Saturday, 21 July 2012

Responding to First Messages

Hopeful 5 Hopeless 7

I had hoped to update yesterday, but I was unwell for the better part of the day. Some days are good for me and some are not so good. I don't have much room to touch on my health in this entry, but I promise to elaborate another time. Suffice it to say that I wasn't feeling well physically and that it also affected my mood. As you can see, I'm not feeling as hopeful still today.

As you can imagine, it was a huge job slogging through about 30 messages, deciding firstly which ones to reply to and then actually thinking of something to say and sending it. In general, I didn't answer the ones that just said "Hi" or "How are you?". I understand these messages better now; they are from people who are looking for what is called a QuickReply. They want to instant chat. I am still not instant chatting yet, because I am drowning in these messages. I have had to explain that politely to a couple of people who, not receiving a response quickly enough, messaged me again and sounded vaguely irritated. Any sarcastic or "joke" messages I have not replied to with one exception. This guy said, "Can we skip coffee and just rob a bank?" I just couldn't resist firing up this answer: "I think you'll need to find another partner in crime." He obviously thought he was funny. Then he sounded a bit annoyed when he said it was "just a joke". Well, perhaps he should've thought of that before sending me such a ridiculous message! I can't imagine how anyone is going to take him seriously.

That is probably the briefest response I wrote. The rest were modest (about 3-5 lines) or medium length (10-15 lines). It often depended on the length of the original message; the more the person wrote, the more I was able to respond to. Otherwise, I would find something in their profile to talk about or ask about. One guy who called himself "J" said in his profile that he had been travelling for 2 years, so I asked him what places he'd seen. I couldn't help thinking that that would've impressed my friend Stella. One guy that impressed me right away was Jacob, who asked me what kind of tea I liked. So I told him that tea has always been part of my culture, but that my interest has recently exploded thanks to David's Tea. He was one who expected to chat with me and quickly asked if I should like to meet up with him sometime, then followed up with a message supplying his number so I could text him if I felt like it. He had no idea he was talking to one of the only young people still left in North America who does not own a cell phone! This read a bit desperate for me. This is the only guy I got a vibe from and it really made me feel like not answering him.

I am getting ahead of myself, though! Today I just wanted to talk about how people compose their messages on Plenty of Fish and how I answered them. Another early good first-impression was from a guy who still has not given me a name. This is what he wrote me: "Sounds nice your profile. And if it sounds like für Elise, I already have an idea of your crystal sphere. The picture in the background makes me think of Anaïs Nin age.So many classic elements....even the tea cups..." It was one of the nicest messages I had received in the first day. It interested me because he made a cultural reference that I was not familiar with. Wikipedia explained to me that Anaïs Nin was a woman who loved to keep a diary and wrote in one from an early age right up until the day she died. So here he made reference to literature, which suggested that he was well-read or at the very least interested in reading/culture. The part about my "crystal sphere" is what really fascinated me. I was thinking, "What religion/spiritual path do you come from?" Eager to know more, I wrote to ask him. The only catch was that this was from someone who was 35, definitely had at least one kid and didn't seem too clear on what he was looking for from his Plenty of Fish experience. I had four other messages that impressed me. One was from a History student with a particular interest in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (my favourite period of history!) who plays guitar and is also ... a writer! His message was about music and writing :) Then I got quite a lengthy one from a foreign exchange student named Amin. He connected with pretty much my entire profile and he wrote me the nicest message to date. Interestingly, everything he said I also related to and one of the best things he said was: "Hope to find someone who understands that if I don't like clubbing, it doesn't mean that I am not social." I say Amen to that! Another one was from a guy named Seb, who asked about my studying languages. Other people who were more or less interesting had also responded to this, but what distinguished Seb is that he not only wanted to know which languages I was studying, he also began having a discussion about linguistics. Not too many people can have a conversation about linguistics and it is not a particularly popular subject (but I like it!). The other one I liked was a History student who asked me what "Hopeful Romantic", my tag line, meant. He was the only one who asked and to date still is!

