Online dating mysteries explained (hopefully)
December 13, 2006 11:42 AM   Subscribe

This question is for women who have used online dating : What are your most common reasons for breaking off an email exchange with a man who you met through online dating? Also, once you have given the man your phone number, and he calls you, what are your most common reasons for not returning the phone call?

My question about breaking off email exchanges pertains to the following situations :

1) Where you sent the initial email, but eventually stopped returning his emails.
2) Where the man sent the initial email, but you responded at least once.

My question about not returning phone calls pertains to the following situation - you've emailed back and forth a few times (or IMed with each other), and you've given him your phone number. He calls you, but you do not call him back.

Both of these situations are pretty confounding, because, as the man, you never get any explanation of what you did wrong, and don't know what to do in the future to avoid the same fate.

However, the unreturned phone call is probably the most confounding situation of all. If she likes me enough to give me her number, why wouldn't she call me back when I call her? Are my voicemail messages really that bad? Or are women just fickle like that? Should I even bother trying to contact her again, or should I just give up?
posted by kenoshakid to Human Relations (41 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say most of the time it's probably because they just don't feel a connection for one reason or another. It's probably not worth trying to find out the exact reason, because it's so subjective.

As for not returning calls, maybe she has realised she is uncomfortable with the prospect of meeting men this way, or has met someone else.

Either way, people really ought to be direct. But that being said, just give it a limit (say three unreturned calls or two weeks) and let it go.

No, women are not "just fickle like that." Believing in generalisations like that definitely won't help you find someone.
posted by loiseau at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2006

"She's just not that into you."

Seriously. it could be any number of things, from perceived poor table manners to a misplaced comma to her being too busy to lack of connection to lack of common interests to you're-a-cat-person-she's-a-dog-person.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's been a bit since I've done online dating, but I imagine not much has changed. If I were to all of a sudden not email or not return a call, in any situation, it's probably because either I just determined things weren't going to work for some reason (possibly just a feeling without concrete evidence) and I didn't have the guts to say so or because someone else I was emailing with at the same time turned out to be a better option.

As for not returning a phone call after giving my number...well, for me, voice might have a lot to do with it. It's a big turn on or turn off, so...

In my mind, online dating is kind of a loose area. It's sometimes easier (though of course not necessarily better) to just stop contacting the other person if I think things aren't going to work out. No, it's not very nice. But it's my opinion.
posted by bibbit at 11:53 AM on December 13, 2006

There's as many different reasons as there are individual women, and individual men.
posted by matildaben at 11:53 AM on December 13, 2006

If she likes me enough to give me her number, why wouldn't she call me back when I call her?

She doesn't necessarily give you the number because she likes you. It's like a fake smile: It's easier than saying, "I don't think this is going to work out," which opens cans of worms.
posted by Listener at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2006

There's as many different reasons as there are individual women, and individual men.

Of course. But the reasons cluster. Maybe you are a unique snowflake in this, but the people on either side of you aren’t.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I often have a hard time just saying "No" when someone asks me for my phone number flat out. It seems horrendously rude, and it can be easier to give it out with the expectation that I'll never return the guy's calls than it is to invent an excuse that sounds both plausible and polite on the spot. While in the overall scheme of things it's not polite to leave a guy's calls unanswered, either, there's something kind of deer-in-headlights about trying to say "no" to the number request. I think it's because it's just such a fact-based question that refusing to answer it seems hideously mean.

This obviously only applies if you have asked for the number. If she's given it out to you without your having asked, then something else is going on.
posted by occhiblu at 12:01 PM on December 13, 2006

never get any explanation of what you did wrong, and don't know what to do in the future to avoid the same fate.

You may not have done anything "wrong"; there's no magic behavior formula that makes women fall for you. There may just have been no spark. Things may have heated up with somebody else. If you haven't even met yet, maybe she's changed her mind about the safety of personals and online dating. Maybe she's crazy. Lots of possibilities.
posted by JanetLand at 12:03 PM on December 13, 2006

If I stop emailing or don't return a phone call, it's because something made me lose interest. It could be something the guy said that turned me off, or it could be that I got busy or met someone else. Basically, everything bibbit said goes for me, too.
posted by amro at 12:07 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: well, for me, voice might have a lot to do with it. It's a big turn on or turn off, so...

