on quitting online dating

“You should get on Tinder,” a well-intentioned friend instructed me over lunch. I made a face at him.

“No,” he continued. “It’s not a hookup site for singles in their 40s. That’s just how the younger kids use it.”

I was dubious, but he added stories about two friends who’d found significant others through the app. Why not try it?

You’ve seen the pictorial evidence of the manliness awaiting me. Men with bloodied faces cuddling dogs smaller than my cats. Men in costume, men in the nude, car selfies, gym shots. And the written part of the test wasn’t much better. “Looking for my partner in crime” was maybe the most-used cliche.  Married dudes were rampant. Open marriages more common than I knew.

When I “connected” six weeks ago with a tall, built man of European descent who liked to travel, surf and do triathlons, I was mildly interested. Our initial conversation focused around our favorite beaches: Costa Rica for him, Hawaii for me. We talked about wines, old world versus new.

“Perhaps I can take you out for a drink,” he suggested over Tinder text. I canceled the initial plans because my work load was too heavy. He was persistent and followed up. We had our first date on Wednesday last week.

I’ve been more excited about doctor’s appointments, honestly. Our date was capping off a busy day. I put two seconds of thought into my outfit. But when he walked in the door of the restaurant, we had immediate chemistry. We didn’t stop talking all night. It was refreshing. He asked to see me again, so we went out Friday. Saw each other the next night. Had dinner again on Wednesday, one week after the first date. I will admit there was a sleepover.

Then Friday morning I received this text message: Chelsea, you are smart and sexy but not who I’m looking for right now.

Hmm. Something didn’t feel right. My thoughts drifted back to the night before when my best friend had asked to see a picture of him. I was loathe to log on to Tinder, so we did a google search. He had zero online footprint. I was too deep in afterglow to be concerned at the time, but with greater thought after his dismissive text, I clearly recalled a conversation he initiated about how annoying it is when strangers “link in” with you. I mentioned I rarely use Facebook, but he said it’s good for communicating with friends abroad. Yet, the name he’d given me had no LinkedIn profile, no Facebook page. No “our team” presence for the software company he said he worked for. I wish my spidey senses had kicked in when I noticed a piece of mail on his counter addressed to a name that wasn’t his. I even glanced at it a few times, but hey, I accidentally get mail for my neighbors sometimes. Now I wonder if the sparsely furnished and undecorated apartment he brought me too is even his. The name he shared obviously is not.

I dodged a bullet. I thought I was protecting myself by texting my friends his full name and address, but he still could have been a serial killer or a rapist. Luckily, he was just a jerk, out for one thing. I deleted my Tinder profile.

I had thought nothing was harder than being set up on a date by a mutual friend with a vested interest in the outcome, but I’m reconsidering that position. From this day forward, I’m only dating men who come with a personal reference.

when words count

 

A year ago, the boyfriend of a dear friend asked me to draft his bio for the website of the company where he’d started working. The write up couldn’t read like a narrative version of his resume; it was supposed to be quirky and convey his sense of humor and interests as well as get his qualifications across.

I spent about 45 minutes preparing the piece, which he (and his boss) loved.

“Hey,” he said. “I know a lot of guys who could use your help writing their online dating profiles. You should really look into doing this as a job.”

I dismissed his suggestion. Surely he exaggerated. How hard could it be to write an online dating profile?

Apparently I overestimated mankind’s writing ability.

Now that I swim in the online dating pool, I’m constantly struck by the poor writing I encounter. Online daters, you have one chance to make an impression. And maybe you hit it out of the ballpark with your photo; a picture does say a thousand words. But you must follow up your photo with at least a few sentences to attract the attention of potential suitors. Make their click on your profile count.

