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Art of Online Romance

Inspired by You've Got Mail, many of us are entranced by the idea of an online romance. (Who didn't wish she were Meg Ryan reading Tom Hanks' inspiring emails?) But how do you actually do it? We all know the offline dating ritual -- meet for coffee or drinks, move to the "dinner and a movie" stage, plan more frequent and longer dates. But how does that translate to the world of online love?

Just like Grandma
Electronic romance, as revolutionary as it seems, actually has an old-fashioned feel. "Lovers once made a common practice of exchanging romantic letters," says Trish. "They loved and adored each other from afar and longed for the day that they would be together. The love and desire coursing through their hearts got translated into prose that they then put to paper. And while in days of old messengers were entrusted to deliver the words of one lover to another, today the Internet has become that messenger."

Create a good first impression
When it comes to that first email, where you're tentatively putting your heart out on the line, many of us get the electronic equivalent of dry mouth -- or worse, say things better saved for down the line out of nervousness. How do you walk the line between being friendly and over-intimate?

Experiment and find a style that works for you. Use the subject line like a headline, proofread, and be creative, positive and genuine. Avoid anything canned or trite.

Pick-up lines don't work, and you will rarely make a good first impression, or get a response using one. First emails should always be individually written and work best when conversational in style.

Mention something about the recipient's profile. Where did you sense a connection? Ask a question or two and include some brief information about yourself.

It's okay to flirt or tease a little, even during your first contact, but keep things light and friendly.

Moving things along
Remember that your words may not be read by your new flame's eyes alone: He or she may open it at work, or in the presence of friends. ('Fess up: You've shown all YOUR friends love letters, haven't you?) So don't write anything you'd be embarrassed to be confronted with later, say when you meet his friends a few months from now. Keep the following in mind:

Set the mood with the subject line. Try something like "To Be Opened When You're All Alone And Missing Me." Or "For Your Eyes Only."

Test the water. If your relationship seems to be moving from friendship to something steamier, introduce your romantic exchanges gradually. Rather than a long outpouring of your every romantic inclination, try something brief like, "I found myself thinking about you today in a manner that somewhat surprised me. Want to know more?"

Help each other out. Always respond promptly to any romantic advances you wish to encourage. It's tough to hang out there wondering whether your message hit or missed.

Get inspired
The articulation of our deepest romantic desires comes easily to some of us (generally but not always women), while for others it is a seemingly impossible task. If you fall into the romantically impaired category, don't give up. Online romantic correspondence is part talent and part inspiration. Here are some tips for translating what's in your heart into words on the screen:

Relax and get in the right mood for romance. Have a glass of wine, play some seductive music and dim the lights. As you loosen yourself up your words will come more easily.

Write about feelings, not facts: "I was delighted and a little excited to find your email waiting for me this morning."

Tease and banter: "You say you have a big heart. Hmmmm. I have some expertise in this area. So tell me exactly how big it is, and with what instrument you measure?"

Pay attention to the day-to-day details of your special someone's life: "I imagine you sitting at your antique pine desk, sipping your peppermint tea, wearing something blue that brings out the pools of aqua in your eyes. What a lovely sight. And I'm wondering, as you read this, are you thinking about me?"

Get physical: "Across all these miles I am reaching out and taking your hand, surprised at how warm and smooth it is. And I am still holding on as I look into your eyes and search for a little more of you there."



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