Taking requests: Is there any right way to date online?

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The last time I put a call out for requests, one of you asked what the best dating apps are for women our age. I actually get asked this question not infrequently, and the only honest answer I can give is: all of them and none of them.  Whether it’s Bumble, Tinder, Our Time, Hinge, or one of the others, dating on the apps can be arduous, monstrously time-consuming, and soul-depleting. But it’s also the best way to meet people by far, so, when I was single, I did a lot of it (and as it happens, my current relationship and my last serious one before that were both born on Tinder). That things eventually worked out for me is the result, I really do think, of the fact that dating apps are a numbers game: the more dates you go on, the more likely you are to find what you’re looking for. Not that there won’t be bad dates along the way, because there will likely be plenty: I went on one last March so painful it lasted a mere 58 minutes before I had to (as politely as possible) bail. Here are a few rules I followed to keep myself from going nuts app dating: 1. When I felt super burnt-out and demoralized by all of it, I took dating-and-swiping breaks of a month or longer. 2. I expanded my search radius to include nearby cities, which in the end, did the trick. 3. I specified in my profile that I was not looking for hookups. 4. I evaluated and edited down my list of deal killers to just the most egregious ones and got rid of all the more arbitrary ones.  Grammatical mistakes remained an automatic swipe left, but I loosened up my policy on certain other things. All of this made dating easier, but it’s still hard a lot of the time, and I don’t have any really fantastic advice for getting through it that I haven’t already shared. I’ve had women proudly tell me that their way of dealing with the vicissitudes of dating apps is to treat the whole thing like a job, but I don’t think I could detach enough to do that successfully, and really, would I want to? Single ladies out there: do you use apps, and if so, what are your guidelines for staying sane while you do?

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47 Thoughts on Taking requests: Is there any right way to date online?
    Kirstjen
    28 Oct 2021
    4:25pm

    I met my partner on Tinder, and we’ve been together 4 years. I live in Chicago. He lived, at the time, in New Orleans. I’d actually given up on the apps but hadn’t uninstalled them when we connected. I would open the app if someone super-liked me, as I would get a notification from Tinder. Otherwise, I just let them alone.

    The first thing that I would say is you’ve got to have a really tough skin. I cannot believe how many men would OPEN with a a line about how they’d like to assault me. I don’t know what that is all about, but I suspect it’s related to general online incivility. Obviously those guys are easy to unmatch and move on, but it wears on you.

    Second thing I’d say is to be more open to possibilities. Don’t tell yourself that your guy has to have the same number/type of degrees you have, the same 6-figure income, be the same as you in ways that do not point to positive human interactions. I work in finance, have 2 graduate degrees, make a nice living. I’m white. I’m in my 50’s. My partner is a musician/composer, 15 years younger than me, and African American. He’s also so romantic that it scares me, and he constantly encourages me to be the best I can in everything. He also does his share of the housework and enriches my life in so many ways. He is beyond thoughtful. Don’t limit yourself by artificial things. Does your potential match treat you and others with courtesy/respect/kindness? Can he carry a conversation? Does he have shared interests? Can he talk about his emotions? Can he talk about why his prior relationships did not work? (If it’s all the fault of his exes, uh-oh!) Does he have a sense of humor? Do you think his idea of humor is funny?

    Third, take breaks from the apps whenever and for as long as you need.

    Fourth, don’t rely on the apps to fill any void. Keep yourself busy with life. Teach yourself to LIVE NOW. Don’t wait for a partner to show up and fulfill you. Start crossing things off your bucket list on your own.

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    Kelly Ann Brass
    27 Oct 2021
    7:23am

    I am no longer single, but used a dating app. I had 3 simple rules (which I found in a book by someone who did treat it as a job): 1. The first time you meet is date 0, keep it simple and feel no obligation to go on the next date. It’s your meet. 2. Pick a date 0 outfit that you love and use it everytime. Much less stress. 3. As Kim said, GO ON DATES, you cannot tell if you have chemistry just by typing. Once you are out there, refer to tip 1 and feel free to never do it again if the chemistry is not there.

