(Non) Romantic Notions: Takeaways from Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance

 

Fits right in with my decor.

Fits right in with my decor.

Having picked Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance: An Investigation as the selection for my group’s book club, I feel like I can probably talk about the information gleaned from it for days on end. After all, I led a few meetings where we delved deep into what it all meant for those of us who were/are still wading in the dating pool. It’s a tome that felt so relevant to my life over these past few years, meaning it was ripe for discussion.

If you’ve read my previous post about the things I learned from our first book club read, Calling in “The One”: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life, you’ll understand that love, life, and bettering one’s self are constant themes that I reflect on. Modern Romance was a great continuation of our investigation into the idea of relationships without the urge to throw the book at the wall as we experienced with book two, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (not our choice, but we stuck it out), which seemed to set the whole idea of equality back and then some. Instead, Modern Romance has a present day sensibility and humour that makes it easy to relate to.

Our last meeting was in January. A lot has happened since then. I’ve allowed my thoughts about Modern Romance to stew, and these are the points that still stick out in my mind. They’re not necessarily things that make you feel like love is out there, or that romance is possibly around every corner. In fact, some of the findings from Aziz Ansari’s research and interviews has me questioning whether or not romance can even be found in modern life; have we stripped all notions of romance away? Yet, this is the reality for a lot of people today, myself included, and, for better or worse, we’ll muddle our way through it until we’re happy.

1) Online Introduction Services

With the Internet came the biggest change in the way we date. We’re no longer relegated to people like our neighbours and schoolmates. The pool is large and vast, and it’s online. Our biggest problem with online dating is that it is often seen by users as an instant way to find a soul mate. When we first sign up, we see so much potential and, often, our expectations can be high. But, those of us who have had the pleasure of sifting through all of those profiles know that it’s actually a huge chore and a lot of work. Usually, the outcome isn’t great. What I took away from Modern Romance is that you can’t go into online dating thinking of it as DATING. All dating sites or apps are essentially introduction services. Nothing more. It’s a way for you to reach out to someone you may never otherwise have a chance of coming into contact with. However, once you do, it’s up to both parties to put in the effort (i.e. actually talk, really make plans to meet).

2) Don’t Be So Judgemental

People are too quick to judge. They make snap decisions and refuse to give someone good a chance. Sometimes the reasoning might be sound. On other occasions, it just seems like it’s because we/they didn’t fulfill all of the boxes of perfection. Maybe we’re scared of opening up to a new person and that’s why we back out so fast. I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that there are times, for me, when it seemed like a meeting went well and the signs were there, but it still went nowhere. Now, I find myself wondering, what if? What if I had given so and so a second date? What if that guy didn’t ghost me after we met and he actually took the time to get to know me past that hour-long coffee date? He might not be my boyfriend, but maybe he’d end up being my friend. You never know.

3) What is Chemistry?

Chemistry is a funny idea. We’ve all experienced it. That sense of attraction to someone that just can’t be explained is something people continually seek out in friends and partners. Why do we have to have that off the bat though? In the past, I’ve found that I’ve become more attracted to someone the longer I know them. As friends, you learn a lot about each other and you’ve got that comfort that doesn’t necessarily appear out of the blue with someone who is, more or less, a stranger. Chemistry is great, and the idea of it has been around for a long time. However, living in the age we do now – constant connection and immediate access to our social spheres – we’ve become accustomed to the feeling of instant gratification and it’s not always a good thing. Sometimes the best outcomes take time.

4) No Talking Allowed

When I say no talking, I mean out loud and face-to-face. It has become the norm to text using your smart phone rather than to pick up the phone and make a call. I’m not sure of when we started fearing the idea of hearing each others’ voices, but it has happened. I know people who avoid speaking to someone over the phone whenever possible, and I find it funny because it’s not my favourite thing either anymore. Yet, rewind to when I was in junior high and high school, and I loved to phone up my friends just to catch up with them. Granted, we didn’t have the ability to text back then, but the sound of someone’s voice is so much more telling and warm than font on a screen, isn’t it?

5) Technology Has Ruined Romance

I might be exaggerating a little bit. Today’s dating endeavours are aided by the use of technology. But, all of it can be a bit of burden, too. Technology creates the ties that bind us, and, while it’s helpful, we’ve sort of lost that ability to communicate well. With that, we’ve also lost some of that spontaneity that many of us grew up with. No longer can we be satisfied with an impromptu date at the closest taco place. No, we’ve got to find the best possible date and the top-rated Mexican cantina in town before we even fathom going out. It’s all or nothing.

Look at all of those stickies.

Look at all of those stickies.

