Author: GardenGirl

Writing that all-important first message

Writing that all-important first message

Last time we covered how to create a kick-ass dating profile that will get you noticed. This time we’ll talk about the next logical step—writing that all-important first message to someone who interests you.

Okay, so you’ve gotten your bearings on the dating site, you’ve been looking at different profiles, and you’ve found a couple people you’d like to know more about. You need to write some messages!

First it’s important to know how messaging works on the site you’re using. Depending on whether you have a free or paid membership, messaging capabilities may be different. Some sites offer free messaging, but many don’t. If you aren’t able to message other users, you absolutely must figure it out. Why? Because being able to send and receive messages is critical to success on any dating site. Messages are the equivalent of going up to someone and engaging them in conversation. That’s how relationships are started—not through sending out random “likes” or “smiles.” So figure out messaging however you need to, but do figure it out.

Now that you have messaging capabilities, it’s time to get to work!

My most important piece of advice: do not send a first message that says “Hello beautiful,” or “How are you doing, sexy?” That will get you exactly nowhere. Those kinds of messages are a dime a dozen, plus they sound a wee bit creepy. If you walked up to someone and said, “How are you doing, sexy?” they’d probably roll their eyes and walk away. And they’ll do the equivalent of that on a dating site. I can make an educated guess that these kinds of messages will get you a response about five percent of the time.

Strange or awkward first messages also will land you flat on your face. These might sound cute, funny or clever to you, but to the person on the receiving end they just sound…well, strange. The strangest one I’ve received of late – “I’m not a drinker but I see that you are. I don’t care if you drink, as long as you’re not an alcoholic.” Awww. Be still my heart! That’s a great example of what NOT to say (needless to say, I did not respond). There will be plenty of time later to talk about more serious things, but for the first message you need to keep it light and stay focused on the positive. If you’re truly enthralled with this person, you should be able to find something to say that’s interesting, upbeat and even a little playful.

Remember – this is your chance to shine and stand out from the crowd. Focusing on someone’s looks or their alcohol habits won’t do that, believe me.

So what should you write? First and foremost, read the person’s profile. I cannot stress this enough! Read the profile, read the profile, read the profile. You are gathering critical information for your message. Are any of their interests similar to yours? Do they mention pets, sports, or a favorite movie? Do they talk about travel or perhaps a love of reading? Do the two of you share political or religious beliefs? Do you like the same music? ANY of those topics will make a better first message than “Hello beautiful” or warnings about alcohol use.

Better yet, identify two or three things that intrigue you about their profile and write a message about all of them.

You also need to give them something to respond to. I was communicating with a man for a while and his messages amounted to, “Happy Tuesday!” or “Thank God it’s Friday!” Okay. But what am I supposed to say to that? “Happy Tuesday to you too.” Bye-bye now.

So ask a question, tell them an interesting fact about yourself, comment on something you noticed in one of their photos. Give them something to grab onto so they have a topic or question to respond to. That’s how you get a conversation going. Saying “Happy Tuesday” and nothing more leaves no opening for them to run with.

Your first message should be relatively short (but not too short—aim for about 75-100 words) and demonstrate that you have read their profile and you’re not just sending out thirty identical messages to see who responds.

Once you have the topic of your message down, start writing. And yes, there are guidelines on this part too. Most importantly: use punctuation and do a spelling and grammar check before you send the message! You would not believe how many messages I’ve gotten that have no punctuation—no commas, no periods. Nothing. These messages are like a vomit of words and they tell me all I need to know about this person. Quite frankly, I shake my head and then delete these nonsensical messages, not giving them another thought. Punctuation is crucial to an articulate message. And spelling and grammar errors are a serious turn off. You have spell check on your phone. Use it.

So craft your message using the guidelines above. Then read your message—and then read it again. Read it a third time just for good measure. Once you’re certain that everything is in order, then you can send it.

If you need a little extra help to get you started, here’s an example of a good first message:

“I really like your profile and I want to know more about you. You love music just like I do, and we both have dogs. I saw the picture of you and your beagle. I have a lab and her name is Sadie. What’s your dog’s name? I noticed you have photos of New York City on your profile. I love NYC and I’ve been there twice. What’s your favorite thing about New York? I love your grace and confidence and I’d like to get to know you. My name is Michael, by the way.”

Why is this a good message? Because you mentioned three things that this person clearly likes (music, dogs, and NYC), thus demonstrating that you took the time to read their profile; you built a bridge between the two of you by pointing out your similarities (again, music, dogs, and NYC); you paid them a subtle compliment; and you asked two questions, thus giving them something to respond to—all in just under 100 little words. Oh, and you used punctuation. Although I can’t guarantee a response (whether or not you get a response depends on a lot of factors), you just increased the likelihood of a response by a significant margin over the lazy “Hello beautiful” message.

