Ever since I was stood up at the food court in seventh grade, I knew dating was going to be tough. I sat at a tiny Formica table picking at a Cinnabon for close to forty-five minutes before my mom walked by and caught me sobbing as if the world were coming to an end. These days I practice my moves outside the mall, as a writer for Nerve's Blog-a-Log, where I've taken my dating career semi-pro and learned a thing or two along the way.
I get a lot of emails from people asking for advice about online dating. (Also, requests for lewd acts involving oil-based lubricants, but let's not talk about that right now.) I've decided to put my time in the trenches to work for you, as a kind of low-rent Dear Abby. But with more swears.
So email me at email@example.com with your questions and problems. Each Friday, I'll answer several. And don't worry — your name (real or Nerve Personals) will not be revealed, though your letter may be edited for length, content, clarity, etc. Let's do this. — Erin Bradley, a.k.a. Miss Information
Dear Miss Information: Lately I've found myself obsessed with really cute nerds I meet online. I write one dude, in particular, every other day. Our correspondence is sweet and full of confessions. Now he's coming out to the West Coast and there's been talk of a meet-up, but I'm scared shitless. Will face-to-face interaction kill the romance? Should I not drive ten hours to see him? In our last email exchange, we agreed we would definitely meet, but now I'm getting cold feet. — Frozen
As the Beatles found out with the Sgt. Pepper's album, sometimes the best ideas are the ones that seem a little screwy at first. If you can do so without getting fired from your job or selling ass to get gas, you should definitely drive the ten hours to see him.
Why? Because it sounds like you've invested a lot of your precious time and emotional energy in Cute Nerd. You've got to meet up in person and see how things jibe if it's ever going to move beyond the keyboard humping phase. Whether it kills the romance is irrelevant. Sadly, there's no way to accurately predict what will make a relationship go sour, or when that will happen.
Right now, you're not even in a real relationship. It's some sort of half-assed hybrid. That's not viable for the long term, and pretty sucky for your Friday nights. Besides, where's your sense of adventure? If it goes great, you'll have an awesome story that will make Sleepless in Seattle look as romantic as a filmstrip on social disease. If it turns out terrible, you'll have stories to tell over brunch.
A few tips before you grab the road atlas and fit-for-company underwear:
Plan a short trip. Think long weekend, not two-week tour. If things go well, you two can always dream up excuses to give your boss between vigorous bouts of screwing and eating chocolates in the heart-shaped hot tub. If things go horribly wrong, you won't have to put up with each other for long.
Give your friends, parents, roommates, et. al. this guy's full name and all contact information, as well as your departure and return dates. Bring enough money to cover one night's stay in a hotel room in case you need to jump ship. This message brought to you by the Just in Case He's a Lunatic Foundation.
Do your pre-trip prep work. Call friends or friends-of-friends in the area; research cool bars, shops and tourist attractions. That way, if your nerd turns out to be more Cameron Frye than Ferris Bueller, you'll have other options.
Good luck, go West, get laid.
Here's my question: is the email dump always out? What if it's only been six dates? Doing it in person is out, since that would involve an hour's drive. Is the phone the only way to go? Given cellphones — more specifically, cellphone reception — I have this horrible premonition of how it's going to go:
Me: "This just isn't working out."
Him: "Sorry, there's lot of static. What'd you say?"
Me: "THIS JUST ISN'T WORKING OUT."
Him: "What? You're going to work out?"
P.S. I'm a chickenshit who dislikes confrontation.
In times like these, we must take a step back and thank the Internet for all it's given us, from Christmas shopping on the office dime to the ability to access vast amounts of porn without ever setting foot in one of those shops that has paper-towel racks everywhere you look.
Because the Internet has been so good to us, we should be good to it. Which, in the dating world, means not hiding behind it in avoidance of things that make us feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, or just plain shitty. I'm not going to respond to your question with some hard-and-fast formula for what dumping method to use when. Every relationship has its own history — even if it's barely long enough to register in the books — and what works for one situation might not work in the next.
That said, when deciding between Delivery Options A and B, think about which one makes you feel more uncomfortable at the prospect of carrying it out. That's usually the right answer.
So do it, LayLow. This isn't the time to be non-confrontational. And remember that even the most careful dumper is going to get dumped on in return, because being dumped sucks. But being a chickenshit is worse.
Hey Miss Information: I've been on five dates with a guy I'm interested in. Things are going great, except his Nerve Personals status keeps showing up as "active within 24 hours" whenever I check (which, I'll admit, is more often than what is probably emotionally healthy). Is it okay to be worried? I thought things were moving into the exclusive stage, but we've never had the official talk. I don't know how to bring it up without sounding like a psycho. — Check Yourself
Dear Check Yourself,
First of all, stop with all the self-hating, I'm-a-psycho stuff. You're not psycho, and I'll tell you why: in the world of dating, psychotic acts distinguish themselves by the amount of work they require. Typing in a few characters to see if someone's been cruising around a dating site takes a lot less time and effort, and thus is a lot less psycho, than hacking into Mr. Right's email account and sending "Back off, bitch!" messages to everyone in his address book with a female name (including his mother . . . oops).
Now what to do about Johnny Active Fingers? There are two ways to approach this: you could ignore what very well could be a number of non-serious offenses on his part, ranging from passive window-shopping of profiles to logging in just to see if you've been online. (Believe it or not, guys can be psycho too.) Then again, he could be actively shopping around, which is a sign he's not taking things as seriously as you are.
But maybe he doesn't know you want to be his one-and-only. Why not use some of the time you spend checking out his profile to plan a talk with him about your status as a couple (or non-couple). Do you reveal why you're initiating the discussion? That's up to you. But if you can't talk to him about something as inconsequential as a little dorky electronic obsessing, I would worry about your relationship potential. A little bit of vulnerability and communication can be a good thing. n°