Students offer dating advice by ‘proxee’

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For some, a first date is synonymous with the words awkward and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be, say two BYU students who recently started their own dating advice web site.

Danielle Feldman, a senior from Medford, Ore., studying advertising, and Jayme Johnson, a senior from Park City majoring in elementary education, turned a long-standing joke about starting a dating-help business into an entrepreneurial venture with the launch of Proxee Consulting on June 15.

“For the past year and a half we would go on dates and come home and be like, ‘well, that wasn’t what I expected,’ ” Johnson said. “Or we would talk to our guy friends and hear some of the things that they were having problems with, often things that we thought were really common sense, like calling a couple of days in advance rather than texting the night of.”

After hearing similar complaints from other girlfriends, Feldman and Johnson decided to stop talking and joking about awkward dates and take action. They envisioned a blog that would be a positive place for people to engage in a conversation about dating, send in their own dating stories or get personal responses on more specific questions.

“It’s hard to find dating advice online or in books that don’t just have that ultimate goal in mind of hooking up or even marriage,” Johnson said. “We’re all for marriage, but we’re really focused on getting from date one to date two and the beginning of a relationship.”

Anyone can go online and submit dating advice or stories, but other services provided by Proxee Consulting come with a fee.  These services include proxy dates — where a man wanting feedback on his dating style goes on a “Hitch”-like date with Feldman or Johnson and is evaluated — and image consulting. There are also extra features for those who want more individualized help,  Johnson said.

“There’s nothing worse than going on a date and thinking it went well only to have the girl refuse a second date or just ignore you,” she said, noting that half the battle of helping a man to correct his off-putting habits is to make him aware of them. “There are a lot of little things that guys often just don’t think about that make a big difference.”

According to Feldman and Johnson, some of the biggest dating gaffes include dressing too casually, not planning ahead and talking too much about themselves, usually out of nervousness.

“A lot of guys don’t even think about the fact that girls generally put a ton of time into planning and preparing for a date, so when they open a door and their date is in sweatpants and flip flops it just kind of loses that magic instantly,” Feldman said. “When the guy takes the initiative to plan a date it shows first of all that he’s interested and takes it from the hangout mentality to an actual date.”

Before launching Proxee Consulting, Feldman and Johnson  approached their bishop and members of their stake presidency. With an enthusiastic response from their ecclesiastical leaders, they forged ahead with the blog and, immediately after launching, were flooded with responses.

“Within the first couple hours we had over 700 hits,” Johnson said.

Since then Feldman and Johnson have marveled as their following has grown with largely positive feedback.

“Its become bigger than we thought it would be,” Feldman said. “I can’t believe the people coming out of the woodwork and how responsive they have been.”

However, there has also been some criticism.

“We have gotten some serious hate mail from a few guys,” Feldman said. “They call me names and say I’m bitter, but it doesn’t really bug me because most people realize that our intent is not to belittle men.”

The main purpose of Proxee Consulting is to help guys fine-tune their dating skills, Johnson said. However, men have also contributed advice for women and Proxee Consulting now has a male guest blogger writing a feature called “Man to Man.”

“We want guys to feel like they’re being heard as well and not feeling like we’re just ranting about men,” Feldman explained.

Another concern for some respondents is that the women, both 23, are single.

“I think that makes us even better authorities because we’re still in the dating scene,” Feldman said, while Johnson noted that both women have been in relationships in the past and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in relationships and dating.

“We’re not out there saying that there is only one way to do things or giving our personal preferences,” Feldman said. “We’re just trying to lay down some really basic dating strategies that apply to the biggest number of girls … pretty generic things that will lead a first date into a second.”

It seems college students are busy these days and don’t have a lot of time to waste, which is why Feldman feels Proee Consulting is important.

“Our goal is to help people make the most out of the dates that they do go on,” Feldman said.

Those interested in joining the dating conversation, being a guest blogger or sharing dating stories can do so at proxeeconsulting.com.