OKCupid reality check for a new dater
May 8, 2013 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I’m a late-30’s woman trying OKCupid for the first time. Can you give me general advice, some tips on keeping my expectations realistic, and suggestions to avoid getting too much of my self-esteem tied up in whether or not Random Dude responds to me?

I ended a 4 ½ year relationship in January, and have since moved into my own place, continued therapy, reconnected with friends, and gotten more active. I’m feeling pretty good overall—less anxious and stressed—and I think I’ve worked through the most significant grief over the end of that relationship. I’m interested in starting to date, and looking for a new friend and companion. I don’t expect that the very next guy I meet/date will be (or needs to be) the perfect partner for me, but a partner is what I’m ultimately looking for—I just acknowledge that finding a partner will probably be a journey, and there will probably be some shorter-term relationships that don’t work out on the way. That’s okay.

I haven’t dated, really, as an adult. I was with my ex-husband from 21-33, and started dating my now-former boyfriend about 6 months after my ex-spouse and I split up. Most of my friends are partnered, and I don’t meet lots of new people through work. I’m a little shy, too, so I’m not super-likely to approach people in the grocery store or something (though, to be fair, one of my very few adult dates was with a very nice guy who approached me on the train, so I do try to make a point of smiling at people who I find attractive).

I don’t want to let dating and dating-related anxiety take a disproportionate level of my attention and focus, but I do want a relationship and a partner, so I want to open the door for that to happen. OKC seems like a decent way to do that.

I set up an OKC profile a few weeks ago. I want on a couple of first dates with nice-enough guys as a result, and it was fun and okay, but I wasn’t excited about continuing to date either guy. I’ve gotten a number of messages as well, but most of those are the “Hey you’re pretty I would like to go out with you”-type things, which I ignore. I’ve found profiles that interest me, and have sent about half-a-dozen messages to those guys… and have gotten no responses. I know this isn’t totally out-of-the-normal-range for OKC, but… I wonder if I’m not presenting myself well? or doing/not doing something that causes me to read as unappealing to the men I would be interested in meeting? I’m having some trouble not feeling a little stung about the lack of responses—I’m nice, I’m smart, I’m not unattractive! What’s wrong with me? Am I just falling into an unfortunate demographic space as a 38-year old woman? I don’t have kids, and I really like kids but am not looking for someone to have children with—but I wonder if my age & childless status is a red flag for some people? Like, they think that I must be vehemently anti-child, or am going to be weird and try to edge out their kid’s mom (neither of which is true)?

If you’re willing to review my OKC profile, shoot me a MeMail and I’ll send you the link. If I need to just relax and be better about shrugging off rejection (of a very low-level and benign sort, but still, rejection), can you give me some tips on how to do that? If I need to be doing something else that I’m not thinking of, can you make suggestions?
posted by Ms.Stocking to Human Relations (29 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of people on OKCupid who aren't actually on OKCupid anymore, so that could be a huge part of your problem. If you've managed a couple of first dates in a few weeks, you are, in fact, doing very, very well.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's not fair, but among my male friends there is a perception that most of the time when they receive messages it's from a "lower-quality" woman than they would message themselves. I visit a guys profile, rate him 5 stars if I like him, and move on. Most guys are checking out their list of visitors, so they'll see you were there. I then forget about him, assuming that if he's interested he'll message me - especially cause I like a man who is confident and assertive.

Are you using quickmatch? When men rate you highly they'll get shuffled into your quickmatch deck so you have a chance to rate them; if you both rate each other highly (4 or 5 stars) it will let you know. You will show up in their visitors list if you see them in quickmatch, too. Profile visits and 5 star ratings are the equivalent of the eye contact and shy smiles across the bar.

Also go through your visitors and visit back and then rate highly anyone you like.

What age range are you targeting? I think men on OkCupid look for younger women- I'd say at 38 you are probably going to get the most traction with men who are 40-48 (traction on their end, of course that may not be what you're looking for).