I figured that this might be the case in some situations. If you don't mind my asking, what makes a voicemail bad or good?
posted by kenoshakid at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2006

"She doesn't necessarily give you the number because she likes you. It's like a fake smile"

Wow, that's pathetic. I'm not going to disagree with you because you're absolutely right, but the fact that it happens is pretty lame. I wish that more people were just up front and honest about their feelings. I've been rejected on online dating sites more times than I can remember. The very rare women that wrote back and told me WHY they weren't interested got a reply from me thanking them for being honest and wishing them good luck. (the biggies? I have long hair, and I am child-free. On in particular, the kid thing is a huge dealbreaker.)

keno: this doesn't just happen in the online dating arena, it's been happening for many many years. Give her a call, leave a message, and if you don't hear back, call her once more a few days (4-6) later. If she doesn't respond, tear up the number, throw it away, and move on. Last thing you want is someone thinking your stalking them or something.

All you can say is that you tried. Don't take it personally. It's probably not something that's wrong with you anyway. Keep your chin up and move on.
posted by drstein at 12:10 PM on December 13, 2006

Oh, and before anyone jumps down my throat, I followed my own advice a few years ago and met the most wonderful woman ever, and we've been together ever since.
posted by drstein at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2006

voicemail good: upbeat, straightforward, short. No "um", no squeekiness, no agressiveness. Practice several times before calling. I would never pick up the phone when someone would call me, because the quality of their message determined whether or not they got a call-back.

"Hi, this is _________, that man from (dating site). Give me a call back when you get a chance at (number). Looking forward to speaking with you." [click]

Say nothing else. And then wait for her to call back. Even if it takes a week. Calling more than once without a return is a no-no when you are just getting to know someone. I think with email, you can email twice without getting a return.

Met my current bf (and the last one, a 2-year relationship) through online dating. I think it's a great way to meet people. Just try to stay upbeat, and be as involved as possible in friends/activities not having to do with dating. Appearing to have more than 2 friends and more than 2 activities on your calandar make you seem normal and fun. It's possible--and advisable--to avoid emiting the scent of neediness while at the same time not being an asshole. There's no need to wait three days before calling after a date or any of that sort of goofiness. Good luck!
posted by tk at 12:25 PM on December 13, 2006

I met my current boyfriend through a dating site but I had to sort through a lot of weirdos and creeps before I met him (not to imply that you are a weirdo or a creep). While I was dating/meeting people on the internet I felt like I had to be very careful and protect myself (which people should do) but it made me very paranoid too. The slightest reference to sex usually made me break off communication, not because I am a prude but there were tons of pervs who immediately started in with it. It was as if just posting an ad meant I was going to immediately jump into bed with the first guy who emailed me. Some guys I'm sure were just flirting (non-aggressively) but it just raised my guard enough that I wouldn't meet anyone who triggered the caution switch. This was just my experience which may have no relation to your situation so good luck with the search.
posted by estronaut at 1:08 PM on December 13, 2006

It's been a while since I did online dating, but when I did the men were banging down the doors, practically, to get my attention.

If someone said something inappropriate or I didn't feel a spark, either after phone or e-mail conversation, it was over. If I didn't like his personality, his feelings about vegetarianism or politics, his stories about his family, his writing style, his photo, his voice, his questions, or the reasons that he might be interested in me, there were plenty of other men out there that might provide a better match.

