Heart advice from super-smart artist Sara Lynn Michener, an experienced romancer who lives and loves in Ellicott City, looks great in jogging clothes, and attended the Obamas’ Christmas party this year. Ask Sara for dating advice at saralynn@baltimorefishbowl.com.

Dear Sara,
I’m sketched out/embarrassed by the notion of online dating, and I shouldn’t be, I think, because there seem to be few ways these days to meet single men otherwise. What’s wrong with me, and how can I get a grip on the keyboard?
–Site Shy in Hampden

Site Shy,
Dating online is like The Diving Board when you were little. After you?do it once, you realize it’s just a way to get in the water all at once rather than little by little; the experience of immersion rather than wading. Online dating is an efficient filtering tool if you know exactly what you want. You have to go by the assumption that people are filling out questions honestly, sure. Some guys will fill out questions based on what they think their type of girl wants to hear, but you have that problem in real life too. Just be sure to be safe about it. Meet prospective dates in public places, and don’t give them much access to your real life until you feel comfortable doing so. (That said, unfortunately the only dangerous experiences I’ve ever had were with men who knew me fairly well.) Nevertheless, discuss these things openly with the other person, so any of your precautions are not interpreted as frigidity, paranoia, or disinterest. If he isn’t interested in waiting till you feel safe, he’s either totally oblivious to what life is like online for girls, or he’s an ass and not worth it anyway. Be prepared to receive spine-chilling emails from men who haven’t read your profile and are not paying any attention to your likes and interests, and feel free to ignore or block those emails. You have to be somewhat tough; save the sweetness for the person you end up dating long-term. Oddly enough, my biggest problem with online dating is philosophical. In real life, 90% of the men I have found myself in serious, loving relationships with, I frankly wasn’t remotely attracted to when I first met them; they grew on me. You can’t possibly mimic that experience online unless you go after guys you’re specifically not physically attracted to, which is a TERRIBLE idea. The point of online dating is you get permission to judge people because it’s the only way to do it. You get to ignore men who don’t use spellcheck. Hallelujah. Enjoy it.

Dear Sara,
I’m a 35 y-o who is just not ready to try online dating, and I’m not the type of gal who hangs out in bars (not to mention, it doesn’t seem to be a good way to find quality men) All of the men I meet seem to be gay or married. What are my options?

Dear Anti,
Join the club. We don’t date online because it’s fun (although it can be if you let it, and you’re lucky). We do it because we’re all at some sort of cultural crossroads, at which we have no established language with which we find other single people, thus the internet has at least attempted to fill this void. Take comfort in that; you’re in good confused company. If you insist upon meeting people by chance, you’re going to have to find ways to take advantage of opportunities wherever you find them. Think of the last time you saw a stranger to whom you felt drawn. Did you catch yourself checking to see if he was wearing a wedding band? For me, it was at a Starbucks. I saw a tall, beautiful, pale redheaded man in a nice suit. I’m pretty damn shy, but quirky enough to know when to speak up. So on my way out the door I said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to freak you out, but you’re beautiful.” I gave him a big smile. His face turned bright red, as I continued on my way out the door. (I did not BOLT out the door either!) A bolder woman would have ascertained whether he was straight and single, but I’m proud of the fact that, regardless, I gave a stranger a compliment. He didn’t follow me out the door to ask me who I was, maybe because he was shy, too. But that’s okay, because I felt pretty damn empowered all day over my moment of comparative boldness. I’m guessing you’re not an extrovert, so all I can say is be open to possibility and try to push yourself slightly beyond the boundaries of your?comfort zone. If you’re shy, work with being shy. Your way of being bold might be passing out blushing smiles. Whatever you do, do it for the experience itself, not for the outcome. Be yourself, but be the most fearless version of that person you can be now and then. Oh, and go to weddings alone. Don’t drag your best gay friend as your date! Chances are, your friends are your friends for a reason–I’ve met some fabulous boyfriends through mine.

One reply on “Going Online to Find Love”

  1. Sage advice, neighbor lady. I wholeheartedly agree with “go to weddings alone” and “your friends are your friends for a reason”!

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