be an elaborately planned, expensive trip hiking in Asia for two weeks; for another person 'travel' may bring to mind a three hour drive to Vegas for the weekend, sitting in a casino--so ask when and where was their last vacation?  What was their favorite vacay?  More probing questions about family (almost everyone says they are close to their family- what is 'close' to them? gift-giving, daily calls, weekly visits, family trips- how did their family respond to their last girlfriend?), and drinking- they almost all say they drink a couple times a week, but I found that it was more like four or five times a week- Fri. and Sat. night, Sun. for the game, and Tues. night margaritas at Taco Tuesday with colleagues.  Another one- nobody says they are dishonest, but give scenarios- would you return a wallet with cash?  A watch you find at the gym?  I've gotten interesting answers on these.  
  • Note the vocabulary, the tone, the mood, and the amount of talking vs listening the person does.  Personally, I didn't like it if the person tried to call me pet names on the first call.
  • Decide whether or not you are still interested in meeting the prospect- If the wiseguy crosses appropriate boundaries on the phone, count him out.  I had someone ask me my bra size, ask me to send more pictures via cell phone, and one guy shouted a greeting at me on the phone like fraternity boy...all of which were dealbreakers for me.  Another bad omen, looking back, was if they were adamant and unwilling to be swayed about where to meet.  Control freak.
  • If you ARE interested in meeting, before hanging up, set a meeting up for the following week.  If they aren't available, then cross them off the list.  The great thing about the one week, then meet! timeline is that you haven't invested much time, so it's easy to cross them off and scroll on!
    Don't misrepresent yourself.  Use current photos.  Undersell and over-deliver.
Here are first meeting tips:
  • Offer to go to an event- it's more fun than a coffee shop, and more "worth the PRETTY" (effort toward getting dressed up and make-up, hair, etc.) since you want to look a bit nicer than you do straight from work.
  • Choose a weekend DAYtime or a weeknight (not a weekend night).  
  • Drive separately, let a friend know where you're going and whom you're meeting, and generally keep safety in mind.  There are apps for these tasks.
  •  Frankly, the first date venues that led to my 3 relationships were:  county fair, P.F. Chang's (gluten free), and a local classy casino lounge.  I generally pick things I want to do anyway-not letting dating cramp my style.  Comedy shows were also a fave, you talk in line but not during the show.
  • Don't use people.  Offer to go dutch, or if the guy obviously makes a significant amount more than you do, offer to pay the tip.  Don't say, "So are you buying me another drink, or what?"  Yes, I heard that asked before.
  • Don't invest too much...time, effort, creativity.  Figure out a standard you are comfortable with.
  • Keep the mindframe that the woman is the one to be pursued (I'm sure there are successful women huntresses out there, but I wouldn't advise it).
  • Be confident.  Wear something that you feel good in, play your "game-day"anthem en route to the date, or fake it 'til u make it, if need be, by chanting mantras like Serena Williams', "I am the Bomb dot com!"
  • Don't be weary of awkwardness.  Make light of it.  Smile.  
  • Anything that makes you feel weird, just use:
The golden phrase of dating:
                                                         "I'm not comfortable with that."                                                        

In my experience, there is no way for a man to manipulate or disobey this sentence.  It is impenetrable.  I usually say it in a pleasant tone with a smile that conveys:  we don't have to ruin the evening over this, and just because other women have conceded, doesn't mean I'm going to.  You're not used to me, I'm not used to you, but I'm setting the boundaries here, because I am the woman.

Let's practice:

HIM:  "Let me walk you to your car."  HER:   I'm not comfortable with that.
           "Follow me to my place."                       I'm not comfortable with that.
          "Sit closer to me."                                    I'm not comfortable with that.
 "Not comfortable with that? Why not?"            I'm just not comfortable with that.

If someone has a thick skull, just employ the broken record technique.  And obviously, if the person is aggressive or you don't want to be there, just leave.