When I met my husband, I found his first e-mail to be so insightful that I sent him my phone number right away, as well as a time and date that would be best to call. When he called, we talked for more than an hour. When we went out a week later, we hit it off. But if he hadn't seemed smart or insightful from the beginning, I guess I wouldn't be so happy now.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2006

When I tried internet dating, I took non-response from men as a loss of interest in me or that they had simply met someone who interested them more and moved on. You mustn't take it personally and remember that most women who post ads online get a hefty amount of responses (relative to the amount men will get) they must sort through, so her attention is not focused solely on you. I never felt obligated to respond to everyone who sent me messages, especially when a lot of the messages sent seemed so cut and paste spammy.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:22 PM on December 13, 2006

Usually if I give a guy my phone number, I won't answer the first time he calls, for exactly the reasons mentioned above: want to hear his voice, how he speaks, what he says. Those things matter and I assume that hearing my outgoing message gives him some clue about me as well. But I don't think I've ever given my phone number to a guy that I didn't want to call me. i just want to hear him before I talk to him. I'll usually call back or send an email "sorry i missed you, try again at xx o'clock."

As for emails, sometimes it's something specific about what the guy said, sometimes it's just a feeling that you're not on the same wavelength, sometimes it's just that my focus has turned to some other suitor. When, after a few back and forths that dwindled off, I've gotten emails a that say "Hey, what happened? Are you still interested?" I generally write back and say that I've decided we aren't a good match.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2006

As mentioned previously, there isn't a blanket reason that covers all women and all situations. It's hard to do, but try not to personalize this so much. Rejection is never easy, but in one respect, you are one step closer to finding the woman that does want to call you back. And if you are ever in the reverse situation, treat others how you want to be treated.
posted by socrateaser at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2006

In the online dating scene, the part the guy doesn't see is how many other guys the girl is communicating with as well as themselves. When I still had an online dating account, I usually had two or three guys on the go at any given time. There is always a fair amount of competition. Even IMing them you are probably sharing her attention with other suitors talking to her at the same time. Loss of communication is usually due to a transfer of interest to someone else. You probably don't do something wrong per say, just that someone else did something more right.

If email exchanges have dropped off, it is polite to email a 'hey havn't heard from you in a while' and then see what, if any, response you get. Sometimes it is a deliberate ignore, other times it might just be carlessness. I lost touch with a guy once because I forgot who had sent the last email, and was in fact, waiting for him to write to me.

On the topic of phone numbers, I would actually say its worth changing tactics and supplying -your- phone number to see if she calls you. I was very very flattered when a guy offered me his number instead of repeatedly pestering me for mine. He got his requested face to face meeting, and I got a husband out of the deal.
posted by billy_the_punk at 2:01 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who has been giving specific answers.

I know that Everybody's Different, It's Not My Fault, You Just Didn't Feel a Connection, and that I Should Just Be Myself. However, that sort of answer doesn't really help me at all.

I'm looking for specifics here. Why did *you* break off the email exchange? Why didn't *you* return that phone call?

Yes, I realize that there's no right or wrong way to go about online dating. However, sometimes, as a guy, you make mistakes, and wind up giving the wrong impression of yourself. This is what I'm trying to avoid doing.

The voicemail thing is a perfect example - I had no idea it was so important to so many women! To be honest, I really could care less about how a woman's voicemail messages sound. In fact, I take it as a given that calling someone for the first time is awkward, and tend to cut them a lot of slack. Since voicemail messages aren't important to me, I never really thought much about the ones that I was leaving. I'm sure that I have left plenty of "umms" in my messages.

Anyway, point being, you never get any real feedback from dating other then an unreturned call or email, which is why I'm turning to AskMe and asking for your specific experiences.
posted by kenoshakid at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2006

I've had IM/email exchanges with men where at some point they just say something that either offends me or makes me think they're stupid. Since i figure everyone is likely on 'best behaviour' still at the point, I consider that a bad sign.

I once gave someone my phone number online, only because I didn't feel like getting into the conversation (an IM conversation, but still) about why I didn't want to. Or, I've given away the number before I really have any idea if the guy is someone I actually really want to pursue. If i'm busy or stressed or feeling apathetic about online dating on the day he calls, i might not bother to call back.
posted by Kololo at 2:30 PM on December 13, 2006

Ok, I'm a young woman doing OKcupid right now. The reasons I would stop replying to someone in either situation:

1. I'm a procrastinator, and after a week, I feel embarrassed that I'd put it off for so long.
2. He mentions something or says something a certain way that turns me off, so I write him off as an uncouth mouthbreather.
3. The conversation is so fake/meaningless, I feel like a fool keeping up the charade (That just might be me though.)
4. Most often, like above, there's just no spark/connection, and I'm going through the motions out of politeness. So it's meaningless when I just stop replying.

