The Idiot’s Guide to Online Dating

A few of my friends have recently ventured into the world of online dating. Haven’t we all been there? Ok, well I have. Don’t judge me. Having given up (either temporarily or permanently) the pipe dream of meeting Mr./Mrs. Right in college/grad school, at work, walking down the street, at the latest networking event, at church, or through friends, they’ve ventured into the terrain of an endless supply of “matches.” Armed with clever one-liners, carefully crafted profile descriptions, sexy profile pictures, and rigid lists of their “Must-Haves” and “Can’t Stands,” they are forging ahead on the cyber highway of love. As a disabled veteran of online dating, I collected a few pearls of wisdom along my journey. Inspired by friends who met their husbands online, I decided to throw my hat into the cyberspace ring. What resulted was a streaming video of entertaining stories for my friends, cementing my place in their lives as “the tragically and chronically single” friend. I preferred the title of “serial dater.” Tomato. Tomaaaato. As if I didn’t already know just how tragic a character I was, a newly single friend recently reminded me. When I suggested that she try online dating and get back on the dating circuit, she replied in the whiny sad voice of the heartbroken, “I don’t want to be like you.” I know. Don’t judge her. She was speaking from a painful place. Hurt people hurt other people. At least that’s what Oprah says.

Having once thought that maybe I was a serial killer of “good men” in my former life and that my online dating experiences were nothing more than bad karma coming back to bite me, I now know their purpose. A chick lit book detailing those adventures. The outline for it has been sitting in some computer file for a while now. And a blog post. My experiences may prove useful to those with better karma, or at least add another notch in my budding comedy career and entertain the masses. Here’s my top 10 list of online dating tips. 

 1)      Delusions of grandeur are very anti-sexy – Self-confidence is a wonderful thing. But, don’t get carried away. We should all perform an honest assessment of ourselves. When we are not honest, the reader will feel cheated. Pissed. Don’t say you have an “athletic build” when you should be in the “a few extra pounds” or “big and beautiful” categories. Save the body dismorphic disorder for your shrink, because your date will most certainly notice the discrepancy between your imagination and reality and give you the side eye. Then, they will talk about you to their friends, write a blog post about you, and never call you again. Not a good look. Similarly, remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Leave it to other people to label you as “good looking” or “very good looking.” I’m just saying. There’s nothing worse than someone looking at you and thinking, “Delusional and just plain atrocious might be better descriptions!”

2)      Know and respect your audience – Think about the forum you’re on, and think about what you say before you actually post it or contact someone. Ask yourself, “Self, if I write this or send this message, will the reader want to punch me in my throat, vomit, or cuss me out?” If the answer is yes, then rewind and start over. Or, proceed and be ignored. It’s your world. Case in point: If you’re on a dating website for African-Americans or you’re contacting an African-American woman, you might not want to say something like “seeking non-black women.” I know. But, as the old adage goes, common sense ain’t so common. Another example: writing that you’re bi-sexual is also probably not a good idea. Especially if you are trying to attract a Black woman. Author E. Lynn Harris turned us out and made us more afraid of men on the down low than the Bubonic Plague, rain on a fresh perm, and swimming combined.

3)      Reading is fundamental – Online dating takes a lot of work nowadays.  Some sites make you complete extensive personality profiles and answer numerous rounds of questions before you actually get to email the person. After working and spending all day at a computer, folks don’t want to come home and type answers to unnecessary questions. Take the time to read people’s profiles before you contact them. If you ask questions they’ve covered in their profile and make them repeat what they’ve already written, they may just ignore you. If someone’s profile says they like movies, plays, concerts, and naked bungee jumping, don’t ask them what they like to do for fun. Such a question would fall into the “Stupid Question” category. 

I remember letting out a few screams and expletives after men with pictures of their Rottweilers and Pit Bulls contacted me, because I always wrote in my profile that I was afraid of dogs. I often get flashbacks of my childhood nemesis, Willy the dog. Willy, our next-door neighbor’s dog that never observed property lines or trespassing laws, always pranced over into our backyard and then chased me through my house. Although robbers eventually sprayed something on Willy and killed him, he left an indelible scared shitless impression on me. And remember Winter, the protagonist in Sister Souljah’s novel The Coldest Winter Ever? In order to make sure Winter didn’t leave the apartment and leave him, her drug-dealing boyfriend let his big dogs run loose during the day. I don’t mess with men who have big dogs. Not without a .35 magnum or a steel baseball bat, I don’t.

I also used to write that I didn’t date men with kids (Don’t judge me. I was traumatized after clerking in Family Court right after law school. Ahhhh, bump it. I was picky even before law school). So, imagine my chagrin when I discovered that half of the dudes who contacted me had children. Hooked on phonics, people!  

4)      First impressions are lasting impressions – Profile pictures say a lot about you, even if that message is unintended or not a true representation of who you are. Let me break down the picture code. Pictures of you with people of the opposite sex make you look like a ho. Pictures of you drinking, holding or otherwise in the presence of alcohol make you look like a runaway from Alcoholics Anonymous. Pictures of you and your homies will only make your prospective date say, “The friends are hot. I wonder if they’re single?” Pictures of material possessions, like cars, and gratuitous references to occupation and salary are equally unimpressive. They make the subject appear pretentious, shallow and pathetic. In addition, nude or semi-nude pictures, pictures of genitalia or other for-your-eyes-only body parts, and pornographic pictures are also creepy. Steroid use, Photoshop, and gag reflex are all words that frequently came to mind.  

5)      It’s OK if you’re not Chris Rock or Tina Fey – Be yourself. Don’t try to be too funny, cute or sarcastic because the reader might end up thinking you’re a psychopath. And psychopaths are muy, muy anti-sexy.

6)      We are judged by the company we keep – Don’t mention the types of people you’ve dated in the past, because you may be judged harshly. Leave your baggage behind. A guy once told me he contacted me because I “seemed interested in things more substantive than the latest gossip and what Britney Spears was wearing” like the other women he’s dated. Britney Spears? Who the hell had he been dating? Twelve-year-old girls? Stand clear! Pedophile and Chickenhead Lover on the loose!

7)      Don’t date ugly people – A colleague once told me, “You have the right to have what you want.” If you want to date someone you’re attracted to, that’s not too much to ask. That should be the bare minimum. Do not date people you are not attracted to. Phrases such as “His looks will grow on me,” “But, he has a nice personality,” and “But, we have so much in common” are all lies we tell ourselves to avoid being single. If the mere thought of kissing someone repulses you (yes, I have been there), then follow your gag reflex. Trust me on this one, folks. It will never work.

8)      When people tell you who they are, believe them – If someone tells you on their profile or in a message that they’re looking for a one night stand, a casual encounter, or orgies with people of all sexes and orientations to reenact the latest porn flick, please believe them and keep it movin’ (unless you’re into that sort of thing). If a person tells you they’re gay, bi-sexual, have had sex with people of the same sex, are still sleeping with their ex, have had restraining orders against them, or spent time in the joint, believe what they say and not what you want to hear.

9)      Keep an open mind and don’t be superficial – Lists of traits you desire in a partner and attractive profile pictures are good starting points. But, life and relationships are not just one big website, list of traits, or series of clicks on a keyboard. Relationships are formed by real-life interactions, chemistry and shared values. When you focus on superficialities, like the kind of car someone says they drive, their stated profession and income, and whether they’re as tall as an NBA player, you get superficiality. People do lie, and what they write doesn’t guarantee that they’re a great person or that they will treat you well. Without compromising your core values, be willing to date new kinds of people. You may be pleasantly surprised.

10)  Don’t mess up a good thing – When you begin dating someone exclusively, lay down your online and offline pimpin’ cane. I know. But, common sense ain’t so common.      

Bonus Tip:

11)  Be the person you want to be with – Don’t ask for a Barack if you’re not a Michelle. Don’t expect a Michelle, if you’re not a Barack. Don’t demand a ten, if you’re only a 4. Don’t ask for more than you are willing to give.

Please share your own online dating tips and experiences!

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