Online Dating Survival Skills: 5 Things I Do When Things Get Enraging, Scary Or Even Dangerous
It should be noted that this entire post is inspired by those who left comments on my last post. While it's clear that none of you wish me more dating horrors, you like reading about them nonetheless. So this struggle I've been questioning for years has now found a purpose. You've warmed my heart. Thank you.
On to business. I've been in the online dating game for five years now. Yes I just admitted that out loud. You don't hang out in front of a laptop this long without acquiring (among other things), a few defense mechanisms.
Among sexual propositions, offensive comments about my appearance, and cross-hemisphere marriage proposals, there are actually online dating interactions that can hurt or shock me. I've developed a few coping skills that have nothing to do with french fries. I'm so proud of myself.
Why play defense? Why not frisbee my laptop out a window? Because I'm trying. I'm trying to date, to meet new people, and to possibly form a relationship that will bring me joy, laughter, and company. (I have joy in my life without a man, stop penning your comment, it's OK.) Online dating is one of several ways I go about meeting people. A handful (ok a bus full) of keyboard clicking scoundrels will not deter me from my goals. Here we go:
1) Block Him. This is regular practice. Like brushing my teeth. Demanding my phone number after one email? Block. "Hey I think I just saw you on the street." Block. "How do you feel about adventuring?" Block. "Nice bangs, hipster." Tell him to go fuck himself, and then Block. It's a reflex at this point.
Blocking makes me feel safe. Someone I don't want cruising my profile, committing my info to memory, or building a shrine to me in their work locker should not have unfettered access to my profile. It's the one action I can take to feel protected, while still staying in the game. It's the right hook of online dating, and I've got a mean punch.
2) Perspective, Please. Shani, remain calm, this is the internet. This isn't a kindly gentleman holding the door open for me on my way into the dry cleaners. This isn't someone sending me a cocktail from across the room. This certainly isn't me being introduced to someone by a trusted friend who has someone "just perfect" for me. This is the internet, and it's disgusting.
Unwanted contact happens. Offering up myself via online dating is essentially inviting any form of communication, good and bad, and I need to be comfortable with that. Over the years I have actively had to remind myself where I am, and what I'm doing, to avoid giving a literary middle finger to every single message. Take a breath, take a drink, good girl.
3) Confront A Bitch. I will be damned if some sneaky sombitch is allowed to pull the wool over a woman on my watch. There are consequences, and their name is Shani.
Male. Age 33. 5'11. Lives in New York. Except the disclaimer at the beginning of his profile says: "I live in San Francisco but I travel to NYC all the time for work. I'll be in town July 6-11, let's hang out." Aw HELL NAW. Sir, expect an email from me detailing how rude, misleading, and unfair your profile is. Not to mention your efforts at a covert booty call are laughable. Spread your stank around your own city, we're all stocked up here.
I don't confront everyone. I don't care if you're lying about your height or your income. Lies in general don't belong online but they are, relatively speaking, little white virtual lies. The men I confront are misleading women into dating situations that can waste their time, hurt their feelings, or put them in danger.
No one gets away with this, not while I'm online. I don't care if they write back, I don't care what they write back. They will know that someone notices their crap, and actively calls them out on it. Hrmph.
4) Report A Bitch. An action when "Confront A Bitch" wont work because I fear for my safety or the safety of others. Yes, this has really happened.
True story: A man contacted me. He had 5 profile photos. They were all of James Rhine. James Rhine is a former Big Brother contestant currently living in Chicago. This asshole lived in Philly. Most false advertisers use one celeb image and call it a day. But 5? This is dangerous. What if a woman (who has no clue who James Rhine is) were to meet him in public? She'd look for James Rhine and not see him, but this guy could sit across the room and very clearly see her. When she leaves, he can follow. I emailed the site immediately and he was removed from it. FYI I carry mace.
Sometimes I feel like I am the Batman of online dating, protecting others from the dangers of the criminal underbelly. I hate that I even have to do this, but I think we should take care of each other.
5) Retreat! I hate taking a break from online dating. Taking myself out of the mix makes me feel like a coward and a failure. (I know I am neither of these things, this is just how it makes me feel).
My good friend Sophy Singer is a dating coach by profession, and has an intuitive sense for when I need a break -- not a date, or good lay, or a drink, but a real break from this effort. I think it's important to know when I'm tired or struggling. When this is all a bit too much, I rest. But I'll be back, and I'll bring my Block button with me.