Here it is, the third installment you've all been waiting for! Yes, you can sit back from the edge of your seat and stop biting your nails now. :P
Previously, we covered tips for creating a successful online profile. Now that you've posted your bio and smiling pics minus exes and phantom limbs, we'll concentrate on how to attain level one of Internet dating, reciprocal communication. Then, we'll wrap up with "Part IV," which should send you on your way to an actual date!
6. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME AND MONEY.
This tip I've never seen recommended anywhere, although I'm sure there are other enterprising people who've figured it out on their own. In case you haven't, I'm offering it to you upfront: You don't have to pay for paid dating services.
Most online dating sites let you create a profile free of charge, and some even let you respond to other members, but few allow you to initiate contact, which, as we'll see, is important. However, many dating sites give out free trials of three to seven days. These deals usually stipulate that you hand over your credit card and register for a subscriber package but permit you to cancel your subscription within the trial period. As long as you remember to cancel, you have several days to milk the service for all it's worth. Here's how:
A. Before you register, take an afternoon and complete the search process described below in 7. (Yes, it probably will take a whole afternoon if you're thorough, so set aside a day when you have no commitments.) Make a list of singles who interest you.
B. As soon as you register for your free trial, follow step 8. and write to all the singles on your list. Let them know you're just checking out the site on a free trial and may not continue your subscription or simply say that your subscription ends in ___ days. Then ask them to contact you outside the service at a personal email address. (You can create a free account for this purpose at Google, Yahoo, or any other email provider if you don't already have an address that you feel comfortable sharing with strangers.) Be forewarned that some dating services take pains to mask anything in your communication that resembles an email address, so when in doubt, write it out (eg., "Mary1983 at Gmail" instead of "Mary1983@gmail.com"). Non-subscribing members are such an enormous slice of the online dating population that most paying members expect to receive some communications like this and, if they like your profile, will probably be happy to write to you off the site.
C. Invariably, a few members will answer through the site anyway, sometimes because Big Brother Dating Service managed to filter out your address, sometimes for other reasons. This is why you should send out your emails as soon as you subscribe. You want to have as much time as possible to answer anyone who responds to you through the site as well as to monitor their activities via subscriber privileges that reveal who's looked at your profile, read your email, added you to their list of favorites, etc.
D. Be sure to cancel your subscription before the trial period ends or you may be charged for a full month or more!
Obviously, if you take this hit-and-run approach to online dating, you'll be limited to the current crop of profiles, and you might occasionally miss a response. Plus, most Internet dating services restrict free trials to one a year or less, so if you don't get lucky the first time, you're out of luck for at least 12 months. But if saving money is important to you and you're willing to pack a lot of effort into a few days and leave the rest to chance, this could be the perfect compromise between big, overpriced, feature-rich matchmaking services and free dating sites with only 10 members, eight of whom live in Calcutta.
7. TAKE THE INITIATIVE.
Don't sit around waiting for your soulmate to drop out of the sky! Unless you've signed up on a very small startup site, this is a big haystack, and there are lots of needles besides you. Instead of making your future date go fish, throw him or her a line. Most online dating sites have a search feature. Use it!
Depending on the site, the search capabilities may be quite rich. Take advantage. The more specific you are, the greater the probability that you'll find the person you're looking for. If your search only returns 20 profiles, you can always broaden it, but as a benchmark, I used to live in a town of about 30,000, and when I searched within a 50-mile radius, the engine always returned the maximum number of profiles allowable in one search, so don't underestimate the dating pool in your region even if you live in a small town.
(A word to the wise, though: If you do live in a remote area, you may be tempted to widen your travel range, but if you're seeking a serious relationship, be honest with yourself about how far you're willing to travel on a regular basis. Even an hour's drive each way can become tiring very quickly and put undue strain on a new relationship.)
