Online dating has lost most of its stigma — everyone from grandparents to dwarves has a dedicated dating site. We know from watching TV commercials, plus talking to friends and family members, that long-term, happy relationships can result from a Web match or even speed dating.
Of course, it helps if you know what you’re doing when you start creating a profile. Three Richmond online daters chimed in with what turns them on to a profile and what leaves them cold.
Ken Williams, who works in local government, has been finding dates online for about four years. He has profiles on a couple of different sites, including Match.com, and gets about five to eight responses from women every day.
His top advice for women? “Take a very, very good picture of yourself, but not one that misrepresents yourself,” says Williams. The 44-year-old advises that a woman post more than one picture, and make them active photos — out with friends, having fun. And no glamour shots (if a woman posts a picture in soft focus, Williams is not interested).
He also suggests maintaining a little mystery, no ex-bashing and no mention anywhere of the word “princess.” Honesty is the best policy, especially when it comes to children. Williams once went out with a woman, believing, after a couple weeks of e-mailing, that she had one child. She had four, a fact revealed to him on the date. As you might expect, there was no second date.
Williams acknowledges, though, that men are a bit more honesty-challenged in the online-dating universe. They tend to oversell themselves, including lying about their height. Myths persist that height, foot size and hand size have a relationship to the size of, well, another of man’s attributes. That’s why a guy might add a couple of inches to his height on his online profile, Williams says.
Some guys fudge their height by as much as 7 inches, 25-year-old Lindsay Schoonover learned. The school security officer and part-time bra fitter is 5-foot-1 — not exactly a tall drink of water — and she met a guy for a blind date off Yahoo! Personals. He was 5 feet 2 inches tall but had led her to believe he was about 5-foot-9. “You have to put your best foot forward” and “market yourself” on dating sites, Schoonover says, but honesty is necessary.
Daphne Patterson, a 39-year-old personal trainer, is dating a guy she met online. Although she tried Match.com and eHarmony, Patterson found success at Plentyoffish.com, a free dating site.
Photos are important to Patterson, but so is a witty, intelligent profile — preferably with correct spelling. “Not that I’m a grammar Nazi,” she jokes, but a lot of guys are lacking in the writing department. One of Patterson’s pet peeves is a profile that says next to nothing about the person: “ ‘If you like the picture, hit me up.’ I hate that crap.”
Schoonover, too, wants to see guys make an effort when sending an e-mail, rather than writing the generic, “Hey, what’s up?”
Like Williams, Patterson prefers photos taken in a natural setting, as opposed to a posed picture, although she finds pictures of men with their children a little creepy, simply from a privacy angle. Two things guys also should avoid when writing a profile are joking about how online dating “isn’t going to work” (law of self-fulfilling prophecy) and self-deprecating humor. Keep it positive, Patterson and Williams both say, and make the first date short.
Carrie Daichman, founder of It Takes 2, a Central Virginia-based dating service, often sees folks who have looked online and not found what they were looking for. She screens clients’ personalities and desires and has acted as a matchmaker for thousands of people, to the tune of about two engagements a month. “I don’t want repeat business,” she says with a laugh.
Richmond is a tough market, especially for newcomers to the area, Daichman says. Most people don’t want to date someone from work, so where does that leave you? The bars? Daichman says most of her clients want assurance that the person they’re dating is sincere. “The Richmond area is traditional, slightly more conservative,” she notes.
Schoonover agrees with that assessment, although she sees two different camps of Richmonders: the conservative, married-at-25 crowd and the liberal, arty crowd that’s not looking for a serious commitment yet. She met her last boyfriend at the Barnes & Noble store at West Broad Street and Libbie Avenue, exchanging flirtatious glances in line and later, after an hour’s conversation over coffee, their phone numbers. Her advice: “Try to be open-minded.”
Another modern route for love-seekers is the speed date, where men and women are paired up for a few minutes before moving on to the next prospective suitor. Kristy Passmore organizes speed-dating events at Siné Irish Pub & Restaurant in Shockoe Bottom for Cupid.com/PreDating, and she notes that Richmond is a “harder market” than bigger cities like San Francisco and New York because there are fewer available singles.
The majority of her daters, ages 24 to 59, are white-collar workers, many of whom dress conservatively for the speed dates. Men often wear khakis, sweaters and suits, while women don slacks and blouses — occasionally a pair of nice jeans and a top, but Passmore feels that’s taking it a little too casual for Richmond.
Conversational topics to avoid include politics, exes (surprisingly, not everyone has memorized that rule) and, generally, sports — although Passmore notes that if a woman is a sports fan and talks about her teams, some guys will feel like they’ve discovered the Holy Grail.
Once you’ve met someone, where do you go for your first date? A coffee shop is a reliable, safe place for a blind date, but Daichman’s clients have raved about 3 Monkeys and Can Can Brasserie, restaurants with plenty to look at and discuss. Passmore likes the atmosphere of Capital Ale House, which has locations downtown and in Innsbrook — it’s “somewhat quiet and bright,” while still having a nighttime feel. If she were still single, she says, that’s where she would go on a date.