A Pro’s guide to online dating

Yeah, I said it. I’m a pro. Well, I met some guy on OKCupid and am marrying him in less than four months. (Shit!)

Jezebel did a guide to online dating, and creating your perfect profile. Which is interesting, and it’s also interesting to read comments from people (as I am a habitual comment reader, on nearly everything I visit on the web with the exception of cracked.com) who are at the start of it all.

You get this thrill of attention when you first turn to online dating. Like many places in life, you get plenty of attention for being a n00b. This never comforted me, actually, until I turned to the world of online dating. I was never very accomplished in my first year of anything: high school, college, professional life. Being an older sibling had something to do with it, as I had grown up having to wait for things when my 5 years junior brother expected to receive everything without working for it. I always tried to understand my role, and play it cool my first year. Take over my second or third.

But not with online dating. I was the hot new girl on the block. When I first became active on OKCupid in 2008, it was like a window had been opened to a world that was made just for me. A somewhat attractive, nerdy girl who loved music and had a healthy appreciation for pretentious books and movies, and who wasn’t reluctant or difficult to read? Psh. I felt like I was a thousand nerdboys dream come true, and I relished in it.  (Read: I also really needed it at the time.)

The simple version of the story is as such: post-college relocation. Awful, horrendous break-up with long-term, live-in boyfriend. Acting out IRL (somewhat) because of devastating need for reassurance/validation/attention. Getting into online dating, and spending hours every afternoon at the library (yeah lame I know, but I’d been recently dumped and was broke) on OKCupid.

Encountered many suitors, some cool, some scary, and then I quickly & aggressively (but not scarily) pursued one dude. I pursued aggressively enough that we dated for just shy of a year, although he was hesitant about commitment. He filled that need for reassurance/validation/attention very well, and kept me out of trouble. That was exactly what I needed.

Met a few random people along the way, some I chatted with (and still follow on twitter, whatevs). Aforementioned relationship ended; we remained close friends even through weird territory. Started to meet up with a new dude at least once a month, and although there wasn’t much action (which was fine), I learned a lot. In that six month period, I never met up with a guy unless he contacted me first. Got invited out, and didn’t realize until I was almost in the midst of it that one guy I had planned to meet would probably strangle me and throw my body into the marina.  (I wasn’t even a Dexter fan at that point.)  Paranoia, yes, but I stood him up and nearly swore off the service. I sent one more reply message, to a guy who had gone to the same college as I did, even probably had some of the same professors, and seemed funny and super down-to-earth.

I was the second girl he’d messaged, as he’d just joined, and only recently returned from a 3-year sojourn abroad. I was still new to the area and had a hard time breaking into any social scene.

We met at a coffee shop, halfway between us, on June 6th, 2009.  And we’re getting married in November. 🙂

So if my results and/or journey are along the lines of what you’re looking for, here are my best pieces of advice:

1 ) Spend some time on it. If you’re serious about getting to know people through online dating, they’re out there. But intelligent, quality people will respond to intelligent, quality content, even on a dating profile. I sound super techy as I write this, but what T-storm said attracted him to my profile is that it was well-written. Byah!

2 ) Jezebel is right: ditch the huge list of bands/movies/etc. That was so college/myspace/keeping up with my douche ex-boyfriend’s huge lists. The advice that Lorelai & Rory give to Lane when she’s putting a classified out as a drummer (sort of like online dating? It’s how she met her husband, at least!) is accurate.

3 ) Don’t set it and forget it. You should update things as they are pertinent to you. Don’t leave up a once-over profile with a million spelling mistakes. Like any good work in progress, you must remember only three things: edit, edit, edit.

4 ) Be selective. Especially if you use OKCupid, because I think the male to female ratio is slanted to favor females, and as I’ve said many, many times, if you’re a girl, you write “I’m a nerd” in your OKCupid profile and you look moderately attractive, you will get swarmed.

4A ) You have to be a bitch. Get over it. Some guys online just will not take no for an answer. And that does not bode well for dating them, either. If you don’t like them, you’ve let them know that, and they don’t seem to stop believing that they can romance you, despite your protestations, don’t be polite. Cut them off. A favorite quote of a friend’s and mine in high school was, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Guys know that. They’ll live.

