In the course of writing this site, I’ve been asked the above question or a variation thereof approximately seven thousand times. In fact I was just asked it again a few days ago by an anonymous correspondent. So as your humble servant, I now set out to answer this question definitively.
Are you ready for my answer? Here it is: I cannot tell you.
I cannot tell you for two reasons. First, I will not name the online dating sites I frequent because I don’t want people hunting down my profiles. I know it’s a remote possibility that someone would be interested enough to do such a thing, but stranger things have happened in the online world and I’d prefer not to take the chance.
Secondly, your experience may vary considerably from mine. What I consider to be a wonderful dynamic of a certain site might be a complete turn-off to you. Also, what works well in my particular area of the country may not work at all in yours. I don’t want annoyed emails from folks who sign up for the site and then don’t have similar experiences.
Having said that, I will tell you some things I’ve done to make the most of my current favorite site. Read more after the cut…
My greatest successes and failures in online dating have all been through this single very popular dating site. I’ve met some wonderful men and a few completely monstrous men from there.
My failures on the site came during a time when I was attempting to date in a low-key manner. My profile was skimpy. I did not take enough time to learn about the men I met before getting physical. I did not post pictures. But most of all, I approached dating from a low self-esteem position.
Eventually I got my head screwed on straight (I think), killed that old profile and started afresh. I took the time to write (and frequently update) a profile that very clearly states who I am and what I want–with no apologies.
The fact of the matter is that a person such as myself (a little older, not thin, fairly smart, very opinionated, extremely demanding in bed) is not attractive to a certain percentage of eligible men. I’m fine with that. I don’t need to be appealing to every man–and every man certainly is not appealing to me. Once I got that simple fact through my head, I could approach dating with a much better attitude.
I would urge you to be extremely specific with your profile. My profile lists a number of criteria that are non-negotiable with me: a potential lover must be local to me, for example; he should be interested in more that a one-night stand; he cannot be having a “discreet” relationship. There are more, but you get the idea.
I’m continually surprised by how many emails I get from men on the site who completely do not match my criteria. Weekly (at least) I hear from someone who lives a thousand miles away and is passing through my town on business–without his wife. Since I’ve been so abundantly clear in my profile, however, I feel no chagrin at deleting such messages without a response.
Unless I’m feeling cranky. Then I might write back as follows: “Dude. Did you read my profile?”
I would also encourage you to post pictures–several, if possible–which show your body (and your face, if you feel comfortable with that) as it truly is. The last thing you want is to meet up with someone who is not attracted to your particular body type, or who has the wrong idea about what sort of body you have. No matter what kind of body you are wearing, I can tell you with complete confidence that many, many people find it attractive.
I’ve only recently figured this out, and I’ll never again be with someone who only tolerates women who are not thin. I’ll now only be with men who adore women who are not thin.
Early on in my time on this site, someone told me that the most real and sincere people could be found in the site’s local interest boards. If you can manage it, find a site that maintains active local boards.
Luckily, my area is replete with people active on these boards. I joined a handful of the boards; I post on them frequently. This gives folks a chance to get to know me, and (more importantly) gives me a chance to know them. If someone sounds great in their profile, I check to see what kinds of posts they’ve made. This can be quite instructive.
Another benefit of the local interest boards on my site is that the members frequently hold gatherings. Some of these are of a very sexual nature while others are 100% mild. I know of gatherings held in public parks, swimming pools, hotels, private homes, restaurants and bars. Some are so family friendly that children are invited. At others, children, the elderly, and anyone without a strong constitution should be removed to at least a five mile radius.
If you’ve been posting on the boards and getting to know people that way, it’s not too difficult to make the transition to meeting the group in a restaurant or at a local sporting event. You’ll have the benefit of being able to check out many members of the opposite sex at once, and also meet your competition (if you want to think of it that way).
I prefer to think of the other women on the site as potential three-some members.
One final word about these sites and dating in general. The one thing that is common in any site or situation you use to find dates is you. Your own attitude is the largest contributing factor to how good or bad your experience turns out to be.
And that, perhaps, is a topic for another post.
Regardless of how you find someone online, you absolutely must follow some safety precautions. No matter how wonderful someone sounds in email, IM or on the phone, you will not get a read on his true character until you meet in person.
If you cannot meet your prospective friend at a group-sponsored social event, then tell a trusted friend where you are going and with whom. Plan the meeting during daylight hours, in a public place, and for a very short amount of time.
You can believe me when I tell you that sometimes, two minutes is all it takes to ascertain that he’s not the right one for you–and for him to know the same about you.
These tips certainly are not original, but they bear repeating.