6) Too Much of Something is Bad Enough (thanks, Spice Girls)

Endless options create less satisfaction and make us more indecisive. Have you ever gone to a restaurant where the menu goes on for pages? You’re sitting there with your friends and none of them can make up their mind because, every time they flip the page, there’s another item that catches their eye. Dating today is like that, multiplied by 1,000. Is there someone better than the person I’m seeing? I want the best. The problem is, you’ll never know if you’ve got the best until you’ve sampled 100 per cent of the offerings, which is impossible. So, if you find someone you like who makes you happy, just be happy with them and don’t overthink it.

7) Quid Pro Quo

We often want what we’re not willing to give in return. I went to Aziz Anzari’s stand up show in San Diego last year. During the event, he asked the audience what approach they take when they’re not interested in someone: a) tell them, b) pretend to be busy, or c) say nothing. The audience was most responsive to Options B and C. On the flip side, when Aziz wanted to know how we’d prefer to find out that someone wasn’t interested in us, the majority cheered for Option A. Aziz thought that was a double standard and he was right. We ask for honesty and straightforwardness from others even when we refuse to offer the same.

8) The Non-Existent Relationship Status

Let’s just call it what it is. Early on, when getting to know someone, I totally understand that the relationship status is going to be in limbo. It’s likely that neither party has made a decision about where they want things to go yet. However, past that first meet and greet, I want it to be clear whether or not the next get together is an actual date. “Hanging out” is a term that I want to disappear unless it’s used in the context of friendship. I think that guys often utilize it because they want to be casual about things and women might say that because they don’t want to seem too eager. Either way, it’s frustrating when you get stuck in that zone.

9) Burn the Rule Book

There are many so-called rules of dating, but these “rules” can be debilitating. They’re ridiculous to follow and they’re often contradictory, so throw them out the window. For example, if the person on the other end is so judgmental about you replying to their text within minutes of you receiving it, then they really have nothing better to think about. People often reply quickly out of courtesy or because they know they’re forgetful when they wait, not because they don’t have a life. Being in “game” mode all the time is tiring and a waste of thought and effort. The rule is that there are no longer any rules.

10) Stigma Be Damned

Online dating used to be frowned upon by many. It probably still is by a few, but the stigma has certainly waned. Most singletons I know have tried it, and those who have been in long-term relationships and have never had a chance to use it themselves seem curious about how well it works. I would say that full acceptance depends on the forum (i.e. Tinder vs. Match), but even ideas about various sites and apps are changing over time. Regardless, the notion of meeting your significant other online isn’t so far-fetched nowadays. In fact, it’s more common than you’d guess.

Have you read Modern Romance? What were your takeaways? I’d love to hear in the comments section below.

Notes, notes and more notes.

Notes, notes and more notes.

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Speed Dating: Tips to Ensure a Fun Time

It has been a little over a year since I went speed dating for the first time. I was 28 years old and my friend talked me into joining her. It turned out to be an interesting experience and more fun than I imagined, so it might come as no surprise that I tried it two more times before the year was out. None of those outings led to anything serious, save for a friend of the female persuasion – we’re apt to take those new to Edmonton under our wings. Thus, I found myself thinking about the next step.

I’m now 29. I celebrated my champagne birthday in 2014. All of my friends know I’m single and willing to mingle, but here’s the problem: no one has single male friends to set me up with. The friend that dragged me along to speed dating has found someone for herself, so I’m feeling like a bit of a lone wolf. Now, I’m not saying that I must have a man in my life in order to be happy. On the contrary. But, hey, the notion of having a guy who’s there for me is still nice.

This led me to my latest attempt at the 5-minute date. I’m not saying it worked, but this was my one and only stab at it without a friendly sidekick.

Quite honestly, it had been a crazy week and I was running on fumes. However, I prettied myself up, put a smile on my face and headed to the venue. I couldn’t find the host when I arrived, so I grabbed a drink at the bar and then made fast friends with a couple of ladies that I quickly pinpointed as other attendees. Neither had ever gone speed dating before, so I talked to them about my previous experiences. Trying to dole out advice when you obviously haven’t had the best success yourself is kind of hard, yet people still want to know. I understand that mentality because I’ve learned from trial and error, and I know you can probably prep yourself for a better outcome.

Here are my tips for speed dating (some can even be applied to first dates in general):

1) Be yourself. You want the people you meet to like you for who you are, not who you’re pretending to be.

2) Don’t take things too seriously. This is a first meeting! Yes, you want to make a good impression, but you may come across as stiff and uptight if all you care about is finding “the one” and you don’t ease up a bit. In fact, you’ll probably scare the other person off.

3) Put some effort into your appearance, but refrain from looking like you’re extremely high maintenance. Keep things business casual in terms of dress.

4) Be polite. Shake the person’s hand and repeat his name when he introduces himself.

5) Smile because it’s more welcoming, and make eye contact.

6) Don’t be intimidated. This is especially the case when speed dating because you’re essentially seeing the rest of the competition. However, remember that you’re just as awesome as everyone else there and that you have a lot to offer as well.

