Using online dating to meet girls?
September 12, 2010 2:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 21-year old male, and I get the feeling that I don't go out on a lot of dates.

And I don't. I've only had a few dates in my entire life, and none of them turned out to be a serious relationship. Back when I still had facebook, there was an app that told you the male/female percentage of your friends list. Mine came out to be around a whopping 75% for males and 25% for females. One of my best buddies noticed that I don't really know how to talk to girls. And he's right to a certain extent.

I'm not a bad looking guy. Facial features are okay, but I work out a lot so I'm physically fit. My fashion sense is alright, and I don't wear anything excessively cheap (Old Navy, Target clothes, et cetera). Some fairly attractive girls have taken notice of me, but I was apprehensive to make any moves on my part.

So I think I'm falling off a tangent here a little.

I've been searching around on MeFi, and I found a lot of great advice on setting up your profile, what/what not to do on dates, and so on. One of the key advice was to keep online conversation minimal and try to set up a coffee date (or ice cream/something else date, depending on who that person is). The issue here is, how should I bring that up on a first message? I have a fear of sounding ridiculously creepy and desperate. Apparently, the best way to meet someone is to ask if they want to go out on a small date in the first message, and then give them your number in the second message.
posted by RaDeuX to Human Relations (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Place is relative to happiness.
Remember that. In fact, that should have been tattooed on your arm. Don't stress.
posted by parmanparman at 2:34 AM on September 12, 2010

Have a thing that you do weekly. Every week go with your guy friends to a certain place and do a certain thing. For instance: go play Scrabble at a coffee shop every Wednesday or play frisbee golf in the park each Saturday morning. That way if you meet a girl out or online you can just invite her to come hang out. It's less pressure (for both parties) and less of a big deal if she flakes.
posted by Saminal at 3:00 AM on September 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

I met my soon to be husband online. He asked me out early on in this low-pressure way. He said he'd be at a Sunday morning film/bagels&coffee thing and would I like to join him. I said yes and went. I don't think I would've showed up had he been there with a bunch of friends, but I'm a generation older than what I presume is your target demographic.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:25 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I met my husband online. We emailed for a month or so before meeting and I, personally, wouldn't go out with guys until we had been messaging for a week or so at least, even for a small date. But, then again, I am an engineer and want a lot of information before making such decisions.
posted by chiefthe at 6:32 AM on September 12, 2010

The issue here is, how should I bring that up on a first message?

Don't. After you go on a few dates, you won't be that guy who "only had a few dates in my entire life." You're not misleading them or deceiving them. You sound like a thoughtful guy. Be respectful, make sure you're having fun, and play the numbers game. Most dates will be a little awkward and boring, a few will be awful, and a few will be nice. And one or two will be awesome, and one of you will ask the other out again. And then after a few weeks, you may go right back to the beginning because something doesn't feel right. In any case, if you live in a large city (large online dating pool), in a few weeks (one to three months if you relax and take your time) you won't be "that guy."
posted by zeek321 at 6:38 AM on September 12, 2010

"I have to run but I would really like to talk with you more in person. Can we meet up tomorrow morning for coffee?"

When you meet up with her, ask her a lot of questions. Don't talk about yourself the whole time. Practice Reflective Listening

You will have so many dates you'll be broke in no time.
posted by WhiteWhale at 6:42 AM on September 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

IMHO you're putting the cart before the horse. Focus on communication skills f2f first.
posted by k8t at 6:43 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think that a coffee date suggestion should be in the second message - after she's already replied to you positively at least once. I'm not crazy about the friends idea because friends time should be for hanging out with friends, not auditioning dates, which is really what a first date from online is. I wouldn't even call that first date a date, it's kind of a pre-date - if it goes well, then you ask her out on a real date. Maybe thinking of it like that will help you feel more comfortable suggesting it. I also think it wouldn't be really comfortable for the women, on the first meeting, hanging out with you in in your comfort zone surrounded by a bunch of people you know but she doesn't, and it also feels higher pressure, because what, you're already introducing her to your friends? She has to impress them too?

