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=========================================== 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 email@example.com and Dean Esmay at firstname.lastname@example.org. =========================================== 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 email@example.com or to Dean Esmay at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 ...