7) Know that you will have to be “on” for probably two hours at speed dating, which can seem daunting. But, it goes by so much faster than you think it will, and you’ll find that the conversation and the laughs come fairly easily.

8) The speed dating company says to avoid asking what people do for a living. I understand their thinking. Not everyone is in love with their job. Yet, it seems to inevitably come up anyway, so just go with it. And, if you’re uncomfortable talking about it, try to steer the conversation elsewhere.

9) I never really do this, but maybe think of a couple of conversation starters beforehand. My go to topics are: where he’s from, where he’s traveled and probably something about food.

10) On the other side of that equation, do NOT come in with a script prepared. I’ve sat through a meeting like that and it was a very forced conversation. The guy was looking to check his boxes and that was about it. Conversation should feel natural.

11) Keep the conversation light. You have five to eight minutes to feel this person out. Try to get a sense of their personality.

12) If a couple of minutes go by and you’re not feeling that interested, DON’T zone out. It’s rude. Stay friendly, you’ll make it through. Also, concentrate on the conversation you’re having, not what those next to you are talking about.

13) Avoid getting your hopes up ahead of time. Keep expectations realistic. You might not meet your ideal soulmate and that’s okay.

14) View this as an opportunity to network and make friends.

15) Try not to divulge too much personal information to every single date. This is just for safety’s sake.

16) Sometimes it can get loud in the venue, especially when the space is small. You literally may have people sitting just inches away from you, so you’re going to have to speak up. Make sure to keep hydrated, so you don’t lose your voice.

17) Write the person’s name down on the card as soon as you meet. Make a few notes if you’re not certain they’re a “yes” or “no” for you and go back to those later. However, I’d suggest not leaving your decision too long because it’s easy to mix up names, faces and conversations when you’re meeting so many people (usually 10 to 12, but I’ve seen more) in one night.

18) You’re going to meet a lot of people – it’s like The Bachelorette during the first episode of the season – so you may need to step out of your comfort zone. If it eases the situation, bring a friend you know can reassure you.

19) I wasn’t always the most outgoing person, so these types of events aren’t necessarily my favourite. But, try going it alone at least once because it does push you to converse with others. It’s like dating practice and the confidence you’ll probably attain from making it through the situation will most likely help in other facets of your life.
I hope that these tips help in your dating endeavours. After all, if you’re going to put yourself out there, make the process as painless and entertaining as possible for yourself.

Looking to go speed dating? Check out these local organizers:

Fastlife – an international company that specializes in speed dating and singles events

Rendezvous Club – North America’s premier singles company

Troop of Foxes – Alberta based speed dating hosted at Red Star Pub. Watch their Twitter page (@troopoffoxes) for updates on their next event.

Things I Learned From a Book About Finding Love

One of the daily practices prescribed in the book, Calling in "The One."

One of the daily practices prescribed in the book, Calling in “The One.”

My friend talked a couple of us into starting a book club with her. The book was Calling in “The One”: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life by Katherine Woodward Thomas. Needless to say, I was skeptical. It ultimately took half a year to finish, but I did it. Six months for a seven week program, or approximately 178 days versus the 49 it should supposedly take. The point is, it was more drawn out than it should have been.

Nevertheless, we juggled our work schedules, hobbies, social lives along with the readings and exercises, and, eventually, we managed to finish our final discussion. It has been about a month since our group last met, and I’m not sure the premise of the book worked. It may have for one of my friends, just not for me. Not yet, anyway. Granted, it doesn’t guarantee love is going to magically appear in your life within the time allotted on the cover.

Rather, as I worked my way through the pages from cover to cover, I understood that it’s not about doing things to make you seem more attractive on the surface. Instead, it’s a matter of getting to know who you are as a person, aiming to better yourself, and knowing that what you put out there is what you hope to receive in return because that’s what you deserve, for better or worse.

Honestly, I never imagined I’d read a book like this. I didn’t think it would come down to that. Then again, I never used to think I’d try speed dating or online dating, so never say never! However, despite my reservations, I found the author’s writings to be quite interesting and insightful, even when I felt like the examples didn’t quite apply to me. So, if you’re interested in giving Calling in “The One” a go, I’d recommend it.

If you’d prefer not to, but you’re wondering what kinds of nuggets are tucked away in the tome, I thought it would be good for me to list out the most important things I learned (or, at least, was reminded of) and to share them with you.

We are connected to everyone and everything.

We are connected to everyone and everything.

1. We might all live in our own little bubbles at times, but it’s important to remember that you are connected to everyone and everything. Think of the butterfly effect.

2. It’s necessary to make room for people in your life. If you cannot literally set aside space or time for them, you’re probably not mentally ready for a relationship.

3. Know what makes you happy and understand that you are allowed to be a bit selfish. Ask for what you want and need. Be okay with what people are willing and able to give to you.