When browsing the search results, don't immediately skip over profiles with photos that don't quite match your ideal. First see if the profile includes other photos that may give you a fuller picture--literally--of what the member looks like. Even then, if the single in question has a profile that really speaks to you, don't rule him or her out before a face-to-face meeting. Sometimes people aren't that photogenic, and more than once I've been surprised by how attractive someone was in person after assuming the worst from unflattering photos.
Speaking of that profile, READ it carefully. Don't let a gorgeous photo blind you in its angelic light! It doesn't matter if that guy looks like your favorite actor's long-lost twin if he wants a practicing Catholic with blond hair and a PhD when you're an agnostic brunette who dropped out of college to start her own business. And who cares if that girl belongs in a Victoria's Secret commercial if she wants a fellow jazz fanatic to go biking with and you think Billie Holiday was a phat dude and a Mongoose is a weasely little animal? You may think you can remake yourself to fit the bill, but ultimately, the strain of pretending to be someone other than you are will leave you unfulfilled and resentful, not to mention how deceptive you'll seem if your sweetheart catches on. So take the logical approach and choose members who are looking for someone like YOU.
That said, if you fall slightly outside someone's guidelines but are a match in other respects, it doesn't hurt to write, mention that you're aware of the discrepancy, and call attention to all the other things you have in common. Many singles are willing to, say, extend their age range by a year or two or their travel range by five or 10 miles for someone who otherwise seems like a great catch.
Conversely, you'll want to be selective, as well. When you have a smorgasbord of singles an email away, it's tempting to send out "winks" willy-nilly without stopping to ask yourself if you're genuinely interested in any of the members you're contacting. Research proves that commonality is a primary indicator of attraction and relationship success, so your top candidates should be those who are similar in interests, values, and lifestyle.
In addition, try to ascertain upfront whether the member's dating goals are compatible with yours. He or she may simplify this for you by stating that he's in the market for a long-term relationship or that she just got out of a committed relationship and wants to date casually, but oftentimes you'll have to read between the lines.
Though this isn't a hard and fast rule, a single who is seeking a serious commitment will often take the time to write a more detailed profile and will have thought about what he or she wants in a partner, reflected in a list of desired qualities that one would expect in "relationship material" (think: intelligence, ambition, a sense of humor, compassion, faithfulness, etc.). There may be references to family values, a longing to reach the "next stage of life" or "settle down," or traditional coupling activities like reading the paper together on Sunday mornings, cooking meals for each other, or taking weekend trips.
On the other hand, an online dater who wants to play the field may write a vague or incomplete bio that reveals next to nothing about him- or herself, list requirements that are mostly based in the physical (i.e. "hot," "in shape," "good dancer," "sensual") or nonspecific requirements that give off the impression it doesn't matter who responds, or use buzzwords and key phrases like "have fun," "just hang," or "likes to party." This member will concentrate on the rip-roaring good times he or she has dancing, drinking, driving fast cars, and maybe even yachting around the world and invite you to join in the fun, but there will be no mention of love, relationships, commitment, or family. While all this may sound romantic, it will probably be a hit-and-run romance, so be forewarned.
Finally, a picture's worth a thousand words, so be a detective and piece together what you can from the snapshots of his or her life. Pictures of him and his family barbecuing, fishing, and camping suggest he's a family-oriented outdoorsman who enjoys simple pleasures. Shots of her in designer clothes at dance clubs, karaoke bars, and VIP lounges imply that dressing up and hitting the town is a big part of her life and that she may have expensive taste. Members post photos of people, places, and events that mean something to them, so you can tell a lot about their interests, values, and expectations just by taking note of how they represent themselves photographically.
8. SEND IT IN A LETTER.
Many online dating sites give you the option of initiating contact with a "wink," "flirt," or "icebreaker," the equivalent of a smile across a crowded room. While it can be reassuring to get a smile in return, some Internet daters, especially women, are inundated with these gestures of affection and can't respond to or even open all of them. Not surprisingly, online dating experts agree that singles are more likely to respond to those who show they're serious and distinguish themselves from the masses by writing an actual message.
