I heard it for the first time back when I started dating. A friend gave me advice about internet dating, but I was younger then and more stubborn.

“How can I not take it personally? It’s personal.” My voice was operatic. “He’s rejecting me. Me.”

My friends who are new to online dating don’t get it either. They get pissed off and frustrated and want to cancel their dating site memberships. But I remind them it’s not so easy at fifty and over, meeting a man in real life. “IRL,” I say. “See? It’s got its own acronym, so it must be a phenomenon.”

Online Dating Should be a Supplement to Meeting IRL

Which is why online dating, while sometimes painful, is necessary. As for the not taking it personally part, here’s how it plays out.

You’re on your favorite dating site, and you’re having a grand old time (as my Aunt Patty used to say), emailing a few guys. You may even have a glass of wine along for the ride, or maybe it’s a cup of ginger tea.

You do this three or four times a week, this keeping in touch. It’s light, it’s fun, but there’s work involved. Internet dating takes time, even if you can conduct business in your pajamas. You’ve got to keep track of who’s out there, who emails you back, and who doesn’t bother. You don’t want to waste time contacting someone who’s ignored you. You keep track online or you’ve got a little spiral notebook or you employ a lot of sticky notes. Whatever works.

When you’re out during the day, you might even take a peek at your phone. You’ve got the dating site app on there anyway, so you might as well check, in case someone’s emailed.

In other words, this online dating thing is getting to be a second job. You’re writing four or five guys, sometimes more. But there’s one guy who pops up often. We’ll call him Mr. Nice.

It’s so great to have a Mr. Nice.

He’s dependable and he pops up just when you need him. After all, scrolling through page after page of photos, reading profiles and thinking up clever ice breakers (You need an ice breaker to email someone for the first time, don’t you?) is exhausting.

A few men contact you, of course, but they fade in and out. ”What’s with these guys?” you say out loud to Pluto, your devoted fox terrier. Pluto nudges you with his nose, his way of saying he empathizes.

That’s when you thank the online dating gods for sending Mr. Nice. Ain’t it great, you’re emailing Mr. Nice and he’s emailing you back.

In fact, every day brings a new and chatty story, how his daughter aced her law boards and his grandson made the basketball team. You tell him about your two grandkids and how you play tennis all year long. (He plays, too, you’ve read this tidbit in his profile, and you’re thinking a friendly game of tennis might set the tone for a meet.)

It’s as if you know each other.

And it’s been three days, four, five, six. You’re getting to know one another. He might even ask for your phone number. Soon.

You’re thinking you can make less of an effort with those other guys. Emailing multiple men is tedious and you’d rather concentrate your efforts on one man, Mr. Nice. Rate of return is an important concept.

Then, one evening he doesn’t email. Nothing the next day or the next.

The emails stop. Is he sick? You write, asking if he has that virus that’s going around.

No response and, yup, it reverberates around you. The sound of silence, email-wise. You never hear from him again.

He’s ghosted.

Don’t take it personally. You didn’t know each other. He’s not your friend.

You move on because…what choice do you have? And guess what? You get an email from a guy with curly grayish-brown hair, his curly gray poodle in his lap. You email back and he asks for your phone number, just like that, and you send it along. He calls.

Forty-five minutes, you talk. You tell him about your two grandkids and how you play tennis all year long. (He doesn’t play tennis; he’s a golfer.) He tells you about his penchant for old black and white movies and how his grandson sometimes indulges him by watching an old movie (“OK, so he’s on his iPad,” he admits), alongside his grand dad.  You like his warmth, his laugh.

“Yes,” you breathe into the phone. You’re already calling him Mr. Nicer in your head. He doesn’t suggest meeting, but he texts the following evening, a long and chatty text. He sends you a couple of photos as he goes about his errands, a grill at Home Depot, the new iPhone at Walmart. I’m researching these items,he texts. He even sends a picture of his salad; he’s stopped for lunch at Panera, not far from where you live.

He texts several times a day, every day. He doesn’t call, but there are more texts. It’s been three days, four, five, six. You’re getting to know one another. He has your phone number, surely he’ll call. But he doesn’t call, he texts.

You feel as if you’ve been slotted into a texting Black Hole

Then one day he doesn’t text. Nothing the next day, or the next. You know he isn’t sick. You don’t write, because that virus isn’t going around much anymore, and anyway he doesn’t have a virus.

Unless he’s caught the ghosting virus. Not funny. This time you’re angry and frustrated. Not helpful.

It’s the nature of the online dating beast, fondly known as crappy behavior.

But the good thing is the online dating gods are sending you a message. The message is this: Don’t take it personally.

Taking online dating personally hobbles your energy and enthusiasm, and you need all your umpfbecause, even if you have a helmet, online dating is tough.

Getting your feelings hurt over a stranger’sbehavior keeps you from moving forward. I have friends who’ve given up. It’s fine to stop, of course, everyone needs a break. Make it your choice, though.

Don’t quit because of a couple of thoughtless guys killing a few hours by fooling around online.

Still angry? Well, there is something you can do.

You can’t prevent ghosting or back burnering or plain crummy behavior, but you can prevent the damage to your too-tender psyche.

Instead of getting stuck in Email Land—or Text Land, politely, firmly, request to meet as soon as possible.

After two or three emails. It’s simple.

That’s it.

If he makes excuses, move on. You’re on a dating site to go on a date, not to develop an email-pal relationship.

And that’s exactly what you’ll tell him.

The Mini Lesson

Have a life you enjoy, friends, family. The obvious. Take yourself on a date. Treat yourself to whatever you love doing.

Don’t make online dating a second job.

Share Your Thoughts

Have you been in this situation? Do you make it a practice to email more than one man at a time? How do you handle someone who wants to email forever, never mentioning meeting? Please share your ideas and experience.












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