Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Online Dating Review Sites

For today's Singletude, I've compiled a list of online dating site reviews.

Internet matchmaking has evolved so much since the days when AOL Personals had a corner on the cyberspace meet market. Today, a single just venturing into the wonderful world of Romance 2.0 faces an overwhelming smorgasbord of choices, from mass-market dating hubs with all their bells and whistles to exclusive niche communities. Even Net-savvy singles may occasionally want an update on what's new, what's hot, and what's not in the web dating department. So here are 50 sources for reviews that can help you choose the right online dating service for you.

As you browse through the following links, keep in mind that sites who give unanimously glowing reviews may be affiliates receiving kickbacks. However, I've included them for the useful information they provide about size, structure, pricing, and so on. Also be aware that reviews may be partially outdated, so if you're interested in a dating site, you may want to read several opinions and investigate the site yourself before committing to a paid membership. Nevertheless, these reviews will help you narrow the field before you reach that stage.

In the list below, asterisks (*) denote sites recommended by Singletude as particularly comprehensive or well-balanced in their reviews. Double asterisks (**) are awarded to the cream of the crop. Plus signs (+) indicate sites that include user reviews, which are presumably unpaid and therefore unbiased. Tildes (~) symbolize sites that review or link to an impressively large selection of online matchmakers, especially new and/or niche services.

There's also a small category for sites dedicated to personal experiences with online dating. Here the plus sign (+) represents sites whose focus is on positive stories, while a minus sign (-) marks sites featuring negative stories. The absence of a marker implies that the site presents a balanced picture of both positive and negative experiences.

Alternative Dating Sites~
Best Online Matchmaker Sites-Best Online Dating Sites Review
Cupid's Reviews*+~
Cupid's Matchbook Romance
Date Seeker*
Dating Directions
Dating Directory Review
Dating Muse*
Dating Service~
Dating Site Advisor~
Dating Sites*
Dating Sites Reviews*+~
Dr. Dating*~
eDating Central
Free Dating U.S.A.*~
Internet Dating Directory
No. 1 Reviews**~
Online Dating Magazine**~
Online Dating Reviews~
Quality Singles
Romance Stuck
Rosalind's Dating Site Reviews*~
The Dating Advisor*~
The Single Source~

Personal Experiences

Internet Dating Stories
Internet Dating Tales-
Internet Love Stories
Online Dating Experiences-

Is there a particular online dating site that you or someone you know had a good or bad experience with? Can you recommend that site to other singles (or warn us away from it)?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Online Dating Pros and Cons, Part II

Last time, Singletude reviewed the reasons that online dating is the best thing since going steady. But before the Match.coms and Yahoo! Personals of the world start gloating, let's be frank--dating sites aren't a quick fix for bars or setups. For the sake of balanced discussion, let's focus in on the dark side of meeting a mate in cyberspace.


1. Online dating services create the illusion of a larger dating pool but don't always deliver on that promise. While metropolitan areas may have oodles of singles, rural locations may not turn up a blip on the 20-mile search radar. Even if you're willing to travel, you may find that the residents of those teeming cities are not. For those who do choose to begin a long-distance relationship, their budding romance will be tested by the constraints of physical separation, a burden that has broken many a stable long-term partnership.

Plus, matchmaking sites have a dirty little secret--the millions of members they flaunt aren't all paid subscribers, and in most cases, only subscribers can initiate and respond to communication. For example, as of 2004, had 20 million members but only 910,000 subscribers! ( has apparently stopped reporting updated statistics since they've been losing traffic.) So out of every 20 members you write to, only one will be able to respond. Statistically speaking, the odds are the same as your chances of becoming a victim of violent crime. Better cross your fingers you're his/her type!

2. While this may not be a con for everyone, singles seeking serious relationships will find that the web is a magnet for serial daters attracted by the endless supply of fresh pickings. Thus it can be easy to book a date for the movies but not so much a date for the wedding. On the plus side, there are sites like eHarmony, Chemistry, and True which cater to those who want long-term commitments, but they expect you to pay for the privilege of meeting men and women who are interested in more than sex or free dinner.

3. Online dating sites are very competitive, especially for men. On many sites, men outnumber women seven to three. So it's a buyer's market for the ladies, who can afford to be choosier. However, this doesn't mean that women automatically get their pick of the litter, particularly if they've all set their sights on the same subset of handsome, successful guys. The outcome is that members of both sexes rant and rail about how often they're snubbed and passed over. This can make for a frustrating, disheartening, and even soul-crushing experience if you don't have rock-solid self-esteem.