What does your body type say?

Have you answered many questions? Try to answer at least 60, marking very few as "irrelevant" or "mandatory." A lot of people pay close attention to match percentages.

Happy to look at your profile if you memail me a link, but might be better to have a close girlfriend of yours take a look to make sure it sounds like you. Red flags for me: anything negative, talking more about the hypothetical person they are looking for than themselves, not much specific detail and listing totally generic interests and hobbies.

As for the kid thing, just say it! "Don't have kids myself but I love them. (Maybe a sentence about whether or not you would still like to try to have them?)"
posted by amaire at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a few teeny pieces of advice that don't address all of your concerns but I'd like you to have the benefit of my limited experience.

The number one thing I recommend to you is to meet up with your potentials in person as soon as possible. No matter how well you know someone on line or over the phone, when you meet them in person, you are meeting them for the first time.

I met a lot of crazies on line when I was dating in my 30s. I heard from many friends that there are far more sane women on dating sites than sane men.

You're right that there's a big hurdle to overcome as a single woman in her late 30s. I was lucky in that I never wanted kids, but I did need to get to a place emotionally where I was just absolutely okay with being single in order to be able to have a healthy and happy view of dating. And one part of that was getting it that even though I had never dated anyone older than me, on line, virtually no man is going to be open to dating a woman older than himself.

The biggest drawback to online dating is that people get really granular about what they are looking for in a mate when the truth is that everything is negotiable if you find someone you're really attracted to. I am in a super happy 5-year (and counting) relationship with a man who would NEVER have considered dating me if we had met on line, because I was a cigarette smoker when we met. But meeting in person and liking each other and wanting to see if something more would come of it led to him suspending judgment, being honest with me about it but not asking me to quit, and then led to me quitting. It worked out really well for both of us, and the point is that this never would have happened on line. And that's a big example. Little things will cut you out of the running with just as much finality. Online dating is like shopping for a house. There are a lot of houses on the market, so you walk into every house saying, "How can I eliminate this one?" which is the absolute wrong way to think about dating, but I think most people kind of fall into that trap. So maybe you are one or two years older than their cut off. Maybe you went to the wrong school. Maybe you're right and they're reading something into your childlessness that isn't there. It's easy for me to say that you shouldn't take it personally. I know it's hard, so that's why I'm warning you up front. It's not you. It really is them.

Yet people do find mates on line so I'm not trying to tell you not to try it. Just to be aware that people who would be good matches for you will likely self select out for stupid reasons, so keep all your options open.
posted by janey47 at 10:40 AM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

and have sent about half-a-dozen messages

Keep them short (cap at probably 250ish words), reference something or things from their profile, whatever it is that you do well in writing, do it.

And just keep sending them.

When I was on there several months back, at some point I stopped responding to messages because I had started dating a dude but I wasn't sure it was going to stick yet. It took me a few weeks to actually get around to logging back in to pull down my profile, when I noticed I had like 20 messages waiting. Oops. So that could be a problem you're running into.

Sounds like you're doing well, though! Several dates after not too much time. I liked OKC. I'll be back on it in short order because aforementioned dude is moving, and I only anticipate good things. I think it's a great site for some folks in some locations/situations and I am one of those folks. Maybe you are, too. Just keep at it. :)
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I'm reading your post correctly, within the span of a couple of weeks you've already gotten to first-date stage with at least two people, received messages (albeit empty/unappealing ones) from some other folks, and have sent out about six messages yourself? If all of that is true, it sounds to me like you're doing pretty well for yourself. Lack of response on your messages doesn't necessarily mean each of those six guys looked at your profile and rejected you - some of them might not really be using the site much anymore, some might be pursuing someone else right now, etc.

Everyone always says that online dating is a numbers game, so keep on sending out messages, and try not to anyone's lack of response bring you down. Again, you have already gotten a few dates out of the site in just a few weeks, so you're doing pretty well! Good luck!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:47 AM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

One thing I'd recommend is although you should keep the initial email brief, you do want to say WHY you were intrigued enough to email.

