Friday, January 28, 2011

Inconsequential Friday: Email Sign-offs!

Lulu: Ask Amy had a question about teen sex, but what I'm MORE interested in is the last question which is about work email sign-offs!
Q. About two years ago I started getting e-mails from professional colleagues that were signed off with the word "Best."

Am I the only one who finds this grating and pompous? Or am I just being old-fashioned when I insist that the sender sign off with a phrase that actually means something?
Lulu: No, you're being irrational. No sign-off means anything after enough repetition.

Ashley: Yep. I hate sign-offs. I just go: "-Ashley"

Lulu: Yeah, so do I. I put "-Ashley" too. Just in case.

Ashley: What does this person want instead? "Love"?

Lulu: Would they be okay with "Sincerely"? Because there is a meaningless one. Not only is it used past the point where you think about what the word means, but what it does mean is, what, "The above is true"? There's nothing more suspect than calling attention to your own sincerity. Like when people say "To be honest..."

Ashley: Yeah. So, dude, my kindle...

Lulu: And then there's cheers. Don't get me started.

Ashley: I didn't.

Lulu: Exclusively used, as far as I can tell, by bosses, professors, and other people who would NOT appreciate it if you walked out in the middle of the day to go to the pub. FALSE ADVERTISING.

So, friends, how should you sign off an email? We did not come to a conclusion! Let us know your thoughts!

Until then, we remain,

Your faithful servants,

Lulu and Ashley

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Note to LWs: Include Detail In Your Drama

Lulu: I have several questions about Colin in today's Annie's Mailbox.

Ashley: One: What do they mean by "live morally"? No sex before marriage? Because if he wants to bring someone home for the holidays, that's good, right? He's in a committed relationship, etc?

Lulu: That's what I would think. I mean, obviously I agree with Annie's basic point that they have to separate his sexual orientation from his behavior, because it's not super relevant whether he's getting wasted and fucking lots of guys or lots of girls. Even that aside, I'm not sure what they mean by moral. To me, self-destructive is not necessarily amoral. Also I am unclear on what is meant by the term "sexual blackmail."

Ashley: That is weird.

Lulu: What expenses were involved in extricating him from his relationship? They mention medical bills for his STIs, but that seems tangential.

Ashley: Yeah, it's unclear what it is that they're referring to. I want to know the drama!

Lulu: Was the guy super abusive and they needed to get a lawyer and set up a restraining order and whatnot? I guess that's an expense.

Ashley: Not compared to like, college. It's like $50 tops.

Lulu: Was it really blackmail? Did they pay this guy hush money for something? What is there to hush up? Seems like Colin lives pretty out in the open.

Ashley: Maybe it was super weird sex... and the guy wants a political career?

Lulu: I don't think he is acting like someone who wants a political career. Anyway, that's not the parents' concern. Sure, it makes total sense that they'd step in if his health and safety were at issue but if the kid is worried about his reputation, that's his own too bad. Of course, in this case, it seems like the parents are way more invested in his reputation than he is. But if they willingly paid all kinds of extra cash to keep his situation quiet because they don't want the Joneses knowing their son is into weird stuff, then that's their own thing, that's not money he needs to pay back. I'd understand why he'd seem bitter or ungrateful about that.

Ashley: They seem like jackasses, with their I told you so attitude. "See, I told you not to be gay! But I will be a Good Person and Help You... if you live like I want!"

Lulu: He seems like he might be kind of a jackass, too. I mean, I think public drunkenness and sexual hijinks are valid lifestyle choices, it's the part where the LW says he's mean to people that rubs me the wrong way. Still, he's living with judgmental, stifling parents right now, so it could certainly be situational jackassery. Just another sign that he needs to move out. I know this is always our solution for older-teen dramas, but it's true! The drama's over now, he's got to get back out there now and live like an adult, even if he's living like an adult they wouldn't like to have over for tea.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Playing Catch-up (III)

We've been talking about advice, a little, sort of! We just haven't been posting. Here are the last two weeks in Lulu and Ashleyville.

