This will be a series of short articles where I will share my dating dilemmas with you. I am certainly open to hearing your stories too. I will provide a private way for you to share some of the doosies and then I will incorporate them into future dating articles. This is a place where I will change names and protect your identity too. So, game on. Dating websites, look out, here comes Anne.

Honestly, what am I supposed to do with this? What if I was feeling naughty? Am I supposed to tell a complete stranger? If I was willing to engage in such conversation when I don’t even know a guy’s real name, is this the kind of person he really wants to meet anyway? And if he does, then do I want to meet him? Is he too cheap to pay for a late night phone sex session? Messages like this confuse me. I understand that engaging in online dating means that one has to type before talking. I’m not sure when the phone became intrusive and too intimate, but here we are: welcome to the world of online dating.

Some pen pal pet peeves:

1. If the culture is going to be about writing, then learn to write. Proofread people. Seriously, I find myself desperately wanting to inject grammar and spelling lessons into online profiles. I know this sounds a little harsh, but most of us have been to high school and I know for a fact that they cover the difference between to, too, and two; your and you’re; quiet and quite, and the list goes on. When in doubt, have a friend read your profile so that you’re presenting the best written version of yourself. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, or maybe it should matter more than it does, but I don’t want to miss out on Mr. Wonderful because I misspelled that I have a college degree. Apparently, there are many really smart people attending collage these days. I know because they tell me so in their profiles.

2. If we are going to write to each other, then say something of value. I am much more likely to respond to a message where a man tells me something about himself, and then asks me a question about me, than I am to messages that tell me I look hot in my photos. Perhaps I do look hot in my pictures, but I need a little more than that to engage in conversation with someone. Try to set yourself apart from the usual messages that people receive. Again, let’s make our high school English teachers proud.

3. Know when to stop writing and start talking. Writing to someone may develop into a friendship, but you can’t have a romantic connection until you actually meet. I’ve met people who will argue otherwise, but here’s the thing, we’re all adults, and if you’re on a dating website, chances are you are talking to more than one person. This notion that we meet our one true love and just talk and never look at another person, is just not the world of online dating. If a man won’t meet you, it’s probably because he’s talking to someone else, fair enough, but don’t keep waiting around and conjuring up some romance in your head that doesn’t exist. It’s okay to tell him, “Hey, if you ever find that you have time to meet, let me know, and if the timing’s good, I’d like to meet you in person,” then move on to the next guy. It’s not realistic to text people forever.

4. Ahhhh, the phone. What is wrong with the phone? Why do so many people object to having a phone conversation these days? I would invite you all to bring back the art of the phone conversation. There is something to be said for hearing a person’s voice: the tone, the accent, the volume. You can ask some of your deal-breaker questions and see if you have anything in common or anything to talk about. A simple phone conversation can save you from meeting people that you aren’t compatible with. It can save you the trouble of getting all dressed up and anticipating some great meeting that turns into a disappointment. In fact, a good phone conversation can build the anticipation and give you that nervous energy that comes with a first date. The phone can help you remember why dating is fun.

5. Do be careful about what you’re willing to write down. Everything that you record can be retrieved and used in a manner that perhaps you didn’t intend. Believe me, going through a divorce and dealing with the court taught me that. Good thing that I didn’t write down a whole lot at that point. I don’t want to scare you. Write away, have fun, but don’t give out too much personal information or any financial information. Remember, you are getting to know people, you don’t actually know them. And until you meet, it could be anyone sending you messages. Just be cautious, not paranoid, but cautious.

Okay, so the take aways: in my opinion, you have to be willing to start with writing, but personally, I don’t want to keep it there for very long. There are people that I have weeded out because their writing was so difficult to read that the intellectual part of me couldn’t see how we would have enough in common to sustain a relationship. Maybe I missed out on some great guys that way, but likely they wouldn’t have been right for me. Just because you are embarking on online dating doesn’t mean that you need to compromise what you want. I won’t answer anyone who is vulgar. I don’t like form messages from various websites, and I prefer men that show they’ve actually read my profile.

You have to decide what your parameters are. That’s both the blessing and the curse: there are no rules and you have to decide what works for you. Stay tuned in weeks to come where I tackle dilemmas such as: How many is too many?; The first date; Getting Physical; Dating Website Do’s and Don’ts; Meeting the Kids; Making Mistakes; and The Break-Up. Perhaps this series can help you figure out what rules you live by in the world of cyber dating. If nothing else, hopefully you will be entertained.

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