4. Be the person you want to attract in your life. For example, you can’t expect to snag someone who’s ambitious if you’re perpetually lazy.

5. Have an idea of what you want in life. Vision boards can help you better visualize your goals and possibly guide you towards them.

6. Understand that you’re a work in progress and so is everyone else in this world. People are not perfect, but it’s important to be the best we’re capable of being at any given moment.

7. Believe that sometimes a loss is actually a gain. Often times, things happen for a reason, even if the reason isn’t clear at first.

8. Avoiding toxic ties and all around negativity is paramount in life. If we stew in all the bad, it makes it really hard to wash it out. Strive to be as positive as possible and only keep those whom you trust and who make you happy in your inner circle. Read about my quest for positivity here.

9. Take each mistake or failure as an opportunity to learn and improve yourself.

10. Life and love may not turn out to be exactly as you pictured, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Be open to possibilities.

11. Nurture any passions you have or think you might have because they build your character and make you who you are.

Simple pleasures can make a big impact.

Simple pleasures can make a big impact.

12. Live in the moment. Appreciate things as they happen because it may be your one and only chance to experience it. Show gratitude for even the smallest things because simple pleasures often make the biggest impact.

13. Know your own boundaries and don’t be afraid to draw lines if you need to. Others should have the decency to respect them. You’re allowed to say no and to speak up for yourself.

14. Your worries really can be put in a box and forgotten about until you wish to bring them out again. This one probably requires a little bit of explaining. One of the practices we were tasked with doing one week was to select a box, decorate it and then fill it with all of your worries. When you were done, you literally sealed them away. It made me realize that life can be overwhelming. We’re often trying to deal with multiple things at once. Yet, sometimes, it’s best to deal with difficult situations one at a time. It’s kind of a daunting thought, but if something isn’t solved right away, it’ll always be there later. For me, when I put my stresses on paper and then tucked them into my wisdom box, I felt so much lighter, and, truthfully, since I did that, I haven’t really dwelt as much on each and every thing that had been weighing me down.

15. There’s no point in having regrets about the past. You can’t change the past (unless you have a time machine). Just be sure to do the things you want to do now (as long as it’s feasible for you), so you don’t have any regrets in the future.

16. There are things I’d love to change about myself physically. However, it’ll either take a lot of time or it’s simply not going to happen (save for a body swap), so know that nobody has a truly perfect body (not even supermodels). You can be thankful for every inch of yourself for some reason or another. Ex. I wish my legs were longer and a lot slimmer, but, hey, I have legs and they give me the ability to walk. Win!

17. Cultivate solitude. You need to know who you are by yourself to know who you are when you’re with others. Read my post about being alone, but not lonely here.

18. Take some risks. Be a “yes” person.

Writing this post is my version of a personal risk. I probably would have been embarrassed to tell people about something like this in the past, but, nowadays, I believe that sharing is caring. I hope these words may inspire some of you or help you on your journeys in life and love. All the best!

Being Alone Does Not Mean Being Lonely

A reflective selfie taken on a trip to Toronto.

A reflective selfie taken on a trip to Toronto.

I’m very aware that my writings have become very food-centric these past several months. Chalk it up to having a goal to try as many top 100 Edmonton restaurants as possible and sticking to it, which I’ll have you know is actually a difficult thing for me. To my friends, it may look like I tend to have my ducks in a row, but, more often than not, I find myself procrastinating. The fact that I started on a journey, so to speak, and have managed to continue with it this long is a feat. I talk as if I’ve never accomplished anything in my life, but that is not true. I saw through finishing my undergrad and masters programs, things I can be proud of, but I’m sorry to say that I’ll probably never have a musical career because I gave up playing the guitar after two years of lessons.

That intro is a convoluted way of saying that I’m amazed I’ve run a marathon with this whole blogging thing thus far, and while I love eating and writing about my food adventures, that is not the only topic I want to discuss on my site. The name of my blog was a thoughtful combination of the things I really enjoy in life, and my articles or stories have evolved to incorporate happenings or interests that have come up along the way. I want to get back to making this a more well-rounded conversation, one that isn’t entirely focused on dining and/or an Edmonton-only audience.

Therefore, my chat with a co-worker/friend after work this past Tuesday gave me an idea for something that I feel is important to talk about.

