Mantras to tell yourself before your next online date

You hit the “download” button and watched the little app icon slowly appear on your screen. You nervously connected your Facebook profile, carefully choosing only your best pics to make the cut. You made a witty quip in your “About Me” section, set your interests, maybe listed a few TV shows you liked. And there you were, afloat in the sometimes terrifying, occasionally exhilarating waters of online dating. Swiping, viewing profiles, giggling at the most ridiculous messages, swooning at a few truly beautiful bearded men.

Online dating is the new dating, basically. But while we’ve grown accustomed to the idea from the safety of our smartphones, taking it IRL the first time can still be pretty nerve-wracking. It’s all fun and games when you’re emoji flirting but it’s a different story when you’re sitting in a booth of your favorite local Mexican joint, nervously alternating between staring at your phone and scanning the room for someone who may or may not look like their photos. No matter how comfortable you are with the idea, it still takes some getting used to each time you try it out with a new person. Here are some mantras for when you’re about to go on an Internet date that’ll help you get through it.

I am super brave. No, really, you are! It’s brave to take on the dating world, it’s brave to put yourself out there, and it’s brave of you to try and hope for something each time you agree to meet up. Maybe you’re looking for casual, maybe you’re looking for commitment, maybe you’re just hoping for some entertaining conversation over a plate of nachos. Whatever you’re looking for, showing up and putting your best face forward is brave. Not to mention there’s always that small possibility that this person might not be as nice as they seemed (which is why I begin every Internet date by saying “No offense, but I’m texting my bestie right now to let her know you haven’t abducted me”).

This doesn’t have to be the best date ever. There’s a lot of pressure when you’ve made the leap to in-person from in-your-Internet-hole with a person. It’s like, OK, we’ve both put in this amount of effort here, it has to be worth that, right? But that’s not necessarily how you’d approach a date that began with an offline interaction. You’d go into it thinking “all right, we’ll see how this goes,” with the hope you’d hit it off, but not the pressure to make sure you do. So here’s your reminder: It’s not make it or break it, it’s just a date.

It’s totally okay to leave whenever. I like to do the scheduling of Internet dates, mostly because it’s comforting to be in a familiar surrounding, but also so that I know I can get up and go if I start to feel uncomfortable. There’s always a risk when meeting someone for the first time, and if the interaction feels unpleasant, you don’t have to stick around. You don’t owe it to anyone, no matter how many emojis you’ve exchanged during your online messaging courtship.

I never have to apologize for my appearance. One time I went on a date with a guy who told me that he was sorry he hadn’t revealed his height before we met up. He was a few inches shorter than me, and you couldn’t tell from his photos. I was perplexed that he felt the need to apologize for his stature. I mean, sure, maybe I didn’t want to date a guy who was shorter than me (or he didn’t want to date a taller girl), but did that somehow negate the hour and a half we spent having a fun conversation? Sure, physical attraction is necessary, but you don’t ever need to apologize for the way you look in person. Never, ever.

It doesn’t matter what a stranger thinks of me. Obviously we want all our dates to go well, even if they don’t include that all-important spark. But it’s just reality that sometimes, they don’t. I once met up with a man who, over the course of two hours, slowly alienated me from ever wanting to hang out with him again. We parted ways politely, but for a few months afterward he would text me occasionally, wanting to know what went wrong. Honestly, it didn’t matter what I thought of him — he had friends and family and people who genuinely wanted to be in his life, and I didn’t. Conversely, I’ve gone on dates where I could tell the dude just wasn’t interested, and that’s fine, too. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you don’t click — that’s what the practice of dating is all about. You count them out, and you get to move on.

If nothing else, this will make for a good story. I have entertained friends over many a dinner table with tales of my Internet dates gone awry. Lately my favorite story is about how I went on a date with a guy solely because I’d heard he had a pet dingo. You know, the wild dog from the Australian outback? Listen, I’m easily misled if you can find the right bait, and I probably could be strung along for at least three dates with the promise of meeting a domesticated wild animal. The punchline is how we never went on a second date and I still regret how close I came to meeting a dingo. (In retrospect, he could probably tell I was just using him for his dog.) Moral of the story is, no matter how sideways the date goes, you can just count it all as fodder for your future memoirs.

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