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Usenet Personals: Advice for Gay Men FAQ (Part I of II)

( Part1 - Part2 )
[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Counties ]
Archive-name: personals/gayfaq/part1
Posting-Frequency: bi-weekly
Last-modified: 1999/09/05
Version: 7
URL: http://www.greatwildwest.net/nssf

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
            ===========================================

THE NOT-SO-STRAIGHT FAQ:  One gay male's thoughts and advice on successful
use of Internet personals, by Fred Young, with Dean Esmay

First Edition: August 17, 1995
Seventh Edition: September 5, 1999

    This FAQ is also available on the World Wide Web at
    http://www.greatwildwest.net/nssf

This entire document is Copyright 1995-1999 by Dean Esmay and Fred
Young.  Permission is hereby granted to make and distribute verbatim
copies of this document provided the copyright notice and this permission
notice are preserved on all copies, and that all copies are reprinted in
full and without modification.  To discuss permission for other forms of
copying or reprinting, please write to Fred Young at
nssf@greatwildwest.net and Dean Esmay at esmay@syndicomm.com.

            ===========================================

 CONTENTS
 --------
  i) NOTE FROM DEAN ESMAY, AUTHOR OF THE STRAIGHT FAQ
 ii) A SHORT INTRODUCTION

  1.1 Does anyone ever meet anyone from here? Is this for real or what?
  1.2 Are all the men who use online personals desperate, fat, ugly, or
      computer nerds?
  1.3 Okay, You've made me curious. Where can I go to check out personal
      ads on the 'Net?
  1.4 Okay, I've looked through a bunch of personal ads and it seems like
      there's tons of ads for sex.  What's the deal?  Is that all everyone
      is really looking for?
  1.5 What do all these abbreviations like "ISO" and "SWM" and "G*M" and
      "SWCF" mean?
  1.6 How do I write my own ad?
  1.7 I have a problem with weight. What do I do about this?
  1.8 What about age? I may be too old to find anyone.
  1.9 That's all well and good. But how about specific tips for gay men?
 1.10 I posted my ad over and over again and never got much response.
      What gives?
 1.11 He wrote me! He wrote me! He wrote me!!! OMIGOD! What do I do?
 1.12 Anything I should look out for?
 1.13 How much should I worry about meeting someone dangerous this way?
 1.14 How can I assure someone that I'm not crazy or dangerous?
 1.15 We've traded mail and talked on the phone and things are going
      really well!! What do I do when we meet??
 1.16 Okay, how do we plan a first meeting?

  Other General/Miscellaneous Questions (in Part II)

  2.1 Why aren't there separate USENET groups for straight and for gay
      people, men looking for women, men looking for men, women looking
      for women, etc.?
  2.2 With the current configuration, how may we make better use of the
      cluttered space in the alt.personals.* newsgroups?
  2.3 Are there any OTHER LOCATIONS to place gay personals on the
      Internet?
  2.4 Some people keep talking about using "Kill" files to avoid seeing
      messages you don't like. What the heck is a "Kill" file anyway?
  2.5 What's the deal with all these messages from "Anon." Mail Addresses?
  2.6 Why would anyone post anonymously? Are they weirdos or what?
  2.7 What about e-mail privacy?
  2.8 Some person has posted something really rude in response to me, or
      is picking on me. What do I do?
  2.9 I got some really nasty, crude, rude, or threatening E-Mail. What
      do I do?
 2.10 Okay, I didn't get any vicious or threatening mail, but I did get
      something just plain weird. What about that?
 2.11 Anything else you want to tell me?

            -------------------------------------------

 i) NOTE FROM DEAN ESMAY, AUTHOR OF THE STRAIGHT FAQ:

When I wrote the first edition of THE STRAIGHT FAQ, a popular document to 
help men and women meet each other online, it was much shorter than the
version currently in circulation.  More than half of that document was
taken up with advice for men on how to deal with the apparent shortage of
women, and on how a man could attract a woman's attention in a crowded
field, with some supplemental info for women on how to deal with the
opposite problem.  Thus it was called "The Straight FAQ," because
obviously gay men would not care about disparity in numbers between men
and women, and would not care about advice on how to attract the opposite
sex, some of which probably wouldn't apply to them, or would be just
different enough to make my advice wonky or nonsensical.  However, I was
always open to having someone with experience in the gay community help me
write a FAQ for gay people, and after many months of asking online for
someone to help, Fred Young finally stepped forward.