The discussion came about because she was wondering why I was still at the office past 5pm. I told her it was because I was going to the Bahamas concert later that evening at the church across the street, and I was going to kill some time on the computer until the show. Of course, concerts being typically social things, she asked who I was going with. My reply was that I was going by myself. While friends, including her, were originally interested in joining me, none of them came through with purchasing their tickets, and it left me attending solo. I could easily have lied and said someone was meeting me there, so I wouldn’t sound like a “loser,” but I went with the truth because there’s no shame in doing anything by yourself. Her response was that “I was so cool” to do that, which I take as a great compliment because, I guess, it means I’m a secure enough person to not need anyone else. It also made me question why she thought it was such a unique thing. I used to regularly sit in fancy restaurants eating meals alone. The dishes were delicious. Not having anyone to go with wouldn’t stop me. I’ve gone to plays or to see films as a single. I’ve traveled without others and discovered what was unknown to me in cities by using my own direction-challenged mind. The thing is, I hadn’t done that in quite a while. This week’s concert was the first time in months, maybe even a year, that I’d find myself alone.

Sitting by myself inside McDougall United Church, waiting for Bahamas to start their show.

Sitting by myself inside McDougall United Church, waiting for Bahamas to start their show.

I’ve spent more time out and about this year than I can remember, and usually with other people. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a social butterfly, appreciating the time I get to spend with all of my friends (goodness knows that life is fleeting and things change so quickly, so take whatever you can with those that matter – I’ll miss you my latest food buddy!). There are plenty of benefits to spending time with them and my family. One situation is trying a new restaurant as there is only so much you can eat on your own, but with multiple people you can usually taste a little bit of everything. However, when I think on it, I do feel that I have missed ‘me.’ I’ve become so accustomed to having a companion for everything that I’ve forgotten how great it can be to do things on your own. Whether it’s getting dinner at an eatery, seeing a live show, watching a movie at the theatre or attending a conference, there is a kind of power to doing something by yourself without the need to present an image of who you believe you should be to those who think they know you. This not only applies to in-person situations, but the virtual world of social media as well. I don’t require that each acquaintance know my every move and can judge me for it. You shouldn’t crave that either.

Now, I’m not saying that I think you need to lock yourselves indoors and become hermits. Alone time can always be in the presence of other people. What I’m talking about is the intention of experiencing something without the company of close friends or family. It’s a deliberate attempt to step out of your boundaries, be independent, confident in being on your own, allowing yourself an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of who you really are, and possibly creating new connections. I know some people might be self-conscious in front of strangers, but that’s what they are, strangers. They don’t know you, so it shouldn’t matter if they think it’s weird that you’re on your own participating in things usually relegated to pairs or groups.

Heading to the Toronto City Hall during a visit in 2012. Doing one of the things I love the most - photography!

Heading to the Toronto City Hall during a visit in 2012. Doing one of the things I love the most – photography!

Expectation is that you can’t be alone forever, and showing up without a plus one is sort of sad. I fall victim to that mentality at times. I know it becomes comfortable having a friend with you by your side because society puts so much emphasis on getting out there, being social and having a relationship (if you don’t have a date or some sort of online existence nowadays, you suddenly become an outcast), but I believe that taking the time to discover who you are devoid of the influence of others is crucial in building our character and finding out what we truly like or don’t like. I wasn’t born thinking this way though. As someone who grew up being pretty introverted, it was always a challenge for me to allow myself to be free and willing to do what society dictated. I wasn’t a talkative child. I wasn’t outgoing. I was quiet and shy. Yet, I have moved past that. I’m no longer the wallflower that prefers to stand back, but I have also come to terms with the need and want to do things alone when I know I must. More people have to understand the importance of that to one’s psyche. Whether you’re single, dating or married, I think it’s pertinent to do this throughout your life.

Movies always show people going off on some retreat to “find themselves” as if a weekend away is going to lead to some epiphanies. It goes without saying, real life doesn’t always work that quickly. It requires a constant willingness to evolve and an understanding that answers don’t always come so easily. Yet, if you spend the time to get to know you for you, what you may need might not be or seem so out of reach.

A beautiful shot of the entrance to Somerset House in London. Taken on a solo excursion to see the Valentino exhibit in 2013. I needed a break from my family who had accompanied me on the vacation.

A beautiful shot of the entrance to Somerset House in London. Taken on a solo excursion to see the Valentino exhibit in 2013. I needed a break from my family who had accompanied me on the vacation.

This week’s realization was like a collision of Tuesday’s conversation and the book a couple of friends and I are working through. We started a book club to help each other through our ‘aloneness’ stemming from singledom in what feels like a sea of couples of late. Calling in ‘The One’ was the chosen tome. Still tackling the included exercises, we have just completed Week 5 out of 7, which ends on the idea of cultivating solitude, so should you be uncomfortable going out in public to do things often meant for two or more, work on carving out 5 to 15 minutes or an hour during your week to do nothing at home.

Shut everything down, sit in stillness and listen to what your mind and body say. Most of us have been programmed to think TV, video games and music help us to fill time and drown out boredom, but all of that is really white noise. It is good to veg out with a favourite show once in a while; however, it often becomes our go to. Instead, take your inner monologue to heart and build a clearer picture of what will create a more fulfilled life. Try to use your alone time to be productive and nurture the ideas that you think may become your passions. It can be a fun process that may include learning how to cook wonderful meals, writing an actual letter to a good friend, painting a watercolour, working on a DIY project, focusing on a healthier lifestyle, among many things. One of those growing passions may push you to venture outside on your own, so you can further explore those personal ambitions.

