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A Few of My Favorite Things: Openers Online June 14, 2010

Posted by anoddphrase in Favorite Things, Ones and Zeroes (Online Dating), Picking Up.
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What’re the first things you notice when you meet someone?  The things that make up that first impression?  Clothing, facial expressions, tone of voice, attitude, posture.  These are all things that key into social cues for people.

Online—we don’t have as many of them.

We’ve got CAPS, chat slang (lol/brb/idk), smileys (:-p/<3), and of course, the dots (…).  And everyone’s got their own online chat tone.  How fast you reply to someone means something, pregnant pauses can still be pregnant—or they can mean that your internet connection has died.

But still, the question remains: if you want to make a good impression (especially if you’ve never met someone before—and you want to preserve your naked time odds), how do you do it?

So here are the basic components of a good opener online: (1) light internet stalking, (2) be interested/interesting, and (3) keep it short and sweet.  By #1, I mean, take a look at the person’s profile (Facebook, OkCupid, etc.) and find out their interests.  Does the person share an interest with you?  Something cool?  That leads us to #2—be interesting/interested.  Talk about that interest.  Then, ASK A QUESTION—yes, you.  Because if you just say something interesting, the person might think, oh, that’s interesting, but… I don’t really have anything to say to that except Lol, and that’s just not a good way to start a conversation online. You should also remember to mention what it is that you like about the particular interest that you’re talking about.  That brings us to #3, do all of this in a line.  Maybe two.  It leaves the other person wanting more, and indicates interest without coming off as stalkerish-creepy.

Think of an opener as like the beginning of a meaty (like prime rib steak) conversation.

Good examples:

[Sea monsters on profile.]

  • “Sea monsters, huh?  Have you ever seen that Godzilla movie where the monster comes out of the water and then proceeds to kill tourists whose mouths move and no sound comes out of their mouths?  I just love that movie.”

[Picture of a girl jumping out of a plane with a parachute.]

  • “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?  That’s what my shirt says.  How many jumps have you done?”

[Picture of a cat in the profile + HP references]

  • “Did you know that your cat looks like a doppelganger for McGonagall’s Animagus form?  Yeah, that was an uber geeky question.  But it’s awesome and true.”

[Mention of sushi]

  • “The concept of raw fish has always freaked me out—but I LOVE IT!  I’m on the fence about wasabi, though—it’s like sinus medication, but my tongue won’t stop burning just at the thought.  What’s your favorite sushi roll/restaurant in town?”

[Mention of travel]

  • “Travel… brings to mind squat-toilets and hand-sanitizer for me.  But maybe that’s because I keep traveling to places with a lot of the first and a lot of need for the second.  What countries/places have you traveled to?”

[Question stem of most interesting thing you have to say.]

  • “Hmmm, the most interesting thing I have to say is that I once accidently put on two belts and didn’t notice for an entire hour…I’m sorry, that was terrible wasn’t it?”

[Mention of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog.]

  • “So what’s your favorite song from Sing Along Blog?  Mine was the one by NPH in the laundromat.  Wait, was that all of them?”

Bad examples:

  • “Hey Baby” (anything that has the word ‘baby’ in it is usually bad)
  • “sexy” (anything that has the word ‘sexy’ in it is usually bad)
  • “hot” (in the context of “You’re hot” is also bad—if context is “Venezuela sounds hot and humid—the mosquitos are probably the size of dogs”, you’re fine)
  • “Hey, how you doin’?”
  • “What’s up?”
  • “I like your profile.”
  • “Hey, let me know if you want to talk sometime.”
  • Take a look-see at the OkCupid blog post about this subject for more info.

A Few of My Favorite Things

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Ones and Zeroes (Online Dating): A Numbers Game June 10, 2010

Posted by flomped in Dating, Love, Men (Martians), Ones and Zeroes (Online Dating).
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Women are terrifying—and that’s really a pretty massive obstacle facing a lot of men like myself.  I was at a grocery store the other day and saw a really cute girl walking the aisles, she smiled at me and I started thinking, “Man, if only I was the kind of guy who capitalized on this kind of thing.”  I’m not completely hopeless or anything, but it takes a really confident kind of guy to approach a woman out of nowhere and start a conversation…

“Hey, you shop for dairy products?  I shop for dairy products!  Want to go somewhere to talk about dairy products and possibly make out?”

My opener wouldn’t necessarily be that bad, but even if I was charming, thought up a decent opener, and said everything a man in my position ought to, I still figure I have, at best, about a 1 in 10 chance of getting a date out of it.

This is really one of the bigger problems with dating.  I imagine that women must have a complementary problem where 9 out of 10 guys hitting on them are dull, obnoxious, or at the very least not charming enough to warrant flirting with.  (A’s comment: Not all women, just the more outgoing ones.) I’m sure there’s some strategy for improving those ratios, but it seems like a much easier way alternative solution is to just ask out more people.