So read the profile, craft an articulate, thoughtful message, and sit back and wait for the response to come back.

Try it, and do let me know if you’re successful.

Advice for Men: How to Create a Compelling Dating Profile

Advice for Men: How to Create a Compelling Dating Profile

I’ve been doing online dating for well over a year and, while I can’t call myself an expert, I’ve made many observations. But wait. Maybe I am an expert, because, let’s face it, anyone who has tried nine different dating sites, interacted with close to two hundred men, and looked at more than five hundred profiles, is an expert, isn’t she? So I am an expert, and I have what I hope is helpful advice for all you men out there who are swimming in the turbulent waters of online dating. Some of this stuff should be common sense but…well, clearly it isn’t. So here goes.

Guys, take a decent picture of yourself! And that means not sitting in your car, in the bathroom mirror with the toilet in the background, or with other people in the picture (it’s bad form to post someone else’s photo on a dating site, plus no one should have to wonder which one is you, or who the woman is that’s next to you in the photo). Your profile photo is how you first grab someone’s attention, so make it count! If your main profile photo is turned on its side, taken from far away, too close, too blurry, or you look like you haven’t showered in three weeks, your prospective dates will move on to the next guy. Trust me on this.

And I see so many profile pics of men who aren’t even cracking a smile. Seriously, some of them look as if they’ve just lost their best friend. Smiles and eye contact are how humans make connections with other humans. And making a connection with another human is what you’re trying to do, aren’t you? I hope so, or why bother? A genuine smile can transform your face, make you look approachable and friendly, maybe even make you look younger and more handsome. Genuine smiles grab people’s attention. So take a deep breath and SMILE. Practice in the mirror if you have to, but get it down.

Once you have the smile mastered, put on a nice shirt in a flattering color, comb your hair, stand up straight (Yes, stand. Please don’t take a selfie while sitting in your recliner or lying on the couch.), focus on your head and shoulders (i.e., your face), look right in the camera, smile, and snap that picture. Keep on snapping until you get a good one. Try different angles. Try different smiles. Keep on snapping. Ideally, you should have ten or even twenty photos to choose from. If you can’t decide which one is best, show your photos to a trusted friend and get their opinion.

And you know that fancy phone you pay top dollar for each month? Guess what? It has a selfie function. It also has a timer. So you can either take a photo of yourself with the selfie function, or—if you want a full body shot—you can prop up the phone to point at you (books work well), press the timer, get in position, and snap your picture. This means that it is completely unnecessary to take your photo in the bathroom mirror. Yep, it is absolutely, positively, completely unnecessary to take your photo in the bathroom mirror. Please don’t do it.

If you really want to get serious about getting a good full body shot, buy yourself an Echo Look, available from Amazon. This nifty little machine will take a full body selfie in the blink of an eye—no books or bathroom mirrors required. Yes, for real. I have one so I know.

And this next part should go without saying, but clearly not everyone got the memo. No dick pics. No guns, knives or other weapons. No photos of you in your Spider-Man costume. No pics of nothing but your torso. No memes. No pictures of inanimate objects. Any of these will have very limited appeal, and some of them will get you kicked off the dating site in short order (I’m a moderator on one of the sites, so trust me on this one). Any dating site requires that your main profile picture be of you, which means your face. If it’s not, someone will report you and you will be removed. Period.

Once you have a good photo of yourself, upload it. If it appears tilted on its side, FIX IT! No one can see you properly when your picture is sideways, and this looks silly and amateurish. Why is this important? Because you want them to see YOU. So please don’t post a sideways pic. If you crop the photo on top and bottom, sideways pics won’t happen. So crop the photo and upload it again. Keep cropping until the picture displays right side up.

Once you have a good photo of yourself, move on to the written part of your profile. You don’t have to write a novel, but you do have to say more than, “I’m a simple guy looking for a simple girl.” You think I’m joking, but sadly I am not. I know it’s not the most romantic idea, but think of the written profile sort of like a job interview. How are you going to stand out among all the other candidates? You’re going to stand out by crafting an engaging and insightful written profile. Think about who you are. What’s important to you? How would you describe your personality? What qualities are you looking for in a partner? What qualities will you offer a partner? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What do you value? Write about that. Aim for two paragraphs— or even three—all about you. Be honest, but not too honest. At this point in the game, no one needs to know that you have six fingers or that you still live with your mother. If you make a love connection with someone, there will be plenty of time to share all your quirks and imperfections.

And lastly, please take care with spelling and grammar in your profile—errors can be a real turn off.

Read through what you’ve written, and then read it again. Better yet, show it to a friend and have them critique it. Tinker with it until it’s perfect.

You now should have all the elements of an effective dating profile, and you’re well on your way to finding someone fabulous. Do let me know how it goes for you.