I would never give anyone my phone # through a dating site unless I'd been chatting with them for a looooong time.

And finally, this may be gender-stereotyping, but I do think most women are raised not to be blunt in their rejection of men. So silence/white lies, are their way of sparing the guy's feelings, because women can't bring themselves to say, "You are a boring, creepy nerd--don't ever try to contact me again."

(Also, as an aside, I'm a very late bloomer and have not been involved much in the dating scene, so I do not know anything about this elaborate mating ritual. I've noticed that I try to connect to an online stranger through their interests, while men tend to try to connect with me as an "everywoman." So there's a certain sameness in these online "pickup lines": hey cutie, I like your smile, etc., while I write, "So tell me more about your crossdressing tendencies." Which I guess is also stereotypical: guys decide to IM me based on my photos, while I decide to IM a guy based on looks + personality profile.)
posted by lychee at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

There is one stone-cold truth you can take away from this, which, though we are all snowflakes, will help with the vast majority of women:

Stop with the sex talk in the initial contact!

It's uncouth, it's boring, and it is freaking ubiquitous. I threw up my hands on internet dating for this reason. What the hell are these guys thinking? Their USP is -- that they like sex? That's all they got? I mean, yeah, I want to instantly get naked for absolutely any random stranger who contacts me on the internet, but I can only take my clothes off so fast -- another topic of conversation might help the time go.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Online dating is like a mate buffet. You have to keep in mind that you probably aren't the only guy with whom the woman is in contact. She's probably getting so many emails, IM's etc. from so many guys (because that is the way it usually is for woman in dating services) that she probably isn't even paying THAT much attention to you.

And like those gluttons at the buffet who pile their plates up high with food, sit down and then become distracted by all the other options on the buffet that they didn't have room for the first time and will be sampling later, my guess is that these woman just became distracted by other men vying for their attention.

Someone new probably caught her eye before she returned your email and/or call, and she moved on before getting to know you better. It is rude of her not to let you know that she didn't feel enough of a connection to continue chatting with you. It happens.

OR . . .

She just wasn't that into you.
posted by necessitas at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2006

To be blatantly honest I've dropped guys for the following reasons:

-too serious, too fast
-too sexual, too fast
-too obsessive and clingy, i.e. gets mad when I don't call or e-mail soon enough
-no discernible sense of humor
-values at odds with mine
-treats dating like picking out a major appliance, that is to say he's more interested in my vital statistics than getting to know me as a person
-too boring
-too dumb
-not attracted to them
-voice too feminine
-voice too old
-gut feeling it's not gonna work out
-has the same first name as my brother
-don't share the same interests
-likes the Barenaked Ladies or some other band I hate
-is too pretentious

The guys in question may or may not have been able to change any of these things. It quite likely wouldn't have worked out anyway. There is probably some chick somewhere who would love him just as he is. Possibly several.

Seriously, it could be anything. Don't sweat it and don't obsess. Everybody gets rejected from time to time. It's okay to feel a little down about it for a while but then you've got to let it go.
posted by Jess the Mess at 2:59 PM on December 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

Reasons I ended potential relationships before they began.
* I realised he was out of my league and would be disappointed in my lack of education, sophistication, whatever.
* I felt our lifestyles were not compatible - eg an invalid pensioner who made lampshades for fun and felt let down that my hair which was shoulder length was not longer.
* He did something that creeped me out, but that either I could not put my finger on it, or it related to a past experience that was unfair to blame on him, but it just made him um unpalatable. Like one guy was the spitting image of my brother and that was just ew.
* He said something that I found was something I was not prepared to accept, but also that I was unwilling to argue (ie bigotry, sexism, racism, sense of entitlement).
* He talked about his gorgeous but insane ex constantly
* He was wishy-washy on a topic that I consider important
* His attention was not on me during our meeting but was constantly checking out other women
* Appalling dental hygene.

