Copyright  ©1995

(Perpetrated by Ben)

A collection of what I have learned about this subject. Remember that it is merely my opinion; I do not pretend to be an official source of absolutely correct information.

                         TABLE OF CONTENTS

                  MAKING CONTACT                 1
                  THE FIRST DATE                 2
                  DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP      3
                  COHABITATION                   4
                  TYING THE KNOT                 5
                  JUGGLING                       6
                  COMPROMISE                     7
                  SEX                            8
                  COMMUNICATION                  9
                  BREAKING UP                   10
                  ERRATA                        11
                  APPENDIX A
                  APPENDIX B
                  ABOUT THE AUTHOR


                   She: "Do you date anybody?"
                   He:  "Yes, I date anybody."

So you want to meet people of the opposite gender. You want to find that special someone to live happily ever after with. Or maybe you just want to have a series of cheap, tawdry affairs. Either way, your first question is probably, "Where and how do I meet these people?" If so, you are not alone. Billions of people have asked this question before (not all of them in English, of course). Then you might wonder, "Where do I go on a first date? How do I know if someone is sincere? How can I avoid the losers? How do I not screw up?" Well, these are questions that you will have to answer for yourself as you embark on this journey of anxiety, awkwardness, embarrassment, disappointment, nervousness and frustration. Have fun!

                         MAKING CONTACT                 (Chapter 1)

  Top 10 worst conversation starters for single people:
  1)  "How long have you had that thing on your nose?"
  2)  "Gosh, it's nice to be someplace where they don't make you
      take Demerol at nine o'clock in the morning."
  3)  "Whew!  What died in here?"
  4)  "I spent a lot of time in prison dreaming of a woman like you."
  5)  "Do I have anything stuck in my teeth?"
  6)  "I'm looking for a husband who'll be a good role model for
      my 11 children."
  7)  "You know, I was selected as a finalist in the Publishers
      Clearinghouse Sweepstakes."
  8)  "Excuse me, were you in 'Quest for Fire'?"
  9)  "Does this look infected to you?"
  10) "Do you know what's really in bologna?"

Some ignoramuses who have never gone through modern-age dating will tell you that the best places to meet a potential partner are supermarkets, laundromats and church. Instead of just discounting these ideas in one fell swoop, let's look at each of them individually.

Supermarkets - After eliminating the married people, children, and folks who are out of your age range, what you are left with is a collection of men whose idea of entertainment is a bug zapper and a six-pack, and women who should have their own zip code. Actually, your best bet here would be the cashiers. But do you really want someone who makes $87 a week?

Laundromats - Have you ever seen the disheveled messes that frequent these establishments?

Church - In some cases a church has potential (unless you're Jewish, and if you are, I suggest you visit your local Chinese restaurants). If you're an anal-retentive Bible thumper who absolutely will not date anyone outside your religion because they're going to Hell, then by all means stick to people in your church. You've got a limited selection, but hey, this isn't Heaven, is it? If you're more open-minded, don't spend too much time looking in church. Arrive just as the sermon is about to start. Go to the front of the congregation and walk up the aisle, appearing to look for a seat, but actually checking out the faces. Remember that this is church - everyone has made an effort to look their best. They will never look better than they do now, so if no one looks good to you, just keep on walking out the door.

There are other avenues, but each has its problems. Singles clubs and dances are touted as being good, because everyone there is both unattached and looking. Unfortunately the vast majority of attendees are undesirable rejects who have had to resort to this activity because normal people want nothing to do with them.

You might hear wonderful stories about people who met at a wedding and ended up getting married themselves. The problem with weddings is that too many guests (especially women) are in a marriage-minded mood, and this can make a truly mediocre person seem like a potential mate to them. And when the alcohol kicks in, watch out! Many a 4 has become a 10, much to the dismay, the next morning, of a hungover, embarrassed soul who wonders how to gracefully ask this beast to leave.

As old hat as the bar scene is, many millions of people, mostly in their 20s, participate. They will not listen to those of us who know - they would rather find out for themselves just what a waste of time and money it is. This frustrating process removes all doubt. No one could tell me when I was 22 that no bar broad would even come close to meeting my standards. It was only by maddening encounters with hundreds of stuck-up, made-up, foofed-up tarts (getting rejected and sipping overpriced drinks while watching them dance with each other) that I learned this valuable piece of information.

Geographical separation of families and a lack of community spirit have made family outings and community dances obsolete in terms of meeting someone or having somebody hook you up. Millions of us have had to resort to personal ads as a way of getting connected. This once laughable idea becomes more sensible as we realize that we just aren't meeting desirable people in our everyday lives. Personal ads allow you to connect with many people you never would have met otherwise. Newspapers, magazines and the Web offer much in this area. You can leave written and/or voice mail, and my educated opinion is that writing reveals more about someone than voice, even though writing lacks voice tone and inflection. Also, exchange photos. A lot of people are reluctant to do this for security reasons, but if you don't give your last name or address, no one will find you if you don't want them to. There have been several women who I had great conversations with but was very disappointed with when I met them, and some of them might have been disappointed with my physical appearance as well. A photo exchange could have saved us this inconvenience. I reiterate: get a photo! It will help you avoid the awkwardness of giving an otherwise nice person the heave ho, and suffering through a conversation which is meaningless because you know that this will be your only date. An interesting thing about personals is the euphemisms, exaggerations and outright lies that people use in order to attract attention. It's just like ads for products, where they are made out to be the greatest invention since the wheel, but in reality they're just mediocre gadgets hyped up with a lot of hoopla. You learn the meaning of certain buzzwords real fast. For example, lots of women say that they're "attractive". This is a catch-all term for women who are not very pretty; if they actually were pretty, they'd say so (of course, many who say they're pretty are lying). Many men call themselves "athletic", just because they play in a softball league. Or they'll say "sports enthusiast", meaning that they like to drink beer and watch football. "Full-figured" is a euphemism that women use for "fat". You get the idea.

