I’m sitting down for the first time today with my morning cup of coffee and waffles. My fridge is nearly empty so I need to place a grocery order today. I’m out of milk, which you need for like, everything. I’ve got the fireplace going because it was 9c this morning. It’s still windy outside – so I had to close the doors. But you know what? I’m not complaining. I love wearing my cozy pj pants and shirts with sleeves again.
Every night, I watch TikTok videos before going to sleep. Last night, I stumbled across a video of a young girl who was worried for a friend of hers who went on a blind date. This took me back a lot of years, to a time when I used internet dating sites like Plenty of Fish to meet potential partners.
While I had a lot of good experiences with the site, I also had some close calls and met a lot of creeps too. Even though my blog is targeted towards the over forty crowd, at least that was my original intent, I thought I would share some safety tips for online dating.
Of course, it’s not called online dating anymore – I don’t think. I don’t even know. I can’t keep up with the times. But I do know that the same safety issues are there now, compared to over ten years ago when I used dating websites. And no, I’ve never tried Tinder, nor do I want to. Dating over forty is just scary.
Don’t share your personal information
Never give out your personal information before meeting in person. This includes your phone number, address or even last name. If you are using an app like Tinder, consider using a screen name. If you’re sharing pictures from home – like an apartment building – make sure to hide or blur out the address or any other identifying information. The same goes for work information.
I say this as someone who has been stalked in real life before. You just never know who you are really dealing with online. They could be a predator, an axe murderer, or someone who is unhinged. And before you say, “that can’t happen to me” – let me tell you a quick story.
A former coworker had met someone off of Plenty of FIsh and they became friends. A couple of years later, the guy was arrested for murder. He was using POF to meet his victims. He pretended to be a film maker and lured them to his garage. I think there was only one murder victim, but it was not his first time hurting someone. After I read the horrifying details of the murder, I pretty much swore off POF after that.
And please…do not include pictures of your kids on dating apps. Those sites can be a breeding ground for predators. Most people know this but I’ve seen some pretty sketchy profile pictures.
Meet in a very public setting
First meetings should be really casual. Coffee dates are fine for the first meeting. Don’t call them dates. They are meetings – because even though you may have chatted online for a long time, this is technically your first time meeting in person.
Other ideas are meeting up in a park and going for a walk. Meeting at a bar with friends and having some drinks. Taking your pets out for a walk together. Meeting up at some kind of festival or outdoor activity where there are lots of people around.
Movies are terrible ideas for a first date as you can’t really talk. A coffee date is the perfect solution because it’s low commitment, low cost, and has minimal risk involved.
Check in with a friend
Back in my day, we’re talking like nearly twenty years ago – a group of us had a telephone tree or phone system that helped let others know we were okay. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was in my 30’s – so I would make sure to send important details to my closest friends. And she would do the same.
Information that we included:
- Date and time of the first meeting
- Location of the meeting
- Screen name of the person you’re meeting or profile link
- Or the person’s real name if you know it
- Any other information you might think is relevant
I remember back in 2004, I met a guy named Ken off one of those alternative dating sites. We arranged to meet up at an event that I attended once a month. They were casual gatherings at a local dive bar. About 20 of us would always get together for drinks and dancing. Sometimes we’d head out to the gay bar too and continue the party there. Ah, this brings back memories.
Ken and I really hit it off. We had chemistry right away – even though he wasn’t my usual type for physical attraction. He was funny, sensitive and was a good listener. We decided to ditch the party and go for a drive. I remember my friend Lisa was furious with me for leaving with him.
Even though I wound up dating the guy for a year. He was harmless. Maybe a little too harmless. We’re actually still friendly today, at least on Facebook. We went to a concert a couple of years ago and he took me back stage to meet the band -Honeymoon Suite. He was a good friend. But looking back at the relationship, that’s all it was. A great friendship. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Do not go home with them on your first meeting
I don’t know how dating works for the younger generation. But one rule of thumb we had back in the day, was unless you wanted a hook up, or to have sex with someone, you didn’t go home with them after a first meeting. And you didn’t invite them back to your place.
With me not driving, sometimes I broke this rule. And most of the time, it worked out okay for me in the end. But there were a few times, that things could have gone very badly.
This was in 2008, I think, I was working in the health department. I met a guy who claimed to be a photographer. We hit it off. Or so I thought. We met up at a restaurant. We had a nice (but cheap) appetizer and cup of coffee. We had a few laughs. He asked if I wanted to go for a drive and I said yes. Why not. I wasn’t ready for the night to end.
He invited me back to his place to watch a movie. It was one of the Iron Man movies. We sat on the opposite ends of the couch. I was regretting my decision at going home with him. Something didn’t add up and I had a bad feeling about him. I sat as far away from him as possible.
By the time the opening scene had finished, dude was next to me with his hands on me. Next thing I know, I’m lying flat on the couch and he’s on top of me. I froze. My entire body just seized up and I couldn’t move or speak. I know now that I was having a panic attack.
Luckily, he gave up when he realized that I was not having a good time. He offered me some money for a cab home, and I high tailed it out of there.
It was assault. But I also gave him the wrong impression when I went home with him. Lesson learned. I actually stopped dating and meeting guys form online dating sites for quite a while after that.
This tip is more of a cautionary tale. Use your own judgment. If you feel you can trust the person and have great chemistry, then go for it. Just please be careful.
Do you want to hear more of my horror dating stories?
Now that I’ve written this all out, I don’t know if these tips are still relevant today. I think they can still be useful for those who have never used online dating sites. I know of apps like Tinder, though I would never use them myself.
I know that I swore off online dating after one too many disappointing meetings. I found that either the guy was nothing like his profile pictures, or we just didn’t hit it off in the chemistry department. I decided to join meet up groups and meet people the old fashioned way, through friends, family, mutual acquaintances. I can write up a second post on how to meet people without using online dating apps.
I actually could write an entire blog series on my first dates and experiences with sites like Ok Cupid and POF.
If you’re interested in those types of stories, let me know in the comments.
If you have any more safety tips to add, or something that you do with your friends, let me know that too!
Updated: hit the publish button too soon – typos fixed