Communal events, when experienced as a singular individual, serve as reminders that there are so many more things and people out there in the world that we have yet to discover and that are simply a step away from the circles that we have already established. You might be surprised to see that you can go to an event without a companion and have just as much fun because there’s nothing wrong with being alone. In fact, it’s pretty darn cool.

Online Dating: Desperate or Genius?

Not wanting to come across as a desperate single woman, but really spurred on by the feedback I received from family, friends and followers after writing my post about speed dating about a month ago, I thought I’d take this time to continue on this path and broach the subject of online dating. I would say that ten years ago when I was still eighteen, that was seen as taboo. Who needs to find friends or love on the Internet? We all thought we would have no problem getting dates. After all, our parents did it the old-fashioned way. We could do it, too.

Well, fast forward to the 2010s and these services that I thought I would never use are now somewhat of a phenomenon. As the human race has become busier in general, we seem to devote less time to meeting new people in-person and more time towards things like work (careers are where it’s at). Don’t get me wrong, it is important to educate yourself – either through school or life – and to make sure you know who you are as an independent person while ensuring you can provide for yourself no matter what. But, maybe that drive gets in the way of exploring the traditional avenues of making new acquaintances that could potentially lead to a significant other.

Verging on thirty years of age, I am at a crossroads. Being that I’m no longer in school, the possibility of sitting next to a guy who could become my next boyfriend is gone. Most of my girlfriends know a dozen other single friends who want to be set up, yet don’t have any single guys to recommend. My married friend’s friends are already wed or engaged, so whenever I go to group events or house parties, I’m basically the only single person there. Short of going to the bar, where else can I turn?

I’ll go where everyone else goes nowadays. ONLINE.

An amazing Single Girl's Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graph.net.

An amazing Single Girl’s Guide to Online Dating graph created by Joanne Chao. Grabbed from Graphs.net.

I’m no expert. So far, this hasn’t worked out that well for me. However, I do believe that sharing my experiences may be a form of therapy and also be helpful to anyone else who’s currently in the same boat.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried five sites including eHarmony, Plenty of Fish (POF), eVow, OkCupid and Zoosk with basically the same results, meaning nothing long-term has come out of using them. Sometimes I get frustrated, wanting to quit using them all together, but there’s always the question of “what if?” That’s not to say all these sites are made equal. Some are definitely better than others. Here’s a rundown of my observations from each.

eHarmony

A screenshot of eHarmony's login page.

A screenshot of eHarmony’s login page.

The biggest thing with this site is that it can seem like a daunting process to fill out every aspect of your profile. It’s a lot to get through at the beginning and if you opt to fill out the Q & A questions – there are close to a thousand – you’ll probably be devoting hours or a couple of days, time that not all of us necessarily have.

What I disliked most about eHarmony when I signed up for it a few years ago, as well as right now, is that going through the Quick Questions, Makes or Breaks and Dig Deeper steps before you even hit eH Mail – the site’s own e-mail type system – is extremely time-consuming if both parties aren’t quick to respond. I always find that, part way through, someone typically disengages and disappears during guided communication (what is wrong with them?), which can be disheartening because you had hoped to make even the smallest connection and that’s lost before you truly have a chance to get to know them.

This is why I always ask those I’m interested in if they would consider going the eH Mail route first – skip all the questions and let’s meet as soon as possible – and sometimes it works. My friend (the one who convinced me to try the site out again this time around) is now seeing where it might go with a guy who opted to do just that. If the guy doesn’t want to skip ahead and they prefer to go with the guided questions, that’s completely fine with me, but at least have the decency to see it through to the point where you can message freely and just be honest – either you’re still interested or not – and go from there. No one wants to be left hanging and wondering where the other went and why they just stopped replying. Perhaps the flightiness comes from the prevalent idea nowadays that there is always something better for you out there.

Another thing I wish I could see is how frequently your so-called matches visit their profile (I couldn’t find a spot on any of the profiles I was given that showed me that information); I have no idea if they have signed in within the last day, week, month or longer, so you might try to reach out and not hear back for a good while. The same goes for knowing if they are subscribers or free users because that will give me a better sense of how quickly we might be able to develop a conversation. If your match is waiting for the next free weekend before he can respond, it’s going to take a whole lot longer.

This site has made me doubtful that paid dating sites (an expensive one at that – try looking for promo codes online before signing up) are better as I have yet to actually meet one of these men in real life. Nevertheless, I now have a yearlong membership and I’ll continue to put it to use. You never know what can happen in that amount of time. I’ll keep trying.

