There’s a line in a wonderful piece that Caitlin Moran wrote called ‘posthumous advice to my daughter’ that I often think of if I’m anxious about being in an environment with people I don’t know very well. She says:
“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.”
There are many situations where this is useful advice – when you’re that person on a table at a wedding who doesn’t know a single other person, when you’re on a training course stood awkwardly with your cup of coffee at break-time, when you’re flying solo at a party (though if there is a dog at said party I will usually be found crouched on the floor in the kitchen fussing it – and no, I don’t know why I’m single either). But I find it excellent advice for getting to know someone whilst dating – both in those early messages and on the first date. Of course, it has to be done with genuine curiosity, and there’s a fine line between an eagerness to learn about someone and it feeling like an MI5 interrogation. And I’d love to say that the majority of men I speak to on dating apps follow this advice, but sadly it tends to go a little more like this…
Me: “Hey, how are you? How’s your weekend? I see from your profile that you’re into [hobby/interest], how did you get into that?”
(Or something similar)
Them: “Just chilling this weekend, been busy with work. Yeah I really like [hobby/interest], been doing it for years.”
Me: “That sounds good, what do you like to do when chilling? Sorry to hear your work has been so busy, what do you for a job?”
Them: “I’m just watching a film. I’m a graphic designer.”
Me: “What type of films do you like? Any recommendations? I’m more of a Netflix series’ kind of girl personally, I’ve currently been binge watching Power. That sounds interesting – do you work for yourself?”
Them: “I’m freelance so I work on a lot of different stuff. I like a lot of action movies, I’m just watching Fury.”
…. on and on until I eventually give up through sheer exhaustion. Though I did recently call out a guy who spent several paragraphs telling me about his job working in tour management for some (admittedly cool) bands, asked me about my job and then didn’t ask a single further question about it. I mean, I know that working as a Project Manager doesn’t involve doing whisky runs for the Rolling Stones but you could think of maybe one small thing to ask me. (He unmatched me after I gave him this feedback).
If a conversation is like a game of tennis then I end up feeling like a grumpy Serena Williams, constantly hitting it into their side of the court with nothing coming back to me. Maybe I’m over-egging this point, but it’s my single biggest dating turn-off. I recently went on a few dates with a guy and we ended up messaging fairly frequently alongside going for drinks or dinner. I could probably wander into his office now and actually do his job, such is my level of knowledge about the inner workings of his role. I doubt he could even tell you a single thing about mine. (We didn’t get beyond the third date – in my opinion, the third date is where you probably have sufficient information about someone to decide whether you want to carry on meeting up).
In terms of profile no-nos (and I’m breaking my own rule here by articulating this), my main issue is when they provide a long list of things they don’t want, rather than any information about themselves. “No weird eyebrows, no Snapchat filters, no women with kids, no penpals, no party girls,” etc etc. I think it says a lot about a person if they consider themselves so entitled to be inundated with offers that they need a filtration system. (Plus I don’t know what kind of patriarchal nonsense makes you think you can tell me what my eyebrows should look like). If every single photo is a gym selfie I’m swiping left – not through judgement but through the assumption that you won’t want to spend your Sunday on the sofa with me eating pizza and watching Netflix. Emojis are totally acceptable – personally I think they help show the tone of a message when otherwise it might be confusing (it can be difficult getting to know someone purely over messages which is why I think it’s okay to ask for a coffee date or a drink within a few days of chatting). My most used emojis are the hands over face emoji (usually for sharing something clumsy I did that day), crying with laughter emoji (in case my weird sense of humour doesn’t translate) and heart eyes emoji (reserved predominantly for food).
So what sort of messages do I like to receive? A thoughtful opener that shows you’ve at least glossed over my profile. You can send a gif if it’s relevant to my interests (Michael Scott is a yes, a minion is a no) – but there has to be a follow-up line or I’ll assume that you’re sending that gif to every girl on the app. Someone who seems at least vaguely interested in getting to know me and asks intelligent questions. Someone who seems kind and interested and likes to do at least some of the things I like to do. On a first date I like eye contact and someone who is polite to bar staff and waiters. I always split the bill. I think you can tell fairly quickly whether there’s a connection or chemistry there but I also try and go with the flow and keep an open mind – I don’t want to miss out on my ‘lobster’ because he didn’t wear the right shoes, but at the same time I think it’s good to be aware of your deal breakers before you strike out into the world of dating.
What are your dating turn-ons and turn-offs? What elicits an immediate yes and what’s a total no go?
As part of this post, I’ve partnered with Match, the online dating service with more relationships than any site. Their aim is for users to find true love and that starts with a first message, that’s why they’ve asked me to write this post discussing dating and messaging etiquette.
This post is part of a collaboration with Match, however all opinions and content are my own.