This is the third in a series about what I learned in 2013. The back story is that I started the year with a break-up, moved four times, lived in a warehouse with 13 roommates, traveled to Japan alone and discovered that online dating can be fun. These posts highlight insights gained along the way. You can read the first one, about minimalism, here, and the second one, about being single, here
You know how I started online dating? I took my ex-boyfriend’s advice. Not so much because I thought it was good advice, rather I was annoyed that he seemed so happy about his dating experiences. There, I admit it. I was jealous and after letting that marinate for a bit, I worked up the nerve to get on OkCupid.
The truth is, I had spent prior months moaning about the horror of online dating. Or the prospect of trying to date at all, after nearly a 10 year hiatus. “BUT!” I would whine, “I’m in my 30s and it’s New York City! It will be so hard. And my friends have had such disappointing experiences. Some of them are still single!” Of course, my friends had a good laugh when I became obsessed with online dating last summer. Friends, you deserve those laughs because I was being a drama queen without any drama. A boring, not-dating, scared-ass drama queen. I will now admit something else: I was wrong about OkCupid. It was fun.
I had heard some awful stories, mostly from my single ladies, about hilariously sour dates. A couple friends had referred to the site as OkStupid with the sort of sigh you can only achieve after giving up (temporarily, it turns out) and that stuck with me. I was also told, as if it were a consolation prize, that I would at least get a few dinners out of it. Well, I am here to say I only got one free dinner out of my OkCupid dates but I enjoyed all of them.
The dinner thing is actually a crucial point I need to expand upon. I never made dinner plans for the first meeting. I suggested bars and, if I was choosing the location, I usually picked a lady-centric spot I patronize for it’s laid back atmosphere, roof deck and good music. Also, it was close to the warehouse I was living in at the time a.k.a. an easy escape. I arrived early, texted my roommate with my whereabouts, grabbed a nice table and bought my own drink, leaving my credit card at the bar. I like to think of it as setting the tone. After the guy arrived I would tell him to put his drinks on my tab. If we ended up going somewhere else to eat, I’d usually buy his food or we’d pay for our own. I did this, not out of some reverse chivalry, but to make it subtly clear I didn’t owe him shit should we part ways early.
I was surprised to learn that this is a rare occurrence, the woman paying, at least with the guys I went out with. And, they were stoked. So there you go, ladies. Show the dudes what is up and nonchalantly bust out your wallet. The menfolk will not be emasculated, not the ones you want to see again, anyway.
But, let’s backup. How did I find these eligible men? The first thing I did not do, that I never did, was look at the competition’s profiles. In this case, that means other women who were looking to date men. I would recommend that you never do this either. Make your profile 100% about you. Do not let your competition get into your brain; not the way they might describe themselves or their voice. Think: Why am I awesome and who would I bring home on the first date because I can’t wait for a second? Then start typing your little Bat-signal siren-song to that person.
Instead of perusing other women’s profiles, I read a bunch of men’s profiles and got a thorough understanding of my audience (a.k.a. very smart, very cool, late 20-to-mid 30s foxes with excellent senses of humor). Then, I worked up a profile that was both fun and serious, clear about who I am and who I was looking to meet. My profile was shorter, in length, than the majority of men’s profiles I had seen. Length was key, because I wanted them to actually read the words in addition to judging my photos.
I think I did a good job with the profile as guys talked to me about it on every date. Most told me it was way better than what they usually came across. I had included some silly pop-cultural jokes that the menfolk consistently used as icebreakers. It helped me seem approachable even though I had made it super clear that I have, as the kids say, strong feels about certain aspects of my life and who I wanted to date.
Next, photos. I had read about some study which found that photos of women in red shirts get way more male attention than the same woman wearing any other color shirt. In fact, no other color seemed to affect attention levels except red. So, I made my profile pic one with a red shirt, taken while on vacation, and called it “Tokyo bathroom selfie” which gave guys something else to break the ice with (travel) besides my confession of unironically loving Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” (One total babe, who I am still seeing, sang William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” set to the tune of “Don’t Stop Believin’” during our first date. I was a goner after that, obvs). The other photos were fun, recent and showed my figure without being skanky. Apparently, I look better in real life which was another thing men volunteered to tell me was different than their other dates.
Oh yes, other dates. I loved talking about their other dates. Maybe this was weird, but I would usually lead in by saying I had just started dating again after a long hiatus and then headed off the man’s rapidly-growing anxiety about this revelation by asking a million questions about his other dating experiences. Honestly, I just like to know this stuff, because it’s fascinating and sometimes really funny. There was no intell-gathering guile and it was also a great way to put my B.A. in Sociology to work for once. I got the sense that you do not usually talk about other dates on a first date, but whatever. We were humans on OkCupid and the fact we have been dating other people is a major shared similarity, an ice-breaker.
By the end of the date it was always obvious if there was going to be a second one. The tell-tale sign was whether we had made out like adolescents. No snogging, no second date. It just worked out like that. The other sign was how fast I was talking shortly before kissing ensued. Faster talking preluded making out preluded planning another date. I’m sure you will have your own signs and these will become obvious after going out with a few people.
I got into a slightly weird situation toward the end of using the site, where I had gone on first dates with two guys around the same time and then kept going out with both of them for a little over a month. I was completely upfront with both of them about this and it was fine. Meanwhile, I stopped using the site and then stopped seeing one of the guys. The other? Well, he is the sort of early 30s brilliant fox that I was looking for and we’ve been dating for six months. He still enjoys singing to me and I still love hearing him.
Not sure of the photo source, but it looks 1940s