4. If you want to succeed at online dating, you must be photogenically blessed. On the World Wide Web, the photo is king. Many members won't look twice at profiles that don't include one, which means you'll have to throw anonymity to the wind. Moreover, it's not enough for you to just post a photo. It has to be a good photo, defined as one that makes you look like Niki Taylor or Tyson Beckford. The attractive girl- or guy-next-door look won't get you a wink, much less a date.

The problem is that lots of people aren't too photogenic. Still shots focus attention on facial flaws, which aren't as noticeable in person due to the distraction of continuous motion, speech, and nonverbal expression. Critics of online dating services complain that they get few responses even though they have no problem attracting interest in real life and people who know them personally consider them physically appealing.

5. What you see on a dating site isn't always what you get. Despite the certainty of eventual humiliation and rejection, some members fudge their age, height, weight, hair color (or lack thereof), income, and even marital status. Exaggerations, omissions, and outright lies also abound in the freewriting sections, in which some singles magically become far more outgoing, charming, witty, intelligent, confident, sophisticated, and comfortable in both dress clothes and jeans than they'll ever be in the real world. Granted some of these lies are unintentional, the product of wishful thinking combined with a lack of self-awareness. But the effect is the same--when you meet Mr. or Ms. Too Good To Be True, you feel disappointed and deceived.

Now, it's important to remember that liars don't just lurk online; you can get conned by someone you meet at a bar, in a class, or on the job, too. But when you meet in person, at least you know upfront if you're getting a Cameron Diaz or a Camryn Manheim, a George Clooney or a Boy George. Plus, the more integrated someone is into your world (as with a coworker or friend of a friend), the harder it is for them to hide behind a facade. When your only point of contact is the Internet, a player can keep the game going longer.

6. The shopping mall setup of Internet dating sites enables users to treat other people like commodities. Visit any online dating review site, and you'll see plenty of grousing about this one. Whether online dating encourages this mentality or online daters bring it to the table is anybody's guess, but dating site members are quite vocal about its entrenchment in the web community. Their argument is that dating sites, with their customizable search forms, impersonal methods of communication, and constant influx of fresh blood, enable users to be overly selective, treating people like consumer goods who can be disposed of and replaced as soon as something better comes along.

As a rebuttal to this theory, there is no proof, as far as I'm aware, that online dating site members are pickier than the general public. The fact of the matter is that dating sites allow singles to interact with more people on a given day than they might meet in months or even years of barhopping, so of course they're going to collect more rejections, too. It's a numbers game. The difference is that rejection on a dating site is more obvious because it requires people to be blunter than they would be in person.

If you ignore an email--or, worse, reply with a "no"--you've sent an undeniable message of rejection. However, if you go out to a bar and you're a man, you simply won't approach the women you're not interested in. At the end of the night, those women will go home, and not one of them will think, "Hey, only five guys hit on me, so the other hundred in the bar must think I'm unattractive." If you're a woman approached by a man you're not into, you might make some small talk and then leave for the night with an excuse or a noncommittal "see ya around." Often the guy will massage his ego with the assumption that you were just shy or really did have to get home to feed the abandoned baby porcupines you adopted. On a dating site, however, there's no room to misconstrue a rejection, so naturally you seem to get more of them.

This is not to say that people haven't become overly selective or don't treat their fellow humans like recyclable plastics, but my theory is that this is a widespread phenomenon in contemporary society and is not exclusive to the web. In my experience, most singles I know don't use Internet dating services (and most couples I know didn't, either), and they still reject(ed) and are/were rejected by lots of potential mates. Nevertheless, the immediacy, candor, and volume of the rejections on a dating site can make it a poor choice of stomping grounds for all but the thickest skins.

7. The Internet is a subpar communications forum that fosters a disconnect between single daters. Or so the theory goes. There's no doubt that emails and IMs can't match the richness and complexity of in-person communication. It also may be true that the facelessness of cyberspace depersonalizes people, making it easier for them to be rude, inconsiderate, and dismissive to one another. Some critics go a step further, claiming that Internet dating erodes real-life social skills, although that's stretching it in my book. Most of us still have to interact with colleagues, friends, family, and retailers every day, so we have plenty of opportunities to practice. More threatening than the Internet, I think, is the permissive parenting that teaches kids it's okay to dehumanize each other. The web is simply the field on which these internalized lessons are played out. However, it does seem easier to get away with this on the 'Net, and singles wishing for more personal accountability in their interactions might want to stay away from online dating sites.