"I see on your profile that you enjoy underwater basketweaving, that's one of my passions too."

Something like that. Just as you don't want to get the "You're so pretty" emails, dudes don't want to get the "So you're a doctor" emails.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I met my husband on OkC (I was 31 at the time). I've heard the perception that OkC is for hookups and match is for serious relationships. That wasn't my experience at all. Ok, I did get a bunch of "ur pretty, let's hang out" emails on OkC but there were also a good number of mature guys looking for a relationship.
I had better luck finding people who seemed more like me on OkC, whereas the daters on match seemed very conventional. That said, match bought OkC, and has probably updated their matching algorithms, so the gap might not be so large any more.
One thing I did, and recommend, is do a search for women in your demographic. See who else is out there. Read through their profiles and pick a few that you like, that you think, "If I were a guy, I'd ask her out." Then try to figure out what it is about their profiles that made them seem fun and interesting. See if you can take a similar tack in your own profile.
posted by pompelmo at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I’m having some trouble not feeling a little stung about the lack of responses—I’m nice, I’m smart, I’m not unattractive! What’s wrong with me? Am I just falling into an unfortunate demographic space as a 38-year old woman?

As long as your profile is a good representation of who you are, it makes more sense to think about things in terms of compatibility rather than being "good enough" for someone. You said yourself that you already went on a few dates with guys who were presumably nice, smart, and not unattractive, and for whatever reason they didn't click with you. That's pretty much the whole online dating experience, sifting through profiles, going on so-so dates, to search for one out of the many people on the site that you're compatible enough to actually start dating. Sometimes you filter out people from your search, sometimes people filter you out from their's. In the end the details of the ones that don't work out don't really matter because if you're lucky you'll find someone who you think is great and who also thinks you're great and you'll stop searching and stick with them.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:09 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hi. I do OKC and I'm a 41 y.o. female. I have found it to be less of a hookup site than Match in my medium-sized (million plus) city, but, as everyone said, YMMV.

I have been on the site since mid-March and have met many super-nice, quality men. No one seems to care a lick about age and I've had MANY younger men contact me. I'm child-free and that hasn't been an impediment, either. I'm seeing someone now who seems soul-matish - jury's still out; I'm skittish - whom I met on the site. I'm in the South and most men in my age range are divorced with kids, divorced with no kids, or never married. I think it's a great dating pool. I would look at it optimistically/positively. It only takes one, and for me, these are people I would not have crossed paths with in my city otherwise, so I see it as supplemental.

I think one thing that helps is making sure one's profile is positive and life-affirming, rather than "what I don't want." I obviously don't know what your profile looks like but that might be a thing to check. It's so hard to know how profiles come across! My girlfriends and I read each others' to help get the right tone.

Be very, very decisive about weeding out the people with whom you don't click right away. Online dating is no place for polite tolerance. I spent a lot of time corresponding and meeting with quality men with whom I didn't have an instant rapport, but when I met my now-boyfriend, there was zero effort required and I saw the light. Does that make sense?

I'll be glad to help in any way if I can. I think it's a great site and I think you will be FINE if you look at it as supplemental to other dating efforts and be choosy and be yourself.

Feel free to memail me and good luck!
posted by Punctual at 11:11 AM on May 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

I wonder if my age & childless status is a red flag for some people?

Speaking as a childless woman your age, no. You might mention specifically that you don't want to have children yourself, if that's the case. Saying that you aren't looking for someone to have them with is not as clear.
posted by yohko at 11:19 AM on May 8, 2013

I really don't think the lack of responses is about you. People don't respond to messages on OKCupid for ALL KINDS of reasons. Sometimes it's because they're really busy. Sometimes they haven't been on the site in ages. Sometimes they're already dating someone(s). Sometimes they're not in a space to deal with OKCupid. Sometimes they're just dicks.