NEXT TIME: Writing that all-important first message.

In Over My Head: Online Dating

In Over My Head: Online Dating

I never would have dreamed twenty years ago that one day I would be dipping my toe into the waters of online dating. And actually I’ve dipped more than a toe—I’m up to my waist by now. In truth, I’m in over my head.

Twenty years ago my future was decided. I was coupled. A child was planned (although not yet conceived—that happened a couple years later). A house was bought. A dog was adopted. Domestic bliss had commenced.

But alas, life isn’t always so neat.

Twenty years hence, I was finally forced to face my deep unhappiness. My child was now on the cusp of adulthood and making plans for college, and the thought of an empty nest—and daily life without my child as a focus, a diversion, a buffer—filled me with dread and profound sadness. Was this the “empty nest” life I wanted to live? My answer was a resounding no, and I knew I could not do it anymore. I did not love, care or respect enough to continue to carry on the charade.

You see, the relationship had been marked by painful, damaging conflict for as long as we’d been together. I’m not talking garden-variety arguments here. I’m talking screaming matches, slammed doors, carefully chosen words meant to undermine, unbalance, and inflict pain, and frequent fights that took days, or even weeks, to get over. Some of them I have never gotten over. Each conflict hurt a little more than the last, and tore another tiny piece from my heart. We were two respectable, intelligent, caring people who loved each other, but neither of us could see the other’s best self. We simply were terrible for each other, and we always had been. My beautiful, tender heart was being annihilated, piece by tiny piece.

And so I ended it.

As a newly single person I knew I wasn’t ready for another serious relationship, but I also knew I was emotionally lonely. I wanted to start getting out there and meeting people. I wanted to find someone semi-special to spend time with while I figured out my future. But how would I possibly meet anyone? I was no longer twenty-five. At fifty-something, everyone would assume I was married, and anyone I encountered I would also assume was married. You can’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, are you single? Would you like to go out sometime?” Well, actually you can, but such an approach is just not my style as it invites rejection and embarrassment. I knew I wanted companionship, but what could I do?

“Online dating,” a friend told me. “Join a dating site, make a profile, and see what happens.”

I concurrently laughed and recoiled in horror. An online dating profile? Me? But I began contemplating the possibility. I researched different dating sites. I looked at other women’s profiles. I read articles about online dating at mid-life. I poked around the multitude of dating sites out there. I wrote sample profiles for myself. And then I took a deep breath and…I took the plunge.

I created a profile on one of the well-known sites. A week later I created another one on a different site. Things began to roll. My inbox quickly got bloated. I sifted through many “likes,” “smiles,” and “winks.” I read scores of decidedly weird or unimaginative messages. I wasn’t sure what to do. Was I obligated to answer every message I received, no matter how strange? “No,” a male friend and fellow online dater told me. “If they clearly haven’t read your profile, if they don’t have a picture on their profile, or they seem weird, just ignore them.” I took that advice to heart and I began to answer only the more genuine, intriguing messages. Soon I was chatting back and forth with several people who interested me. One morning I woke up and realized, I’m an online dater.

Now, more than a year later, I’m an online dating veteran. I’ve had a profile on nine different sites (although I’m down to two now). I’ve observed the ebbs and flows. I’ve encountered the fakes. I’ve been ghosted and breadcrumbed. I’ve been disgusted as well as charmed. And I’ve met several people in real life, on real dates. And…

Ultimately, it’s been a whole lotta nothin’.

Lots of anticipation, only to realize that those people who seemed so cool and attractive in their messages really weren’t in real life. Lots of dashed hopes. Too much disappointment.

My confidence, patience, and courage have taken a serious hit. I have become more distrusting, less hopeful, and uncharacteristically cynical. I don’t like that. And every day I ponder the question – Are there any kind, emotionally healthy, intelligent, honest people out there? I’m beginning to wonder.

And yet a new friend told me recently that she did online dating for five years before she found “The One.” Five years? Am I possibly that patient and intrepid? Ugh. I don’t know. But even so, I was encouraged that it worked out well for her, in spite of the fact that it took five years.

Right now I am just looking for someone I like and who likes me. Someone who wants to date casually, watch a movie, trade flirty texts with me once in a while, go out for dinner and drinks, talk. Someone who isn’t, in reality, married, or living with their mother, or fifty miles from me, or single parent to eight kids. I thought finding such a person would be easy. What I’ve found is that finding such a person is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Eventually, I want to find “The One,” just like my friend did. I am a romantic at heart and I still believe in true love. But I’m not sure I believe anymore that “The One” will be found online. In all honesty, I’m not sure where I will possibly find that person. In today’s world, we are all oddly connected and yet disconnected at the same time, which makes it difficult for any of our personal or professional connections to progress beyond the superficial.