This isn't as hard as it sounds, trust me. You don't have to write a novel, and, in fact, you shouldn't. The goal is to intrigue the member as he or she intrigued you, so save the details of your autobiography for coffee or drinks. A concise paragraph or two will do.
So now that the blinking cursor is staring you in the face, what do you write? Since you want your potential date to know you took the time to read his or her profile, referencing it is always a good tactic, especially if you can do so in a clever or humorous way. Careful, though--one man's one-liner is another woman's cheesy pickup line. When in doubt, opt for straightforward sincerity instead. In your own words, tell your prospective date that his or her profile caught your eye because you could relate to so much of it. Then elaborate with examples of how your interests, beliefs, values, experiences, etc. coincide. Remember that similarity increases attraction!
If you want to throw in a compliment, go ahead, but don't go overboard--fawning will make you look desperate--and stay away from comments on his or her appearance. Any member you write to already knows you find him or her attractive, or else you wouldn't have written; what he or she wants to know is whether you're interested in the person behind the flashy grin.
Conclude by inviting him or her to view your profile and respond if interested. If you're a paying member (and if you're not, see 6.), don't immediately solicit contact information or suggest taking the interaction offline. That's too fast for many people, especially women, and can seem stalker-ish. Besides, you want to put the ball squarely in your online crush's court and force him or her to pursue you if interested. (More on that next time.) If you took the time to write a good profile, it will now speak for you, which is exactly why you don't need to write a novel in the first email.
If for some reason you haven't posted a picture on your profile, this is also the time to attach a picture to your message if the dating service will allow it or, if not, to reassure the member that you have a picture and can send it privately. Be aware, though, that some members will not reply to profiles without pictures as a rule, no matter what you promise.
And now we interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post for a special announcement: A lot of members won't reply, maybe even most. Prepare yourself for it and try not to get caught up in the idea that you're getting rejected because you're not "good enough."
There are myriad reasons why site users might not respond, and many of them have nothing to do with your quality as a potential mate. Some of them have nothing to do with you, period. For example, a member may have recently found someone special and stopped answering correspondence even though his or her profile is still visible. Or, as is the case more often than major dating hubs would lead you to believe, you may have unwittingly contacted a non-paying member, who can't write back.
Even when someone isn't attracted to you, it doesn't mean he or she is looking for someone better, just different. Some people are only ever going to be attracted to blue-eyed blondes. Others want an athletic partner who can go jogging, rock climbing, and sky diving with them. Still others are searching for singles who plan on settling down in the suburbs and raising a brood to rival Brangelina's. If you're a brown-eyed brunette who prefers quiet activities like reading and moviegoing and doesn't want kids, that doesn't mean you're not good enough. You're just not what the above members are looking for.
So don't get down on yourself if the most common response you get is silence. If anything, consider yourself lucky to have eliminated someone who wasn't a match without pumping your hard-earned money into a failed date. Now you're one step closer to finding someone who is right for you!
And, whatever you do, don't "stalk" a single who has indicated he or she isn't interested. If you suspect that someone never received your message, send it once more, but if you still hear nothing back, move on. Pestering someone who obviously doesn't want anymore contact could get you banned from the site and certainly won't land you a date.
9. WHEN FROGGY COMES A-COURTIN', SEND A "NO, THANK-YOU" NOTE.
Inevitably, you'll get some unsolicited emails from other site members. If you check out their profiles and like what you see, terrific. If you don't, you can either ignore the communications or respond with a "no, thank you." Some sites are making it easier than ever to let someone down gently by providing form responses.
As a humanist blog, Singletude believes it's preferable to grant the courtesy of a kind "sorry" than to leave someone hanging. But use your best judgment. You don't owe a response to someone who has sent you a vulgar or intimidating message or who persists in contacting you after you've specified that you're not interested. Many dating sites enable you to block members who bother you or, if all else fails, contact management and complain.