8. Yes, Virginia, there really are safety hazards in online dating. Contrary to popular perception, though, they don't usually include psychotic killers. What you're more likely to encounter are dating site scammers, a new breed of criminal who create false personas and lure hopeful, sympathetic singles to send them large sums of money. Also, like any other web site, a dating service is subject to hackers and credit card or identity thieves.

9. The monthly fees of online dating services can add up, and calculating the cost isn't always a straightforward task. Yes, most dating sites allow you unrestricted access for the cost of one dinner date a month. But don't forget that you'll be paying for that access in addition to the dinner dates that you land as a result. Obviously, this is an inequity that tends to fall squarely on the shoulders of the guys. On the other hand, you may never score a date while you keep emptying your wallet to the matchmaking site month after month, and when you finally do, it may lead nowhere.

Furthermore, you may get roped into forking over much more than you estimated. That's because dating sites that charge monthly subscription fees also enforce an autorenewal process, which automatically bills you for another subscription period if you don't take action to resign. (If you only signed up for a free trial, you will automatically be billed for the initial subscription period.) Since this is contrary to most other American subscription-based services, which lapse unless you actively renew, dating sites prey on users' understanding of consumer norms.

Also be aware that although many sites offer discounted packages to those who subscribe for more than one month at a time, unlike true monthly subscriptions, you won't be charged once a month. Instead, you'll be billed in one lump sum, and if you're dissatisfied with some aspect of the service afterward, chances of a refund are slim.

10. Some dating sites are rumored to engage in unethical business practices. For starters, nearly all of them force you to undertake a copious registration process before they disclose their fees. Oftentimes they use ambiguous language to convince you that you'll have free access to services that aren't free at all. More disturbingly, for years members have been accusing online matchmakers of generating fake profiles and emails to lure them in for a bait-and-switch, although such claims are unsubstantiated. Other users have attested that they were charged repeatedly even after resigning. Still others have alleged that some dating services failed to grant promised discounts or refunds. In addition, online dating services are notorious for poor customer service. Often they bury their contact information in remote, inaccessible corners of their web sites or fail to provide live service altogether.

At first glance, there are more cons than pros for joining an online dating service, and you may wonder why anyone would subject themselves to the anxiety, uncertainty, embarrassment, and pain of romance on the web. However, a number of the cons are not applicable to everyone or even to just online dating. Dating anywhere, at any time, is difficult, and some of us will have better experiences than others. Furthermore, for some singles, the pros of online dating sites far outweigh the cons.

Have you ever tried online dating? What are some disadvantages to dating online? Can you share any negative experiences that you've had?

Fun Link of the Day

Monday, April 14, 2008

Online Dating Pros and Cons, Part I

Secretly, in the privacy of your computer-lit room, you've been wondering about it, haven't you? "Yeah, yeah," you've been thinking, "all these stats on alcohol abuse and crime safety and health insurance are well and good, but what about the juicy stuff? What about the dating sites?"

A few days ago, Singletude presented some tips on creating a social networking profile. A more direct means of meeting singles, especially for dating, is, of course, any of the online dating sites that have blossomed over the past decade like desert flowers springing to life over every inch of thirsty ground. Lately, you can't turn your mouse around without an ad for "Beautiful Russian Women" or "Born-again Christian Singles" flashing in your face. (Yes, I am equally guilty of contributing to the morass of dating site ads, and believe me, if Google ran ads for singles products other than dating services, Singletude would feature them in a heartbeat.)

This is not to say that online dating is uncool, unsafe, unsuccessful, or any other adjective prefixed by "-un." There was a time when it carried a stigma, but that time is rapidly fading into a quaint memory of the Information Superhighway's pioneer days, the era of dial-up, chat rooms, and Prodigy. Now your email inbox is as good a place for an introduction as the bar down the street. Nevertheless, the prospect of conducting your first conversation on AIM can be intimidating to those who've never tried it. To help you evaluate whether you want to dive into the sea of cyber dating, let's take a look at the pros and cons of online dating services, starting with the pros:


1. Dating online is a timesaver. In our fast-paced world, it can be hard to eke out time to stop at Starbucks for breakfast, much less hang out there all morning waiting for the perfect match to walk through the door. Online dating services allow you to bypass the bar trolling and love-me-love-me-not flirting and cut right to the chase. You can browse dozens, sometimes hundreds of profiles from the comfort of your own home, shoot off a few emails, and meet the next night for drinks. Furthermore, because you can contact multiple prospects at once, you don't have to waste a whole evening chatting up one hottie just to get a number.