Dating services are supposedly a step up from personal ads. The two main problems are: 1) you are limited to only the people who joined that particular dating service; and 2) cost. Computer dating services are generally the most cost-effective, as long as you get photos of your prospects. Never join any dating service that does not offer photos! Video dating services are the most expensive. A video does offer more than a photo, but it does not warrant the high cost. I know from experience. I paid over $2000 to join a video dating service, mostly to satisfy my curiosity, and the quality of people I met was about the same as that of the people I met through personal ads.

You could try signing up for a class. Most of the people you'll meet are motivated enough to learn something extracurricular, and you might have fun learning too. You'll probably do best if you sign up for something that appeals to the opposite sex. Women: try beer brewing, woodworking or martial arts. Men: try painting, pottery, or, best of all, cooking; in a typical cooking class there'll be 17 women, 2 gay guys and you.

Health clubs are pretty good because you get to see a person's physique (it's not covered by a suit or a dress) and you know that whomever you meet there is somewhat health-oriented. The biggest problem is the same as in any other public place: what do you say to start up a conversation? What is an appropriate opening line? It would be rude to interrupt someone's workout, but then again, if they're also on the prowl, they won't mind. Even if they're not interested in you, they'll be flattered.

Getting fixed up sometimes works. Not often, though. Usually a well-meaning friend or couple (usually the latter) will say something like, "I know someone you should meet." They'll tell you how nice, intelligent, fun and good-looking this prospect is (then why would this person need to be fixed up?). The first few times this happens a lot of us are ignorant enough to let our friends set us up. They'll give you the prospect's phone number and/or give the prospect your phone number, or perhaps they'll invite the two of you for dinner some night. Take it from one who knows: don't do it this way. This puts the two of you in the spotlight, and creates the expectation that you will hit it off. If you join the matchmaking couple for dinner, you and the prospect are then paired for the evening, so that even when you don't hit it off, you are stuck with each other, and you will resent your former friends for having fixed you up with Broadzilla. It would be much better for your friends to introduce you to this prospect at a group activity, e.g. a party, so when you don't hit it off, there is no expectation that the two of you stay together, and there will be other people to interact with.

Sometimes our friends feel that it is their duty to fix us up. I've had a number of well-meaning friends say to me, "We've got to find someone for you." No, you don't. Just shut up and stop thinking that any unattached person needs or wants you to play matchmaker for them.

                       THE FIRST DATE                  (Chapter 2)

              He:  "What would you like to eat?"
              She: "I guess I'll have the lobster."
              He:  "Guess again."

Okay, so you have made contact with someone and the two of you want to get together. What do you do? Well, first let me advise you what not to do.

Do not see a movie. You want to talk with this person, and you don't do this when the two of you are staring at a screen. You have to agree on which movie to see. You are at the mercy of scenes of violence and/or sex. You are not actively involved with each other. It is not a date at all.

Do not eat dinner at a restaurant. You feel pressed for time if your conversation carries much beyond the end of the meal. You have the classic awkward moment when the check comes: who pays, or do you go Dutch? There is the possibility of accidentally spitting food at your companion while you're talking, or spending the rest of the evening too embarrassed to tell this person about the piece of spinach between his/her two front teeth.

Whatever you do, do not get drunk. A drink or two is fine, but inebriation will prevent you from getting to know someone with a clear head, plus it will convey the message that you are so uncomfortable with this person that you have to dull your senses. And of course no one wants to date a lush.

So what should you do on a first date? Taking a walk together is a very simple activity which allows you not only to talk, but to burn off some of your nervous energy. Other good activities are inline skating and jogging.

Dinner together can be fun if it's at someone's house. There is no check to agonize about. One (or both) of you can exhibit your cooking skills. There is still the possibility of accidental food flight, but somehow it's not as embarrassing when you're not in public. Do not dim the lights or put on romantic music - it's too early for that.

An amusement park is a good ice breaker. You get some good thrills on the rides, and there is plenty of time between them for conversation.

Dancing is good, but only if it's couples-type. Typical modern dancing, where people gyrate and jerk their bodies like nerve gas victims, is not a good thing to do on your first night out unless you have experienced instant chemistry and feel very much at ease with each other. The way most people dance today, you can't tell whose partner is whose, or if anyone even has one. And are you supposed to look at your partner? If you don't, you're ignoring each other; if you do, all you can do is give a dumb smile and bob your head.

If both of you are so inclined, you can go to a museum or an art gallery. However, if you have no genuine interest, then you are just walking by meaningless paraphernalia, ignoring it while you're talking to your date. You might as well be walking along the street.

There is a lot of talk about how to behave on a first date. People anxiously ask, "What do I wear? What should I say? What will we talk about? Should I open the door for her? Should I pad my bra?" What I want to know is, why do people want to present themselves as they normally aren't? Is their self-esteem that low? Are they so unsure or ashamed of themselves that they have to hide what they are? If your everyday self is good enough for your friends and family, then certainly it's good enough for a potential mate, who will (hopefully) be as much a friend as a lover. My advice is to always be yourself. Laugh at what is funny to you, not what you think your date finds funny. Wear what pleases you, not what you think your date wants to see, or worse yet, requires. If this person would be turned off by your true self, what makes you think s/he would put up with you for the rest of his/her life after you've dropped the facade? Or do you plan to keep up this act forever? By being yourself from Day One, you are being honest, and you weed out a lot of deadwood.