I'm happy to look at your profile but if you are nice, smart and not unattractive and have managed to communicate this in your profile (and a smart person would) then it's really not about you.

It pains me to say this but some men on OKCupid are weird about not wanting much to do with women older than them (or even their own age). This could be a reason you don't get a response, but I put these people firmly in the Dicks category of non-responders.
posted by Polychrome at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, sometimes people lie on their profiles. So you might be messaging someone who has indicated they want the same things as you, are looking for exactly what you are/have and seem to be exactly what you want, but the reality is not so. So when they get your message, you two won't seem to be as perfect of a match to him as to you. Again, put 'em in the Dicks category and move on.
posted by Polychrome at 11:28 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best advice I can give is to not get discouraged. Dating is exhausting, and so is playing the OKC messaging game. I went through a couple of cycles of trying it out for a few months, going on some dates, and then deactivating the profile for a few weeks to take a breather.

The other thing is to harden up a little. Part of being the person sending initial messages is that a good portion (most?) won't get a reply--men think this only applies to them, but women experience it, too. You will go crazy if you take every micro-rejection personally. It might not be about you: they could be in that 3rd-to-7th date area with someone else where it might turn into something serious. They could be on vacation. Maybe their car is making a noise and they don't want it to break down during a date (all actual reasons I've avoided dealing with OKC messages). And even if it IS about you, it could be for silly reasons: maybe they think they're incompatible with Virgos, or your hair resembles their ex wife's hair, or you like cats and they are allergic, or whatever. I've learned to appreciate the clear communication of non-interest that a lack of response signifies. Try to think of it more as "Trust me, we wouldn't work together" than "I am not into you because of your obvious flaws."
posted by almostmanda at 11:33 AM on May 8, 2013 [21 favorites]

I don't think it would hurt to answer more questions on OKC. I've answered over a thousand (as a result of being off and on OKC for years), and as a result I feel I can really trust the match percentages, particularly with folks who have also answered lots of questions. A lot of people don't put a lot of stock in the numbers, but I've found their algorithm to be pretty great in terms of overall compatibility.

A general note for people who maybe haven't used OKC in a while, or had forgotten about this feature: You can search matches by last date logged in (within a day, week, month or year), and every user's profile will tell you the date they were last online.

I’ve found profiles that interest me, and have sent about half-a-dozen messages to those guys… and have gotten no responses.

It sounds like you're experiencing the flip side to this recent question. It doesn't mean much in itself, especially since there are any number of other reasons someone may not reply. Keep messaging dudes you like and you'll make it happen!
posted by the_bone at 11:54 AM on May 8, 2013

Some hard reality will help you on OKC, but you have to indicate if you're open to hearing it.

First thing, when I had an Okcupid profile, I hardly if ever, responded to a girl that contacted me first. Many of friends did not as well. Call it what you may, but many men still view the first approach with skepticism. I would recommend you stop doing that. Visit the profile, but don't message him.

Secondly, the initial draw is all about your picture. Everything else is second. Don't write a long profile. Don't have your girlfriend approve the pictures - show it to a couple of male friends.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Call it what you may, but many men still view the first approach with skepticism.
Which makes it an excellent way to weed out that sort of men.

Seriously though the rest of this is all the normal "is it meee?" angst of which there have been a million other questions in only the past few months, if I recall correctly. To sum up: six messages is not a lot, tons of people either aren't on or don't read their messages or whatever, yes you are in a less common search demographic, although you can still probably find plenty of people, as evidenced by the fact that you've already been on a few dates within a few weeks of setting up the profile. So, seriously, unless you receive feedback from someone whose opinion you respect that causes you pause on something, carry on and stop stressing over it.
posted by celtalitha at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

For whatever it's worth, I know a lot of women who have ended up dating men that they contacted first, both online and off, so I would take kruger's advice with a grain of salt. Sure, there are some men who won't respond to you - but it's possible that these are the type of men that you want to filter out in the first place, in which case, the system works!
posted by DingoMutt at 12:07 PM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]

Two dates with high quality men after a few weeks is rather good in my opinion. Don't beat yourself up. Nothing you mentioned sounds unusual.

