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Usenet Personals: Advice for Straights FAQ (2/3)

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Archive-name: personals/straightfaq/part2
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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THE STRAIGHT FAQ by Dean Esmay
PART II OF III

These days, most people have very cheap internet access.  Avoid
rambling, but remember, space is cheap, and the one way in which
online personals are usually 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.

I have had dozens of responses and a good number of positive
face-to-face meetings, and I always take a lot of space to describe
both myself and what I'm looking for.  I've also found that long ads
are a good way to sift out people of low intelligence or short
attention spans.

On the other hand (heheh!) 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.  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.

If you want a general rule of thumb, shoot for a length of 2-5
screenfuls.  But if you want the REAL rule, it's this: write just
exactly as much as you think you need to say everything you need to
say, but not one word more than you need.


Q: OKAY, BROTHER, THAT'S ALL WELL AND GOOD.  BUT HOW ABOUT SPECIFIC
TIPS FOR MEN?

A: Glad you asked.

Okay men, we have a problem.  We outnumber the women, and most of the
ones out there don't like to post.  So we have to overcome those odds. 
How?

More than anything else, you need to write and post your own ad.

Mind you, there's nothing WRONG with responding to a woman's ad. I've
heard from two (yes, TWO!) men who answered just one ad each, and
subsequently wound up getting engaged to the ladies they responded
to.  So obviously it can work.  But if you answer a woman's ad,
remember that responses which offer no information do not prompt
anyone to write back.  If a woman gets a response that says nothing
but, "Hi I'm interested write me" she will most likely toss it out.
Also, keep in mind that women who post ads are routinely inundated
with responses, especially if they post anywhere in the
alt.personals.* heirarchy.  So, if you're going to answer someone's
ad, go to the trouble to make yourself sound interesting enough to
respond to.  Even then, remember that she's probably had lots of
responses, and you aren't the only one trying to get her attention.

While I don't say you shouldn't answer a woman's ad, you need to
remember all of the above, and realize that the odds are probably
against you.  What you also need to keep in mind is this:

The most wonderful woman in the world may be out there scanning for
ads looking for someone just like you, but because YOU never
advertised, SHE will never find you.  Most women don't post ads, and
she may be one of them, so you need to put up an ad if you want her
to find you!

When you DO post an ad, try to keep the following in mind:

1) Follow all the advice I have given above.  That's all very
important.

2) Don't sound desperate.  This actually goes for both sexes, but
especially for men.  The old rule is very true: the harder you look
for a girlfriend, 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 personals ads, especially of the alt.personals.*
hierarchy, changes on a regular basis.  An enormous number of women
read personal ads, but some only do it once in a while.  Even those
who read regularly might not notice an ad the first few times it
appears.  Some may be interested in your ad but not be able to work up
the courage at first -- but if they see your ad enough times, maybe
eventually they will work up the courage and respond.

The thing to remember is that the audience is NOT static.  There is a
constant influx of new women, and there's a constant outflow, too.
And a woman may need to see your ad more than once before she
responds. So remember, you may not find anyone at first, but if
you're patient and you keep at it, chances are good you'll eventually
get some nibbles.

5) Don't post your ad too often.  This may seem a contradiction, but
it's not. If people see ad after ad from you, you may look desperate
or stupid.  At the very least, you'll be annoying people.  Also, 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.

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 no more; remember that too long
is as bad as too short.  Post it every couple of weeks, tweaking it
now and then, and trying various experiments to see what works and
doesn't.  Be patient and the ladies will be along sooner or later to
talk to you.


Q.  SHE WROTE ME SHE WROTE ME SHE WROTE ME!!  OMIGOD WHAT DO I DO?

A.  Simmer down.  All the lady did was decide your ad was interesting
and send you some e-mail.  She's not ready to jump into your arms and
have your baby.  She's just given you a nibble.  It's up to 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: She IS interested in you, or she wouldn't have
answered your ad.  So, get over your insecurities.  She's a woman
looking for a man, and you sound interesting to her.  Now you just
have to see whether you're interested in her, and whether there's
enough of what she wants in you to sustain her 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 her phone number.  DON'T push for a face-to-face
meeting. DON'T whine to her about your personal problems with women. 
DON'T talk about sex or anything of that nature.

Instead, be friendly, and be polite.  Ask her about herself, and tell
a bit more about yourself.  Ask her questions.  Encourage her to ask
you about anything she might be curious about.  Find out about her
without being nosy -- don't ask for her address, or where she works
(but asking what town she lives in is probably okay).