One last note on first dates: it is not a faux pas to do a group activity. In fact, it can really help to ease the nervousness. Just make sure that there is some time in which the two of you are alone so that you can have a one-on-one conversation. If you find yourself always looking for other people for you and your partner to do things with, then maybe you sense that this person is not right for you.

                  DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP              (Chapter 3)

I've been dating someone for three months.  I've wined and dined her,
listened to countless pointless stories and stupid jokes, met her
parents and taken her to expensive shows, and still no nookie.  But
the day she met my dog, within ten seconds he had his snout imbedded
in her crotch and she was petting his ass while repeating, "Good boy."  

After the first date you usually feel one of three ways: 1) This person is definitely not right for you. In this case, end the relationship now. Do not go on a second date in order to spare this person's feelings. That would only waste both of your time. 2) You feel really great about this person. You hit it off. 3) This person has some good qualities. There wasn't any instant chemistry, but you see potential. In these two latter cases you should definitely go out again. We all dream of Case 2 happening to us, but sometimes it's a Case 3 person that turns out to be right for us. Case 2 often turns out to be flash and fade, while Case 3 tends to be more stable and last longer because the relationship grows from a seed instead of starting out high and having no place to go but down (not that people who hit it off right away are necessarily doomed to failure).

Most of us are too busy during the week to see someone very often. We usually get together on the weekend. I shouldn't have to tell you this but I will: make plans early. Do not call Friday to make a Saturday date. Need I explain why?

It is not necessary to call someone every day just to let them know you care. In fact, this would be downright annoying to most of us. It would also show insecurity.

Social plans should be a mutual thing, unless you're really old-fashioned and think this is the man's job. I once dated an old-fashioned girl who waited for me to call her and make our plans all the time. I became bored with her. She was like a piece of luggage.

As you get together more, things will develop naturally. Don't force things, e.g. don't kiss your partner unless you feel like it, and don't wonder when you're going to sleep together. I have lots of unpleasant memories of agonizing over if/when I should have kissed girls or made sexual advances, because I was not sure they wanted me to. If the two of you are really right for each other, things will happen in their own good time, and you will be very glad you waited until both of you were ready. Rushing things often results in awkward seduction, impotence/frigidity, fumbling in the dark, and embarrassing morning afters. Believe me, I know of what I speak.

Don't take any crap. It never ceases to amaze me how many people put up with unreasonable demands, jealousy, and blowups over little things. When this sort of bullsh*t goes on, it's because the "perpetrator" is a demanding, intolerant child; and the "victim" is so insecure that s/he would rather date an assh*le than have no one at all. Nobody is worth having in your life if you have to walk on eggshells around them. Those who are close to us should soothe us, not create unpleasant stress. If you're constantly in fear of saying or doing something that will upset someone, then it is time to get this toxic person out of your life.

It is a good sign if the two of you can show your crude side. If you can tell dirty jokes or f*rt in one another's presence, it means you feel comfortable with each other.

Don't ask stupid questions. For instance, when a woman asks a man, "Does this dress make me look fat?" she is only fishing for a compliment and asking for trouble at the same time. If you do look fat then, believe me, it's not the dress, it's you. And guys, don't ask if you're a good lover. You're only looking for an ego boost. If you're great in bed, your partner will show it.

Never stop communicating. Once an intimate relationship has been established, don't take your partner for granted. Talk about everything, pleasant or unpleasant, that has any importance to you. More relationships fall apart gradually than from one traumatic event. In fact, traumatic events tend to bond people closer than they ever would have become under favorable circumstances. Don't be afraid to air your concerns. For example, your partner has been gaining weight. Even at only one pound per month, that's 24 pounds in two years. Fat is a turnoff for you. You stop enjoying sex, and even dread the thought of it. Instead of telling your partner, you spare his/her feelings by making up excuses, staying up late to watch tv instead of going to bed, etc - anything to get out of making love. Your partner senses this distancing, wonders what s/he has done wrong, and maybe even suspects you of cheating. A brief mention of your aversion to their weight gain would have averted this situation.

Every moment together does not have to be fun-filled and energy-packed, and do not expect it to be so. Look back on your life so far. What percentage of your time has been what you would call highlights? Five percent? One percent? Probably half of one percent. That's why they are highlights. Much of the time you spend with your significant other will be "down-time", but it will be good nonetheless, and it allows people to be able to relax around each other, to not feel that they have to fill every moment with excitement and laughter.

Sometimes your schedules are so busy that the two of you find it very difficult to get together even once a week. You're becoming very attached and you want to spend much more time together. You consider...

                       COHABITATION                     (Chapter 4)

 The only bummer about living alone is the unsettling amount
 of time you spend wondering how long it would take for your
 body to be found if you were to die suddenly.

One of the great things about living together is that even if both of you have hectic schedules you can at least see each other for a few minutes almost every day. You can feel your mate's presence at home even when s/he is out. (You can also dress up in his/her clothes if you're into that sort of thing.) You don't feel so alone, so separated. There is no extensive planning required for getting together, since you both have to come home eventually anyway.

As with any roommate-type situation, there will be little annoyances and inconveniences: she hangs her stockings on the curtain rod, he leaves his filthy socks on the coffee table, she hogs all the closet space, he drinks out of the milk carton, she spends an hour in the bathroom, he leaves the seat up, she's got cosmetics all over the place, he leaves his shaved whiskers in the sink. I've heard of couples breaking up over these types of things, but you know what? Any relationship that would end because of these domestic trivialities could not have been very strong to begin with; there were deeper problems. In a healthy relationship, people will talk about grievances and do something about them. If they will not compromise, then they just don't care enough about the relationship. For example, if he refuses to put the toilet seat down and she refuses to put it up, then these people deserve to live in their self-created Hell.

