Tag: online dating

Is Modern Life Killing Courtship?

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Our dating expert Sara Lynn Michener shows us the up side of dating in the Digital Age.

It’s not what form of media you use, it’s how you use it.

I’m really profoundly tired of all the trend pieces that have been coming out proclaiming that Twitter, Facebook, texting, and otherwise “modern life” is destroying romance. Clearly, they are written by and about people who aren’t enjoying what dating is today instead of those who are. Writers are interviewing people who are trapped in a state of perpetual confusion; navigating these digital love waters in paper ships, and then forming sweeping conclusions about those waters instead of the seaworthiness of its vessels. Arguably, any other new strain of culture would be documented from the perspective of those who are successfully shaping its future. This other approach is like telling the story of a new social media application solely from the perspective of its least savvy users.

Online Dating Etiquette: It’s Kinder to Ignore Some Messages, Baltimore

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One of the questions people ask me most about online dating is how to get over the nagging feeling of guilt when you must ignore someone’s enthusiastic message.

Most of the time, it’s easy. The guy has a 50 percent enemy match against your profile. The guy’s profile picture is his headless bare chest. But now and again, you find it’s not as clear cut, and you sit there, struggling, staring at the screen, trying to think of an excuse, or a more polite way out. “Thanks! But also no thanks” doesn’t cut it. This is the internet. Everything nice you mean to say winds up sounding rude and you know it. So does the person who is about to get rejected. Sometimes they react bitterly, and the only upside of that is you know you made a good decision. (If you’re easily offended on the whole, boys and girls, you’re asking for a daily kick in the #&@! from life).

The misnomer “online dating” is the culprit, when it is not so easy. Perusing the profiles of strangers is not dating, it’s online shopping. You’re shopping online for guys and gals to date at some future-possible point. That is what you’re doing. And you feel bad, because you’re not accustomed to treating people the way you treated your last Amazon.com purchase — not like objects. But the thing is, you also kinda are.

Breakup Badge: Rejection’s an Accomplishment?

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Dear Sara,

The same pattern keeps repeating. I meet someone online, we spend weeks or months talking. We talk on the phone, we email, we Skype — he tells me how awesome I am, how I’m just what he’s looking for. We go on one date, maybe two, and I never hear from him again. I’m starting to take this personally. How can I know what I’m doing wrong when these guys won’t tell me why they suddenly lose all interest?

Here’s the thing about online dating: The actual dating isn’t supposed to happen online. It can, if both parties are really good at writing or some other form of remote communication, but ultimately there is NO reason why you ought to be waiting several weeks or months to meet
someone in person, unless he lives in a different state or continent. Meet him or her in a public place as soon as you feel safe enough to do so, yet curious enough to make it worth your time. Why? Because an ounce of experiential data is worth a terabyte of pictures, video, and email. If you’re already attached to someone you haven’t met, chances are you’ve waited too long, and both of you are setting yourselves up for some sort of delayed disappointment. (Unless, of course, you share the mutual chemistry you hope for.)

There is more to meeting in person than simply verifying that a person looks like their pictures. So much, that we’ve only scratched the surface of the science behind it. Consider it nature’s overly complicated way of making sure genes are distributed widely. We have a population of seven billion now. I personally love being picky: The way a person holds themselves, the way they smell even when they are clean, etc. If you’ve ever rejected someone yourself, and I hope you have, you’ve got to give humanity the right to reject you as well, carte blanche. Physical attraction is important to all of us in different ways. We’re all affected by it, but we all translate it or describe it differently, in part because we all want different things at different times, and even the most self-aware person is still only half sure of what they want. In a sense, all dating is blind dating. We play chess with each other. We hide our faults — sometimes we’re hiding our best features. We reveal our strengths, strengths which we adore about ourselves, yet can easily turn others off. If you think about it, there is a certain romantic justice to the whole process. There are no algorithms yet powerful enough to make Person A love Person B.

Here’s hoping that you arm yourself in the future against false expectations by meeting more people, more often, but for now remember that rejection is something both males and females experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we culturally supported widespread constructive criticism between friends and lovers a little more than we do now? Absolutely. Miscommunication often kills perfectly good romances and friendships. Even when people give you a reason, it’s often not the real one. A lot of people with simple rude habits might improve if we told them about it. But for now, when it happens, let yourself be disappointed for one day, tell yourself it could be any little thing, try to shake it off, and focus on the next person the next day. That said, it can be extra harsh when mysterious rejection happens to anyone in succession. Remember: Anyone who doesn’t want to invest in the whole person isn’t worth the time to mourn too deeply. As Marilyn
Monroe said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

Think of the painful experience as a specific Scout badge on the sash of dating. And think of it that way consciously as a method of recovering: Anything worth having is worth enduring pain to achieve, right? Rejection is a kind of an accomplishment. This accomplishment makes you more sensitive to the plight of your friends who have been through similar experiences, hopefully makes you treat others more respectfully than you have been treated, and finally, makes you value what you have when you do eventually find it. (It also emboldens you to humanely reject another, when the gesture is called for.)

