I've been swimming around the dating pool for quite a while.
Sometimes I feel ready to dive in head-first and sometimes I'm shyly testing the waters with my big toe. In the beginning, I was probably more open-minded than I am now because I was just so anxious to get out into the world and meet people and I didn't give much thought about the people I was actually meeting.
Six years later, still single...I'm paying more attention.
I didn't anticipate becoming as jaded as I am now, but after each encounter - whether it's a single meeting over a beer where you just know it's not going to go anywhere or a long-term relationship that takes you a little while longer to come to the same conclusion - I can't help but walk away with a little more insight into what I want.
This awareness has provided me with some short-cuts that have sometimes sped up the "this isn't going anywhere process." And while I'm hoping that these rules aren't cutting out anyone who should be making the cut (I don't think they are), I truly believe that they are saving me a lot of time, frustration, and beer money.
Most of them are obvious. I've already written about the things that turn me off when looking at a guy's profile online - pay attention to the crap in the background of your picture, don't take a picture holding a large fish, etc. - but should someone actually make it past the profile stage to actual communication...that's when the real challenge begins.
The "Please Don't Start Sexting Me Before We've Even Met" Rule: I would like to think that most woman have the dignity to hold on tight to that one. While I like an assertive man (to a certain degree), I can't help but wonder what they're thinking when they do that. What happens if I show up to meet you and I weigh 500 lbs and have a hair growing out of the wart I Photoshopped on my profile? Golly...won't you feel foolish.
The "Don't Immediately Start Bitching About Your Ex" Rule: I get it. We all come with baggage. But I know enough by now to realize that every story usually has three sides (yours, hers, and the truth) and it's actually more comforting to hear, "We get along for the sake of the kids, but other than that I really don't have much to do with her" rather than a laundry list of how you've been done wrong. Because, usually the longer the list, the more I start realizing that you're either not over her or are so bitter about your situation that you probably wouldn't know something good if it sexted you.
But here's my new little test. And it's not something that will make me want to completely dismiss someone as a possibility, but it definitely sends up a little red flag.
If I have asked you three questions about yourself and you haven't even asked me one...this just might not work out.
Think about it. I'm interested in you, but I have things to talk about, too. Yes, I want to know all about your kids, your favorite sports teams, and hear the story about that fish in your picture...but I have a life as well. And I'll tell you this - I'm not spending my beer money, my time, or the rest of my life with someone who is so into himself he doesn't really care to hear about what I've got going on.
You are not interesting enough to fill up a lifetime of conversation on your own.
This is the part of that movie "Hitch" (remember? Kevin James? Will Smith? The dating expert?) that is so true. One of the main things he tells every guy is to listen. Don't just ramble about yourself. Don't be so into your own story you don't care about someone else's. I mean, for crying out loud - you could end up months from now, chained to a woman you don't even like just because you didn't get to know her way back when during those first few dates and you just realized what a bitch she is because you finally gave her the opportunity to talk.
So here's what I do. I ask questions to keep the conversation going. And if a guy hasn't asked me one question about me or even stopped the conversation long enough to let me interject anything, I'll stop the inquiry. If the result of the silence is my date asking me a question, then he might just have a chance. But if the only way the guy can think to fill the lull is yet another story about himself...well...
He might have better luck talking to that big ol' fish.