I don’t care how attractive your picture, if you spell a word wrong, I’m done. Double check your/you’re, its/it’s and their/they’re/there. Don’t randomly capitalize Words. In other words, don’t say you’re (not your) looking for a great Lady. Strike a playful, witty or friendly tone; your (not you’re) online profile is not the forum to bash your previous bad dating experience and shouldn’t read like a LinkedIn summary. Please refrain from writing words as if they end in in’ – for example, chillin’, hangin’, relaxin’ or my biggest pet peeve, chillaxin’. If you decide to go dirty, at least get lie vs. lay correct.

Readers, if you know a poor soul in desperate need of a modern day Cyrano de Bergerac, inquire within. The Internet may not have secured me a ton of dates, but I don’t fault my way with words.

lay-lie

why your friends should have final approval of your online dating profile picture

I have to admit that one of my favorite new pastimes is taking screenshots of potential matches that come across my online dating feed and sharing them with girlfriends. I do this partly to mock but mostly to question: why on earth would a person choose this particular photo as the critical first impression shot?

For example, in this adorable holiday card worthy picture, who is Ben? Gentleman on the right? Gentleman on the left? Baby in the middle?

Will the eligible bachelor please raise a hand?
Will the eligible bachelor please raise a hand?

Perhaps if a friend with a discerning eye had been consulted, this confusion never would have arose, and Ben and I would be perfectly paired. A number of group shots make it into people’s dating profiles, rendering the subject of the profile highly unidentifiable.

One of my favorite photos is the non-photo. I suppose I should not judge a book by its cover, but we are talking about the internet. It is more honest than offering a doctored or dated photo, but please, no photo draws an automatic decline from me.

Really, what do you look like?

It boggles my mind how many deletable photos are posted. Like when you drop the phone as you are about to take a picture and half your face ends up cut off or the image turns out blurry. I didn’t crop this photo, readers. I can only presume this dude does not have friends to tell him he’s not putting his best side forward.

How does the camera function work anyway?

The gentleman below loves a good rugby match, and I applaud him for being upfront about his passion for the brutal sport. But he could have gotten his point across without leading with a bloody picture. If you are related to this man, please tell him to save this photo for the third date.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Your friends can also be there to help stop you from posting underwear photos and dark/upside side down photos. A consultation might result in the straightening of your headphones or someone near and dear telling you it’s a very bad idea to grab your junk for a photo.

"Help me"

Friends also don’t let friends post pictures that contour their hairy backs:

Just say no to posting pictures like this...
Just say no to posting pictures like this…

And last but not least, a true friend would never let you post this pronouncement. I mean geez… leave a little to the imagination, please.

I have no wordsWe can’t all have photographer friends to make us look gorgeous, but with today’s technology, it doesn’t take much effort to look good. If you’re unsure of a photo, don’t post it. And whatever you do, don’t forget to include the witty banter.

try a little tinderness

A man, his pool and his pug
A man, his pool and his pug
Broad shoulders. Itty bitty man shorts.

I tend to come to Internet trends late. I initially rejected Facebook and more recently, divorced the site. I never followed a blog until I after I started my own. I avoided Twitter as long as I could, and I’m a self-diagnosed Instagram stalker, just posting enough photos to be legit but preferring to ogle at other people’s meals, outfits and sunsets.

“Try online dating,” my friends pushed. Love? Like I’m going to find that on the World Wide Web. But they coaxed, and I tested the waters.

Match.com was a disaster. Not only did I go on zero dates, but their algorithm is broken because I kept getting paired with men whose profiles declared my single biggest deal breaker: wants kids, definitely. But the final subscription-canceling straw came when one of my daily matches, the 10-12 carefully selected true love potentials I was thoughtfully sent everyday, was a 62-year old school bus driver.

“Hinge is the way to go,” a twentysomething told me. It sounded kind of dirty, but I gave it a go. I met a guy, respectable enough. Hinging on the boring side. We dabbled in dating before I admitted to myself we had no spark.

Of course, everyone brings up Tinder. But why would I sign up for the hook up site? That’s certainly not what I want, and if it were, I’d find other ways to meet eligible men.

“Tinder is different for people in their 40s,” I was assured. “I know a woman who met her boyfriend on Tinder,” one guy friend told me.