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    Gemma
    29 Oct 2021
    9:06am

    I was finishing up an MBA in marketing when I got divorced in my late 30s and stated online dating. And I decided to apply what I learned in b-school to OKCupid. This was about 10 years ago, so my apologies if this is super dated. I set up burner email addresses and a couple of fake profiles just to look at both my target audience (guys who seemed interesting) and my competition (all of which I wanted to be friends with and invite out to brunch). I set up my actual OKC profile with three good pictures and wrote up sections that could be easily updated. For example, I didn’t talk about my favorite books or movies, but ones I’d read or seen recently so that I could update my profile regularly. I used a new email address so that I wouldn’t be inundated with prompts to log in. I used it on my laptop only and only checked in a couple times a week. I answered zero questions about sex because I’m private about that stuff and wasn’t looking for one night stands. I’m extroverted and can talk to a wall, so I just thought about it as a way to meet men that I wouldn’t meet otherwise and have a chat. I went on a lot of first dates (no eating, only drinks), had a few short term relationships, received zero dick pics, got tangled in up in a couple of f-boys, and eventually met my long-term partner on OKC about 6 years ago.

    Had I read Nancy Jo Sales’ Nothing Personal, I probably would have never done any kind of online dating. I read it a few months ago and that book has stayed with me.

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    Tara
    27 Oct 2021
    10:30am

    I am single (and dating) while 47 and this is experience is not for the faint of heart. I am often mortified by the shit men are willing to say on the app. I currently use Bumble, and while I’ve tried Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel, I find the extra “wall” that Bumble provides by making the woman start the conversation helpful. I am less inhibited while swiping and use the “match” phase to make the decision to engage or not. As recently as last week I had a quick, exciting discussion with a promising match and agreed to move to text messaging as we were considering going on a weekend hiking date 0 (I like that idea Kelly Ann). iMessage shared his full name and contact details upon his first text, so I could not help but Google him. What I found was was frightening. This guy had a Schedule 2 charge for selling narcotics, and all of his “home addresses” for the last ten years were PO Boxes across three different states. This is enough to make me never want to open the app again! He was cute, fit, had good skin and great hair, and we seemed to a few things in common — or did we? Alas, I am back to swiping, but I grow more jaded by the day. I sure do miss making eye contact across the room.

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      DeeSea
      27 Oct 2021
      6:00pm

      Ooooh, how I miss making eye contact across the room. That electricity! It was fun being single in the 80s. 🙂 There’s a scene in the movie “Waiting for Brezhnev” where the 2 main characters lock eyes for the first time at a bar (with Bronski Beat playing in the background), and it tugs at my nostalgia strings harder than anything else can. I sometimes watch just that scene when I want to remember what it felt like to be young, free, and single in the 80s.

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        DeeSea
        27 Oct 2021
        6:19pm

        Ugh, sorry—the name of that movie is “Letter to Brezhnev.” I guess I had Godot and/or Guffman on the brain.

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      lc
      28 Oct 2021
      8:41am

      Yikes! A hiking date with a cute drifter/felon, out in the woods with no one else around, what could go wrong? So glad you got the info you needed to check him out ahead of time.

      For anyone interested in a deeper dive into the topic of dating nowadays, I recommend checking out the Reddit sub Female Dating Strategy (you don’t need to be signed up w/ Reddit to read it). The ladies there are mostly younger, but there are some 40s and 50s commenting. I don’t agree with everything that’s said there but the general focus is for women to know their worth and hold out for a quality person, which is relevant at any age. It’s fascinating to be a fly on the wall where women are talking about the dating landscape. They’re salty about online dating but see it as a necessary evil. There’s more language now for the same old shit that’s been out there forever. I wish I’d had some of this intel much earlier.

      As a prickly oddball introvert, dating always felt kind of icky; online sounds ever so much more so. Props to all of you who are braving that to find a decent someone.

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        Kirstjen
        28 Oct 2021
        4:29pm

        That was my first thought. No way in hell would I do something like that. Starbucks, during the day, with lots of other people around, for 30-60 minutes max. I think of the guy I met who told me in the first 5 minutes of “date 0” that all he wanted to do was throat fuck me. I do not want to be in the woods with someone like that…

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          kimbersam
          28 Oct 2021
          5:14pm

          I actually just gasped, “WHAT!” When I read what he wanted from you! Men are revolting!

