- Be courteous. If possible, answer all messages, even if it's to say 'no' politely.
- It is not necessary to answer IMs/emails that are sexual in nature, even if it's only unsubtle, unfunny innuendo.
- Don't spend excessive amounts of time emailing or IMing. A day or two of quick messages, or a few rounds of emails is sufficient. Of course, on some sites, you may need more screening time, but that can be done on the phone.
- Give phone number out early, after the first or second email.
- Only give out cell number. (Easy to screen, not connected to your address.)
- Send an email with your number and suggest that he call you. (I hate making the first call. Yes, I know it's not fair. Too damn bad.)
- Talk on the phone at least once or twice before first meeting.
- Don't spend too much time on the phone. Try and keep conversations to less than an hour. (Excessive emailing and phone conversations lead to unrealistic expectations. Better to just meet and see if you pass the chemistry test.)
- The first meeting should be in a public place.
- Tell a friend that you are going on the date. (Can't hurt.)
- Don't get in the fellow's car on the first date.
- Drink a little, but not too much. (For me, that means one drink. Classic bad decisions often occur after the second drink.)
- Don't tell old boyfriend stories on a first date. No matter how hilarious they are. Stop it! I mean it! (Old boyfriend stories about elementary school may be acceptable.)
- Limit first dates to no more than two hours.
- Movies are a bad choice for a first date. It makes for a long night where you don't really get to know each other.
- Movies are a good choice for a second date. The pressure may be on--take it off by doing something that doesn't require you to entertain each other the entire night.
- Good first dates: museums, activities (roller/ice skating), walks, coffee, lunch, watching a game, movies (on occasion), drinks (maybe, maybe, maybe, but probably not).
- Good second dates: dinner, movies, theater, concerts, drinks, free DC type activities (outdoors in summer).
- Third dates: you are on your own!
In case it's not obvious, these are just the guidelines I use for myself. The guidelines are not meant to be prescriptive. I do believe I've ignored every single one--how do you think I developed them?
To wit: I have not answered perfectly nice messages from inoffensive fellows. I've spent excessive amounts of time emailing and IMing with guys who I've never met (and some who I did). I've given out my home number. I've not given my number at all and called him first. I've spent excessive amounts of time on the phone at all hours of the night. I don't think I've ever had an internet guy pick me up at my house, but I have been dropped home. I have neglected to tell anyone I was going on a date with a stranger. I have gotten in the stranger's car. I have had nothing to drink and I've had too much to drink. I've told old boyfriend stories (ad nauseum). Two hours? You've got to be kidding. Even my bad dates seem to last for at least four. I've gone to the movies on the first date. I've not gone to the movies on the second date. I've only ever had more than two dates with one internet guy (that was Jake).
Despite good reasons for each guideline, there are some I will continue to ignore, bend or break. Anyone want to add something? What did I miss?
Grateful for: not having to worry about internet dating for a while.