The name’s Sissy, Sissy Van Dyke: it’s not just a name, it’s a lifestyle.

With spring hovering on the horizon (a long, seemingly lost horizon for those of us who live in the frosty Midwest), it’s high time for all of us single ladies to get up, get out, and start dating. Now please notice that I said “dating” and not walking around with a hand in the air looking for someone to put a ring on it.

I have observed that a lot of lesbians have issues when it comes to dating, i.e. they can’t. As a group lesbians tend to exhibit more U-Haulish than Stop & Shop tendencies.  Yet, I believe there would be a lot less drama in the dyke community if we didn’t immediately fall into, and then spend months, years, or decades trying to claw our way out of, relationships with women who would have made much better friends than lovers.

Being non-monogamous, and having dated dozens of women, I have developed mad dating skills.  So, as a public service to my serial monogamist sisters, I’d like to share a few basic dating tips. What better place to start than with the personal ads?

The great thing about personal ads is that you can meet dozens of women from the comfort of your own home without having to buy drinks or pay cover charges. The bad thing about the personals is that what you read is not always what you get. The reason for this is that women who place these ads sometimes tell lies.

I don’t understand why a woman would lie about something that will be blatantly obvious once we meet in person. Does a woman who describes herself as being of average height and weight think I’m really not going to notice that she’s four feet tall and weighs 300 pounds? The women I date come in all shapes in sizes, so there’s no need to lie to me. Besides, if four feet tall and 300 pounds is average, that would make me an anorexic giant.

In any case, here are three tips that I use, and use often, to make my online dating experiences not only memorable but also painless and, in most cases, pleasurable.

Tip 1: Use a Recent Picture in Your Ad that Really Looks Like You
I think it’s very important to let potential dates know what you look like before you meet in person. There’s nothing more discouraging than the look of disappointment on the face of a woman who was expecting Beyoncé when Whoopi Goldberg shows up. The opposite is not true of course. Personally, I think Whoopi is hot, and I’d date her in a New York minute, but if Beyoncé showed up for a date with me instead, well, whoopee!

Tip 2: Always Meet for Coffee for the First Date
I spent the worse week of my life one night at an expensive restaurant trying to chat with a woman who had the personality of a Dixie Cup. Always meet for coffee first. Now me, I could have coffee with a televangelist. Even if I didn’t care about what the person was saying, I could still entertain myself with the stirrers and the various powders from the “enhance your coffee experience” counter.

Tip 3: Set a Time Limit before the First Meeting
If I think a woman is a little sketchy, I’ll still usually meet her for coffee, but I let her know ahead of time that I can only meet for half an hour. When we get together, right after saying “Hello,” I remind my date about the time limit, to make sure the meter is running and the escape hatch is activated. That way, if I end up having to endure the coffee date from hell, after half an hour, I’ll be saved by the ting-a-ling of the little alarm that I thoughtfully set on my phone before she got there.
“Oh dear, look at the time [thank Chronos], I’ve really got to run [as fast and as far away as possible]. It’s been very nice meeting you.” And, I’m outta there! On the other hand, if I’m having a nice time, when the alarm goes off, I could alternatively put on my best disappointed face and say something like:
“Drat, looks like I’ve got to go. But, you know, I’ve been having such a great time chatting with you, let me see if I can reschedule my appointment. Would that be OK?” Now, if my date says, “No! No need,” and starts grabbing her bag and stuff, then she’s probably thanking Chronos that our time is up. No harm, no foul. But, most often, she’ll be flattered that I’m canceling a plan to spend more time with her. I can then step outside for a moment and leave myself a message on my voice mail saying, “I’m in there!”

Some of this may seem a little cagey and disingenuous, but it’s all about saving time, saving face, and trying to meet someone you like (and who also likes you). Dating is very tricky terrain, and the U-Haul is lurking around every corner. However, now that you have this little guide to help you navigate, you can stop making excuses. Remember, if you want to participate in life’s banquet, you have to place yourself on the menu.

So turn in the keys to the U-Haul, Sisters, get out there, and get your dating on!