Help a dating n00b?
May 29, 2013 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Jumping back into the dating pool and hoping for some hacks and advice specific to finding the kind of people that interest me...

So, life has settled down a lot since my most recent divorce is very close to final, I'm living with my kids in a place I love, I'm in my best shape in years, I've picked up some new hobbies and renewed my participation in some old ones. I've also made some great new friends and feel like I'm in a really good place emotionally. Yay me!

I've dated a few people I've met online, with mixed results (everything from one encounter to several months' worth of dating). I haven't found a lot of face-to-face opportunities for meeting potential dates, so I'm continuing the online dating thing and have profiles on several sites. I realize it's a numbers game, but I'm just finding the process really overwhelming. Like many women, I get a ton of messages, most of which are ridiculous in quality and/or are from people who really don't interest me (really old men, college kids, etc). I've messaged some people whose profiles appealed to me, but literally none of these people have written back. It's discouraging, to say the least.

It's occurred to me that maybe some of the people I'm messaging are a little out of my league, or are "too cool" to be into me. (I've noticed that, especially among the people located inside the cities nearest me, they all seem awfully hip - ridiculously well-traveled, don't own a TV, are into super obscure stuff, etc.) Fair enough; I don't want someone with whom I have nothing in common. The problem is, these educated urban hipsters actually appeal to me more than the opposite end of the spectrum, where almost everyone else seems to fall - I've seen lots of sports-jersey-wearing suburbanites who list Olive Garden as their favorite restaurant. Perfect for someone, just maybe not for me.

What I'd ideally like to find is someone just a little edgy, smart, polished, funny, kind, emotionally available and ready for a relationship, who welcomes dating someone with kids, probably aged 35-47 or so. Not too much to ask, right? [snerk] Finding these people, however, seems next to impossible.

I guess my question boils down to three parts:

(1) Are there any hacks to the dating sites I'm on - OKCupid, Match, PlentyofFish, Spark - that will make it easier to find the kind of people I described above and to get on their radar? I'm found so much conflicting advice (message tons of people; message no one but instead just rate their profiles highly; keep your OKC button red; keep it green) but at this point I am not concerned with principle or how it *should* work - I just want a system that is effective, as I don't have a ton of time to spend on these sites.

(2) Is there anything obvious in my profile (content or photos) that would seem like an immediate turnoff to these people? My OKC profile is here; my profiles on the other sites are pretty much identical.

(3) Are there any other worthwhile dating sites that I'm missing? eHarmony won't accept me since my divorce isn't final, and I haven't encountered any others that seem good. (I like OKC in general, and POF has been okay, but I'm not really digging the generic-ness of Match and Spark seems like a waste of time altogether.)

Apologies for the length of this post, and thanks in advance for any help in navigating this next stage of my life!
posted by justonegirl to Human Relations (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
(2) Is there anything obvious in my profile (content or photos) that would seem like an immediate turnoff to these people?

Well, the top says you're single, but then you clarify later on that you're not actually divorced yet. That's a bit misleading.
posted by wondermouse at 6:14 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd get rid of the bit about 'hateful' profiles on OkC. I know it's true, but it introduces a kind of bitter tone.
posted by Salamander at 6:19 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would say you're missing the one thing that makes you special. Your profile has a kind of generic feel, and there's no intriguing fact in there that makes me want to dig a bit deeper and find out what makes you tick. You hint at a few things -- the triathlon thing, the music business -- but you tend to wave it off in the next sentence.

To be gross about it, what's your unique selling point? What makes you different and interesting?
posted by unSane at 6:20 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are super pretty! :D

I actually think your profile is a little too robust information-wise. Maybe start paring it down to the bare essentials so that you and a potential date have more to talk about and investigate together later.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:22 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (2)

Yes. Things like the "truly hateful, spiteful OKC profiles" shtick are a bad idea. I'd also get rid of the rest of the negatives (no drama, allergic to headgames, etc.). This type of stuff always sounds bitter or doth-protest-too-much.

I'd actually consider using this, "What I'd ideally like to find is someone just a little edgy, smart, polished, funny, kind, emotionally available and ready for a relationship, who welcomes dating someone with kids, probably aged 35-47 or so." instead of your current Message me if... section.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:28 PM on May 29, 2013 [10 favorites]

Well, the top says you're single, but then you clarify later on that you're not actually divorced yet. That's a bit misleading.
posted by wondermouse at 1:14 PM on May 30 [+][!]