Remember how you'd try to make yourself perfect before every date? You'd shave, primp, dab, spray, clean, rub, and brush with a thoroughness that is unheard of under normal circumstances. Well, this nervous activity stops when you let your mate see the hideous mess you are every morning. After all, why bother to present an artificial image when they already know what you really look like?

Other aspects become easier, too. You can share house cleaning, grocery shopping and other errands. You have someone to take care of you when you're ill. You have someone to go to restaurants and movies with - you don't have to start making plans six months in advance and have your answering machines talk to each other, get together and eventually elope because they talk more often than their owners do. And of course it's cheaper to live because mortgage or rent is being paid at one place rather than two.

Logically it would seem that living together out of wedlock would enable you to find out whether you could live this way for the rest of your lives, or whether you'd eventually kill each other. This would allow you, in the case of domestic incompatibility, to separate without getting married so you don't find out after the wedding that you can't stand each other and end up going through a messy divorce and/or custody battle. However, statistics prove otherwise. The divorce rate among people who "lived in sin" prenuptually is about the same as that of those who waited until they got married. I think this is because before you're married you have the secure feeling of knowing that you can break up at any time without legal consequences. Once you're married, however, you feel more bound, and this realization can cause you to find more fault with your mate than you did previously, because the stakes are higher: you will have to put up with all of this person's quirks and faults for the rest of your life, and breaking this contract is no longer so easy.

If your partner has dependent children, then cohabitation means bringing these little ones into your life. It is important to get to know them and determine if sharing a household with them would be fun or a living hell. No matter how wonderful a relationship you have with your parter, it only takes one child with a bad attitude to ruin things for everyone.

                     TYING THE KNOT                      (Chapter 5)

Marriage means having someone to help you deal with all the
problems you never would have had if you hadn't gotten married.

In every serious relationship, marriage is at least considered, if not discussed. "Do I want to spend the rest of my life with her?" "Do I want to bear his children?"

Some people are content to just live together. They don't feel trapped this way - they can separate at any time without messy legal proceedings (unless Common Law has occurred). Also, since they're already living and sleeping together, they feel that marriage wouldn't add anything except the moral obligation of "family" get-togethers.

If you really want to get married, make sure you understand why. A common answer to "Why do you want to get married" is "Because everything would be so much better." Ask them what, specifically, would be better, and they might draw a blank. They don't really understand what marriage means - they're only interested in doing something that a lot of other people do.

Some people marry for security ("If I marry her, she'll be less likely to leave me"). Believe me, if someone's gonna stray, they're gonna stray, regardless of any marriage certificate. If you have so little trust in your mate, do you really want to marry this person, thereby making yourself even more vulnerable? Slapping a ball and chain on someone is a pathetic attempt at security, and will result in suspicion, arguments, and/or divorce.

Others marry for money. Yeah, there's a relationship based on love.

Any discussion about possible marriage should include subjects such as where you will live, whether you will have children, whether you will use day care, etc. "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it" is not a good policy. Look what it did for Ted Kennedy.

There are other, more subtle things to consider. While you're dating you tend to overlook many of your partner's imperfections because you're not stuck with this person. But your boyfriend's way of hocking loogies or your girlfriend's whiny voice can really annoy you once you've legally bonded. Try to picture day-to-day life with this person's habits and mannerisms.

Of course, I've never been married, so what do I know? Single people often like to give marriage advice, just like childless people like to give parenting advice. So to Hell with my stupid opinion.

                      JUGGLING                        (Chapter 6)

Some people are so demanding.  I've only dated this girl
for about a month, and already she wants to know personal
information, like my name.

Many folks date more than one person at a time, with the rationalization that they're not married and they haven't made any promises of monogamy. "Playing the field" is fine as long as you don't lie. My policy has always been to tell anyone I was dating when I was seeing someone else as well. This way there are no unpleasant surprises, no sneaking around, no worrying about being at a restaurant with Sue and having Peggy walk in. Don't be afraid of losing someone, because if this person would demand that you not see anyone else even before the two of you have become intimate, then this is a demanding soul who you are better off without.

Do not use one person as ammunition against another. "Well, Mary always lets me decide where to go." "Bob dresses better than you." "Jane is prettier than you." This is childish and petty. If this paragraph is news to you, then you have a lot of growing up to do.

Y'ever have the embarrassing phone conversation where someone calls you and you try to figure out from their voice or from what they're talking about just who this person is? Always ask who it is when they call. If you make a wrong assumption and call someone the wrong name after they tell you what a wonderful sexual encounter they had with you and how they especially liked the whipped cream and rope, then someone's gonna get hurt.

                  COMPROMISE                           (Chapter 7)

 The other morning I woke up and my arm was asleep.
 I couldn't move it.  I touched it, and I didn't
 feel anything.  So I poked it with a pin.  Then
 my wife screamed at the top of her lungs.

To a lot of people, compromise is surrender, a giving up of one's rights or autonomy, a concession of victory to someone else. This is the view of the selfish, competitive individualist. This type of person should keep all relationships superficial, because refusing to yield keeps others at a distance. We each have our own particular preferences, views and tastes, and if we're going to live in harmony, we must sometimes compromise.

"Either you get rid of that motorcycle or we're through" is another way of saying, "Getting my way is more important to me than you are." This is not compromise - it is a childish demand. Threatening to leave someone will work only if your partner is an insecure sucker, and if so, then the two of you deserve to live a miserable life at Dysfunction Junction. It really is pathetic to see (supposed) adults behaving like children, and I have no sympathy for them.

