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5 Ways to Online Date Without Losing Your Dignity -- Or Sanity

How to take digital flirting into the real world.



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I go on a lot of dates, so many, in fact, that I’ve forgotten most of them. Months afterwards, I see these gentlemen around the city and I can’t place them, wondering if we were in a class together in college, or if they go to my yoga studio. Only hours later do I realize that we had shared a plate of sweet potato fries and an hour of stilted conversation.

I’m an online dater, and unlike the hoards who are compelled to create a profile at the urging of well-meaning relatives and friends, or those who reluctantly browse the meager pool of potentials, or those who feel the Internet is a last resort for the weak and desperate, I actually enjoy myself.

I’m not alone in my optimism, but I’ve compared notes with enough other online daters to know that folks can get pretty riled up about meeting Internet dates in “real” life without the protection of an alias and a glowing screen. So with no further ado, a few tips and tricks on maintaining your dignity (and sanity) when taking your digital flirting into the scary world of face-to-face dating:

Note: For the purposes of simplicity, I’m writing as a woman dating men and pronouns will reflect that. For the record, this advice stands for same sex dating.

1. This Person is Not Your Soulmate

How do I know? I just do, OK? Even if the date across the table from you is your soulmate (whatever that term means), acting if that’s likely leads nowhere except back to your couch, disappointed, and clutching a pint of ice cream. The point of online dating is to cast a wider net than your existing social life enables you to cast. You will meet more people and different people, but not necessarily better people. No matter how great your messages were, people are different on paper than in person.

I head into each date hoping for a pleasant conversation with a friendly, interesting person; that is exactly as high as I’m willing to set the bar. Those of you who have been around the block know that your dates will miss that mark more often than you’d think.

Setting reasonable expectations lets you get the most out of bad dates and makes the good ones seem like a pleasant surprise. Removing the soulmate expectation also takes the pressure off of date preparation and post-date communication (See below).

2. Comfort is King

Once you rid yourself of the idea that this mystery date is your soulmate (he is not), the pressure to be your most perfect, pristine self is off. The high heels in which you can’t do more than wobble uncertainly? Ditch ‘em. The top that makes your cleavage look great but will have you tugging it up or down all evening? Toss it. More makeup than you’re comfortable in? More hair gel, new perfume, too-stiff jeans, or the itchy sweater that someone once told you flattered your shoulders? Get rid of it all.

Being comfortable in your own skin is attractive. Itching, squirming, tugging, twisting, sucking in, pushing out, these actions scream, “I am uncomfortable and I am trying to impress you!” Wouldn’t you rather wear the comfy jeans and the cute flats and your normal amount of mascara and feel like yourself?

After all, the you that you present is the one you want this new person to like, right? How would you feel down the line if they went for the you that was squeezed into uncomfortable contraptions, painted three layers deep, and wearing the shoes that make you walk like a newborn giraffe? You both are in for a rude awakening.

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