Also I don't think you should feel behind or slow in ANY way. Not only does everyone go at their own pace, but 21 is a fine age for getting started. I also wouldn't worry about the gender skew of your facebook friends - that can reflect a lot of things that have nothing to do with relationships with women. Do you have even a couple good, close female friends? That's a lot more meaningful than your facebook friends ratio. If not, and maybe you don't, from what you said about communicating and relating with women, that's a fine thing to work on too - without the pressure of a potential romance.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:33 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is the question "how do I bring up that I haven't been on a lot of dates in the first message?" or "how do I not spend a lot of time emailing back and forth?"
The answer to the first is "you don't." The answer to the second is boring: you ask them out to get a cup of coffee or a beer, if they say yes, you ask them when's best for them, if it works with your schedule and then you set it up and give them your phone number. It's not that different from arranging a meeting with a friend or a relative coming in from out of town.
I think what happens a lot with dating is that people pretend that they're dating space aliens instead of humans. You've met humans before. Don't sweat close encounters of this kind, just be decent, funny, and listen.

Also, as for your comment on the clothes: when I was in college, one of my co-workers really could not understand why I had an attractive girlfriend and he had an awesome car but was always single. He'd always say to me "you don't even have a car." I've known several women who've told me that their boyfriends/husbands dressed so poorly when they met, but that they, the women, changed that right away. Bathe, dress well, but it's not the clothes women are really attracted to: it's you.
posted by history is a weapon at 7:44 AM on September 12, 2010

How should you bring up which message? If the "message" you're asking about is your lack of prior dates, don't mention it. No-one cares. If the "message" is "minimizing online talk and skipping straight to in-person", don't present it as a message. Just make your initial online contact and then in your second or third message, say "let's get coffee/sushi/lunch/a beer/see that art exhibit." Whatever.

Just have your introductory online contact, your follow-up online contact, and then meet. I think the second contact is a good place to exchange phone numbers and a third contact is a good time to cut to the chase and test the in person waters. I did a year or two of this when I first moved (both dates and just friends) and a year or two of this when I was networking hard for a new job. Really, people know you're making the contact with the intention of meeting them and, often, the hope of striking up a good relationship (romantic or otherwise), so suggesting a meeting in person early on in the process is normal. It's expected and it's courteous. By the second or third contact you should have some idea of a time and place that would be amenable, so just make the suggestion. It won't sound creepy or desperate unless you express creepiness or desperation.

"Would you like to meet for coffee Saturday at 11:00?" sounds like a nice normal invitation. "Hey, this email stuff doesn't give me a chance to know the real you; let's meet for lunch." starts to veer into the creepy. Don't draw attention to the fact that you're "moving things offline", just suggest a place to meet.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2010

RaDeux, I'm going to let you in on a secret: The absolute best thing about online dating is that you get to make mistakes and walk away with a clean slate. It doesn't matter if you mess it up the first few times—these women don't know you and aren't in your social circle. You can just run away! It's kind of awesome that way.

This means that you are free to try out a few different approaches and figure out which one you like.

Try inviting people out for coffee in the first message. See how that works. If it's not working, try waiting until the second message. Spill your guts. Be very mysterious. Find the balance in between. Flirt up a storm. Or don't. Keep trying things until you figure out what works for you.

I don't really know how to talk to girls.

Do you know how to talk to guys? All guys? Women are just as various. We are individuals, as you can already see in this thread, and there is no rock-solid approach that works for All Women Everywhere. Just keep trying, keep talking to people, and you'll click with someone.
posted by heatherann at 8:40 AM on September 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

The absolute best thing about online dating is that you get to make mistakes and walk away with a clean slate. It doesn't matter if you mess it up the first few times—these women don't know you and aren't in your social circle. You can just run away! It's kind of awesome that way.

Actually, that's not a given. I've lost track of how many times I've discovered a connection between my existing social circle and someone I met through a dating site. Rather than assuming this won't happen, I'd assume it will happen.

I agree with what pretty much everyone else has said.

Nothing you've described about yourself is abnormal.

Most of your friends are of the same gender? That's true with most people. Since you're looking at online dating profiles, notice how many women refer to how they like having some time alone with "the girls" and are willing to give you time alone with "the guys" -- as if it were assumed that all your platonic friends would be of the same gender!

You're 21 and haven't been in a serious relationship? Yawn. You might think this makes you really old and weird, but it's a lot more common than you might think. You just don't hear about it much because people rarely bring this up in conversation. Someone who does have a girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife will often mention them within a couple minutes of meeting you, but you rarely meet someone who'll say, "Hi, nice to meet you, my name's Bill, I haven't been in a serious relationship!" I guarantee you, you're much more concerned about your inexperience than anyone else is. (Or, if you do happen to meet a women who's intensely worried about your inexperience -- run away!)

