By Laura Snyder
Whether you think your new chatting buddy is soulmate material, or just worth sipping a few cocktails with, at some point in your online dating adventures, you'll be ready to bring that virtual romance right out into the sometimes harsh light of reality.
Here's help making it work.
Take Your Time
No matter how many long emails you've swapped or life histories you've shared in the chat room, you really don't now what this person is going to be like, look like, or act like in person. So, take things slow and trust your gut.
Even if your intuition tells you this could be Prince or Princess Charming, don't expect to jump right from email to evenings strolling the beach, hand in hand. Aim to chat on the phone at least a couple of times before hooking up in person. Treat your dial-up date like a real event - get all dressed up for it, if you want - and take the opportunity to learn more about each other, just like you would in person.
Don't Be Stupid
Obviously, set up your first "real" meeting in a high-profile public place early in the day (you can save late night stargazing for when you've determined your safety isn't threatened). Don't invite him or her to your home or workplace and steer clear of going anywhere - even romantic strolls on the beach - alone with your online paramour. Use common sense; if you feel uncomfortable, bail.
Ease the Pressure
Your first meeting is going to be a nerve-wracking, highly anticipated event as it is. Don't add to the pressure by planning to be together all day, or spend the entire time locked in intense conversation about the future. Pick a single activity - wine tasting, rock climbing, coffee chugging, whatever - and try to wrap things up in an hour or two. If it really is Mr. or Miss Right, there will be many more chances to curl up together for days at a time.