Welcome to another installment of OkCupid University!  In case you missed it, you can find my intro to OkC post here.

Many of the most common question I get asked about online dating revolve around etiquette.  A lot of myths still abound about male/female interaction, and since the majority of my friends are heterosexual, that’s what I hear the most about.  I hate to be heteronormative, but a lot of this post is going to deal with being a woman looking to date a man, because that’s what I have personal experience with.  If you don’t fall into that category, I would love to hear from you about how your experiences differed from mine, if at all.

My Least Favorite Myth: Women shouldn’t send the first message.

I can’t believe I’m even addressing this in 2013, but since I’ve been asked more than once, it seems I have to: Go ahead and send a damn message.  Someone has to make the first move, and if you noticed him first, why shouldn’t you?  There exists this stereotype about girls who “chase” boys, girls who are needy and pathetic, and I know a lot of smart women who are afraid to make a move because of that.  Fuck that shit.  Say hi, mention something specific from their profile that drew you in, and close with a question related to another area of their profile that caught your eye.  Easy peasy, and nothing “crazy” about it.  Women who message men aren’t crazy or needy, they just don’t subscribe to bullshit theories perpetuated by the patriarchal media.

Real Faux-PasThe double message.

You know who really is crazy? The person who sends a follow-up message, when the first one did not receive a response. Especially a follow-up message like this:

“Guess you didn’t like what you see.  Sigh.

No matter what you want to say to that psycho, just don’t do it. Don’t tell them off, don’t buy into it, and most of all, don’t apologize. This is not someone you want to get involved with. They’re either emotionally manipulative, or they’re a child, and either way they are not fit for a healthy adult relationship.

There is one exception to this rule: If you have been messaging someone and you were setting plans with them but they disappeared, it is perfectly fine to send a follow-up 3 or more days later. Something like, “Hey, still interested in getting together?” Short, sweet, nothing emotional. It’s possible that they forgot to press send on their last message, but it’s also possible that they changed their minds. I won’t lie to you – it happens. All you can do is be an adult and hope they behave the same way.

Call Me, MaybeWhen to give out your number.

In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving out your number. I usually did it when we’d talked for a bit via OkC messenger, mostly to make my life easier. It’s much simpler to text someone about plans than to rely on them checking their account. Use common sense: Don’t give out your number in a first message, and don’t put it in your profile. I gave my number to at least 15 guys during the course of my OkC experience, and not a single one ever harassed me. Some people think it’s forward for a woman to give a man her number before he asks for it.  I guess those people really get a kick out of wasting time.

Set a DateAsking, accepting, and declining.

Do I really need to tell you that it’s totally ok for a woman to ask a man out on a date?  Really?  Because it’s totally ok for a woman to ask a man out on a date.  “Would you like to get coffee sometime?”  Any well-adjusted person would be happy to hear (or read) those words!  If you want to go on a date, there is absolutely no shame in asking.  Because guess what?  If he says yes, he wanted to go out with you.  End of story.

Now, what if someone asks you on a date.  Do you want to go?  Did you check out their profile, and make sure they didn’t answer any questions in a worrisome fashion?  Then accept!  Obviously.  Do you think it would be a total train wreck, ending with a thrown drink or you falling asleep in your chair?  Politely decline.  “I’m sorry, I’m flattered, but I don’t think we’d make a good match.  Good luck, and I do appreciate the invitation.”  Maybe I’m a little formal, whatevs, you can adjust it.  I’m not your damn secretary.

Show Me the MoneyWho pays?

This is a highly personal aspect of dating, and it’s something that gets many people’s undies in a twist.  To be safe, assume you’re going to split it down the middle. Don’t be a dickwad and order anything you wouldn’t want to pay for. I’m personally ok with letting someone else cover the check if that’s what they want to do. I think it’s polite to ask, “Are you sure? I don’t mind splitting,” but if they press I will let them pay. I might get flack for that, and I understand why, but it’s how I’ve always handled dates. If you hate to let anyone pay for you, that is certainly your prerogative, and I do understand the reasoning behind it.

Next up at OkC U: Playing the Field – Dating More than One Person at a Time