Successful Online Dating Part 6: Being engaging

Okay, so you have a compelling profile, some snazzy pictures, and now it’s time to complete the action:

Get out there and make conversation!

There are two ways this happens, and you have to be prepared for both.  The first is that someone happens upon your profile either through their filtered search or through a site suggestion, and they contact you.  The second is that you find someone interesting and you message them.

First contact protocols

Here is how to not get a lot of responses:

“hi babee ur hawt wanna fuk”

“how are you today?”

“wuts yer favrit sex posishun”

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There are multiple problems with these.  First, there’s next to no spellchecking or grammar going on.  Second, there’s nothing attractive or appealing about them.  Third… do I really need to explain more?

Making contact with someone is about initiating a conversation, starting a process of exchange, not about negotiating the price of immediate sexual intercourse.  (Of course, there are some places like that, but we’re talking about dating here, not just hooking up for the night anonymously.)  If someone took the time to write a profile, take the time to read it.  There will be at least a few cues in there about their interests, and if they resonate with you, mention it.  Here are some of the real phrases I’ve used to initiate contact with someone:

“You like BSG, Firefly, and you’ve seen ‘the Man from Earth’?  I bet we could talk for hours.  What did you think about John Oldman in MFE?  Was he making it up, or was he telling the truth?”

“I just had to drop a line and say, I *love* your hat!  You look so dapper in it!  Where were you when that photo was taken?  Is that White Rock Lake?”

“I’ve always thought it was rude to add someone to Favorites and rate them highly without contacting them, so I’m dropping you a note.  I know we’re a couple of states away from each other, but we have so much in common.  It’s not everyday that you run into someone else who has read the entire works of Hakim Bey.”

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See?  And everyone one of those messages started a conversation that went a pretty far distance.  I’ve even been out with two of them.

Before I hear the whining and complaining from the menfolk about how it’s so easy for girls to get responses from guys, pay close attention:  It’s not about getting a response, it’s about establishing a conversation, which is an integral part of recognizing another human as a human.  Ideally, it’s a human that you’re trying to find a relationship with.

How long does your first contact message need to be?  You should probably keep it around a decent paragraph – five sentences or so – with questions and statements both.  Perfectly delightful people have been passed over either because their first contact was a single sentence of no substance or because their first contact was a veritable wall of text that responded to every single statement made in a profile.  In both cases, the intimidation factor is immense because there’s nothing for the responder to work with.

When and how to respond

You’ve received a first-contact from someone, and now the onus is on you to decide how to reply.  I realize that I’m a strange duck because I literally reply to every single message I receive.  That’s not to say I start a full-fledged conversation, but I do reply.

Here’s what happens:  Guy Smiley contacts me, and before I respond, I check out his profile.  Do we have a lot in common?  Is he within my age range?  Is there any kind of underlying manipulative or passive-aggressive language in his essays?  What does he look like?  Would I be crushed under his weight or would we clatter together like a couple of bags of bones?  Does his overall style appeal to me?

If he’s appealing and he’s given me an in (a question or leading statement that is more than a generic compliment), I answer his question with an answer and try to make my response around twice as long as his for very short messages and about the same length as his for longer messages.  The same is true for the opposite gender, and I’ve found that most people naturally respond in about that length to my first contacts as well.

If he’s not appealing to me, I will try to write a polite yet specific statement about why I don’t want to pursue a conversation.  I have said all of the following:

  • “I’m sorry, I’m old enough to be your mother.  That may not be a problem for you, but it totally ooks me out beyond reason.”
  • “I’m deeply flattered by your advances and I’m sure your cock is significant, but I’m not really interested in that kind of liaison.”
  • “I looked through your profile and it seems that we have absolutely nothing in common.  In fact, we’re gauged at over 60% enemies besides the 8% match, and I’ve found that this number pretty accurately reflects what kind of spontaneous conflagration would happen if we occupied the same space for more than five minutes – and I don’t mean that in the good, happy, fun way.”
  • “I’m not really sure what language you were using in your message to me, and Google Translate couldn’t figure it out for me.  I’m afraid I’m not quite skilled enough at charades to try a relationship with someone despite a clear language barrier.”
  • “Oh, gods, no.  I have no idea what on earth you’ve learned about speaking to other humans, let alone females, and not even getting into the question of the anatomical possibility of such a thing, but your continued singleness is not a mystery.”

