3 Real-Life Etiquette Rules for Internet Dating
The trouble with etiquette books is that they’re written by people who still get their information from books. Most of you have stopped doing that, haven’t you?
Never fear. As dating has moved online, so have people (like me) who are academically interested in you making less of an idiot on your date. After all, I might have to do this some day too. So read on:
1. Whoever Invited Pays
You can over/under the age of an etiquette manual pretty accurately by flipping to the dating section and seeing whether it has this rule or the earlier version: “a gentleman always pays the check for both parties!”
It’s a good rule (the newer version, that is). It eliminates one of the biggest bullshit head-games in dating. And someone who doesn’t like this rule and wants to make a show about the check — however they’re proposing it be handled — is probably playing that head-game. Odds are that they read some book about how to appear successful or something.
So keep it simple. If you set the date up, pay the check. If you accepted an invitation, let them get the check. And if you get to multiple dates and you want to make sure everyone’s getting their turn to pay, send some invitations, or add more events onto dates you were invited to: “Dinner sounds great. There’s a concert near there that I was thinking of going to — want me to grab us tickets?”
2. “Full Disclosure” Comes after Dinner but Before an Invitation to a Second Date
Theoretically no one needs this rule, because you’ve been completely detailed and honest about your life situation on your dating site profile, right?
No, most people will have some kind of “full disclosure” that they need to make. You’ve got a kid. You’re between jobs and living with your parents. You’re dating someone else but it’s an open relationship. Whatever.
These are things that need to be brought up before “a date” turns into “dating.” That said, talking about yourself and your life situation at dinner is boring and a bit presumptuous. Wait until the date goes well (if it goes well) and add the disclosure to the request for a follow-up:
“I had a great time and I’d love to see you again. I know that people can have strong opinions about this sort of thing, so I should tell you now that I do have a three year-old at home, but I hope that’s not going to be a total deal-breaker. Call me!”
3. Don’t Hook Up on the First Date; Don’t Date the Hook-Up
But…but alternative lifestyles! Polyamory! Fuck the old social norms! You’re a tool of the patriarchy! Waaaaaah!
Take a deep breath. Cleanse your mental palate of all those knee-jerk reactions you default to as soon as someone starts talking about sex. Half of you are already putting words in my mouth (fingers?) and you need to not do that.
Definitions: a “date” is some kind of public social activity that two people go on to see whether they enjoy one another’s company and want to pursue more of it. A “hook-up” is casual sex between two people who aren’t pursuing a relationship.
Both are fine. Neither is bad. But you don’t want to cross signals.
If you’re dating in the hopes of finding a longer-term partner you want to start with a clear picture of their public persona. That’s the “them” that you’re going to spend most of your life interacting with. Getting upstairs and getting naked right off the bat is adding a lot of data to the first impression you already have. Give your brain some time off to figure out how well you like this person before you dump a bunch of hormones and “yeah, but she’s amazing in bed!” into the mental file.
And if you’re just kind of screwing around casually don’t call the next day. Maybe you were just advertising for one-night stands with dinner first but all of a sudden you felt a real connection. Too bad. You don’t have any reason to believe that the same is true for the other person. They picked up an ad for a “casual encounter.” Respect that desire and keep it that way. If you happen to cross paths in another setting maybe you can strike up a non-sexual conversation and see where it goes, but don’t start hounding them the morning after the fling.
That clear anything up for anyone? Got your own internet dating etiquette to add? Leave a comment!