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      Lucia
      29 Oct 2021
      3:16pm

      This sounds eerily similar to something that happened to me in the Bay Area this year…(same guy!?!?).

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    Erin
    27 Oct 2021
    11:09pm

    Check out Alyssa Dineen – she’s an NYC based stylist who started her own business, Style My Profile, after entering the world on online dating post divorce. She recently published a book about online dating and has a great perspective on all of it. She would make an excellent guest on your podcast! On insta @alyssadineen

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    Melissa
    27 Oct 2021
    11:50pm

    In a very unexpected turn of events, I found myself divorced at 49 after a 25 year marriage. Online dating was: at times, overwhelming; sometimes horrifying; often humiliating; and almost always surreal. Like Kim, I found it easier to manage if I took breaks when it all felt like too much. I found it helpful to have a list of what I was looking for but, thankfully, didn’t treat it as a hard and fast list — my bf of close to 2 years lived farther away than I was hoping for, was not as tall as I was looking for, had a young child (mine are all adults and I’m not at all interested in parenting again) and was younger than I am. What I learned was that finding a kind, caring, attentive and compassionate partner was way more important than what I thought would be deal breakers. I would note that I had really bad luck with Hinge — almost every contact I made through that app was from a fake profile. Very irritating. I had decent luck with Bumble and met my BF on Tinder — although I had to weed through a lot of pretty raunchy profiles, polyamorous couples and men who claimed their wives knew they were on the apps to get to “the one.” Good luck out there ladies, it’s not for the faint of heart.

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    LynnCBayArea
    28 Oct 2021
    1:01am

    I treated it like a job, I hired a dating coach and did what she suggested – given I hadn’t had a lot of luck in my own! The date 0 concept is key. I went on 40 first dates and a handful of second and third dates in about 2 months time. First dates never longer than 45 minutes even if I was really enjoying him. Coffee during the work day or a quick happy hour were the best ways to ensure that I had somewhere else to go after work. Call with India, going to the airport to pick up a friend, meeting, whatever. A few first dates took me a mere 20 minutes to realize that I could never spend a full dinner for him. Don’t waste your time! You’re too valuable for that. Near the end of the self imposed 2 months I met the man who would end up being my husband. I thank my lucky stars every day that I did all that work. It was worth it.

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    Beth R.
    28 Oct 2021
    11:48am

    Any advice for a sober 50-something woman? I always see their interest wane when they realize I don’t drink. Getting sick of putting myself out there.

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      Kelly
      28 Oct 2021
      12:34pm

      I agree. I put “sober” in my profile because I don’t think I can be with a drinker (I know that lets out 95% of the population). One man messaged me wanting to know why I put the word sober in my profile… uh, why do you think?
      I keep hoping to meet someone in AA, but I don’t think the community in my small city is large enough, even though a number of people around here have met their partners in AA. But the few men who have seemed interested in me are just… no. If you live in a bigger city, just go to different meetings. Or look for activity groups for sober people.

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        Kirstjen
        28 Oct 2021
        4:35pm

        There is a dating app called Loosid. Also, Clean and Sober Love, Single and Sober, 12 step Match, Love in Recovery, Meet Mindful, SoberGrid. I cannot vouch for any of them, but it seems that they exist.

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      Lindsay Crawford Paul
      28 Oct 2021
      2:10pm

      As a 15 month sober person who started dating at the ripe old age of 48 after a divorce, are used Bumble. I kissed some frogs and made some friends and then finally met a wonderful man. His profile made him look like a Sasquatch but his write up was wonderful. And we’ve been dating now for three months.So keep your options open and try your luck. He’s not sober but is extremely respectful of my sobriety and I’ve never seen him drink. I’m not even sure that he has since we’ve been together. I think dating sober it’s just like doing anything else sober, it just takes practice.

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    patty
    27 Oct 2021
    10:41am

    Using bad grammar as a big NO is so me. However, two of my long term boyfriends had some quirky grammatical mistakes in their repertoire. Since we were otherwise in sync, I found them charming.

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    J
    2 Nov 2021
    10:45am

    I have been w/ my husband forever so have never used a dating app… but my mom (widowed) met her boyfriend via a dating app! They have been together for about 8 years now. She used J-Date, which is for Jewish singles, although my dad was not Jewish and this is actually the first Jewish guy she’s ever dated LOL.

