I’m missing the ‘meet cute’

Chat at 1.
Dear Meredith, I'm a 30ish graduate student living in New York, and dating is strange to me. I am newly single (after a multi-year, long-distance relationship that pretty much died in a fire) and before that relationship, I'd never really dated. I'm the kind of girl who meets someone, falls in love instantly, and decides that we are going to be in a relationship. Said relationships are usually long and intense. But I'm normal, pretty, engaging, funny, and smart, and I have a wide range of interests that I love to share with people. I decided that instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself, I would join an online dating website and try to put myself out there. Things have been ... unsuccessful so far. I've been on a few dates, but no one really made me feel the sense of energy and excitement I'm looking for. (If I'm being really honest, I've never felt anything close to the fireworks I felt when I met my most recent ex-boyfriend. He may be a cheater, but our "meet cute" was awesome.) My question is actually quite specific: What should I write to guys whose profiles I find interesting? I've messaged a couple of people before, and it just seems like on these online dating sites, it's not the culture for women to contact men. Or I could be completely doing it wrong, because no one has responded to me. Every guy who I've gone out with has been someone who messaged me first, and I just don't seem to be attracting the kinds of people I'm interested in. Am I being too smart in my messages? Too smart in my profile? Should I comment on something in their profile? Tell them I think their profile picture is cute? Is it really true that I have to dumb it down? Frankly, if that's the case, I'd rather go it alone.

– Tongue-Tied for Once, NY

1. Don't dumb it down, TTFO. The right guy will respond to your wit. Staying smart will help you filter out the bad ones. 2. Feel free to contact guys first -- but also feel free to be lazy. Most sites have a "wink" or "poke" function, right? If you keep it to winking, you don't have to come up with something awesome to say if you don't feel like it. (As for a specific script if you do send a note, well, I can't give you one. It all depends on the guy's profile. And your mood.) 3. Know that the odds are against you with these dates. You're supposed to feel blah about most of your potential suitors, just like you would at any bar. That's why you have to go for quantity and keep the dates short. 4. Know that meet cutes aren't so important in relationships. They make for adorable stories, but they don't always make for great relationships. If you like any of these online guys even a little bit on the first date, see them again. Because with online dating, you sometimes skip the meet cute. It's more like a delayed meet cute -- a "we're-on-our-fifth-date-and-suddenly-I-realize-that-you're-amazing cute." 5. Don't let online dating become your only method of looking for a partner. Keep trying in the real world. Otherwise you'll go nuts. Readers? Can you tell her what to write to these guys? Is she allowed to contact them first? Should she be having meet cute feelings on these dates? Discuss.

– Meredith