Fueled by wine and boredom, the other day, I joined. It literally took me all of 30 seconds to set up my account. Unlike Match and other dating sites, there is no long profile page to fill out. Just add some pictures and a 400-character description and voila. Immediately, I had hundreds of “matches” to swipe right or left. It took time to get the hang of it. I sadly left swiped the man pictured in front of his extensive wine cellar and my friend accidentally right swiped someone unacceptable who instantly became a match, leading to scrambling and un-matching.

I don’t think it’s 100 percent true that 40-somethings use Tinder for “real” dating, as evidenced by some of the profile photos I’ve seen. Readers, Nude Photo Exhibit A:

Lower half of photo cropped to protect the innocent.

The lack of a character description is telling. I’ve left swiped some handsome guys because they wrote nothing about themselves and I just don’t go for illiterate men. Nor am I interested in a “poly” relationship or to be an out-of-towner’s fling. I mean, it’s one thing if we meet at happy hour at Proof, but quite another if I have to prearrange sex on my iPhone.

I get it… you have to kiss a lot of frogs. And then maybe you find a prince. And he owns a hot tub.

Hot tub time machine
Hot tub time machine

liar liar

My computer dinged with an incoming Match message.

We should talk, wrote a person whose handle suggested British heritage.

This could be interesting, I said to myself. DaveTheBrit had not previously caught my eye, but I gave him points for being bold. I’m freaking tired of twenty-message exchanges about the weather and what music I like.

Me: Why, so you can woo me with your British accent?

DaveTheBrit: Exactly.

Me: What are we going to talk about?

DaveTheBrit: We’re going to talk about how you’re coming over tonight for dinner and Netflix.

[I pause here to reassure readers I’d never venture to a stranger’s place for a first or even fifth date. I have no desire to have my dating life fictionalized on Law and Order.]

But my heart skipped a beat. He was thinking beyond I can’t wait for spring or I heard the Civil Wars broke up. I held my response, not feeling the need to state the obvious but not wanting his cyber flirting to end. I decided to play coy.

Me: I lived in London for a year… I’m immune to your British charm.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Refresh screen. Tick tock.

DaveTheBrit: Well, I’ve lived in the U.S. for twenty years. I really sound more Australian now. Maybe that’ll do something for you.

Yeah, it did something for me. It made me think he was a big fat liar. Now I’m imagining a different scenario than what dinner and a movie inspired. I’m imagining DaveTheFakeBrit having beers with a buddy and mentioning he wasn’t getting much attention on Match.

BeerBuddy: Dude, you should totally say you’re British. Chicks dig a British accent.

DaveTheFakeBrit: You’re a genius!

Fast forward to the other night.

DaveTheFakeBrit (in panicked text to BeerBuddy): Dammit! Winked at hot chick. She lived in U.K., gonna know my accent is fake!

BeerBuddy: Shit! Say U R Australian! U sound more like the Crocodile Hunter anyway.

DaveTheFakeBritFakeAussie: Right.

His last words of our short-lived exchange suggested he’d leave me breathless; instead I’m stunned. Maybe he’s really British but decided I was boring. Maybe he’s American and knew he was nabbed. The crazy thing about online dating is you have no idea what’s real versus what’s fiction.

behind door number three…

Remember that old TV show The Dating Game? I watched this precursor to The Bachelor/ette in syndication a few times back in the dark ages when we had four TV stations and my brother and I argued incessantly over who was going to get up to manually change the channel. (My children often wonder at these medieval times and how we ever survived. But I digress.)

