"A Sadly Misinformed Guide to Dating" (1993)

(1997 Introduction) This is the essay that I've written that still looks like something I might write. Minus a bit of sexism and a little pessimism, that is.

It seems to me that I became interested in girls far sooner than any of them became interested in me. It's not that I'm unpopular with women; I would have to exist in order to be unpopular, and as far as most women are concerned, I am simply not there. I would wager that I could walk up to a woman with my hair on fire and she would, without batting an eyelash, ask me to please go sit in the smoking section.

As complaints go, bad luck with women isn't that terrible. As far as I know, I don't have any major diseases, my home isn't being repossessed, and my parents have no immediate plans to sell me to the gypsies. However, the situation has gone on long enough that the irritation I originally felt has grown into frustration.

When confronted by a problem that I cannot understand or hope to solve, there is only one thing to do, and that is to explain what everyone else should do. After all, if I let absolute lack of knowledge stop me from offering advice, I would remain as mute as a penitent monk.

So, to begin with, let me just point out the three essential steps to successful dating: meeting a woman, getting her interest, and then keeping her interest. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Three easy steps. World peace is easy too, and it only requires one step. Everyone just needs to stop shooting at one another.

The problem inherent in both of the above situations is that other people's decisions are involved. Now, I'm not suggesting we return to the Stone Age courtship, wherein the bride is knocked senseless and wakes up married (Mind you, I'm not saying we shouldn't either), I am merely suggesting that this is far more complicated than it would first appear.

As with anything else, the hardest part of dating is getting started. There are men with the gift of being able to walk up to any woman, introduce themselves, and enter into an intelligent conversation. There are also men with the curse of being able to walk up to any woman, mumble something which may or may not be their name, and say nothing but, "Brussel sprouts. I really like brussel sprouts."

Most men, including myself, fall into the middle when it comes to working up the courage to speak with the opposite sex. We can converse intelligently, but usually our minds are occupied with such thoughts as, "I wonder how many words I have left before I'm reduced to a babbling idiot in front of her?" This tends to lead to unoriginal and short first date discussions, usually involving talk about college majors, professions, and how lovely the weather has been all week.

Courage is not a guarantee in and of itself that you can meet someone. All the courage in the world won't do you a bit of good if you are standing in the midst of the Gobi Desert without another soul for miles. No, in order to have a chance, you have to be somewhere that you might be able to find someone you want to talk to in the first place.

That having been said, where does one go to meet people? Bars are fairly popular, but only if you want to a pay a five dollar charge at the door to listen to four high school kids play horribly scarred renditions of bands whose songs weren't all that good in the first place. Libraries are good for the fairly intelligent, but due to the mystical silence which hangs over such establishments, you had best be able to exchange your witty banter in sign language. Health clubs are great...if you are healthy. It's hard to come up with a good introduction when you can't be sure if you're going to come up with a decent gasp of breath.

Once you have met someone, you are faced with the equally daunting task of getting their interest. In this area, I must confess, I am in a bit of a gray area. When I say gray, I mean of course the kind of gray that you see in a windowless room when all the lights go out.

Having confessed my total lack of knowledge on the subject, I will now give you my observations, mostly made up, on how to get someone's attention. There are the obvious methods, such as pretending you are a secret agent, slipping them your phone number on a piece of paper, and insisting that they "call this number later and serve this great country of ours." Of course, this won't work beyond the first few dates unless your paramour is exceedingly dense.

Perhaps the best way to attract interest is to try and find some common ground. Do not, at any time, walk up to someone in a steakhouse, introduce yourself, and continue the conversation with the trendy phrase, "You know, meat is murder." Such behavior is likely to get you tossed out of the place with a few bootprints on your back. However, do not walk up to the same person, assure them that you love steak as well, and begin enjoying their meal. You can go too far with common ground.

As in introductions, the middle ground is the best place for getting interest. A simple discussion of your interests and hers will serve you well, especially if they later serve as a warning to your prospective date. For instance, if later on in the relationship she yells at you for watching the Super Bowl and skipping her cooking "experiment" you can simply remind her that you told her on your very first date that you were a very religious person, and that the Pope is in the halftime show. (A Note: This is not recommended if you intend to continue the relationship. Or breathing.)

This brings us to the area of keeping interest. The first conversation you may have with someone can be very exciting. I remember meeting a girl at a theatre convention and thinking that we were perfect together because we liked a lot of the same plays. Later in the relationship, I realized that there are only so many plays in the world, and eventually we had to find some other common ground. As far as I know, we're both still searching.

Sometimes you actually have a lot in common with the person you are dating. This does not preclude further problems. If you can both retain a semblance of your original personalities when you are together and apart, it is a step in the right direction. If your friends begin merging the names of you and your sweetheart when they see either of you, you may have a problem. Demand to know why they now call you the "Robbytracy."

The Beatles once said that "All you need is love." This is patently untrue. You also need rudimentary intelligence and free will. The last thing you want is a lot of pet names that you wouldn't want to hear again in public. (Honestly, would you really want President "Lamb-Chop" Denkins on your desk at work?) You also don't want conversations that start with your significant other saying "I love you more." There is no right answer to this. If you agree, it will end the conversation, and the relationship, and quite possibly your hopes of leaving the restaurant or theatre without a scene. After all, this phrase is always used in a public location, it seems to be some sort of law of nature.

Keep your identity a little separate from your loved one. Go bowling with your friends, join a knitting society, anything to give you something for just you to do. Togetherness is fine, but too much togetherness leads to stray thoughts like "A sharp knife in the kitchen, no court would convict me" regardless of how sweet your lover is. Such stray thoughts are your body's natural defense system.

I hope that you will all benefit from my encyclopedic knowledge of how to deal with women. Just so you know, I am happily married. Well, okay, not happily...okay, not married either. Let me start again. Just so you know, I am. Yes, that's what I was trying to say. I live, I breathe, I hope you're buying this, because I made most of it up.

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