Fred's done a remarkable job here; sometimes, by changing only a very few
words, he manages to take something I wrote take on a whole new meaning.
He also does a great job of seamlessly snipping out stuff that I wrote
that isn't relevant, while continuing with the same narrative flow.
Indeed, there are places where I can't tell where my words end and Fred's
begin.

As with The Straight FAQ, this FAQ has some limitations.  It is written
to help gay men, but it doesn't speak to lesbians, who undoubtedly could
use much of this advice, but for whom some advice may apply differently,
and for whom other advice we haven't thought of here might be appropriate.

Similarly, we can't address things like those with an interest in S&M,
bondage, bestiality, threesomes, etc.  Trying to address every possible
permutation of human matings is simply impossible.  But my hope is that
people who want serious monogamous relationships find use of this FAQ, or
The Straight FAQ.  I will also say that if anyone wants to do a FAQ for
lesbians, bisexuals, or whatever, I'll be happy to lend my support; just
shoot me a note and we'll talk.

With that, I'll let you move on to read Fred Young's excellent Not-So-
Straight FAQ.  If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to
write either Fred and/or myself.

Otherwise, enjoy!

Dean Esmay
7 September 1995


 ii) A SHORT INTRODUCTION:

I first began using Usenet personals back in early 1995.  After
experimenting with traditional newspaper advertisements, I thought I would
try this as a new way of meeting people.  Most newspapers have done away
with the traditional mailbox-type ads in favor of voice services which,
in my opinion, are very expensive.

Upon reading Dean Esmay's STRAIGHT FAQ, a FAQ with advice for
heterosexuals, I contacted him to see if he wished to incorporate certain
information in his FAQ for gay men, mainly with suggestions on how
heterosexuals and homosexuals may share the alt.personals.* newsgroups
without getting in each others' way. After a brief discussion, we decided
to write this NOT-SO-STRAIGHT FAQ.  You will find many similarities
between this document and the original STRAIGHT FAQ.

Please note that this FAQ is written by a gay male for gay men.  It may
apply to those who are bi or lesbian, but I don't feel qualified to
comment on it.  There are probably issues to lesbians and bisexuals (or
other groups) which neither Mr. Esmay nor I are qualified to comment upon.
But I think much of this will apply universally.  Perhaps some time
someone can help us to create FAQs for other groups. I do suggest that
heterosexuals reference Dean Esmay's original STRAIGHT FAQ, instead of
this document.

Any suggestions, criticisms, comments, questions, or proposed additions on
this FAQ should be sent via e-mail to myself at nssf@greatwildwest.net or
to Dean Esmay at esmay@syndicomm.com.

So anyway, let's get started, shall we?

 -=-=-=-=-

 1.1 Q: Does anyone ever meet anyone from here? Is this for real or what?

     A: Absolutely. Dean Esmay, author of The Straight FAQ, married a very
        nice woman whom he met in online personals. I've heard success
        stories from all sorts of other folks, and much of this FAQ is
        devoted to helping you figure out how to make it happen for you.


 1.2 Q: Are all the men who use online personals desperate, fat, ugly, or
        computer nerds?

     A: From personal experience, I can give you a definite "no" to this
        one.  At least, I don't think I am any of the above.

        There are many reasons for people to use online personals.  It may
        be that he can't meet guys any other way.  But it may also be that
        he is really gorgeous and wants a chance to meet a guy who'll get
        to know him before finding out what he looks like.  It may be that
        he's shy - some of us might not want to admit it, but some men are
        shy too.  It may be that he has a busy career and has no other
        good way of meeting people.  It may be that he is highly
        intelligent and has a difficult time finding intelligent men in
        his everyday life.  It may be that he's stuck in the middle of
        nowhere with few identifiable gay men around.  Maybe he's just
        trying this for the fun of it to see what happens.  Or maybe he
        just likes computers.