I'd get rid of the bit about 'hateful' profiles on OkC. I know it's true, but it introduces a kind of bitter tone.
posted by Salamander at 1:19 PM on May 30 [+][!]

These two will help, but let me be brutally honest: you're very pretty in your pictures and you have good but approachable taste in music, movies, and TV shows. You'll get tons and tons of messages.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the suggestions so far! (I saw in some previous posts that it got confusing when people started making immediate changes to their profile while the question was still fresh, so I'll wait a day or two before making tweaks - I am noting and appreciating all the feedback, though!)

@wondermouse - OKC gives the options of Single, Seeing Someone and Married. I felt Single was appropriate since (a) my legal separation period is almost over and my divorce is completely certain; no chance of reconciliation and (b) Married seems to be the status actually-married couples looking for a third use, and that is a big turnoff to the kind of people I'm seeking. I do use Separated on any dating site that allows that as a status. Do you (or others) thing that using Married on OKC would be more appropriate?
posted by justonegirl at 6:32 PM on May 29, 2013

Put more you in the profile. And I hate to say it but answer more of the questions. The more questions I answered the better my matches got and the more quality messages I started receiving.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:42 PM on May 29, 2013

You should list yourself as Married. OKC has a neat feature where if you list yourself as Married but say that you are looking for dating, the status that displays to other people will just say "Available." And that's what you are. You're not Single, but you are Available.

In terms of looking at other people's profiles, I think you should contact/respond to and chat with and go out on dates with those folks who are "awfully hip." Remember that most people puff themselves up on the internet, so "ridiculously well-traveled" might mean that he goes on foreign vacations once a year and travels a bit for work, and "into super obscure stuff" might mean that he's tried those things and liked them, but he's actually more into really mainstream stuff that he didn't mention because he didn't want to sound lame or boring. (Though I agree, anyone who feels the need to affirmatively mention, unprompted, that he doesn't own a TV might be a tool.) Just like you want to sound upbeat and fun, so do they. Don't preemptively decide that someone is "out of your league" when there's plenty of time for you both to decide whether or not you like one another if and when you actually get to know one another in person.
posted by decathecting at 6:51 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your photos are nice- lucky you being photogenic!- and the middle part sounds good. The beginning part is too generic sounding. Don't list yourself as married, the way you have it is fine. Good luck!
posted by bquarters at 6:56 PM on May 29, 2013

Best answer: I can see the dilemma regarding whether you should put single or married.

From the profile: (I'm legally separated, and my divorce - which is 100% imminent, with minimal drama - will be finalized in the fall. Want to celebrate with me?)

If I were looking for dates and someone I was considering had that in their profile, it would immediately scare me off. Despite your promise of minimal drama, I would expect drama. Maybe find another way to make this clear, and take out "Want to celebrate with me?" because... I dunno... in this context, it just sounds bad. Save that for your friends, not prospective dates.

The other thing is this:

You should message me if
You're smart but not a know-it-all, sophisticated but not stuffy, polished but not prententious, wickedly funny but not at others' expense ... And, like me, you're allergic to head games and want to make a real, grownup connection with someone who enhances your life in all kinds of awesome ways.

I know that's what you want, and it's good to have your own personal standards, but this puts a lot of pressure on the guy to fit into a specific mold that only you have access to. Think from the perspective of a man who doesn't know you and is reading your profile: how can he possibly know you'll think he's smart and sophisticated, wickedly funny, and polished?

Focus on saying stuff about yourself and not so much about the kind of guy you're looking for. See how it changes the kinds of messages you get. That way you'll get messages from a wider variety of men, and you'll have more control over who you end up talking to.
posted by wondermouse at 6:59 PM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, change the status to Available. It's uncool to fudge the truth.

Also remove the mention of drama. Many long-time users of OKC have said that when they see someone mention how they aren't into drama or games, they assume it's just the opposite.

Otherwise, I think your profile is fine as-is. Being non-divorced, and having kids, is going to narrow down your dating pool (sorry, just how it is). Approach men who are in the same boat, I suppose? Vs. single/childless guys.
posted by nacho fries at 7:33 PM on May 29, 2013

OKC gives the options of Single, Seeing Someone and Married.

