Friday, November 27, 2009

When You Email Her for the First Time

Emailing someone on an online dating site can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to ease your way:

Do not refer to her as “angel,” “cutie” or “cutie pie” before you are officially dating (and even then the “cutie pie” should be a teasing sort of reference). Do I actually have to explain why? Apparently I do because I have received several such emails. Would you really walk up to a woman in a bar and say “Hey, cutie pie” without expecting to get a drink thrown in your face? I think not. I *know* you think I’m attractive. You wouldn’t have contacted me if you didn’t. No need to point this out. And it is presumptuous to call someone you don’t know by a pet name. This should be obvious, and I’m hoping that is to you. Also *some* women find it demeaning ever to be referred to in any way that sounds infantilizing (cutie) or dehumanizing (angel).

And once you know her name, don’t call her by a nickname unless that’s the way she signs her emails. Not sure why people feel the need to call me Liz when I never refer to myself that way.

Use paragraphing. It’s hard to read without it and looks lazy not to.

Don’t use obscure references or obscure online abbreviations unless you know she’ll get them.

Don’t say “You seem interesting. Check out my profile and let me know.” There’s nothing wrong with not saying a lot about yourself in this initial email--after all, she *can* read your profile, but you need to give her some indication why you thought *she* sounded interesting and what you think that the two of you have in common. This shows you actually read her profile and didn’t just think she was cute and email her like you did a couple dozen other women that day. Ask a question or two about a hobby she mentioned in her profile or a band she likes, etc. It makes it harder not to respond to an email when you’re being asked questions, and it makes the job of writing an email back easier when she has something to respond to. No need to make the email long. Even a few sentences are fine if you hit the marks I’ve mentioned.

I would err on the side of caution and not mention meeting up (even for the casual coffee) in the first email. I’m sure it’s fine for many women, but for some, it’s a little much. If she’s the kind that wants to meet right away, she’ll ask you in her email response to you.

Pace the frequency and length of your emails to hers. Don’t write a second email until you’ve heard back from her. You do not need to send her an email reminding her that you wrote her and haven’t heard back. If she’s interested, she’ll respond without being prompted.

Keep in mind that, though you might not be getting many emails or winks, she is undoubtedly getting a ton of them, especially if you live in an area where the single men outnumber the single women. So give her some slack if she takes longer in getting back to you than you think she “should” (a week is not unreasonable). And remember that this means your email (and your profile) have heavy competition and you need to do what you can to stand out (in a non-creepy way, of course)--connect with one of her passions in your email: e.g., mention that you, like her, also love Heidegger and could never date someone who didn’t get him--a philosophy major will be compelled to respond to that. (I would and I don’t even love Heidegger.)

On Tuesday: Talking on the Phone

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Description of the Woman You’re Looking For

In describing who you're looking for, it’s okay to be a little general and vague. You don’t want to limit yourself too much, after all! Stick to a couple of the most important qualities you’re looking for. But you do need to list something. To list nothing says you have done no reflection on this topic and have very little insight about people (which may be true, sadly). A woman is more likely to respond to a profile when she thinks the woman you are describing is her. So mention whatever is most important to you: must love animals, be smart or appreciate a sarcastic sense of humor, for example.

Do not include “deal breakers.” No, you do not want to date someone who has no personality of her own and is clingy and dependent. But to write that tells a potential date that you just got out of a relationship with that type of woman and you’re still bitter about it. It presents you as a negative person. Speak in positives instead. Say what you *are* looking for instead of what you’re not looking for. Say you want a strong, opinionated woman instead of saying that being clingy is a deal breaker.

Do not include physical descriptors. First, why limit yourself? Second, it makes you sound like an ass. You only want to date thin, tall women? I’m a thin, tall woman and I would not date someone who stipulated that in his profile. I’m not alone in this. Women, by and large, do not like shallow men, and naming physical traits you want in a woman makes you sound shallow. And, by the way, women don’t typically date men who are out of their league physically. So if you’re a fabulously good-looking guy with a great body, there are very few unattractive, fat chicks who will have the chutzpah to email you, so don’t worry. Although, for some reason, ugly, obese guys do try to pick up petite blondes… .

