Digital Dating

Digital Dating

Can you hunt for a mate like you hunt for a job?

By Rachel Pomerance

Dating is shopping, my friends. And who should be better at it than savvy, time-starved professional women of discriminating tastes like us? Really, if you think about it, we’ve been training for the big man-shopping event forever. (I think half my childhood happened at Loehmann’s – my mother, a high-powered executive herself, rushing me through the racks. “Focus, Rachel! You don’t need another white T-shirt. …”)

But I speak from experience when I say that looking for Him among the city’s masses in bars and gyms can sometimes feel like looking for Blahniks at the Salvation Army. If dating is so much like shopping, and we are busy professionals with barely the time for a brow wax, shouldn’t we be searching for Him in the most efficient way possible? Shouldn’t we just shop online?

It worked for “Laura,” the vice president of marketing for a Top 500 company, who is uncomfortable using her real name because she thinks her story “smacks of desperation” – despite her ultimate success. Divorced at 32 and eager to remarry, she says she “became very strategic and businesslike” in her search for a mate, through matchmaking, speed-dating, singles events and, fortunately, the online game. After her future husband first wrote to her on, they found they had so much in common that they e-mailed and phoned for months. “When we finally met, it was very awkward and surreal,” she says. But she said to herself, “You know this guy; you know his soul,” and she encouraged another date, which was all it took.

Today she credits the Internet for her happy marriage and two children. “I think the alternative is like looking for a job sitting at home instead of sending out résumés and going on,” she says. Plus, “you get to select for yourself online.”

Still, as cool as it is, the virtual world lacks the chemistry and information of the real one, warns Patti Novak, a Buffalo, N.Y.–based matchmaker and dating coach who devotes a chapter of her book, Get Over Yourself! (Ballantine Books, 2008), to Internet dating. She believes socializing in cyberspace, in other words, can be kind of like shopping online without the benefit of fitting rooms.

“The cons outweigh the pros with Internet dating,” Novak says, citing frequent misrepresentation along with safety concerns – and the fact that it’s too easy to write off a good match over some inane detail. Sifting through profiles also takes an excessive amount of time, she adds, and she worries that people use these sites as a “crutch” rather than pursuing normal interaction. In the end, the drawbacks can lead online daters to burnout and cynicism, she says.

“Nevertheless, getting online one month at a time, using major caution as you do it, is a great tool to get out there,” Novak explains, adding that a woman’s intention should be to make a new friend and sharp en her dating skills, not to find true love.

Consider the example of “Natalie,” a 35-year-old producer of a popular TV show, who uses, a Jewish dating site. (She’s also uncomfortable using her real name, citing privacy concerns.) Natalie recently met a man whose profile stated he was a physician; in person, he told her he was a nurse. “Not a big deal,” she says, “but he wasn’t honest.” He also covered up the fact that he has kids and showed up with two wooden crosses around his neck. “It hasn’t completely jaded me. It’s just unfortunate,” says Natalie, who uses the Internet as her primary way to meet men because she feels too busy with work to go out much. “You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.”

Except that if you really want to win the lottery, it’s probably best to bet on more than one game.

Rachel Greenwald, author of Find a Husband After 35 (Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School) (Ballantine Books, 2004), suggests an elaborate marketing plan that includes mass marketing, guerilla marketing and even telemarketing. Use several dating sites, she says, and widen your search. “You won’t get many replies if your list sounds intimidating or you set the bar too high. You’ll only block out a lot of great men who could potentially capture your heart,” she writes.

Greenwald’s program outlines an entire way of life devoted to attracting your man, from enhancing your image (feminine clothing and push-up bras) to swapping yoga for the free weights because that’s where the men are. (And lose the earphones at the gym so you’re more approachable.) Also send personal notes to friends asking them to fix you up, she advises. The idea is to distinguish and promote your brand in a competitive market.

Whatever your tack for using your smarts and wiles in the quest to recognize Him, remember to recognize yourself as well. “The energy you give is the energy you get,” Novak says. “If you’re really looking for love, looking at your core and finding yourself is the first step.”

And here’s the other thing: You really never know where you will find your match, so it’s best to open your heart to lots of possibilities. Turns out I actually did find a beautiful pair of gently used Blahniks once at the Salvation Army.

Love Bytes!

Patti Novak, a dating coach who’s made more than 100 matches in the decade she’s been in the business, offers these five tips for dating online.

Don’t sign up for more than one month at a time. “Any longer than that and you’ll turn the benefits of Internet dating into a crutch,” she says.

Don’t exchange more than three e-mails before meeting so you don’t build up a false chemistry that disappoints you.

Don’t use your real name in a profile or give out any personal information, such as home or work addresses or the names of your kids. When it’s time to meet, only give out your first name and cell number, and tell a friend where you’re meeting.

Don’t lie on your profile with old photos or misleading information. Remember the golden rule, she says.

Don’t use a suggestive screen name. You might attract someone looking for the bang and not the whole shebang.

This article originally appeared in the February.March 2009 issue of PINK Magazine.

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