You’ve written a profile, posted a few photos and started emailing back and forth with a slew of potential suitors. Then one day, amid a flurry of correspondence, the unthinkable happens: you accidentally confuse Brad the fireman with Jake the organic farmer.

Welcome to the club!

“I have a lot of trouble keeping my dates straight,” says Diana V., a 24-year-old freelance writer from Manhattan who, when she’s feeling “energetic,” dates up to two or three guys a week. “I’ll correspond with, like, six guys at a time, and it can be exhausting keeping up with six different ongoing conversations. I have to do a lot of re-reading to make sure I’m not repeating myself.”

Entering into the online fray
Online dating certainly can be dizzying, particularly when people first enter the digital dating fray. “Sometimes you’re on more than one site and it can become overwhelming,” says Julie Spira, dating coach and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating. “When you’re brand new, you can get 50 to 100 emails on your first day. And you might not actually go out with anyone if you’re feeling overwhelmed. But if you’re serious about meeting someone, you have to go on two to three dates a week.”
View Singles on
And that means corresponding with dozens and dozens of potential dates — and inevitably running the risk of getting some of those prospects’ details completely fouled up. “I was talking with a guy who had done some traveling in Uganda and I got him mixed up with another guy,” says Kellie M., a 49-year-old account manager from Seattle, WA. “I said something like, ‘Tell me more about your experiences in Uganda and how you’re helping the people there.’ And he replied, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never been to Uganda.’ I was embarrassed and the guy was not happy with me. He wrote back, ‘If it’s me you want to talk to, let me know.’”

Such communicating confusion can and does happen, says Spira, but it’s best to simply laugh it off if it happens to you. “If you’re on a date with someone who says, ‘I understand you practice law. Where did you go to school?’ Don’t say, ‘How dare you forget that I’m a doctor, not a lawyer!’” suggests Spira. “Just say, ‘You must have gotten me mixed up with last night’s date.’ Dating can be stressful for people, so if someone messes up innocently but is a nice person and your conversation is otherwise going well, laugh and flirt and don’t give that person a hard time about it.”

Organizing your dates’ information
Of course, calling your date by the wrong name or asking how someone’s dead mother enjoyed her recent vacation to Italy can not only be humiliating, it also reveals that you’ve been less than attentive. So what’s the best way to avoid looking like an online dating newbie? Eric D., a 40-year-old Web developer from Seattle, WA, keeps an updated document filled with details on all the women he’s met online. “I copy each date’s profile from into a Word document so I have the basics there,” he says. “Then I’ll add specific information I’ve learned from our correspondence or from meeting in person, like what kind of job each woman has, where she grew up, and some background information. I’ll also do a rating of 1 to 10 as to what my feelings are about each woman, which helps me decide whether I want to go out with each one of them again. You could call it the ‘spark index.’”

Eric says he’ll pursue as many as four or five women at a time, but thanks to his system, he’s been able to stay on top of his dates. “It’s a low-tech way of organizing, but it gets the job done,” he admits. “It’s like a networking event where you meet 20 people in an evening. You have their cards, but unless you scribble notes on the cards, you’re going to lose the details.”

Spira agrees that staying organized is critical when it comes to online dating. “I like using an Excel spreadsheet, but others might prefer using a notebook or diary,” she says. “You can jot down notes, like ‘Today, I heard from John Blue Eyes. He’s 5’10”, from Santa Monica, CA, has two kids and one dog and he’s an architect.’ Then you can add information later, such as to whether you wrote back or had a phone call with him. It’s no different than looking for a job. You have to keep track when you’re following up on job opportunities. Did you have an interview? Did you pass? I look at online dating in the same way.” What’s more, Spira says she even keeps track of what clothes she wears on each date: “People may laugh, but you don’t want to have a second date with a guy and wear the same outfit twice!”

Using mobile tech-based reminders
Of course, some people don’t have time to create elaborate spreadsheets or Word documents, so they simply turn to their cell phones instead. “One way I keep my suitors straight is with a listing in my phone,” offers Sharon R., a 22-year-old public relations assistant from Washington, D.C. “In the last year, some of the guys I’ve gone out with include Adam DrunkMistake, Adam Didn’tCallBack, BadMax, Jason WorstPersonAlive and BoringMatt.”

A veteran online dater of three and a half years, Sharon says the phone nicknames not only help her remember her individual dates, they keep her from getting those people confused with personal friends who happen to share the same name. “I went out with a guy who was so frugal, he insisted we split a $12 dinner,” she says. “He said, ‘You owe $6.31.’ So when he texted me the next day and wanted to get together, I immediately knew who it was and said no because it came up as John CheapJerk. It may not be politically correct, but the nickname helped me from confusing him with my other friend John who texts me all the time.”

Manhattanite Diana V. also assigns nicknames to her dates, although these mainly come into play after a date has occurred — especially one that’s gone badly, such as her recent forays on dates with The Tooth, The 26-Year-Old Virgin, and The Guy Who Fell. Mainly, though, the 24-year-old single uses her cell phone to bone up on her date’s profile and/or emails they’ve exchanged while en route to a first meeting. “I used to be really good about putting details on my calendar, like ‘John, 6’3”, age 32, lives in Brooklyn,’ but I don’t do that anymore,” Diana says. “Now, I just open my date’s profile as I’m walking from the subway to the meet-up location and refresh myself on the details, although sometimes I don’t get a chance. If that happens, I’ll just play it cool and be a little more on the quiet side during the date. The details will usually kick in once we sit down and start talking.”

Diane Mapes is a freelance writer based in Seattle and the author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World. She can be reached via her Web site,