Up on Friday: What to Write When You Email Her

Friday, November 20, 2009

Describing Yourself in an Online Profile

A Little about Yourself. Three sentences is too short. It says: I am not verbal and have trouble communicating. Or, I have no insight into myself. Or, I’m lazy and expect you to do all the work in this relationship. Or, I’m just here to get laid. On the other hand, using up all the space allowed on the site for describing yourself is too long. It says: I am self-involved and never shut up.

As to the content of your self-description:

Do not include physical descriptors of yourself. Your photo is there (right?). Describing yourself physically comes off as narcissistic. Or gay--at least that’s what I assume about a guy who writes about how fabulous his ass is.

When describing your personality don’t speak in vague generalities or simply give a list of adjectives about yourself. Adjectives are largely meaningless. Think about your best friend. If you wanted me to know what he was really like, would you tell me he was nice, funny and smart, or would you tell me a story about him? (Probably both.) Talking about what you’re passionate about, even if it’s not what a woman is passionate about, is infectious and makes you sound interesting, warm and positive. Include something quirky that you love--something you wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to list as a passion. Like bacon. Include interesting particulars about a band or a book you love. Or describe a typical weekend so she can get a sense of the culture of your life. Mention a weird thing you want to do--like experience a sensory deprivation tank before you die--not like sky diving (so cliché). A list of interesting jobs you’ve held (if you have) can be intriguing as well. Give her something to respond to. So many profiles I've seen say the same things every other profile says: "I'm a nice guy, have a job I love, enjoy dining out and hiking. I'm looking for the right woman but couldn't say what that is--I don't want to limit myself to a type." Boooring. Think about how many profiles she's reading. You need to stand out. Being really good-looking or making a lot of money will not (for most women) make you stand out. It's what you write that counts.

Don’t mention your ex-girlfriends or ex-wives. This reads as "I'm not over her."

Avoid negatives. Don't say what you *don't* like doing or what you are not (unless you can be funny about it). Negativity reads as stuck in the mud, pessimistic, depressed, etc.

Don’t brag. Don’t mention having a super cool house, or your trip to Aruba, unless you’re sure that it isn’t coming off as bragging. If you’re passionate about travel, make your passion the focus--not a list of all the expensive places you’ve been. Never use the cheesy device of “people have said about me… .” So obviously bragging: I mean, I wouldn’t say I was really hot, the smartest person in the area and the wittiest guy at a party, but my friends say it is so--even though I am really humble and wouldn’t presume to say it about myself, but it must be true. Ugh.

Being funny in your profile is great as long as you actually are funny. Trying and not succeeding is the worst while being successful will double the number of women who email you. I once saw an ad where the man wrote in the ethnicity box: “take a wild guess.” His photo was posted so, yes, it was obvious. It struck me as funny. Not sure why. When I write it here it doesn’t sound so funny. But it was.

Do not mention sex. Yes, some men really do this in their ads. I never dated any of them. Neither have any of my friends.

Spell check! Grammar check! You want a smart girl? Capitalize where needed, don’t have typos, and don’t use the objective form of a personal pronoun when the subjective is called for. And, for God’s sake, *paragraph* when needed. If you’re writing enough that a woman can get a sense of you, that’s a very large block of text and is daunting to read if formatted as all one paragraph.

Up on Tuesday: Describing the Woman You're Looking For

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anxiety Wrapup

To sum up what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks about (social) anxiety:

See your doctor. If your GP thinks you have an anxiety disorder, see a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis. Take medication if the psychiatrist tells you to.

Get enough sleep most nights of the week (seven hours plus).

Get proper nutrition.

Cut all caffeine from your diet.

Exercise three to five times a week.

Use relaxation techniques daily.

Define the social situations in which you are uncomfortable. Develop goals and practice gradual exposure to these anxiety-provoking situations.

