The rules for online dating

June 24, 2006

The Style Life Challenge I wrote about a couple days got an interesting response (see the comments). While we're on the topic, I thought I'd also mention the female-equivalent of male-centric The Game… a book called The Rules, written by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. They've sold over 2 million copies since 1995, and have built sort of a mini-movement around this book. Most people consider both the books to be rather sexist, misguided, and full of advice that will only work for the most pathetic and desparate people around. I'm not really trying to convince otherwise… but for some reason I find the information in these books to be really fascinating. What's most interesting about these books, to me, is that they're taking something that's traditionally thought of pretty sacred (the search for romance, love, soul mates, marriage, whatever), and turned it into a deliberate set of rules, exercises, and tricks that people who feel frustrated, unhappy, and limited can use to begin to feel empowered, self-confident, and able to impact their own lives for the better.

Here's a list of a more recent set of rules that Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider came up with for online dating.

  1. Don't answer men's ads or email them first
  2. Create a good screen name (they gave BlondeBeauty50 as an example of a good screen name)
  3. Less is more when writing your ad
  4. Post a smiling photo
  5. Wait 24 hours to respond
  6. Don't answer on weekends or holidays
  7. Write light and breezy emails
  8. Never email a second time if he neglected to respond to your email
  9. For the first three months (!) don't initiate an email, only respond
  10. Block yourself from instant messages
  11. Don't volunteer your phone number first
  12. If he doesn't ask you out within four emails, delete/next
  13. Screen out Mr. Wrong
  14. Don't waste your time on time wasters
  15. Don't force the relationship from email to phone
  16. Put safety first
  17. Don't ad-interrogate on dates

I know from my experience of online dating that rules sort of evolve out of usage of the system. You learn from experiences and try to avoid making the same mistakes twice. I have my own rules of sorts… most involving clear pictures, short emails, quick and inexpensive first dates, clear and early communication of disinterest when it clearly isn't going to work, and relying on first impressions and not dragging things out simply to prove yourself. Most of the rules above actually don't sound absolutely horrendous, even though several do play into lame gender roles, everyone is different, and to call them rules is more than a little misguided. What do you think?

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One Response to “The rules for online dating”

  1. maggie Says:

    Yeah, I think a lot of these are more common sense, although some of them are just about playing coy/hard to get, which is sorta lame. I am not sure you can call The Rules the female equivalent of the Game, because the Rules seems to be marriage-obsessed (granted, I haven’t read it) while the Game seems to focus on getting as many phone numbers as possible and not real relationships. Though I think in the end, they both probably have the same result–if you do end up in a relationship, you’ve totally misrepresented yourself and the other person might be dismayed by the real you…or at least un-interested once the new glow wears off and you run out of tricks. Tellingly, one of the Rules authors is now divorced.

    I think the Game has some common sense advice too, I just hate the way the common sense in both books seems to be wrapped around a bunch of damaging stereotypes and negative behaviors. So I guess they might be worth reading if you can pick out the useful stuff and not just follow it blindly like a bible.


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