2. The Internet makes accessible a large pool of dating applicants, many of whom you might not meet in the "real world." What a long way we've come from the days of happily settling for the neighboring farmer's bucktoothed, dimwitted daughter because she could at least bake a mean cherry pie! Nowadays, online dating services have made distance almost moot, facilitating introductions between potential partners who live hundreds, even thousands of miles apart. With more singles at your fingertips, you're that much more likely to find someone else who loves Barry Manilow and mullets as much as you do (provided such a person exists at all).

3. Online dating sites eliminate ambiguity. If you've ever seen a cutie in the supermarket and wasted those few precious moments in her company craning your neck at her ring finger, you're familiar with this problem. Dating sites take the guesswork out of who's available for what so you can concentrate on the more important steps of the getting-to-know-you process. No more working yourself into a tizzy agonizing over whether he's into you. If he likes you, he'll send a "wink" or an "icebreaker."

4. Online dating services allow for increased selectivity. Imagine if you walked into a club and everyone had their vital stats printed in bold letters across their chests. What if, drawing closer, you saw that they were wearing detailed bios of themselves, including such finer points as their diet and exercise habits, religious affiliations, and favorite hangouts? Wouldn't it be so much easier to gravitate toward the person best suited to you? Through the use of comprehensive profiles, this is what dating sites enable you to do. Just enter the search criteria that are important to you, and the site will return page after page of profiles that match your preferences. Thus, you can pick that fellow lover of Barry Manilow and mullets out of a sea of faceless strangers, and you can screen out everyone who wants to burn every last copy of "Copacabana." :) In all seriousness, meeting a compatible significant other at a lounge or party is a crap shoot. Sure, physical attraction will announce itself immediately, but you could spend all evening talking and still not find out that someone's interests, values, or beliefs are incompatible with your own. Searchable profiles give you the tools to find someone who you know is at least somewhat compatible with you before you spend time and money on a date.

5. When you meet online, you don't go into a date blind. You have some warm-up time via phone, email, and/or IM. Thus, when you do meet, you avoid the awkward silences that arise when you have no idea what to say to someone and end up blurting out the tail end of an inner monologue about your ex. Initial online contact is especially helpful if you're too shy to relax and have fun when first meeting someone. In addition, it's a good way to protect yourself against bad apples, whose rotten core you can sometimes sniff out in advance of a dinner date you'd have to climb out a bathroom window to escape.

6. Written communication fosters more personal exchanges. Many of us find it hard to open up to a new acquaintance face-to-face. The semi-anonymity of cyberspace can encourage singles to freely share their deeper thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other, which makes it easier to get to know who someone really is beneath the social front we all present. The flip side of this is that it also makes it easier to withdraw from a relationship that isn't working out, which some might find a pro or a con, usually depending on who's doing the withdrawing!

7. Subscribing to an online dating service can save you money. Depending on the dating site you choose, you may be able to score any number of dates at little or no cost to you. For instance, Plentyoffish prides itself on staying free of charge, while Lavalife lets you reply to anyone at no cost and initiate contact for a fee of $1.20-1.80 per email depending on the package you select. And most of the sites that charge upwards of $20.00 a month significantly reduce that fee if you purchase a long-term package. For example, Yahoo! Personals charges $25.99 per month but $13.99 per month for a six-month commitment, charges $24.95 per month but approximately $8.33 per month for a year's subscription, and charges $59.95 per month but only about $20.83 a month for a year. Even the most expensive dating sites allow you to meet multiple matches per month for the price of dinner and a movie for two...or less.

So now that we've established how many great reasons there are to wade into the online dating pool, you must be wondering what the downside is. Singletude will cover that next time!

Have you ever tried online dating? What are some advantages to dating online? Can you share any positive experiences that you've had?

