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I want you to be on the site at least three hours a week.” Uh-oh. Kindly, Hoffman refrains from mocking my unassisted self-description: “I’m a loving person who likes trying new restaurants and a sweet treat before bed.” (I never realized how dirty that sounds.) She asks about my hobbies, how my coworkers would fill in the “most likely to” blank. And if they occasionally get a positive response, they may figure it can't hurt to try again.

She then revises my profile, noting that I love cooking vegetables I grow in my garden, that Dave Chappelle has my kind of humor, that “meeting new people excites me: I could spend half an hour talking to the cashiers at Trader Joe’s.” Three-quarters of the profile should be about me, and the other quarter about what I want in a mate, says Hoffman, who tells me to be specific here, too: The goal isn’t to attract everyone, it’s to find The One. "In psychology research, we call this a 'variable reinforcement schedule,'" Lehmiller says.

We come up with “My ideal match is someone who loves family, has an opinion on current events, and can hold his own at a cocktail party on a Friday night, then chill with me on a lazy Saturday.” The final touch is a headline that sums up my approach to life, like a personal slogan. "It's like a slot machine—the majority of the time, you pull the lever and nothing happens, but every once in a while, there's a payoff." A deflating solution from one online dater: "Draw a face on it and send it back to him."Hoffman looks at my photos and nixes the corporate headshot and mirror selfie. Mirror selfies often give off an air of vanity.” She says the best profile shots feature the three Cs: color (vibrant shades, especially red, grab attention), context (pics that involve your hobbies, like travel or, say, clog dancing), and character (something quirky or funny, “like you in your Halloween costume”).

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For me, online dating is like exercise: At the end of the day, it’s easier to watch TV.

But at 44, I started to realize that if I want a companion before Social Security kicks in, I have to leave the couch.

Plus, being more active should bump my profile toward the top, so I’ll be more visible. Someone “likes” me and asks me out within three messages.

I should make my messages personal, advises Hoffman: “Comment on something in his profile and follow with a question.” Dutifully, I tell one bespectacled prospect, “I like melty ice cream, too. ” I have some interesting chats, but nothing leads anywhere. He’s into photography and makes his own pasta—and he is an Adonis.

I’m supposed to focus on how I feel, not on “the package”—but it’s hard when the package is so beautifully wrapped.

He's sweet, too, talking about his grandma, and we follow dinner with drinks.

Once upon a time, internet dating was a vaguely embarrassing pursuit.

Who wanted to be one of those lonely hearts trolling the singles bars of cyberspace?

Agreed—as a curvy girl, I want to avoid first-date surprises. I haven’t worn a Halloween costume since I went as a pack of grape Hubba Bubba in sixth grade.

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