"One of my best buddies noticed that I don't really know how to talk to girls." Without knowing you, it's really hard to know if he was making an insightful, accurate observation or if he was just trying to take you down a notch and didn't know what he was talking about. Don't worry about this too much. As heatherann said, there's no such thing as "how to talk to girls." They're just people like anyone else. It's not like you need to have conversations about tampons and interior decorating. I don't know what you're interested in. To use myself as an example, I'm a big fan of music. Naturally, when I talk with my male friends, I like talking about music. So, what do I talk about when I talk with my female friends or dates? Music, of course! Feel free to delete "music" and replace it with whatever you're into. Of course, you need to use some tact: if you care about topics A, B, C, and D, and she cares about B, C, D, and E, you'll probably want to focus the conversation on B, C, and D. And if you end up on a date with someone who doesn't want to talk about any of the things you're interested in, well, that's easy: you're not compatible, so move on.
posted by John Cohen at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

heatherann is right: keep trying. Try not to care too much about the outcome of any one encounter, online or off. By not caring I mean, don't let it reflect on your worth as a person. Fail often, so to speak. Once you are okay with failing socially, meeting people gets a lot more fun. However, the reason for accepting failure has to be because you are being yourself and you are happy being yourself. Everyone feels insecure about their faults, so a confident faulty person is quite attractive.

I say this because you seem concerned about coming across as creepy. To me, being creepy is just another form of social failure. You seem to be *not* creepy and also quite thoughtful, so seeming creepy to women is just an issue of not representing yourself properly, which can be fixed. You may fail and come across as creepy at first but that is totally cool. Failure is your teacher here. You won't seem creepy forever. It helps if you aren't actually a creep. ;)

- baby steps. Coffee before lunch, IMing before dating, etc. Don't try to hit it out of the ballpark every time. Everyone moves at different speeds.
- don't be overly eager. As heatherann says be a little mysterious. My brother says "Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen." I think this backfires, but there is a little truth to it.
- notice something specific about a person that is good and tell them. For instance, I noticed that you seem thoughtful and not creepy so I told you that. How did I get that? Well, you have friends, and creepy people don't have helpful "best buddies" usually. You are giving a lot of thought to how to make women comfortable with you. I wasn't being fake, but I didn't have to tell you that either. But why keep it a secret?

Being a little cool but nicely insightful about people can be a good combo. It shows that you aren't fake and desperate, and are trying to see who that person is deeper down.
posted by acheekymonkey at 10:51 AM on September 12, 2010

My opinion:..... Dating is a lot like conversation. What you're trying to do is discover, become aware of, or build what I refer to as "flow". (that dynamic where things just seem to naturally fall into place/order). In other words, stop worrying so much about how you think a certain situation is "supposed to be" and instead relax and let situations unfold the way they are destined to. This DOESN'T meant sit back and be a passive pushover, but it also DOESN'T mean to be the overbearing assertive douche bag guy. Try to find the natural middle ground.

In regard to your specific question about how to approach this while messaging people on dating sites:... Just let the conversation flow. Online communication is similar to offline communication in that you'll "click" with some and you won't with others. For the people you click with, no guidance will be necessary (the interaction will evolve effortlessly). For those you don't click with.....well, you don't want to chase them anyways, right?
posted by jmnugent at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2010

1. You're 21. Most people your age don't go on "dates" per se. Also, it is not unusual at your age to not have had a serious relationship yet. Are you in college? College is the best bricks-and-mortar dating service ever invented. Leave your room and go talk to some girls. Chances are at least a few of them will be into you.

If you're looking for a girlfriend, be upfront about that - there are a lot of assumptions that happen, wherein women assume men your age are looking for a quick shag or someone to fool around with, because the Conventional Wisdom is that young dudes aren't into relationships. Screw conventional wisdom, is what I say.

2. At your age you might not have a lot of luck with online dating simply because of #1. I use OKCupid and don't notice a whole lot of people under ~25 on the site. And, in a lot of ways, online dating is basically a numbers game.

3. Stop being "apprehensive" towards making moves on women. If you're a straight guy living a somewhat conventional all-American life, chances are the women you are meeting expect (at least subconsciously) for guys to be the initiators. Even, and perhaps especially, on dating websites.

When I was open to dating dudes on OKCupid, I found that I had absolutely zero need of even browsing or sending out messages. Because I got a frakking barrage of messages from guys. Enough of whom were cute and clever and met all my parameters that I didn't even have to do anything actively to find men.

Real life isn't quite as simple (I don't get multiple guys per day asking me out in person), but the same rules generally apply. As a single woman, I find that the expected thing is that I make myself available and show an interest, and the dude is expected to do the asking. If the dude doesn't ask, my experience at this point in life tells me that he's probably not interested.

