My husband and I are closing in on our 10th wedding anniversary, and for the most part, that is great news. About 11.5 years out of our past 12 years together have been very very happy, and if you zero out the months that were tense because one of us had a new Macbook or iPhone and the other one hadn’t upgraded yet, you could probably get that up to 11.9 years of happiness. We have 2 wonderful kids, we manage to get out on dates together almost every week, and after ten years, I am still actually looking forward to more.

There’s only one problem: we missed out on Internet dating!

Now, some of this is my own fault. While I met Rob in 1994, we didn’t actually couple up until early 1998; went online in 1995. So yes, I did enjoy a few minutes of single life after the invention of Internet dating, when I could have discovered the joys of online matchmaking. But online dating just wasn’t the phenomenon it is now, and so I often feel like I’m missing out on a crucial dimension of how the Internet affects personal relationships — especially when my husband, just to torture me, pointed me to Cupidtino, a site dedicated to matchmaking Apple fans.

Last week, in the interest of research, I joined PlentyofFish, the Vancouver-based dating site that is an international phenomenon. I created a profile for a mostly fictional woman, deliberately making her into the kind of woman I don’t particularly relate to, so I wouldn’t be at all tempted by the kind of guys who respond to her. (I didn’t get to my 10-year anniversary by courting disaster.) So far, it’s made me feel much less regretful about “missing out” on Internet dating: I can’t believe the artless, barely literate responses that my good-time gal has attracted.

And now I’ve happened onto another wrinkle in dating technology: the challenge of navigating dating by text.

April Braswell has a very canny guide to the phenomenon of guys who get a woman’s phone number and then send her text messages in the evening. My single friends have occasionally consulted me on how to get out of the trap of a guy who texts or IMs instead of calling, but I hadn’t realized it was a new cultural challenge. According to Braswell,

The guys are doing what is known as “text dating.” They are taking up your time throughout a whole evening, but they have not in anyway taken any masculine risks to put themselves out there with their masculine confidence and asked you on a date.

Braswell has very specific strategies for how to avoid or stop a guy from text dating, and from where I sit, they sound plenty smart. But they also smell faintly of The Rules — another dating bible my friends simultaneously cite and complain about on feminist grounds. So here’s my effort to take Braswell’s advice and make it a little more palatable to those who might not appreciate her notion of “feminine” behavior:

If you want to give a guy your phone number….

Braswell advises that

..what you say when you cutely hand him your personal card sets the tone for flirtation and a possible date, or not.  Smiling and flirting with him at the end of chance meeting and conversation, Well, it was sure fun to talk with you.  I love live baseball games, too.  I’d love it if you PHONED me sometime and asked me on a date!” You did not ask him on date.  You just told him you were receptive to his overtures.

The strategy is good, but the execution has a couple of problems: (1) if you’re anything like me, you really don’t want to get suckered into going to baseball games — I lost a few years of my dating life that way! and (2) if you’re over 30, you may be past “cutely” doing anything.

So how about dropping the cute, and going for something a little more direct: “It was great meeting you — here’s my number, if you want to phone me to get together. But don’t be offended if you don’t hear back on a text — I’m not much of a texter.” That sets you up nicely for phase 2: how to stop the texting if it starts.

If a guy asks you for your number…

Braswell recommends that your first response is “Oh that would be fun.  What did you have in mind?” But she notes:

Mind you, rarely does the guy under 25 years old unless he is in business for himself already in some way like a lot of blue collar guys are, have the combined self-confidence and forthrightness to say, “I enjoyed talking with you.  I want your number so I can ask you on a date.” That would be jackpot gold, wouldn’t it? Just the under 25 year olds, the guys aren’t sufficiently practiced, poised, and polished talking with girls.

Well, I dated enough over-25 guys to say that polish and confidence do not magically descend on their 25th birthday. So whatever the age, you may need a follow-up line. Braswell recommends:

“Oh, I’d really like that.  I felt you wanted to PHONE and ask me out on a date.  If that’s the case, I’d gladly give you my number.  But not if you’re one of those time wasting guys who just wants to text a girl all the time and never ask her out.  You’re not like that, are you?” As you say that last part, squench up and wrinkle your nose and you contort your face into a look of bad tasting food.  Your body language facial expression should read, “Yelch!”

I’m afraid I can’t endorse any dating practice that requires you to do something potentially repulsive to your face (this is the same reason I don’t recommend septum piercing). So if the guy’s response to your “What did  you have in mind?” is something other than “I wanted to ask you out,” then try a follow-up like:  “I’m happy to give you my number if you want to call — I should just tell you that I’m not much of a texter.”

If he starts texting anyhow…

This is the area that Braswell didn’t cover. But my advice above sets you up for a really simple approach: ignore the first few texts. By the “first few” I don’t mean, the first 3 texts he sends you in a given evening. I mean, the first couple of evenings that he texts you. Be diligent about deleting them right away (Braswell wisely warns against the dangers of obsessively analyzing each text with your friends) and then give him a chance to get the hint. Then text him back the next day (not during evening dating time) with a short and friendly message: Sorry I missed  your texts. Not a big texter, but would love to talk if you want to call. Be sure you don’t use any text abbreviations (“ur” texts) that will make you look like you are a texter.

What if I am a texter?

Of course, if you are an ardent SMS-er, then this strategy won’t work for you, since you should never ever tell even a tiny lie to a guy you might want to date, like telling him you love A Flock of Seagulls [confidential to Rob: honey, of course I really DO love A Flock of Seagulls!] or work out every day or don’t have a giant zit on your nose (thank goodness for cover-up). Because that would be wrong.

But let’s say, for a moment, that you’re an actual human being who is known to employ minor falsehoods in smoothing over the initial awkwardness of a prospective dating relationship. I would say that telling the guy that “I’m not much of a texter” is the kind of falsehood you should be able to tell without losing a night’s sleep over the deception. And if he turns out to be someone you date for a longer period of time, and you do want to start texting him, you can just tell him that you try to avoid texting with guys you’ve just met.

Of course, you can’t use the “I’m not much of a texter” line if you’re in the mobile phone industry  — in which case it’s your fault for landing the rest of the world in this whole text messaging mess. But I’ll give you a break, and suggest a slightly different line: something like, “I have to do so much texting for work that I don’t like to text message in my personal life.”

Your satisfaction is guaranteed

Follow this strategy and you can look forward to your own happy 10th anniversary.

Hah! Wish it were that simple. What I can say is that attention to the impact of technology on your relationship — whether hoped-for or longstanding — is crucial to ensuring that it moves your love life in the direction you want.

Disclaimer: This author has not been single since before the invention of blogs. For all she knows, courting was much easier in the absence of RSS.

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