The Nondating Life

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Go ahead! Laugh! See if I care.

Welcome to The Nondating Life blog, a spinoff of As I Please. If you're somehow stumbling upon this for the first time, the answer is: "Oh, sure, this is supposed to be serious advice. ... if you never, EVER want to end up in a meaningful relationship." That said, you should definitely read all of it.

I should point out that, unlike a regular blog, all new entries will post at the bottom (and all new entries will first appear on As I Please). If you want to skip around, I've included a Chapter section in the sidebar. Comments, email, questions, seeking advice? All are welcome and encouraged.

Stray agents, publishers, editors? Well, I guess I COULD be talked into a six-figure book deal. But you'd have to really convince me.

Otherwise, enjoy! And, remember: Be good. If you can't be good, be safe. And if you can't be safe ... well, name it after me.

Ken Wheaton
March 12, 2004

All material copyright Ken Wheaton, 2004. Thieves, plagiarists, etc., will be subject to a swift and severe ass-kicking prior to any legal threats.


I've been toying with giving up "dating" as a New Year's Resolution, partly because it's a hell of a lot easier than giving up drinking, and partly because it would free me, finally, to write long, rambling diatribes about dating and gender issues. Why I've refused to tackle the subject so far is an essay in it's own right, but isn't dating stressful, horrifying and undignified enough without having to worry that the next day, you have, thanks to a blogger, a newly acquired snarky code name and your every move has been graded for all the wold to see? (You all know who you are, and all I’m going to say is: Karma, people. Karma.)

Those who know me personally have heard me expound at length on the matters of true love, and I'm always willing to give the advice and hard, cold factual evaluations of your sorry relationships that I would never ask for or listen to from you. (Because we never want to hear such things).

Still, I haven't made up my mind on the subject, but I do want to point to this Chuck Klosterman piece (linked by Rina). Chuck (the only reason to pick up Esquire lately) curses both Lloyd Dobler AND "When Harry Met Sally" while discussing the trouble we all have with fake love.

Those of you who've been on the receiving end of my diatribes may recognize my "you can't be just friends" bit in this passage:

Most of the time, the two involved parties are not really "best friends." Inevitably, one of the people has been in love with the other from the first day they met, while the other person is either (a) wracked with guilt and pressure, or (b) completely oblivious to the espoused attraction. Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less. But When Harry Met Sally gives the powerless, unrequited lover a reason to live. When this person gets drunk and tells his friends that he's in love with a woman who only sees him as a buddy, they will say, "You're wrong. You're perfect for each other. This is just like When Harry Met Sally! I'm sure she loves you—she just doesn't realize it yet."

And this put me in mind of a passage from Carson McCullers' Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which has always been one of my favorites--mostly because I recongized my sorry-ass self in it:

There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world—a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring—this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

"Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else—but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

"It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."

Funnily enough, I've been asked a few times over the past couple of years to come up with readings for weddings. And I always find myself turning to McCullers for some strange reason. You'd think with titles like "The Heart is A Lonely Hunter," "The Member of the Wedding," and others, there'd be SOMETHING there. But all of her discussions of love are just dripping with the above sort of sentiment ... which ain't exactly the right tone people are searching for at their weddings, I guess.

Anyway, maybe I'll write about dating. Maybe I won't. I just figured I'd give yall something other than U.N. bashing for a change.

(Next post in series)


(Previous post)

So maybe I will write about dating after all. I'm kind of sick of politics and world events and it's the middle of the winter, so why not? But if I start on a daily dose of mouthing off about the one area of my life in which I'm a complete basket case, I might provide some history.

Word of warning: Some of you will find this post down-right puke worthy. Too personal. One pre-screener said I manage to totally demystify myself. Whatever. My keen powers of insight allow me to see right through all of you and I think most of you can see right through me, so mystery shmystery. Mystery is overrated and it smacks of "rules of the game"--which I've never been able to play by anyway.

I received a few interesting responses (aside from those in the comments) to yesterday's non-dating column--mostly of the jumping to conclusion type, but interesting all the same.

A couple of folks thought I was being maudlin or getting ready for a good wallow. That wasn't my intention at all. You'll know damn well when I start up a self-pity session. I can wallow with the best of them. I wallow so well, in fact, that I'd get it all over everyone else. I'd bet that within fifteen minutes of a pathetic post, our entire little corner of the blogosphere would be covered by a dark cloud of self-doubt and hopelessness.

But I'll save that for a sunny day.

One emailer, though, told me that what I needed was obvious. It was apparent to any and all, she said, that I needed a date.