So you can imagine with those kind of experiences, my self-esteem might have suffered a wee bit and I didn't find it in me to tell the truth about why I wasn't interested, and I hate to lie. (However, usually, I did).
posted by b33j at 3:00 PM on December 13, 2006

I'll give specifics: I'm terrible at correspondence. If an email exchange isn't keeping my attention, I'll forget to respond, even if it's a good friend of mine, but especially if it's a stranger on the internet.

I try to always return phone calls, it just may take me awhile. But I hate talking on the phone, so if someone leaves me a pointless message, like "hey...what's up?...what are you doing?...we should hang me" I would be less likely to make an effort.
posted by muddgirl at 3:05 PM on December 13, 2006

Oh, you wanted specific reasons . . .

1. What Lychee said: procrastination
2. What everyone else said: they guy said something in the email that just turned me off. Either talked about living for [insert sports team] (boring!), how badly he wanted children (creepy to mention in initial emails), his ex and/or "just getting back into the dating scene" (do you really need me to explain why?), he mentioned sex or something of a sexual nature, some real-life examples: "nothing makes me hotter than a woman in a short skirt/thong/tight shirt" or "I'm a boob man . . . or maybe an ass man . . it varries. Do you have big boobs" (again, need I explain?), anything nauseatingly romantic (creeeeepy for an initial contact)
3. The guy said something that made me realize that we weren't a match for ideological reasons (ex. he says "I voted for bush and I'd do it again!") or lifestyle reasons (ex. he says "I go to church every sunday")
4. I just got a creepy feeling from the guy, even though I couldn't point to one particular comment.

Now, reasons I wouldn't return a phone call:

1. What Lychee said: procrastination
2. Shyness - I generally have a problem getting up the nerve to call anyone - even friends - because I worry I'll be bothering them or catch them at a bad time
3. I didn't like his voice, he sounded dorky, etc.
posted by necessitas at 3:06 PM on December 13, 2006

Why I broke off email exchanges with various guys:
a) it became apparent that his grasp of grammar was woefully inadequate

b) for some reason I got a "creepy" vibe from him

c) he was unwilling to say much about himself via email, but kept pushing for an in-person meeting (sorry, but I don't want to waste my time if you won't even tell me if we have basic interests in common)

d) he said his favorite non-fiction book was the DaVinci Code

e) sex-talk way too early in the relationship

f) there wasn't anything wrong with him, it's just that someone else I was writing seemed to have more relationship-potential (and he did! I married him this summer)
posted by belladonna at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

If I give someone my number and they call me immediately i get skeeved out. I also stop talking to them online at that point because it's rude to give fully mixed signals. I don't really feel bad for blowing people off if they leave insane-sounding aggressive voice mails for me twice a day. (I am a shy person, so probably half the girls out there get turned off if you wait too long to call.)

To be honest, I'm a pretty huge bitch when it comes to rejection. I write a lot of Dear Johns involving ridiculously long metaphors explaining why I think dear John is a giant goiter on society's neck. So becoming silent is kind of a compliment, for me personally.
posted by shownomercy at 4:19 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I was doing the online dating thing these are various reasons that I ceased contact with guys:

1. The guy pursued me even after I demurred (I said, "Oh, I'm really too busy to meet up right now," and he responded with, "Looks like I should just start sending flowers to where you work then!" Kinda sweet, but also kinda stalkerish)
2. I got overloaded with responses and couldn't keep up, and the guy took offense and sent me an irate message asking why I wasn't emailing him
3. I met someone awesome and stopped corresponding with everyone else I was speaking with
4. There was just no chemistry
5. There was a vague, creepy vibe

Whenever I felt the least bit uncomfortable with someone I'd stop corresponding immediately. That's a luxury of online dating...if someone creeps you out, you cut them off. In the real world they probably have your phone number or know where you live or where you like to get your books/coffee/drinks so you have to be firmer to get them to leave you alone.

I've also been in a number of situations that left me wondering, "Well, what did I do?" when someone stopped talking with me. Eventually I learned to just move on and find someone who enjoyed talking with me.

And I can vouch for the fact that online dating does work, since I met my husband (drezdn) on OK Cupid.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:40 PM on December 13, 2006

1. he makes any mention of sex, even a mild "innocent" joke (most men have learned not to do this, so it is basically an intelligence test)
2. he fails to provide requested proof of identification as a real person!
3. procrastination on my part; it is physically impossible to reply to everyone
4. he can't formulate a coherent sentence (how will he proofread for me?)
5. he asks trite questions with obvious answers (makes #3 highly likely because I'm prejudiced that stupid people are more likely to become stalkers)
6. he asks uninteresting questions I wouldn't have any fun answering (makes #3 highly likely)
7. he asks questions I don't have time to answer (makes #3 highly likely)
8. instead of needing to ask questions, he is obviously PSYCHIC and delivers deep, ruminative insights into what kind of a person I am and why he and this person would be perfect together (making #3 more likely because I would rather verify with HippieShack78 that I am in fact deathly afraid of motorcycles; it was not a joke)
9. instead of asking questions, he is God's Gift to Womankind and already knows that he is exactly what I want; now it is my job to impress him (making #3 more likely because I am having too much fun telling JoeBlow499 about my favorite type of breakfast cereal)
10. instead of asking questions, he takes his paycheck as an indication of his understanding of human nature and delivers translucent sales pitches implying what kind of a person I am and how he can give that person whatever she wants (making #3 more likely because I'd rather explore a job offer at BluerEyes4U's brokerage firm or see if SoandSO77 will let me take photos of the data center)
6. he offers me a romantic vacation, most commonly involving a situation alone with him in the middle of a large body of water
7. his sense of humor doesn't appeal to me (many people have learned not to display their senses of humor in e-mail for this reason, making #3 more likely when there are no decent questions to answer)
8. the emotional tone of his attempts to overcome #3 even very vaguely hint that he has taken the slightest offense at anything I ever did or failed to do (an irrational reaction on his part because I don't even know him and in most cases still have NO proof that he is even a real person)
posted by srs at 5:46 PM on December 13, 2006

Most of my reasons are similar to some of the other posters, however I'll add my 2 cents into the discussion.

Three big reasons that I stop answering emails:
1) The person writes several times over a period of weeks and never offers to meet. Don't get me wrong, I want to get a feel for the other person, know his interests, etc., but if I am writing for weeks I lose interest or conclude the other person just isn't that interested.

2) I realize the other person really does not have much in common/has no interests. etc. I am not looking for my clone, but I usually post a few of my interests (let's pretend eating eclairs, playing with legos, and swinging from tree to tree in the forest) and that similar interests/or that it would be great if he has many of his own interests. I may get an initial email stating he has the same hobbies and then in the second or third email will say he will mention that he has never owned legos, never tried eclairs, or been in a forest, etc, but gee he would do those things if he had someone to do them with. I think I am thrown by that because the person is just trying to fit a mold and does not have...I guess any interests. If the person were honest from the start and said - I love eating cupcakes, scuba diving, and reading comic books - I would find that more interesting than a person pretending to have interests that were never even real.

3) Just not that bright. The same way that some people are looking primarily for looks or aesthetics, I am looking for someone who is really intelligent, Some emails reflect little thought or neurons (or so it appears).

As for the phone, I will break the trend here and say that I really don't care overall what the person sounds like or the message sounds like.

However, similar to necessitas, I am a coward/shy and can't pick up and call someone initially (even friends before I know them that well). I may email the person back and say 'sorry I missed your call', but I have a hard time calling.
posted by Wolfster at 6:47 PM on December 13, 2006

I just want to say, I think it's a mistake to see this as a gender issue from the beginning. I'm a guy, I'm not even very attractive, and in online dating I've found that I'm the one who loses interest a significant percentage of the time...almost always, for one of the reasons listed above by the women who have answered. For example:

- I recently wrote one woman back, telling her that her initial message to me was ridiculously generic, and I didn't believe she even read my profile (she responded angrily that I was wrong, but I don't care).
- I talked to one woman on the phone (her idea) and knew immediately from her voice and the way she talked that I had no interest in meeting her. She asked me if I wanted to get together and I said yes and then never contacted her again, because it was easier than saying no.
- I had a date recently where she asked me at the end if I wanted to hang out again, and I said yes, because it was easier than saying no.
- I have, a whole bunch of times, initiated contact with women who then responded to my questions in ways that showed they were interested, but also complete morons, or just obnoxious, and I didn't write them back.
- Two different women, after exchanging several emails with me in which they sounded intelligent and cool, have weirded me out by offering to send pics of their breasts. It's not that I don't want to see them, but the fact they would offer is just so weird that it makes me certain something else is going on that I don't ever want to find out about.

Here is the core issue:

Both of these situations are pretty confounding, because, as the man, you never get any explanation of what you did wrong, and don't know what to do in the future to avoid the same fate.

The problem is that you are (probably) not doing anything wrong. All of us, including men, make decisions about who we're going to spend more time with, and many of those decisions are ultimately arbitrary. Nobody owes you an explanation for why they lost interest, and women are not unattainable sex goddesses who dole out favors to those who kiss their asses in exactly the right least not those worth pursuing.
posted by bingo at 8:07 PM on December 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

I think the history of our 21st century society is going to be long and tragic if we cast aside human beings who care about real things like they were consumer goods.

Mark Twain once said "Be good and you will be lonely, most places", and to be honest I thought for a long time this site was one of the exceptions. Today I don't believe a lot of what I am reading. You don't have to love everyone who sends you an im, but its a living, breathing human being on the other end - so I hope you all show some respect and can expect the same.

I am crying in a metaphorical beer of course, but geez people other generations used to talk about the Golden Rule and its really not so outdated. A lot of the hostility I detected here seemed to be undeserved.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:15 PM on December 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Another specific comment:
--write (actually write and have by the phone) a list of interesting questions and/or topics for the first conversation. It can be hard to talk to someone on the phone for the first time, and if you can act like you're interviewing them a little, it will be more fun. Appropriate questions include:
any siblings? where did you grow up? what was that like?
what do you like about your work/main hobby?
have you ever [insert an interest of yours: hiking, online gaming, whatever]?

Like many have said above, stay away from sex-talk, and above all, keep it light. No "asides" about how hard online dating is. No talking about other dates other than in the vaguest terms "Yes, I've met a few interesting people; most people seem to be pretty smart/interesting" is a good line. Do not say anything cynical about how "women are" online. It's a big turn-off. No talking about loneliness. Act like you are meeting a new friend or colleague.

I think the second phone conversation (or an email after the first) is a good time to ask for a date. Ask something specific (e.g. do you want to meet to see art exhibit xyz and give them the option of suggesting something else if they want). Long phone relationships prior to meeting have bored me into moving on several times.

Again, good luck!
posted by tk at 8:18 PM on December 13, 2006

1) Spelling. If there are more than about 3 obvious typos but more than a couple of spelling mistakes, I stop replying. Snobby? Sure. But true.

2) Talk of sex in the first MANY emails.

3) I met someone I liked more.

4) You kept pushing me for my phone number after I said I didn't want to talk on the phone, but meet instead. Maybe I'm weird in this way, but I'd rather meet before I chat on the phone. That might freak some guys out. Sometimes they push it.

5) Pictures of them with their chain mail or swords. Just not me, dude, no judgement.
posted by tristeza at 8:25 PM on December 13, 2006

"- I talked to one woman on the phone (her idea) and knew immediately from her voice and the way she talked that I had no interest in meeting her."