5 ) The faster you move the relationship from internet-only to real life, the healthier it will be. If you were anything like me when I was a teenager, you met some guy off a message board who lived across the country and had a torrid online romance that only resulted in extreme awkwardness and adolescent heartbreak once you finally met up. If you want to make someone a priority, you’ll meet them in person. Quickly. That said, especially if you’re the new gal in town, it’s good to pursue/meet someone who has the local hook-up. Or who also happens to haunt the same places you do.  “I’ve always wanted to check that out!  I read about it in this here local paper,” is also a good sign.  That also means they’re a real person.  (See T-storm’s proposal!)

6 ) Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s all supposed to be kind of funny. Not to refer too much to Gilmore Girls (who am I kidding!?!), but one of Emily’s lines rung out to me as clearly as a bell: “I was always so envious of Johnny Carson’s wives. They must have just laughed all the time.”

I don’t know that anyone can really make you happy if they don’t make you laugh.  Come on, you watched the royal wedding – admit it! And Duke Balding Spot & Duchess Shinylocks giggled at each other the entire time they were at the altar. And according to the community of, someone, I don’t know, apparently females with an overt good sense of humor are hard to find. Don’t force it. But yes, self-deprecation is a good first step toward humor.

7 ) Vary your photos. The ex who I am still good friends with gave me this tip. It’s always good to show yourself traveling, experiencing many different things and places. Scary marina guy I mentioned only had photos of him jumping off of cliffs, shirtless, somewhere in South America. Should have been a sign.

That said, photos of you holding someone else’s baby that are so popular on facebook might not be your best bet.  Being a perpetual, doting aunt is something you might want bring up after you’ve already started dating someone.

8 ) No fewer than four, no more than seven photos. Again, vary it, and update them if you can. There is no shame in taking living room photos to look good. Match them up, though, with other fun photos of you doing NON-INTERNET stuff.  People want to see you doing more than one thing.  Then, potential dates imagine they can actually have a life with you, not just evenings spent inside while one person is on the computer and the other is playing a video game.  Wait, that’s most of my weeknights with – forget it.

9 ) Be positive. There’s self-deprecation, and then there’s self-pity. I met a dude online who (first bad sign) immediately told me we were meant to be. He gave me all sorts of reasons why. He was somewhat charming, and super nerdy, which is always a plus. But then he’d talk about how horrible everything was: dropped out of college for a number of reasons, family house in foreclosure, legal troubles, etc. Everything he wrote me was either “My life is utterly miserable” or “When are we going to cuddle and watch Dr. Who?” That was a paradox I did not want to enter.  A healthy relationship is not one where you are truly someone’s only reason for existing. If people have lots of selection, and you’re riddled in misery, potential mates are going to move on. Things may be pretty damn sucky, but no one likes a troll, and if you’re looking to repopulate the species, you might want to be in the right frame of mind to do so.

9A ) As mentioned, no one likes a troll. The fastest way into a woman’s pants is not by telling her she’s too smart for her own good. This needs no more explanation.

10 ) Don’t base your entire life around online dating. The people you’re looking for as improvements to your life will not come forth unless you’re making strides to improve yourself. Online dating should be only one part of making yourself the best you can possibly be, not only for your future mate but for yourself.

In my six month period of serial online dating, I was hitting the gym 3-4 times a week, and fully enjoying my weekends. I was planning a summer trip with my best friend up and down the California coast, and then made it an enormous trip by flying out to Seattle, followed by New York. I had a steady job, I was fully supporting myself, living alone, and doing pretty well.  I was in a good space personally, just not romantically.  Even if you’re in a bad space now, but doing something to be a productive member of society will help your chances way more than any clever witticisms in an online dating profile.

Along the lines of no one likes a troll, your friendships are important. You can try to get as much nice-nice as you can, but you have to support and nurture your friendships. One of the most attractive things to me about T-storm was the massive cloud of extremely loyal friends he was constantly surrounded by. The first week we were dating, I met his close friend & former roommate, and that was my first interrogation question: how long have you guys been friends? His answer was “twelve years.” And that spoke volumes to me.

And if you’re traveling, spending quality time with your friends, or running a 5K, you have better photos for your profile. Hawt.

LAST TIP: stop reading advice on how to find someone to love and be yourself. It’s all timing, and it’s totally luck, sure, but it’s possible. It’s out there. There’s a port for every ship – in truth, some of the strangest people I’ve ever met, the least likely candidates for marriage I know are also some of the happiest married people I know. It’s the successful, independent, loyal, with-it types who seem to have the problems.

As for why that is, ask Dr. Phil or something. I’m tapped.

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Filed under advice, love, nerds

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