NEEDED a date.

No one needs a date. This is something a married person would say. And, yes, she's married. I was toying with the idea of giving up dating precisely to avoid the humiliations, the nausea-inducing stress, the rejections, the obsessions, the need to reject, the messiness and, statistics being what they are, syphilis (or at least a fever blister).

So, no, I don't need a date.

What I want is a girlfriend.

How's that for blunt?

I'll take the honesty a bit further. The statement "I want a girlfriend" has to be followed by so many qualifications (let's call it the Groucho qualification: "I don't want to be the boyfriend of any girl who'd have me.") as to render it almost meaningless.

But those qualifications are a post for another day. What's at issue here is I'm the type who wants a girlfriend. It's something I've always wanted ever since being a wee lad. I wanted a girlfriend before I wanted a Red Ryder BB gun.

And I got a girlfriend before I got that Red Ryder BB gun. It was first or second grade. Evette. We'd kiss behind the oak tree on the playground, but in full view of the kindergarten kids. Exhibitionists at age six. What happened? Well, if my brother's version of events is to be believed, I broke up with Evette because she ate an acorn.

Standards, people. You must have standards. (This from someone who eats squirrel.)

Of course, wanting a girlfriend at such an early age and getting one only sets a fellow up for a lifetime of disappointment and hurt.

Because Evette was about the end of my success in that regard. I didn't even make out with a girl until I was fifteen (and that particular "relationship" lasted all of two weeks.)

Elementary, junior high and high school turned out to be one long dry spell of misery, of young Kenny pining away for various girls. I can't rightly call it "crushing" because it was much worse than that. It was usually an obsession, something so keen that it physically hurt. (And for those you believe in astrology, yes, I am a Scorpio.)

Where did this behavior come from? It wasn't from Lloyd Dobler or Harry and Sally. This behavior started young and at that point the only movies I'd seen were Star Wars, Shaggy Dog, and a bit of King Kong (I spent most of the movie hiding behind the front seat). Maybe it was from an early exposure to soap operas, but while my romantic daydreams were ludicrous, they never involved evil twins or ageless people with big hair and bad makeup.

Did I say delusional? Well, one of my boyhood daydream involved somehow acquiring a Harrier jet and flying to the school in order to give the object of my affection a ride home (because nothing impresses a chick like a British-made attack aircraft with VTOL capabilities). Another common one involved a falling tree or an attacking dog-and me sacrificing life and limb (sometimes even dying) to save the young lass.

Maybe I can blame Jesus and early, heavy doses of Christianity for that one. (And, oddly enough, it was years later, under different circumstances that a friend of mine--Jewish no less--told me I had a martyr complex.)

Then, one day after years and years of hoping, wishing, praying, trying voodoo, young Kenny landed himself a girlfriend.

And it may have ruined him for life. Another fellow in my situation--average looking, on the short side, smartish, abrasive--may have at some point in college given up chasing the girls three stations above his, may have met a nice girl, pretty enough but obviously human and not necessarily someone all the other guys lusted after. But young Kenny, somehow, some way, ended up with (in the objective opinion of many at the time) one of the most beautiful, most talented, most intelligent girls on campus. Young Kenny would come to expect, nay demand that sort of fortune for the rest of his life. (Old Kenny will die alone and be found three days later with half of his corpse eaten by his cats.)

However it happened, I aimed for the stars and caught one. And guess what. The star turned out to be constantly in motion, something that changed over time. And if there's one thing a romantic hates is when the object of his affections refuses to remain an object, to stay on her damn pedestal where she belongs and not fuck it all up.

We were together four years. The first nine months were total bliss for me, then after that it turned into a more typical relationship...with spats, breakups, parents who hated me, etc. I was 19, she was 21 when it started. Four years and another state later, we'd both changed to such a degree that things had to end.

Of course, people thought I was out of my fucking mind. Family. Friends. Almost everyone. Many, many people would have gotten married on the basis of that relationship. But not us. Well, not me. I'd never do better, they all said. I was damning myself, they warned. Hold on to her, they shouted.

I'll take my chances, I decided. And while the very end of the ending was messy and ugly, while I probably could have gone about things a little bit more ... what's the word, compassionately ... we both survived. And she's set to be married to the man that destiny, fate, the gods or whatever, meant her to be married to. And, further confounding my friends and family, she and I (and he) are still chums. (Of course, I attribute this largely to another one of my rules, dictums or what have you: The only way you can be friends again, if it's possible at all, is with a necessary period of bile, hatred and, more important, 1,500 miles between you to prevent falling back into the cycle of on again/off again.)