Have a conversation with your anxiety and find out what it’s trying to tell you.

Pull a friend or two into your confidence about your social anxiety to create a support network for yourself.

Ready to plunge into meeting women? Check in on Friday as I continue to write about doing an online dating profile.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Online Dating

I know I said I was going to address speed dating this week but instead I’m going to jump into online dating and write about speed dating in a few weeks. (I think I should probably do it before I go pontificating about it...)

I frankly don’t know why anyone who is single and looking does not use online dating. You have instant access to hundreds of women in your area. You can get a lot of information about them before you waste any time talking to them. Women tend to be more open in their online profiles than they typically are on a first date, so you have a better idea of what you’re getting. And it’s a lot easier on the ego to be rejected online than in person. So she didn’t respond to your email stating your interest? Big deal. There’s another woman who looks interesting. Another one and another one. Being completely ignored or brushed off face to face at a party is a tad more awkward. So pick a service and sign yourself up!

When I used online dating, I never posted my profile for public viewing. I preferred to approach my dating life as a consumer, not the consumed. I wanted to pick the men I was interested in and not be bothered by weirdos who couldn’t read and sent me emails wanting to know if I’d join their cult and directing me to Web sites where I could read all about Them. For you, I advise publicly posting your profile. You want to get some practice. You want to date as much as possible. So don’t close any avenues available to you.

First up: How to Make a Good Online Dating Profile

Catchy Title. You’re looking for a smart woman, right? Be a little more creative, witty and original than “Hello there!” or “Man Seeking Soul Mate” or similar bland, generic titles. Be clever. Take a common phrase and make a twist on it--like “Wanted: Conductor for this runaway train of thought.” Make a reference that the kind of woman you’re looking for is likely to get. Don’t be too obscure. You’ll come off as pompous or just downright weird if the reference is misinterpreted. Could be song lyrics. Barenaked Ladies’ lyrics are eminently usable. Being blunt is also catchy: “Geek seeking Geek-lover (or Geek Lover)” is a little bland but will likely generate interest by the kind of woman you’re looking for.

Photo. Include at least two photos. Do not include a bunch of head shots from the same “photo shoot.” That comes off as vain. And better to avoid having a woman your age in the picture even if it’s your sister. Don’t use a photo where you’ve cut the woman out and her hand is still visible on your shoulder. Use recent photos--within the last year. Yeah, you were thinner five years ago, but you haven’t built a time machine yet and she’s going to be dating the you that you are now. Casual snapshots--unless you’re particularly photogenic--are almost always more flattering than a posed picture. Whatever physical feature you have that is most attractive should feature in the photo. If you have a great body, don’t be shirtless (please!), but have one of the photos be a full-length picture of you in a tight-ish (not tight) shirt and jeans or a well-cut suit. I have to admit, though, a friend of mine says that she is fine with the shirtless shots as long as you are clearly at the beach and it’s a snapshot, not a posed photo showing off your abs.

Next week: Writing A Little About Yourself for Your Online Profile

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


For those who have social anxiety, practice is invaluable. Social Anxiety is a phobia. You’ve undoubtedly heard about methods for eradicating animal phobias using gradual exposure. For example, someone who fears spiders might progress over time from looking at a drawing of a spider, to looking at a photo of one to looking at an actual tarantula in a cage, etc.--all the while using relaxation techniques like those I wrote about in previous weeks.

First, you need to define clearly the situations you fear. Maybe you’re comfortable talking one-on-one with strangers, but are uncomfortable if more than one person is listening. Or maybe you fear starting a conversation with strangers but are fine if they initiate. Be very clear about what social situations cause you discomfort.

Now create some attainable goals for yourself. Include in your goals at least one or two situations to overcome that you know you can have some success with right away. These may be very small things. If one of your feared situations is initiating conversation, your goal might be to say hi to the cashier at the grocery store. Having success early on will encourage you to keep trying with the harder situations.

