Tales from a dating experiment

My first online dating rejection.

So I'm out. No more. I guess I'm too fragile to handle the rejections from a man who doesn't even know my real name.

While my online dating stint was brief, I do want to pass on the wisdom I absorbed. Perhaps I can help you with your search for "that special someone." (Tip No. 1: Don't say you're looking for "that special someone.")

And for everything I didn't know, I turned to Bela Gandhi to fill in the blanks. Here are some do's and don'ts to being successful in cyber-dating.

Don't have screen names like "Mommywarnedyou" or "HotstuffMike." "Write a profile name that will make someone smile, not that will scare someone off," says Gandhi.

Don't take pictures of yourself with no shirt on in your bedroom. Shirtless photos are already sketchy, but if you want to show off your physique, be doing something, like swimming or fishing or rock climbing. You sitting in your desk chair with no shirt on just brings out all sorts of bad images that you don't want anyone to have in a first impression.

Don't use acronyms in your profile description that might offend, such as WTF or BS.

Do use spell-check when writing your profile. "You are wooing someone with your words so the first impression matters," says Gandhi. "And use punctuation. In this cyber-world, people think they can type the way they would text, and that can come off as lazy."

Don't reach out to people half your age. I got asked out by an 87-year-old man. I'm not against older men — but I will not be dating someone who could be my great-grandfather.

Don't "wink" at people. This is quite possibly more annoying than a million "pokes" on Facebook. If you like someone, send them a note.

Do write them an e-mail. "Take the time to write a good e-mail based on something the target has written," says Gandhi. "It doesn't have to be long — just enough to make them smile. And use the subject line in your e-mail to stand out. Ninety-five percent of people will say 'Hi'. Say something that responds to a comment in their profile. It shows you've actually read what they put out there rather than just looked at the pictures."

Don't be sarcastic. When I was struggling to write my profile, I decided to ask my 5-year-old son to describe me. I thought it was hilarious. But Gandhi warned, "Sarcasm doesn't translate in writing as well. They need to get to know you first, and that may be off-putting."

Do stick with it. Unlike me, who gave up after a week, Gandhi says it's important to stay in the game. "If you joined a gym and didn't lose all the weight you wanted in a week, would you quit your gym membership?" she said. "You have to give it a little time."

I think I'll stick to wishful thinking—if it's meant to be, I'll run into someone on the elevator or walking down Michigan Avenue.

But if you did indeed find "the one who got away" while dating online, send me an e-mail and fill me in.

Because everyone likes a happy ending.

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel
CHICAGO

More