It also offers "Available", though I generally assume that means open relationship. Speaking as someone who is several of the criteria you're looking at, I would react ok to "Single" being clarified later, however I agree with wondermouse that the clarification in question isn't the best. (And obviously, single-single, (no complications) will be better when that's an option).
Something more neutral and firm - "I'm legally separated. The divorce process is being finalized, and takes effect in fall"?

I've messaged some people whose profiles appealed to me, but literally none of these people have written back.

Again from my perspective, keep doing this, and don't sweat the lack of replies. I don't get many messages, and I hardly ever respond (because there aren't many people that I'm into, and after getting over the frustration of people not responding, I've adopted a when-in-Rome attitude and I'm now on board with efficiency trumping acknowledgement) but I'll always check out the sender. (Even if they might not always know it - I usually browse anonymously).

(1) Are there any hacks to the dating sites I'm on - OKCupid

Not much of one, but: click on the logo to go to the "Activity" page. All the things you see people doing on that page (updating their profile, answering a question, uploading a photo), are things that when you do, you too will show up on the Activity page of some people nearby. At least that's my understanding, and I do seem to get more visitors when I've been doing those things.

Are you using the OKC phone app? It means other people using the phone app are more likely to see you, because selecting search defaults to first showing you some people nearby, meaning "people nearby who have the phone app", so that places you in a higher profile group containing fewer people.

(2) Is there anything obvious in my profile (content or photos) that would seem like an immediate turnoff to these people?

Looks decent to me.

(3) Are there any other worthwhile dating sites that I'm missing?

Overall I don't recommend it, but you might want to take a quick look at Zoosk, which advertises heavily on Facebook and so seems to have different demographics. In my case, different in unhelpful ways (people who are less computer savvy? It's hard to put a finger on what it is, but it's something). I haven't been impressed, but maybe it's worth a look.
On a similar note (facebook having penetration to people that don't reach regular dating sites) if your facebook profile is marked as single and ads are not blocked, there is a dating site for everyone - Do you like christian single death-rock vegan jewish bi russian women? There's a site for that! (well it seems like that). My impression is that these sites aren't very good, and they're not free, but because they try to compete via focused demographics, maybe they're worth a look?
posted by anonymisc at 7:36 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Available" always reads to me as "in a committed but open relationship" and, for me personally, that is a no go, but I wouldn't consider "divorce pending" to be a big deal at all. I vote for "Single" with the briefest possible explanation.
posted by chrchr at 7:53 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: No one ever sees something like your "message me if" section and decides that since they are into head games and want a fake immature connection they will just go on their way. Emotionally unavailable people who aren't over their past relationship issues aren't going to skip messaging you to look for the profiles of those seeking the emotionally unavailable. Leave that out, it just makes you sound jaded, as if you are listing all the things you haven't liked about past relationships.

Unless you want to date someone who is absolutely sure that they are sophisticated, polished, and wickedly funny you should change the rest of it.

I don't see it the way wondermouse does, to me it sounds incredibly generic. You're basically saying you want someone who's good dating material, just like everyone else does. There's nothing there to make someone think "oh, that's me!", nothing there that would give suburbanites some reason not to message you (people who aren't open to dating someone with kids are will have already decided not to message you by the time they read that far).

Single isn't necessarily inappropriate for your situation, but some people simply don't want to date married people, even if the divorce was happening tomorrow. Maybe that's happened with some of the people you haven't heard back from, but you wouldn't be dating them anyhow. Also, what you say about your divorce makes it sound like you are waiting to date until you can celebrate. This problem will solve itself in a few months.

Your age range is pretty narrow, try changing it and be willing to meet people outside of it for coffee if they sound interesting.

I get the impression you own your own successful business that employs several people, saying I'm really into business gives a first impression of the opposite. Leave the new ventures out, and say something about your business that gives some insight into you -- you enjoy running it because... If you aren't at work evenings and weekends, say so.

You have three different photos of you at work activities, get rid of those, or crop the nametags out and don't say they are at a networking event. Have a friend take a bunch of pictures of you and pick the best few to put up. Personally I find removing other people's faces to be offputting, you can crop the picture instead. If you want to show your kids have a picture of the three of you in an action shot that doesn't show their faces.

