10 Things I Now Know About Online Dating

You’ll receive lots of dick pics.

1) Online dating profiles tend to be BORING AS HELL because they are usually written to cast as wide a net as possible so as to attract every single fish in the whole wide ocean. Which is a terrible idea because unless you’re looking to pass around a sexually transmitted disease, you do want to rule some fish out. Try to make a profile without clichés, generalizations, and phrases that don’t indicate anything. Such as:

  • The phrase “partner in crime.” Everyone says they’re looking for a “partner in crime,” but I bet that over 60% of them have never robbed a bank.
  • A long list of music/books/movies/TV that you like. Because while everyone likes some form of media, no one will actually read that long ass list and, if they do read the list, it won’t lead them to proclaim, “You also like House of Cards? WE MUST BE MARRIED TONIGHT.”
  • Stating that you “love to go out sometimes but I also like to stay home.” Because we all like both of those things. No one says, “I will only sit on the couch in sweatpants and I will never go out to dinner so help me God.” Or, “I will not watch a movie at home tonight. HOW DARE YOU ASK ME THAT?”

2) Be specific in your profile. Say something that you believe, something that you really really like, something that changed your life. You’ll turn some people off, but you’ll be more likely to turn your person on. The most successful online relationship I had resulted from the gentleman listing “I am Jack’s colon” on his profile. I picked up on that random Fight Club reference and immediately contacted him. And today we are married and have a tiny baby who won’t be allowed to watch Fight Club until he’s 25 years old.

3) Way too many people have the following profile pictures:

  • Standing in front of Machu Picchu. It’s like they give you a free trip to Peru when you sign up for Match.com.
  • Skydiving. Tons of people use this picture and it’s terrible because no one’s face looks good when it’s all flappy like that.
  • Standing at the base of Mt. Everest. I GET IT, YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME.
  • Posting with a group of friends who all look exactly like them. So which dark-haired gentleman in a suit are you? Second from the right? Third from the right? Who am I dating now?

4) When you do message someone, make sure your message is specific to them. Also make sure that it treats them like a human being and not a potential masturbation aid. I received so many emails that were clearly templates sent to a whole gaggle of women with the hopes of a random response/handjob. Thank you for telling me and 98 other women, “You are so beautiful, nice to meet you, now let me tell you about myself, I am well endowed with a great job…”

First, read the person’s profile, then send them a message showing that you read their profile by commenting on something they wrote, and then ask them a question that doesn’t involve anyone’s genitalia.

5) Ladies: When you first make your online profile there is a welcome wagon of guys who will email you immediately and try to entice you to love them through the proffering of template messages and/or dick pics. Ignore the dick pic welcome wagon. Some classy fellows (especially those whose profile pictures are just a torso) will continue to offer dick pics throughout your online dating stay. Here are the stages you will go through after being offered a dick pic:

  • Stage 1: Ewwwwwwww. Quickly logoff of the dating website/turn off the computer/wash hands.
  • Stage 2: Tell the gentleman to stop offering up shots of his dick since that isn’t how you get down.
  • Stage 3: Get curious and create a new email address for the sole purpose of receiving dick pics. Analyze the dick pic—is that a flute in the background? Does he really play the flute?
  • Stage 4: Realize that every dick pic ever sent is that of the same cartoonishly endowed man and therefore does not actually belong to the dude sending you the picture.
  • Stage 5: Refuse to send back any pics of yourself because a) that dick wasn’t really his anyway and b) he can Google image search “boobs” just as easily as you can.

6) Online dating as a straight woman is different from online dating as a straight man. Our society has the expectation that a man will pursue a woman and, even though online dating isn’t taking place in a Jane Austen novel, this idea is so prevalent that it’s often blindly adhered to.

Women will log on to an online dating website and read scads of unsolicited/creepy messages then feel sad and logoff, while men will log on to an online dating profile to see a completely empty inbox and then feel sad and logoff. The best dates I ever had came from breaking out of the Jane Austen gender box. Ladies: Email the dudes. Dudes: Love the ladies who email you.

7) Why isn’t the nice person you just met online emailing/texting/calling you back? Because they dropped their phone in a toilet or they had to leave town suddenly or they’re asleep or they’re secretly married or you misused a semicolon and now they hate you or they’re really a ghost. Point is: You will never know. Do your best to not spend a single moment worrying about it. A relationship is real once both people agree to enter into it and all of this online pinging/liking/winking/swiping/messaging is not real.

If we liken a full-blown romantic relationship to sexual intercourse and a third date to a hot makeout, then the messaging stage of online dating is akin to glancing at someone through a car window while you drive down the interstate at 70 mph in opposite directions.

8) Sunday evenings are when online dating HAPPENS. Everyone is home and sad about how poorly their weekend went and not looking forward to work on Monday and trying to kill time before “Game of Thrones” comes on. This is when the people are ready to meet the people. Log on Sunday nights and meet your people.

9) You will learn more about your potential paramour by spending 30 seconds in their presence than you will from emailing them for three months. And it isn’t looks—it’s persona, personality, how they move their hands and hold the menu and smell like damp earth and vanilla and chili pepper. It’s their collection of intrinsic characteristics that cannot be conveyed through a computer screen that will ultimately attract or repel you, and you won’t be able to tell which is which until you’re in the same room with them. If you’re interested, meet face-to-face as soon as possible.

10) Finally, and most importantly: A first online date is not in any way a first date. I’m going to say it again, with capitalization for emphasis: A FIRST ONLINE DATE IS NOT A FIRST DATE. A first date means that you’ve been in the presence of the person before, you know how they wear their hair, what they smell like, how they carry themselves. However, a first online date is two absolute strangers with made up fantasy images of each other meeting for the first time and having their fantasies murdered before their eyes.

So go in with no expectations at all. Go in like you’re interviewing someone to see if you’d like to go on a date with them later. Go in thinking that maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll learn something interesting about another human. Go in thinking that maybe you’ll get a good book recommendation or hear an entertaining story or maybe try a new beer. Go in thinking that it’s more than likely that you won’t hit it off, or you’ll think each other are just OK, or one of you will want to declare love immediately while the other will be wondering if he remembered to feed the cat.

Odds are that you will never see this person again and that’s OK. You aren’t going to be romantically compatible with the vast majority of people that you meet and a first online date is just meeting a new person. Go in thinking that this person is going to spend some of their time with you, which is the most precious resource anyone has.

You’ll get to peer into a tiny corner of another person’s world and that’s great, that’s special, and if nothing else ever happens between the two of you that right there is worth it.

Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club, a monthly show for stories in Chicago. She has been published in Tampa Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and The Rumpus. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University. She performs around Chicago—you may find a list of upcoming shows at www.dananorris.net.

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