Compromise involves not only meeting in the middle, but being happy to do so, because you care a lot about this person, and being with him/her is much more important than which restaurant you go to or what color carpeting you get. If compromising makes you feel cheated or hostile, then this relationship is in need of some serious assessment.

Giving up all the time is not compromise. If you're afraid to tell your mate what you want, or if you view this person as an unreasonable child who you have to appease all the time so s/he won't throw a fit, then this creates apathy and distance. Compromise means that each person is aware of what the other one wants, and they make an agreement based on mutual respect and understanding.

                          SEX                       (Chapter 8)

 I'm a sex object.  I ask women for sex and they object.

This is a highly awkward and anxiety-producing topic for a lot of us. It is, for most people, a private matter, and can be embarrassing to talk about.

In the olden days, before the Sexual Revolution, the average sexual encounter was: man pursues woman, man mounts woman, man goes to sleep. His needs were met, hers weren't, and she was too timid to tell him. Men, after all, did all the "real" work in this country, and a woman's job was to satisfy her protector, cook and clean for him, and raise his children. Life wasn't this Neanderthal for everyone, but it was very common.

Equalization of the sexes has reached everywhere, including the bedroom. Women have needs, and they want them met. They are not mere toys to be used for men's gratification - they are, hopefully, equal partners in a mutually satisfying relationship. This enlightened age has brought a slew of sexual manuals, therapy and support groups. We all want to know how to please each other. Gone are the days of mere procreative copulation. Sex is, except among religious fundamentalists, a fun activity, done for enjoyment and the expression of affection between two (or more) people.

It's an interesting phenomenon that while most of us can perform certain acts, or have them done to us, we have trouble talking about them with our lovers. And yet we might have no problem discussing these things with our friends. Why? I wish I knew. Nevertheless it is very important to communicate your desires with your lover, especially if s/he hasn't been performing satisfactorily. I don't understand why a woman will tell her friends, her mother and her hairdresser what a bad lover her husband is, but she won't tell him. Or why a man whose wife does not satisfy him will sneak off to a prostitute. Folks, you've got to tell each other what you want, what turns you on, how you want your partner to change the way he/she has been doing things. Don't quietly suffer.

I'm surprised how many people underestimate the importance of cleanliness. Aroma has a profound effect on sexual arousal, and nothing can kill a sex drive like a funky odor. It's unpleasant to be with someone who hasn't, shall we say, cleansed theirself since their last trip to the porcelain convenience, and to be too embarrassed to say, "Hey, take a shower!"

If you are "doing the nasty", birth control will become an issue unless you're trying to have kids. He doesn't like condoms because they reduce pleasure; she doesn't like the pill because it makes her gain weight; he doesn't want a vasectomy; she doesn't want her tubes tied. Which method should you use? Don't ask me. My method is simply to let women get a good look at me - then I never get laid.

Location is important. Ladies, your man is not a stick in the mud just because he won't do it in the woods. Men, your woman is not a prude just because she won't give you head while you're driving. We cannot force arousal to happen - the environment, time and mood must be right. We are not dogs, who wouldn't mind copulating in the 50 yardline during the Super Bowl. All of us, except politicians, are moral, thinking creatures who like a certain degree of privacy.

Men: no means no. Enough said.

Women: sex is not a weapon. Don't take revenge on your man by withholding sex. First of all, you will be withholding it from yourself as well. Second, it will taint the sexual aspect of your relationship. And third, do you really think he won't be able to get it somewhere else?

Did you know that a lot of men name their penis? Slang terms like "main vein" and "bologna pony" are bad enough, but some guys actually give theirs a name. "Lucky Chucky wants to play." "Meet Little Elvis." "Talk to Mr. Mike." Some even collectively name their genitalia, e.g. "Peter and the Boys". Are these people nuts? (No pun intended. All right, pun intended.) Any man who feels the need to name his sex organs, as though they were not part of him, or had a mind of their own, is, in my quite unprofessional opinion, avoiding intimacy: by shifting the focus from himself to a body part, he's trying to distract his partner from the fact that it is he, not just his private area, that has sex with her.

                  COMMUNICATION                      (Chapter 9)

 Last night my wife complained that we just don't
 communicate.  At least that's what I think she said.
 I don't know, I wasn't listening.

This is such an important ingredient in any relationship that it deserves its own chapter. As your relationship is developing you will have a good amount to talk about as you get to know each other, discuss your jobs, interests, past experiences, etc. Eventually, however, you run out of things about yourselves to discuss. It is at this point that maintaining communication becomes an art.

All too often people talk just for the sake of talking. They can't stand a pause in the conversation, so they talk about the first thing they can think of in order to prevent this silence. This is not communication - it is a mere throwing of words. Neither the speaker nor the listener is interested, so both people's attention wanders. If you don't feel comfortable enough to be able to enjoy a few quiet moments of repose or of basking in the warmth of someone's company, then perhaps you intuitively sense that s/he is not for you.

At the other end of the spectrum, not saying anything, perhaps because you don't think any of your thoughts or day's events are worth mentioning, is also very noncommunicative. Your significant other might be interested in the movie you saw, or your opinion on welfare reform. Share these thoughts - you'll enrich both of your lives.

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, air your grievances, and do it right away. Don't wait until someone's gum snapping or change jingling has worn your nerves to a frazzle, and then scream, "For God's sake, will you cut that out?! What the hell's the matter with you?"

It is usually a good policy to not assume. Discuss things about which there is any doubt. There is nothing like a lack of discussion to create an unpleasant misunderstanding.

