I'm sitting cross-legged on my therapist's couch 4 months after my husband's announcement that he wants a divorce when my therapist informs me that he thinks I should start dating again.
I had told myself and others that I was going to take time off to concentrate on myself for once. Between a husband and three boys, I didn't know who I was anymore. I just wanted to hang out with my girlfriends, drink martinis like a fish, and let the hair grow long on my legs if I wanted. I had even gone so far as to announce to my friends that I was going to take a full year off from any kind of relationship.
Read more here.
That’s what his message said. Several times a week, I receive messages like the one above, and I refuse to answer them.
“Hey beautiful. How you doing?”
“Hi. How are you?”
“Hi.” (I shit you not. There is an email that only says “Hi” in my inbox right now.)
“I like your smile.”
“Hey baby. How are you this evening?”
This is just a sampling of the messages I receive. I’ve been told by many men that one of the most frustrating things about online dating is that they send messages out into the interwebs and never hear anything back. I’ve been asked on many occasions, “why won’t women even respond to say they’re not interested?”
Well, silly. Let me break this down for you.
Back when the wounds of my separation were still fresh and I was launching both my blog and my foray into online dating, I quickly recognized the problem of time suckage and established some rules for responding to online dating emails. One of them was that an online dating email needed to be at least 140 characters, the maximum length of a Tweet, in order for me to respond.
The reason I don’t respond to one sentence messages is simple. If you’re a man sending messages like the ones above, you have already wasted my time by making me sign into the online dating website or the app on my phone to see your pathetic excuse for a message.
- I’m not going to waste any more time responding to it when it is so apparent that you have not put any thought into what was sent in the first place.
- If I respond to such a careless email, it will be reinforcing bad behavior, and the next thing I know, I’m inundated by more one sentence emails that never go anywhere and never result in a date.
- It will take me more sentences than you sent in the first place to explain to you why I’m not interested in your inarticulate ass.
But I’m not a total bitch. I try to give men a fighting chance. At the bottom of my online dating profile on OkCupid, in the “You should message me if” section, I say, “You are capable of constructing an email that is longer than a tweet and more complex than, “Hey baby, How you doing?”" It doesn’t get more clear than that.
From there, it is not my fault if a man choses to not follow directions. (There’s a joke there. I know there is, but I won’t let it distract me.) I actually get a lot of messages from men who start with “Hey baby, how you doing? LOL” and then go on to a more detailed introduction.
One sentence emails have their place, I suppose. They are a method called ‘spray and pray.’ Spray and pray is used in a variety of arenas. In photography, for example, ’spray and pray’ refers to taking as many photographs as possible in the hope that one turns out. In first person shooter games, it refers to unloading your weapon in the general direction of an opponent and hoping you get some points. In military usage, its meaning is similar and differs from suppressive fire in that the firing of one’s weapon is simply scattered and not directed strategically.
I suppose for online dating you could say it’s the same. Emails are sloppily directed and hastily sent in the hope that someone, anyone perhaps, will respond. The message isn’t important, and neither is the recipient. With spray and pray you can send fifty messages in one night, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.
Guys, this is the point where you should think strategically about what you want. Are you just looking to get laid? Come on, you can be honest here. Is it just about a warm body? Will any warm body do? If so, spray and pray may be the right technique for you. I’m not going to knock it. I can recognize that it has its place.
Maybe you’re a man lacking in vocabulary. Conversation isn’t your strong suit. Maybe you’re hoping the woman you’ll meet won’t want to talk that much. Again, spray and pray is probably the best way to go.
If, however, you are a man looking for an intelligent woman with whom you hope to share many quiet conversations in the coming years, you should take a much more tactical approach.
The sender of the “You are very cute” message above apparently went back and read to the bottom of my profile. Noting my instructions to send messages longer than 140 characters, he recovered with,
Let me revise and amplify.
I love intelligence and education. I have a BA and MA in History and an MBA (think of it as trade school.)
Not overly keen on makeup; you don’t look like you need it.
I have lived in Seattle and would love to return. I drop my youngest off for college soon. I could either buy a fixer in Vancouver WA or move north. [He lives in California.]
I love tall women. I like holding hands as well or quietly sitting and reading.
Love Colbert and we share some movie preferences. Cherry Garcia is on my personal list as well. And Shawshank Redemption.
I suspect we will get along very well together
Anyway if my profile resonates, do contact me.
Man #47 (not his real name)”
It was apparent that he had gone point by point through my profile and found a way to respond in a much more thoughtful way. I, in turn, went to his profile, and it was good. He was handsome, educated, articulate…
…so I responded.
Whenever I start thinking that the only men who are single at my age are total freaks, abusive assholes, or kinky fetishists, I try to tell myself that if I’m a reasonably well-adjusted, emotionally stable woman, surely there are men who are similarly well-adjusted and emotionally stable. There has to be a man, like me, who has found himself suddenly single and starting over. If I’m out here looking for love, then there must be my male equivalent out there somewhere.
Do you think?
Normally I resist sending the first email or asking anyone on a date, but I actually reached out to Man #45 first. His online dating profile sounded funny and smart. In his picture it was obvious he was at the Seattle Art Museum. I took this as a good sign. Maybe I thought it meant he was cultured or something. I don’t know. I hoped.
He responded to my email right away and quickly asked me out on a date.
We met at Copacabana at the Market. Man #45 was wearing a very loud printed shirt straight out of the seventies. We both ordered sangria, and started talking. A few minutes into our conversation, it became apparent that he was trying to impress me with how ”unique” he could be.
First, he mentioned that he occasionally likes to wear a Utilikilt. This isn’t particularly unique, just unattractive. It’s one thing to be Scottish and have a tradition of wearing your family’s tartan plaid at special occasions, but Utilikilts are a completely different ball of wax. I’ve never seen a man who looked good in a Utilikilt. Man #45 let me know that it was not uncommon for him to wear a Utilikilt to special occasions and networking events.
“So if I invited you to an event at The Columbia Tower Club there’s a chance you would wear a Utilikilt,” I asked. This was a test question. He failed.
Ok then. I could only think that there was no way in hell I would ever invite him to anything if it meant I would run the risk of him showing up in a Utilikilt.
Next, he informed me that he was a burner. He had been attending Burning Man every year since 2000. This too is not particular unique. Seattle has a pretty larger burner community. I have several friends who have attended multiple times. I’ve even toyed with the idea myself.
It was what he said next that put me over the edge. ”I like to play with fire,” he said. I was sipping my sangria as he said this, and I raised an eyebrow at him over my glass.
“You like to play with fire,” I asked.
“Yes. I like to light things on fire and watch them burn.”
“Wow. Really? Like what?” I put my glass down.
“Well, for example, I belong to a group that gets together and plays tetherball, but we light the ball on fire first.”
What can I say? The more dates I go on, the more I lose hope. I get the sinking feeling I could date one hundred men and not find a single one with whom I would want to share my life.