Keep messaging these guys! I go through spells where I don't hear back from anyone and spells where I get a ton of replies. I rarely respond to a message a guy writes me first though unless he's exceptionally interesting. I think guys do the same to me and I get responses from the few who find me exceptionally interesting too. I would estimate my response rate is about 30%, but I only write to guys with high quality profiles (who seem to be the minority).

When I look at profiles, I view the following as red flags and will almost never write or respond to a guy who has these red flags. If you have any of these red flags in your profile, you might want to consider editing your profile:

-His age range doesn't include his own age. Creepy. There are so many men who I might write to, but don't because they specify an age rage than doesn't include their own age. Even if I'm in their age range, I won't reply or write to them.

-His pictures show him with a group of friends. For some reason, I find this really off-putting. It's as though he's trying to prove to women he has friends.

-He uses words/phrases like: laid back, low maintenance, chilling, love to laugh, love to smile, etc.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

look, the whole thing with OKC is that everyone does it differently.

some dudes don't respond to messages that the girl sends first. some girls don't respond to messages the guy sends first. some dudes take the question/answers part seriously. some girls reject any dude who has a picture of them with a girl in their profile.

the fact is, you're going to get rejected by someone no matter what you do. so do it in the way you want to do it and don't take the rejection so personally. people get REALLY PICKY when it comes to online dating. you'll get exhausted after dating for awhile, but you'll also learn a lot about what you want in your future partner, and what it feels like when you have a real connection with someone and what it feels like when you don't.

and as an anecdote to who-messages-who? when i met my current awesome boyfriend of perfection, reader, you better believe i messaged him first.
posted by kerning at 12:27 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sent you a private message, but I want to second there being many possible reasons for someone not to reply. My personal top three are probably: 1) Not being attracted enough to someone's photos. 2) Not finding a strong enough "hook" either in their profile or in their opening message that makes me excited to reply. If they wrote something I strongly relate to, replying is easy-- if I struggle to think of a response it's usually a bad sign. Good vs. bad profile/message may be largely in the eye of the beholder. A really great profile/first message can overcome "meh" photos for me (and vice versa to an extent, I'm ashamed to admit). 3) My own low self-esteem, being intimidated, or something else. This mainly applies to edge cases, where I'm modestly interested in someone's profile/message and would reply on a better day, but for whatever reason can't imagine the possibility of it going anywhere due to how I'm currently feeling about myself.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 12:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Work on your self esteem first, and don't use dating as a means to that end. If you really find that you become invested in receiving responses from the guys you contact, take some time off to consider why them responding is so validating, and then find ways to meet that need elsewhere.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:42 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can send me a link and I'll look at your profile.

Getting folks to look at your profile is a great step.

My rules of thumb for okc dating are:

1. I don't keep track of the messages I've sent. Steadily write to people I find interesting - but once that message is sent let it go. Release it into the universe and forget all about it. When you hear from someone it's a happy thing, when you don't it's not such a bit deal.

2. I don't get excited about anyone until after we've met. Boy, did I learn that one the hard way.

3. I try to keep a sense of humor about the whole thing and keep my expectations reasonable and stay safe. If I find myself getting really worked up about a date before he shows I imagine that he might be Jeffrey Steingarten and then whatever happens I'm not too disappointed.

4. Remember that bad dates make AWESOME stories, and good dates do too.
posted by bunderful at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I want on a couple of first dates with nice-enough guys as a result, and it was fun and okay, but I wasn’t excited about continuing to date either guy. I’ve gotten a number of messages as well, but most of those are the “Hey you’re pretty I would like to go out with you”-type things, which I ignore.

i think this quote shows the two most self-destructive things you're doing. First, "fun and okay" can be good enough and setting the bar at being excited seems way too high.