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    Jessie
    28 Oct 2021
    4:46pm

    I am almost 36 and longtime lurker here–it feels like a conversation with my cool older sisters and I love it. Chiming in on the dating apps front as I met my husband on Bumble in 2015. I spent my 20’s in long-term relationships and was learning to date from scratch. I second the advice to date like it’s a job (I always had “back ups” waiting in the wings until I was sure I was exclusive with someone) and on taking breaks whenever it stops being fun. My original spin on the process was a practice that I developed that felt almost spiritual: forgiving my date before I even met them. I reasoned to myself that if I had already forgiven them, they couldn’t hurt me. This practice also seemed to help me avoid sending off “graspy” vibes. I think people can sense desperation, even if it’s just in the form of clingy thoughts. I tried to avoid that thinking and focused on my curiosity about each person. I was reading a lot of Marianne Williamson at the time and credit her influence on my approach. It was all worth it!

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    Dawn
    28 Oct 2021
    5:20pm

    (I know that an EIF podcast on the subject of working is in the works, so I’ll throw in here.)  I’ve never tried online dating, but all the comments and tips remind me of what it’s like to look for employment once you’re a Girl Of A Certain Age.  It’s been so humiliating for me.  Online job sites like Indeed.com are a crap shoot because you have no idea how many resumes they’re going to get and whether they’ll even read yours, not to mention the blatant age discrimination that goes on during any interview process.  Networking feels like I’m exposing myself as desperate.  I keep thinking my skin will get thicker, but it hasn’t and I remain unemployed.  I have the resources to not end up living on the streets if I never work again, but I don’t think I’ll be living my best life without meaningful projects.  I will look forward to any insights others may have.  I take many months breaks between job-hunting efforts because it just sucks the life out of me.

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      Linden
      28 Oct 2021
      7:23pm

      I’m also looking for work after a bruising experience at my last place of employment, where I think some of the treatment I suffered was related to my age and the desire to force me out so they could get a younger person in. One thing I’ve found that’s helped is editing my resume so it’s less likely to give away my age. I don’t list all my work experience from day one, just the relevant experience. I also leave off dates unless asked to include them. Don’t be afraid to network — people who know you and have a good opinion of you are happy to help.

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    Linden
    27 Oct 2021
    8:58am

    After a few too many bad experiences with men who also claimed to be looking for a relationship but were really just looking for a one-night stand, I swore off the apps in favor of in-person speed dating events (this was pre-pandemic). I think you can learn more about someone in five minutes face-to-face than you can through days/weeks of texting. I met my current BF one night!

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    Leslie
    27 Oct 2021
    9:37am

    I did use the apps after I got divorced, and that is actually how I met my now-husband. I found my problem was getting too engaged – like, ok, I’ll give him one more chance even though… (he’s only looking for a hookup, he seems like he’s not over his ex, I’m not feeling any chemistry, he’s boring… etc.) I found that meeting for coffee – and preferably showing up early and buying my own – kind of lifted me out of the mentality of, well I have gone this far so I might as well give him another chance. Generally, it was messaging on the app, texting/emailing, then talking on the phone, then coffee – by then I could make a clear-headed decision whether to proceed or not. Also, I noticed that NEVER ONCE did I end up with the guys I was most interested in on the apps. Most of the time they wouldn’t even message back, but the two dates I went on were both crummy. I never would have picked out my now-husband from his profile, but he messaged me and had a coherent email with good grammar, and we hit it off from there. But I sure did “kiss a lot of frogs” before then, LOL.

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      Linden
      27 Oct 2021
      11:06am

      I agree you can’t go too much by the profile. I would never have met my BF on the apps; my criteria would have screened him out for being a couple of years younger than my range. Plus he has a younger kid at home and mine are late teens. We hit it off in person, before I knew those things, and now they don’t matter.

