When I found myself single after 32 years of marriage, I vacillated between delight and despondency. After three years on my own I tentatively approached online dating, and my numerous coffee date debacles taught me a lot.
Online dating is like grocery shopping: read labels carefully, then proceed with caution. After ten years of plowing through Match.com profiles both clever and dull, I’d like to share some tips for those of you ready to launch into this intimidating arena. Though I write as a woman searching for a man, my advice applies if you’re looking for a same sex partner as well.
First, accept the fact that you probably won’t find the right partner right away. It takes work, and the truth is— Ya gotta kiss a lotta frogs.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Look beyond that first smiling mug shot. If the rest of his photos are cars, trucks, and motorcycles, prepare to play second fiddle to them. Of course, if you enjoy car shows and motorcycle rallies, go for it!
Is he smiling or serious? A smile speaks for itself, while a serious expression…well, some serious men are deep, deep, deep. Others are just plain downers.
Do his photos show him interacting with family or friends? If they do, he’s probably socially engaged, which most women prefer. Either that or his daughters posted his profile.
Lots of tattoos? If you don’t mind tattoos, ask for a close-up photo. Whether it’s MOTHER printed in a heart, a skull and crossbones, or Bart Simpson, tattoos speak volumes about values.
Photos say more about a person than any well-crafted profile, especially since many guys have someone else write their profiles.
Once you’ve read a profile, think about what he DIDN’T say. Beware of stock descriptions, and note what’s out of the ordinary.
“I love the outdoors and want a woman to sit by the fire with a glass of wine or walk the beach holding hands.”
Gak! Though these sentiments sound sweet, they don’t show much imagination— many profiles include these lines. Who doesn’t like walking on a beach? Loving the outdoors might mean mowing and raking the yard, hunting and fishing, or skiing through a snow-draped forest. If you’re interested, ask for details.
Here’s an interesting post:
“Car person,have a couple I am working on. .golf, read, walk , bike, NASCAR, Twins”
If you can get past the grammar mistakes (which speak for themselves), this fellow is a busy guy doing guy things. Are these the activities you want to share? Ask him how much time he has for another person. If you’re looking for someone who reads a lot and converses well, this might not be your man. (I’d blow him off.)
Look for traits in the writing style: a sense of humor, warmth, exuberance, sociability…
This post caught my eye:
“I can still feed myself! Looking for someone to chat with, Walks, talk, pen-pal/friendship, coffee,. Someone down to earth, not someone looking at their phone all the time.”
I like the “feed myself” line—good humor. It looks like he values communication, at least person-to-person. Few of us like being with people tied to their phones, but what do you think about a man who puts his pet peeves right up front? Would he be difficult to please?
“I have a kind and gentle soul, but don’t make the mistake of thinking I am weak. I have a quick wit, and I am easy to talk to. I like the outdoors, photography, painting, flea markets, estate sales, I like the beautiful things in life, pretty ladies, autumn leaves, little babies. I love music, and reading.
I would like to share the love of nature and all God has to offer.”
This is a man who has many interests and seems to know himself. I wonder, though, why he included the comment about liking pretty ladies. Does he have a wandering eye? The mention of God points to a religious bent, a gentle indicator from this gentle man.
How about this one from Craig’s List?
“How does a regular guy seriously looking for a real woman post an ad that will garner attention in this potpourri of ads, be read & elicit a response from a decent quality woman on this site with all these stupid & sexual ads — and that’s putting it nicely!”
So far this fellow sounds frustrated. His writing style, though, shows intelligence, so I’d read on. Big words—no dummy. It’s hard to imagine dating someone so cheap he’ll only post on Craig’s List, though, a minefield of tacky posts.
Be wise about meetings and sharing information.
Once you find someone who interests you, proceed with caution. Choose public meeting places and don’t share your address until you’ve met this person a few times and feel assured of his integrity.
If you look carefully at profiles and read between the lines, you’ll save yourself a lot of time as well as some coffee date debacles. You might even find someone worth pursuing.
I recommend checking the highest rated dating sites before diving into the fray. I was greatly impressed by eharmony.com, mainly because it requires numerous personality and interest surveys that take out the work of sifting through hundreds of profiles. After being single for ten years, I finally found a partner, Jerry, introduced to me by a previous Match connection who dropped me for a younger woman. It’s worked out great for us.
A version of this article was previously published on Sixty and Me, a web site I write for monthly: