Dating Apps: The Lowdown

Technology has an uncanny way of making our lives more complicated, even as it vows to simplify them. Hard drives that crash. Voice recognition that doesn’t recognize. Online bank accounts that get hacked. Smartphone apps, however, tend to deliver, getting us where we want to go, finding the free Wi-Fi, calculating tips. But can they help us get our dating lives in gear? To that end, MLT looked at three popular dating apps to see how well they cut through the hassle of the singles scene and put us on the path to a love connection. Read on for the results.

P.S. If you need advice on where to go and what to do on that first date, you’ll be happy to know there’s an app for that, too. (Several, actually.)

ZOOSK

  • The Bottom Line: Free to download, but have your credit card handy. When you want anything more than superficial contact, like sending a “wink” to a woman, it’s gonna cost you. One month of service is $29.95. Discounts apply for multiple-month subscriptions.
  • Looks: Interface and menus are clean, evocative of Facebook.
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, Zoosk had received an average of three stars (out of a possible five) from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: Zoosk asks about your perfect match, your ideal date, favorite movies and music.
  • What We Liked: If its claims are true, the site signs up 80,000 new users a day, for a grand total of 50 million people looking for love.
  • What We Didn’t Like: The fact that users are called Zooskers. If we wanted to date a zoosker, we’d go to the zoo.
  • Connection potential: Before even completing our application, we were sent an email letting us know we’d been matched with a single mother of three boys. She was also an Eagles fan (not of the Don Henley kind). Uh, thanks, but no.

IDATE

  • The Bottom Line: Free to download. Subscriptions start at $9.99 per month. You can also use the service gratis by allowing the app continuing access to your Facebook account.
  • Looks: Startup screen is a bit girly (very heavy on the whole red-heart thing), but the toggle-laden search page is much more Teutonic.
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, iDate had received an average of two and a half stars from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: A quick and easy form asks for basic info, such as your height, religion, latitude and longitude, and whether you’re a smoker.
  • What We Liked: The only one of the three apps reviewed here that allows you to complete your profile entirely on your phone.
  • What We Didn’t Like: Giving iDate unfettered access to our Facebook profile (including letting it post updates on our wall whenever we did something on iDate) is genius marketing, but a bit too invasive for our liking -- and not worth the savings on the fee.
  • Connection potential: The pickings are easy to narrow down, although the pool of prospects seems pretty narrow to begin with. Even the broadest of search specifications returned few or no match results. The developer’s site notes that iDate has “thousands of personals and pics” -- not exactly great odds for finding your soul mate in a world of 6 billion people.

OKCUPID

  • The Bottom Line: Free. If you want an upgrade to what the site calls A-List Extras, you’ll pay $9.95 per month.
  • Looks: The app icon is a half-full beaker. The apparent message: Chemistry at work!
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, OkCupid had received three and a half stars from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: As you build your profile, you’re asked a battery of questions -- some sensible, some off-the-wall. The more questions you answer -- from how often you Tweet to whether you’d ever date a pot-smoker -- the more potential matches OkCupid unlocks for you.
  • What We Liked: The app’s Quickmatch feature, which is the dating equivalent of Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” option. Don’t like the match OKCupid picked? You can easily skip it and move on to the next prospect.
  • What We Didn’t Like: Answering random questions is fun -- to a point. At one stage well into the process, a message informs you that the average guy answers 200 of OkCupid’s questions, but that answering 50 is “an adequate start.”
  • Connection potential: When the site found us a blonde ultra-runner who loves craft beers, indie films and dancing, we sent her a message immediately. Fingers crossed that after a 50-mile day, she’ll still have enough endurance for a night on the town.


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/IvanaKorab

Get it right this Valentine’s Day

Like most things having anything to do with women, Valentine’s Day is laden with signals that are crystal clear to them and about as comprehensible as Greek to you. A dozen roses? Signal: “He’s lazy.” A box of chocolates? “He doesn’t really care.” So what’s a man to do? Start with two words: Think creatively. And with a few tips from Men’s Life Today’s experts, you’ll be able to fill her Valentine’s Day with a few unique and unexpected surprises that will signal only one thing — this guy deserves my love.