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    Dawn
    27 Oct 2021
    2:09pm

    Kim, thanks for sharing here your personal journey. It keeps me optimistic and encourages me to keep at it. I too would like to meet someone “organically” but it hasn’t worked out that way. What helps me stay sane is good screening: asking directly about my non-negotiables, always talking on the phone first, and taking necessary breaks (mine often last for months lol). Had a promising phone chat last night with coffee pending…🤞

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    Kate
    27 Oct 2021
    12:01pm

    There’s a lot of excellent advice here! I met my husband on Tinder. All the bad stuff is true, but it helped me get better at dating and being selective. I spent too many of my younger years worrying about what men wanted and being chosen by a man, rather than doing the choosing myself. Similarly, my therapist at the time told me to make a list of the qualities I was looking for in a partner, which was a super helpful exercise and helped me focus on the things I really care about.

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      kimbersam
      27 Oct 2021
      3:16pm

      I just want to stand and applaud this line from Kate: “I spent too many of my younger years worrying about what men wanted and being chosen by a man, rather than doing the choosing myself.” TRUTH!

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    Kelly
    27 Oct 2021
    12:33pm

    I am 52 and have been single for a long time (10 years?) I did OK Cupid after my divorce; I did treat it like a job, went on a lot of dates, and ended up seeing my last date for 9 months before I decided he was attractive but INCREDIBLY boring and hung up on his ex (more specifically, how she was so mean to him). Since then I have dipped my toe back in a few times but decided it was totally not worth it – for one specific reason: I have been on disability for bipolar disorder for 6 years. For me, it’s a totally untenable situation: “What do you do?” “I’m on disability.” “What for??” “I don’t feel comfortable answering that right now.” End of conversation. I just can’t see exposing my most personal struggles to someone I’m just getting to know. I understand that I’m not my disability (I volunteer a lot, working on prison re-entry and other criminal justice initiatives, very active in AA, I write…) but it’s just been a hurdle that I haven’t figured out how to overcome. A lot of people meet their partners in AA, but that hasn’t happened for me yet; just haven’t been attracted to anyone. If I don’t meet anyone, I guess that will have to be ok.

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      Kirstjen
      28 Oct 2021
      4:38pm

      It actually sounds like you do plenty. You just don’t do it for money. Change your thought process on how you answer that question. I don’t mean to tell you what to do, but we as a society should probably be a lot less hung up on occupations and more on what we do to LIVE.

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        Kelly
        28 Oct 2021
        6:37pm

        I agree, but the first question is invariably “What do you do?” I could indeed talk about all the worthy ways I spend my time, but eventually what we do for income has to be addressed. And also the issue of mental illness, which is really the main issue, and the stigma around that cannot be overlooked, nor how it has shaped my life.

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          Carlene
          30 Oct 2021
          2:37pm

          You can say you retired early!

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    Natasha
    27 Oct 2021
    1:19pm

    64, single and I know all you have found love on an app…but just doesn’t feel right for me. I tried it for about a month 10 years ago. I guess I don’t have the urge to have someone 24/7 in my life to put in all the work. If I ran into someone organically…I have no problem. I just can’t do it online…

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      mlinky
      28 Oct 2021
      4:35pm

      I’m also single, mid-60’s. Only date I made on an app turned out to be a Trumper.

      I currently have a lovely long-distance relationship with a guy I met on a sports forum. I have also met a number of nice people on other forums. The big advantage is being able to see how they interact and communicate with people over time. I found this fellow to share many of my core values, and was funny too. I observed his posts over a year’s time. So maybe, even if dating apps aren’t so great, a forum, where you start with a mutual interest is a good idea.

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        mlinky
        28 Oct 2021
        4:39pm

        I should add, we talk on the phone and text frequently. And we have each run background checks.

        Covid and work have prevented a meet up, but we are planning.

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      Nemo
      27 Oct 2021
      6:48pm

      I’m similarly over 60 and, being newly single, the thought of online dating fills me with gloom and dread. There are so many things I’d much rather do with my time! When friends ask me if I’m ready start dating I reflect that in my hour of need and loneliness its always my girlfriends who have been there for me. If I did meet someone special, great. I do realize the lack of effort to on my part makes it unlikely that will happen – and that’s okay. My life is fuller alone than when I was married.
      I’m truly in awe by those who are willing to keep trying to meet someone special. I wish you love, happiness and success.

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    Bobby
    27 Oct 2021
    11:21am

    OK, if there are any fun details to share, could you tell us about the 58 minute date. i don’t mean to be intrusive, but it sounds like there might be a few good anecdotes hidden in that 58 minutes.