Well, that only works if you actually have more people to ask out.  A lot of people make fun of speed dating for its two-minute sessions of forced awkwardness and its definitive whiff of desperation, but it does demonstrate that an approach to dating built on volume appeals out of sheer utility.

What would really be great would be something that gave the same volume without the weirdness.  Well, that may be available–with online dating.

I started using online dating sites after I felt like nothing else was working.  The anecdote I mentioned earlier was not only true, but pretty common.  I see pretty girls all the time, but I’ve always found approaching strangers to be unbelievably difficult.

This is where online dating can really shine–it makes it slightly more feasible to approach strangers.  It doesn’t make it more successful, but it makes the approach much more feasible.

For all the bells and whistles of matching algorithms and personality quizzes, online dating gives you what the internet does best: it gives you volume; lots and lots of people to message in the hopes that 1 in 10 odds now leads to solid results.  A dating site hands you nice guys a long list of ladies ready to be messaged, and hands girls an even longer list of guys in the hope that 1 out of the 100 messaging them is a decent match.  (OKCupid runs a blog, OKTrends, in which they catalogue, among other things, the fact that there are a lot more guys than girls surfing for dates on the web).  Also, it gives everyone a guarantee that the people on the list are at least potentially open to dating.

But is there a downside to all this volume?  For a guy to have any success with a dating site, he’ll have to message as many people as possible in the hope that some of them respond.  It’s an unreliable process, and it means that when he finally does start seeing a girl, it’s someone who’s only the result of an elimination process.

I originally went through several months of online dating without getting any responses, but when it rained it poured.  Out of nowhere, I eventually got a whole rush of favorable responses, which led to some successful flirting and 3 dates with 3 different girls in the space of as many days.  I imagine a lot of guys would be asking for high fives, but I actually felt uncomfortable about the whole experience.

It’s hard going out with a girl when I’m only considering her as 1 of 3 possible women to evaluate against each other.  Even worse, it makes it hard to settle on one when you know there’s a still huge list available to message…all in all the set up was starting to feel weird and creepy.  Internet creepy.

Strangely enough, I found myself hoping that my later dates would fail just so that I had an opportunity to thin down the list of potential women.

Of course, I’ve never had much experience with regular dating, so maybe this is just what comes with all dating and the big numbers in online dating just illustrates it more clearly.  Maybe online dating is just what it took to push me into the experience of dating, and the weirdness I’m associating with volume and numbers is really just my reaction to how weird ALL dating is.  (A’s: True that, man.) If that’s the case, then I really should just push through this awkwardness and try to develop a tolerance for it, right?

But maybe the difficulty connecting to people is an asset.  Meeting strangers is a difficult experience, especially when you know you’ll be sizing each other up as romantic prospects.  Some forced emotional distance helps take the edge off.  Plus, if you spend enough time with someone, you’re going to connect with them regardless of how awkwardly you met.  (A’s: Or the shared awkwardness will just make your connection that much stronger.  Awkward turtles of a feather flocking together.)

Well, whatever the ultimate significance, I can say that I’ve met people I otherwise wouldn’t, and that alone is enough to call my first forays in the online dating world to be a net success so far.

My stories with internet dating are not over yet, though.  I’m only scratching the surface of the experience as a whole.  So, you can expect to hear more bits and pieces of my experience in the future.

Next time: dealing with the awkwardness that comes with online communication.

http://xkcd.com/99/

**(For reference, I use two online dating sites, okcupid.com and plentyoffish.com.  OK Cupid is better, if you ask me, but both are free and I recommend using both.)

The Dr. Horrible Syndrome (Horribly Nice Guys) May 21, 2010

Posted by flomped in Dating, Love, Men (Martians), Relationships.
31 comments

Nice guys really do finish last, and single guys around the world find this principle as confusing as they find it frustrating.  So frustrating in fact that many of them go to the dark side.

Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is a perfect example of this.  Dr. Horrible is an aspiring supervillain (Dr. Horrible) trying to reach the big leagues of villainy in the hope that he can improve the world and impress the girl of his dreams, Penny.  Dr. Horrible came to be as a result of a very common process:

——————————
Step 1: Perpetually Single

A budding Dr. Horrible grows up wishing for but failing to start romantic relationships.  He’s probably shy and not very charming and falls into the “only a friend” category too often (see Ladder Theory).  Or maybe his standards for women are too high.  Whatever the reason, though, a Dr. Horrible develops a pattern of being perpetually single.

These reasons for being perpetually single may be why he’s paralyzed and unable to talk to the girl in Step 4.

Step 2: They All Suck….