Second, why do you ignore the short messages out of hand, or is that not what you're doing? The point of a short message is that you go to their profile, and if you're interested, you send a message back. Think of a first message as making eye contact across a bar, as opposed to a first date.

I think if you stop doing those two things you'll find that the pool of datable men has increased substantially.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:43 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I met my now-husband on OKC (and I messaged him first, actually).

My rules of thumb were very similar to bunderful's. When I sent messages I would send a bunch to different people at once. That made it easier to not get too wrapped up in whether I heard back from a specific guy.

I also kept reminding myself that just putting myself out there was an accomplishment, as someone who had always been shy. Your self esteem deserves a boost for having the confidence to try things out and treat it like a journey, regardless of how many responses you get. Although like other posters above I think your results so far sound really good.
posted by bayleaf at 8:30 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a man in my early 30s. I was planning to ask basically this question, down to the "reality check" approach, but here you are first. Bizarre.

The parallels in our situations are downright eerie. Childfree but not militant, shy in forming relationships. My last relationship lasted a bit longer than yours though it took me a lot longer to get over it. Most people I know are partnered, many with kids, or at least it sure seems that way. Work dating isn't really an option and would be a bad idea if it were. I've never really dated, my serious relationships started in unusual ways. I have a new OKCupid profile though it's not my first. I've never really put a ton of effort into OKCupid before so I'm about as inexperienced as you at it.

I'm saying all this, not only so you can bask in the weird coincidence, but also so you feel less alone and so you can see that there are guys, or at least one guy, with similar concerns.

OKCupid can work a lot different for men than women, but from my point of view you're doing great. Two dates in a few weeks, way to go, no kidding. Keep it up.

Online dating is awful and stressful and I struggle not to obsess or get anxious for a response. You have to just let it go or you'll freak out and give up. I'm assuming your not wanting to have kids is a rock-solid dealbreaker, because you're 38 and have been through two long-term relationships and haven't had kids yet. This is unfortunately a rare requirement and it means you're not going to meet your match on the train or at the grocery store unless you drastically increase the number of these chance encounters, which would be exhausting. Coupled with the fact that your real-life friends and work aren't helping, your options are limited to online dating or waiting for a miracle, meaning you have to stick it out and let all the awful stuff in online dating wash over you or you won't last the distance. Do whatever you need to do to not get upset about it. Limit your time per day or per week that you spend on OKCupid. Have fun with the messages you send out and try different things, like maybe write a limerick. Snuggle up with a furry pet and put on some good music while you do it. You get the idea.

You are in an unfortunate demographic space. Your age and disinterest in having kids are red flags to some people, probably a lot of people. Own it. They're not personality flaws, they're just a part of who you are. It will help filter your pool and decrease quantity but raise quality and that's what you want.

I hope this helps. This pep talk is as much for me as for you. Also I would be happy to look at your profile, just MeMail me. I'll MeMail you this offer too. And thank you for asking this question for me!

Good luck!
posted by moonlit walk on the sun at 9:05 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh and, for what it's worth, 38 is within my age range, so don't necessarily rule out younger men.
posted by moonlit walk on the sun at 9:10 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are in an unfortunate demographic space. Your age and disinterest in having kids are red flags to some people, probably a lot of people. Own it.

I think this is really location-specific. At least half, if not more, of the men I've interacted with on OKC indicate they do not want children (anywhere from 28 - 45 year old men). Then again, I live in a major city. It's to the point where I was wondering if I'll meet anyone who does want to have kids. There is an option on the sidebar at the right for children. If you indicate "Does not have children and does not want any" I believe it's pretty clear. Either way, I agree that you should own it.

It's hard at first not to take things personally. People may not respond to your initial message, people may stop messaging you after your 4th message when you thought you were connecting. You'll go on dates that you think went great but the guy never talks to you again and you'll go on the most horrible date of your life and the guy will think it went well and ask you out again.

