I fell head over heels in love in the wake of my divorce.
He was a writer, a man who could twist words into sinewy, sensual, compelling threads that wound me closer and closer to him, binding my heart to his, filling the gaping hole of neediness that too many years of married loneliness had opened in my soul. I absorbed his words greedily. I believed. I loved.
And then he was gone.
Broken-hearted, I turned to an online dating service, encouraged by my worried single friends who’d had success there. More than 20 years had passed since my single days; I was a complete ignoramus when it came to modern dating. The words lamb and slaughter might be appropriate when describing that early period.
I’ve since learned that, once contemporary trappings are stripped away, the man-woman mating dance hasn’t changed, only its venue, which both fascinates me and repels me. The pick-up line that was once delivered with a wink (either charming or smarmy, depending on the person) has become the pick-up line delivered with an emoticon. Still uncertain about negotiating this strange new dating world, I’ve de-activated and re-activated countless times since I first opened the account, becoming a little more savvy each time. And although I’m far from expert, here are a few observations I’ve made along the way:
Posting photos is tricky.
You want to post the most flattering ones (naturally), but your most flattering ones might elicit some pretty boorish responses. I tend to post yoga poses because I’m most comfortable in my skin (and therefore most natural) when I’m doing yoga. Plus I look the most put-together in my yoga clothes, having no fashion sense in the real world. But I find that yoga poses seem to evoke some pretty explicit fantasies of bendy-twisty bedroom antics. Which leads to interesting observation #1:
If they really like your photo, chances are they won’t read your profile.
For example, one of my non-negotiables is no text speak (unless you’re actually texting and have a letter-count limit, if there is such a thing.) Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I find it a little teenagery weird and off-putting when a 50-year old man writes, U R hott (And if it’s a letter-count thing, why the extra “t”? And how does one respond to that anyway?) Yet I still receive these sorts of messages on a regular basis even though my profile clearly states that I despise text speak (I don’t even text in text speak.)
If you respond at all, it’s often taken as a sign of interest, even if your response is a polite, Thanks, but no thanks.
Then if you don’t respond to the response to your response, be prepared for a new response slamming your character. Forget the lessons learned as a child about politeness. Do not respond further. Delete and block.
If you respond with friendliness (more than once), next comes the push for your phone number.
I recently read an exchange between some male Facebook friends on this subject; in brief, they wrote, if the sparks aren’t flying when you chat, don’t waste money on a date (dude). It was interesting to learn the male point of view, but for women, withholding such information is a precaution (not that women can’t become raving stalker lunatic manics, too). Sites like these exist to act as a safe clearinghouse, and safe includes not giving out private details that can be tracked (i.e., through reverse lookup sites). The men who push extra hard tell me to call them instead (like, duh, my number wouldn’t show up on their Caller ID?). But, hey. The bottom line is, if my comfort is not your concern, and if I’m not worth an hour of your time for a quick, cheap coffee date in a neutral location, then you’ve just illustrated perfectly why I shouldn’t give you my number. And even though I refuse to give out my phone number until a face-to-face occurs, I make sure to pay for my coffee so it’s clear I’m not angling for a free meal hit-and-run. I think that’s fair.
After you agree to meet someone, sometimes they don’t show up.
Of course, I realize that by not exchanging phone numbers, I make it difficult to be contacted if an emergency arises. But shouldn’t there be a follow-up message later? No-shows resonate through every insecure, paranoid bone in my body: maybe they saw me in the window and ran away screaming in fright. It must have something to do with the fact that I’m not wearing my yoga clothes and okay, sometimes my shoes don’t match.
Twenty-something men seem to troll for certain age-something women late at night.
I guess quite a few have bought into the whole cougar/Mrs. Robinson fantasy. Let me set the record straight: Not all single women of a certain age are desperate, horny, withered females looking for a young male stud to relieve our loneliness (wait, let me think about that.) Which leads to interesting observation #7:
If you happen to be a woman of a certain age, men your age are looking for women at least ten, preferably twenty, years younger.
Some of the best exchanges spring from the most unexpected sources.
I received a message from a lesbian: witty, funny, and full of perky charm. She wrote that even though I was straight, she thought I was adorable and she just wanted me to know. That’s the word she used: adorable. I was so tickled over her message, which I found adorable, that I wrote back and began a correspondence. Her sassy missives continue to make me laugh, with no pressure of expectations.
It’s too easy to become mired in superficialities when the warmth of a sincere personality can’t offset perceived, usually minor, online faults.
I am as guilty of this as those who judge me.
Last but never least: trust your instincts.
The man who seems controlling in messages will try to hijack the relationship. The man who seems desperate will cling. The man who is still talking about his ex-relationship isn’t over it. The man who seems too private will shut you out. The man who seems open and nice is usually open and nice.
Despite the land mines and pitfalls and the huge learning curve, making online friendships can be fun.
Recently, having realized I don’t want the whole forever love thing right now, being consumed with work, family, yoga, friends and the simple joy of alone time, I changed my profile to Friendship Only. It’s made a huge difference in the quality of responses and in my attitude toward those responses.
The men who don’t read my profile or who are seeking a serious dating relationship are politely rebuffed or, depending on the message’s ick-factor, simply deleted. Those who do read my profile, who write articulately and in full sentences, and who are more than happy to meet me, have turned out to be thoughtful, interesting men who could enrich my life. And that’s what it’s all about: connections, friendships, and let’s-see-what-happens.
I’d love to read a man’s rebuttal to this, as I’m sure I (and countless other women) are unconsciously sabotaging our shots at potentially wonderful. Men…your thoughts?
Melinda Matthews lives in sunny South Florida, where she eschews the norm and spends very little time on the beach. She’s an urban planner by profession, a newly-minted yoga teacher by passion, and, in her most sigificant role, a loving parent to three incredible children. She’s also a wannabe artist, writer, and musician. She believes a well-lived life includes friends, family, joy, peace, love and the perfect caramel macchiato.