My email inbox is full of messages from Match.com, the most recent online dating membership I quit some months back. No doubt the Match.com folks must think these messages are enticing enough that eventually I'll renew my subscription.
Wow! Your profile has been checked out by 19 Guys this week.
Who's into you? 6 Guys Showed Interest This Week!
Whoo hoo! He saw you and checked YES!
106 views, 90 interests, 29 messages are waiting on you. Subscribe now for full access to the Match experience including seeing who likes and favorites you.
The truth is, nothing Match.com or OK Cupid or Plenty of Fish or e-Harmony or Tinder or any other online dating site might say could inspire me to join another dating site. I'm done.
I'm not saying there aren't available men out there. There are. But they're not my match.
I will say that for both men and women, it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to try online dating. You have to put yourself out there, write a profile, upload photos, and then meet with strangers.
Some strangers are more strange than others.
The spring of 2017 was my second shot at online dating. My first try was after my 2010 divorce. I was an emotional train wreck. I really wasn't ready to date, but I was in great pain and wanted a distraction. I was also pretty bitter then, too, which may have come screaming through in my profile, which said things like, "No liars or cheaters, please."
I can see now that I probably wasn't ready for a relationship then.
But last spring, I really thought I was in a different place. I'd lost more than 30 pounds. I rewrote my profile to accentuate the positive. I uploaded a variety of photos. I listened to a lot of dating podcasts, and worked on getting more in touch with my feminine side; learning to downplay my problem-solving, boss-lady masculine side by avoiding saying things like, "No thanks. I've got it."
I posted current photos.
I was shocked to see that many of the guys who were on the sites years earlier were still there. I don't know what most horrified me, some of the truly creepy photos, or the spelling and grammar. It was a toss-up.
Sad to say, paragraphs like this were not uncommon:
I am a divorced white man that is in his mid 40s and is looking for a women who likes the outdoors and quiet time at home on the couch. who will not complain all the time and is looking for something long tirm and not a one night stand
im a outdoors person my hobbies are prospecting collecting artifacts and fossils im a friendly person yet ill treat others in the exact fashon they treat me no exceptions im spiritaul not religious im honest and loyal im liberal to a extent as long as morality lines are not crossed and im fond of beautiful women
He's fond of beautiful women. Sweet Jesus help me.
I forged ahead. I went on 14 dates in four months, and eventually, I just gave up. Out of all those dates, I only had one that led to a second date. He was a nice enough guy, but our beliefs were worlds apart.
What I found most disappointing about these dating sites is how little it took for them to consider me a match with someone.
Hey! You're both divorced and you both have adult kids! You're a match!
Look! You both like the outdoors, and you both dig eating out! You're a match!
You're both non-smokers! You're a match!
And although I've decided online dating isn't for me, I am happy to pass along what I've learned to other single women.
I also have some suggestions for guys, which I'll get to in a second. First, for women, here are my tips.
- Always drive to a public place and meet the guy; never have him pick you up at your house, no matter how seemingly nice and reputable he may be. I broke this rule twice, and regretted it both times. The first time the guy ended the date by grabbing me by the shoulders and forcing his tongue down my throat. The second time I let a man I'd just met (but we'd emailed each other a lot for a few weeks) drive for our dinner date in Red Bluff. The whole trip there I was thinking what an idiot I was, because I really didn't know this guy. It turned out OK, but it could have gone badly.
- Speaking of dinner out, stick strictly to coffee (or other non-alcoholic beverages) dates. And get your drink in a to-go cup. If you can't stand the guy, you can leave, and you still have your chai latte to comfort you on the drive home. One of my more memorable coffee dates literally didn't last more than about seven minutes. The guy was sarcastic, confrontational, and started talking about sex. But worst of all, he had beard dandruff (who knew that was a thing?) that piled up like a dirty snowdrift on our little black-topped bistro table. And when he walked across the room to pick up his coffee, I noticed a wad of mocha-colored toilet paper that appeared to have dropped from his pant leg and landed on the side of his shoe.
- Pay close attention to profile photos. If they look grainy, or if the clothing and hair styles seem outdated, they're probably old photos, which means the guy is trying to pass himself off as someone younger than he is. If you show up for a date and the guy varies wildly from his profile description in age or height, leave. He's already proven himself a truth-breaker. If I wanted to date a guy old enough to be my father, I'd have put that in my profile. If I'd wanted to date a Leprechaun, I would have said so.
- Don't give out personal email addresses or phone numbers; stick to the online email platform provided with the membership.
- If you quickly decide you truly can't stomach the guy, don't feel you have to "be polite" and stay. Practice these words in front of the mirror now: "It's been so interesting to meet you (true, because no matter how bad the guy, it's still a learning experience), but I'm not feeling the connection I'm looking for. Thanks for taking the time to meet me. I'll be going now." Then get the heck out of there.
- Meet in a public place, and by public place, that doesn't mean agreeing to a walk on the Arboretum which led to a secluded bench that nobody walked past for 25 minutes. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
- Tell a trusted someone where you're going, what time, and with whom. Tell them that if you aren't back in an hour, to please call you. If you're still on the date, and it's awful, but you haven't yet worked up the courage to leave, take the call, and use it as an excuse to exit. (Of course, the best thing is to be honest and just leave sooner.)
