April 7, 2008

A guide to cyber civility

Today I received a comment from a reader about one of my earlier posts in which I gave examples of the asinine messages guys used to send me when I was part of the online dating scene last summer. Here is what Spike had to say:

So you think men like myself should not like Even try ? hah well this guy =) didint find anything to discribe his love and feelings towards you , so he sent a noble =) . :D anyways im not really sure if your making fun of them , cause it was not clear .

But do you have any better ideas that might actually get your attention online :D

Ayy Take care now

Thanks, Spike. You make a good point.

In addition to telling men how they’ve gotten it wrong, I should have instructed them on how to get it right. So here it is.

The problem with many or all of the messages I introduced as horrific examples of online conversation was that they didn't even attempt to elicit a response.

When you send a message to a woman you’re interested in, I’m assuming your goal is to convince her to respond — an indication that she may be interested, too.

(If your point isn’t to get her to respond, I’m not sure what your point could be other than to waste her time.)

I wrote my last blog post on this subject to illustrate that many men were messaging me apparently without this goal in mind.

How exactly am I supposed to reply to “MMMM…..yummy!” ?

And why would I even want to?

Like all other types of dating, online dating is a game, and it helps to know how to play. So here are some good rules to follow:

1. Remember that there is an actual person on the receiving end of your message, and this is a first impression. Treat it that way. You should check your spelling, be courteous and respectful and generally try to connect with this person.

2. Say something about yourself. I don’t need a biography, just something interesting that makes me care to learn more. A first name is always a good start, since it's awkward conversing with a nameless stranger.

3. Show your interest. Mention something you read in her profile or how you live in the same area of town. This shows that you aren't just contacting her because her photos are hot. Even if you are just contacting her because her photos are hot, she'll be more likely to respond if you maintain the illusion that you care about more than her physical appearance.

4. If you choose to comment on her physical appearance, be general and decent. Many girls don’t want to hear that they “have a nice rack.” This, of course, depends on what kind of site you’re on… To send an acceptable message, stick to “You look very beautiful" or “You have a nice smile.” These are not clich├ęs — no girl gets tired of hearing these things.

5. Try funny. This doesn't always go over well, which might deter some guys from cracking jokes. But funny is one of the foundations of flirting! If you can make her laugh or even crack a grin, you're halfway there. And if not, it wouldn't work out anyway. You need someone who meshes with your sense of humor.

6. Ask a question. This shows you're interested in more than her great rack, and it also makes her more likely to respond. Just don't ask too many — she may not want to write you an essay in response.

7. Be intelligent. "MMMM...yummy!" is my case in point.

This is a lot to digest, but the key to remember is that online conversation is very much like regular conversation. Many of these rules also apply to making a good first impression if you were meeting someone face-to-face.

I’ll leave you with an example of a well-written cyber message:

Hi, I’m Jared. I read on your profile that you’re learning to water ski. Where do you ski?
I’ve been going to Lake Lanier to ski every summer since I was a kid, but I haven't had time lately because I'm opening a surf shop. Don't worry, I'm not a beach bum (yet!).
I'd like to get a chance to learn more about each other — IM me sometime if you want to chat. My screen name is Jared815.

OK, so Jared wasn't very funny, but there's a good chance he'll get a reply, so he can always try again next time.

At least he didn't go the way of his peers and write, "I've got a ski for you..."

April 5, 2008

Win...or die miserable

Samantha: “Well let’s just say it, you won.”

Carrie: “Was there a contest?”

Samantha: “Oh please, there’s always a contest with an ex — It’s called ‘Who Will Die Miserable.’”

There’s nothing like staying in on Saturday night for a self-induced marathon of “Sex and the City.” (For the record, it’s not “Sex in the City.” I usually have to check. It makes me nervous every time.)

I especially loved the scene above because, seriously, is there anything better than being happy in a new relationship while watching an ex suffer alone?

This is assuming it wasn’t one of those mutual breakups, but let’s face it — break-ups are never mutual. One person just gives in. Sucker.

Nonetheless, after any good, knock-down, drag-out break up, the race begins to see who will start dating first. Someone will couple up fastest and someone will be left in the dust.

And you’d better hope it ain’t you.

Because the naughty and completely gratifying satisfaction felt by the winner — well, there’s a flipside. It really sucks to be the loser. It sucks even worse if you initiated the break up.

There are ways of getting around this setback. One good psychological exercise is to identify every single reason why his new girlfriend is a monster. You could say, “She looks like Chelsea Clinton,” or “She’s as fat as Tyra Banks.” It usually helps to repeat these attacks over and over again to your friends, and also people you’ve just met. Whatever makes you feel better.

But mostly you’ll still feel like crap. That is, unless you have the good fortune of drunk dialing your ex and telling him exactly how much of a monster his new girlfriend is. That might make you feel better until the next morning when you realize you just gave him the upper hand.

Because even in a breakup, it’s still about power.

One person will find a new mate, live long and prosper… and have the power.

One will die miserable. Make sure it’s not you.

April 3, 2008

Back on the wagon

My friend Tyler recently informed me of his devastating sadness that I had abandoned my blog. You could call this a bit of an intervention. He made me come to terms with my uncaring ways — days spent doing things besides posting my thoughts to this site.

I decided it was time to recover. It's time to get back on the wagon.

I spent last weekend at a friend's couples shower in honor of their impending matrimony. It was more fun than the earlier women-only bridal shower (yes, men make everything more interesting. We like to keep you around a) so we can laugh at you and b) so we women don't kill one another). That shower was like a slow, tortured death because it was all mothers fawning over my friend.

"Oh, how did you meet?"
"Tell us about the proposal!"
"Have you got a dress? You just must tell me every last detail of your wedding planning until my ears fall off."

It was enough to make me want to hurl. But this new men-included fiesta was different. First of all, there was more alcohol (always good), and secondly, the couple was forced to endure publicly humiliating games for our enjoyment. It was win-win.

The game was that the hostess would ask each one questions about the other --"What's David's favorite color?" -- in private and they would write their answers on cards. Then later, they'd be asked in front of everyone and have to hold up their answers while their soon-to-be-spouse gave the real answer. This was surprisingly entertaining. It would have been better if they'd known less about each other.

There's something disgusting about two people knowing everything about one another, and something so secretly satisfying about watching two people who are about to tie the knot find out they know nothing about one another. I wish it had been the latter.

Nonetheless, I found out that men are a lot smarter than their female counterparts at this game. They've adapted!

While my friend Katherine would meticulously try to establish the fact that she knew every detail about her future hubby, David played it safe and went with can't-go-wrong vagueness.

"Where was Katherine born?" became "The Hospital."

Well I couldn't argue with that, especially after three glasses of wine. Ok, four.

Sadly, the game only taught me how much I don't know about my own boyfriend. But on the bright side, it means our party guests will have more fun when we're forced to play their silly games in the future. Friends: look forward to that secretly satisfied feeling.