How to Date Online (for the single parent).

by mssinglemama on September 18, 2008

I jumped into the online dating pool again last week. And wow is it busy out there…

As a single mom, finding the time to date is hard enough as it is, not even to mention actually findingthe men to date.

So, online dating is perfect for us. We get to curl up in our pajamas, grab a glass of wine and man shop. Yes, I said man shopping.

Sue me. I like my men and yes, I like to shop for men.

When it comes to man shopping, online dating is much easier than a night out at the bars, where your judgement is incredibly clouded by a drunken haze. And while man shopping does feel a bit odd – you can actually narrow your search down to eye color – it can still be romantic. It’s a new age and online dating is now 100% acceptable, if not the norm in some places, and for dating single parents it’s incredibly efficient.

If you’re on the fence, why not just see who’s out there? So far, I’m finding quite a few tasty prospects: a few doctors, a firefighter, a lawyer, and a musician!  Before I tell you the ins and outs – the politics of online dating – here’s a starter course for the beginners, if you’re more experienced move right on:

Online Dating 101 (for beginners)

1. Sign up for free and then you can surf away.

You’ll have to set up a profile with your headline, your description, all of that junk. But don’t stress out. Just write whatever flows because you can go and edit it later. And if you’re on Match or Yahoo, you can set your profile to private so no one can see you. Pretty nifty, huh? So you can search and peak at all of the guys but they won’t know. And you can even set your profile to be non-searchable, meaning you won’t turn up in any public searches. This is a huge plus if you’re worried about privacy. And it means you are completely in control. A man only sees your profile if you contact him first.

Read more on creating the perfect online dating profile here.

2. Prepare yourself for the rejection.

When I first delved into online dating, on e-Harmony, I was surprised at how much the rejection stung. Just like in real life, you throw yourself out there and then you can get slammed down. But – this too shall pass. You’ll become numb to it and you’ll feel better when you flip around and reject someone else. It just goes with the territory. Everyone is on there for the same reason and the virtual divide allows complete honesty.

3. Watch out for profile red flags.

Just like real life red flags, online profiles have them too. One picture? Red flag. Either he doesn’t know how to use a computer (not good) or he is fooling you with the one good picture he has – that, by the way, was shot five years ago. You need multiple pictures. Other red flags… “I just got out of a relationship so I’m back on the market ladies!” Yikes. Stay away from those guys. Unless he’s exceptionally hot and you’re just looking for fun. My point is this – read profiles carefully and listen to your gut.

Now you’re ready for the big time… dating online.

After my disasterous dive into e-Harmony last year, I chose Plenty of Fish this time around. Honestly, because it’s free… and it’s now the top online dating site out there. So here’s the drill, or at least my drill, while swimming with the millions of online daters. (And I’m still a newbie so correct me if I’m wrong.)

1. Surf and throw the bait.

I love Match, Plenty of Fish and Yahoo Personals because you have the power to search profiles. e-Harmony’s “matching system” is a scam, trust me I’ve tried. So, on search dating sites like Match you can narrow your criteria and search for the guy of your dreams. You can even go so far as to narrow him down by eye and hair color. Or, my favorite feature, children! Narrow your search or expand your search. Have fun with it and above all, laugh at yourself – think about it – you are man shopping! It’s funny.

2. The first contact.

You spot a catch. So what’s your first move? An e-mail. Keep it short and sweet. Say something like, “I noticed your profile, check out mine and if you’re interested let me know.” Throw in a comment about something on his profile for bonus points – he may have 20 e-mails to sort through so make yourself stand out. I’ve had SO many e-mail on Plenty of Fish… and I’ve only been on there for a week – but it seems like the guys are copying and pasting the same e-mail to dozens of women. There are no specifics, nothing about me or something they noticed in my profile. But don’t go overboard.

3. The reply.

He may ignore your e-mail, read it and delete it (you can see this on Plenty of Fish), or he’ll write back. So he’s interested. Now what? I hate actually checking my online dating e-mail, so if I feel comfortable I give them my personal e-mail or my MySpace page. Asking for a MySpace or Facebook page is fantastic because, unlike the dating sites, MySpace and Facebook give you an instant read into their personality, their style, their taste in music, their friends. Once I’ve checked out their MySpace or Facebook page then I’ll ask if we can chat on the phone.

4. The phone call.

A phone call is a must before you meet. You’re a single parent – dating, unfortunately, takes precious time away from you alone time and your kid time. Use the phone call as a chance to test the waters. Does he make you laugh? Does he ask about your day? Keep it brief if you can. Once I hit it off marvelously with a man on the phone – an e-Harmony guy – we talked for hours. And then, a few days later when we met, and there was absolutely no spark, it was incredibly awkward. I basically had to tell him I wasn’t physically attracted to him. Not cool. So keep the phone call brief and if you’re feeling a click – ask him out on the first date.

5. The date.

To avoid an awkward date from hell, put a time limit on the first date from the start. Say something like, “Tuesday will work but I have to be at the gym (insert other excuse here) by 7:00.” And then, if you’re having an amazing time you can change your plans and say, “Oh, I’ll just skip the gym.” If you’re having a horrible time, get the hell out of there and go meet your girlfriends. Another great idea – meet during your lunch break at work – you’ll only have 45 minutes.

6. The virtual dump.

So it didn’t work out? No big deal. Send him an e-mail like this one.

Done and done.

Above all… have fun! My status – I have a date with a hot firefighter from Plenty of Fish! I’m thinking next week, but he doesn’t know that yet. I still have to call him to set it up. As always, I’ll keep you posted…

Another post you might like:

»MySpace, Facebook and Dating in the Virtual World

Related posts:

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  2. Breaking News: A really, really cool single parent network!
  3. Online Dating: Rules of Thumb
  4. Why online dating gets a bad name…
  5. Does your online dating profile need a make over?

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