Match reminds me a little of that old show. You never know who you’re going to find behind that cyber wink. Dearest reader, you’ve shared my shock over my ninety-four percent match with ZipperRipper and laughed at my near miss with WegmansLover. Now I’d like to introduce you to Friday’s gem:

FullSizeRender (2)

This eligible bachelor joins a handful of other profile pics so absurd I’ve put their screenshots in my personal Match Hall of Fame. And joining the rapidly expanding class of guys who need help choosing their online dating handle is UnrstrctdFreeAgnt, ClickHereToDate and FiftyShadesOfJoe. How about the dude who listed his desired age range in a woman as eighteen to fifty, only slightly worse than the guy who indicated his preference as thirty to fifty. I mean, come on… It’s very different to date an eighteen-year old than it is to date a thirty-year old than it is to date a fifty-year old. Maybe the errant verb here is to date. As my friend Shannon joked: Have a heartbeat? Have breasts? IM immediately! 

This is why I’m single. Not that I consider being single such a bad thing. I have a wonderful network of friends who share my passions. I have the Weekend Warriors to help with household projects beyond my abilities. And I get to do whatever I want without comparing schedules, arguing about budget or getting passive aggressively angry when the trash doesn’t get taken out. I know, I know (or at least I think I remember) there are wonderful aspects to being in a meaningful relationship. I committed to opening myself to the prospects of a romantic connection, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to settle for a man who is less than exceptional.

a match almost made in wegmans

He had me at his tagline: Internet dating: because I haven’t met the perfect woman at the grocery store. And then he proceeded to list Wegmans as one of his favorite things. Wegmans? I love Wegmans too! And not just that, but he read my favorite book of 2014. We were meant to be perfect for each other.

I reached out first, sending that bold initial message. “Oh, you’re cute and smart and funny,” he wrote back. “I’d totally make up an excuse to talk to you in the produce department if I saw you at my grocery store.” We spent a few days swapping messages through our online arbiter, moving to real life text over the weekend to arrange the plan. We had a small hiccup; our kid custody schedules are not aligned. He panicked. “Hey,” I wrote. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s see if we like each other. Schedules can always be changed.” 

But apparently he’s the complicated type because tonight I got the text of doom. Not only did the kid schedule bother him, but the thirty miles of parkway separating his town and mine turned out to be a deal breaker. Date off.

I presume I dodged a bullet. A guy so worried about two relatively insignificant factors this early is probably not the grounded guy I’m looking for. Hell, maybe he’s married, and his wife found his online profile. That’s the thing about this whole online dating process. You don’t really know what motivates people, and not just WegmansLover (handle changed to protect the innocent) but SnugglePuppy3348, ClickHereToDate, RealMan345, WildPig10, Ready2LoveAgain too.

So back to combing through profiles I go, weeding out the guys who capitalize the word lady – make that, use the word lady. Full Stop.

true love at last

In the last 48 hours, I found my true love.

Just kidding… deep, meaningful love only happens that fast on the Bachelor.

I continue to be astonished with the so-called matches that come my way. ZipperRipper aside, let’s talk for a minute about usernames. I know it’s potentially perilous that I actually incorporated my first name in mine. But “your name + s + waiting” is not a good user name. Nor is anything paired with awesome, handsome, sexy, foxy or the number 69 (even if it is your birth year). TriGuy appears in many different iterations, leading me to believe that the majority of single men in the DC metro area are triathletes. If that’s true, when do they have time to date?

The profile photos people choose to post amuse me too. This is the first impression you’re making on someone. I guess maybe the pink cowboy hat says everything I need to know about you, as does the pirate costume. The dude wearing camo looked intense, to say the least. I made that assessment before I noticed the subsequent picture of him emerged in open water wielding an automatic weapon like he was storming a beach. To scuba_addict I ask, “why are all your pictures taken underwater?” (That’s internal dialogue. I didn’t really strike up communication.) And it’s worth repeating: if all your pictures are obviously selfies, my conclusion is you don’t have friends. At least get a tourist on the Mall to snap your shot. Or someone from the office. Your sister, perhaps? A waiter?

Abundance of dad jeans aside, I’m not totally cynical. I’ve read some interesting profiles and even reached out to a few men who caught my attention. It might sound odd that this process makes me feel vulnerable given I write a blog where I’m open about some intense experiences, but I’m trying not to take rejection personally. Just as I’m making knee jerk reactions about people, so are they about me. “I mean really, what’s with the Dr Zhivago hat?” I’m sure more than one man has said under his breath. “A Boston Red Sox fan? Pass.”

