I’ve finally moved to purchasing condoms online, just because it expands the options available.  I have particular needs, and the selection isn’t always available in brick-and-mortar stores.  In particular, drug stores tend to have small selections and inflated prices.

Protip: condoms at Target cost a third what they do at other US shops, and there are many more varieties than most.

In any event, I’ve been aware of Rip ‘n’ Roll for a long time, but hadn’t really used them.  The web design is a little irritating, as is the Maxim ad, but they have basic-but-thorough HTML navigation on the left through various brands and varieties.  Ordering twelve condoms gets you a free gift, one selection of which is twelve more condoms, so at ~$10 they’re competitive with Target’s pricing once shipping is added.  I thought I’d received the wrong order, and contacted their support, who explained that the packaging wasn’t quite what I saw online but we confirmed that I’d gotten the right order.  They’re also sending another bonus twelve because I can’t use the first pack.

I occasionally ponder more permanent forms of birth control, but haven’t gone for them yet.  The gel system and the male pill are still unconscionably far off, so my primary option here is a vasectomy, and despite the low risk of complications I’m still sufficiently squeamish about surgery on my junk to want to avoid that.  Condoms it is, and whatever measures my partners are willing to take.  These seem thus far to be sufficient, provided they’re used religiously, which they are.

I’m told there is such a thing as a “dental dam”, but I have never seen one in the wild.

Edit: I promise I’m not being paid by Rip ‘n’ Roll.

Edit2: I have been informed that at least one friend does use dental dams, so apparently they exist if he is to be trusted.

How to craft a message on OkCupid

I wrote this as a comment on reddit in response to someone’s asking, and thought it might be useful here.  I don’t use this (or any) formula every time, but for someone who looks at a blank text-entry box and can’t come up with something, here’s an outline:

First, find something in the profile that is a mutual interest. If there is nothing, then don’t write to that person because you don’t actually want to date them, you just think they’re hot. Also, try to pick something that isn’t normal geek fare, because the fact that you’re both into Star Wars means nothing. Everyone is into Star Wars because Star Wars is good, if you pretend episodes I-III didn’t happen.

Now, write a paragraph and no more about the mutual interest. Describe why and how it’s an interest for you, and mention something specific about it. Maybe you like Michael Pollan’s writing but think he’s kind of a douche, or you’re into robotics specifically because you competed in a robotics competition in high school.

Consider repeating the above for a second mutual interest, but no more than that.

Now, ask a question about something interesting the other person said but didn’t expand on. Like, if they say they want to be a Mythbuster, ask what myth they’d bust first. Responding to this gives them an opening to reply and saves them from having to compose a message from nothing.

Now, proofread, and send.

Do not, in the first message:

  • compliment their appearance
  • give any off site contact info
  • suggest a meeting
  • make any sexual remarks whatsoever

Dating site roundup

I’ve been trying to branch out a bit as far as dating sites are concerned.  OkCupid is fine, but it’s getting less fun as they’ve been successful in killing off the journals, and there aren’t a lot of folks in Providence on it.  My searches all end up sending me to Somerville and Cambridge, which are fine places and which don’t seem all that far until you start traveling there once or twice a week for dates.  I feel like that would be fine for someone I’m seeing, but for just the getting-to-know-you stage it’s a bit much.  Makes first and second dates logistically difficult, because I have to:

    1. Work out that I have an evening free.
    2. Contact one person to see if they’re available, because the last thing that one wants is to double book an evening (again).
    3. Wait for that person’s response, and:
      1. If they’re available, nail down scheduling
      2. If they’re not available, repeat steps 1-3 with someone else

It has proven easier not to deal with it, and just to contact friends if I’m going to be Bostonish of an evening.  Although “easier than dating” is, in general, a low bar.

So.  Dating sites.  I have decided to try some, and while it’s probably too early to tell, I can at least give you my preliminary assessment.  I try these things so that you don’t have to.

OkCupid is, of course, the premiere dating site for the geek/nerd continuum, and also for poly folks.  Thus, it is the premiere squared site for geeky poly folks.  Except that premiere is 1 and 1 squared is 1 and blah.  Anyway.  This is the place to start, and to put the most effort.  You probably already know all about this place.

PlentyOfFish is both the world’s largest free dating site and the world’s most hideous, with site design that rivals old Angelfire pages.  I’m convinced that it’s the “largest” primarily because they refuse to let you leave the site.  You can’t delete your profile, nor can you prevent them from emailing you afterward.  You can check out any time you blah blah eaglescakes.  Don’t sign up for this site. It is terrible and it will stay with you forever. It is the internet equivalent of having your friends force you to watch John Waters’s Pink Flamingoes and then never being able to wash the terrible out of your brain.

xdating is PlentyOfFish but worse and with more fake profiles.

Fetlife  isn’t a dating site per se, but is often used that way.  It’s probably second only to OkCupid among the poly set, and could be worth signing up for.  It’s worth noting that your profile on Fetlife is probably going to be way worse for your career prospects if an employer finds it than your profile anywhere else short of Adult FriendFinder.  It’s also way NSFW in general.  It’s also no use if you’re completely vanilla, but I honestly don’t believe such people exist., eHarmony, and basically all traditional, paid dating sites don’t allow for nonmonogamy at all.

Date Hookup is pretty bare-bones.  It’s got an okay philosophy, but not much functionality.  There’s little to sort users by except superficial characteristics.  If you really care whether your potential date is a 25-year-old atheist latina, it may be a good choice, if any such people are on it.

