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OnLove: Dating

Online sites allow lovelorn to commiserate over bad dates, get dating advice

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By Kathleen Hom
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2010

After eight years of trying to find Mr. Right, 26-year-old Irene Vivenzio of Waldorf is done with online dating.

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She thought lengthy online questionnaires that required paragraph-long answers, weeks of exchanging e-mails and a few follow-up phone calls would weed out any losers. In some cases, that worked. But plenty of bad dates slipped through.

A frustrated Vivenzio usually turned to friends to vent about her dating misadventures. But now some daters are posting details about disastrous dates online at sites such as www.badonlinedates.com or www.abadcaseofthedates.com.

With millions of users logging on to dating sites (eHarmony boasts more than 20 million registered users and Match.com advertises that it reaches 5.8 million unique monthly users), bad dates come with the territory. "It's a numbers game," says New Hampshire clinical psychologist Carl Hindy. "And you have to . . . sit with a lot of bad matches in order to make good use of the numbers."

Unfortunately that takes away a lot of the joy and excitement in finding love, explains Jennifer Kelton, founder of Los Angeles-based badonlinedates.com. A lot of people misrepresent themselves, Kelton says, no matter if you're a 75-year-old Jewish widow or a 20-something professional looking for the right match. But "we're hard-wired for companionship," she adds. "We want to feel loved and feel safe."

Providing an outlet to air grievances may be a good way to climb over dating setbacks. There's this social stigma of perfection that daters need to get over, Kelton says. These Web sites let users create an online community by sharing funny or bad stories.

On badonlinedates.com, for example, poster SingleSteve tells how he endured an exhausting two-hour conversation in which his date only complained about how she hated her job and had no friends. SingleSteve wrote, "I'm thinking of stabbing myself in the face, only so I can tell my date I'm bleeding from the face and we should probably call it a night." On A Bad Case of the Dates, poster Leslie talks about her blind date with a man named Ron, who revealed he created a dating profile because his anger-management counselor encouraged him to meet new people, which could help with his drug and alcohol rehab.

Airing stories that others can poke fun at are "important . . . ways to lighten the emotional load," Hindy says. Posters can also get tips and feedback on how to handle or prevent awkward situations. Kelton's site includes a link to a Twitter feed so if a dater is on a horrific encounter, he or she can ask for advice and get immediate feedback.

But there can be a dark side to posting dating mishaps online. "When there's identifying information, that can be extremely destructive; it borders on defamation of character," warns Diana Kirschner, New York author of "Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love." Kirschner suggests doing what Vivenzio does: Talk to close friends. "It's better to err on the side of caution, err on not hurting the person" by avoiding a public display.

Share your online dating stories -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- here.


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