Ah, I try to avoid the phone. See, back in the BBS days, more people were willing to just go ahead and have a brief coffee date. In the post-BBS days I've run into more people that just wanted to spend time on the phone. They just wanted to talktalktalktalk on the phone but resisted meeting with excuses like "Oh, it's too soon." WTF kind of crap is that? If I had met them in a bar, it wouldn't be "too soon" but because "Teh Internet" is involved, it's suddenly too soon? I finally decided to forget anyone that insisted on talking on the phone first. I played along with it and had a few encounters where I spent (literally) HOURS chatting on the phone and when we finally met in person, I got an email shortly afterwards saying "I didn't feel any chemistry, so forget about it." That's why I would rather just meet up with someone for coffee after a few emails. (Again, that has worked out great for me. My current girlfriend & I emailed a few times, moved to AIM, and then had coffee and it's been great.)
posted by drstein at 9:34 PM on December 13, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for your answers. They have lent some insight into a difficult situation.

It sounds like there are guys out there who are a hell of a lot worse at emailing then I. Guys really talk about sex in "getting to know you" emails? Sheesh. It sounds like a lot of email exchanges are broken off for good reasons.

Still, when I write an email that avoids all the obvious no-nos, but still don't get a response, it's incredibly frustrating - especially when it really does seem like we would have a lot to talk about if we had a real conversation. I just know that if I would have worded something in my email differently, I would have gotten a response. <sigh> Alas, I am destined never to know.

The phone number thing still gets me. And its weird, too. If I get a girl's number in a non-online scenario, like a bar or something, it really doesn't phase me when she doesn't call me back. Yet, with online dating, it really bothers me. I guess it's because when I spend a week or two exchanging emails with somebody, it feels like I'm investing time in the relationship. It seems weird that, after all that, the girl would just throw it all away on a whim. I guess it also doesn't help that a week or two gives me time to get my hopes up, which, for a guy in the dating world, is like poison mixed with black death.

I guess there are girls who will give out their number because they feel like they have to. This is passive aggressive, and does far more damage then a flat-out rejection. However, men are plenty passive aggressive, albeit in different ways.

The voicemail thing seems silly and shallow. But, hell, it isn't like men aren't shallow enough. Still, voicemails matter to some girls, so I'll try to get better at it. God, I hate leaving voicemails.

I don't even want to think about all the emails that any given girl gets. If I think too much about that, I'll want to chuck the whole thing and go off by myself and read a book or something.

So yeah, I guess every situation really is different. Some guys really are creeps, and some women really are fickle.

And occasionally, people somehow manage to meet each other.

Go figure.
posted by kenoshakid at 10:41 PM on December 13, 2006

Don't waste time with people and get pissed off at them (and yourself) after it doesn't develop into a date. It's totally appropriate to suggest a date over the second email. Don't have more than one phone conversation without suggesting a date. And once a date is set up, you don't have to email again before then. Conserve your energy (and ego). If you're emailing someone for weeks before getting a number, that's a problem (IMO).

And--be aware--that EVERYONE gets rejected. I wrote to a lot of men who (like you mention) I'm certain I would have had an enjoyable conversation with in person. No response, even though they were still checking their accts daily. You just cannot take it personally. Maybe you look like someone they dislike. Maybe you love the band they hate. Maybe they don't like the way you part your hair. But that's OK. Someone else could love you for all of those exact same things.

Also, don't think about how many emails girls are getting. What's the point? If she's the right girl for you, it won't matter.

Good luck! Just write to as many people as you can stand, and be patient.
posted by tk at 7:12 AM on December 14, 2006

In my opinion, the voicemail should be short, to the point. I also prefer meeting over talking on the phone (once someone has verified that he is a corporeal entity), so stay open to that. Then, I'd send a follow-up e-mail: "I missed you. Should i try again?" Then, she has the option to additionally avoid the e-mail. I personally don't care about voicemail, as long as he leaves one and it is short. Also, if I call someone back and the gretting is really long, it turns me off and i hang up (because it is annoying when you are in a relationship with someone and have to wait around forever to leave him a message).
posted by srs at 11:54 AM on December 15, 2006

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