Very shortly after my ex left, I started experimenting with internet dating. I wasn't so much interested in a relationship as I was getting out of the house, having coffee with another human being and maybe seeing someone smile at me. It was fun and therapeutic, and I have no regrets.
I am no expert, but here are some of the things I learned, which may help someone else:
- It's not shameful, nor is it a last resort, for the desperate. It is an accepted way to meet people. Let's face it - our work is often long and isolating. The bar scene is even less appealing than you remember.
- Don't worry too much if you are "ready." Yes, I know you are mistrustful, you carry baggage. So do we all. No one is a clean slate. Waiting to date until you are sure you have dumped all your baggage is like saying you'll learn how to ride a bike when you are sure you won't fall. You learn by doing - so just do it. It's just a date. Does having coffee or dinner with another human being who is also looking to meet someone new sound appealing? If so, then you are ready.
- Don't write a long list of characteristics that you want someone to have. Again, it's a date not an interview. Obviously, there are qualities that are important - mine were respectful, intelligent, single and within my age range. But don't be certain that the man who has the same music on his ipod will be your soulmate or that making more than 50k is a deal-breaker. Look for some overlap of interests but again, you can't script the perfect man - nor can you tell who that might be by reading a profile.
- Don't draw out the process. This leads to unreasonable expectations. Here's what I mean - generally conversations begin over email, then progress to phone and then to face to face meeting if the first encounters go well. It's possible to meet someone who writes great emails but can't string a sentence together on the phone. It's also possible to have long conversations with someone whom when you finally meet in person, you discover that you have no chemistry with. If you've invested hours on the phone with a guy who doesn't look at all like his profile, you will be very disappointed - so keep the cycle short.
- You need a fairly thick skin or a nonjudgmental attitude to do this. You will contact people who will never get back to you, have great conversations with people you will never hear from again. If this crushes you, you are not ready to do this. The good news is that there are always more people to look at, contact and try again. Don't read too much into anything in the initial stage - learn from "He's Just Not that Into You." If he says he'll call and he doesn't - he has moved on and so should you.
- Don't worry if you are doing it right. There is no right. No one I met seemed to know the rules. They were for the most part like me, hoping to find a connection but in the meantime, happy to enjoy a meal or a conversation with a stranger.