Fun Link of the Day

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Semi-Sad Announcement for Singletude Readers

Don't despair! Notice I said "semi-sad." :)

As you may have noticed, I haven't been posting as regularly as I previously did. I'm a freelancer, and when I launched Singletude several months ago, I cut back on some of my regular assignments so that I could see it off to a good start. Now, though, I find that I need to return to a more regular work schedule, and that means that I may or may not be able to post here every day.

I'm certainly not abandoning this blog, and I have lots more ideas for future posts. (Your ideas are, of course, welcome too!) At some point in the future, I would love to be able to return to providing in-depth, quality posts every day. But right now, we may have to settle for two or three such posts a week. If you don't want to check in every day, my best suggestion is to subscribe to the RSS feed, which will notify you whenever there's a post.

In addition, I'm still quite active on BlogCatalog, so anyone who would like to start up a discussion at the Singletude group there is welcome, too.

Thank you to everyone who continues to read and be a part of the discussion here, and I look forward to many more future posts!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Poll Results: Who Takes Care of You When You're Sick?

Voting on the first Singletude poll is now closed. The results were as follows:

Poll: "Who takes care of you when you're sick?"

No one. I go it alone.
60% (14)

My date of the moment gets guilted into it.
4% (1)

A friend stops in with soup and trash lit.
4% (1)

My roommate fetches my tissues and Tylenol.
4% (1)

Mom and Dad. There's no place like home for the queasy days.
26% (6)

Looks like most of us fend for ourselves, but our most likely rescuers are still the ones responsible for giving us life. Awwww. :)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What NOT to Do in a Social Networking Profile

MySpace. Facebook. Bebo. Xanga. Orkut. Ning.

Like it or not, they've parked their URLs in the World Wide Web, and they're here to stay. Social networking accounts are now as ubiquitous as cell numbers and email addresses. MySpace alone had over 200 million accounts as of September 2007. That's more than half the U.S. population! Chances are you have a profile at one or more social networking sites, and, if you're single, it's probably attracting dates, friends, or friends who will hopefully become dates. That is, if it's not repelling them.

If you've spent any time on a social networking site, you're aware of the most visible dangers of the repulsive profile: Excessive Flash displays have been known to cause blindness and sudden browser failure. Glitter heart comments may induce nausea and vomiting. In some users, bursts of offensively bad music at high volume may permanently damage taste. And those are just some of the visual turn-offs.

If you want your social networking profile to attract the kind of people you'd want to hang out with in real life--nice, normal singles who leave their clothes on when they take pictures and don't need to send you a sparkly Tinkerbell to wish you a happy birthday--you may want to avoid the following profile hazards:

1. Templates For Tots

These are the templates only a first grader could love. They remind one of the results of a primary school coloring contest; every shade known to Crayola is on display. These backgrounds are generally incomplete without clashing patterns that would make a postmodernist painter blush. Adding to the busyness are glittery comments with movable parts, at least one YouTube video, and a profusion of bouncy dividers, icons, smilies, and cursors.

Now before you blast me for censoring anyone's freedom of expression, let me clarify that there's nothing wrong with creating such a profile. Just be aware that the overall effect connotes extreme youth or ADHD. Plus, the longer a profile takes to load, the fewer the people who are going to sit around waiting for it. That is all.

2. Soft Porn Profiles

Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone on MySpace is, was, or wants to be America's Next Topless Model? Again, if you want to rip your shirt off and put your six-pack abs or ample bosom on display, that's your business. But keep in mind that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, the picture says, "I'm looking for sex." So don't be surprised if the kinds of messages and comments you get have a decidedly sexual bent. Moreover, if your profile claims that you're a "nice girl" or "nice guy" who just wants to find another of your kind to settle down with, be aware that, as unfortunately stereotypical as it is, some people you might have been interested in will not believe you; they will believe your scantily clad photos. And not for nothing, as we all know, employers are increasingly turning to the Internet as an additional reference for job candidates, and social networking profiles are notoriously hard to delete.

Perhaps you feel safe because your photos are relatively tame. That's fine, but are your top friends baring it all in their profile photos? Is Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt draped across your wallpaper in next to nothing? Like it or not, everything on your profile is associated with you. It boggles my mind when I see singles advertising for a "sweet, down-to-earth, GOOD man (or woman) for a real relationship" when everyone on their top ten list is shirtless and fancy free. Again, stereotypical or not, visitors will assume that what you want is what you've got--swingin' singles whose poses announce that they're here for flings 'n' things. And be careful of subliminal messages. If you have pictures of your favorite celebrity hotties decorating your page, potential partners may assume that's what you expect of them.

