By Veteran of First Dates
After my San Diego divorce in the early part of this century, and then after a few false-starts in dating other women, I finally set out to date with a more self-conscious awareness.
Being in my mid-fifties, it was not easy to meet people – not being a bar kind of guy -, and after exhausting friends of friends, friends of family, former girlfriends, going on one blind date, participating in one of those “quick dating” rounds at a restaurant, I came to realize that there must be better and more modern ways to meet women – and men – in this society.
And there is. It’s called internet dating.
Once I signed up on at least three or four different sites, Match.com being the most popular, and going through the necessary prerequisites for internet dating, such as displaying at least one good photo, some kind of self-deprecating introductory description of myself, and trying to figure out what kind of people I wanted to date, I was set.
Most of the dating sites – which of course cost money – have a system of “winks” where you can browse through photos and descriptions of people, and then leave them the signal that you were interested in at least going on line with them for a discussion or exchanging phone numbers.
So, that’s it. You go online at your dating site, and begin the process of both exhibiting yourself via your page – which the site sets up – no worries there (even if you’re not into the technology), and doing the browsing of those you’d like to meet and date.
However, the process of going through these individual pages can be both exhilarating and depressing. On one hand, it is exciting to look at people, their pictures and the slices of their lives they share - who seem great – and imagine dating them. You figure out how far you’re willing to drive to date and start laying down those winks.
Yet after doing this numerous times and waiting for responses can be depressing, as it sinks in that many of those you “winked” at could care less about you. Those images of you and them crumbles into cyberdust. It ain’t gonna happen, you realize. But you keep on, you have to be optimistic. And you do get return winks, and you do begin to share phone numbers, make those calls, and actually set up and go on dates.
It is a dance – the whole process of dating on line. I experienced many of them and do I have many stories to tell. Over the course of 5 years of dating, I went on one hundred first dates. Yes, that’s right. 100 first dates. I went on so many first dates I could write a book – or at least set up an online internet dating advice column.
One hundred first dates sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But if you spread that hundred out over 5 years, it’s not even two first dates a month. And I’m being specific about first dates.
There’s an art and magic to first dates, there is. I should know. There all unspoken rules, there are cautionary tactics, there are red flags – and first dates and more can be quite fun and joyous too. Don’t forget that. Ya gotta have fun while dating – not just you – but you and your date.
Now, don’t get it wrong. I didn’t spend all those years just going on first dates – that would be strange. No, for part of that time, I would have numerous dates with the same woman, … even relationships. I was in one relationship with a person I met via Match for over a year. And no, I didn’t go on first dates or other dates while in that relationship. At least I didn’t.
Despite the fun and joy … on occasion, internet dating can be very frustrating and harsh. I learned many lessons, and a good number the hard way. So, I might as well pass on some advice on the subject, since I’m so versed in it. I’ve imagined doing a book or a column entitled: “Internet Dating for the Metro Male“. Or something like that. I actually began writing it, and if I receive some good responses here, I just might. I have a lot of advice for women, too, for they’re the ones I dated.
So, here’s five lessons:
No. 1) You gotta have a hard shell when you’re trying to date on the internet through the various dating sites. There are many rejections – you “wink” at someone and never hear back, or you begin an online discussion, and they quit on you without a goodbye or a howdy-do. But in reality, they’re rejections from strangers who don’t actually know you – so, you can’t take it too personally. Perhaps “shell” isn’t the right term, but you need to shore up your emotions and not get discouraged because of people who don’t wink back, who don’t acknowledge you, or in some manner or form, reject you.
No. 2) People lie on their internet dating site pages. This probably should not come as a deep surprise. But they do – both men and women dissuade you from the truth with intentional falsehoods. Like, you know, their age. That’s a big one. One person I ended up dating had erased ten years with a slight feint of the keyboard. From my own experience I know this, and I heard plenty of stories by women I dated about men and their cyber lies. Just be forewarned. Don’t go into this internet dating stuff naive.
No. 3) You gotta have a nice picture of yourself up on the dating site. This is important, I’m telling you. If you post your intro without a photo, you will not get the attention you want or deserve. Figure out a way on this – most of the sites have an easy method to follow in posting photos – and have a focused photo with your face clearly shown. Go ahead and throw several pics up there – not too many, however, or it will seem like you’re desperate or you don’t care about your privacy. For women: do not, repeat, do not include photos of former boyfriends – this is very obvious – and do not include photos of yourself with your girlfriends. Why? Why muddy the waters? Especially if they’re cute. Why push competition. Many times while starring at someone’s photo, I can’t figure out who’s who. At this stage of the dating process, men won’t know you from your sisters sitting next to you. And if your faceshot is next to others without being clearly define, you’re in trouble.
No. 4) Be realistic in terms of how far you’re willing to travel for dates. In the beginning of the process – men especially - you’ll probably want to date anybody this side of the Techachapi Mountains. But that’s an awful long way to drive – unless you’re independently wealthy and can fly up there yourself. So, place limits on your travel time and effort – say, limit yourself to an hour’s drive from where you live. With these days of expensive fuel, driving a hundred miles for a date is a bit much. And once you do that, once you go that distance, you’re adding unnecessary, unfair pressures and expectations on the date itself. Long distance relationships are difficult and very challenging, and can be expensive. And remember, if the date turns out to be good, you’ll want to continue that distance.
No. 5) Don’t get discouraged. Dating can be a serious business and takes work – like relationships. (We know the dating sites are making money.) But if you’re truly looking for a genuine, equal relationship, don’t give up easily, if at all. Lower your expectations at the beginning; try to enjoy the people you have dinner with and go to movies with; go dancing – it’s good for the soul. Dancing can really help a date, especially if both people like to dance. The process of dancing can move you both closer physically and help cut the ice.
Yes, internet dating can be very frustrating.
In my own situation, I did finally meet someone on the internet – not on a dating site per se, but on a “rant” site. She made a reply to a rant of exasperation about dating, in fact, sent out to cyberspace aimed at no one in particular. Out of the blue, this person reaches across the keyboard and entered my world. I was so impressed, I asked her out. She accepted. That was nearly five years ago, as we’ve been together since our very first date.