‘I have a good feeling about this,” my mother says. Which is refreshing to hear, since we are talking about my dating life, and most conversations about my dating life just turn into nonsensical debates over why the heck I’m still single — with an added serving spoon of Jewish guilt for me to do something about it.
And I have tried to do something about it. Really, I have. I’ve been to the Matzo Ball in three different cities, shaken the hands of many strangers at a Jewish singles speed-dating event and even attended Sabbath dinners in Manhattan from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, in hopes of meeting my very own prince charming mensch.
But it hasn’t been easy — this whole dating thing.
After getting sick of ordering take-out for one on a Saturday night, wrestling with the absurd idea that I’m destined to be single for the rest of my life, and becoming even more exhausted with going out to local bars and getting hit on by guys with tequila breath, I decided to do something about it.
Which is why when I finally told my mom I gave in and joined JDate, she nearly suffocated me with pure, unadulterated happiness.
There was nothing even remotely similar to JDate 30-something years ago, when my mom was single. People didn’t have to rummage together the right words to create an online dating bio, and there weren’t any back-and-forth online chats to be had before an in-person introduction was warranted. To her, the idea of JDate was probably similar to being a kid in a candy store. Except the candy store is a website that hosts information and photos of local Jewish singles, and the kid is a 25-year-old who could have her pick.
“Mom, it’s not that easy,” I try to tell her after spending nine months on the site and going on as many dates as I have fingers on one hand.
The problem, she concluded, must be me.
So, one breezy September evening, I gave my mom the verbal okay, my user name, my password and my attention. I let my mom take over my JDate account for one night.
Within the first couple of minutes, I noticed that the kinds of profiles we were clicking on or were later impressed by were very, very different. Here are just five of the lessons my mom taught me about how to approach online dating.
1. Read the bio first.
When you’re looking at profiles on JDate, the only information you see about a person at first is the user name and the picture — so, what attracts you to the profile is either the funny name the person chose or his or her photo. Most of the time it’s the photo, and when you land on the page, you want to click and see more photos first. My mom, however, scrolled straight down to read the person’s words. She didn’t skim through it like I sometimes do, and she didn’t just read the bio — she made it a point to read everything about the person before she did anything else.
Lesson: A starting point in establishing a strong and lasting connection to a person should begin with whether or not you are attracted to his or her personality.
2. Choose appropriate pictures
My mom was instantly turned off by guys who used pictures of themselves standing very close to other girls (this didn’t really bother me). She didn’t waste time with guys who had pictures of themselves looking trashed at bars or raves (that’s something we fully agreed on).
Lesson: Post photos on your profile that your mom would be proud to show her friends at mahjong or that you’d use with your LinkedIn profile. Though dating and interviewing for a job are different, they are the exact same thing in the power of a professional first impression.
3. Be honest — be you.
The profiles my mom enjoyed the most were the ones that were honest and revealed something about the person that was specific and different. A fact or two about the guy’s interests, his life, his family, made him stand out. The profiles that were skimpy with information were ones where you didn’t find out much about the person and therefore didn’t have much with which to kick off a conversation.
Lesson: Reveal some fun facts about who you are in your bio. Take the time to write it, rewrite it and constantly update it. The more you identify what you enjoy in this world, the more people will want to message you.
4. Make the first move.
When my mom finished reading a profile that stood out, she wanted to instantly send that person a message. She wanted me to reach out first — which was different from my normal mantra. Normally, I’d wait for the guy to message me first, which I’ve come to realize is overall a waste of time and just immature.
Lesson: After reading someone’s profile, send the person a message right then and there. The information will be fresh in your mind, and even if your message is not overly witty or perfect, just reaching out and making the first move shows the right amount of interest.
Online dating can be time consuming. It’s not enough to just throw up a profile on JDate and sort through the messages whenever you feel like it. You need to do more than that to find someone, to feel something.
After my mom picked out profiles that she liked, I messaged a handful of the guys I liked, and went on a date with one guy who stood out for several reasons — including the mention of a special bond he has with his mother. So we met in person and talked for a few hours, and found that we would make better friends than anything else. That happens, and that will happen a lot. But it’s okay — it got me off my couch, into a clean pair of pants and in the company of someone who could potentially flip my heart upside down. That’s just how this whole dating thing works these days. It takes a few clicks before you find the “one.”