Jan 11 A Dear Prudence question leads us to wonder if there is a "mature" way for a teenager to conduct a sex life while living at home with anti-premarital-sex parents.
Q. Pre-Marital Sex and Parents: My boyfriend and I are in a loving relationship and we have been dating for eight months already. He has been wanting to have sex, but since my parents are very against pre-marital sex, I have been really hesitant. Personally I want to, and am telling him that once I get a chance, to we can do it. I feel nothing wrong with having sex before marriage at all, but I feel morally conflicted by having to lie to my parents. What should I do?

A: Now that's some shocking news: Your boyfriend would really, really like to have sex. Are you 16 or 26? It makes a difference. I'm against premarital sex by high-school students. I'm not against pre-marital sex by responsible college-age people. (In fact, I can't imagine marrying someone one hasn't had sex with.) However, if you are making this decision based on how your parents would react, that tells me you aren't really old enough to start engaging in sex. Instead of lying to your parents, I think you should tell your boyfriend, "I really like you, but since I can't stand the thought of sneaking around on my parents to have sex with you, that tells me I'm not ready to have sex with you." If he breaks up with you or pressures you, that only should underline the wisdom of your parents' prohibition (for now).

Lulu: I don't think she is 'not old enough' because she doesn't want to create an elaborate web of lies for the people she presumably lives with. When you are 16, owning your choice to have sex and being upfront about it with your parents is not really an option.

Ashley: Well, it's that or web of lies. If she's unwilling to do either, then she's the one who doesn't want sex, and she should own that decision.

Lulu: It's not that she's "not ready" or "not mature enough" but that she doesn't want it enough for the downsides. That's not immaturity, it's logic.

Ashley: Well, I think caring what your parents think is a little immature. It depends if it's a convenience thing - she lives with them and doesn't want the drama - or if she doesn't want to disappoint. If she doesn't want to disappoint, she's immature.

Lulu: Is that a sign of immaturity? Wanting to disappoint your parents is pretty immature.

Ashley: Putting too much stock in what your parents think is immature, either way, especially if you haven't actually thought about the topic yourself and/or come to your own opinions. It's like... going to school to be a doctor because your parents want you to be a doctor. If you want to be a doctor, that's great, but if you never thought about it, that's immature.

Lulu: So in this case, do you think she should keep a low profile and sneak around, or challenge her parents on the whole premarital sex idea?

Ashley: If she lives with them, I'd say sneak around. If she doesn't, she doesn't have to do either. You just don't mention it. Who talks about their sex life with their parents anyway?

Lulu: I mean in general, just to say that you don't think it's wrong.

Ashley: Sure, if she wants to, and doesn't mind the fight. I don't think it's required.

Lulu: Hee hee, here's the same/opposite problem in Tween 12 and 20.
Q. I'm 18 and already graduated from high school. This guy I'm seeing is 20, and we have been dating for over six months. Everybody thinks Ian is the perfect guy for me. He doesn't drink, do drugs or smoke. And most of all, he isn't sexually aggressive.

He has a good job and is well-liked by his boss. I went to a company party with him. His boss told me what a good worker Brad is and how lucky I am to have him as a boyfriend.

My parents and my older sister feel that he is the perfect guy for me. Ian is everybody's dream. He sends me flowers on special occasions and writes poetry when he is in the mood, which is often. All my female friends think he is one handsome dude and feel I'm very fortunate to have him.

But as you have already figured out, I don't love the guy. To tell the truth, I want the freedom to date other guys, but I find it difficult to tell him this because I know I would hurt him severely. I also would hurt my family.

A. Love isn't decided by committee. This is between you and Ian — your friends, your family and his boss have no say in the matter. And as you are well aware, the time has come to tell Ian you want to end the relationship.

Ashley: Wait. He's Ian AND Brad?