By the way, I'm fully aware that this whole discussion of prior relationships violates all sorts of rules.

The second girlfriend came when I moved back to New York and somehow got involved with a former student of mine… back in Louisiana. So here we had Ken, with a girl much too young for him living in another state. Everyone knew it was the height of foolishness. But echoing my friend Jason, I can say this about it: At a time when I had barely a job and nary a penny to my name, it kept me out of trouble, kept me from blowing all my money on booze and chasing women.

Then, many years later came the third. The big M. The one that regular blog readers will know about because she's the only one I've mentioned here. (For a quick recap, you can read this.)

But, dear reader. Yes, there's always a but. Between Girl 2 and M., there was what I call the dating time--and what less charitable friends would call the whoring around time. I, shall we say, took advantage of the city. I had my adventures, my dalliances, my bar hookups, my friends with benefits, my coworkers. Among some people, I acquired a reputation. And, to be honest, I encouraged the reputation. You spend the bulk of your life being an overly romantic punching bag, it's nice to break out and set yourself up as a badass, as a bastard-coated bastard with a bastard center.

And quite a bit of that happened during my blogging time. But I didn't write about it. It just seems like asking for trouble. That is my own name up there after all. And I am the sort of whore for attention that lets everyone know that I have a blog. And, to quote myself from yesterday: isn't dating stressful, horrifying and undignified enough without having to worry that the next day, you have, thanks to a blogger, a newly acquired snarky code name and your every move has been graded for all the world to see? (I'm a big fan of Hillel in that regard: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.")

Also, I'm superstitious, afraid of jinxes and all that noise. The only reason I broke down and wrote about M. was because I began to think of her as a fixture. (Let's just say the superstition is now back twice as strong.) And because I was, yes, happy to have a girlfriend or something resembling a girlfriend (she wasn't a fan of the label).

Because, at the end of the day I ain't exactly built for dating or the friends with benefits or being a player. I've done it. I have my moments, sure. And there are times when I get so sick of the results of being stupidly romantic and obsessive (I have a problem with obsessive) that I do turn into a facsimile of a badass. Like most guys, I find it hard to turn down a supposedly guilt- and commitment-free roll in the sack, especially when the booze has been flowing. (Imagine being a child and being offered a free bag of candy. You'd be crazy NOT to take it. Despite all those stupid public service announcements to the contrary). But if guilt doesn't catch up to me, my ego will: "Well, if she wants to sleep with me, how could she NOT be in love with me. My god, I'm going to break this woman's heart. She'll be stalking me for the rest of my life. I can't live with that on my head." (Another topic I can ramble on about for pages.)

Anyway, this has gone on way too long for a blog post, but that provides a glimpse at what you're dealing with. Yes, I'm the typical "I want a girlfriend, but not that one" type of guy. Yes, I'll fall in love with you on the first date, but if you come climbing off the pedestal by the third or if I change my mind, I'll make like an old general and fade away. (That said, in a dating situation, I'm NOT trying to get into your pants. I'm trying to get you to become obsessed with me.) Yes, I might be sensitive today, but I'm totally self-absorbed and self-destructive tomorrow. Yes, I can be needy, cloying, cheesy, obsessive (there's that word again) and a right royal pain in the ass. And, yes, I think that guys who say "I'm not the jealous type" are completely and totally full of shit.

Yes, I'm a total hypocrite.

In other words, I'm just like the rest of you (well, except for the real badasses): neurotic, overly hopeful, and unwilling to learn the lessons that reality and every prior relationship has tried to teach you.

But I'm great at giving really good dating advice which I'd never in a million years heed myself. (I'd make a good shrink, no?)

Hopefully, future posts on this subject will be a) a lot shorter and b) a hell of a lot funnier.

And while there have been amazing advances in military aircraft technology, I'd still settle for a Harrier.

(Next post in series.)


(Previous post)

Boy, had I known that writing some sort of half-assed confessional bit about dating would have provoked such feedback, I might have skipped the whole thing.

No, I'm not talking about the feedback in the comment section, most of which was either suitably goofy, thoughtful, or at least on topic. What I am talking about is the well-meaning folk who, for whatever reason, seem to think I need to be on suicide watch or that I'm having some sort of major life crisis or shift or ... I don't know what. (Although I do want to thank my stepsister, who's too young to be reading this filth anyway, for trying to help out with this particular link.)

I rant and rave about politics and I'm just being Ken. I go on a stint about relationships and suddenly there's cause for concern. (I mean, have you read my fiction? Quite a bit of it is overly concerned with relationships and sentimentality and idealized romance. Hell, go read Satellites. I was writing about fake love back in 1996. Shit.)