Remember to discuss, not yell. We've all seen arguments in which both people scream. so that it becomes a volume contest; the "winner" is the one who can scream louder, longer. Yelling is not communicating anything other than the fact that you are upset.

There is, of course, nonverbal communication: our eyes, hands and posture can convey feelings. A loving massage or a big hug will communicate your love and affection better than words can. Men, especially younger men, seem to be less able to give nonsexual affection than women are. Men: do not let machismo keep you from giving the affection your woman wants. Women: if your man seems a little cold, give him a big hug and tell him that you'd like to be hugged, kissed and caressed a little more; if he cares about you, he'll do it.

                         BREAKING UP                   (Chapter 10)

I had to dump my girlfriend.  She was starting to smell up the trunk.

You will probably date several people before you settle on one of them. Therefore the majority of your "relationships" will end in a break-up. Parting ways gracefully is important, unless you enjoy burning bridges and carrying grudges.

There are many immature people who break up in anger and spend months or years speaking venomously about their exes. Rather than move on and enjoy this brief journey we call life, they choose to wallow in resentment and/or self-pity. Real productive.

Some people call their ex, possibly in the wee hours, to say brilliant things like, "I just want you to know that you ruined my life. I hate you. Please take me back." What's with these mental cases? Can people who have lived for decades really be that ignorant and pathetic? Yes they can - just watch Jerry Springer.

When it has become apparent that your relationship is unsalvageable, it is very easy to realize and accept that not everybody is compatible with everyone else, and to tell your soon-to-be ex, "Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: you." No, I mean, "Well, it was fun while it lasted. I had a great time. As much as we like each other and want to be closer, it doesn't seem that it's going to work. It's time for us to move on. Good luck." But some people seem to want to make enemies out of ex-lovers, as though it's an unwritten law that if you used to sleep with someone but no longer do, the two of you have to hate each other. Maybe they don't want to remain friends because they fear that when they get together as friends they'll want to be lovers again, and they don't want to endure that kind of heartbreak. You have to let go. You will hurt for a while and get over it. Pain promotes growth. We all lose loved ones. Such is the nature of our existence. Don't desperately cling to a non-working relationship. You have to know when to cut the cord. I remember breaking up with someone who I knew was not right for me (the "luggage" girl from chapter 3). She was a nice person and I knew she liked me and I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but I also knew that it would be better for both of us if we parted ways. I was extremely nervous and my voice was cracking as I told her that we just weren't right for each other, but as soon as she left I felt relieved because I knew I had done the right thing. It is a thousand times better to endure quick discomfort as you end a relationship than to slowly torture yourself over a long period of time in a relationship that has become awkward and boring because it's going nowhere.

When someone breaks up with you, it's okay to feel hurt or lonely, but don't get angry. This person does not intend to hurt you, but is acting in your best interests. Realize that the two of you were not meant to be. Know that as that door closed, another one opened.

                           ERRATA                      (Chapter 11)

 I started dating someone recently - my first girlfriend in
 over five years.  It's difficult to break old habits after that
 long.  The first time we went to bed I tried to inflate her.

Following are random pieces of advice that I could not find an appropriate chapter in which to put them and that I felt too short to merit their own chapters. Don't look for order or coherence. Remember who wrote it.

Do not settle for less than a compatible mate whom you love and who loves you. Play the field, date all sorts of people, learn what you want and don't want, make mistakes and learn from them. Then, after all the trial-and-error and bullsh*t, you just might be ready to think about commitment. Do not settle for anyone who is just a good lover but not a good friend, or who is nice but doesn't set quite right with you. Some people get worried that they'll never find a satisfactory mate, so they marry, out of desperation, someone with some, but not really enough, good qualities and hope that eventually intimate love will develop. Such an unsatisfying relationship is, for these people, better, or, rather, a lesser evil than loneliness. This is a cop-out for emotional weaklings who have not grown to the point where they can be single and still feel good about themselves. Believe me, if you marry the wrong person, you will wake up every morning disgusted with yourself for having sold your dreams for convenience.

On the other hand, do not look for an image. We all fantasize about "love at first sight" with a gorgeous, slim, sexy person with whom we will fall in love as soon as our eyes meet. This might happen occasionally, but for the most part it is Hollywood bullsh*t. We see this sort of thing in movies, with ethereal music playing while two perfect people embrace, often in slow motion. Wake up. That is not at all the way real love is. Lust at first sight is common; love at first sight is rare. You cannot love anyone that you do not know. Those big blue eyes or pouting lips do not convey information about that person's personality. I've met many physically attractive women in my day, and if I were a romantic fool I could have deluded myself that I was in love with them after the first glance. But being a practical person, I would meet them and talk with them, and most of the time I was disappointed to find out how shallow and stuck-up they were. Love takes time. It takes communication, spending quality time together, compromise, and really getting to know each other. This cannot be done in a day. This is why many lifelong relationships have developed after unexciting, awkward, and even hostile first meetings. Also do not automatically write someone off just because they don't look like Patrick Swayze or Meg Ryan. When you love someone, looks do not matter, and in fact, that person becomes better and better looking to you as more love develops.

Do not follow conventional guidelines. I can't tell you how many people have told me, "You'd better dress nice or no one will ever want to go out with you." "Your car is a piece of sh*t, and no one would want to be seen in it." "You act immature." "You've got to pamper her with dinner at a nice restaurant." You see where they're coming from? They tell me I can't be me, that I've got to hide myself and play a role, that a woman is merely an object to be impressed, not a sensitive being to whom I can reveal myself. I say, why go out with anyone who likes not you but the act you put on? Is it really good to date someone who you fear would drop you like a hot potato if they knew what you were really like? Always being me has always enabled me to quickly dispense with the ignorant, stuck-up wenches who only want a guy who fits the image that they've been spoonfed since their childhood. When someone goes out with me, I know that she genuinely likes me. She'd have to, in order to put up with my behavior.