When you write down the goals you have for more difficult social situations, make sure that your goals are reasonable. It is not reasonable to expect that by next month you will be able to approach a stranger, strike up a conversation and be completely witty and at ease. That’s ridiculous. It isn’t even attainable by most people who don’t have social anxiety. A reasonable goal would be to strike up a conversation with a woman you are *not* interested in and ask her about what she does for a living.

Do not think of goals as all-or-nothing propositions. You do not have to perform “perfectly” in order for it to be good enough. Your conversation with the uninteresting woman might be awkward or boring. That’s okay in the beginning. Getting out there and doing it is the goal.

Let’s say one of your goals is to talk (tell an anecdote, a joke or just contribute to the conversation) in a group of people at a party. What might be some baby steps toward that goal? A small step might be to respond with more than “fine” when a co-worker asks how your weekend was. This helps you practice talking to acquaintances. Another step might be to tell an anecdote to two friends with whom you feel totally safe. Another step might be to go to a party with a friend and stay for a short period of time (say, fifteen minutes), not expecting yourself to mingle, initiate conversation or even talk much at all.

It might be helpful to pull a friend into your confidence (if you haven’t already) and ask him or her to help with these changes by being supportive or helping you set up or practice simulations. Telling someone in your life about your social anxiety can alleviate some of the shame you may feel about having this difficulty.

The more often you do something, the easier it gets, and the more second nature it becomes. As you continue to practice, increase the amount of time that you expose yourself to the uncomfortable situation. For example, if you have a hard time with large group situations, like parties, gradually increase the amount of time you spend in large groups. The key word being gradually. Don’t expect yourself to hang out at a big party for three hours.

As you practice in social situations, you will do and say stupid things. You will inappropriately interrupt because you are so eager to add something to the conversation and be done with it, and you will get talked over and interrupted because you aren’t talking loudly enough. You will make a joke that falls flat. You will find yourself with nothing to say, or give an answer that’s too curt and makes your conversational partner think you don’t like her or that you are just plain weird. You can not let these things prevent you from striving toward your goals.

At the same time, you don’t want just to get through social situations because you’ve steeled your will to do so. How fun would that be? You don’t want merely to be able to do certain social activities. You also want to feel (more) comfortable doing them. So during your practice times, make use of the relaxation techniques described in previous weeks. And use the self-talk suggestions from one of blog entries on self-esteem. Use this self-talk during the social interaction and afterwards. Don’t beat up on yourself in your play-by-play reflection on how you did. Use positive self-talk.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to Meet Women

Blind dates. Let everyone know you’re looking. With your friends and family, you can be obvious about it; with others, let it *casually* come out in conversation, even in a joking way. (But please don’t post that you’re looking on your Facebook page, or your Evite profile. Read: desperate!) Accept setups from anyone: relatives, friends or co-workers. It’s one evening out of your life. How bad can it be? If nothing else you can blog about it.

Church. Most spiritual communities have more single women than single men, so this can be a place to go where the odds are in your favor even in an area of the country, like the Northwest, where the general population has more single men than women. Adult education classes, Bible studies, volunteer outings and singles group get-togethers are your best bet for meeting women in a spiritual community. Going to a church service and sitting in a pew is not going to net you a date.

But you may be an atheist.

Work. Co-workers, clients, those who work in your building but aren’t part of your company, the postal carrier, the UPS woman are all possibles. But I’d caution you on dating a co-worker. If it doesn’t work out, it can be AWKWARD. Or embarrassing, depending on what she now knows about you and might tell other people you work with…

Hobbies. Sports, the gym, classes through community centers and community colleges, volunteer work, political action groups, and cons are all great ways to meet people. Take a look at in your area. There are probably half a dozen Meetup groups that already exist that pique your interest. And people sometimes post their pics and bios on Meetup, so you can decide if there are enough interesting females involved in the group to be worth your while--aside from how interesting the topic of the group is to you…

Think about to whom you give charitable donations. You obviously value what the organization does. What about volunteering your time with them?