Hell, for a moment, I was starting to get worried about myself. Someone as self-absorbed as I am can't help but be (hyper) self-aware, but maybe I was missing something. Maybe these well-meaning folk were staring at my blog post long enough to pick up on something that I was missing. But a couple of my boys who've seen me at my very worst read the thing, and they did little more than grunt in recognition of the sentiments contained therein. They, better than anyone else, would recognize if I was making little squealing noises for help. But I ain't. If I was, there'd have been a series of late-night, Jack Daniels-fueled phone calls going on all week. And the fact is, aside from a couple of glasses of wine at an industry party last night and some Nyquil, I've been pretty dry this week (hmmm, maybe people are picking up the desperate vibes of an alcoholic going through withdrawal symptoms).

Citygurl said in the comments to the below post: "I think most people feel like you do." I'd agree with that. Most people do. Except when they don't.

And there's the rub. That whole confessional bit about wanting one steady person, I've believed that most days of my life. It's not like I woke up yesterday morning and was like, "Oh my god, I'm 31 and I'm going to die alone. What have I done with my life?" No, I just felt like writing about it. And on some other days of my life, I might not feel like that at all. I might feel like it's my god given right to go around saying "Hi, my name's Ken. Wanna fuck?" And there are other days, you know, hypothetically speaking, when I might be content to hop online, download some cybersmut and spend some quality time getting ... well, even more self-absorbed.

But it's been my experience that these moods, when experienced by the single person, tend to be mutually exclusive. Your "I want to settle down" self doesn't acknowledge or recognize your "I'm gonna go out and lay some pipe" self. You've probably all experienced that feeling, usually at some point during the summer, when you're at a great party with all your single friends and the tunes are spinning, the booze flowing, the beautiful people dancing and you remember that last girl or guy you were crushing on hardcore and how you were ready to sign on the dotted line and your "lay some pipe" self, says "Jesus, what the FUCK was I thinking. Give THIS up?" (Of course, you wake up hungover the next morning with your arm trapped under some stranger and you start reconsidering that swinging lifestyle real quick.)

And this is gender neutral. Single men and women, in many respects, are from the same planet. It's the people in deeply committed relationships who are alien life forms. (And yes, we're all jealous of one another in some way shape or form.)

At any rate, I would like to say I appreciate the concern. But as thenthitive as I tend to be at times, I think pity is about as useful as the U.N., and in this case about as misplaced as Kofi's morality.

Now, hopefully, I can move onto discussing this stuff in more general terms, before someone comes along and forces me to go blog on LiveJournal.

(Next post in series.)

Part One: About your friends

(Previous Post)

So you want to start dating? Perhaps you were dropped on your head as a child. Perhaps you saw what was going on at Abu Ghraib and you felt left out. Perhaps you think that finding a complete stranger, convincing her/him to go out with you, enduring hours of anxiety, self-doubt, second-guessing, irritable bowel syndrome due to nerves and, eventually, an hour or two of inane chatter is a much more dignified way to get laid than simply calling an escort service.

Save yourself some trouble. If you want to get laid, get a hooker*. If you want to sleep beside a warm body, get a dog.

Whatever. Obviously, you're beyond the voice of reason, but I'm going to try to help you out anyway.

We'll start off small. In fact, this first installment will not deal directly with what you'd like to think of as your latest victim. But let's be honest, the only person who'll be victimized here is YOU. Dating, my friend, is like a nature program in bizarro world. You see the little fawn there in the grass, your ears perk up, you go into a crouch, you look over at the other members of your pride, they either look off in the other direction or shrug in approval and, zoom-zoom-zoom, you're hauling ass in pursuit. But at the end of the scene, the fawn's over at the watering hole nuzzling up to some other buck and you're the one lying in a pile of your own entrails, trying not to cry while the rest of your pride tries not to laugh at your foolishness.

But forget the fawn for now.

Let's look at the other members of the pride. Your friends.

You know what you should do? You should forget them, too. Why? Because they can't help you in your dating life. In fact, they can only do harm.

But they're my friends, I hear you protesting. They have my best interests at heart.

Of course they do. And that's part of the problem. They might mean well, but you've forgotten something. If you're in the midst of running down a date, you've lost any and all ability to hear what they're really saying to you. Sure, they'll offer support and advice, but no good will come of it.

Sometimes it will be their fault, many times it will be your fault. Why? Because there are two types of friends, those who will serve as cheerleader and those who will try to serve as scientists. You will listen too much to the first sort and not at all to the latter.

