Looking for love? Turn to the Internet

By Donna Porstner
Staff Writer

June 15, 2007

NORWALK – A decade ago, Ronnie Ann Ryan was an SWF seeking an S/DWM.

There were heartaches – not to mention mistakes – but she made it down the aisle and parlayed the lessons learned into a second career as a personal public relations guru and dating coach.

In "Successful Web Dating," a new, noncredit course at Norwalk Community College, the motivational matchmaker uses her 20 years of marketing experience to help singles advertise their best assets.

For $25, Ryan offers tips on how to write a profile that will appeal to the opposite sex, along with a crash course in Internet etiquette and some general dating dos and don’ts.

The two-hour course is geared toward women who have never tried online dating, or haven’t been able to find Love Lane while cruising the information superhighway.

"It’s a great way to jump-start your love life," Ryan said. "How else could you connect with so many people so fast?" .

Ryan, who met her husband while on a dating blitz after her 40th birthday, tells students leery of meeting strangers they only know by a screen name and a photo that it’s more information than she had nine years ago, when friends set her up on blind dates and she placed personal ads in newspapers.

"If you think the Internet is freaky, all we had was 26 words and a voice mail," Ryan said.

True to the course description, Ryan, a boisterous brunette who keeps the mood light with humorous tales from her days in the singles scene, gives her students tips about how to write a captivating profile that people will actually read.

A common mistake, she said, is that women often write as if they are looking for someone who has the exact same interests as they do, which is only going to attract other women.

"The important thing when you write your ad – having been in the advertising business -Êis understanding who is going to read your ad," Ryan told the 15 students in her first class Wednesday night. "No guy is going to say, ‘This babe likes ballet -ÊI’m calling her!’ "

She instructs her students never to lie – not even a little fib about their age – but suggests they omit some information that potential suitors might not find appealing, such as their love for typically feminine pastimes, like operas and musicals. Once they fall in love with you, then you can drag them to the theater, she said.

Ryan also warns students not to go on about their children. "Whether you are a man or a woman, you want to know you have a shot at No. 1," she says. Students also are encouraged to avoid buzz words like "open-minded" or "adventurous" that could have different, sexual connotations.

"You don’t want to be ‘adventurous,’ because men see trapezes," Ryan says.

She encouraged students to display a little personality in their profiles, noting it will help them stand out from the millions of other contestants in the dating game.

"People don’t know what to say about themselves, so it’s like laundry lists," Ryan said. "They all like walks on the beach, dinners out and movies, and they sound like 99 percent of other people."

Like most of her classes -ÊRyan also teaches "It’s Never to late to Meet Mr. Right," and "Charm School: Learn How to be Charming, Entertaining and Popular" at NCC – the students in the Web dating course are mostly female. Fourteen women and one man attended the first class.

Lynn Boyar, NCC’s director of special programming, said the school had had inquiries about Web dating courses in the past so administrators were eager to oblige when Ryan pitched it as a class.

Now that it’s commonplace to find a date in cyberspace, Boyar said a how-to class just seemed like a good complement to the school’s noncredit offerings, which also include art, foreign language and music courses, among others.

"We are here to serve the community for both their professional and their personal life," she said. "People are searching for ways to meet other people and Web dating is a viable option for a way to meet people today."

The class attracted Lisa McGuire, 45, of Stamford, who signed up to get help with her online dating profile.

"I never know what to write," she said.

McGuire, who moved from the Midwest to Greenwich 20 years ago to work as a nanny, said she has a hard time meeting men because most of her friends are married and most of her co-workers are women.

"Sometimes I think if I stayed in Nebraska, I might be married with a couple of kids because it’s just so busy and hectic and hard to meet people," she said.

Kathie O’Donnell of Milford, whose husband died 18 years ago, worked up the courage to enroll in Ryan’s course after years of prodding from her friends and family to try Internet dating.

"I have all sorts of cheerleaders behind me but I haven’t dated anybody since I was widowed," she said.

Norwalk resident Aimee Millette, 38, said her friends were curious when she told them she enrolled in the class. Some asked her to take copious notes and report back on what she learned.

"They were intrigued, but they didn’t want to participate themselves," she said.

Millette said she knows of friends who have found their match online – including one couple that married last year – and figured she would get some pointers before trying it herself.

Online dating seems like a good idea because it’s the easiest way to meet a large volume of eligible bachelors, she said.

"It’s all a numbers game," Millette said.

Copyright © 2007, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.