Dr. Horrible starts to identify his target gender as the problem.  The problem can’t be him, he’s a nice guy!  So it must be some vast flaw with the other gender and how they only pick out jerks, etc.  He resents women and he resents the men they fall for.

In Whedon’s Dr. Horrible, the whole world adores Captain Hammer, Horrible’s nemesis and a handsome alpha-male jerk (see Darcy Syndrome), to Horrible’s constant dismay

Step 3: …Except For Her

Dr. Horrible is still lonely, so he picks out a specific girl who he thinks is “different”.  She may be more compassionate (volunteering at soup kitchens), friendly to him in a kind way (talking to him when no one else does), or maybe she just offered to hold a door for him—it doesn’t take much because no matter how bitter Horribles may get, they still want to believe that there’s someone out there for him, and it’s only natural to find a reason to justify developing a crush.

The chosen girl will then be put on a pedestal by Horrible who convinces himself that she’s perfect.  And that he’d be perfect for her too, since he clearly loves her so much, even though he hasn’t actually gotten to know her in any real way.

Dr. Horrible’s love for Penny is the perfect example of this: he sings elaborate ballads about Penny being his one and only: “I’m the guy to make it real/ The feelings you’re afraid to feel”…all based entirely on the fact that he sees her regularly at a Laundromat.  And never talks to her.

Step 4: Indirect Pursuit

Dr. Horrible will only ever pursue his crush indirectly.  A Horrible is so emotionally invested in his crush that his feelings for her paralyze him, and his natural shyness can only make things worse.  Asking her out, or even talking to her, would risk rejection (or the crush’s inevitable falling from the pedestal).  So, instead, he goes after her indirectly: coming up with elaborate plans to impress her and fixates on how great things will get when they actually get together.

There’s a scene in Dr. Horrible where the doc is enacting part of his master plan to impress Penny. Penny approaches him, asking him to sign a petition.  Dr. Horrible has the perfect chance to start talking to her and break the ice, but instead pushes his dream girl aside in favor of executing an elaborate plan to impress her.

Step 5: Falling Off the Pedestal

Dr. Horrible eventually loses his chance with his dream girl, probably because: (A) he asks her out and gets rejected (in lieu of not ever really having spoken to her or having made his intentions known), or (B) she gets together with a different guy before he has a chance to make his move.

He’ll take this badly, because he not only lost his dream girl, but she had the nerve not to recognize (from his silent, longing looks) how much he cared about her!

When his depression blows over and he only gets more bitter about everything, return to Step 2 and repeat ad nauseam.

It’ll only get worse from here on out, because the more bitter and nasty he gets, the less appealing he is, and the less appealing he is the more he projects his negative feelings onto others.

Whedon’s Horrible acts like he’s been personally betrayed when Penny starts dating Captain Hammer, despite the fact that he never before asked her out, or in fact even spoke to her in a significant way.   He says, “There’s darkness everywhere and Penny doesn’t seem to care that soon the dark in me is all that will remain.”  So, he essentially transfers the blame for his inability to make a move as her fault for “not caring”.

——————————
Guys like this often think of themselves as nice guys.  Dr. Horrible’s touching love song to Penny seems sweet in a romantic comedy kind of way: he’s emotional, he’s sincere, and he obviously has a high opinion of her.

So what’s the problem?

Well, putting a girl on a pedestal might seem nice in theory, but when Dr. Horribles idolize a girl, they aren’t really in love with her—they’re in love with the perfect girl ideal that they want her to be.  They haven’t necessarily taken the time to get to know her—who she really is.  And they may not be happy with what they find if they keep their expectations so high.  It also isn’t fair to expect a girl to be responsible for fixing Horribles’ busted view of women, and she isn’t going to want to try.

No matter how much Whedon’s Dr. Horrible is painted the sincere underdog, you can’t help but wonder what exactly Penny is supposed to find attractive about him when his only personality traits are crushing despair about everything, a creepy obsession, and a meek inability to act on his crush.

It’s only natural to feel that the only way to overcome complete feelings of hopelessness is to nurture the idea that there is a girl who is different than the others.  If every other girl rejects you, then a girl would have to be different from them to go out with you…right?

Well, it doesn’t work like that, and, empathy aside, if guys want to pull themselves out of singledom, the first step has to be understanding what’s going wrong with themselves.  Dr. Horribles have to pull themselves out of their heads, take the girl off the pedestal and act on their feelings.  They just have to talk to the girl, and actually get to know who she really is.  And do so before she ends up with the other guy.

My advice: try buying her a frozen yogurt.  The ladies love the frozen yogurt.

Term of the Day

Dr. Horrible [Dok-tor] [Hor-rib-bul]
– noun

Someone who compensates for bitterness over past romantic failures by putting an individual on a pedestal as his/her perfect romantic mate.

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