An example. Let's say you and your intended victim have been using company time and property to flirt via email. And at some point, one of you suggests the unthinkable, actually getting together in real life and starting off the evening sober. You get an email and you run over to your friends and pop into their IM windows.

Let's say the email reads:

"Hey, you. Let's get together at some point."

Here's the response you'll get from cheerleader friend:

"Ohhhhhhh, she/he is so into you. I mean, she/he said 'Hey, you,' and 'together.' That's so awesome! When's the wedding!?! :)"

Which is exactly what you wanted to hear. Your stock in cheerleader friend shoots up dramatically. Cheerleader friend is trading at $375.

Scientist friend will respond thusly:

"So? Did you guys make plans? Did he/she actually say anything else? Does he/she realize this is a date and not just hanging out."

Note that these are all perfectly valid questions. But suddenly you hate this friend. Scientist friend is a penny stock that you obviously picked up in a self-destructive rage one cloudy day.

Oh. I almost forgot about the third kind of friend, the one who not-so-secretly has a crush on you, or who you once fooled around with. You don't know why you tell this person anything about your dating life at all, but you can't seem to help it. Maybe a dirty little part of you likes to torture others, likes the jealousy. At any rate, this person's response is always the same.

"I don't know. He/she sounds like a douche/tool."

That person you can ignore ... and do. But you should be ignoring the other two as well. And you can't. Cheerleader friend is blowing sunshine up your butt and setting you up, possibly, for a fall.

And scientist friend is really, really starting to piss you off. What makes matters worse, scientist friend is a) simply echoing the little voices of reason and self-doubt that you've shoved into the dark recesses of your mind and b) seems to have somehow understood that you'd slightly edited the email before popping it into the IM window.

Because the original email read:

"Hey, you. It's been crazy on my end what with work and I'm just generally hating life, men/women in particular. I mean, why does your gender have to be like that? Really. Let's get together at some point. Maybe we could get a cup of coffee and bitch about our exes."

See, you haven't even been on an actual date yet and you're behaving irrationally, acting like a school girl passing notes in class, but worse, slicing and dicing up the notes before hand as if you were working at the Ministry of Truth.

But there you are. You've involved your friends. And now, not only must you deal with the pressure of dating, you must deal with the pressure of REPORTING IN. Of course, you don't mind so much with cheerleader friend. Who doesn't want sunshine up the butt? But scientist friend, who probably didn't want to get involved (once again) with your sorry dating life, is going to ask for updates now--out of duty. But every time he or she does your mood just turns south. (Meanwhile, that third friend is chiming in with "So how are things with the retard? You get the clap yet?")

And then the date happens.

If the ending of the date is anything from ambiguous to an outright disaster, you can count on your friends to fill their roles:

Ambiguous ending, like you got a peck on the cheek and another "let's get together":

Cheerleader: It sounds like it went pretty good to me. Maybe he/she's just shy. You totally have to call him/her again. I like this person.
Scientist: I don't know. Didn't sound like there were sparks flying or anything. I guess you could give it another chance. Wouldn't hurt. [Ed. note: Of course it could. A lot. Scientist friend knows this, but he/she is still your friend and doesn't want to completely crush all hope.]
Jealous one: Sounds like a bitch/dick to me.

Bad ending, like after two hours of stilted conversation, you're drunk and you end up kissing the person on the side of the head as he/she turns to hail a cab:

Cheerleader: I don't know. Maybe you were both just nervous. I'm still getting a good vibe. These things take time. [Ed. note: No, they don't take time.]
Scientist: Put a fork in it. It's done. I hate to say it, but if it went that bad, it probably won't get any better.
Jealous one: Sounds like a bitch/dick to me.

If it goes well, if it ends with a lingering kiss and concrete plans for a second date, everyone's happy, including scientist friend, who can grant approval based on objective evidence. (Of course third friend will say "I'm happy for you" in a way that puts you in mind of a stereotypical Jewish mother trying to guilt her oldest child into or out of something.)

And so it goes throughout the relationship--emails, dates and phone calls subjected to analysis by your friends--until finally it ends up in marriage (HAHAHAHAHAHA) or in heartbreak, at which point you hate cheerleader friend for MAKING you so delusional, you hate scientist friend for being right all along and you go sleep with jealous friend to boost your self-esteem.

Way to fuck up a friendship, dumbass.

And to think you could have avoided all of this by not dating. But that isn't going to happen. So, since you're going to move forward anyway, try not to involve your friends. Sure, you want some support in this hunt. And, sure, if things are going sort of okay, you want to share your joy.

