The Complete Novice's Guide to Online Dating

Now is a great time to start online dating - the stigma is gone, your safety is secured and there are hundreds of singletons out there as anxious to meet you as you are to meet them.

You're already using the Web to snag cheap airline tickets, secure a prime table for dinner tonight and order romantic trappings, why not use it to pick up a hot date for the weekend?

Starting Your Search

Your best bets are to hunt on the most popular sites (read: loaded with cuties) or the most specialized (to limit your hunt if you're bent on a mate with particular criteria). Make sure you've thoroughly checked out the site's privacy policy that your personal information won't be shared and that all contact comes anonymously through the site.

Posting Your Profile

Think of this as a first date. You want to remain positive, look interesting and still remain a bit of a mystery (that means keeping the personal issues sharing to a minimum). First, come up with a sharp headline, something more intriguing than the standard "Looking for Love." To attract a match, begin with a brief description that paints a clear picture of you. Don't dump a long list of interests, but divulge character traits that say something about your personality. Now, weed out those folks you don't want by being upfront about what you want in a partner. Be sure to include your favorite movies, music or hobbies to give readers an idea of what you might have in common.

Decoding Their Descriptions

It's as easy to lie online as it is in person, if not easier. Once you start getting the ping of new mail, sift through your responses carefully. Ask plenty of specific questions (most liars would rather omit the truth than make something up) and trust your gut if you get a bad feeling about someone. Look for warning signs like inconsistencies in his or her stories, or if they refuse to move the conversation from virtual to actual.

Determine If You Want to Meet Face to Face

Obviously, you want to avoid the online equivalent of the skeevy guy or gal at the bar. If he or she wants to set up a date after only one e-mail or mentions sex, dump that chump. For others, start small, with phone conversations, before moving to meeting in a public place. No matter how well you connected online, you're still strangers, after all.

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Try These Pickup Lines

  • You didn't look this good three beers ago!
  • Do you know karate? 'Cause your body sure is kickin'!
  • Smile! It's the second best thing to do with your lips.
  • Are you the tiger on the Frosted Flakes box? Because you're looking "Grrrrreat!"
  • I don't know much about your future, but I know you have a beautiful background.