4. Re The issue here is, how should I bring that up on a first message? I have a fear of sounding ridiculously creepy and desperate. It's a dating website. Everyone knows what you're there for and is there for the same thing. It's not creepy to ask people out on dates on a dating website. I'd also suggest that you not necessarily ask women out for coffee or whatever in the very first message, but within the first few.

There is this boy on OKCupid I think is cute &c. He has been repeatedly sending me very chatty messages for, I shit you not, A YEAR (off and on, but still). Dude WILL NOT just fucking ask me out. I have at this point given up - if he really wanted to go out with me, he'd have asked by now. And my experience tells me that if I do the asking in a situation like this, he's just going to prove to be ultra wishy-washy about everything, all the time, and force me to constantly do all the work of having a relationship. Which is something I'm not interested in - I have a vibrator and a plentiful social circle, I don't need a boyfriend that bad. But if this guy just manned up and asked me out, I would say yes.

Back to dating site message strategies - my ideal sequence would go something like this:

Message A. "Hi! You're cute! We have stuff in common! Witty demonstration that I have, in fact, read your profile!" I respond in kind, probably.

Message B or maybe C depending on the circumstances. "What are you doing [Day Of Week]? Want to grab a beer after work at X centrally located public drinking establishment?"

Then I say yes and we either take it to email or the telephone or maybe we use the dating site's interface to hammer out the logistics. From that point, it's exactly like a typical non-internet-inspired dating situation.
posted by Sara C. at 12:31 PM on September 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't wear anything excessively cheap (Old Navy, Target clothes

Target has internationally-reknown designers working for them. The other day, Mr. M. had to go to court, and we met after work for dinner. He looked very nice in his suit, and I asked him if it was the expensive one he had gotten for Christmas. No, he said, this was the one from Target.

Women are not not dating you because you wear clothes from Target. They might not be dating you because you have a hangup about what you wear and assume that women won't date you because you wear cheap clothes. It sounds a lot like you're getting bad advice about what women care about; you might want to talk to the female friends you do have about this.
posted by micawber at 12:37 PM on September 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

2. At your age you might not have a lot of luck with online dating simply because of #1. I use OKCupid and don't notice a whole lot of people under ~25 on the site. And, in a lot of ways, online dating is basically a numbers game.

Whaa?? The site is full of women under 25. If I search within a 25-mile radius of my town (population 100,000) for women 19 to 24 years old who are single, "like guys," have photos (indicating they take the site somewhat seriously), and have been online in the past week, I get 140 results. In the big city in which Sara C. lives (NYC), this search goes up to 100 pages (1,000 results), which is the maximum OKCupid will show. If I try to narrow this down by searching for just the people who have been online in the past day and are in the narrow age range of 20-22, this still yields 1,000 results (which presumably understates the real number). Finally, if I search only women who are exactly 21, I can go below OKCupid's max and see there are 330. And remember, that's only a slice of all women his exact age who are active on OKCupid, since not all of them will have been online in the past day.

All of this comports with my experience using the site and going on dates with women in this age range. These figures aren't significantly inflated by spam profiles, since OKCupid swiftly deletes those (you don't see too many of those sexy web-cam girls who want you to send an email to their Yahoo account).

The idea that people in the OP's age range don't use online dating or don't go on dates is simply not true. Go for it.
posted by John Cohen at 12:57 PM on September 12, 2010

I didn't say "there are no women under 25 on dating websites". I said that it's not as common, and that ultimately dating sites tend to be sort of a numbers game. Which might make it a sub-optimal approach to dating, especially if one is in a situation (college) which often proves to be a better approach at OP's particular age and stage of life.
posted by Sara C. at 1:20 PM on September 12, 2010

i have been going on a lot of dates on OKCupid and Plentioffish,both of which are free. None yet has yielded a second date. But it has helped me become less shy and nervous about meeting women. I suggest you try.
posted by spacefire at 3:24 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

You say a lot about your appearance but nothing about anything else. What are you interested in? what do you enjoy? What do you hate? Do you want to talk to any old girl, or to someone that shares some of these feelings? That's what you need to use your first messages for. It's not a job interview where they're deciding whether to hire you - you're seeing whether you're interested in them, too. And finding that out can help you decide what might be a fun way to take things further.
posted by mippy at 3:36 PM on September 12, 2010

« Older amharic speakers, Ethiopiaphiles, please advise   |   Bloglines replacement that isn't GReader or... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.