Plenty of Fish (POF)

A screenshot of POF's login page.

A screenshot of POF’s login page.

According to some, it’s the hook up dating site of the Internet, not at all my intentions. But, it’s free and, if you’re willing to stick it out, there are, I’m sure, some decent guys, men, or manboys on there. It gets a bad reputation because there are a lot of people simply seeking out casual relationships as well as those that post inappropriate or provocative pictures (no, we really don’t want to be scrolling through profiles and all of a sudden see a picture of your package) or basically ask for a booty call as soon as you send a response (just because I said hello back, it does not mean I want to sleep with you…I don’t know you!).

The guys on there also tend to refrain from fully reading what you’ve written and tend to send messages that used absolutely no effort. I hate to say it, but, as humans, we base a lot on appearance and image, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little picky. It goes both ways though. I just wish that everyone using this service at least absorb the whole profile a person has decided to share, not just a portion of it before making a decision as to whether or not to respond. It also still frustrates me to no end when people say they want to meet you (stupid “meet me” function) and don’t bother sending you a message (have the balls to say something) or replying when you take the first step and put yourself out there.

There are success stories to be found. My good childhood friend had great luck and found a wonderful man on POF and they’re now engaged to be married this coming summer, so there’s hope!

Although, how long do you hold onto that hope for? I’ve been on my fair share of dates with people I’ve met on this site and, while I wouldn’t say any have been outright terrible, none have been amazing either. Just for fun though, I’ll tell you about the first guy I met from this site. He took me out for brunch on the weekend. We had a good time and great conversation, even mentioning things we might be able to do later in the year when festivals and such rolled around. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t really that attracted to him physically, but he was very nice and I could picture hanging out with him again. But, guess what? I never heard from him after that date. Quite a bit of time passed by and he saw that I still had a profile on POF, so he messaged me. Do you know what he said? He told me that he didn’t understand why I was still on the site. He thought I was so awesome and was surprised that someone hadn’t already snapped me up. I didn’t feel like having that discussion with him, but, in the back of my mind, I thought to myself, “what a weird guy; if you thought I was such a great catch, why didn’t you pursue anything further.”

I do not understand how guys think. They don’t seem to get us either. Therein lies the problem.

Zoosk

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

A screenshot of one of the main pages before logging into or signing up for Zoosk.

This site is a bit like POF. They tout themselves as being free, but there are certain aspects that you need to pay to use. For example, every day you are sent an e-mail with one SmartPick. You have 24 hours to tell Zoosk whether or not you are interested in this person. If you are, and the match is as well, the site puts you in touch with one another. However, there’s a cost associated with that service and without putting out the money, you’re left unable to indicate your feelings towards the profile you’ve been given. The same goes with them notifying you of people who have viewed your profile. You can see who looked at your page, but to view their profile requires that you pay. Of course, there are ways to bypass these issues. You can always sit there scrolling through hundreds of profiles until you find that person again and just message them yourself.

The site seems to overlook the fact that most people are smart enough to use the site within the boundaries of the free features. The extras aren’t really that great. Yes, I cannot message others without paying, but I can download their chat function and converse with someone for free that way.

Regardless of those basic problems with Zoosk, I just found the caliber of people to not be what I was looking for. Also, it seems like they have some sort of built-in preset messages for people to choose from, including some of the cheesiest pick-up lines I have ever heard. Here are some of the ones I received:

Are you a parking ticket? Because you have fine written all over you.

I’m a thief, and I’m here to steal your heart.

I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?

Is your dad an astronaut? Because someone took the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.

Why aren’t you in jail? It’s illegal to look that good.

Are you a leprechaun? Because I think you’re my lucky charm.

I think you’re all capable of being a little more original than that. I’d much rather have someone just say hello and ask me how my day was than be subjected to this, even if it provided a good laugh in the process. I nixed this site quickly because it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

eVow

A screenshot of eVow's main page.

A screenshot of eVow’s main page.

This is brought to you by the creators of POF and it is their version of a serious dating site. It’s not meant for hooking up, casual dating or friendships. You’re meant to find someone who wants to seriously date or get married within the next few years.

That may very well be the intention of some people on there, but, to me, it still seems like a mishmash of people. Also, from observation, it tends to be filled with divorced single dads (nothing against any of you; good on you for taking care of your kids, but I always worry about suddenly finding myself with an instant family or the possibility of it not working out yet there being additional attachments with the children) and a lot more smokers (on POF no one is a smoker, on eVow a lot more people are – they’re being more honest I guess), neither of which are my thing or what I currently want.

Perhaps if you’re okay with the idea of starting a family sooner as opposed to later, this may be the place for you.

OkCupid 

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A screenshot of the OkCupid.com on my desktop, which encourages you to start building your profile immediately.