Benefits of dating online:
I was young and cute living in a man-dense population and met plenty of men at the post office, in the grocery store, or at the car wash.  However, there are many reasons why I preferred online dating.  
  • Variety:  First, the men I was meeting were not always professionals.  I tend to draw blue collar types, and I like am attracted to them.  But I learned that no matter how much they swore that it didn't matter that we were different as far as higher education, it always ended up bothering them, manifesting in them enrolling in a night school program (meaning they'll be more stressed, have less time and money, and hanging out with nineteen year-olds).  Later, after I'd left, I'd find out they were dating someone less educated, and hence dropped their community college endeavors.
  • Also along the variety vein, it's easier to review your "past" patterns (ask your friends) and intentionally go in a new direction.  Set a goal to try out people against your regular "type" while still avoiding red flags.  
  • Quantity:  When things don't work out with someone, it's a great distraction to check your online dating stuff to see what's going on in there!  Easier to move on mentally!  Less emotional recovery time!
  • When you date people on reputable sites (typically the ones that charge a fee), you will find people who are experienced daters, who won't make faux-pas or waste your time or be rude when they see incompatibility.
  • Scope it out....You can log in as the opposite sex and fill out the criteria that describe you and look over your competition.  This can also help you modify your profile if necessary (ie. if everyone on there is skinnier than you, then you might need to change from "average" to "a few extra pounds")
  • Baggage:  I found most of the "vitals" were completely true:  # of kids, education, job, etc. as listed on the profiles.  The only time I unwittingly dated someone who was still married, was meeting someone off-line, in person, at Wendy's karaoke birthday party.  I found that men exaggerated their height and income, while they told me that women exaggerated their looks and weight.  The men always seemed so relieved when they saw me, and almost always exclaimed, "You look way better than your picture!".  Under-sell and Over-deliver!  While the men usually looked like their photos, and in three cases looked FAR better than their photos.  Only once was I extremely dismayed regarding appearance, as noted elsewhere in this post.

Be yourself:  aka the "don't punk someone" rule (from the old Mtv show, Punk'd).  Know yourself, and know the difference between trying new experiences and "morphing" into something you are not in a (often subconscious, unintentional, but desperate) effort to reel someone in for the long haul.
  Example: if you don't like sports, say so.
I played softball and basketball in high school.  But I also played violin.  I grew up with sports-crazed brothers.  I watch football, but only the Bears, and only the second half.  And I prefer to DVR it and fast-forward through the commercials, penalties, and replays.  I enjoy attending baseball games on summer nights, but won't watch on TV.
My current boyfriend is a BIG sports fan.  Let me clarify...without much effort, he displaced the year-long reining #1 ranked  sports trivia CHAMPION at Buffalo Wild Wings, triumphing through the multiple categories: tennis, golf, Nascar, Olympics, etc. on his first attempt.  He watches every sport on tv: marathon running, rugby, curling, swimming.  If it's not sports, he's watching old action movies on cable.  I was honest with him and didn't "overplay" my interest in sports , so he DVR's most sports now and watches it when I'm gone or asleep.  BUT, sports doesn't dictate our Sundays or prohibit us from attending other events or being outside on a beautiful day.  Why?  Because he wouldn't be my boyfriend if it did.  We wouldn't be compatible enough.
Don't "tell yourself" or rationalize that you are "trying out new interests" or "compromising", when you are really pretending to like things that he likes.  And, don't hide things you like.  You don't have to have the exact same interests.  You want him to like you for you, and the way you spend your time together doesn't have to revolve around your divergent interests.  Refer to the movie, Runaway Bride, if necessary.

In sum, open your mind, date freely (no checklists), and have fun!  Feel free to comment if you have questions about how to handle a situation you have encountered.  I also plan on offering online dating profile evaluations with recommendations if you want my opinion.   Enjoy your dates, look for the best qualities in each person and ignore the bad ones to get through the date without misery, but hold out for the best for  continued dating.  Online, BABY!

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