Sunday, March 27, 2011

When Online Dates Fail

Sometimes — even when the chemistry online is so hot any other outcome but life-long bliss seems impossible — when you meet said online profile in person, it can be a there’s-no-way-this-would-ever-work-out disaster. This isn’t anyone’s fault. The Internet can only give us so many hints about whether or not we’ll be compatible, attracted to and/or have chemistry with someone when we meet them in the physical realm. Beyond the obvious problems that can potentially arise from dishonest or exaggerated profiles, there are things you get in person — how you feel around them, smell, body language, how attractive they are to you in three dimensions — that you can’t get through IMing, emailing and profile stalking.

So what happens when you encounter an online-arranged date fail? When things don’t stack up in person and you know it, how long do you hang in there before bailing, and what do you say?

I think most would agree that hanging in there for 20-30 minutes is both long enough to show respect for the person who took time out of their day to come meet with you and also to give any potential bonding a fair shot, but isn’t so long that either you or they will feel like they wasted their whole afternoon on a date that went nowhere. The 20-30 minute goal is a perfect argument for why first online dates should be drinks or coffee based, and not meal based. Unless you’re grabbing hot dogs from a street stand, a meal will almost definitely commit you to more than 30 minutes. Anyone who has gone on a few bad online dates knows the wisdom of not roping yourself into an extended period of time with someone you may actively have anti-chemistry with.

As far as how to politely and respectfully bail after you’ve burned your tongue on your coffee in an effort to speed the 20 minutes along, I’m from the camp of just being honest — not brutally so, but honest enough that your feelings are clear about any potential future dates with this person. Something like the following works well: “Hey, thanks for the drink” (if they bought) or “Thanks for meeting me for coffee”, followed by, “It was really nice to meet you, but I’m just not feeling a connection, romantically. I wish you the best.” You’re being straight up about not feeling anything for them, which isn’t arguable — you feel how you feel. Being honest during the date and letting them know where you stand is a more stand-up way to deal with non-connection than to not return emails or phone calls in a few days when they ask you for a second installment.

Sometimes, the anti-romantic chemistry is present on both sides, and being honest will result in a friendship — one you may not have fostered if one or both of you turned to the unanswered emails and phone calls route. If one of you feels it and the other doesn’t, being honest may feel a bit brutal, but will ultimately be respected more than the alternative. I know I’d much rather hear it straight than be ignored.

Yours in stand-up honesty, S

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Facebook Awkwardness

Facebook Relationship Status = Dating Free Zone

Changing one’s Facebook relationship status seems like an innocent enough thing to do…Until you realize that you’re announcing that status of your sex life to not only your 500 closest friends (some of whom you haven’t spoken to since 4th grade), but also various judging family members, voyeuristic co-workers and “It’s complicated” exes. When you’re announcing a new relationship, the comments are congratulatory and not overly annoying. When you end something? That’s when it gets bad. That little broken heart shows up on every single of your Facebook friends’ newsfeeds and you’re forced to deal with all manner of well-meaning (but very quickly overwhelming) pity-party comments and questions over your relationship fail.

But besides the public scrutiny, there is a whole other giant pile of issues surrounding the emotionally-charged mine-field of the relationship status checkboxes.

Changing it requires an often-awkward conversation where questions arise like “Are we changing them simultaneously so one of us doesn’t look like a loser in denial?”, “Are we ready to change them? If not, what does that mean?”. And the most awkward of all: What if the person you’re dating changes it without discussing it with you, and suddenly you’re listed as “in a relationship” with someone you aren’t in a relationship with? Ack.

After you’ve broken up, when is the optimal time to change it? Doing it too soon is kind of a slap in the face to your ex and waiting to change it looks like a serious case of denial. It’s also usually a raw, emotional time and it often takes a few days to make sure the important people in your life know that you’re no longer in a relationship. Announcing the news on FB can be like dropping a drama-filled pity-party bomb - something you so don’t want to deal with when you’re in the post-break-up turmoil zone. Double ack.

The solution — provided by a brilliant friend who has dealt with all manner of Facebook relationship status shenanigans — is to make your Facebook profile a dating-free zone. Relationship status is left blank, no matter the situation, thereby avoiding all of the above problems. When asked by relationship-status-updating suitors, my friend simply states that it’s her policy to keep her private life private and she never has and never will update her relationship status. As a diplomatic but save-yourself-some-major-hassle policies go, this one is as solid as they come. Here’s to bringing back a little privacy for the sake of our sanity.

Yours in Facebook TMI, S

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dating Three People at Once: Avoiding the Awkward

Although dating multiple people at one time has become a much more accepted route with the popularity of online dating (and therefore the necessity of meeting each person you might have a connection with in person to see if there’s anything there), there seem to be a lot of differing opinions and questions about it:

- Do you fully disclose how many dates you have this week with the person you’re on a date with tonight?

- What constitutes “dating”? Definitions range, depending on the person, from meeting for coffee to it being a term only applied to a monogamous “will you be my girlfriend?” pre-marriage coupledom.

- Are multiples an efficient way to figure out who’s best for you or is it an ultimate playboy lifestyle where you can get your cake and eat it too?

Navigating the emotional minefields of each separate person in your personal black book takes skill, grace and tact — and a giant heap of communication.

I think that most of us assume that until there’s an actual conversation about where we stand in a dating situation, as long as we’re treating the other person with respect, what we do in our time away from them is our business. As for when to bring up the conversation (similar to my post about the DTR ) having a talk with someone becomes necessary when you can a) sense that they’re thinking that they’re the only one you’re dating or b) when you sense that you’re not the only one they’re dating and you’re interested in going in that direction. Ultimately, we’re all responsible for our own feelings and actions, so while it’s not your responsibility to constantly monitor how the other person may or may not be feeling, it’s still a good idea to have their thoughts in mind so that you don’t inadvertently hurt them — no one likes being a jerk. This is especially true when sex comes into play, because oftentimes there’s going to be more (and sometimes unpredictable) emotion involved.

All that said, while I think honesty and integrity in dating are extremely important, I do not subscribe to the theory that you should mention on the first date that you’re currently also dating sixteen other people. This looks like bragging, despite the place of honesty it’s coming from. A much more realistic and non-jackass way to go about discussing your (or their) other activities is to wait until you sense that either one of you is not on the same page: “Hey - I like you and I’d like to keep hanging out to see where this goes, but I want to make sure we’re on the same page so that neither one of us gets hurt.”

Basically, whether your goal is to get as much ass as possible or you’re looking for your soulmate in a time-efficient manner, being sensitive to what the people you’re dating are feeling is key. Assuming that they’re on the same page is fine for a while, but as soon as emotions start getting involved, it’s important to let them know where you stand and what your plans are so that no one gets inadvertently hurt. If they’re down to continue, rock on. If they’re not, they can bail.

Yours in time-efficiency and awkward-avoidance, S