Jan 16 Along the same lines, a prospective college freshman places too much emphasis on her parents' opinion in Annie's Mailbox. But this time, we're against the decision on its own merits. Then we veer off sharply.
Dear Annie: I am a senior in high school. My boyfriend and I have been together for a long time, and we love each other very much. We are attending colleges that are about 30 minutes apart. We want to get an apartment between the campuses so we can live together. This would be much cheaper than paying for room and board.

I'd like to talk to my parents about this, Annie, but they are so protective that I'm afraid they won't allow it.

Dear Senior: We're going to ask you not to do this. We know you love your boyfriend. But the first year of college can bring tremendous changes to both of you. By living with your boyfriend, you are cutting off opportunities that may expand your horizons and develop your character. Please consider doing the room-and-board bit for your first year. If you still want to live together after that, you will be in a better position to talk to your parents about it, and they are less likely to object.
Ashley: I don't think her parents are what she should be concerned with. She needs to consider her boyfriend as a roommate - is he going to be hell to live with if they break up?

Lulu: I think that's what Annie is getting at, but there is no better way to alienate an 18-year-old than to tell her her character is not fully formed.

Ashley: Of course, if her parents are paying her rent, then they have a right to dictate who lives in their apartment. Did you know there's a webapp to convert your SAT/GRE scores to IQ? Since they're all standardized, it makes sense.

Lulu: Yeah--no, so wait, you have a higher IQ than me???

Jan 21 A typical Lulu rant spurred by an uncharacteristically black-and-white answer on premarital cohabitation in Tween 12 and 20. Again, we suddenly veer.
DR. WALLACE: My girlfriend and I have been living together since we graduated from high school two years ago. I love her very much and want to get married. She says she loves me, too, but she wants to wait another couple of years before making that decision. My parents are very unhappy about our setup.
Since she wants to wait, my question is, should we continue to live together (we are sexually intimate) until we say "I do," or should we separate until we make it legal? — Nameless, Hobart, Ind.

NAMELESS: It appears to me that your girlfriend wants the security of "married life" without the responsibilities. Separate now. It would be much better this way than to wait two years to find out that she still doesn't want to marry you.

Besides, if you separate, it could make her realize she can't live without you. And she just might decide to make things legal.

Lulu: I guess thousands of committed cohabiting couples want "the security of 'married life' without the responsibilities." Exactly what responsibilities do you have once you're married that you don't have when you're living together?

Ashley: Maybe like... financial? But not all married couples merge finances.

Lulu: I find this attitude so weird, it's not like being married magically changes anything. Statistically, sure, a random married person is probably more likely to have joint finances or whatever than a random single person, but you can do married stuff while not married and you can not do married stuff when you are married.

Ashley: Does your hair still look good on day 2?

Lulu: Pretty good! It started out MORE spiky because my spike wax is more spiky than the pomade they use at the hair place, but then I put a hat on.

Jan 23 In Ask Amy, a young intern complains about old people today.
Q. I am an 18-year-old intern working for a large office. I am the only student in the office, and everyone else who works here is old enough to be my parent or even grandparent.

I consider myself very good with adults. However, I am not sure how to respond in some situations. When they complain about their teenagers and kids, and then expect me to represent the entire under-25 demographic. For example, they say, "I can't understand how teenagers are so rude, they are always texting," or they ask me, "Why do you guys constantly disrespect us with your texting?" Meanwhile, they have never seen me with my phone out.

I would really appreciate a polite, diplomatic answer to respond when I am caught in the middle of one of these conversations.

A. I agree with you that this is tiresome. The next time this happens, go "Jeopardy!" and answer their questions in the form of a question. For example:

They: "Why are you kids so all-fired rude, always messing around with your textometer machines?"

You: "Gosh- I don't know! I don't text very much, certainly when I'm with other people. Are you saying your kids do this? What do you think is going on?"
Ashley: Ha ha, yes. Amy's right, though.