And don’t demonize the person who rejected you, because that’s just a hollow way of coping that won’t make you feel any better anyway. Give the person your whole-hearted forgiveness. Give the rejector the right to look for the person worth their time, and accept that for now, that’s not you. Rejection is only bitter if we curl ourselves tightly around it. If you let it go instead, your life will be more beautiful overall, and you will be happier, with or without a significant other.

Got dating questions? Email [email protected]

Online Dating Survival: 10 Messages I Ignored on OKCupid and Why

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1. That guy who didn’t use a single capital letter, yet lacked an ounce of ee. cummings’ charm, whose profile picture was himself, bare chested. Not at the beach, in swimwear (acceptable, if somewhat smarmy), but in a white towel sarong, à la Weiner (not acceptable). He had a nice chest, mind you, but why I’d want to see it at this stage is beyond me, particularly when accompanied by his lame exclusive use of the lower case.

2. That guy who created an entire dating profile as Captain Kirk, using pictures of Captain Kirk, and answering questions as Captain Kirk would answer them. If you really wanted to date me, dork, you would have at least masqueraded as Captain Picard. I’m obviously not a Kirk kind of girl.

3. That guy who is marked as a 29 percent enemy*, and old enough to be my dad–but not in a good way. Gentlemen, if you are Sean Connery or Robert Redford, you can get away with that and more. Otherwise, please remind yourself that you’re not a Silver Fox and stay within your own age margin. (*Enemy percentage = a measure of how many questions each party answered which differed from what the other person desired their match to answer.)

4. That guy whose one picture is of his bare chest, cropped at the neck, thus appearing headless. I am not only not interested, I am terrified. Why you think that anyone would get a positive first impression from a headless bare chest is beyond me.

5. That 20-year-old. I’m 12 years older than you, son. TWELVE. YEARS. I seem to be headed towards eventual Cougardom, but even then I’ll hopefully draw the line at Can’t Legally Drink.

6. That 54 percent enemy whose entire greeting was “are you a hard person to talk to?” Then two hours later, after rightly assuming I had ignored him, sent another one with “guess its a yes? sorry for offending you.” No sense of capitalization, no sense of the wisdom behind enemy percentages, comes off as hostile in less than 20 words, and for that matter, it’s and its aren’t the same. A real winner.

7. That guy in the full Halloween mask–with no other pictures. This isn’t 1997. Lots of people post pictures of their faces on the Internet. The Internet isn’t new and terrifying anymore, but you are.

8. That guy with a picture of a picnic table as his only picture. See above.

9. That married guy, also old enough to be my dad, also not in a good way. See #3

10. That guy with no profile picture whatsoever. Online dating with no picture is like trying to put a teething baby to sleep with a trombone. There are probably blind date websites out there somewhere designed to join together two people too terrified to post their own mugs. By the presence of MY photos, of which there are 10, you know this isn’t that website.

When Should I Tell My Date How My Mind Works?

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Dear Sara,

I have mild Asperger’s Syndrome. Online it isn’t perceivable, but in person people tend to notice that something is slightly odd about me and how I interact socially. I don’t want to scare people off; I also don’t want them dismissing me because they think I’m weird and fail to realize it’s just a processing difference. When do you think would be a good time to tell my dates about it?

I’d recommend putting it directly in your dating profile. If you put yourself out there from the beginning, you know if he contacts you anyway it doesn’t bother him. That said, I certainly don’t think you should see it as a fault, or package it that way in your profile. Our quirks, documentable and certifiable or not, make us interesting and can enhance a profile description (no one picks a profile that reads like a template). I myself have never learned to drive, and I’m cheeky enough to see that as a feature, not a fault. If a guy lives 20 miles away, it means he’s got to come to me…but I slot it directly in my dating profile so that men know I possess what I see as a humanistic philosophy toward transportation. This seems to annoy certain guys, and I’m quite happy to filter those out from the beginning. Move along, boys. Move along.

Dear Sara,

Dating sites want me to give out a lot of personal information like what my sexual preferences are and how I feel about charged political issues. I think those things are better discussed in person. Will people still communicate with me if I omit those elements? The matching software sometimes says it doesn’t have enough information to match me if I don’t reveal very personal stuff, but I’m not comfortable with strangers reading those details–and forming opinions. And is it okay to be on lots of different dating sites? Will people Google my username and find me on seven different sites and think that I’m completely desperate?

In terms of people forming opinions about you, they do that anyway, dear; they do that no matter how little or how much information you give them. The difference is, the more information you provide, the less you need to blame yourself. Don’t let yourself consciously worry about what people think. Everybody catches themselves doing it, but telling yourself it’s not worth your frontal lobes’ time is half the battle. As Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” 

Be on as many different sites as you like!

Fill out everything you have the time for, and watch the math behind those percentages do magic (though they aren’t always right). However, on dating sites, less is never more. An empty profile certainly isn’t representing who you are. I can tell you that I don’t respond to men who haven’t filled out political questions, because the worldview of a prospective mate is very important to me, therefore I don’t want to waste my time on someone who doesn’t share those views. Sites like OKcupid allow people to explain their answers, so if you feel like something is a gray issue, saying so, and explaining why, proves you’ve thought about the topic–and that’s much better anyway than simply checking off a party affiliation. The more information you leave (that isn’t your name and address) the better your results.

Good luck!

Going Online to Find Love

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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 [email protected].

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?
–Anti-Internet

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.

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