 Watch and learn
“The number one desire of most women is to be understood,” explains London-based relationship advisor Paula Rosdol, founder of PaulaRosdol.com. So you’ll need to sharpen up your powers of observation. Pay attention to her likes and dislikes and especially to everything she contributes to your relationship. “Strive to do, say and buy things for your partner that have a special meaning for her,” says Rosdol. “For example, if she loves to cook for you, take her to a Michelin-star restaurant and buy her that kitchen gadget she’s been eyeing up.” 

If it just won’t feel like Valentine’s Day to you without the traditional flowers and chocolates, Rosdol suggests you at least add a twist to it. For example, present her with a single rose in a beautiful Murano glass vase that she can keep forever, or if your budget allows, a nice box of Swiss chocolates with a card inviting her for a weekend skiing holiday in the Alps.

Plan ahead
As with most things, preparation is key to a successful Valentine’s Day. “Romantic hotels and restaurants generally inflate their prices and are booked up months beforehand, so if you want to take her somewhere special, you’re going to need to plan well in advance,” says James Preece, a.k.a. The Dating Guru from OnlineDatingClinic.com. “Or make reservations for the same hotel or restaurant for the following weekend, when prices are lower, and go out of your way to make the day special in other ways.”

Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to let her know you’ll be taking her out or doing something special on Valentine’s Day, or right after. “Women love anticipating good things to come,” explains Rosdol. “And there’s a bonus to this. If she knows you’re planning something, she’ll start thinking of how to please you.”

Be creative
Money can’t buy love any more than it can buy happiness, so don’t make the common mistake of throwing up your hands in defeat if you can’t afford an expensive gift. Instead, think outside the box. Preece proposes creating a “memories” scrapbook filled with your favourite photographs, keepsakes, holiday mementoes and even some printed emails. This will serve as a souvenir of your relationship for both of you, and remind you of how much you mean to each other. If you’re more of a poet than an artist, write her a love letter. Many men never think to put pen to paper anymore, says Preece, and it really is a lost opportunity. “For the best results, hold her hand, look deep into her eyes and read it aloud,” he suggests. “If this is something you’ve never done before, she’ll be incredibly impressed.”

Six Signs She’s Just Not That Into You

Hey, Romeo! If your killer material gets nothing more than crickets over coffee with a girl you’ve been chasing ... or if you can’t even get her to go out for coffee ... it’s probably time for a reality check. That’s right: There are women out there who are impervious to your limitless charm.

Too many dudes are caught up in the notion that a girl’s just playing hard-to-get if she’s not showing you love. That might sometimes be the case ... or, more likely, you’re delusional. In the interests of Bro Code, we at Men’s Life Today consulted someone who’d know (a woman, and in this case, a woman who’s also a relationship expert) to identify six sure-fire signs that you’re wasting your time.

No. 1: You have a better relationship with her voicemail than with her.
If the only time you can ever get this girl on the phone is when you call her -- and if she seems surprised that it’s you when she finally answers -- you’ve got a bad connection! Face it: If she doesn’t call you back -- or ever call you at all -- she’s ducking you. “If you think she’s avoiding you, tell her that the next call has to come from her,” says Dr. JoAnn Magdoff, a New York-based psychologist and relationship expert. “If she doesn’t make it, you’ll have your answer.” In other words, it’s time to lose her phone number.

No. 2: She cuts you down with a crappy cliche.
When a woman utters the universal escape clause -- “I’m just not ready to be in a relationship” -- the most literal translation is: She’s not ready to be in a relationship with you. It could be that she’s got a lot on her plate. But in most cases, if she’s not buying what you’re selling now, she won’t be shopping in your store anytime soon. “If you can hang long enough, she might turn around,” says Magdoff. “But don't hold your breath.”