        There are many good reasons to use online personals services. As
        more people are getting online, the types of people using such
        services are getting more diverse everyday.


 1.3 Q: Okay, You've made me curious. Where can I go to check out personal
        ads on the 'Net?

     A: Your two biggest options right now are one of the many Web based
        services and the Usenet newsgroups.

        For Usenet, you should look for newsgroups in the alt.personals.*
        hierarchy. For a comprehensive list of Usenet newsgroups and for
        general Usenet information, visit the web site at
        http://metalab.unc.edu/usenet-i/

        By the way, I strongly advise you to post your ad to as many
        groups as may apply to you.  So, for example, if you're in
        Chicago, you should post to both chi.personals and alt.personals.
        This broadens your exposure.

        On the other hand, there is currently a problem of people posting
        to groups which are not appropriate for them, solely for the
        purpose of getting more responses.  The biggest problem appears to
        be in the regional groups, with people posting from all over the
        country (or world!) into groups with no connection with them
        whatsoever--for example, people in Dallas posting to New York City
        and Bay Area groups even though they don't live there and rarely
        travel there.

        To be blunt, doing this makes you look like a major dork.

        I recommend posting to as many groups as reasonably apply to
        you--but no more than that.

        There are also, by the way, a number of interesting "singles" news
        groups. These are not the place to post personal ads (in fact, if
        you post personal ads there you're likely to get flamed), but they
        might be a good place to meet others and get advice on the dating
        scene. 
   
        There are also region-specific singles groups, which you might
        look for on your news server. But remember, don't post personal
        ads to "singles" or "romance" groups -- you'll just get in trouble
        if you do.

        Finally, if any of the above groups strikes your fancy, but your
        Usenet provider doesn't carry it, I recommend writing to your
        system administrator and requesting them.  Most places will carry
        any or all of these groups if you just ask for them. 

        Now, as for World Wide Web sites, there are a ton.  (Refer to
        section 2.3 in this FAQ.)


 1.4 Q: Okay, I've looked through a bunch of personal ads and it seems
        like there's tons of ads for sex.  What's the deal?  Is that all
        everyone is really looking for?

     A: Some people post ads looking for sex, extra-marital affairs, or
        pornographic e-mail.  If that's what you're looking for, that's
        your business, but I have no advice for you other than "be
        careful," especially protecting yourself from sexually transmitted
        diseases. However, the fact is that there are tons of people who
        are looking for much more than that.  It is for those of us who
        are looking for something more meaningful that this FAQ is
        dedicated.  Don't let all the sex ads fool you; such people aren't
        really the majority of Internet personals users, though sometimes it
        may appear that way.


 1.5 Q: What do all these abbreviations like "ISO" and "SWM" and "G*M" and
        "SWCF" mean?

     A: Not everyone uses these abbreviations, but, they are a common
        shorthand for indicating marital status, race, sex, religion, and
        a few other common things. The most prominently used ones include:

                 S = Single
                 D = Divorced
                 M = Married
                 W = Widowed (rare)

                 J = Jewish
                 C = Christian

                 W = White
                 B = Black
                 A = Asian
                 H = Hispanic

                 M = Male
                 F = Female

                 G = Gay
                Bi = Bisexual
        Bi-Curious = Someone curious about bisexuality and thinking
                     about giving it a try.  
             
                 * = Any

        The positioning works as follows: First marital status, then
        religion (if any given), then race, then sex. Usually what you get
        is three, such as:

        GWM - Gay White Male
        SWF - Single White Female

        An M or a W are used to indicate marital status. In this case they
        are always in the first position:

        MHM - Married Hispanic Male
        WWF - Widowed White Female

        Religious affiliation is fairly rare, but when you do see it, it
        usually comes just before or after racial type, such as:

        SCWF - Single Christian White Female
        SWCF - Single White Christian Female

        For whatever reason, Judaism and Christianity are the only
        religions commonly abbreviated at this time; if you're of another 
        religion, I suggest not trying to abbreviate, as you'll probably
        just confuse people.

