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Multidating: Is It for You?

It's okay to do, but you need to be a good juggler

In the brave new world of online dating, it's perfectly acceptable to date more than one person at a time. When I first did so myself two years ago (at age 65), it felt awkward. But my unease lasted only as long as it took me to wake up and smell the coffee, cider and tea: Most women, too, were actively dating more than one man.

Drawing a heart on calendar

Dating multiple partners is a great way to meet many people, but it's not for the faint of heart. — Istockphoto

Each gender, I think, pursues multidating for the odds. We both want to improve our chances of meeting the ideal mate by exposing ourselves to as large a candidate pool as possible.

If you're new to this particular type of multitasking, you're probably wondering how it works. My general advice is to take good notes, be prepared to handle some emotional highs and lows, and keep up your stamina: Sorting out names, faces and online profiles at the end of a long workday requires focus.

Here are a few more specific tips I've gleaned from experience:

Be choosy. To minimize wear and tear (both emotional and logistical) on everyone involved, be very selective. My list of essential qualities is short: a woman who is active and in shape, close to my age and into the arts. I also pay close attention to women's descriptions of the men they want to meet; if I'm not a near-perfect fit, I simply move on to the next profile.

Pay attention to detail. I find it difficult to remember the details of a woman's profile until I've met her in person. That's why I keep notes before every coffee date. And though second dates are rare, I don't feel like I'm missing much by being so circumspect: I've had mostly disappointing experiences on second dates that followed marginal first ones.

So … how should you proceed? For starters, learn to trust your intuition: Rather than projecting your wish list onto a date, focus on listening to the actual person sitting across from you. By the law of averages, many a first date will cross you off his or her list, too; it's hard not to feel rejected when that happens, but it's crucial to keep in mind that it's just another side of the dating dynamic. And not everyone agrees with this strategy, but I find it only fair to mention that I happen to be dating other people besides the one I'm with.

Set limits. You can email, telephone and coffee-date three or four prospects simultaneously. I don't know about you, but after a few weeks of that pace I need a break. So I take down my online profile to rest and regroup. I hang out with friends or spend time alone — and make it a practice not to even think about dating.

No bed-hopping. Having sex with multiple partners doesn't work — not for me, at any rate, because I prefer not to be sexual with someone until there's enough mutual juice for a monogamous relationship. Sex is entirely about investing my heart these days. I'm not willing to do that casually.

Avoid KICSS (Kid in the Candy Store Syndrome). When I first sampled multidating online, I felt like a child with a sweet tooth facing a mountain of chocolate: I had to teach myself not to overindulge. Perhaps the best way to maintain focus and "date smart" is to limit your profile surfing to about half an hour each evening; beyond that time, quite frankly, photos and profiles start to blur.

Try not to panic. I once found myself dating two women who were both named Terry. They lived in the same town and had similar-sounding voices, which made for some terrifying moments — and awkward pauses — whenever I picked up the phone and heard "Hi, Ken — it's Terry!" Finally Terry No. 2 bowed out, fed up with what she took to be my perpetual bewilderment. I have to say I was relieved to see her go.

Dating multiple partners is a great way to meet a lot of women, but it's not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for men whose organizing skills tend toward the casual. If you decide to play the digital field, keep careful notes — and don't forget to take a breather from the romance race every once in a while.

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