Online Dating, One Year Later

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

I joined a little over a year ago, in July 2008. It was a decision I put some thought into before I joined, but I don’t recall having any huge expectations. In hindsight, though, this past year has made me a different person, and also, I believe, changed me for the better. The best part is, after all the conversations I’ve had with so many different guys over the past twelve months, I’m so much more comfortable talking to new people.

Not all of the experiences have been good, of course, but cumulatively I feel like my life would have been much, much different this past year if I’d made the decision not to try online dating. Not so much because of the boring dates — the times I forced myself to sit through an hour at dinner because I didn’t want to seem rude — but because of a few men who I ended up seeing on a recurring basis. Especially the ones who ended up becoming friends.

I was thinking about all this the other day when I clicked on the “Rejected” folder in the Gmail account I created specifically for all of my Match emails and winks to go into. See, whenever I get an email or wink I don’t want to respond to, I label it “Rejected” and file it away. (For people I’ve actually exchanged emails with, they get a folder with their first name and screen name.)

As of today, there are 628 emails in my Rejected folder. (But just too clarify, some of those emails are duplicates — men who have attempted to contact me multiple times, or who sent both an email and a wink at the same time.)

I haven’t kept track of the number of men I’ve met in person, but I went through my folders today and counted the names of men I remember meeting face-to-face. I came up with 20. That’s not including at least 5-6 people who I met offline, so I’d say I’ve gone out with at least 25 people in the past 12 months. (And keep in mind, I’ve been out with some of those people on multiple occasions.)

That number will seem like a lot to some people, and not very much to others. If you think about it, it’s an average of two new people a month. Totally manageable. But how it really worked out is different. There were some instances where I met 3-4 men in one week, but then I’d go weeks at a time without meeting anyone new. And of course the number of new dates would slow down when I was dating someone in particular that I liked.

Earlier this year, when I was dating one person regularly for four months, I only met 2-3 other people during that entire four-month span. And in the past few months, I haven’t met any new Match-people at all. The people I’ve gone out with have all been men I met offline.

Even though I’ve gone through some tough times, I’m glad I made the decision to put myself out there and meet so many new people. I would certainly prefer that it not be so many new people in the future, but I know my experiences this past year have been good for me. And I haven’t canceled my Match subscription yet.

Here’s a recap of some of my dating experiences since July ’08:

Last July, the decision to try online dating in the first place wasn’t an easy one.

Like pretty much every big decision I make, I realize I’ve been putting a lot of advance thought into this whole thing — as opposed to just jumping in, creating a profile, paying a fee, and seeing what happens. It’s funny. I’ve been encouraging to other people who wanted to try online dating, and I don’t have anything against it personally, but I’ve never been wild about using this particular method to meet someone.

I posted about my personal do’s and don’ts.

With the combination of my past dating experience and what I’ve read and heard from other people, it quickly becomes apparent what turns me on and what turns me off, what makes me click on a profile versus clicking quickly away, and what has to happen for me to take time to respond to someone’s indication of interest.

Very early on, I realized that rejection happens to everyone.

When you post a photo and description online for anyone to see — when you accept the fact that you’ll be going on multiple dates if you’re going to find the right person — you either have a pretty good idea already that you’ll be dealing with rejection or you come to terms with it very quickly. Nobody is immune to it, no matter how beautiful or wonderful we (or other people) think we are.

Just a few months into online dating, I ruminated on what I thought about the experience. (Was it fun? Frustrating? Wonderful? Stressful?)

Dating can sometimes seem like a game, even if you’re not the type of person who’s looking for a game — you still have to play. A lot of people get tired of it and get out. I’ve heard from a number of people, both online and in person, who told me they used to do online dating but stopped for that very reason.

I wondered if my male friends have an impact on my dating life.

I’ve dated guys who knew I have male friends that I hang out with, and while they haven’t specifically said they don’t like it, I’ve gotten some questions. One of the most popular questions (after I assure them I’m not physically attracted to my guy friends and we don’t enjoy “benefits”) is, “But they think you’re hot, right?”

At the beginning of the new year, I took a look back at the first five months of online dating.

One of the things that stands out to me about online dating is that, unlike meeting people on an occasional and random basis, if you’re truly active and meeting new people pretty regularly, you’re experiencing these emotions (nervousness, happiness, disappointment, excitement) way more often than you normally would.

I realized that our preferences change — the things I’ve looked for in guys in the past may be different from what I look for today.

I wouldn’t say that having preferences for what we’re looking for in a partner are…crap…exactly, but aren’t a lot of preferences pretty cliche? “I’m looking for someone who’s smart, funny…” Well, sure, that’s what we want. Those are all good attributes to have. But when someone asks me what kind of guy I’m looking for, I don’t want to list a bunch of cliches. Those things should just be assumed.

I gave tips on things to keep in mind when writing your online dating profile.

I’ve looked at a fair amount of online dating profiles that were written by males, and I’ve talked to men who have looked at a wide variety of female profiles. Because of this, I’ve been able to draw a very important conclusion: most of us are not very original. While there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with having our words sound very similar to those of many other people, it’s also very hard to stand out.

I had to confront the exclusivity question.

If you’re going to ask the exclusivity-question, you have to be prepared for things to change. Things will either change in a positive way, and the person will agree that you’re fabulous and they don’t want to see anybody else…or, you know. It’ll be the answer you didn’t want. You may even hear nice responses like, “You’re awesome,” and “I think you’re great,” and “I don’t want to stop seeing you.” But in the end, the only answer that really matters is that the other person isn’t ready. You might be great, but you’re not it.

I tried to envision what I’d want a relationship to be like ten years from now.

When I think about my past, I feel a sense of anticipation for all the things that the future is sure to hold. I hope that when I’m in my late 30s, I’ll look back at Zan in her late 20s and be just as content with the choices I made in that ten-year span as I am right now, with the things I’ve done thus far.

I decided that I don’t want to be a “for now” woman.

I need the guy to like me just as much as I like him. That’s what clicked for me. If I could see myself being happy with dating only this person, and I knew I wanted to see him more often and get to know him better…but he was telling me that he wanted to keep his options open? He doesn’t feel the same way I do. And rather than give it more time and risk being hurt, I decided to move on.

I learned how to look at the positive side of bad dates.

In the context of dating — specifically the dates that are so bad that you want to throw up your hands and give up for a while — you can seriously start to question your pre-screening skills. But really, if you’re going on first-dates with people you’ve previously only seen photos of, and exchanged emails with, and maybe talked to on the phone…there’s a very high probability that you’ll encounter a stinker or two at some point.

More to come, I’m sure!

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