        Sometimes you'll just see "SF" or "SM" for Single Male or Single
        Female. This means the person doesn't want to indicate race. You
        may also see something like "S*F" or "S*M". This is just another
        way of saying race is irrelevant to the person.

        Other abbreviations you might see include:

             ISO = In Search Of
             FTA = Fun, Travel, and Adventure
             POZ = HIV+
        Soulmate = Someone I can be completely intimate with who will
                   be with me forever and ever, my perfect mate, my
                   special lover and friend for life.

        So. Here's common things you'll see:

        GWM ISO G*M for FTA
        (Gay White Male In Search Of Fun/Travel/Adventure with Gay Male of
         any race.)

        Finally, all of these are often concatenated with age and/or
        location. Such as:

        BOSTON SWM, 42, ISO GWM, 25-40
        (Single White Male, 42 years old, living in Boston and In
         Search Of a Gay White Male, age 25 to 40.)

        Not everyone uses these abbreviations, but a lot of people do,
        because they make it easy for people to spot you and know if
        you're at least in the ballpark of what they're looking for. You
        may see variations on these abbreviations that you don't
        recognize, but usually you can figure it out from the context once
        you get the trick of it.


 1.6 Q: How do I write my own ad?

     A: Ah, there's a whole lot to be said here, and the advice can vary a
        lot from person to person. I'll concentrate on general advice for
        the moment, and on what I personally think:

        There is nothing more frustrating for the personals user than to
        spend ten minutes reading an ad that sounds very interesting, only
        to find out near the end that the person wants someone of a
        different age, or body type, or that the person lives much too far
        away to think about a relationship with.

        So, do yourself and everyone else a favor and start every ad with
        the basics about yourself. The basics include:

           - Your Gender
           - Your Age
           - Where you Live
           - Your Race
           - What you are Basically Looking For

        And the best place to put all this is in your subject line.  It
        saves an enormous amount of time for everybody.

        Some people are big fans of cute and creative subject lines. For
        example:

        CUTIE SEEKS MUTANT. LET'S TAKE OVER THE UNIVERSE!

        Now this is pretty funny, and pretty clever. Unfortunately, if
        this was from a White Female, aged 42, who only wanted black men
        in their 40s in Boston, I'd waste a lot of time reading this ad,
        because I'm not straight, I'm not black, I'm under 40, and I don't
        live anywhere near Boston. Why not make it easy on me and start
        with:

        Bostonian SWF, 42, ISO SBM, 40-50, for romance

        Then make the first line of your ad say: "I'm a cutie looking for
        another mutant, so we can take over the universe!"  Another
        example might be:

        Bostonion Cutie seeks Mutant (SWF, 42, ISO SBM 40-50)

        Now some of this advice is less necessary on Web services that
        automatically categorize you by your gender and so on. But the
        point still remains that your subject line should communicate as
        much as possible about who you are and what you're looking for. By
        making sure it does, you will not only be doing everyone who would
        not be interested in you a favor, but you will increase the
        likelihood of someone who does want to meet you of actually
        reading your ad.

        All right, you've given a nice, concise, descriptive title to your
        message. Now you need to put some thought into the ad itself. The
        general advice I can give here is:

        1. DON'T RUSH. You have plenty of time to write this. Make it
           good.

        2. Put some effort into spelling & punctuation, and try not to
           ramble. You want to make a good impression.

        3. Be clear about what you want and what you don't want. If you're
           picky about something, it's better to say so in your ad than to
           let someone down later. "Please, if you're overweight, don't
           respond" may seem cruel or thoughtless, but if that's the way
           it is for you, say so. It is much, much kinder than developing
           a relationship with someone who you have to let down later than
           just telling it like it is up front. What's better,
           disappointing someone before they waste their time getting to
           know you, or after they've gotten their hopes up?