And for every one of them – including the last one – I ended the response with “But good luck on your search.”

Every now and again, someone will write back after I’ve sent a considered rejection and thank me for my time, and often they will ask what I felt they could do better.  I try to help where I can, and sometimes it turns into a pretty reasonable friendship – a guarantee that it will go nowhere romantic or even in-person, but at least we can laugh about some funny faux pas we run into.

A final thought

Regardless of the kind of relationship you’re looking for, being polite and respectful will get you a lot further than vulgar and tacky.  Being nice to someone doesn’t cost you anything, and if you’re afraid that even responding a little will cause a problem, there are things like “block” buttons and “report user” links.  We’ll talk more about how to use those later.

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Successful Online Dating Part 2: Putting your best face forward

The first step in getting the right kind of attention on an online dating site is…

Take some decent pictures – and post them.

You may think that you’re being coy or establishing a sense of mystery by not putting a picture on your profile, but what you’re actually conveying is that you don’t believe that you’re visually compelling.  The alternate interpretation is that you really are hiding, and you don’t want people in the office to know that you’re on an online dating site.  Or perhaps that you don’t want your wife/husband/significant other to know that you’re on an online dating site.  If this is the case, you’re just going to have to deal with being low-traffic, I’m afraid.

Consider that a lot of profiles get passed over first on image and second on content.  When you post your pictures, try to make sure that your lead photo (the profile default) really looks like you and isn’t overly done-up with effects or artistic license.  At the same time, if you have some kind of distinctive fashion feature – glasses, hats, etc – wear them!  The default photo, especially, should strike a good balance between who you are and what makes you interesting.

Your “support photos” (the ones that people see when they actually view your profile) should NOT include your kids.  It’s not that we don’t want to know that you have kids, but there are creepers out there in the world that will exploit them if they have a chance.  Keep your family pictures to a more established and known-safe exchange.  Now, as far as pictures of your pets are concerned… there’s a bit of a divide about this.  Your dog is your best friend, and that’s awesome, but don’t try to get cutesy and show off the pic where you’re getting slipped the tongue.  Very not sexy.  Plus, creepers can exploit that, too.

Definitely show pictures of you taking part in your pastimes.  Sitting on your motorcycle, snowboarding, rock-climbing, and whatever else it is that you day-star dwellers do gives people a good idea of what you’re all about.  Just as a point of reference, though: taxidermy, field-dressing deer, and last Halloween’s cross-dressing hoochie mama outfit might not necessarily get the responses you want.

Now, for the list of Absolute No-Nos and Yes-Yeses:

DO NOT POST PICTURES OF:

  • Your schlong.  Show some propriety, even if you’re only out for a lay.  Most sites will delete it anyway.
  • Your naked (male) torso.  Unless you have had professional pictures done, you don’t look anywhere near as awesome in the bathroom mirror as you think you do.  Yes, we can see you’ve been working out.  Good for you.  The lighting still sucks.
  • Your (female) cleavage.  Yes, that might be a selling point, but we’ve found profiles of ladies looking for a Knight In Shiny Armor, and all they’re showing is their wenchiness.
  • Duck lips.  Seriously.  They’re scary and ugly.  Bigger is not better.
  • Your wedding.  This brings in the creep factor and begs the question of what you’re really looking for.
  • Your former S.O. cut or edited out.  Just get new ones made, man.  Unless you broke up with her last week, we now know that you do not look nearly as awesome as you did back then.
  • Angles.  Back in the MySpace days, the Angles were notorious signs of a Visual Challenge.  They’re not artistic, they’re hiding a multitude of body-sins, and when we meet in person, it’s not going to go well.  It is a form of dishonesty.  These are the ones from Up High, sultry from Down Low, tilted around to show the one good body line you think you’ve got… and they are an immediate Red Flag that you are not all that.
  • You in sunglasses, hoods, or masks.  Creep factor 12 if we can’t see your eyes.  What are you hiding from again?  Is it your wife or the authorities?