Lulu: Yeah, but then you end up having to have a boring conversation about texting. "Yeah. Uh-huh. I guess when you grow up with a technology, it doesn't seem strange to you." "Yeah, I find it rude when people text other people while talking to me, too." "It's good for some situations."

Ashley: Or you could answer with the ever-popular "I dunno, why do all old people smell funny?"

Lulu: Well, you'd have to text them that. "Hold on." (pulls out phone)

And now it's today! Maybe now we can escape the vicious circle where we don't post because there is too much catching-up to do. Nothing can be done, however, about the problem where we don't post because we are lazy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ski Don't

From the January 3 Ask Amy:
Dear Amy: I'm a 15-year-old girl, and I have an excellent boy friend (not a boyfriend, but a friend who is a boy).

He is 17 and wants to take me skiing one weekend.

We have been friends for a very long time, and I know him well.

However, I am nervous that when I propose this short trip to my parents, they will be afraid that I will be attacked or something if I go with him alone. (We would be alone on this trip.)

Even though my parents don't know him, I trust him completely.

Even if he tried something, I am a black belt in tae kwon do and would be able to defend myself.

I really want to go on this trip, but my parents most likely won't consent. How can I prove to them that I am responsible and that they can trust a person who I trust?
Amy, of course, tells her to suck it up and listen to her parents.
Most parents wouldn't let their teen go away on a weekend trip alone with another teen (no matter the gender).

You are kidding yourself if you think a black belt in anything will serve to protect you in a vulnerable situation. In my view, running away might be the smartest defense if you are in trouble. But that's beside the point. You will win your parents' trust by being trustworthy. That means introducing them to your friends — especially this friend — and permitting them to do their job, which is to make decisions based on their (not your) best judgment.
Did she really think Amy would help here? What's surprising, though, is that we don't either--much.

Lulu: Dan savage answered a question like this one time in the podcast. The girl wanted to go camping with her friend who is a boy but not a boyfriend. Dan basically told the girl that she'll never get her mom's consent so either she has to stay home and sulk, or sneak out and get the trip but probably get caught.

Ashley: There are paths in-between. It kind of seems like maybe she should ask her parents, or his, to take them both on a ski weekend.

Lulu: Yeah. She's righteously angry about the presumption that she'll automatically hook up with her male platonic friend, but I think she's making too much of that part (maybe her parents are, too.) It's not because he's a boy. Most parents would not let a 15 year old go on a ski weekend with a 17 year old and no adults.

Ashley: I don't imagine she'd be allowed to go even with a group of teenagers--not at 15. 16, maybe. I'm trying to think when my parents let me do stuff. I went on vacation with my boyfriend's family when I was 16.

Lulu: Yeah. I took a friend on vacation with my family when I was 14. The family is key there. I bet lots of parents would let a teenager go away for the weekend with her friend's whole family. Where I agree with Amy is that it would help if the parents knew the friend, and possibly his family (or at least had a phone conversation with them). It throws some suspicion on the matter if you're dead set on keeping the parents from meeting the friend.

Ashley: I think I could have convinced my parents to let me go on a ski weekend with a big group of friends at 16.

Lulu: Possibly mine too. It never occurred to me. My friends and I mostly just went on a day trips.

Ashley: I went to Italy when I was 16.

Lulu: That was a school trip, though, wasn't it? Presumably there were chaperones. Not that four or five adults can look after 20 kids at all times, but plausible deniability!

Ashley: Yeah, but I think that was the line for me. Once I left for a week, then I could basically do whatever with whomever. So maybe she should start small and develop her independence over time. Adults present for this one, then a group of teenagers, then her with the guy.

Or, whatever, just sneak out. Have a friend say she's sleeping over. Of course, if she gets injured or something, that would be awkward to explain.

Lulu: There are a lot of ways to get caught, especially now that the parents know what she's planning. And then she's kind of fucked. They won't let her out again until she's 30.

Ashley: She could start small with that, too. Develop those skills over time.

Lulu: So, assuming she doesn't do that, for this particular trip, we're basically telling her the same as Amy: go with the no. Age a bit.