        4. Be honest about your own shortcomings.  Don't harp on them,
           but man, avoid discomfort for yourself and others and just let
           them know up front who and what you are and are not. Saying you
           don't want long-term commitment, or that you're overweight, or
           that you have kids, or that you have bad skin, or that you have
           no fashion sense, or that you want marriage and kids, will be
           lots better than getting close to someone who finds out later
           and wishes they hadn't bothered with you.

        5. Be as honest as possible. Lies will only get you in trouble
           later.

        6. Do your best to be totally sincere. Insincerity frequently
           shows, even if you're not aware of it. True sincerity usually
           shines through and is much more attractive to most people.

        7. Take as much space as you need.

           This last one is an issue on which there is some disagreement.

           These days, most people have inexpensive Internet access.  Even
           for those who don't, most have news reading software which will
           let them screen the subject lines and note the length of an
           article before downloading it. Don't set out to write a book,
           but remember: space is cheap, and the one way in which most
           online personals are much better than newspapers is that you
           can take as much space as you need.

           There is no better way to give an impression of who you are and
           what you're like than by taking your time and trying to write
           something that really tells who you are, what you want out of
           life, and what you're looking for. Your writing style will tell
           people a lot about you, too.

           On the other hand you want to try not to be too long either. If
           you ramble too much, or make a huge shopping list of everything
           you want and don't want, you're going to bore people or come
           across as demanding and picky.  It's a fine line to tread - if
           your ad is too short, it doesn't say enough and you're ignored;
           if it's too long, you bore people and are ignored.  So, you
           have to do your best to avoid both extremes - or write just
           exactly as much as you think you need to say, and not one word
           more than that.

        This applies to postings on Usenet only:

	   If your news reader supports the "Distribution" field, it will
         be helpful if you are looking for people from a specific area
         to limit your post's distribution. Here's some examples of
         valid values for the "Distribution" field:

          Value                          For Distributing To
          -----                          -------------------
          usa                            U.S.A.
          na                             North America
          two-letter state abbreviation  a particular State
          local                          over a very small local area
 
          NOTE: Not all news machines correctly handle distribution
          lines, so it is still possible for articles to "leak" out of
          their target area. As with any feature, you are encouraged to
          check with your local system for the proper use of distribution
          lines as well as legitimate values to specify for the
          distribution area.


 1.7 Q: I have a problem with weight. What do I do about this?

     A: If you are obese, just say so in your ad.  Don't be afraid of
        this. You're preparing yourself and whoever you meet for a letdown
        if you're not blunt on this subject.  If you're fat, just say,
        "Hey, I have a husky build" or "I'm John Goodman sized" or
        something like that. Or just say "I'm fat."  The point is, be
        honest!

        On the other hand, if you find fatness unattractive, you would do
        well to say so directly in your ad.  It may seem cruel to be so
        direct, but in fact you are much more likely to hurt someone much
        worse if they become very attracted to you, and only then find out
        that you are not interested just because they are overweight.
        This will hurt them much worse than anything you can say in your
        ad about how you don't want anyone too heavy.

        We live in a culture that values physical fitness, especially with
        gay men.  But there are a lot, and I mean a whole lot, of people
        out there who genuinely do not care about weight.  There are even
        a good number of people out there who like the husky build.

        So if you don't like fat, say so right up front.  But if you are
        fat yourself, don't be timid about it.  Don't weasel around the
        subject, unless you look forward to the prospect of embarrassment,
        disappointment, and painful feelings all around.  And if you're
        fat, remember that lots of people will love you even if you're
        fat, maybe will even prefer a chubby person, but you're not giving
        them a chance if you don't tell them you're fat right up front.

        Say it over and over again: Honesty, honesty, honesty!


 1.8 Q: What about age? I may be too old to find anyone.

     A: Relax; your attitude is far more important than your age. From
        what I've seen, there are people of all ages online. And nowadays,
        it is not uncommon for older men who were married to women for
        cultural or other reasons to be out looking for male
        companionship.

        Don't sit there feeling sorry for yourself because you're over a
        certain age and single.  Just post.  There's someone out there for
        you.  Really! Just remember, again and again, be honest, be sincere,
        be specific about what you want, and be patient!