A friend of a friend told me that she met her boyfriend on OkCupid and that she had the best results on this site, so, naturally, I went home and signed up for it right away.

I found it really interesting to find that while it’s free, it is quite similar to eHarmony. There are hundreds of questions (or more) that you can answer and your responses are compared to those of other users. Your compatibility with them is then calculated – you can see how good you’d be as a couple or as friends and even if you’re more likely to be enemies. It’s almost more refined, in a way, than eHarmony is. The fact that they used your similarities to decide whether or not you would get along with a person is common sense. We gravitate towards those who share the same values and likes as us, but there is also the notion of opposites being attracted to one another. How does that fit in? So, I was looking at this with a healthy dose of skepticism.

There is also a lot of crossover on all of these dating sites. You can see I’ve tried almost all of the major ones and I can tell you that you will see duplicate profiles. Here’s another story of mine.

I started seeing this one guy that I met on POF. He was sweet, well-educated, but also socially awkward in that he was extremely shy and never really knew what to say or how to keep his side of the conversation flowing. He happened to also have a profile on OkCupid that I found after our first meeting. Based on OkCupid’s system, what was our likelihood of being a good match, you ask? Not great. According to the site, we were only about 42 percent compatible. I did find it harder to talk to him because it usually came down to me having to come up with things to do or discuss, but I wasn’t giving up so easily. There were moments when I could see him being more open and loosening up, so we went out several times. However, periodically I would see that he’d viewed my profile on OkCupid again and that the percentage shown for our likelihood of being a good couple would have changed slightly. He’s in school doing a PhD to become a mathematician, so maybe he wasn’t satisfied with the low score we originally received and thought that by answering more questions or altering his responses, we might be a great match after all. Being that his life revolved around numbers, it probably would have meant a great deal to him if the site told us we would work out. Ultimately, we didn’t and I had seen the signs.

Currently, I’m not using the site anymore, but based off of that situation, maybe OkCupid is on the right track.

Online Dating Tips:

  • Use current photos where you’re clearly visible so people know what you actually look like (you’re not a blurry head in real life) – maybe it can be viewed as a bit shallow, but, I think, it’s also a precaution in the online world. Also, please don’t steal some model’s photo from the Internet.
  • Don’t have every picture of yourself being a mirror selfie. I am certain that you know someone who is willing to take a proper photo of you.
  • Show yourself doing things that interest you.
  • Avoid posting only pictures of all your trucks, motorbikes and your pets (although the pets are probably adorable). We want to see who you are.
  • Show yourself at your best, not your worst – no one’s dream date is the guy who looks absolutely hammered on his profile. The same goes for when you meet in-person.
  • Don’t copy and paste some generic text into your description because we notice when we read the same thing from one profile to the next.
  • Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. You’ll come across better if you take the time to write proper sentences and paragraphs.
  • Do take a bit of time (not a lot, just a little) to write something interesting about yourself, so we can work with something to get conversation going.
  • Don’t just say “hey,” “you fine,” etc. Obviously, we’re all on here for different reasons, but if I clearly say I’m looking for a relationship, not stating that I want something casual, the online equivalent of a wolf whistle, if you will, is not going to capture my attention.
  • Follow through with messages and meetings – if you took the time to reach out to me and I actually respond, do yourself a favour and reply or make real plans to get together.

These sites can work. Although, they’re not for everybody. You do almost feel like you’re shopping, and there is a certain amount of trust involved. I always say people can lie easily online, but they can also lie to your face. You just have to be smart and go with your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. But, sometimes, I think the hardest part about going the online dating route is syncing what you see on the screen with who you meet face-to-face. Conversation in e-mail might go really well because you both have plenty of time to craft the appropriate things to say (not that most guys do), but once you have nothing to hide behind and you are literally with that person, it can be an intimidating situation for some. That’s when you can tell for sure whether or not a relationship will move along.

This clip with Kristen Wigg having a date with someone she met online while on Jimmy Kimmel Live! is obviously a joke, but it is hilarious and a great amplification of the awkwardness that can happen during a first meeting with someone as well as the weirdness that can follow.

I certainly won’t count this out as an option because it has become so commonplace. People I know seem to be more open to talking about their knowledge of the sites or how they met their significant other through these means. The stigma that society once placed on online dating is slowly dissipating. By refusing to put myself out there in this way, I feel like I might be limiting my chances.

If you happen to still be on the lookout for someone who will be your best friend and who makes you feel loved and happy, you owe it to yourself to give this a try. Like speed dating, the worst case is that you go on some bad or awkward dates, but get some practice and come out with some good stories to tell. Maybe you just make a few friends (you never know, new contacts can increase your probability of meeting people the “normal” way). Or, the best outcome is that it works for you and you find exactly what you’re looking for. Like life, timing is everything. This might be your time. So, take a deep breath and a leap of faith because this could potentially be the start of a brand new day!