BE WARY of anyone who writes to you from another country and/or asks for money for any reason. Report such people immediately. Internet dating fraud is a growing problem that everyone should be on the lookout for.
Ready for the all-important step 10.? Tune in to Singletude very soon for the big reveal! ;)
Have you tried any of the above methods to find potential dates online and encourage them to respond? If so, did you reach the communication stage? What other approaches to online dating have successfully elicited responses from singles you contacted? How do you deal with the inevitable rejections in the search process?
Fun Link of the Day
Clever Elsie is a freelance writer and a successful online dater. If you need help making your online dating profile the best it can be, finding matches, or polishing your emails to potential dates, please contact her for rates and more information.
Do you have a question for Clever Elsie about online dating or some other aspect of the single life? Write in, and you just might see your question posted in a Singletude Q&A!
Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Here it is, the third installment you've all been waiting for! Yes, you can sit back from the edge of your seat and stop biting your nails now. :P
Monday, June 9, 2008
Nerds Do It Better alerted me to this post, 37 Simple Things You Can Do to Be More Attractive to the Opposite Sex. Actually, most of these tips apply not only in romantic situations but in any social environment, whether at work, in school, or with friends. Quite possibly, you'll be familiar with some if not all of them-- be confident, stay in shape, be optimistic, and the like--but the real gems are hidden in the links, which serve up practical and sometimes innovative resources for everything from honing your sense of humor to whitening your teeth with home remedies.
Also, ladies should be especially attentive to the section aimed at women. Although I don't endorse all of them, there are some good pointers here that you don't see every day (i.e. learn to accept a compliment, dress consistently with who you are, etc.). (There's a section for men, too, but I didn't find the advice there to be out of the ordinary.)
I thought I'd round out the list with Singletude's own recommendations for increasing your attraction factor, whether your goal is dating, friend finding, job hunting, party crashing, or anything else that demands you make a good impression:
1. Cultivate your interests. Interesting people have interesting skills, hobbies, and goals. If you sack out on the couch every night like a lumpy potato, stop vegging and start juicing up your life with those guitar lessons you keep postponing or that novel you always wanted to write. Well-rounded singles have more entrees to conversation, are more impressive to others, and are more fun to talk to. Besides, you never know when that newly acquired talent for gargling while playing the kazoo will land you a job...or at least fifteen minutes of fame.
2. Find a job that you like...or, better yet, love. Singles who like what they do for a living radiate a positive, satisfied glow that attracts others like moths to flame. Because these individuals are living self-actualized lives, others admire them and are inspired by them. Conversely, people who are forever whining about intolerable job situations can be pretty intolerable themselves. If you're unhappy in your current career and envision yourself on another path, you owe it to yourself to try on a different job hat for size. As a bonus, you may find others responding favorably to your newfound happiness and zest for life.
3. Be open-minded. To new ideas, new people, new places, new activities. A healthy sense of adventure is attractive, as is respect for others' opinions and modes of life, even if you disagree with them. If you freeze out others on first contact, you might miss out on some terrific opportunities to have fun and develop relationships. You know the phrase "don't knock it till you try it"? Well, tattoo that on your brain.
4. Be personable. Go out of your way to introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, or offer help when needed. People naturally gravitate toward those who seem to like them. (This is called reciprocal liking.) In other words, you have to be friendly to win friends.
