Advice

Miss Information: Spring break best-of.

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Miss Information is on spring break. She’ll be back next week with an all-new column. Until then, kick back in your lawn chair/cubicle seat/Craftmatic Adjustable bed, down a couple of Jäger bombs, and enjoy this one-hundred-percent regret-free best-of.

Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

I have a hypothetical situation for you. Okay, so it’s not hypothetical. It’s one I’ve encountered many times. You find someone online who seems interesting. You exchange emails. Then photos. You see that the person’s not attractive. Really, really not attractive. How do you handle this? A) Be gentle and honest, B) Tell a little lie, C) Offer to be friends, D) Just not reply and hope they get the hint? — Pick One Please

Dear Pick One Please,

Sorry, no can do. It’s like ridiculously hot young redheads or my Grandma’s favorite potato chip. You can’t stop at just one.

To that end, I’ll go with E) All of the above except C. Why not C? Because I don’t believe in that friendship shit. Maybe if it’s a really nifty person you met through a friend of a friend or some new guy at work, but some one totally random from the online personals? No way. You make this offer to one guy. Next week it’s two. Two months later and you’re emailing and instant messaging with a dozen plus people you’re not attracted to and never intend to meet outside of cyberspace. And for what? You’re not bedridden, agoraphobic, or incarcerated. Pen pals are for people who don’t have any other options. You do. So make a decision and move on.

Wait, Miss Information. How do I make a decision? You still haven’t told me which option.

That’s on purpose, Pick One Please. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Whether you go with A) Honest, B) White Lie, or D) Blow-off depends entirely on the situation.

Is it someone you’ve been doing a lot of conversing with and you’re worried you’ll wound his fragile ego? Might want to go with B. Do his emails read like they’re cut-and-pasted and he’s been chatting up scads of girls? Then A’s probably a good option. People like that are better at picking up and moving on. Were you always vaguely creeped out by him and now that you have that JPEG with the blurred focus and pubic-looking sex-offender mustache even more so? Go with D and don’t look back. There’s another, even crazier option. You ready? Just say something like, “Hey, I’m sorry but I changed my mind. Good luck,” and leave it at that.

No matter what option you pick, you run the risk of alienating and/or offending some people. But good news! There’s an easy way to avoid all this mess: Don’t start conversations with people until you’ve seen their picture. I don’t care if they’re embarrassed or they can’t post one because of their kids, church congregation, mean-spirited frat buddies or uptight job. You don’t go into a singles bar wearing a ski mask, and you don’t go online, in the year of our Lord 2009, without posting a friggin’ photo.

Finally, keep in mind that snapshots aren’t necessarily giving you the whole story. Some of the hottest fellas I’ve gone out with, I remember being dubious about their pictures. The opposite was true for guys whose photos were so smoking I turned them into my screensaver only to discover they looked like the a five-foot-one version of Edward James Olmos. Take a chance once in a while. You might hit the Photoshop jackpot.

Dear Miss Information,

My last three romantic relationships have been with three fairly different women. Age, appearance, career, likes, dislikes and so forth have been across the board. The one thing that’s similar among all of these women is that they have all been unavailable. Woman #1 just wanted to go out once or twice. We had a really awkward makeout session, and then she left the country for six months. Woman #2 waited until she was in bed with me to mention the long-term boyfriend whom she lives with. (“So that’s why she never picked up the phone on weekends.”) Woman #3 lived at home with her parents, so we could never spend the night with each other.

I realize that I need to take responsibility for my pursuit of women who aren’t really interested. I’ve taken a break from dating, but now that I’m dipping my toes back into the dating pool, how do I make it clear from the beginning that I am looking for someone who’s single, able to see me and wants something more than an awkward hook-up? — Day-Late Dollar-Short

Dear Day-Late Dollar-Short,

“I realize that I need to take responsibility for going after women that aren’t really interested.” High five, Day-Late Dollar-Short. You hit it right on the head. Then the hammer bounced back a skosh and grazed you in the nuts. Feels familiar, don’t it? Kinda like all this rejection. Hope you were wearing a cup.

While we’re on the subject of rejection, let’s take a look at what’s making you feel so cautious and vulnerable towards getting back into dating: You think these failed dalliances indicate these women’s lack of interest in you. The real cause is they’re just not available.