 1.9 Q: That's all well and good. But how about specific tips for gay men?

     A: Glad you asked.

        Okay men, we have a small problem.  Straight men outnumber any
        other group in the general alt.personals.* newsgroups.  Later in
        this FAQ, I will shed a few ideas on how we may better identify
        ourselves in the postings to save everybody time.

        Men are generally more inclined to post ads than women, and this
        includes gay men.  But for those who are very closeted, even
        through anonymous services, it might be extremely difficult and
        nerve wrecking to even think of posting an ad... but many of these
        same people will respond to your ad if they see it.  It is thus
        always worthwhile to post your own ad, because it greatly
        increases your likelihood of meeting others.  Muster up the
        courage and just do it!

        And when you do post an ad, try to keep the following in mind:

        1. Follow all the advice I have given so far. It's all very
           important.

        2. Don't sound desperate.  The old rule is very true: the harder
           you look for a boyfriend, the harder one will be to find.  Be
           patient, and avoid sounding pathetic, excessively horny, or
           desperate.  It will not help.

        3. Be patient. One ad may net you no responses at all. If you're
           extremely lucky, you may get as many as a dozen responses. More
           likely, you will get from one to three.

        4. Be prepared to post your ad again.  Do not expect one ad to get
           you lots of responses.  Instead, prepare yourself for a bit of
           a wait.  Post your ad once, and see what happens.  Wait a
           couple of weeks, and post it again.  You may want to "tweak" or
           fine tune it each time you re-post it.  If you aren't getting
           many responses, you may want to re-write it.  But in any case,
           keep posting it until you get a response.

           The readership of Usenet personals groups, especially of the
           alt.personals.* hierarchy, changes on a regular basis.  Some
           people only come in once in a while, some may only come in once
           every few months, some may come in only once ever!  Even
           regular readers may not notice your ad the first few times they
           see it.

           The thing to remember is that the audience is NOT static.
           There is a constant influx of new people, and there's a
           constant outflow, too.  So, while you may not find anyone at
           first, if you're patient and you keep at it, chances are very
           good you'll eventually get some nibbles.

        5. Don't post your ad too often in the same place. This may seem a
           contradiction, but it's not. If people see ad after ad from
           you, you may look desperate or stupid, or at least annoying.
           Also, if you're using the Usenet, it can take as long as two
           weeks for a message to be completely distributed to all Usenet
           sites, so don't post much more often than that. Posting a new
           ad once every ten to fourteen days seems the most reasonable
           schedule.

        TO SUM IT ALL UP: write a good, creative, intelligent, and
        thoughtful ad that's specific about what you do and don't want.
        Take all the space you need to get it right, but don't ramble;
        remember that too long is as bad as too short. Post it every
        couple of weeks in several different places, tweaking it now and
        then, and trying various experiments to see what works and
        doesn't. Keep posting ads until you are positive you've got a
        serious relationship going with someone. And most of all, just be
        patient, with yourself and others.


1.10 Q: I posted my ad over and over again and never got much response.
        What gives?

     A: There are several things to look at.  First off, your ad may not
        be very good.  Consider re-writing it.  Ask friends, or others in
        alt.personals, if they have any criticisms or can help you improve
        it.

        On the other hand, if you live somewhere that isn't in or near a
        large population center, you may have real trouble.  On the
        gripping hand, you're no worse off in alt.personals than anywhere;
        if you live somewhere without a lot of people, then you're going
        to have trouble meeting people no matter what method you use.
        Just think of this as just one more way of meeting people (among
        many others), be patient and do your best.


1.11 Q: He wrote me! He wrote me! He wrote me!!! OMIGOD! What do I do?

     A: Simmer down.  All the gentleman did was think your ad was
        interesting and send you some e-mail.  He's not ready to jump into
        your arms.  He's just given you a nibble.  It's up to both of you
        to make it work from here.  And remember, if this doesn't work
        out, there will be others, if you have a good ad and are just
        patient!