Ashley: No, we're telling her to submit a modified request. Change the trip so there are adults involved. Then she still gets to ski. Assuming it's skiing she wants.

Lulu: It's sort of unclear why she's set on going with just this guy. Whom she has no romantic interest in and plans to beat up if he tries anything.

Ashley: He probably has a car.

Lulu: But why not take along other friends?

Ashley: Because he invited her? I agree that she should.

Lulu: Why isn't he taking along other people on this trip? Is he interested in her? Does he have no other friends? Maybe he only has a two-seater. Or a motorcycle.

Ashley: It's becoming clear why she doesn't want her parents to meet him.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Unsolicited Advice On: Online Dating

Online dating has been the topic of several columns recently (well, sort of recently: we are so behind!)

Coincidentally, November 16 saw the misrepresentative-photo-from-online-profile problem in both Amy Alkon and Dr Lovemonkey. The questions, respectively:
I've been on about 20 dates with girls I met online, and 15 of them were much heavier than they were in their photos. I'm getting a little tired of this. Is there some acceptable way to ask a woman how much she weighs before you meet up?
I have recently tried online dating... my last few dates have all lied about themselves in some way that was not revealed until we met... I understand that everyone ages and people often gain weight, but we're talking fairly dramatic differences here (like Cheers-era Kirstie Alley vs. late-model Kirstie Alley). That people physically change is understandable and I have flaws and am not that rigid about how people look. It is the blatant misrepresentations (a lot like lying) that I have trouble accepting. Am I a jerk because I feel this way?
Lovemonkey agrees ("Someone who would send out 15-year-old pictures of someone 25 pounds thinner leads one to think, what else would he/she misrepresent to get the date?"), but doesn't offer specific advice. Alkon says to keep trying, in spite of the misrepresenters: "Just think of them as a price you have to pay for the easy access -- a sort of high technology fee. In the future, assume everyone's lying and be pleasantly surprised when someone isn't. To keep your emotional costs down, try to get women to meet you as soon as possible for a quick drink instead of carrying on at length by phone and e-mail."

Even though I often shake my fist at Amy Alkon's dating advice because it often boils down to "do not ask a guy out if you are a woman because blah blah blah cavemen blah blah thrill of the chase" (tell me, if me-Tarzan-you-Jane dawn-of-man savannah impulses are so powerful, how come I only like willowy, effeminate, beautiful, poor, weak, sickly men?), I've been continually agreeing with her stance on online dating. In a December 29 column, someone wrote in:
I've had some good experiences with online dating, but I just can't get over this feeling that it just isn't natural or sexy.
Amy responded,
...with Internet dating, instead of waiting for that chance meeting, you have increase-your-chances meetings. With a few keystrokes, you can connect with countless people you probably never would've met, and select for the right religious beliefs, smoking habits, and/or weird sex habits instead of spending hours trying to tease the answers out of some guy in a bar.

Where people go wrong is in turning what should actually be called "online meeting" into online dating. The same woman who'd go home with a near stranger she met in a bar will spend weeks e-mailing a guy to assess how good his grammar is before she'll feel safe enough to meet him. She'll tell herself she's vetting the guy, but what she's probably doing is getting attached -- not to the actual guy, but her idea of the guy, and maybe how smart and funny she is when she's talking to him. Investing all this time and emotion makes it somewhat devastating when she finally meets the guy and finds that he looks wrong, talks wrong, dresses wrong, and smells like rotting liver.

So, sure, there are pitfalls in online dating, but it can be a great tool if you use it wisely.
I have been internet dating on and off for a few years now. (Er, this is Lulu, by the way. Ashley has a "real life" boyfriend who is a "knight" and has an "IQ of 209". Whatever.) While I'm possibly a terrible person to give advice on it because it's never gotten me a relationship of more than a few weeks, I would argue that that is simply because I am terrible at dating. The Internet part--from profile to first meeting--I would say I'm pretty decent at. So without further ado, here is my unsolicited advice for online dating!