DON'T pester her with lots of e-mail.  Let her explore who you are at
her own pace.  If she 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 she doesn't want to talk to you, or she's not reading her
e-mail anymore, or she's just busy.

Keep this in mind: it's scary for a woman 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 A WOMAN AWAY.  If she thinks you're a
weirdo, or a psychotic, or a pathetic, lonely loser, she'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 woman 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 advertising. 
You'll get nowhere.


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
anyway.  Just be patient and do your best.


Q: ANYTHING I SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR?

A: As with anybody, male or female, 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,
provocative women when they're nothing of the sort.  Much rarer, but
still existing, are those who pretend to be attractive men.

It's also possible you'll wind up corresponding with someone criminal
or dangerous somehow.  Don't be paranoid, but do be cautious!

All in all, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
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-woman (or
man). Don't be paranoid, but make sure you don't expect too much
until you actually meet the other person face-to-face.


Q: OKAY, STUD-BOY.  ALL THAT'S CUTE, BUT I'M A WOMAN.  WHAT HAVE YOU
GOT TO TELL ME?

A: Well, not being a woman, I can't say near as much, but here are a
few things you should know:

First off, MOST of the advice above that I give to men applies to you
as well. In addition to that, remember that there are a ton of men
out there, and men are used to pursuing women.  This means that if
you post an ad, it will be very easy for you to get a lot of responses.

One very important thing: BE VERY SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT AND
DON'T WANT. This is even more important for a woman than a man,
because some guys out there will answer damn near anything, and there
are A WHOLE LOT of guys online.

If you post just say you're a woman who'd like to meet a man... 
well, Honey, you are going to be BURIED with e-mail, and from around
the world, too.  Be specific! Be very specific!  And furthermore, a
lot of guys are dumb or desperate, so you have to hit them over the
head with a two-by-four and be more specific!

Example:

"I'd like a man who lives near Los Angeles who is near my own age and
would eventually like to get married."

This is pretty good; at least you made it clear.  But for some, that
won't be good enough, so I'd suggest that you go ahead and write
that, then at the end of your ad, drive the point home even more
clearly:

"DON'T write me if you don't live near L.A., DON'T write me if you're
more than a couple years older or younger, DON'T write me if you're
not serious about long-term committment, and DON'T write me if you're
just looking for sex."

It may seem crass and crude, and it won't always work, but it should
at least help you cut down on unwanted e-mail (you'll still get some,
but you should get less this way).

You ladies are in the very lucky position of knowing that if you
post, you are almost certainly going to get responses.  But that's a
two-edged sword, because if you're not careful, you will get buried
in far more responses than you can reasonably handle.  You may even
miss out on the man of your dreams because he's buried in a ton of
letters from guys you don't give a damn about.  BE VERY SPECIFIC
ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT, AND DRIVE THE POINT HOME CLEARLY AND DISTINCTLY.
It saves everyone time and aggravation.

Beyond all that, most of the advice for men counts for you, too. 
Watch out for weirdos and criminals, watch out for liars, try not to
sound desperate, and do your best to be honest about yourself -- both
your positive AND your negative traits.


Q: I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH WEIGHT.  WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THIS?

A: Men especially need to be aware one thing regarding weight: it is
an unfortunate fact that the majority of women (in the U.S. and Canada
at least) believe they are overweight.  Weight is a very touchy
subject for both sexes, but for women it is especially bad.

For men: don't ever say you want a slim woman unless you're positive
you want a stick woman, and are willing to exclude about 95% of the
female population.  The simple fact is that MOST WOMEN BELIEVE THEY
ARE OVERWEIGHT.  If you want to avoid obese women, say something like
you're looking for someone "Not obese" or "physically fit" or "weight
proportional to height."

For women: The above advice also goes for you, but men are a bit less
touchy on this subject, so you're more likely to be able to get away
with demanding thinness.

For everyone: if you ARE obese, male or female, 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'm queen sized" or "I'm John Goodman
sized" or something "I'm a rubenesque woman" or something like that. 
Or just say "I'm fat."  The point is, BE HONEST!

We live in a culture that values thinness, 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
fatness and find it very attractive.

Don't be timid about it.  If you're overweight, be forthright and
don't weasel around the subject, unless you look forward to the
prospect of being embarassed, disappointed, and hurt.  Lots and lots
of people will love you if you're fat, and 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!


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 yourself 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 hard 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 email 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.  Or that it might take time for something more than
friendship to develop.

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 email.  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!


Q: OKAY, HOW DO WE PLAN A FIRST MEETING?

...[continued in Part III]

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