You will continue to get a ton of ridiculous messages from people who don't even bother to read your profile, no matter what you change your profile to say.
posted by yohko at 7:58 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

these educated urban hipsters actually appeal to me more

I'm under the impression that educated urban hipsters tend to look for people within urban-center distance, preferably walk/bike/my-regular-bus distance, (though that depends on the city, density, etc). If you have kids, maybe you're in the 'burbs (I don't know your area). If you're listing a specific suburb or satellite city as a location, I guess you could try making your location zoomed out to something slightly less specific, but it's one of those things that you can't really do much about before you're fudging it, and you don't want to do that. I bring it up mainly as an explanatory factor to be aware of if you're not already.
posted by anonymisc at 7:59 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think your profile looks fine. But the faceless kid photos creeped me out, especially the photo with one kid who had what looked like an artificial face.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:35 PM on May 29, 2013

Best answer: You mention that you couldn't live without your kids artwork and that you spend a lot of time thinking about how to maintain the awesomeness of your kids. Although in a more neutral context you mention them three more times.

I expect any woman who has the "has kids" box ticked to spend a lot of time thinking about them, but the impression I get looking at your profile would be that any date with you would be listening to stories about your kids, followed by dinner were you talk about your kids, and then maybe a nice long walk with kid stories.

Guys reading your profile are going to want to date you because of you, not because of your children. They're going to fall in love with you because of how you are with them, not because of how you are with your children. I think you should focus your profile more on why you're great, and not why your kids are.
posted by bswinburn at 11:45 PM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Former single (now-engaged) mom who also tried online dating with a few ideas and words of encouragement.

First, bear in mind that yes, you will meet people online dating but there's also a world of people out there who aren't online. And it's all too easy to let online dating turn into a part-time job and it can become overwhelming and exhausting if you allow it. So try to frame your expectations accordingly. It's a great adventure, it's a way to meet people, but you may not meet anyone super awesome (which you deserve).

About your profile, I have a few suggestions but would like to say that you come off as very attractive and smart and funny.

First is to take off the pictures of your kids and don't mention them other than one place where you say you're a mother. As bswinburn notes, you are looking for someone who understands that you have kids, but your profile is about you, not your kids and not your role as a mom.

Don't mention the divorce (amicable or not); just that you're not married. It can be a story for when you meet in person. Also, don't mention celebrating your divorce or for that matter, being available on weeknights bc that's when you're kid-free. All of that can unfold when you meet.

You may want to make your profile more personal. When I had a profile, instead of saying I was into the movie Spinal Tap, I had as a favorite quote, "This one goes to 11," and if a guy responded and was able to riff off that, chances are we'd have a similar sense of humor.

Under your self-summary, I wouldn't mention a new chapter in your life; people can infer all sorts of weird ideas (Eat, Pray, Love or psychiatric hospital, etc.) from that.

Upon reading, you do mention drinking alcohol and/or bars several times which can be interpreted as you're maybe a little drink-y. Also, you have lists of bands and restaurants. Maybe instead mention you love Sonic Youth and when nobody's looking, pretend to be Kim Gordon in front of the mirror. Make it more personal and less list-y.

I would definitely lose the lines about you spend a lot of time thinking about your kids, negative dating profiles and with whom you're going out next. Maybe reframe it into thinking about where you're booking your next beach vacation, how to create the best dinner with five ingredients...but something unexpected that opens a conversation.

Good luck with this!
posted by kinetic at 4:58 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah don't worry about the saying you're single. It's totally appropriate within the OKC world. You are emotionally single, just not technically single, and I think that's just fine. I've dated people who are separated but not divorced and it hasn't been an issue. You explain it in the body of your profile, which is exactly what you should do.

I do think that you should either remove the photos of the kids or show their faces. They do look creepy. You are very clear that you have kids in your profile so I don't think you need to have them in your photos.

And I would also take out the hateful profile thing. Your profile reads as really upbeat and positive and attractive then takes a nose-dive at that part.

One thing that I have done in my profile that has sparked lots of conversations with potential dudes is that I have a long list of things I want to actually do with a person I'm dating (go for long walks, go to the flea market, get a drink in a fancy old hotel bar, go to museums, etc). Guys message me saying 'I want to do that too!'. You say you want to share your life in your profile, but you don't say how. Do you want someone who wants to train with you? Wants to go to concerts with you? Wants to write songs with you? I find that (THIS IS A VERY GENERAL STATEMENT) guys like to initially connect by doing something, not just by talking or sharing. So giving them an idea of what kinds of things you'll be doing is a good jumping off point.

