Meeting Off-Line: How to Tell the Time is Right

Sure, the thrill of making a connection with someone online is exciting at first. He’s attractive, has a good job as a lawyer and whaddya know? He’s got a ferret, too. His is a Siamese, and yours is a Sable. But still, what are the chances? His email turns out to be witty and sincere:

ShrooBaby,

Hi. I’m new here, but I saw your picture and profile and thought we had a lot in common. Hey, what’s your Sable Ferret’s name? Mine’s Roxanne. Write me back when you get a chance,

Max (Headroom87)

Before you respond, you call in the cavalry—forwarding his profile to your four closest gal pals. Most have wonderful things to say like, "adorable," "great catch" and "love that picture of him on the beach." Bitter Vanessa says his ears are too big, but she’s probably just jealous he didn’t contact her.

With the votes counted, you write him back, eagerly telling him about your ferret, Beck, which stirs up a week’s worth of back-and-forth emails. You learn that he likes peanut butter but doesn’t like peanuts. He learns that you have a secret obsession with professional bowling.

Time to meet in person?
Will a face-to-face ruin the whole fantasy of your online match? Watch for these four signs you’re ready to take it off-line:

  1. Sparks are flying
    Come on, even through innocent email flirting, you can tell if you guys are as a hot as Tungsten or as cold as, well, some other element in the periodic table. And if it’s sizzling online, just think what could happen without a computer between you.
  2. Building anticipation
    Are you giddy every time you get an instant message? Are you disappointed if it’s just your friend Sally in the cube next to you? You know you’ve gotta see this guy in person, even if it’s just to satisfy your curiosity.
  3. Marathon phone calls
    Maybe the two of you have already made the leap from cyberspace to cellphone. You enjoy talking to him so much that you’re not even agitated when he calls before 9:00 p.m., when all your minutes are free. You could spend the next week having long conversations reminiscent of your junior high days or you could play like a grown-up and go out on a real date.
  4. Dropping names
    Has he asked you questions like, "Hey, have you tried Vito’s, that new Italian restaurant downtown?" and then not followed up with an official invite? He’s probably just testing the waters, and he’s obviously a little shy. Give him some help next time and reply with, "No, I haven’t, but we should go sometime."

If the signs are there and you decide to meet him off-line, plan your initial meeting in a public place. You could choose one of the restaurants he’s been name-dropping, or maybe even the pet store to browse for ferrets. Meeting someone online is a great way to screen prospective dates, but eventually you’ve got to move it off-line. And trust me, your cutie will be a lot cuddlier than that keyboard of yours.

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