Have you watched “Darcon”? Plenty of the guys in that movie had girlfriends and wives and they are no better looking or socially adept than you. Don’t turn your nose up at going to a Star Trek convention just because you’re not that big of a fan. You like it, don’t you? There will be geeky women there. Check them out.

Up next Friday: Speed Dating and Online Dating

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Visualization and Feeling Your Feelings

I spent last evening at the hospital with my dad, which is why I didn’t post yesterday. Sorry for the delay--this one will be longer than usual to make up for my tardiness. Word to the wise: if you think you might be having a heart attack or someone else tells you that she thinks you might be having a heart attack, go to the emergency room. Don’t wait until you’re sure there’s “really” something wrong.

Visualization. The last relaxation technique that use to calm anxiety is similar to the meditation technique I wrote about last week. Take the same position as with meditation. Be comfortable, free of distractions, and hold an open body posture (palms upward and open). Close your eyes so you can focus on your visualization. Choose a place (real or imagined) or a time in your life when you felt absolutely free, joyful and optimistic about the world/life/yourself/other people. Really get to know this place and time. Explore it with each of your senses and be as specific as you can. Look around in your mind’s eye. What do you see? Are there objects there that you didn’t notice at first? Do any of these objects make noises, like a bird singing or the ocean roaring? Be very still and listen to the sounds. What are the layers of sound you hear? What do you smell? Freshly cut grass? Baking bread? Breathe in deeply. What do those smells remind you of? Touch the objects in your visualization. How does the grass feel against your hand? How does the warm sand feel under your feet? Notice if the objects are rough or smooth, warm or cool, soft or sturdy. Let the objects tickle you, soothe you. Are there things to taste in your place of joy? Taste them. What do they taste like? Be as specific as you can.

The purpose of visualization is to give you a place to go in your mind when you are in stressful situations, a place that is peaceful and joyful to counteract the agitation and fear that you are feeling. The more you practice visualizing and the more specific you can be about your visualization, the easier it is to call up this place and have the thought of it automatically trigger a relaxation response in your body.

Feel Your Feelings. The automatic reaction to anxiety or panic, particularly in a social situation, is to fight the anxiety, to try to control it or to stuff it back down. But if the anxiety feels it is not being heard, it just gets louder. And you will feel more anxious, not less anxious. Use the relaxation techniques in this chapter and listen to the anxiety. What is it trying to tell you?

Sometimes you don’t have time to listen to the anxiety. You’ve got things you need to do. In those cases instead of fighting or exploring the anxiety, put it off. Tell the anxiety that you have scheduled a time later in the day for it to have its say. And then at seven o’clock (or whenever you scheduled your talk), sit down and think about what your anxiety is telling you, or write down what the anxiety is saying as if it were actually speaking.

Having anxiety talk to you sounds silly, but emotions like anxiety or anger or hurt are warning flags that something is going on that we aren’t paying enough attention to. Emotions aren’t particularly eloquent at first. What the hell does it mean that you get angry every time your boss walks by your office when you get along with her perfectly well? You’ve got to talk to your emotion to find out.

Your anxiety will have a lot of bullcrap to say. It will catastrophize situations. It will tell you that you’ll literally die if you try to talk to that intriguing stranger at a party. It will tell you that you’re a hopeless idiot who will only humiliate yourself if you ask out a woman because, of course, she will reject you and everyone will hear about it and no one will have any respect for you any more.

But once you get past the bullcrap, your anxiety will also make some good points. It might tell you that you left the stove on--and you really did. Its message might be that you don’t really like hanging out at bars. So why the hell are you trying to meet women in a bar if you hate it?

Your anxiety might also be telling you that you are pushing yourself into a social situation you aren’t ready for. You say to yourself “Well, any normal guy would be ready for this. I’m being childish.” But your anxiety says “You don’t know how to handle talking to a woman without your friend with you to introduce you and smooth over conversational gaps.” You might not like what your anxiety is saying. But it may be right.

And if it is right about you not being ready, how do you get ready?

Up next Tuesday: Practicing