3. I'm Drawing a Blank About Me

Please, please, please don't just stick up a photo and walk away from your profile. There are lots of pretty faces on social networking sites. Members want to know why they should get to know yours. And, no, "I don't know what to write in these things" doesn't cut it. If you care about making personal connections through a social networking site, be personal. You don't have to be a Pulitzer winner, but say a few things about yourself. For starters, try where you're from, what you do for a living, what you do for fun, where you've gone or want to go, and who you hang out with (i.e. family, friends, pets, etc.). If you're witty or eloquent, this is the place to showcase it. The droller the better is usually the rule on social networking sites. Let your bio reflect your personality. Are you sarcastic? Pour it on. Romantic? Post a poem. Optimistic? Share some inspirational quotes.

Don't forget to apply this rule to whoever you'd like to "friend" as well. Millions of profiles take short and sweet to a new level with requests like "I just want a girl/guy who is FUN, HOT, and has NO DRAMA." My immediate reaction to a generalization like this is that the writer must either be a one-dimensional person or doesn't care who responds to the profile since statements that could apply to anyone will attract everyone. That's a turnoff.

Perhaps you do want anyone if you don't intend to establish any permanent relationships from the social networking site. But if you hope to find something lasting, take a moment to consider what attracts you to people and be specific about it. Do you want to find a tennis or jogging partner? A travel companion? Someone who likes the bar and club scene? If you can string together more than two or three words here, you're communicating that you've put some thought into who you'd like to meet, and many singles will react favorably to that. Plus, you'll have a better chance of connecting with someone who's here for the same reasons you are. (Yes, you'll still get spam and messages from smitten singles who never looked beyond your photo, but somewhere in the mix will be responses from people who did.)


On the other hand, this is a social networking bio, not a profile. The tone and ambience of a social network is different than that of an online dating service, usually lighter and more informal. While it's perfectly normal to see a detailed listing of all your character traits and those of your "ideal partner" on a dating site, the same qualifications can come across as rather desperate or heavy-handed in the casual environment of a social network.

So save the unabridged edition for Yahoo! Personals and cut the details of how many kids you want to have and where you'd go on the perfect date. Instead, make your readers laugh with a few quips about yourself and your outlook on life. Since a social network is a visual space, try to reveal as much as you can through pictures (except, of course, your nether regions; see 2.), the more cleverly captioned the better. The idea is to provide enough of a glimpse into your life to intrigue a casual browser without obviously fishing.

5. Sampler Accounts

These are the everything bagels of the social networking world. These members are here for "friends," "dating," "relationships," "networking," and a bag of chips. Their profile designs are likewise schizophrenic, featuring a bland, basic template for someone whose primary purpose is social or bloody flowers and death metal for someone who's here to promote a catering service.

advises that you define your objective on a site before you create your profile and restrict it to one sphere, personal or professional. (Better yet, break this down further into one profile for pursuing romantic relationships and another for your circle of friends. Read the fourth point in "Where to Meet Single Friends" for an explanation of why.) Then, construct your profile in accordance with its goal.

A business profile should contain a lot of your work and very little of your personal info and should be clear and easy to navigate. A personal profile is, of course, the place to let loose and express yourself (though hopefully not like a three-year-old; see "1. Templates for Tots" above). If you choose to have a separate profile for dating, this is where you can specify what's important to you in a mate, whereas the profile you use to interact with your friends need waste no time on this. Separate dating and friends-only profiles also allow you to have more control over the distribution of information within your social circle. That is, you can keep your friends abreast of the personal details of your life without making an immediate open book of yourself to potential dates who may or may not become permanent fixtures of your social life.

Ultimately, creating the perfect profile is a matter of taste. But social networking accounts weren't meant to be works of art or repositories of self-expression. They were meant to build networks. That means appealing to other users, who will judge whether your taste is good or bad. Hopefully, the preceding pointers will help you win a favorable judgment from all your friends-to-be.

What are your thoughts on the five profile missteps listed above? Can you think of any other tips for what not to do in a social networking profile?

Fun Link of the Day

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Can Single Men and Women Be Friends?, Part II

Well, yes and no. In a previous post, "Can Single Men and Women Be Friends?, Part I", Singletude delved into some scenarios in which male-female friendships thrive. But we all know that not every platonic pair rubs along together like Jerry and Elaine. Today we'll consider a few scenarios in which attempting an opposite sex friendship will put you on the fast track to Couplesville...or Frenemyland.