My takeaway after sixteen months of online dating is that it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. It’s demoralizing. It’s unnatural. But my friend’s story proves that sometimes it does work out.

And so I am committed to sticking with it…for now. Stay tuned, and do let me know if you have any tips. I could use them.

Why Are You So Quiet?

Why Are You So Quiet?

“Why are you so quiet?”

I’ve been asked that question more times than I could possibly count. It’s a disconcerting question to be asked. You might as well ask me why the sky is blue, why some mammals live in the ocean, or why Pluto is no longer a planet. Those questions have answers, I’m sure, but they’re not questions I can answer on the fly—just like I can’t answer the question, “Why are you so quiet” when someone insists on asking me this.

And what would be the acceptable answer to this question, anyway? Perhaps, “I don’t like people very much.” Or maybe, “I have a really small vocabulary.” Or, “I’m not very bright so I can’t think of anything to say.”

While those would be funny responses, they aren’t true and they’d likely be met with an open-mouthed stare or the person running the other way. The short answer is: “Because I’m an introvert.”

While there are hundreds of articles out there about introversion, it remains one of the most misunderstood personality traits, even though introverts make up about thirty to fifty percent of the population, according to some studies. No, introverts are not anti-social. No, we don’t hate people. No, we’re not necessarily shy. No, we are not shrinking violets that you can walk all over. But yes, we are quiet by nature.

Why? The reason is really very simple. Introverts get their energy from focusing inside by being quiet, low-key, and yes, sometimes alone. Extraverts* get their energy from outside by interacting with other people. It’s a very basic difference, and not something intended to discomfort, confuse or anger people. But it seems to do any (or sometimes all) of these.

I listen. I process. I ponder. In short, I don’t speak unless I have something to contribute. If I have nothing to add, I am quiet. If I am overwhelmed, I am quiet. If I am wrestling with a problem, I am quiet. I don’t process by talking about something. I process by going inward. Thinking, writing, reading. This is just the way I am. This is the way I’ve always been.

And so I am misunderstood. Over the last fifty-some years I have realized that silence makes people uncomfortable. I have had people ask me if I am silently judging them. I have had people accuse me of thinking I’m better than they are and that’s why I don’t deign to speak to them. I have had people assume that I am arrogant. I have had people poke or prod me to try and get a response. I have been teased and bullied. All because I am quiet. And none of this has changed my introversion. Changing your basic personality is…well, pretty much impossible.

My question is – do I need to be loud to be acceptable? Do I need to voice my every thought? Why can’t we just appreciate and accept people as they are? Must we all be the same for everyone to be comfortable? That sounds very boring and homogeneous.

I have come to realize that people’s discomfort with my quiet nature is more about them and much less about me. What their underlying issues are I have no idea, but what I do know is that their discomfort is not my burden to carry. It’s theirs.

And so I have come to embrace and appreciate my own nature. Introverts have gifts to offer the world. Do you want someone who will listen—really listen—to you? Do you want a great problem-solver? Do you want someone who will consider all the angles and then offer some creative solutions? Do you want someone who will bring a sense of calm to any gathering? Do you want a keen observer? Find yourself an introvert, because these are the gifts of an introvert.

And the next time you feel compelled to ask someone “Why are you so quiet,” please…don’t.

*Try as I might, as the holder of a BA degree in English, a grammar and spelling geek, and a life-long writer, I cannot misspell “extravert.” The correct, original spelling is extravert, from the Latin “Extra,” meaning outside. “Intro” means inside. Thus, IntrOvert=inside, ExtrAvert=outside, which speaks to the natures of these two personality types. Why people started spelling it extrovert I will never understand. Then again, there are a lot of things about the world that I don’t understand.

Life Is Mysterious

The name of my blog is Life is Mysterious and that name appealed to me because life is mysterious.

When I was younger I thought I knew what my life would be. Graduation from high school, marriage six or seven years later, four kids within the ten years after that. But that’s not what happened at all. What has happened has been…well, mysterious. My life has followed its own path, and much of what has happened has been a mystery to me.

My own mysterious life has led me to ask the questions—Why do things happen the way they do? Are our actions predetermined? Why don’t we know what’s coming? How would we behave if we did know what’s coming?

Those are the questions I hope to tackle in this blog, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride. My topics will run the gamut. Anything going on in my life at any given moment, or anything that has captured my imagination, will be fair game. Some things will be silly, while most will be very serious, and things I have thought about…a lot.

Because ultimately, I am a thinker—a ponderer, if you will. Blame that on the preponderance of air signs in my chart: Sun in Libra and Mercury, Moon in Gemini. Air signs are thinkers, and we love nothing more than sharing our thoughts with others and then discussing. So stay tuned.