The Profile

Do: Include one or more clear, recent photos in your profile (or send them with the first message, if you're using a personal ad/message board style site like Craigslist). By "clear" I mean that your face should be plainly visible--no weird close-ups of your eye or artsy black and white shots showing only your lips--and by "recent" I mean "taken within the last year." More recently if you have recently drastically changed your hair or become covered in pustules.

While it's clearly not in your best interest to post an unflattering picture, it's also not in your best interest to try to rope people in with a non-representative photo. Ideally, this person will actually meet you. Not only will they feel lied to, but they will lack the necessary tools to recognize you in a crowd.

Do: Include some basic content in your profile--your main interests, hobbies, and pastimes are good ones. "I will fill this in later" or "if you want to know about me, just ask" do not make good profiles.

Don't: Write a novel. (Yes, I'm aware of the irony: this post is long.) OKCupid, in particular, rewards you for a long profile, but really, people don't have the attention span to read through a list of every movie you've ever seen or a ten-paragraph essay on how complicated you are. It's hard to sum yourself up in a few sentences, but you really don't have to: you just have to provide an icebreaker.

Don't: List what you don't want in a potential mate ("no mind games, no judgmental bitches, no fatties"). It makes you seem negative. (YES YES I AM STILL AWARE OF THE IRONY.)

Sending a First Message

Do: Send out first messages. Don't be shy! The system doesn't work if you're shy. Like the profile, the first message doesn't have to be long, but it should give them something to respond to. "You seem cool" is fine to say, but by itself it's insufficient to start a conversation. (I feel the same way about "woos" or "winks" or whatever. I never respond to them, because I don't know how) Comment on something they mentioned in their profile; ask a question.

Don't: Look at the person's profile and comment on everything everything everything that is there.
Darnell: This is something I have to curb in my own writing of messages. I am easily excited, and tend to defy your don't write a novel rule. I also switch very easily from "writing a hello" to "writing for my own amusement."

Lulu: Same here, really. But it can be confusing to be on the other end, because you start to assume that the fact that they wrote so much to you means they really like you. But they might just like themself!
Don't: Pin all your hopes and dreams on the person responding. You may not receive a response, and that is okay. There are many face-saving reasons why this might be--perhaps the person is extremely popular and can't possibly respond to everything without a personal secretary; perhaps they are no longer interested in online dating because they have an exclusive girlfriend or boyfriend or they've become a monk, but they forgot to update their profile; perhaps they are secretly only interested in a specific physical type, e.g. morbidly obese with tiny tweety bird ankles; perhaps they died. Hopefully.

Receiving a First Message

Don't: Respond if you know you're not interested. I can see the argument against this--it's only polite to respond rather than ignoring somebody, and I will contradict myself later by advising you not to cut off contact without warning or explanation after a few messages. But it seems to be standard practice simply not to respond to first messages if you know you have no interest in following up, such that to do otherwise would just get the person's hopes up.

Do: Respond if you're not sure if you're interested or not. Only time will tell!

Don't: Overanalyze the person's first message. It can be hard to know what to say. Cut them some slack.

Do: Look at the person's profile, and find something there to comment on or respond to in addition to responding to their ice breaker comments or questions.


Do: Sign off messages with your real first name. It's silly to have to think of somebody you're becoming fond of as "xMEGATRONx412".

Don't: Message obsessively, ie. instant messaging or more than two letters per day, in advance of meeting. I agree with Alkon that the goal of online dating should be to meet somebody, not to form a whole relationship through messages. There are so very many ways for things to go off the rails when you meet them (what if you have nothing to talk about in person? what if they look nothing like their photograph, and you are shallow? what if they have the exact mannerisms of your evil ex?) Similarly, don't make plans for the future, other than meeting for coffee.