        Here are some important things to keep in mind:

        Don't question it:  he is interested in you, or he wouldn't have
        answered your ad.  So, get over your insecurities.  He's a gay (or
        bi) man looking for a man, and you sound interesting to him.  Now
        you just have to see whether you're interested in him, and whether
        there's enough of what he wants in you to sustain his interest.

        But here's the important thing: be patient. Yeah, once you get a
        response, you have to be patient again.

        Don't push to get his phone number. Don't push for a face-to-face
        meeting. Don't whine about your personal problems.

        Instead, be positive, be friendly, and be polite.  Ask him about
        himself, and tell a bit more about yourself.  Listen to what he
        wants.  Ask him questions.  Encourage him to ask you about
        anything he might be curious about.  Find out about him without
        being nosy -- don't ask for his address.

        Don't pester him with lots of e-mail.  If he takes a couple of
        days to respond to one of your letters, sit on your fingers and
        wait.  If it's been more than three or four days, you might try
        one letter to the effect of "hey, where'd you go?" but that's it.
        If you don't hear anything more, either he doesn't want to talk to
        you, or he's not reading his e-mail anymore.

        Keep this in mind: it's scary to go away for a few days and to
        come back and find a dozen plaintive, "Oh, where oh where did you
        go?" letters.  It just makes you look desperate and weird.

        All in all, the most important thing to remember in this situation
        is that it is easy to scare someone away, especially if he is not
        completely comfortable about his sexual orientation.  If he thinks
        you're a weirdo, or a psychotic, or a pathetic, lonely loser, he's
        going to walk away.  (And by the way, if you are a pathetic,
        lonely loser, stop it.  Find something else to do with your time
        and realize that the only way you're going to get a partner is if
        you stop assuming you'll never get one.)

        Now, besides all this, you need to remember something even more
        important:  you both need time for a relationship to develop, so
        you actually have something to talk about when finally you do
        meet.  Rushing to meet someone and suddenly finding you have
        nothing to talk about can be very uncomfortable.

        If you are an impatient man, you might as well not bother posting.
        You'll get nowhere.


1.12 Q: Anything I should look out for?

     A: As with anybody, male or female, gay or straight, you do have to
        be cautious.  Answering an ad might get you a psychotic, or
        someone who's dishonest with you.

        The single biggest hazard is probably those strange creatures out
        there who post messages pretending to be what they aren't.  There
        are people (women and men!) who post messages pretending to be
        gorgeous and provocative when they're nothing of the sort in real
        life.

        It's also possible you'll wind up corresponding with someone
        criminal or dangerous somehow.  Don't be paranoid, because every
        method of meeting people carries risks.  But do be sensible!

        Don't get your heart crushed by a liar; use caution, and don't buy
        too much of anything until you actually meet the person face-to-
        face, or at least a phone call.  Watch for the warning signs of
        someone yanking your chain, or wrapped up in their own fantasies
        and not really paying attention to who you are.  Don't fall in
        love or get your heart ripped out by someone who may just be a
        fantasy-man (or woman). Don't be paranoid, but make sure you don't
        expect too much until you actually meet the other person face-to-
        face.


1.13 Q: How much should I worry about meeting someone dangerous this way?

     A: You shouldn't worry all that much about it. Most people aren't
        really dangerous, after all.

        Still, while I hesitate to put it this way, let's be blunt: we're
        all going to be very depressed the first time we hear about
        someone who gets raped or killed by some psychopath or homophobe
        who posted (or answered) an ad.  And I'd much rather you not be
        that person.

        Now, don't let that make you paranoid!  Remember, you can meet
        hurtful, malicious, or just plain evil people anywhere: in a bar,
        on the streets, even through friends.  There's no way you can get
        through life without some risk of meeting someone who will hurt
        you.  However, in every situation, there are ways to minimize your
        risks, and online personals are no exception.  Use common sense in
        any of your dealings with anyone you meet through personals, but
        probably the most important thing to remember is this:

        Before you meet, or even give your phone number or address to,
        anyone, make sure that person is willing to give you the same
        information. Especially if you are dealing with someone using an
        anonymous e-mail address!