PolyMatchMaker has such potential, but it’s lightly populated and locks much of its functionality behind a paywall.  It’s okay.  There was one other interesting person in all of Rhode Island on it, and we went out a few times. Worth trying for free.

CasualKiss does so many things right.  It has a lot of features that I want OkCupid to incorporate.  You can have both a sexuality and a “looking for”, solving OkC’s eternal problem of bisexuals who are nevertheless only looking for one sex right now getting swamped with inappropriate messages.  It expands the possibilities into couples, as well.    It allows you to search distances more granular than 25 miles.  You can search by what type of relationship someone is looking for, like a fling, or just friendship.  And it is completely empty.  No one within 50 miles of me has been “online recently”.

So, I would say that if you’re poly/open, looking to date online, and don’t have any profiles yet, you should sign up for, in this order:

  1. OkCupid, and as a distant second:
  2. Fetlife, unless you’re one of the handful of truly vanilla people and then:
  3. PolyMatchMaker, and when you inevitably find no one there, go back to OkCupid for a while, then maybe
  4. CasualKiss for the novelty of it.

The Big Tip

I’ve discussed before how repellent most of the “dating advice” on the net is.  There is one actual gem that you see in all of these programs, though, and that’s “approach more people”.  No matter how much two people might like each other, if one of them doesn’t go out on a limb and say something, they’ll never get together.  And no matter how much you perfect your ability to woo, boosting your success rate will be useless if it’s a percentage of zero.  One of the most “successful with women” guys that I know told me “You know, I get rejected nine times out of ten.  But I try ten times”.

But that’s hard, especially when you’re first learning how to meet and attract new people.  There’s a great deal of vulnerability to admitting attraction.  (For young straight men, in fact, it’s often the only time that they actually experience vulnerability toward young women, which creates some astoundingly skewed ideas of what actual power differentials exist)  You have to learn to do this thing despite reactions ranging from mere embarrassment to gut-wrenching terror, depending on levels of social comfort and specific hangups.

The usual way that the gurus out there teach you to do this is by tearing down your prospective partner in your head.  If you don’t respect someone as anything other than an object of lust, or a potential paycheck, or whatever it is that you’ve been taught to make the only goal that matters to you, then it’s easy to feel nothing if they don’t care for your approach.  Because fuck them, what do they know, they’re just a {person of a sex to which I’m attracted}, and everyone knows what they’re really like.

There’s another path to this zen of approach, though–empathy. It requires going far enough the other direction that you’re able to just accept and respect that someone else might not be interested.  I know that I am fairly particular, and not likely to be interested in anything with most of the people who might approach me, and I’m sure that’s true for a lot of folks on the receiving end of something I initiate.  Sometimes I’m not interested because I don’t have time, or the other party has some dealbreaker that they couldn’t have been aware of ahead of time, e.g., they look like my mother, or Ayn Rand.  And sometimes I’m just not interested, which isn’t necessarily anything wrong on their end.

I think that’s harder, and it takes longer, though.  If you think Xes ain’t shit but hoes and tricks, then it’s easy not to care what Xes think. If, instead, you respect the opinions of any given X that you might meet, it’s difficult not to take rejection as some sort of negative judgment.  But it’s not necessarily that, and if it is that’s not necessarily something to worry about.  You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact, you’re probably not going to be many people’s, if you’re reading this; we’re all a rarefied taste.  That’s fine.

The trick is to be able to approach someone with the knowledge that, whatever their answer, you’ll be able to go on about your day.  You’re in no worse position than you were before.  They’re allowed to be disinterested, and you don’t even need to know why.

Anyway, “learn to accept folks’ reasons they don’t want you” isn’t very helpful, but I do have some specific advice here for anyone who’s looking to deal with fear of rejection.  These will all pertain to online dating; may be useful elsewhere, but I can’t make any promises:

  • Contact lots of people.  Aim to send a lot of messages that you put a little effort into, rather than a small number of messages that you pour your heart and soul into.  You’re just dashing off an introduction, and you don’t need to sweat it too hard.  Saying something is more important than what, specifically, you say.
  • Don’t over-invest.  If you read someone’s awesome profile (or look over some gorgeous pictures), it’s easy to feel like you’ve already made a connection.  To some extent, you have already had half a conversation with them.  The problem being that they don’t know you from a hole in the ground.  They’re not your soulmate, and they don’t owe you anything.  They’re just some interesting and attractive stranger.
  • Start by contacting people with whom the stakes are low. Don’t go after friends or friends-of-friends, and don’t contact super-local people who you’re likely to run into.  That can come later, but it’s easier to get over the first several tries while you’re just getting your feet wet if someone’s rejection has no real effect on you, and you’re not going to meet them at a party.
  • After you send your message, stop thinking about it. This is a tough trick, but if you just shoot it out there and move on with your life you’ll be better off.  If you get no response, you’re exactly where you were before, and if they get back to you that’s great.  Start thinking of responses as a bonus, and not as the expected result of sending just the right message.

None of this addresses whom to approach, or what to say, because that’s just not nearly as important as developing a thick skin with regard to rejection.  How people respond to you is only partially under your control; what you’re looking to do is give more people a chance to respond.

I don’t mean to set myself up as a dating swami.  I do all right, but I have a lot left to learn about this stuff.  For example, how to approach people in person, or for that matter how to respond like a human being when someone approaches me as opposed to locking up and acting as if I don’t notice.  However, as I learn how to manage this particular sort of interaction, I’m going to continue posting what I’ve learned, to chronicle both the learned info and the learning process.

If you have any other tips along these lines, please mention them in the comments, and maybe I’ll follow up with another post.