No. 3: You can’t find your way onto her calendar.
It’s easier to predict the ponies than the next time this girl will be available to go out with you. She’s either “working late,” “gotta get up early,” “gonna be out of town,” or “having her blood drawn.” And she always asks if she can get back to you in case she works things out at the last minute. Meaning: You’re in the permanent bullpen, and you’ll only get the call if her intended starting pitcher comes up lame. “These are the classic signs of being a fallback option,” explains Magdoff. “The only way to capture her imagination is to show less interest in her.”

No. 4: She talks dirty … but not about you.
When she describes her fantasy man, it doesn’t sound like anybody who might ever be remotely mistaken for you. Or even speak to you. “If she’s describing her fantasies to you, and you’re not in them,” warns Magdoff, “you need to be talking to someone else.”

No. 5: The next time she laughs at one of your jokes will be the first time.
If you think you’re the king of comedy but can’t command even a couple of laughs from your intended queen, it’s time to take your seltzer bottle and chattering dentures act on the road. “If she’s not finding your humor or personality interesting, you need to ask yourself what you find alluring about her,” says Magdoff. “Don’t get into this because you like a challenge.” Face it, funny boy: You’re chasing after somebody who’s laughing at you, not with you! (Sorry, we always wanted to use that one.)

No. 6: She keeps telling you that you are so perfect for her sister!
Sadly, this is only a good thing if she’s siblings with Megan Fox. On the other hand, says Magdoff, “Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to meet her sister. Let’s face it, you’re not getting anywhere with this girl!”

Breakup Recovery: Prevail in the First 72 Hours

She dumped you. And now you’re contemplating a patriot’s death, hurling yourself onto your own sword -- except you don’t own a sword, and your Swiss army knife would merely leave you maimed. Plus, you’re plagued by irrational thoughts about unfinished business (read: unreturned DVDs) and an afterlife of embarrassment (read: your adult comics stash).

Sure, a girl can curl up with a Bridget Jones’s Diary marathon and a quart of Chunky Monkey after a breakup. But what are you supposed to do?

Triumph, that’s what. Because that’s what you do. Here’s how:

1. Get some sleep.

The z’s are the first thing that go: You lie in bed, thrashing around, dreaming up coulda/shoulda/woulda scenarios. The next morning, you feel tortured, tired and lonely.

But like it does for many other conditions, sleep can help spur the recovery process, so you want to make sure you get your share. Here’s how:

  • Tire yourself out as much as you can during the day.
  • Resist the urge to pull down the shades and sleep indefinitely (or you’ll find yourself up all night watching “Tool Academy” reruns and kitchen appliance infomercials).
  • Can’t stop your brain when you finally lie down? Try safe, natural homeopathy Coffea, a sleep aid.
  • If all else fails, a little pharma help might be the way to go: If the over-the-counter stuff leaves you groggy and sedated, beg your doc for just three or four days’ worth of prescription sleep medication. That way, for at least eight of the day’s 24 hours, you won’t be writhing in emotional pain.
2. Get a baby sitter.

If you hit the town, have a strong, dedicated wingman who won’t let you out of his sight and will make sure you don’t get in a fight or end up crying on the shoulder of some girls you just met on the waiting line for the bathroom.

3. Lose her data.

Think ahead and take steps to ensure that in a moment of weakness (when you are tired, sad, lonely or any other of the 500 variations), you can’t write or call her and leave a message that will get you arrested or humiliated for the rest of your life. Delete her digits and email address(es) from all binary and tree-product storage (and make sure to hit those places you used to hide things from yourself).

4. Resist revenge.

You’re itching to call her co-worker who flirted shamelessly with you at your ex’s last Christmas party. But be the bigger man. This “pool of prohibited women” includes her younger sister, her MILF-y stepmom, her buxom neighbor … you get the point.

5. Avoid music.

Don’t avoid all music -- just John Jackson, Lionel Richie, Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra … all that sappy easy listening you indulge in when no one else is around. You know, the songs that include messages about “being nothing without you” and “If you don’t come back, I’ll die.” In fact, temporarily delete all such songs/albums/playlists from your iPod and stick with Metallica- and Kid Rock-type fare at all times. Swing music or a cappella will do in a pinch.