But really, all things considered, it would be best to keep your mouth shut about the object of your affections until you're sending out the wedding invites.

*Full disclosure for those of you can't separate a writer from the writing: I've never been with a hooker.

Next post in the series.

Part Two: Some Great Advice

(Previous Post)

It's an almost weekly event with one particular friend of mine. The IM window pops open and one of two messages comes across.

1. Boys are stoopid.
2. I've got it bad.

Granted, the actual text of the messages my be different, but underlying whatever prattling is happening in IM is one of those sentiments.

And why does this person come to me? The same reason we all go to other friends, be they the cheerleader or scientist type. Because she likes to wallow publicly in her own filth. Because she likes to revel publicly in her new-found love of the week.

And because, when it comes to relationships, I'm the guy that girls go to for advice. Guys? Not so much. Because, oddly enough, with my guy friends I tend to slip into the cheerleader role, telling them what they want to hear. Hey, it's hard enough being a guy without hearing from a friend that, no, you ain't got a shot and yeah, she is a raging bitch who's using you for attention until something better comes along, at which point she'll reach into your ribcage, rip out your heart and present as a gift to the man she really loves.

Besides, even if I said such things, they wouldn't listen.

And neither do the girls, as a matter of fact. With the ladies, no matter how much the scientist I play, no matter how much evidence I marshall pro or con for the current beau, no matter how honest I am about the motives of men, they're not going to listen either.

And neither would I.

A few weeks ago, I found myself telling my IM buddy to take it easy, to quit overreacting, to cease the obsessing, to halt the over-analyzation, to stop with the self-editing of emails to make herself appear always witty, to give it a little time.

Anyone who's seen me in the first stages of a crush would find that advice perhaps the mosty hypocritical pile of hogwash ever to be set in pixels. I'd be best served in such situations by having my keyboard taken away from me and my cellphone duct-taped shut.

But there I was doling out advice I'm completely incapable of taking.

That's not to say the advice should be discounted--every psych major, psychiatrist and psychologist I've ever known has had a personal life fucked up far beyond anything I've ever experienced. But there they are, raking in the bucks for telling someone else how to get his shit together. And usually doing a fairly good job.

But the advice will be discounted. You don't go to your friends and ask for advice with any intention of following it. You know damn well you've made up your mind in the first nanosecond your current issue presented itself. You're just going to your friend hoping they'll tell you what you want to hear. And if they don't? If, for example, I told you that your current crush is a complete flake, an obvious mama's boy who's obviously been pampered his whole life by women and expects the same from you, a boy who has no respect for you, your time or your sweet, sweet body needs. If I point to example after example--that you've provided me, no less--you're going to say this: "I know. I know. You're right. But..."

But, indeed.

Because you've made up your mind. You just wanted to include someone else in your drama. Why? I can't say with certainty, but I wasn't exactly joking about the wallowing in our own filth comment above. After all, part of the "fun" of a relationship is bragging or bitching about it. So of course you'll go seeking advice.

I'd tell you not to do it, to just leave your friends (and me) alone, to go with that first decision you made and save everyone the time and trouble. But hey, I already told you people not to bother with dating in the first place and if you already went and broke that rule, might as well chuck the other on the compost pile.

Besides, I like giving advice. I like hearing myself talk.

And on that note, I'm taking the suggestion (not advice) of someone else and opening the Nondating Life series to questions. Yes, you too, can email me your problems and I will solve them in full view of the As I Please readers. But you might want to shade the details some, because I think we all know each other personally by this point.

Don't worry, though. The bulk of the series will still be me ranting and raving and preaching, rather than scribbling notes in a pad and asking you to tell me about your mother. (Even though I bet she's really hot.)

(Next post in series)

Part Three: Cheaters Always Die

(Previous post)

When it comes to dating and relationships, I'm not a big fan of the rules as handed down by the holy trinity of Cosmo, Maxim and Candace Bushnell. It's not that I think such rules are useless. It's only that I'm completely incapable of following them--and, in turn, I automatically assume that those who can follow them are broken on the inside and know nothing about the spontaneity of true romance (which is one of the most foolish things a person can believe, but such is life.)

And, like any good hypocrite, I have my own rules. And over the course of this project, you'll be getting plenty of them.

And tops on that list?




As Chris Tucker said in "Friday": Never, evahevahevahevahevahevah."

And let me add: Ever.

But, I can hear you saying, "What about in this situat--"


It could save your life.

