There are a lot of you out there that visit us from on-line chats, "talkers", or instant messaging systems. As a person young enough to have gone through his dating phase with the internet but old enough to remember when text chats were where it was at, I have some very hard-won lessons on how to make on-line relationships work. Please note that while it all may sound funny, I am deadly serious about this. To cheesily semi-quote from another favorite movie of mine, "I would spare you that pain".
Now, being a guy, most of this will be for guys. Ellen can reply with her "for girls" advice. So:
- Online relationships never work. I know, I know, you've heard this dozens of times, most especially (and particularly cluelessly) from your parents. And I want you to know that this advice is coming from someone who ended up marrying someone he met online. Even though he swore off online relationships from several only semi-humorous mis-encounters.
- REPEAT: Online relationships never f*cking work. Repeat it after me, out loud.
- Now do it again.
- That said, you can meet some darned interesting people online. It's not all just pimply-faced 108-lb. (49 kilo) men or 180-lb (82 kilo) women. Or, it can be, if you're looking for that sort of thing. But, ultimately, you can meet some bloody attractive people online.
- Stupid men and stupid women tend not to hang out all that much online. Figuring out chat rooms and instant message clients takes a certain amount of smarts. If you're not looking for a Guido or Guidette, you could do a lot worse than cruising online.
- Trust your instincts. Really trust them, because they're all you have in this medium. People lie online. And, like singles bars, there's more than your fair share of psychos and predators out there. If it doesn't feel right, or if you're not clicking, no matter what the description says, no matter what the website photos look like, just walk (as it were) away.
- NEVER give out personal information until you've known someone for at least two weeks. You don't want to have to explain why your parents have to change their phone number, or why they're getting six "hang-up" calls a day.
- If you're about to break up with a guy and he says "I swear I'm going to kill myself if you do this", please for the love of Pete don't believe him. Guys do this as a ploy, and will be convincing. I have seen this with my own eyes, and am not kidding! You DO NOT want to stick around with this loser. Say "fine, sorry to hear about that" and hang the fuck up. If they actually do off themselves (and they won't... losers don't remove themselves from the gene pool that easily), it'll do us all a favor.
- Don't try to start anything real with someone who lives more than a 4-hour drive away from you. If they do, say "aw crap, this really sucks" and walk away. You can't make it real if it costs $400 every time you want to see each other. You'll end up feeling really stupid and being really poor.
- If you're a guy, listen up real quick: the really attractive (personality or otherwise) ladies out there have had about six dozen "wanna netsex?" propositions in the past 15 minutes. I am not kidding. The quick, simple route does not work. If it does, you're talking to a guy. Trust me on this. There's nothing that impresses a lady more than having a guy that actually wants to talk to them. Sure, it's a pain sometimes, but having real reactions is worth it.
- If you're a girl, and some guy says "wanna netsex?", just do the easy thing and hit IGNORE (or whatever it is with what you're using). You don't want to dink with these losers, and all the really good guys out there don't want you to either. And there are really good guys out there. But if a guy spends a few hours talking to you and then wants to know what you look like (and goddamit measurements = what you look like, OK?), don't think he's a pig, just tell him. And don't lie.
- Found one that sounds or looks interesting? Be patient. Even if all you want is some racy talk, take your time. You don't want some dipwad 14 year old beavis lookalike feeding you lines, laughing with his buddies at what a moron you are. And the only way to tell is to take your time.
- Got a girlfriend or boyfriend already? Well folks, hate to burst yer bubble, but its still cheating. Never give up or screw up the real for the imagined. Got a husband of eighteen years with two kids, but are feeling the pinch? Good god woman, talk to what you have, don't screw it all up over what you think you might have. The saddest thing I've ever seen is people taking what they thought they had online as real and then dining on ashes when they lose the real and the illusion. And this happens and it could happen to you.
- Don't lie. Just do us all a favor and don't lie. The whole thing works on trust, and if you lie even a little bit it ruins the whole thing. 3' 9" and in a wheelchair? Tell them! The one you want will accept it. I'm not kidding... don't even say you have brown eyes when you have blue ones, or that you're excited when you're not. Its evil to lead people on in real life, and its evil to do it online.
- Please, please, please, never say "I love you" to someone you've never met in person. I will repeat: Never, ever, ever, ever say "I love you" until you've met them "IRL" (In Real Life). Even typing those words will have an effect beyond your ken. Re-read the first two bullets of this essay!
- Meet "IRL" sooner rather than later. Sooner means you don't have as much baggage, as many expectations, or as much riding on it all. Meet when you think you're friends and it could turn out really well. Meet when you think you're in love, and it always ends in disaster.
- Exchange pictures before you meet. It gets really ugly when his/her eyes drop when they first see you. You're under enough pressure as it is, don't let this be the deal breaker after all this effort. If you haven't already, get some new pictures made of yourself and either post them on a web site somewhere (http://www.geocities.com if nothing else), or e-mail them to your prospective date.
- Pick neutral ground, somewhere public, and always have a backup plan. Ellen and I had only known each other three weeks when we first met, but she had a return train ticket in her pocket and I had three hotels I could put her up in that night. No kidding.
- Expect awkwardness. I mean, really expect to be weirded out by each other. You both have chimpanzees inside you that work on circuits that you don't even know about. When you pull away from the person you've been (sort of) intimate with when they're actually in front of you, it hurts badly if you're not expecting it.
- Meeting "IRL" is starting over. No matter what you've told each other, no matter what you've said, no matter what you think you've experienced, you're starting over. Talk some, then talk some more. Don't expect to jump in the sack the moment you meet them. If they want that, put them up in a hotel and send them home the next day. Otherwise you'll end up in a pit in a park.
- Try to have interesting things "scheduled" for your first meet. It makes getting to know the physical person a helluva lot easier when you're experiencing something together.
- Clean your damned house, and make sure your psycho ex-boyfriend is out of town. Nothing is a bigger dampener on an evening than having a complete whacko confront your on-line guy claiming to be your husband. Trust me on this one.
It can work. It usually, well, really hardly ever, does, but it can. Expect the worst and you get the best. Walk into it with wide trusting eyes and you might end up another headline in a local paper "HOMICIDE VICTIM FOUND TO HAVE MET KILLER ON-LINE".