You haven't been single since you were 21. Wow! It's okay to be single, so take your time and don't feel rushed into jumping into a relationship.

p.s. I've gone out with guys 5 years younger and 8 years older so don't rule anything out.
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm 40 and would agree your demographic has the potential to limit you a bit but there's nothing you can do about it. Not having or wanting kids is a huge plus for me. Late 30's with no kids is my perfect demographic. I will admit that most single guys I know around my age are looking at women mid-30's and lower but they also want kids. As an older guy with decent looks and a good career, dating women in their 20's is not difficult. Maybe they get wrapped up in the status of an older man but I personally feel those women would be better off dating younger men.

Even though I'm in a relatively large city (2M+), OKCupid has few members here over 35. Match has literally ten times the members around my age but the profiles there are really restrictive which tends to make them painfully boring. OKC is a lot more fun with lots of places in the profile to standout and the questions are helpful. Sometimes I'll just browse profiles when I'm bored because it's entertaining. Match puts too much emphasis on pictures and stats. My sister is a little older than me but has been online dating for a while. She told me she gets mostly messages from men in their 50's and even 60's looking for a mother for their children/future nurse on Match but mostly from guys in their 20's "cougar hunting" on OKC. She's very attractive and still has a hard time getting messages from men her age on both sites. She's also in a much smaller town than me (50K+). YMMV.

The advice I always give is to read a bunch of the profiles of your competition to see how yours stacks up. If you're anything like me, you think your profile is so original but it probably sounds like most of the others. Doing things like writing it with a different tone make a huge difference. Many profiles read like an obituary. And remove overused statements like being laid back, being comfortable in jeans or a fancy dress, etc. Another super lame thing is to answer the your most private thing question with "if I told you it wouldn't be private".

Some of my pet peeves:

1. Women that put no effort into their profile because they are cute. They write one or two snarky sentences for each section and just wait for the messages to roll in. I'm sure they get bunch too but probably not from the quality guys on the site.
2. Women that put up weird artsy pictures, like they did all kinds of crap to them in Photoshop. It's really shocking how often I see this. What does a photo of you with purple hair and green skin tell me?
3. Anything remotely negative. Your profile paints a picture and I might assume you're a drag if you're whining about stuff. One I see the most often is "don't contact me if you're looking for casual sex". I hate to break it you but those guys are going to contact you anyway because they typically don't even read your profile.
4. A laundry list of requirements in the last section.
5. Women who add statements to chastise the men that have messaged them so far. "Just because I say my breasts are what people notice first doesn't give you permission to mention them in your messages!" Yeah, it sort of does.
6. Women that leave very important parts of their profile blank. You seriously didn't answer the question about having children? (NOTE: this is a newish question so some really old profiles will have it blank if they didn't realize it was added) Some profiles have almost every question on the right-hand column blank.

And I personally have no issues with a woman sending me the first message. If I like her profile, I wouldn't be any less likely to date her than if I had messaged her first. Part of that could be getting older because I'm sick of playing games.

Don't get emotionally invested in the process. Just look at it as a way to meet new people and nothing more. In my experience, dates that start online are less successful than meeting people in real life. If you meet someone at a bar or a party, you've technically already sort of had a mini first date. That puts a lot less pressure on the actual first date because you already established there's some chemistry.

Trust your gut. You don't owe anybody anything on these dating sites including a response. If you get even the slightest bad vibe, I would call off the date and move on. I'm amazed at some of the bullshit my female friends let guys get away with.
posted by thebriguy72 at 10:24 PM on May 9, 2013

Keep them short (cap at probably 250ish words), reference something or things from their profile, whatever it is that you do well in writing, do it.

This doesn't always work.

As a guy who uses it, I prefer if women message first, since I'll go through periods of despair where I won't message people, even people who seem interested.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:23 AM on May 10, 2013

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