Q: I’ve had some good experiences with online dating, but I just can’t get over this feeling that it just isn’t natural or sexy.
—Clicking For Love
A: People romanticize chance meetings over highly calculated search algorithms. They swoon telling the story, “If I hadn’t filled in for the night nurse the evening he lopped off his thumb…” as opposed to “If I hadn’t typed 16 very specific terms into a search engine on one of the five online dating sites I have a membership to…”
People also love the idea of “the one” — that one special someone they’re supposedly fated to be with. In online dating, you’re trying to weed that special someone out of a field of thousands of other potential special someones — making the process feel about as romantic as a livestock auction. And while the stigma formerly attached to Internet dating is largely gone, what it still lacks is any plausible deniability about one’s intentions. In a bar, you could be there to grab a beer, but there’s no pretending you posted your profile because you were thirsty. In fact, you might as well stand in the center of town shouting, “Hi, I’m alone! Here’s how I look! Any takers? Yoohoo, anyone out there?”
In addition to the weirdness of posting your face on an enormous bulletin board to see if anyone might end up loving you, there’s the weirdness of shopping for the love of your life in between bidding on a used tennis racket on eBay. But, with Internet dating, instead of waiting for that chance meeting, you have increase-your-chances meetings. With a few keystrokes, you can connect with countless people you probably never would’ve met, and select for the right religious beliefs, smoking habits, and/or weird sex habits instead of spending hours trying to tease the answers out of some guy in a bar.
Where people go wrong is in turning what should actually be called “online meeting” into online dating. The same woman who’d go home with a near stranger she met in a bar will spend weeks e-mailing a guy to assess how good his grammar is before she’ll feel safe enough to meet him. She’ll tell herself she’s vetting the guy, but what she’s probably doing is getting attached — not to the actual guy, but her idea of the guy, and maybe how smart and funny she is when she’s talking to him. Investing all this time and emotion can make it somewhat devastating when she finally meets the guy and finds that he looks wrong, talks wrong, dresses wrong, and smells like rotting liver.
So, sure, there are pitfalls in online dating, but it can be a great tool if you use it wisely. And when you say it seems unnatural, it’s true that there was no dragmeoffbythehair.com in the Stone Age, but humans have always tried to find partners using the best resources at hand. Go into that painted cave in Lascaux with the right archeologist, and see if that wall doesn’t just read “Single, hairy club-dragger seeks sturdy woman for long walks on what will one day become the French Riviera…”
Q: I’m sick of leaving a message asking a woman out and getting no response. Most recently, this happened when I left a voicemail for a woman who’d verbally agreed to another date. Instead of no reply, I’d even prefer a lame excuse, like “Hey, in the two days since our date, I met the love of my life and don’t want to lead you on.”
A: It’s called “the chase,” not the “call once and leave a message, then give up.” If you’re like a lot of guys, you ask girls out by phone message as a way of avoiding rejection. Unfortunately, you won’t avoid rejection this way; you’ll just avoid hearing it and knowing you can move on. And while no response probably means you’re being blown off, there is that slim chance that a woman accidentally erased your message. If she’s just ambivalent, and you get her on the phone, you might charm her into going out with you again. (It’s a lot easier to delete a guy than say no to him.)
Never ask a girl out by voicemail. If getting her on the line seems impossible, only leave a message asking her to call you, not asking her out. It’s a small distinction, but no response to “Hey, call me!” allows your ego to maintain the fiction that she just didn’t call you back while none to a dinner invitation pretty much spells it out: There’s no amount of back hair you can shave or free filet mignon you can offer her to ever get her to go out with you again.