I press ahead. At worst, I have new material to write about and at best, I make a friend or two.

a match made in cyberspace

A few years ago, I tried the online dating thing for a very brief period of time. And by brief, I mean a few hours after signing up for Match, I called customer service, crying hysterically, and asked to get out of my six-month contract. I stuck with e-harmony a little longer because the limited ability to browse through profiles (or rather, have my profile browsed through) provided an added layer of protection, but I went on exactly zero dates, so I eventually canceled that contract too.

I’ve never been tempted to venture back into the cyber dating fold, but over Valentine’s dinner and the many glasses of wine that accompanied, I got talked into giving Match another try. “Come on,” my friend coaxed. “I just signed up and we can go through it together.”

I agreed to join her quest. I probably could have read a book in the amount of time I spent not only creating my own profile but going through those the love algorithms chose as my perfect pairs. And are they perfect. Perfectly wrong. For example, handle name Zipper Ripper (I’m NOT making this up) is a 94% match with me, but his profile picture looks like it belongs in the serial killer hall of fame. Pass. All sorts of photo-less guys have sent me chat requests. None of them live within a 200-mile radius. “Hey gorgeous. Let’s talk.” Um, no thanks. A self-processed “handsome catch” details he only dates women with a BMI of nineteen, max, and he’s hardcore about it because he mentions it twice, along with the caveat that “skinny girls need love.”

Hey, I get it. I’m judging too. If you wear sunglasses in every picture, I assume you’re hiding something. I don’t even click on you if your profile photo is a bathroom or car selfie. If you indicate you don’t have time to read, I don’t have time to get to know you. Good grammar is a must. Forget your thoughts on politics, kids or religion; use of emoticons is a deal-breaker. And I know it’s DC, but I’m not impressed when your photo gallery is filled with shots of you posing with famous people.

I have to admit I’m not well-versed on the etiquette of Match. Winking is too forward of an action for me to take. How do you favorite someone you’ve never met? Do people really respond to messages? I mean, I haven’t responded to any I’ve received in my eight hours of experience. How do you express interest without being creepy?

In spite of all this, I don’t yet feel the urge to call and cancel my subscription. There have to be single, wine-loving, age-appropriate book nerds out there who don’t want new babies. Now if only the cyber gods will match us up.

 

 

and now the waiting

94,400 words, two professional rounds of edits and an uncountable number of marks with my dying red pen later, I’ve started pitching agents.

The first experience was only made tolerable by the help I got from my dad, who it turns out is an ace at writing proposals. On Facebook, I compared sending the first query to the first time having sex. It was dreadful. Uncomfortable. I was full of self doubt, but experienced a sense of relief when it was done. Six hours later, the agent in question rejected me (another parallel to my first sexual encounter) but each query I’ve made since has been easier. Better. And on the plus side, it only took two hours and four minutes for an agent in my top three to request my full manuscript.

Yes, as I described a few months ago, the agent pitching process is a lot like online dating. But worse in a way because you can’t tell whether someone peeked at your profile, and it could take four to six weeks to get a wink. Or you might not get a wink at all, as the downside to electronic submissions is that many agents only respond if they are interested. So at some point in the average response window, if you haven’t heard anything, you have to reach your own conclusion that s/he is just not that into you(r writing). I’m not good at reaching that conclusion in my dating life, so this part is going to be particularly tough for your favorite debut novelist wannabe.

In the meantime, while I wait to either hear back (or not) from the remaining 24 agents I’ve queried, I don’t really know how to channel my creative energy. Do I start writing the second book? Enter some writing contests? Revamp my Modern Love essay that was rejected? Reconnect with the real world, which I’ve more or less disappeared from since the  beginning of the new year? Recommit to finding a new client? Bask at the pool and read?

Or maybe, while I’m steeled for rejection, I’ll try online dating.