What's cheating? Oh, you know what it is. It's messin' around. It's creeping. I don't care if you've just started dated or you've been married for 50 years. Cheating is cheating, and unless you've entered into a relationship in which it's been made perfectly clear by both parties that dallying elsewhere is acceptable, you should keep your naughty bits to yourself and your partner.

And yes, hookers count as cheating. (You know who you are.)
And yes, in my book, making out counts as cheating. (You know who you are.)
As does internet sex. (Actually, don't know anyone who's done that, but still.)
And yes, I'm such a moral prig about this that I believe there is such a thing as emotional cheating. (More on that in a subsequent post).
And girl on girl action without the express knowledge (and, preferably attendance) of your man is cheating, too--no matter how hot it is. (Hey, these arguments do come up.)
I'd say that guy on guy action is cheating, but I've never heard of a mostly straight guy doing it, or anyone else trying to claim that that behavior gets a free pass because it's just experimentation.

All this goes for both genders. So ladies, if you come to me with tales of derring do and sexual freedom and exploration, I will not say "You go girl!" I will say, simply: Go.

Carrie Bradshaw, I ain't. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Society does not gain by women reducing themselves to the same stupid sort of behavior engaged in by men who actually use Maxim's relationship advice. Sure, "Sex and the City" was an entertaining show. So was "The Sopranos." That doesn't make it okay to drag a person out into the woods and pop a cap in his ass, now does it?

Of course, after taking such a firm moralistic stand, I have to make the obligatory full disclosure. I guess.

Have I ever cheated?

Well, that depends on who you ask.

You ask me, I say yes. You ask some other people--normal people--they tend to let me slide. As explained earlier, I've had three (count 'em, three) girlfriends. And it was only during the reign of the first that I wandered over into other pastures. I'd say once was a clear case of cheating--I basically smooched with another girl (and it partly had to do with some unresolved issues with that whole girl-on-girl argument above, but that's a story for another day). Still, I think we can all agree that was cheating. And what did it get me? It got me my very first panic attack is what it got me. Worlds upon worlds of guilt crashing down on me (thank you Catholic Church!) until I just had a freak-out in the Friendly's in Smithtown, Long Island.

And there were a few other transgressions that I considered cheating, but most others wouldn't. Pardon the "Friends" reference, but these minor sins all happened while we were "on a break." Seeing other people. Doing that whole break-up, get-back-together thing. Technically, I was free to do much more than I did, but the yardstick I used at the time was how guilty I felt (again, thanks Rome). And while my chronology might be out of whack, I'm sure that those all happened during the middle period of the four-year relationship.

After that? Nothing. Kenny was a good boy. Not too shabby considering the second two were long-distance affairs.

But I'm not patting myself on the back here. I do have to own up to other unsavory behavior, namely helping others to cheat a few times, playing in another fellow's garden so to speak. This, to me, is just as inexcusable, but it's amazing how quickly a little alcohol will have that voice whispering up from your pants: "Hey, it's not YOUR problem. That's between her and her guy." (Which I believe might be the "rational person's" take on the situation. Maybe I'm only rational when drunk.)

Well now that I've completely shamed myself and my family ...

The main reason you shouldn't cheat is out of respect for your partner. I don't care what sort of self-delusional excuses you make for yourself. Maybe I'm an overly romantic fool, but if you love the person and respect the person, don't cheat. Even if you only really really like the person, don't cheap. That simple.

If that's not reason enough, then do it to avoid the guilt. But, hey, I understand you might not have been raised Catholic or Jewish, so guilt could be a foreign concept. So if the guilt isn't doing the trick, don't cheat out of the fact that refraining from such naughty behavior will keep your life so much simpler and free from drama.

And if you can't do it for your partner and you can't do it for yourself, do it for all mankind. Cheating doesn't just hurt your own immediate relationship. You decided to go rock in someone else's boat, it sends ripples throughout the community, the waves landing on and eroding other shores you might never even dream of. Ladies, all those bitter guys with trust issues? You think they were born like that? Hell no. Either they've been cheated on before or have done a fair amount of cheating themselves. Guys, same goes for you. And guys, if you cad about town, cheating on your partner, then go bragging to your girlfriends about it, you're going to give them a complex, and they're going to take that complex out on some other guy. (Thanks a lot, jerk.) Girls, same goes for you. (One of the drawbacks of having as many girlfriends as I do is seeing that women aren't a fairer or better sex. Just as many of them are prone to creeping as guys--it's enough to break an idealist's heart.)

And if there are kids involved? Forget about it. (Let's just say I come by my issues with cheating the old-fashioned way).

