Welcome to the third installment on finding love and happiness online. In the previous two columns I discussed selecting a site, posting pictures, and writing your profile. Now it is time to go live and find a date or a mate.
Once you have looked around and read some profiles, hopefully you will have discovered several people you would like to know more about. It is time for first contact. If you are shy, many sites offer a “wink” option, or some other generic, friendly way to signal another user that you are interested. There is actually a lot of ridiculous banter in some profiles about liking or hating this feature, but it’s simply the equivalent of smiling at someone. Do not expect a response, nor should you feel obliged to respond to anyone who sends you the same.
If you are bold and confident, or just moved to great prose by a profile, then I suggest you start with an email. Writing “hi” or “nice profile” in the subject line and hitting send is not an email — that’s what that wink thingy is for. Emails require a body of text with sentences, or at least comprehensible fragments. Feel free to flirt a little. Reveal a little more about yourself and tell them what you liked about his or her profile.Telling someone you think they sound “nice and interesting” is boring. Be specific about why s/he caught your eye.
You will inevitably receive an email from an earnest chap or lady in whom you have no interest. If they sent an actual email with more than, say, seven words, you should reply. Be kind and direct expressing your lack of interest.
If you find yourself engaging in email banter that stirs your heart or loins, you might suggest using a chat window to talk more easily. Use these initial online interactions to not only be coy and fetching, but to check for any obvious turnoffs or just plain crazies. This is safer than immediately giving out your number, but after three or four emails you may exchange a phone number with a reasonably sane-sounding and mutually interested partner. You just can’t learn that much from a person online. You are going to have to meet them or at least talk to them.
If you are unable to set a date or a phone call within three to five emails or an online chat, you might never. I have found that the lollygaggers are usually single for a reason.
Please, please, please always meet your new potential life mates at a public location. I prefer a coffee shop or a café. Dinner is a long meal if you really don’t hit it off. Coffee can be brief, which is important when the person who shows up took the picture before they shaved their head and gained 40 pounds and picks their nose in public. I also think it is wise to tell at least one close friend that you are going out on a first date with a stranger you met on the internet. Safety first, kids.
Keep the first meeting to just that. This removes a lot of expectation and disappointment for everyone. If you hit it off, make a real date. Be flexible, but have guidelines for what you want and don’t want to do on the first several dates. For instance, I won’t go to a movie till the fourth date. Movies do not allow for talking and interaction. I prefer to spend time getting to know a guy in the beginning.
When do you kiss or get naked? Attraction and chemistry will often answer this question for you, but having a few standards will stop you from a string of regrets. My basic rule is to not go to a guy’s house (or invite him to mine) till the third date. Sometimes I let this rule slide, but I keep my pants on.
I will leave you with a quick semester review. Find the dating site(s) that best match your goals, gather a couple of good pictures, write an honest profile, make contact, email, chat, talk, tell a friend, meet for coffee, go on some dates, have safe sex, and live happily ever after. Rinse and repeat if necessary.
Next week: Back to the mail box! Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.