Then there were the messages I had absolutely no idea what to do with. I deleted a few and did respond to at least two because I was unsure what else to do. One was from the very History student I just mentioned. Although he complimented me and he asked about the term Hopeful Romantic, he sounded extremely enthusiastic and high energy. Here is an excerpt: "WOW by the way YOU ARE FREAKING AWESOME!!!! i think some people would think you are boring since you like classical music and enjoy history. But i think you are really amazing since i do share the same interest. I am currently doing my bach
in history. I find it fascinating. I also do share your passion for languages cultures and classical music." I really wasn't sure what to do with that, but I wanted to respond more than not. So I was careful to keep my tone as relaxed as possible to off-set his over-exuberance and wrote him about History and being a Hopeful Romantic. The other one I was unsure of was from Thomas whose comment on my profile was about being Catholic. He also sounded a bit too enthusiastic and it made me wonder if he was ultra religious. Judge it for yourself: "Let me just say up front that I think it's great that you're so open and honest about being Catholic. I am too, and find a lot of people tend to hide it about themselves. Nice to see some people don't hide it :)" I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, though, so I just very kindly asked in my reply what role religion played in his life. It would seem that I completely turned the tables on him, because when I was not responding quickly to his message, he seemed to be afraid that I was a big Bible thumper and that his honest answer to my question was not the one I was looking for. Sorry Thomas; I didn't do that on purpose!

Other than the later message from Jacob, I have only received one more concrete request to meet. In his first message to me, Paul asked me if I would like to go for coffee or "cold tea" (I suppose he didn't know "iced tea"). I politely explained that for the time being, I was simply responding to messages, not doing any instant chatting or any meeting. I told him I wanted to get myself oriented first and that I preferred talking to people first to get to know them before meeting them. That was something he understood. In fact, most everyone on Plenty of Fish seems to understand this concept and feel the same way, that it would be better to chat online before meeting in person. That was a big relief for me.

So far in the messages I have retained, I have a few PhD students (this seems to be a recurring pattern), a kinesthesiologist and a couple of engineers.  In general, these candidates are pretty positive.  I have had yet a few more that were not quite right, though.  It really annoys me, for example, when a guy sends me a message and encloses his picture.  I understand it for people who don't have pictures posted on their Plenty of Fish profile; putting a picture with their message is fine (and I have had a few like that).  But if they already have pictures, I don't see why they should have to attach those same pictures to their message.  One guy even gave me like a 360 view of himself, a picture from practically every angle, including shirt and no shirt shots.  I have no use for it.  The other thing that has made me feel less hopeful is the amount of 30 + year olds that have messaged me.  The oldest I've had so far is 45 (and at least he had a concept of his perhaps being out of my age range).  I wonder why I constantly attract men that are so much older than me and sometimes almost twice my age!  This has been a recurring theme for me since I was quite young, so it is a sore spot of mine.  I have only replied to a couple of older men, but only when they wrote me a non-creepy very nice sort of message.  So I kindly explained to them that I am looking for someone closer to my age.  Anyone who I thus in essence "formally" rejected (though very nicely), was great about it.  One asked me to elaborate a little on why I didn't think I was the girl for him and was glad to hear what I had to say.  Another asked me if I could set him up with a friend (to which I lied and said that all my friends already had boyfriends to spare them being messaged by a 35 year old).  So in general, people were quite polite and civilized, which I was also relieved to find.

Even though this experience hasn't been too negative so far, it has really thrown me for a loop.  Some of these messages are very sweet and sincere and make me feel kind of good.  Most of the time, though, I feel overwhelmed by their sheer abundance.  If I had been writing this message yesterday, I wouldn't even have been able to write a Hopeful & Hopeless scale count, because it would've been more like: mood = ???  This experience is making me feel dazed and confused.  There are many times this week in fact where I just wanted to chicken and shut this whole project down.  I am not a quitter, though, so I've stuck it out so far.  I think mostly I am hearing my fear talking, because finally here is the real possibility of dating, not an idea or a distant future eventuality.  Here I was proving everything I told you readers and myself wrong and I hadn't even been at it a week.  Right now, I chock it up mostly to not feeling well.  When I get tired, sometimes it really makes me discouraged easily and makes me feel sad.  I know to get a more objective viewpoint, I have to wait it out a few days for this spell to pass.  Then I will be able to make more informed observations and decisions. 

And so it continues...  

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