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Online Dating Etiquette
Tuesday, 2005 August 16 - 11:59 pm
The first steps.

There's a new woman in the dating picture, but I'm not going to give you any details about her just yet. After my last experience, I've decided to wait a bit more before going public.

Several women have asked me about online dating etiquette: How long do you email each other before meeting in person? Should you talk on the phone before meeting? What should the first date be like? How should the date end?

I think meeting in person should happen fairly quickly. Some people like a long email courtship, and I don't have a problem with that, because I'm a prolific emailer. But I don't think you should expect to really get to know anyone over email. I get all the basic information from the online profile, and email correspondence doesn't really tell me much more, except whether the person is a good email writer or not. For me, if I'm interested to begin with, I'm ready to meet a woman as soon as I can tell that she's real (i.e. that she's not a front for a Russian mail-order-bride agency).

Talking on the phone doesn't help much either (though I'm sure other people would disagree). I just can't get a sense of a woman over a low-fidelity audio connection. I need to be able to see her body language.

So really, the whole online dating process just serves as an icebreaker. There's no substitute for meeting in person.

When it comes to the first in-person date, a lot of people do it wrong. I think people expect that the first date is going to go perfectly, that there will be fireworks, and that it'll be the start of something magical. So when things don't go well, they're not prepared for it, and there's a bunch of awkwardness and discomfort.

Thus, when I plan a first date, I make sure it's something with a defined ending. I don't set a time limit on the date, but I make sure that eventually, there'll be a good reason for me to leave. That way, I'm never in the position of having to come up with an excuse to terminate a bad date. If the date happens to be going well, they'll always be an opportunity for a second date. No need to get the whole relationship accomplished all in one fell swoop.

A drink or a cup of coffee generally makes for a good first date, because it gives you the opportunity to talk, but it doesn't lock you into a huge time commitment. A meal can be a nice sensual experience, but it's certainly more of a commitment, especially if it's dinner. (It can be horrible to realize you want to leave when the appetizers haven't even arrived yet.) Sometimes I'll start with a drink and segue into dinner if the date is going well.

At the end of the date, if I'm interested in the woman, I'll definitely tell her I want to see her again. But I'll try to avoid putting her on the spot by saying something like, "Do you want to get together again this Friday?" And I definitely won't ask her if she finds me attractive or if she's "interested", because on a first date, people are still trying to be polite. The odds of getting an honest answer to those questions are slim. Instead, I'll tell the woman that I'll call her, or that I'll send her an email. That way, she'll have some time to think about things. It's not like trying to sell a timeshare or something... I don't need to get an immediate response to close the sale. It's better to give a person a little room to breathe.

If I'm not interested, I'll usually just say, "Well, it was nice meeting you", and leave it at that. That should be the universal polite way of saying "I really don't want to see you again." If she tries to set up a second date, I'll say, "Sure, why don't you give me a call, or send me an email?"

I'm thrilled when I meet other people who follow this etiquette, because it makes the whole process a lot less awkward.

I should have another chance to put this into practice soon...
Permalink  5 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: dating


Comment #1 from LizD (Guest)
2005 Aug 17 - 12:06 pm : #
Ah, well, it's been a long time since I dated, but way back in the old days, pretty much every guy said he'd call. It was an almost universal lie. Is there another way to phrase that?
Comment #2 from John C (Guest)
2005 Aug 18 - 7:43 pm : #
Yeah see... I would put them on the spot. What I might say is "I really enjoyed myself tonight. Would it be all right if Icalled you on Friday?". Permission based dating
Comment #3 from elizabeth (Guest)
2005 Aug 19 - 8:37 pm : #
you remind me of Tom Hanks' character in Sleepless in Seattle. When he said that dinner was too long so you need to have drinks only on a first date.

the problem with 'the code' language is that not everyone has the same one. It would make it so much easier if they did.
Comment #4 from Dating Suzie (Guest)
2008 Feb 25 - 6:47 am : #
To me online dating is also rather an "icebreaker" and not the perfect dating solution. If I am interested in a guy I usually try to meet him in person as soon as possible, because I can decide only then if I am REALLY interested. When I am not interested I handle it in quite the same way as you do.
Comment #5 from Dating Suzie (Guest)
2008 Feb 25 - 6:50 am : #
To me online dating is also rather an "icebreaker" and not the perfect dating solution. If I am interested in a guy I usually try to meet him in person as soon as possible, because I can decide only then if I am REALLY interested. When I am not interested I handle it in quite the same way as you do.
But I hate it when men don't let me know if they like it or not. It has happened to me already two times that I met a guy from the internet who I though was really interested in me and never heard of them again.

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