31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Could Mr. Right Be An E-mail Away?

Hook up with possible mate on Internet

Single ... with Children


Publication Date: 01/24/01

When I was in labor with my first child, I couldn't imagine that any woman in her right mind would decide willingly to go through this kind of pain again. I didn't think it would ever end, and I was sure that I would be the mother of an only child. Of course, I found myself so amazed and captivated by my daughter that I looked forward to adding a new baby to our family. Memories of labor had vanished.

The human spirit allows life to move forward even when we think it feels impossible. Inside each of us is an intangible, powerful force that somehow erases memories of painful childbirth, heals the sting of losing someone through death and even heals hearts broken through divorce. It takes time. The transformation doesn't happen overnight, so we use this grace period to grieve, learn our lessons and lick our wounds. Eventually, most of us start feeling the courage to begin again.

Where to start? As single parents, most of us live hectic lives. We have responsibilities that can make meeting members of the opposite sex a real challenge. Even if we have the luxury of extra time, there's the question of where to look. One avenue that is helping many single and divorced people in the eternal quest for true love is the home computer.

Welcome to the age of the Internet. It's convenient, inexpensive and bursting with opportunities to meet a new friend or potential mate. Online dating sites are gaining in popularity and respectability, and it's no surprise given the fact that many of us are becoming computer literate.

A myriad of sites post online personals where folks can articulate exactly what they are looking for in a potential relationship, including such physical aspects as height, weight and eye color. Some of the services even provide an "auto-matcher," which will magically take your criteria and find people who have similar interests and situations. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, many members post photographs of themselves so you don't even have to use your imagination. Many of these sites are free, but a few charge a monthly membership fee.

At first glance, this new age of computer dating appears almost too good to be true. There are some potential pitfalls lurking in this mating medium, and one should practice caution when setting sail on the cyber sea.

People do not always practice honesty online. In fact, the potential for deceit increases because it's not exactly real life. It is important to remember that what appears in the personal ad does not always translate from pixels to perception.

It's easy to write a glowing autobiography because it is, in fact, mere text sometimes accompanied by a small, possibly retouched photograph. It's easy to embellish a list of attributes and accomplishments. Every day, people fly great distances to meet someone they have connected with online only to find that what they were led to believe is nothing close to reality. What might feel like a dream date could result in a real nightmare with possibly dangerous implications.

If you choose to try online dating, use common sense and follow safety guidelines.

Remember that the person you make contact with is a stranger sitting behind a computer monitor. Don't give out your address, telephone number or any other private information right away. Make sure you're extremely comfortable before divulging facts that would make it easy for your new friend to track you down. If someone presses you for this information right off the bat, consider it a red flag. If you are a single parent, you have not only your safety to protect but also the privacy and security of your children.

If someone becomes rude, lewd or crude, report him or her at once to the membership service. You do not have to accept such behavior in real life and you shouldn't have to deal with it online. Most online dating services are interested in keeping their clientele happy, so they pay attention to complaints of negative behavior. If someone becomes tiresome or unrelenting after being told you are not interested, block their e-mail address so the unwanted contact is stopped.

As our lives become more wired and time more precious, it isn't surprising to learn that many couples have been brought together as a result of online meetings. Most sites offer success stories. You could find yourself chatting and getting to know someone from as far away as France or perhaps another single soul just a couple of miles from where you live. The Internet has truly made this a small world. It's not out of the question that the man or woman of your dreams might just have a "dot-com" attached to his or her name.

The Internet, in fact, has brought two wonderful loves to my life. I found both of my dogs online via animal shelter Web sites. Freeway came to me from the shelter Web site in Charleston, S.C., and Cassie was a featured shelter pet on a shelter's Web site here in Amarillo. I can only say that both of my Internet canine acquisitions have brought much joy and companionship to our family. As I look at both of my dogs, I smile as I wonder if this same medium would be capable of sending me another gift in the form of Mr. Right. I'll admit I'm a bit wary, but my dogs are encouraging me to keep an open mind.

If you have had an experience in Internet dating, positive or negative, I am interested in hearing about it as this is a topic that might be worth revisiting from time to time. Please e-mail me if you have an experience you would like to share.

Readers can e-mail Susie at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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