5. Be present. Ah, yes, "live for the moment." You've heard it a thousand times before. But what does it mean? Singles who are "in the moment" are excited about who and what is around them. They pay attention to those they're with and revel in their current circumstances rather than moping about the past or procrastinating until the future. If you regularly battle with these demons, realize that nothing you do today can change the past, but you're building the foundation for the future right now, in the present, so everything you do from hereon out counts. You need to give 110%! Some people may have a hard time being present because of depression. If you suspect you're one of them, please see a therapist so you can regain your ability to enjoy the present. Remember: the present is the gift you give yourself. ;)
6. Carry the conversation. Somewhere between email, voice mail, and text messaging, the art of conversation began to die out. These days, articulate, communicative people are hard to come by. Yet conversation lays the groundwork for human interaction and continues to build and support a relationship throughout its lifespan. Singles who master the art of verbal expression have an advantage on the dating scene as well as on the job. But you don't have to be the next Shakespeare or Byron to talk a good talk. Just be enthusiastic, listen carefully, and keep up your end of the conversation. Don't expect your conversational partner to entertain you since that can be stressful for him or her and ultimately create an unfavorable impression. If you find yourself running out of things to say, ask questions. Most people like to talk about themselves and will be flattered you asked.
7. Connect to a higher power. Have you ever been in the presence of a spiritual teacher, maybe a nun or yogi or rabbi, and felt a deep sense of peace just sitting and listening to them? The sense of calm and purpose that permeates the lives of people of faith can be contagious. If you often feel irritable and stressed and are searching for meaning in life, make it a point to delve into spiritual traditions that interest you. Once you're more centered in your beliefs, you may find that, as a happy side effect, people are drawn to you. Notice I said "side effect," though. A spiritual transformation has to be something that evolves naturally out of your own desire for it. If you try to force it out of ulterior motives, others will see through the shallow depths of your disguise.
8. Know yourself. Your likes and dislikes. Your opinions. Your values. Your beliefs. Singles who are in touch with themselves have more to offer to others. If you've ever been around someone who had no distinct thoughts of his or her own, you probably know what I mean. People like to share and sometimes debate ideas, and if you haven't figured out what yours are, you're in danger of coming across as though you have all the personality of a bologna sandwich. In contrast, people who know themselves can be confident and decisive in conversation because they don't need to hem and haw and mull over how to present the best facade. If you're confused about who you are, try writing some lists of things that make you happy or unhappy, causes you believe in, pet peeves, etc. Instead of disengaging from controversial topics, watch the news or read the paper and monitor your responses to the headlines. You might also try journaling to force yourself to verbalize your feelings.
Including the original 37 tips on Nerds Do It Better's list, that brings us to a total of 45 things you can do to make yourself more attractive to others! So why are you still here reading? Go get started!
What would you add to this list of ways to be a more attractive person? Have you or someone you know tried any of these pointers and found that they did or didn't work?
Fun Link of the Day
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
I'm it! I've been tagged by Full-Grown Single.
If, by chance, you were sitting alone, pondering what that goshderned Clever Elsie was doing on June 4, 2003, now is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find out. Don't waste it!
What was I doing 5 years ago?
On this very night five years ago? Sleeping. I would've had work the next day. (Yes, folks, that's when I was a working stiff on the regular.)
Five things on my to-do list today (or things I did today):
1. Fed my roommate's rabbit.
2. Cleaned the rabbit's litter box. (Yes, I did say litter box.)
3. Cooked up the most delicious tacos this side of Texas.
4. Ordered some groceries and kicked my computer when it was too late to put in my order for tomorrow. Consoled computer.
5. Fed the rabbit again.
I know it sounds like I didn't do much, but you have to read between the lines. That's where the doing happened.
Five snacks I love, regardless of cost or nutritional value:
1. Hershey's Kisses
2. Girl Scout cookies
3. Starbucks coffee ice cream
4. Soft pretzels, any brand
5. Potato skins with sour cream
Five things I would do if I were a billionaire, assuming I had to spend it on me:
1. Write a novel.
2. Write a screenplay.
3. Write another novel. Repeat.
4. Write another screenplay. Repeat.
5. Travel the world.
Five bad money habits I have:
1. Living a life of ascetic denial and then splurging on six pairs of shoes at once.
2. Pretending I can stretch that $50 dinner into enough take-home meals to add up to what I would've bought with $50 in the supermarket.