DEFINITELY POST PICTURES OF:

  • Your face.  Yes, we want to know what you look like, especially if we’re meeting you in real life.  Standing around a restaurant with a name sign is not a fun time.
  • Your hobbies.  Show us that awesome single-gear bike and that fantastic knitted lace throw.
  • A fully-clothed body shot.  How tall do you weigh?  Numbers only go so far, so show us where your “plump” is.  Guess what?  A lot of men and women like a little upholstery to bounce on.
  • Your smile.  The Number One biggest turn-off when we did a highly unscientific poll of close friends and relatives was the Angry Face, or a complete lack of a Smiling Face.  If you’re such a sour-puss, why does anyone want to hang out with you?  You’re not being sultry, you’re being sulky.

Tune in tomorrow for more fun adventures in getting your profile to work for you!

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Successful Online Dating Part 1: Why Online Dating Rocks

I have become even more of a proponent of online dating.  It’s not just that some of the happiest couples I know met online, it’s that it presents a fantastic side-step to the aggravation of trying to date in “real life”.  For a geek like me, I appreciate immensely the practicality of being able to scan through someone’s profile ahead of time to get to the common ground rather than having to go through sometimes painful exchanges across a table in a dimly-lit pub.

I often say that online dating is for two groups of people – those who lack social skills and those who lack social opportunity.  (There’s a third group that lacks both, but that’s a topic for the Friday Guy.)  Me, I (mostly) fall in to the latter category, and I generally try to select for people who also fit there was well.  (I will overlook social graces for the sake of … well, a few things… but that’s another story.)

The “lacks social skills” people are the ones who are generally personable – once you get to know them.  The problem is that in social settings, they freeze up, clam up, or start shouting, completely obliterating the chance to know anything about them.  They are the ones that need a built-in ice-breaker, and this is where the internet is a fantastic thing.  When you connect with someone via an online dating site, the questions and formats are designed to help facilitate the whole “getting to know you” thing.  The ice breaker happens before you ever meet face to face, and if you’re lucky, you’ll arrive at your lunch or dinner date ready to carry on the conversation that you started in IMs or emails.

The “lacks social opportunity” people are folks who just don’t get out much.  That’s not to say that they’re all introverted shut-ins.  Sometimes we they have such incredibly busy schedules that finding a social situation in which to meet people is well-nigh impossible.  Their time is so valuable that the prospect of having to take two or three dates just to figure out if someone is compatible is daunting and unpleasant, and this will keep them off the streets and out of the market, sometimes indefinitely.

There are, of course, plenty of people who overlap these two areas, and that makes online dating even better for them.

The wonder of the internet is that we can easily scan through profiles and find out if someone is worth the effort of getting out of our comfort zones.  On many sites, you can search for keywords or set up filters to show us the folks that are most likely to make it to first base.  And it’s not like we’re just talking about life-long soul mates and wanna-get-married couples.  Those who are in it just for a little fun and games can find what they want, too, without having to worry about the doe-eyed professions of undying love after the first romp in the hay.

Perhaps the most basic description of why online dating is really the best method for meeting people in today’s culture is that it cuts through the torturous crap and limitations of seeking out partnership in a localized environment and opens up whole new ranges of opportunity in places you wouldn’t normally have thought to look.  When we have existing social settings – work, church, school, specific clubs or pubs we like – we’re limited in the kinds of people we’re going to meet, and that means that our potential for growth and being introduced to new things is greatly diminished.  When we meet someone online who likes some of the same things we do, they can introduce us to whole new genres of music or movies we’ve never heard of, and that just makes our experiences as humans richer.

It’s a more efficient and effective way of doing things.  I’m not saying that everyone and their dog needs to get online to date, but I am saying that the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Over the next few days, stay tuned in because I am going to go over the classic Dos and Don’ts of online dating and how make your profile the kind that gets the best kind of attention – no matter what kind of connection you’re looking for.

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A return to the fray

Copyright 2012 Randy Glasbergen - http://www.glasbergen.com/

There are many weird twists and turns in my life, even on a daily basis, and recent experience of the romantic variety has led me again to the realm of needing to date.

Given what you might already know about me, you’re probably look at the word “need” and saying to yourself, “WTF!?!?

That’s okay. I did, too.

