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Gay (Online) Dating 101

By Lavender June 20, 2008

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So, you’ve decided meeting that hottie across the bar, and asking him out on a date after throwing back six shots, wasn’t the best idea. Or maybe your gaydar was malfunctioning when you thought that bored-looking guy standing with a stroller outside of Claire Taylor in the mall would make a good date. Either way, welcome to Gay (Online) Dating 101.

This article intends to teach all gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, or whomever the ins and outs of the online dating world. Though online dating sites are skewed toward either straight men and women or gay men, offer, or at least pretend to offer, options for the rest of the LBTIQ.

So, lets begin with the evolution of dating ads.

Prior to Internet dating—though some who read this will not have a clue what I’m talking about—dating ads were placed in magazines and newspapers. They, in fact, still can be found in many major papers and local mags.

The personals section usually was stereotyped as the place the truly desperate or ugly would go to find true love. The stereotype was reinforced because television shows and movies usually made it look just like that. In all honesty, personal ads generally have been for people who are fed up with the typical routes of dating, aka the bars, and decided to try a new path to love.

With the popularity of the Internet came the popularity of Internet personals. The concept hasn’t changed—it just has gone high-tech, and now includes options for photos, videos, and longer introductions to complete strangers.

So, let’s move on to Lesson One: Finding the right site for you.

This may seem like an easy task, but hotties.com isn’t a dating site. Let’s note that eharmony isn’t either, unless you’re straight and a good Christian—it has denied this, but no GLBT person ever has had “a match.”

Some traditional dating sites advertise themselves as just that. We have Match.com, Yahoo! Personals, OutPersonals, Gay.com Personals, JDate (for gay Jews), and a score of smaller ones, plus a handful of local ones that require just a quick search of the Internet.

These can also be useful when trying to narrow down what type of person you are, or what you are looking for. These sites generally are true to their goals. They are meant to truly help people find dates. Some of them feature free personals.

Yahoo! Personals offers a free profile, but severely limits what someone can do. It won’t allow those with free personals actually to reply to messages they like, but rather just lets them click on an option showing they are interested in that profile.

The average price range is about $20 a month, with sites like Match.com giving six months free when six months are purchased.

Perhaps your pocketbook can’t take a new monthly bill, especially one that possibly won’t prove to benefit you in any way (like allowing you to flip a switch and turn on your lights).

Other sites are less “personals,” and more “other.” Gay.com has its actual chat room, which is free, unless you want to access some of the more advanced features. Another popular gay-only site is Manhunt, which allows you to “Hook up with the guy next door,” and advertises, “The Hunt is on.” Both sites allow similar profiles to the other sites, but allow live, instant chatting, though neither is geared toward dating specifically.

Lesson Two: Now that you’ve picked your site(s), what do you say?

Most sites have some kind of approval process for what can be said in your profile. So, yes, some random person will be looking at what you say, and deciding if it’s OK. The reason the sites do this is to ensure your safety (and to make sure you don’t try to get around the rules by saying you can be contacted on your free instant messenger instead of paying the site). But generally, it’s for your safety.

Never should you enter personal information like full name, phone numbers, addresses, etc. If you don’t like having a telemarketer calling you during supper, imagine what happens when somebody you told “No!” ends up knocking at your door at 3 AM, screaming, “Why don’t you love me!”

Beyond that, the sky is the limit. Maybe you are looking for someone who likes long walks on the beach at night, or eating romantic candlelit dinners. Or, perhaps you want your true love to slap you around, and require safety words. This is the amazement of the online dating world: Anyone can find anyone, anywhere in the world.

Remember: Be as honest as possible when filling out the questionnaires that some sites require, or when adding text to your minibiography. Unless you’re just bored, and have lots of cash to burn, you’re paying these sites for a genuine purpose—which brings us to our next lesson.

Lesson Three: Rules and Etiquette of online dating.

The first and foremost rule: Just because you were raised to be a nice and honest person does not mean everyone else was. Rejection happens, sometimes in very cruel, hateful ways that may suggest your face was hit with both sides of the ugly stick. Be prepared to be rejected. If this is a problem with you, perhaps allow people only to contact you, instead of contacting them. This will help lessen any major rejections that may occur.

At no time are you or anyone else on the site obligated to chat with each other, so if you don’t like a person, try to tell him or her kindly that you are not interested. If that doesn’t work, find ignore options or other ways to suggest you aren’t interested (see ugly stick comment for references).

Honesty is the best policy. At some point, if things go well, the two of you may want to meet in person. If this should happen, your date may be turned off when discovering that you don’t have a six-pack, or your athletic demeanor is more like a lazy sports fan who sits on the couch seven nights a week eating nothing but chips. Most people don’t have a perfect body, so don’t be ashamed if you don’t. Chances are your date doesn’t either.

Lesson Four: Now that you’ve met your online interest, it’s time to meet them in person.

First rule: Never, ever meet someone you are not comfortable meeting, no matter what he or she says. Anyone who ever has watched the news knows this is a bad idea. Online dating is more popular than ever, and with it comes the dangers, which never should be underestimated.

But, assuming you’ve chatted for a few hours—or a few years—and you now feel it is time to take the next step in the relationship, a nice, crowded place is preferable. Just because that secluded spot in the woods is pretty as the sun is setting does not mean it’s a good place to meet some random person. You should let a friend know what you are doing just in case something goes wrong, or you need to fake an emergency phone call that will require you to leave your date early.

Sites like Match.com offer numerous tips for your safety before and after meeting someone. Do what you feel comfortable with.

So, you’ve gone through the process of picking the site you think best suits your needs, set up your profile, chatted up some cute person you really think is great, and met him. Now what? Assuming that person thinks the same, you’re all set, and you can cancel your account. If not, well, that’s why places like Match.com offers six months free.

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