When Single Men and Women Can't Be Friends

1. Friends Plus

We've all lingered in this delightful stage between friendship and romance, "accidentally" bumping into each other in the break room, nudging each other at parties, and locking eyes across the table. It's a stage I've nicknamed "friends plus" because it's more than innocent camaraderie but less than full-blown love.

The key word here is stage. It's transient. At some point, the pent-up frustration reaches fever pitch, and Peggy Lee starts singing in the almost-lovers' twitterpated heads. The pressure on these two is greater than on two initiates in the mile high club, and something's gotta give. Usually, it's the friendship. The two become an official couple or at least add benefits to the mix, and if they ever demote themselves to "just friends" again, it will be through the filter of past carnal knowledge.

If they choose not to sacrifice the friendship, then they invariably head down one of two roads. Either they relegate each other to Not-Worth-It standing, in which case the friendship can survive if they're committed to it (see "Part I" above), or the attraction continues to simmer unfulfilled as they watch each other hooking up with others from afar and eventually boils over in a traumatic fit of accusations or tears. Because of the high probability of the latter occurrence, Singletude suggests that Friends Plus really can't be friends and should come to a decision on their pseudo-friendship as soon as possible, either transitioning it into a relationship or making a break entirely.

2. Ex-lovers With Regrets

You may recall that in "Part I," we established that Ex-lovers With No Regrets are rare. That's because most relationships are ended unilaterally. Someone is the dumper, and someone is the dumpee. Even if there's a mutual agreement that the relationship isn't working, there's often one person who would rather try a little harder, forgive and forget, see a counselor, or patch it up in some other way. In other relationships, neither member is content with the decision to split, both harboring fantasies of what might have been "if only."

Lots of former couples try to adjust to friendship, especially if they had a history as friends before the relationship. Unfortunately for these folks, navigating a friendship can be like steering the Titanic through iceberg-infested waters. Around every bend is a hazard--unrequited love, unresolved disputes, jealousy of new partners. Whatever hurt or anger resulted from the relationship isn't going to vanish just because it's no longer a relationship, and if one or both partners cling to old affections, the friendship can become an anchor that keeps both of them from moving on.

Over time, a lot of these well-intentioned "friendships" become empty shells as the partners grow increasingly distant. Others implode like Friends Plus-ships deferred. The sad truth is that these formerly dynamic duos can't be friends.

3. Seesaw Friends

Seesaw friends are inherently imbalanced. One of the friends is grounded in the steady knowledge that this is a friendship and nothing but a friendship, and his or her affections are stably platonic. The other friend, however, is flying high on infatuation and begins to get frustrated as it appears that the return of his or her feelings is forever up in the air. After hanging onto hope for a long time, this friend either spills his guts or becomes manipulative, trying to insinuate herself into the beloved's dating relationships, enacting various ploys to win the beloved's attraction and/or jealousy, or rolling out the red carpet treatment in hopes that the beloved will realize how wonderful the wannabe lover is. If Friend A remains firmly planted in friends territory, Friend B's resentment may erupt into passive-aggression or outright hostility that undermines the friendship.

The saving grace of Seesaw Friendships is that crushes come and go, and someone who's falling for a friend today may be mortified tomorrow at the prospect of squeezing their friend's hairy butt. While a Seesaw Friendship may not be one to discard offhand, friends should keep close tabs on it. If unrequited love persists, it may be time for these playmates to get off the seesaw.

Have you ever tried to maintain a friendship in one of the above circumstances? If so, what was the outcome? Do you think it's possible for men and women to be friends in these situations? In what other scenarios is it difficult or impossible for members of the opposite sex to be friends?

Fun Link of the Day

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Single in Sickness and in Health: Prepare for Medical Emergencies

No, Singletude isn't running out of things to say. It takes a fever, a migraine-level headache, a cough that sounds like something thick and foul-tasting bubbling in a pot, and a throat that feels like it's been stuffed with fiberglass to shut this single up. Yes, I was stopped in my tracks for several days straight by a nasty cold.