What does available mean? We all have our own definition. For you it sounds like “single,” “free time,” and “wants something ongoing” top the list of prerequisites. Sounds reasonable, but I think you can build this out a little more. The diversity of the women you’ve been dating strikes me as bit of a warning sign. While I don’t believe in confining yourself to a single, narrow type, when your dating resume includes everyone from an twenty-year-old bisexual fashion-design student to a married fifty-seven-year-old information systems manager living in Poland, I start to doubt your ability to adhere to your list of must-haves.

You may be the type who feels happy when he’s a relationship, blue and unfulfilled when he’s not. You grab on to every bit of affection that comes your way. The swoony falling-in-love part often precedes the critical thinking part, in which you determine whether or not the person is appropriate.

Of course, the only way to guarantee a person won’t mislead you is to forgo dating, stay indoors and water your plants in your underwear. That said, a few actions you can take online:

* Check only the box that says you want a serious relationship and/or dating, stay away from the ones advertising for a friend or hookup.
* Say you want a girlfriend. State it in your profile outright. There are creative ways to work it in. Example: For the “____ is sexy, ____ is sexier” question you could say something like “I Want Your Sex,” is sexy. “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is sexier.
* Read other people’s profiles carefully. Pay special attention to relationship status, location, age and kind of relationship desired.

As for that kooky, rapidly shrinking non-Internet world:
* Go to non-boozy establishments to meet people. Even a house party is better, because it’s a friend of a friend and there’s some connection.
* Drinking is a fine first-date activity, but try to pair it with something else. Where alcohol goes, false positives follow.
* Resist insta-familiarity. No spending the night on the second date. If you don’t want to be a one-night stand, don’t behave like one.
* Start out not wanting to like the other person. Wait for them to give you a reason to like them. I don’t recommend this for everyone, but in this case a negative bias is therapeutic.
* Ask questions. Be nosy. “Where do you live? Do you have roommates? Do you like your roommates? How did you meet him them?” If their roommate’s an ex, you can ferret that out with a question like, “How did you meet them?”

All of these are more hands-on ways of making it clear from the beginning that you’re looking for someone who’s not dicking around.

Why not just ask them that, Miss Info? Well, because that puts the responsibility on them, not you. You can get someone to promise something up front, but that won’t stop them from lying and acting confusing. Taking direct action is a much more empowering way to go.

Dear Miss Information,

I’d been dating this girl for almost two months. We met online and hit it off right away. She introduced me to her mom and sister after a couple weeks. We went out often with both of our friends, took in a Metallica concert and went to an NBA game. She came to my company Christmas party. We talked to each other several times a day, and last week she invited me to dinner with her son and mom. Then I didn’t hear from her for two days. Got a text on the third day telling me she wasn’t sure how to tell me this, but she didn’t think we could be anything more than friends, that the chemistry wasn’t there for her. She also told me I was the perfect guy, that I was very handsome and noted that I respected her. I’m confused: I really like this girl, and even though we’d only been together for two months, I saw things going somewhere. Why the sudden change? — Very Confused

Dear Very Confused,

It’s 2009 and you’re still listening to Metallica. Does there need to be any other reason? Wait, she went with you. Okay, never mind. I’ll let that slide. Plus Master of Puppets was pretty bitchin’.

Two to three months is a popular drop-off point for daters, as are the holidays and the dawn of a new year. In this instance, we’ve got a double-hitter. We also have a meeting-of-the-relatives, i.e. a Relationship Milestone (RM). RMs are usually good, an indication that the other person wants to take it to the next level by introducing a new stage of personal, sexual or social intimacy. An example might be an invitation to spend the night, when couch-groping and going home had been the norm.

But occasionally, RMs are used as a last-ditch attempt to determine if you actually have feelings for the other party. The idea is that by investing yourself more fully and not going at it half-assed, you’ll come to a conclusion. This rarely works, as was the case with me and a super gentleman several years ago. For months I waffled about my feelings for him, until I came to the conclusion that I had to sleep with him. So I did. Know what changed? Jack shit. I was still uncertain, only I’d made it harder on myself (and more importantly, him) because I now had to explain the nonsensical nature of my actions: “Hey there, let’s get serious. Ha ha! Just kidding!”

Perhaps a similar chain of events took place with your ladyfriend. Or maybe something altogether different. If it’s really what she says — chemistry — then it can’t be quantified. She says you’re handsome and perfect and you need to trust her on that. You being handsome and perfect and her not liking you are not mutually exclusive. I have said this to a lot of guys, and actually meant it. You need to find somebody who likes your particular brand of handsome and perfect, i.e., chemistry. Ideally, she’ll also not be the type to dump you via text message. Yeesh.