I’m not good at dating. I’m about as coy as a buffalo, and frankly, romance is always low on my to do list.
Still, about a year and a half ago, I sat down and signed up for six months of online dating courtesy of eHarmony.com. Slowly and unsurely, I tiptoed through eHarmony’s tulips, quietly searching for a match.
I’ve never been a fan of online dating, despite the fact that my mom married the man she met online, my associate editor met her husband online and my boss happily lives with the man she met online. I guess I’ve often thought of online dating as a vapid act of modern romance, an extension of the nightclub (except with more typing and, I hope, less sweat).
And despite my objections and my own lack of dating skill, in the pre-programmed fate that could only happen in the digital world, on my first and only eHarmony-matched date, I met someone.
Someone great. He’s the only boyfriend I’ve had who, as my friends say, “doesn’t take your crap.” I think that’s good.
I really don’t know how it happened, it seemed more like serendipity and I thought myself pretty lucky. Especially when I sat down with Trisha Ventker, an Erie resident, the author of Internet Dates from Hell and a consultant for online daters. Ventker and I recently met for coffee. I had heard about her from a reader and thought she would offer some insight into online dating. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for sites like eHarmony and Match, I certainly cannot deny that they work.
It’s the best way for a single person to find a partner in this modern world, she says. And she knows: Ventker dated 411 men and one woman (she didn’t realize it was a woman until she arrived at the coffee shop) who she met online during a period of six years. Her book details her experiences: many of them odd, wacky and just plain weird—and the lessons she learned. Those lessons became chapters in Internet Dates from Hell, including “Don’t Fall For Someone Just for His Accent” and “Watch out for Pathological Liars.”
“I’m doing this because I want to prevent people from going through what I went through,” she said. “It’s a guide. There is hope. There are soul mates out there.”
Ventker’s philosophy on online dating is to treat it like a job. If you aren’t getting response on your profile, have a friend look it over and edit it. Hire a professional photographer—“Black and white photos are great,” she says. Maximize your assets and minimize (but don’t hide) your downfalls. Choose your words carefully.
“You might write that you are open-minded in your profile, but men might think that means you are open-minded sexually,” she said. “And you might have intended it to mean that you have an open-minded outlook on life. It’s a total culture.”
And you have to work to improve your online image. The No. 1 rule is if you aren’t getting response, you are doing something wrong. Change it.
I think if there’s one lesson that Ventker can teach, it’s patience. The woman went on dates with a pre-op transsexual, a conspiracy theorist, a foot fetishist, and despite the good, bad and ugly that she faced, she kept going until she finally found the one. The last chapter details how she met her current husband; the two have been married for five years and have a son.
“It was a journey of self reflection and hope,” she said. “I had always hoped there was someone out there for me. I wanted to find that right fit.”
Sometimes it takes 412 tries to find the right fit; for others, it just takes one.