6. Launch you 2.0

OK, so you’ve done all the above to control the damage. So what do you do now?

First, join a dating Web site ASAP. There are, like, millions of single girls out there. So when you hear yourself start whimpering that she was the only one, get off your pity pot and cruise over to match.com.

And finally, hit the gym … with a vengeance. Funnel all that breakup angst into a Herculean upper body workout. After all, there’s nothing more therapeutic than looking strong and lean and confident to get other girls to notice you, pump up your ego and -- when you finally run into her -- get this ex to start doubting her judgment for giving the boot to a hunk like you.

But by then, of course, it will be too late, since you will have already moved on.

Dating a Jock

It’s every man’s fantasy: a girlfriend who loves to play and watch sports as much as he does. But dating a tomboy has its flip side. Do you play as hard? Do you let her win? Can you handle it if she’s better than you? Frankly, boys, it’s a minefield. Follow my advice if you want to get through it with all your parts intact.

The situation: She’s seriously athletic and has no qualms beating you. In front of your friends. Often.
The upside:
She’ll never make you come home at halftime. (And why would she? For her, that’s just midway through the game she’s winning.)
The problem:
She knows your weaknesses and injuries. She is wily, aggressive, and unrelenting. She has no problem handing you your balls at the end of any game you’re playing.
The solution:
You can’t ask her to take it easy on you, but you can recruit her to your team. So whenever you can, partner up with her. Get her to savor winning together, and maybe she’ll have some pity next time you’re head-to-head.

The situation: Her passion for sports is not exactly matched by her prowess.
The upside:
Tag football, Frisbee, miniature golf, kickball … If it’s a sport, she’s in. And shotgun.
The problem:
She strikes out, drops the ball, fouls, spaces out, and is in general the weakest link. She’s also your girl, so crushing her makes you feel like a cad.
The solution:
Level the playing field any way you can so she can still enjoy herself. Come up with an excuse as to why you should give her a head start or yourself a handicap. Most important in this situation: Allow yourself to really enjoy the game for the game’s sake.

The situation: She has a team for every season.
The upside:
She can pontificate on how Tiger’s scores are affecting the game of golf. She can home in on Jerome James’s apathetic performances. She can detail why the ref is picking on LeBron yet again.
The problem:
It’s always the opposing team. That’s right. You are UNC, she’s Duke. She’s Yankees, you are Red Sox. You are sleeping with the enemy. What this means? You disagree about sports. All. Year. Long.
The solution:
Enforce a “no talking about sports in the bedroom” rule. Pronto. You can agree to disagree about a foul or shot or resume the discussion the next day, but in general, when you pass through that doorway, sports banter should end and the pillow talk begin. Explain it to her this way and she’s sure to be game.

The situation: She’s obsessed with competition -- even more so than you are.
The upside:
If there’s a dart board, pool table or hacky sack in sight, she’s making a beeline for it.
The problem:
You never thought you’d say this, but you wish she’d pay more attention to you -- and not just to beating you.
The solution:
Your best bet here is honesty. Level with her. And then make plans for “we” time that doesn’t involve a pigskin, goal or referee: Try renting a movie or going to a concert. The more non-sports-related things you do together, the more non-sports-related content there will be to talk about, and all eyes should soon be on you.

The situation: She’s always in, whether she’s invited or not.
The upside:
While your buddies are getting the eye roll or pout from their ladies, yours is already changed into her sweats.
The problem:
It’s endearing but annoying that she’s always in tow when it comes to sports. Sometimes you wouldn’t mind playing -- or even just hanging -- with the guys.
The solution:
She lets you slither away when her friends mention a sale on boots or start complaining about their boyfriends. Well, flip the script. Tell her the guys want to talk guy stuff (if a buddy’s having girl trouble, even better), and she’ll most likely bow out of her own accord.

Photo Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/StanleyPhotography