Otherwise I think it looks great! Just keep trying. I live in NYC and am a reasonably attractive kid-less 30 year old and in three years of OKC dating, I've gotten one solid boyfriend out of it (which only lasted five months, but it was rather serious during that short period) and gone out with maybe 15 or 20 people on 1-3 dates that didn't really go anywhere. (I have also met and dated people off-line). That seems to be a reasonably normal rate of success among women (and men) in my peer-group in NYC. So it sounds like you're doing just fine! It's hard out there and I would imagine it's doubly hard if you have kids. But keep doing what you're doing. Finding decent single people that you have things in common with isn't an easy task!
posted by greta simone at 5:24 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would also encourage you to go out to places where the kinds of people you want to meet may be hanging out. Go to a poetry slam, or an art gallery showing or a box social or whatever the kids are doing now.

If you're religious, join a church, if you're not join a UU church. I met a lot of great people at my UU church. As I'm fond of observing, the odds are good, but the goods are odd.

Be open to approaching and being approached in person by people you've had a chance to get to know. Maybe that awkward guy in your yoga class is worth a coffee date. Maybe he's not right for you, but has a friend.

I'd say concentrate on mixing and mingling with lots of people, if you connect, great, but if not, hey, you had a nice time.

Dating is fun, but it's not a mission. You seem really serious about wanting to be hooked up with someone and while knowing you want to be in a committed relationship is a good end goal, it puts a pall on getting to know people in general.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:53 AM on May 30, 2013

Best answer: Overall, your profile is definitely above average, but could use a few tweaks. I think you should keep your status as single, but definitely shorten the explanation to something along the lines of "I'm legally separated, and my divorce will be finalized in the fall."

As others have mentioned, minimize the talk of your kids to just mentioning that you have them. Once people know you have kids, they will either be ok with that, or they won't.

Remove the faceless pictures (of kids and adults...maybe ask permission from your friends in the photo booth pic to post their pictures online) - some people find things like that distracting.

Since you're looking for edgy, cool, hip people, play up the parts of your personality that are edgy, cool, and hip! You mention that you have lots of tattoos, but it gets lost in the rest of your profile. Perhaps replace one of the faceless kid pics with a pic of you that reveals some tattoos. Maybe make mention your favorite tattoo shop, or share a story about one of your tatts. Can you add a bit of spice to your writing style? Strictly from reading, I get the vague sense that you have an offbeat sense of humor. Definitely play that up. So many profiles are generic, and adding a bit of quirkyness really stands out.

Rather than listing out your favorite restaurants, you could say something along the lines of "I love hunting around town for the best of _____ (hot dogs, dumplings, etc.)." I used that on my profile and it always got a good deal of responses. I agree with what others have said about avoiding long lists. Pick a few things, and personalize them with a little anecdote or humor. I agree with kinetic about including a quote or bit of an inside joke with regard to movies/music/TV. I had a semi obscure movie quote on my profile as well, and it proved to be a good jumping off point for a lot of the guys who messaged me.

I don't think your mention of alcohol is excessive. If anything, it works to your advantage by exemplifying that you are not a housebound kid obsessed mom. If you enjoy going out and having a few cocktails, you obviously want someone you can share that with. Anyone who would judge you on a few mentions of alcohol in a dating profile is probably not someone you'd enjoy dating.

Lastly, I'm from the DC area, and your listed location may be limiting your prospective pool of dudes. I'm pretty convinced that you're getting messages largely from the jersey wearing suburban crowd, because the urban edgy types may not even be able to see your profile based on their location settings. Crofton really isn't a far drive from DC, but it may be just far enough mileage-wise that you don't ping on the DC guys' accounts. I'd switch your official location to DC proper, and maybe make mention in your profile that you live in Crofton, but love to spend time in Annapolis/DC/Baltimore. You'll find many more edgy/hip types in DC/Baltimore than Crofton/Annapolis.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much again, everyone, for all the valuable feedback. I took many of your suggestions and made some big changes to my profile, and while it's still a work in progress, I feel better about it already.

I love this community.
posted by justonegirl at 6:36 PM on May 30, 2013

Your photobooth shot is INCREDIBLY charming. I'd put that up top or even make it the main profile picture.
posted by prefpara at 4:26 PM on June 1, 2013

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