Bragging is a big turnoff. As impressive as you think it sounds, no down-to-earth person wants to hear about how many lovers you've had or how much money you make.

Women: don't fret about your clothing. Men are totally oblivious to what anyone wears. Women are the only ones who notice or even care, mainly because that's what they're taught from an early age. This is why a woman can tell a man which shirt he wore on their second date, but a man can't remember, two minutes after a woman has left the room, what color her blouse, pants or even hair is. Women spend all sorts of time and money picking out outfits, looking at themselves in the mirror and modeling for their friends. They even notice each others' shoes, for chrissake! You might get compliments from your friends, but you're in for a big letdown if you expect him to notice. Don't feel hurt - it's you he's interested in, not your clothes.

Do not fall in love with love. For instance, you've been dating someone who has taken you to lots of places, acted polite, groomed himself well, been a great lover, etc. He's very likable and you enjoy spending time with him. One romantic evening he presents you with a ring and pops the question. The fairy tale has come true. Don't simply get caught up in the moment. If you had previously thought that you loved him and wanted to spend the rest of your life with him, that's great. But if up until this point he's been just a nice guy who has dotted his I's and crossed his T's, don't assume that his proposal makes him better marriage material. What is of utmost importance is that you love each other.

Jealousy is a sign of insecurity. If you are the jealous type, you're in for a lot of suspicion and worry. If you are dating a jealous person, you will find yourself being interrogated and/or having to explain yourself. Let's look at jealousy through this example: Carla Codependent is dating Bob Boyfriend. They go to a party and Bob starts talking to Roberta Random. Carla, in her jealous insecurity, thinks, "Oh no. She is a threat to my relationship with Bob because, frankly, my hold on him is tentative at best. We are not really right for each other, and he probably knows this so he will therefore leave me as soon as someone better comes along. But I'm too insecure to not have a boyfriend, so I must cling to him and prevent him from getting to know other women until someone better than him comes along and I can finally dump him. If Roberta turns out to be a nice, healthy, mature individual, then Bob will see, by comparison, how nothing I am, how he has been wasting his time with an immature, incompatible loser like me." Of course, Carla does not think this in so many words - her mind is too small for that kind of critical thought - but that is the way she feels. This is why she will get unjustly angry at Bob and Roberta while not realizing that she is really disgusted with herself. Trust is of paramount importance. If you cannot let your significant other talk to other people without fear that s/he will cheat on you and/or dump you, then what does that say about your relationship?

In some relationships people feel that they must buy each other material possessions, as though the time they spend together isn't enough. In other relationships one partner (usually the man) always buys dinner, theater tickets, etc, in addition to showering the other with clothing, jewelry and exotic trips. This type of "sugar daddy" arrangement is nothing more than prostitution: material wealth in exchange for sex. At least an actual prostitute and her customer admit that this is what they're doing; the couple in the wealth-for-sex relationship denies that this contract exists merely because the "customer" does not hand the "prostitute" the cash directly.

A lot of people will sh*t on you if you treat them nicely, but if you ignore them they'll want you. Why? Treat them nicely, and they'll assume that this means that they're too good for you, or that since you like them so much they can be demanding jerks and get away with it. Treat them like they're nothing, and they'll get an inferiority complex ("What is wrong with me that makes this person unattracted to me?") and bend over backwards in order to be more pleasing. People at both ends of this spectrum are immature. The first group are selfish snobs; the second group have low self-esteem. Some people fall into both groups because they will go to either end of the spectrum depending on how they're treated. If someone treats you nicely, this is reason to treat him/her nicely in return, not to take advantage of him/her. If someone ignores or abuses you, then s/he is not good for you and you should abandon this person and get on with your life.

Some people are looking for nothing more than an ego boost. I had many experiences in my youth with girls who would lead me on, say suggestive things, touch or even kiss me in order to get me to pursue them, and when I responded, they quickly rejected me. They just wanted to feel that men wanted them - they didn't actually want a man. A good policy is to get far away from someone like this as soon as they reject you. Also, don't assume that flirting is a come-on; someone flirting with you could be doing nothing more than toying with you, or perhaps they are merely being friendly.

When you open yourself up to someone, along with that great feeling of surrender comes increased vulnerability and risk. Many people have had money stolen, hearts broken, or been lied to about a vasectomy that was never performed or a birth control pill that was never taken. How can you know if/when to trust someone? How can you know if your partner is making love to you, or merely using you for money, sexual gratification or fertilization? This is an area where we have to judge for ourselves. We spend time with someone and reach a point where we believe we know him/her very well, and we hope that his/her track record is indicative of future behavior. But a lot of people are good actors; they can fool you into thinking they're trustworthy, and then, after you've let your guard down, betray you.

Some people view the idea of love as silly, impractical, or an illusion. In some cultures they forgo the idea of love and have arranged marriages. In the classic "functional" marriage the man makes the money, does the backbreaking chores and makes the important decisions; while the woman prepares the meals, washes the clothes, cleans the house, supervises the children and provides the man with sexual pleasure. It might be a loveless, business-like arrangement, but is that necessarily bad? It is not necessarily abusive. If it works, and people feel comfortable and secure, then I condone it. Not everyone finds love, and those who don't find it can still have a family. And quite often people in arranged marriages eventually grow to love each other.