Do: Arrange a meet-up as soon as possible, for the reasons outline above. When is as soon as possible? Obviously it's silly to propose meeting up in your FIRST message, before you even know if they will respond to you. I can see proposing a meet-up in your response if you are the recipient of the first message, but that feels premature too, and to immediately follow up your own first-contact message with a request to meet feels pushy, too.

Therefore I posit that the sweet spot is when a total of 4-7 messages have been exchanged, or, in other words, when you have received two messages from the other person (whether you started the correspondence or not). One message could be seen as randomness or politeness, but two messages, to me, indicates a certain baseline level of interest.

Do: Explicitly decline a meet-up invitation if you are not interested in meeting up. Unless they've asked you to coffee in their first message like a weirdo, by the time you are asked for a meeting, you're at a point where I think it's impolite and cold to simply not respond. It's not necessary to go into details--"Sorry, I'm not looking to meet up in person, but thanks for the offer" is sufficient.

(Telling them the real reason also has its pros and cons. Letting them know, "I'm put off by your bad grammar" or "I found your racist manifesto on Google" may help them change their ways for a future potential date. But it also gives them room to argue. You're by no means obligated to respond to an argument, but it's probably simpler to just follow the usual Miss Manners advice for turning down an invite (example: vague, but firm.)

Do: When in doubt, agree to the meetup! Isn't that what you're there for?
Darnell: Along the same lines as not assuming you'll want to date them because you found their messages intriguing: even if you didn't find their messages intriguing, maybe they really shine in person!

Basically, if you have nothing better to do, meet them anyways. Worst case scenario they murder you. Realistic worst case scenario, you get to tell your friends a funny story about your terrible date later at the bar. You become the toast of the town due to your humorous anecdotes and take over for Fallon in the late night spot when he is fired due to low ratings that are not Jay Leno's fault.

...This is starting to read like the end of a choose your own adventure book. "If you go on the bad date, flip to page 51."

Lulu: Online dating--dating in general--is kind of like that! You find yourself back on page 5 a lot. Easy come, easy go.

Darnell: And you just cannot figure out how to get to Page 15 where you become a spaceman.

Lulu: Right! You saw that part...

Darnell: Because you cheated. But then you felt bad about cheating.

Lulu: That's exactly what dating is like.

Meeting Up

Dan Savage has a list of tips about meeting people from the Internet (example) and while he usually focuses on meeting for no-strings-attached sex, his advice is good for all kinds of meetings:

Do: Meet for the first time in a public place, such as a coffee shop or bar.

Don't: Meet for the first time for the activity itself (sex, erotic foot massage, starting a relationship...) You shouldn't consider the first meeting a first date. It is just a first meeting. No matter how good the messages were, you really won't know, until you meet them, if you will want to date them or not.

Do: Have somewhere to be afterward. That way, if things go badly, you have an out, and if things go well, you are not tempted to pressure the other person / bow to pressure to make it an actual date.

Do: Let a friend know where you will be and who you will be with.

Do: Counterintuitively, I'm going to advise you to give the other person your real contact information (full name, phone number). It looks and feels skeevy to be given false information. I'd think twice about meeting someone who refused to reveal their real name. Plus, it's just a bad idea to try to meet someone you've never met without having some reliable, instant way to contact them if, say, you're running late or can't find them.

After the Meetup

Don't: Initiate further contact if you're not interested. This is another case I think where quietly disappearing is okay; in best case scenario, the other person also quietly disappears and you're golden. However,

Do: Respond if they initiate further contact. At this point, the person is asking you on a date unless otherwise specified, so respond accordingly. You don't have to give them a whole break-up speech like you've already had a relationship, but you should specifically turn them down if you don't want to go, using the standard methods ("No thanks," "I'm reeeeeally busy," "I just want to be friends", etc.)

Do: Initiate further contact if you're not sure whether you're interested or not. The other person could be in the same boat, and if so, it's better to give it a shot than give up too soon. I AM BAD AT THIS.

If you do go out again, congratulations! You are now on a date with an actual person, and it no longer matters how you met.

And that's it! That's all I know.