        Also, be sure to check with your system administrators to see if
        they keep your personal information in WAIS or Ph or other
        publicly-accessible forms so that others can find out about your
        address or other info through your e-mail address. Most systems
        are far more secure than that these days, but some systems are
        more careless about these things. Be sure your info is not
        publicly available when you begin posting (and that's for
        posting anywhere, not just personals groups!).


1.14 Q: How can I assure someone that I'm not crazy or dangerous?

     A: Sometimes, people will initially be excited about the romantic
        nature of an e-mail relationship, but then will get spooked when
        the reality hits that they actually have to meet the other party.

        Here are a few tips:

        1. Don't press for a meeting.  Be patient, trade mail with him for
           a while, and allow the relationship to develop before you try
           to meet.

        2. Don't press for his phone number.  If he offers it to you,
           great, but I have successfully arranged face-to-face meetings
           through e-mail. Though I must admit that it is often better to
           speak through the phone before meeting, and I do advise it,
           it's not strictly necessary, especially if the other man is
           nervous.

        Just remember: use common sense, make sure you know as much as
        possible about someone before meeting.  If possible, leave a note
        to a family member or close friend with information about the
        meeting (who you're meeting, where you're going, what time you'll
        be home or a time you'll call to check in, etc.).  And remember,
        if you're harassed, threatened, or whatever, contact the
        appropriate authorities.

        Chances are very good that nothing horrible will ever happen to
        you, so don't get paranoid.  Just remember, everything in life
        carries risk; the healthy way to react to risk is with common
        sense and reasonable precautions, not paranoia.


1.15 Q: We've traded mail and talked on the phone and things are going
        really well!!  What do I do when we meet??

     A: First off, calm down. I've been through this and talked to others
        who've been through it, and the first, most important thing to
        remember is, don't go building up big hopes and dreams until you
        meet!

        Until you actually meet someone, it's very easy to build up big
        fantasies in your head about how the person looks, stands, walks,
        etc. You can't help doing just a little of this, but try not to,
        and keep in mind that what you do visualize will probably be very
        different from reality.

        It's also very easy to think you've fallen for someone you haven't
        even met. Don't do this! Meet first! Don't go thinking that just
        because you've exchanged a lot of e-mail and talked on the phone
        that you've found your dream love. Most especially don't go
        throwing your heart in and confessing True Love until you've
        actually met.

        Many online relationships happen very quickly and very fast, and
        it's easy to sucker the other person, or yourself, into believing
        you have something there that you don't. Take your time and
        realize that when you do meet, it may not be there for you, or it
        may not be there for the other person.

        On the other hand, if you meet and things don't go well, I also
        advise not immediately giving up. Sometimes it takes time to
        adjust to meeting this person "in real life" that you've gotten
        to know so well in e-mail. Remember, that person you got to know
        online is still in there, but may not be visible at first.

        So again, what's the thing to have, everyone? That's it, you've
        got it:

        PATIENCE!


1.16 A: Okay, how do we plan a first meeting?

     Q: I recommend picking a safe, neutral spot, and just sitting down
        over coffee, or perhaps light dinner at a casual restaurant.
        Emphasize that your first meeting will be for just that, meeting.
        Don't expect much more than that you'll sit down, get used to
        what the other person looks like, maybe have a bite to eat, then
        go home.

        In some regions, it may not be very comfortable to talk about
        gay-specific matters in public.  In such case, I still recommend to
        meet in a safe public area - a museum, a park, or a restaurant with
        secluded booths.  Then, if it seems appropriate, move to a more
        private location.  Use Common Sense!

        And if it doesn't work out, or the other person decides at the
        last minute not to meet you, hey, that's okay!  It happens to
        practically everyone!  And who on Earth said you're the perfect
        someone for everyone you meet anyway?  Who said that everyone you
        meet is the perfect someone for you?  At minimum, you should have
        made a new friend this way; maybe more will develop, or maybe it
        won't.  Stay calm, don't expect much, but be open to whatever
        might happen.  And, enjoy your new friend!


   OTHER GENERAL / MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS
   =======================================

... Continued in Part II ...





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