10 Totally Random Observations about Online Dating.

Via Melinda Matthews
on Jan 19, 2012
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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:

  1. 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:

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    Denise Mayumi
  6. 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:

  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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?



About Melinda Matthews

Melinda J. Matthews believes a well-lived life overflows with friends and family, love and passion, highs and lows, books, music and art, yoga, multiple cats, travel, and the perfect café con leche. Her inner hippie flower child is convinced she has the power to make the world a better place through her words and actions. And her three children light her up, keeping her world fun, interesting, loving—and a little bit magical. Connect with Melinda on Facebook. Bio picture courtesy of Nerissa Sparkman.


10 Responses to “10 Totally Random Observations about Online Dating.”

  1. catnipkiss says:

    I wrote a note to a guy who sent me one of those annoying "hi" messages. i checked his profile and he said things like "if you don't look like the girl in the bowflex ad, don't say 'athletic' for your body type" (any guess as to whether he was fat and balding? uh-huh!) and "let's just do a drive-by so we can see if we want to actually meet in person." Shallow or WHAT? He wasn't even offended by my chastising note, go figure! Online dating just does not seem worth the time to me anymore; I will be trying to meet someone by serendipity. If that doesn't work, back to the computer I guess! I will be checking to see if any actual MEN leave their responses. – Alexa M.

  2. Melinda says:

    Sorry to hear, Dura! As I said in the article: Delete and block. 🙂 The best lesson I'm learning from this is to spend my energy on the positive and ignore the negative. There are some lonely people out there who take their frustrations out on others. (ps: I like grayscale.)

  3. Judy says:

    Hey Melinda, I loved the article! I have not dated in about 7 years due to work and family commitments, but it brought back some experiences from when I was online dating. I met a few very nice men online, unfortunately, the physical chemistry did not click once we met in person. However, I am still friends with one of the first men I met over 10 years ago. I am more of what you see is what you get and don't want to play any games by trying to seduce someone online. I believe in friendship first and then see what happens. I too would like to see the men's perspective. If I ever get back into the online dating scene, I will refer to this article for advice. :o)

  4. Melinda says:

    Yes, the backwards approach is odd. Like you, I much prefer feeling the "click" of meeting someone in person first, with romance and seduction to follow. I don't online flirt (at least I don't think I do) for that reason.

  5. Melinda says:

    You sound like someone I'd like to meet, Greg! 🙂 I do get a sense that some men have been "burned" by their online experiences, just as women have. But you're right – genuine interest and sincere friendliness go a long way toward breaking the ice.

  6. Melinda says:

    I consider it another way of forming possible connections, as long as one keeps an open mind and isn't on the hunt for the "one." And technology works the other way, around, too – I've watched as my son and his high school girlfriend have kept their connection going strong through texting, emailing, Skyping, etc. while they attend their respective colleges. Thanks for your comment, Judy!

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  8. I have some thoughts about this, as you say from a male perspective. Perhaps it's best to write my own 10 observations:

    1) Photos ARE tricky.

    Do you know how many women post "MySpace angles", hiding their beautiful curves or presenting only their…ahem…assets. We are judgmental, us men, but it's because we all have different tastes. Some men love big women. I don't care for the size 2 skeletons and prefer a classical figure. If you show us what you really look like, you'll get more quality dates. And please ignore the assholes. They don't speak for all of us.

    2) If you aren't posting a full profile, of course men will comment on your appearance instead.

    Please, give us a handle to grasp. Describe what you think, do, and enjoy. I guarantee there are men out there who are so-called "sapiosexuals", but if you don't give us a topic to discuss, we're going to grasp at straws. It's hard to approach a woman with photos and no description. For best results, EXPRESS YOURSELF.

    3) Don't respond if you don't like what you see.

    Seriously. Some men are desperate and even polite rebuffs are seen as a reason to continue. I mean, some men don't take no for an answer. I recommend the "Block and Move On" tactic. I message every woman who seems remotely interesting, with the expectation that 99% of them won't respond. It's nothing new.

    4) Approach men, too. Don't wait for us.

    You can always "Block and Move On" if the response is terrible. In this day and age, there is a whole generation of men who want reciprocity and equal footing. It's not a front (OK, sometimes it is). But the best men are sometimes the most self-effacing, and a bold woman can be very attractive. Your tastes are very important and you should gun for the guys you like. Be bold. Be strong.

    5) It's hard to schedule a date.

    How soon? Where? Is it even OK to ask you out. Be very clear about what you'd enjoy doing, even before anyone messages you. Talk about the Renne Fair, or museums, or plays. Anything at all. Firstly, men want to date women who like what we like, so this will often filter the undesirables. Secondly…see number 2.

    6) Cute and Hot are very different things.

    Keep in mind that some of us aren't very photogenic. Maybe we have friends with crappy photography skills. Or we do things that don't lend well to photos (gamers know all about this). Try to look past these minor issues. Really read (and trust) what we write.

    7) Don't let the bad apples turn you off.

    We're not all the same. Try to let the bad experiences roll off your back. If you take the proper precautions, nothing is permanent online. You can keep going, looking for the right man. Look under every rock. Give each of us a chance (unless we throw a red flag right away.)

    8) Be 100% honest.

    If you like something, say so, and don't say it just to appear more attractive. A friend of mine (who loves ocean fishing) took a girl on a fishing date because she had written that she loved ocean fishing, too. But when they arrived at the dock suddenly she was afraid of the water. She couldn't bear to be anywhere near the railing of the boat, and he realized that she wrote that just to attract more men.

    9) Change your settings to match your expectations.

    As the article says at the end, changing your settings to say "Friendship Only" makes a huge difference. Too many times I read a profile with every setting checked. What do you want? Where do you want a relationship to go? DO you just want sex, or did you check "Casual Encounter" for the hell of it? Narrow your search settings, so that you don't even appear to the men looking for what you're not looking for.

    10) Have fun.

    We can tell if this is a chore for you. Even if you're a sober, serious woman, this is supposed to be a game. I had to learn this the hard way. I approached it like a job search, and that's just not the way to do it. The idea is to find someone you could enjoy being around, so be light-hearted and natural.

    Finally, stop looking for subtle clues. I expect women to prefer going dutch these days. Paying for the meal, or splitting the check, isn't a sign of interest or disinterest. We aren't there to buy you off, but if you want a man who WILL pick up the check, make it clear. Just don't read too much into such things. This goes for almost everything we do. Innuendo and subtlety works for some men, but not others.

  9. Melinda says:

    I wish I had notifications whenever a new comment is posted as I would had answered sooner. This is an AWESOME response, and I'm glad I happened to see it. Thank you!