- Don't engage in long back-and-forth emails before the first date. People can seem one way in emails (funny, caring, interesting), and in person they're actually offensive, boorish and off-putting. You'll never get all that wasted email time back. Get right to the coffee date, get it over with and find out if there's a spark in person.
Guys, I have a few suggestions for you, too.
- Teeth. Have some. Clean them. Floss them.
- Smell nice. Look nice. Have clean and tidy hair, clothes and shoes.
- If it's summer, and you insist on wearing footwear that displays your toes, you'd better have the smooth, clean pedicured feet and toenails of a professional foot model, not a cloven-hooved troll. Women look at feet. You know.
- Clean, trim fingernails. All of them. That means even your extra-special pinkie fingernail you intentionally grew long just to remove ear wax. Please. For the love of God.
- Don't bring flowers to a first date. It's a sweet thought, but it's extreme, in a "Fatal Attraction" way. If you two don't hit it off, you'll regret the money you "wasted" on flowers. Besides, when the woman exits Starbucks, she'll feel like she's carrying a bridal bouquet, which is embarrassing.
- Talk some, listen some. Ask questions. One of the most annoying things I noticed about the majority of my dates is the guys - probably in a well-meaning attempt to sell themselves - did about 85 percent of the talking, mainly about work, and their accomplishments. Granted, I'm a reporter, and I fight a bad habit of asking too many questions, but I really tried to lean back and listen and not pepper the guys with inquires. Even so, by the time most dates were done, I could tell you volumes about the guys, and they knew virtually nothing about me. They rarely asked.
- Along those lines, if you want to know the woman better, don't say, "So, tell me about yourself." That sounds like something out of a job interview. You can ask specific things, like what does she like to do when she's not working, or ask her to tell about a trip she'd taken recently, or ask her favorite restaurants, or ask her to name a place that's on her bucket list to visit, or ask about a project she's tackling, etc. One caveat: Do not ask about her exes.
- Don't tell jokes. I realize that it makes many guys feel good when the woman in their presence laughs and smiles. But telling jokes feels forced. You want genuine laughs and smiles. Right? Right?
- Don't discuss your exes. Period. It's bad form, and your date will identify with your ex, no matter how crazy a bitch you insist she is. Along the same lines, don't talk crap about previous dates.
- A well-written profile is so important. Keep it positive. Enlist a trusted person who has a good grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation to copy edit it for you. Be especially careful when using such words as your, you're, they're, their, and it's, its. When it doubt, spell it out, because there are certain picky women who care about these details: You are. They are. It is.
- Bear in mind that if you write something in your profile like, "Seeking a woman who still looks hot in a bikini, someone who can duck hunt by day and dress up in a strapless, sexy evening gown by night," then you sure as hell better have abs and buns of steel and be a cross between George Clooney and Paul Hollywood, or just omit that whole sorry-ass sentence completely.
- Profile photos. These are crucial.
- Please, no poses with dead, dying or gutted creatures of any kind: fish, elk, bear, turkey, etc.
- No shirtless photos, or photos that show any area below your navel. Women. Do. Not. Want. To. See. That. Trust me on this.
- No selfie photos taken in any bathroom mirror, especially a gas station. Ever.
- No photos from when you still obviously wore a wedding ring, or when you were a move-star-handsome 22-year-old, or any high school yearbook screen shots of you playing football. No old military photos; in fact, no old photos at all. That's so yesterday.
- No photos with your arm around any woman, or even with your teenage daughters, which give off an icky perv vibe, because we don't know who they are. For that matter, no photos of you with your kids or grandkids, or your mother ... especially not your mother.
- No photos where you're one of a bunch of guys, because your date may decide she likes the looks of the other guys better.
- Also, we know a dog is man's best friend, but easy on the dog photos, OK? And cat photos, for that matter, too.
- Oh, and if you post a photograph that shows the interior and/or exterior your house, be aware of what's in the photos' backgrounds. Do the rooms look like like something out of a meth house? Does the backyard look like Dogpatch?
- Ditch all photos of your trucks, your classic cars, your motorcycles, your RVs and/or your boats, unless you're in them or on them.
- No photos of beaches, sunrises and/or sunsets. We know what they look like. We just want to see you. Without sunglasses. By yourself. With a shirt on. And pants. And teeth. Did I mention teeth?
- If you arrive to the coffee date before your date, please be a gentleman, stand up and greet her. Extra points if you've not already bought your coffee, and you walk to the counter with her and buy coffee for two.
- The greeting can be awkward. A handshake feels too formal and businesslike, but a hug can feel too familiar. I haven't quite figured this one out. Most of the time a smile and, "Hi, nice to meet you," seemed a good place to start. And when the date's over, stand up when she leaves, and even walk her to the door, and open it for her. Go ahead. It's OK. Women of my generation have made peace with chivalry. We like it.
That just about covers it. I hope this helps those of you who are curious about online dating.
Just writing about this brings back so many memories. It's enough to make me want to go online again, too, because after all, that's where I found my guy.
Paul Hollywood awaits. Hey, we both love to bake! We're the perfect match!
He just doesn't know it. Yet.