Looking for love in 2016?Entertainment Feature, Section 4A Thursday, January 7th, 2016
Tricks, tips and insights into online dating safety from America’s leading dating coach Bela Gandhi
When Michael Wright’s decomposing body was found in his Lexus SUV underneath bags of two-day old trash, wounds to the basketball player’s head allowed police to rule out suicide. That they were able to recover his phone, which was open to Grindr, may now lead them to a viable assailant. But before this second-round draft pick for the New York Knicks (he never ended up playing in the NBA but went on to play in European leagues instead) was cruising one of the various mobile hook-up sites, another, far more brutal murder had played itself out in quite a similar fashion several years earlier.
George Weber, a popular New York City-based radio reporter for WABC, was also searching for a hook-up. But Weber, who neighbors once described as “creepy quiet,” had a darker side. He had placed an ad on Craigslist advertising his desire for “rough sex” which included pillow smothering. As it turns out, the then 16-year-old, one John Katehis, who agreed to a drug-fueled sadomasochistic sex romp for 60 bucks, ended up stabbing Weber 50 times.
While these are, far and away, two violent and extreme examples, the fact remains that as tempting as ‘CaliGymBod123’ may be, you really have no way of knowing what you’re getting yourself into. And it is precisely because there are no screening mechanisms to ward off those who wish to do harm, we turned to dating coach Bela Gandhi to help us sort out the do’s and don’ts of the online dating world.
Bela, founder of the Smart Dating Academy – a full-service personal consulting firm that provides busy, successful professionals with dating coaching, image consulting, personal shopping and online dating consulting – agreed to speak with San Diego LGBT Weekly where we had a chance to find out about the ins and outs of online dating safety and hopefully increase our chances of meeting the right one in 2016.
San Diego LGBT Weekly: Bela, as something of a self-titled safety expert, what are your top three issues you try to stress with men (and some women) who now use hook-up sites as the primary means of meeting up socially and sexually?
Bella Gandhi: 1) A lot of people are not who they say they are, especially physically. Sure, some people may post an old picture of them 20 lbs. smaller, but a lot of people use pictures of completely different people. You can help this problem by using Reverse Google Image for their photos. 2) Meet someone in a public place. This cannot be stressed enough. When meeting someone for the first time, meet them at a public place. A local bar, a Starbucks, anywhere. You want to meet with someone where other people are present – just in case something bad happens. Even if it is a “hook up,” meet them somewhere public. And 3) Have protected sex. Sure – a one night stand may happen but make sure you are protected because a lot of people do not know their status and even if they do, some people may not feel comfortable disclosing this information with someone they may be hooking up with once or twice. Please remember: You are responsible for you.
What are some of the ways you are working in getting single men and women – but especially men – to consider alternatives such as matchmaking?
We let people know that the right matchmaker or dating expert can help you put a plan together to meet the right person. This includes helping you understand dating patterns, how to fix them and refine your “picker,” and put the right tools in your tool kit (which includes meeting people in real life, online dating, and getting the people around you to introduce you to others). They, often, serve as personal trainers for your life. People are drawn in after this.
What do you look for – associate with – in terms of success when it comes to the longevity of a relationship? Is it a crap shoot? Is there a secret potion?
Cohabitation is a great way to test out your relationship and prove that it can last. When two people are in the same space, you have to look out for your partner when it comes to your hygiene and/or health. You also have someone that is looking at your habits and lifestyle on an ongoing basis. If everything is fine with that, I would deem it a success and you are ready to move forward.
You’ve witnessed and participated in the evolution of the “Relationship.” Where is it now? How is it being defined? Where is monogamy in all this talk of relationships?
Yes – Social media is definitely something that comes to mind. Sure, relationships are still looked at as something that should be monogamous and exclusive. However, these are harder to achieve nowadays. For example, after an argument, someone in a relationship can easily get on social media or a dating app and find an easy hookup or even a new partner. Things are much more accessible now – and that makes long, committed relationships much harder.
What are some things you should and should not eat on a first date? I’ve heard eating a salad is like screaming pre-nuptial!
You should stay away from salads or corn on the cob. With a leafy salad (or even a mojito), this can result with green chunks in between your teeth, which is not attractive at all. This also happens with corn – but also corn can be worse as it gets in almost all of your teeth. Plus, it usually is smashed into your face leaving a greasy look. Sushi is good – it’s easy, no dripping or greasiness. This also opens up the option to many different types, from veggie rolls, to California rolls, to Salmon rolls. If you can’t master the chopsticks, sliders or light colored pastas are good as well.
How do the various sexes know when something is going right on a first date?
85 percent of communication is non-verbal. First and foremost, pay attention to how often someone is looking at their phone. If someone is busy checking their Instagram, texting, or anything of the sort, the date is not interesting enough. Of course, it’s OK to check it here and there, especially if they are involved in a business where staying on top of emails is key. Other examples of non-verbal communication would be avoiding eye contact. On the opposite end, someone that is engaged, talkative and paying you attention – things are going right.
What’s the stupidest dating question you still get asked?
I don’t really get a lot of stupid questions, but what I do see is a lot of insane situations where people should have cut bait years ago but they still stick around. Sometimes it’s because their past family histories are similar and they’re comfortable with dysfunction. Sometimes, because they don’t think they’ll find anybody else. That is the saddest of them all.
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