That sparked a question. As singles, we're used to relying on ourselves for the daily necessities--shopping and food prep, cleaning and household maintenance, transportation and car care, budgeting and bill paying. But sooner or later, along come those wicked little bacteria that you see on anti-fungal commercials, leering as they munch their way into your mucous membranes. Or perhaps you fall, and a limb gives way under the pressure. Or your immune system feels left out and starts acting up with a chronic condition like asthma or lupus. When you're the only one on duty, who holds down the fort when you're incapacitated?

It's a difficult enough question to answer when you're living off toast and ginger ale for three or four days. When you're facing a life-threatening battle with cancer, heart disease, or another serious condition, that question can be as stressful as the diagnosis.

Case in point: Over the past several years, my widowed uncle has been plagued with health problems and has needed a hip replacement and a rotator cuff repair. Now his knee is failing. Each time he's had surgery, my mother, who lives three hours away, has spent several weeks at his house cooking for him, driving him to appointments, running errands, and generally taking the place of a visiting nurse. At this point, my uncle is disabled and has to use a walker. In addition, because his shoulder didn't heal properly, he has only limited use of his arm. My cousin, who lives an hour away from him, visits him every week or so to clean house, make meals, and do the laundry.

Without his extended family, I'm not sure what my uncle would do. Some singles aren't fortunate enough to have family members who are willing or able to act as home health aides. Those who have good insurance may be able to afford nursing care, but not everyone is so lucky. To be sure that you're prepared for a medical emergency, consider taking these steps:

1. Make a plan with family or friends.
Discuss your health concerns with your family or friends. Plan in advance who will help you out in case of a medical problem. Preferably, this should be someone who lives nearby and doesn't work 70 hours a week in order to minimize the strain on everyone. Decide now so that there won't be any confusion or squabbling in case the worst occurs. If possible, choose a backup who can relieve the appointed family member or friend in case he or she is unable to care for you or needs a break. Offer to assume the same responsibility should your health care volunteer need you, especially if he or she is also single.

2. Get disability insurance.
Disability insurance kicks in when your health gives out to ensure that you still have an income if you can't work. Many employers offer short-term and/or long-term disability insurance. Find out if yours does as well as how long you'll be covered and for what percentage of your income. Typical short-term coverage continues for up to six months, while long-term coverage extends for five years to life. Most plans will pay approximately 60% of your income. If you live in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, or Hawaii, your employer must provide short-term disability insurance for 26 weeks, but no states have mandated long-term coverage yet. If your employer doesn't offer long-term disability insurance, you can buy a policy privately. Check with your state's department of insurance or with the agency that sells your life, home, or auto policy.

3. Buy long-term care insurance.
Long-term care insurance covers individuals in need of a nursing home, assisted living facility, or home health care. Your current insurance policy may or may not include some of these things. If not, you should be aware that Medicare covers only nursing care and not home health aides to assist you with the so-called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as washing, dressing, and eating. Medicaid does pay for home health aides, but you have to qualify. If you don't qualify for Medicaid, it's recommended that you either purchase a private long-term care policy or, if your assets total more than $1.5 million, plan to pay for any long-term care expenses out of pocket. If you live in New York, Connecticut, California, or Indiana and buy a state-approved policy, you'll be eligible for Medicaid anytime you exhaust its benefits, even if you wouldn't qualify for Medicaid otherwise. Don't wait too long to take action on this. By age 50, 11% of long-term care insurance applicants are rejected, and by age 70, that figure is 43%.

4. Prepare a living will and health care power of attorney.
As uncomfortable as it is to think of your own mortality, it may be more discomfiting to think of becoming the next Terri Schiavo. A living will allows you to spell out how you do or don't want to be cared for should you be unable to express your wishes, while a health care power of attorney appoints someone to advocate for the directives in your living will. You can download a living will and power of attorney and have them notarized, or you can visit an attorney who specializes in estate law. Be careful with anything you download off the Internet, though, as it may or may not meet the legal regulations of your state.

Decisions regarding your future health care can seem daunting, but it's better to tackle them now, while you have your health, than later, when they can be overwhelming to someone stressed by illness or injury.

On a lighter note, please take a minute to respond to the Singletude poll above and let us know where you turn when you're on your sickbed.

What do you do when you're sick? Who do you call on to nurse you back to health, or what are your strategies for nursing yourself? Do you have an arrangement with a friend or family member to help you if you're physically incapacitated? Have you made provisions for disability, long-term care, a living will, and/or a health care power of attorney? What other options would you recommend to singles who might need help when ill or injured?

Fun Link of the Day