Tales from a dating experiment

Some do's and don'ts on being a successful cyber-dater—from the front line.

You're divorced or single and thinking of trying that online dating thing, but something is holding you back. I get it. I've been there. So have lots of other people.

"Twenty million people are dating online," says Bela Gandhi of the Smart Dating Academy, who I talked to for a story earlier this year ("Are you good at dating?", TribU, Jan. 20, 2011). "I have so many clients who are in super-serious relationships that they found online."

That's all well and good, but the thing is, I don't want a super-serious relationship. I just got divorced. Some adult conversation and a movie that doesn't feature cartoon characters is about all I can handle these days.

So recently, I received a "three months free trial" e-mail from one of those online dating sites and I decided — If it's free, then why the heck not?

Within minutes of filling out my profile, e-mails with comments such as "Hey cutie!" or "What-up?" flooded my inbox. One man even said "Send me some body pics babe! Wanna see if you're hot from the waist down too!"

What?!

"One in 20 e-mails will be worth your while," stressed Gandhi. "That means you'll have to weed through dozens of bad ones to find the good. But it's worth it."

That sounded like a lot of work.

As the days went on, more e-mails came through.

"I need a wife now," wrote one guy.

Delete.

"This must be your lucky day," typed another.

Delete

"I'm back in the saddle after 40 years of marriage and ready for action," shared the next one.

Delete.

But then, one e-mail came through that seemed promising. He used correct grammar. He didn't write words like "pornography" or "coolio" in the first paragraph. I shot him a note that maybe coffee could be in our future.

As I waited for a response, I started getting a little excited. I haven't dated since 1995, and while the concept of small talk with a stranger sounded exhausting, something about this man seemed genuine. Perhaps if anything, I'd make a new friend out of the deal?

But soon I found a reply in my inbox that read "I'm looking to meet a woman who has been divorced for a couple of years, so we're just not the right fit for each other right now. Best wishes to you.."

Best wishes??!!

CHICAGO

More