What I came to realize is that for single parents, having a life outside of the kids is not a luxury.  In many cases, it’s a necessity that allows us to keep our overall lives in perspective and thereby be better parents.  For me, it’s maybe a little more important than that because I also have a special-needs kid, and that alone can be enormously overwhelming.  “Special needs” is hard enough, but when you don’t feel that you’re getting solid answers or that maybe they/we could be doing something more to handle it, you start looking for answers on your own, and then it gets even more intense… but that’s the topic of another post.

This post is about my return to online dating sites.

In the past, I’ve tried a few of them.  There was Plenty of Fish, which I determined was really good if you liked the low-brow approach and were more open to casual hookups than serious relationships.  Then there was PunkMatch, which was … well, let’s just say it was a total sausage-fest, which might sound like a great resource for women, but the majority of the time, it was pretty clear why these fellows were still single.  And then there was HerWay, and that was pretty neat.  On HerWay, the men cannot contact the women – the women have to initiate contact, and then they can talk.  It’s a typical pay-to-talk-more site, but it’s a nice concept.

Recently, I decided instead to go with a tried-and-true and give OKCupid a shot.  After all, the ex met his love there, I know a great number of people who have used it with fantastic results, and I’m always up for an adventure.

I don’t mean to make this a review for all dating sites, or any really, but I do appreciate the metrics that OKCupid use to match people up.  On other sites, the factors were highly limited, but with this one, the questions can go on indefinitely.  I’m given to understand that there are thousands of questions you can answer and tons of tests you can take, but the basic rules still apply:  be honest on your profile or you’re going to end up attracting the wrong end of the dating spectrum.

I’d like to take a minute to explore this concept more completely, because (as per usual), there was a huge response off the bat of people who clearly did not match my profile metrics at all but insisted on trying to get my attention anyway.  I do my best to be very polite and clear when speaking with these folks – “I’m sorry, but I don’t see that we’ll be able to get on well.” – so it’s not something that I find immediately offensive, but it is potentially enormously offensive in the long run.

The apparent logic behind this tactic of contacting every single woman on a site like this is the same as a guy who goes into a bar and propositions every single woman there, figuring that “it only takes one ‘yes’ to make up for ten ‘no’s.”  While it may make sense from an economic point of view wherein all products are essentially equal, it does not make sense in a human setting.

Here’s what the dating world does not seem to realize, at least on the “dishonest profile” level:

  • You are not an interchangeable cog.
  • You cannot be replaced by something of equal or lesser value.
  • You will only be truly satisfied in a relationship when you are regarded and respected for who and what you are, so if you are duplicitous, you will never achieve that.
  • Likewise, the person you are trying to attract also wants to be regarded and respected for who and what they are, and if you’re just going down the list like a sugar fiend looking under every rock possible for the next piece of Easter candy, the chances that you’re going to be cognizant enough to recognize the value of the object of your desire is minimal.

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So, again, please.  If you’re going to try out the online dating sites, do so with a hefty dose of honesty and clarity.  You have to honor yourself before anyone else can honor you.

To illustrate this, a fellow I spoke with recently wondered that girls in high school some ten or more years ago seemed to have no interest in sports or politics, but if you go to online dating sites, especially, you see dozens or even hundreds of women who talk about their sports fanaticism, their strong political stance, and often their deep love for camping and fishing.  These are all traditionally “guy things”, and I know that doesn’t mean that girls “shouldn’t” do it, but the impression is that many women got into the sports and outdoorsy stuff, at least, because they wanted to have something in common with the guys they liked.  And the guys were thrilled at this at first because they suddenly had to work less at finding commonality with girls!  And then, they started going to sporting events together and the guys realized… that often, sporting events were supposed to be “time away from the romance”, that “personal space” that is critical when you’re in a relationship so that you can maintain your sense of self.

It was a brilliant plan to bring people together, this “common ground of masculine pastimes”, but before you ladies decide that this is what you need to be “into” to attract a man, try to think it through a little more.  If you like it for the sports’ sake, then more power to you, but maybe pick someone who roots for a rival team.  (The grudge sex could be amazing.)

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Stay tuned as I share my adventures and maybe try to break my previous record of consecutive “first dates”.  Yes, I’m still poly, and very picky, but human contact is necessary. (Or not.)