3. Waiting till the last minute to pay the bills.
4. Stacking the bills in a pile to make them easier to remember, then forgetting about the pile.
5. No others. Really. Those four are enough.
Five (of the American) places I have lived:
1. New York
3. Th-th-th-that's all folks.
Five jobs I’ve had:
2. Medical Secretary
4. Freelance Editor
Five (three) bloggers I'm tagging:
Sailing on the RelationSHIP
Thinking Out Loud
(No pressure to participate if you don't want to, though. I'll just track you down and bang on your door until you do, no biggie....Yes, that was a joke. ;))
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Sorry, but I couldn't let this one slide without a comment.
The Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has a syndicated Q&A column, recently published this response to a single woman who expresses a concern that she has "unreasonably high" expectations for her dates. Her first-date turnoffs include workaholism, poor familial relationships, and cell phone conversations in the midst of the date, and friends are accusing her of pickiness.
The rabbi agrees. The verdict: she's too selective. And not only that, she's a downright "commitment-phobe." He goes on to provide a list of dating qualifications which are more appropriate in his book and urges her to find someone who meets them, then mold his bad habits and undesirable traits to her liking.
Now, I'm often impressed with what Rabbi Shmuley has to say about relationships, but unfortunately, his position on singlehood seems to be that it's always less preferable to coupling, and that attitude is plain as day in this Q&A. Sure, his top ten list of criteria for a prospective partner is esteemable, including such characteristics as humility, generosity, and patience. But why is this woman deemed a "commitment-phobe" because she doesn't want to settle for someone who doesn't also demonstrate additional virtues that she considers important?
"Picky" calls it as she sees it and says her dates are waving "red flags." I tend to agree. If she wants someone who will be attentive to her and any future children, a man addicted to overtime isn't the best choice. What good is it if this man is generous with his money, as the rabbi advises he should be, but not generous with his time? If she wants a healthy relationship with her in-laws and a future husband whose attitude toward his family is based on the closeness of his own childhood home, then casting her lot with someone from a dysfunctional family is risky, as well. Turning to Rabbi Shmuley's checklist again, the man may have all the patience in the world, but how will that help him show love or exercise discipline with his kids if he didn't receive either? And while "Picky" might want to cut the guy some slack if he has to take a high-priority call, people who whip out the cell willy-nilly throughout a first date don't seem too interested or respectful. How does that fit in with the rabbi's admonition to choose someone who is courteous and focused on his date? Eliminating potential lovers on this basis doesn't seem commitment-phobic; it seems smart.
To compound the problem, Rabbi Shmuley then recommends that the letter writer "teach them" to be better men, proclaiming that "a woman inspires a man to be better." Oy ve! Could anything be less true? One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in life is that people don't change for each other. At least, not permanently. Someone may be temporarily inspired to change in order to win over a prize catch, but it's only a matter of time before the relapse. People change because they want to, and if a partner can support them in that goal, that's one of the crowning achievements of a relationship. But, again, change is conditional on desire. No amount of encouraging, prodding, whining, or nagging is going to make someone budge if he or she doesn't want to, not in the long run. In fact, the myth of the transformative power of a relationship, that someone can marry a frog and make him a prince (or a princess) is one of the most damaging lies we're fed every day and one that continuously undermines our single and marital happiness.
Is "Picky" too picky? I don't think so. I think she's discerning. She knows what makes a good partner, and she's willing to avoid the telltale signs of a bad apple instead of compromising her values for the sake of a relationship. My guess is she's relatively content as a single and believes that a significant other should add a blessing to her life, not demand a sacrifice. I hope this ill-conceived advice doesn't contribute to a divorce for her further down the line.
What do you think? Was this single too picky? What red flags do you look for on a first date? What's your checklist for the ideal partner?
Fun Link of the Day