Why is it that a woman can remember everything she has ever heard her man say, but she can't remember to change her car's oil? How come a man can remember the batting averages of every player on his favorite baseball team, yet he forgets his woman's birthday? It's one of Nature's cruel jokes, that's why. Men are into technology, statistics and gadgets; women are into communication and feelings. We remember what is most important to us, and what is most important to us is largely determined by our genes. During our evolutionary history, men built dwellings and hunted animals, while women cared for the children and gathered plants. This arrangement was essential, and those who had more of an affinity for their respective responsibilities were more likely to reproduce and have their offspring survive to maturity. Thus men will always be hunters and women will always be gatherers. This is why a man can spend countless hours waiting for a deer to come within range of his Winchester .30-06, or standing on a riverbank holding a stick and losing $30 worth of lures on submerged logs, even though the supermarkets are packed with so much meat and fish that much of it gets thrown away because supply exceeds demand; while a woman can spend all day wandering through a mall buying a trunkload of wearing apparel, even though half the clothing at home has been worn no more than once. So the next time you get miffed because he didn't bring a gift or she forgot to put your beer in the fridge, remember that we each have our own unique preferences, tendencies and abilities, and these differences keep our relationships interesting.

                          APPENDIX A

Glossary of terms men put in personal ads and what they really mean.

Aspiring ................. Broke
Conservative ............. Anal-retentive
Discriminating ........... Bigot
Distinguished-looking .... Fat, grey, and bald
Doctor ................... Pharmacist
Educated ................. Will always treat you like an idiot
Employed ................. Cashier at Radio Shack
Family-oriented .......... Lives with parents
Financially independent .. Crook
Free spirit .............. Unemployed; sleeps with your sister
Friendship first ......... As long as friendship involves nudity
Fun ...................... Good with a remote and a six pack
Good looking ............. Arrogant bastard
Huggable ................. Fat, with more body hair than Gentle Ben
Intellectual ............. Wimp
Light drinker ............ Headed for AA
Like to cuddle ........... Insecure; overly dependent
Like walks on the beach .. Reads Cosmo and thinks this is what you want to hear
Mature ................... Until you get to know him
Opinionated .............. Jerk
Physically fit............ Stands in front of mirror admiring himself
Poet...................... Once wrote on a bathroom stall while constipated
Quiet .................... Stupid
Reliable ................. Shows up on time -- give or take 3 hours
Rugged ................... Wears flannel
Sensitive ................ Needy
Smart .................... Thinks Cheers is the wittiest show ever
Sports enthusiast ........ Swills beer while yelling at t.v.
Successful ............... Makes more than minimum wage
Thoughtful ............... Says "Please" when demanding a beer
Unconventional ........... Hell's Angel
Uninhibited .............. Kinky
Virile ................... Can read 3 Penthouses without passing out
Wealthy .................. Owns his own Dodge
Well-dressed ............. Gay
Well-read ................ Reads TV Guide
Young at heart ........... Pedophile

                          APPENDIX B

Glossary of terms women put in personal ads and what they really mean.

40-ish .................... 49 and a half
Adventurous ............... Enjoys trips to exotic places at your expense
Affectionate .............. Clings like Glad Wrap
Ambitious ................. Cutthroat
Artistic .................. Nuts
Assertive ................. Assaultive
Athletic .................. Flat-chested; can walk unassisted
Average-looking ........... Bride of Frankenstein
Banker .................... Teller
Beautiful ................. Pathological liar
Blond ..................... Brunette
Callipygian ............... Could moon Europe
Classy .................... Looking for Mr. Goldbar
Commitment-minded ......... Pick out curtains, now!
Communication important ... Just try to get a word in edgewise
Confident ................. Obnoxious
Contagious smile .......... Bring your penicillin
Cuddly .................... Fat
Cute ...................... Funny looking
Discriminating ............ Won't date a cadaver
Divorced .................. Bitter
Earthy .................... Allergic to bathing
Educated .................. Can read and write
Emotionally secure ........ Medicated
Employed .................. Has part-time job stuffing envelopes
Energetic ................. Maniac
Enjoys art and opera ...... Snob
Exotic beauty ............. Would frighten a Martian
Feminist................... Fat, ugly and mean
Free spirit................ Substance abuser
Friendship first........... Trying to live down reputation as slut
Fun........................ Annoying
Full-figured .............. Dwarfs Oprah
Humorous................... Caustic
Intense ................... Homicidal
Introspective ............. Suicidal
Introverted ............... Depressing
Light drinker ............. Headed for Betty Ford
Looks younger ............. If viewed from far away in bad light
Loves travel .............. If you're paying
Old-fashioned ............. Lights out, missionary position only
Passionate ................ Loud
Petite .................... Wouldn't stand out in Munchkinland
Poet ...................... Depressive schizophrenic
Rubenesque ................ Grossly fat
Special ................... Rode the short bus
Striking .................. Shocking
Tan ....................... Wrinkled
Voluptuous ................ Hugely fat
Widow ..................... Nagged husband to death
Willing to move ........... Desperate
Young at heart ............ Toothless crone

                      ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben is a totally undateable, selfish bachelor who has deprived some deserving woman of a divorce. He vows never to get married, but it's an empty vow since no one would marry him anyway. His total inability to be intimate has resulted in his having a much better relationship with his dog than he could ever have with a woman. He has been rejected, stood up and lied to all through his dating history, because he is a sap who is honest with women and is still naive enough to believe them when they say they'll call him. He has not asked a woman out since Reagan left office, although since then several women have asked him out, only to have him disappoint them. They always leave him because he doesn't know the first thing about satisfying them, and he is more interested in his hobbies than he is in them. The only reason the government hasn't forcibly sterilized him is that he never gets laid anyway.