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      Kim France
      27 Oct 2021
      12:16pm

      I’ll put it this way, Bobby: Have you ever been seated next to a couple in a restaurant or bar or coffee shop who you can tell are on an absolutely miserable Tinder date? It was like that. I actually saw the people at neighboring tables trying to listen to our conversation, it was so bad.

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        kimbersam
        27 Oct 2021
        3:20pm

        I was once on a date that was so obviously bad, that when my date went to the restroom, my waiter offered to say I was sick, so I could leave.

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    Helene
    27 Oct 2021
    11:52am

    My husband & I met on a dating site 20 years ago! I can’t even remember the name of the website, probably obsolete by now!! I did meet several duds and a few assholes before I met him. We’re still doing strong. So don’t give up!

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      Liz
      27 Oct 2021
      2:02pm

      Yep, I met mine in 2001 when it was embarrassing to admit you’d met online. Our local alternative weekly had an online dating site. I went on three dates and my husband was the third. Back then, I didn’t even know how to upload a photo, so all they had to go by was my words. Maybe that’s how I managed to weed out the jerks. I did have one funny date where the guy was super hot and I thought we had a great time, but he never contacted me again. I went back and re-read his profile and somehow had overlooked the part where he said he was looking for a tall blond girl. I’m 5’1 and brunette. Oops. Oh, and in my typical 20-something arrogance, had thought nothing of eating a ton of garlic fries right before meeting up with him.

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        Liz
        27 Oct 2021
        3:00pm

        Oh, and I’d add that it helps if you go in with low expectations and the attitude that you’re just meeting a friend to have a fun, random night out with. One of my dates had just gone through a bad break up and talked about his ex all night, but I quickly was like, oh well, it’ll be fun to play therapist to this dude I just met even though there’s clearly no future for us. And it totally was. I have friends who use the apps now, and they honestly seem to slog through dating, quickly assessing and dismissing every guy within the first 30 minutes, and they seem to dread the whole process.

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          Lisa
          27 Oct 2021
          3:51pm

          Love this attitude. I had this attitude when I online dated 15 years ago. Now, as a single working mother, I’ve found it difficult to cultivate that attitude because time is a commodity I must consciously ration. 🙂
          I’ve always been picky and in my 40s, the options seem even more slim. I remain realistically idealistic. 😀
          Appreciate your post, Kim, and reading about everyone’s experiences.

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            Liz
            27 Oct 2021
            7:37pm

            Oh yeah, after I posted that I realized most of that attitude probably had to do with being in my 20s and only half-interested in dating at the time anyway. I’m sure it’d be much harder to cultivate it now. Everything I hear makes me think men have also gotten WAY worse since then. In reality, I’d probably wind up getting in lots of fights. But still, remembering to maintain a sense of humor seems to help me in most other parts of life. It has its limits, though.

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      Jenny
      27 Oct 2021
      2:34pm

      Me, too!! My husband and I met on that ridiculous dating app called the Right Stuff in 1999; we were able to bypass the “idiosyncrasies” of our profiles, because we had both gone to Oberlin and graduated the same year!

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    Alison
    27 Oct 2021
    11:28am

    I found Christina Wallace’s Ted Talk on the Zero Date to be the best advice: “The zero date is one drink, one hour. With the goal of answering one question: Would I like to have dinner with this person? Not ‘are they the one’? Literally, ‘Would I like to spend three hours across the table from this person?’ You tell them you have a hard stop — drinks with girlfriends, a conference call with China — it doesn’t matter, they don’t know you. The point is one hour. If it’s awesome, you schedule a first date. And if it’s not awesome, you downshift into entertainer mode and you workshop a few new stories for your next networking event. “

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      dk
      27 Oct 2021
      12:29pm

      This worked for me too and I wound up turning the zero date into “meet in public during the day for a cup of coffee, 1/2 hour max (with a hard out) to see if there is any chemistry”. You’ll know immediately if they are as tall as they claim and if their profile picture was taken within the last 6 months 🙂 If you hit it off, then make a date for another time to continue to get to know each other. Nothing wrong with setting the pace to manage your time so you aren’t spending hours with someone you don’t like.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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