See, so what started out as you just fooling around eventually turns into an entire country of neurotics unable to trust one another. Way to go. Hope you're happy.

Finally, if none of this gets through to you, these pleas for your partner, for humanity, for your own mental well-being, just remember the moral lessons of Hollywood. Oh, yeah, your preacher might tell you not to watch all that filth coming out of the movie industry, but it's got some important lessons to teach you. What happens when people cheat in real life? Broken hearts, broken homes, broken bank accounts. What happens when people cheat in the movies? Motherfuckers die, that's what happens.

So, for the love of God, if you don't want to die, don't cheat!

Of course, you could be a nymphomaniac drama-queen with suicidal tendencies. If that's the case, you definitely don't need to be listening to someone like me. You should be out enjoying yourself.

(Next post in series)

Part Four: Spark It Up

Or... Torturing an analogy to death

(Previous Post)

I sat across from her, my second beer going warm in my mug, trying to find the right words to let her down. It was one of those situations. She was an attractive girl but I wasn't attracted to her. Not really. A friend of mine had been attracted to her, but she'd used him to infiltrate our circle and get at some of the rest of us, including little old me. And, damnit, that just wasn't right. But it's amazing what a couple of hours at $2 Crown Night will do to your judgment, odd how you find yourself on the hood of her car, you breathing heavy, her getting wet, both of you getting really close to crossing the public indecency line. But we stopped short, went our separate ways. I chalked it up to booze and figured it would go away, take care of itself.

That's the guy's way of dealing with relationship issues. Cross your fingers, close your eyes and just pray to God you won't be required to have an actual conversation.

But she wasn't allowing me to do the fade-away. Further, all her ballsy talk about just wanting to hookup had been a lie.

We were sitting in Bennigan's (of all places) and she'd just confessed to me that she liked me. She really, really liked me. And she wanted to--say it ain't so--talk about it.

And my mind was processing a million and one different kinds of let-downs. This wasn't something I'd dealt with before. And I don't know if I've dealt with it since. At least not as honestly as I did that night.

"There's no spark," I said. "I just don't feel it. Not from my end."

"But the other night?" she asked.

"I don't know. I'm sorry."

"But you think I'm attractive, physically? We get along?"

And she started to tear up. And I started to stammer--and not the charming Hugh Grant sort of stammering either. Still, I explained. There was no spark. Sure, I thought she was funny. She was obviously smart. And she attractive. But there was just something, that undefinable thing necessary for a relationship to get going, missing. The spark.

Which didn't clear things up for her any. She tried to lay out a rational argument for her case. It was almost admirable, in a way, to witness a person making a cohesive, logical argument against being put out to pasture in the friend zone. (Much more dignified than getting drunk and writing awful poetry about unrequited love, at any rate. Not that I'd know anything about that)

But logic has nothing do with that spark.

If it did, we'd all be married and living happily ever after. And those of us who weren't would be living happy lives with four or five friends-with-benefits--and there'd be no hangups, no guilt trips, no worries.

But that ain't the way life works, now is it?

I wish it were otherwise, but I'm a firm believer in the spark. I used to explain it to more rational, able-minded people that you could take six desks, say, and put a smart, beautiful and funny woman at each one, but there'd only be one that I'd feel that certain something, that instantaneous "Gee golly, I sure like her" thing.

And chances are she'd be the craziest coot in the room. Of the six choices, she'd be the worst one I could choose. But that's a story for another day.

The romantics, the idealists, the fools... we're all big fans of the spark. We're the ones convinced that you know ... you just do ... within five minutes of sitting down with someone. (We're the people who SHOULD be going to speed-dating, but are typically too prideful because that seems to cheapen the whole thing.)

And the spark gets you into a lot of trouble. Because it almost always seems that in--let me make up a number here--9 out of 10 first dates/encounters only one person ends up with his or her little pile of kindling ablaze. And this causes problems.

You know the feeling, of course, overly romantic fool or not. You go on the date and, from your point of view, everything just seemed smooth sailing and you walk away with a huge smile on your face, a skip in your step and you start telling all your friends about how great this person is. And when they roll their eyes, you say, "No, but really. This one is special."

And you'll recognize the absence of the spark as well. You'll go on the date, have a horrible or even an okay time, but still, you sort of feel like shrugging your shoulders afterward. Your friends ask how it went and you say, "I don't know. I guess it was fucking okay." (And then they accuse you of being too damn picky. At which point you get into another argument about romance vs. realism, really high standards vs. recognizing your limitations.)

Easy enough. No? You feel the spark. You go back for more. You don't feel the spark, you should walk away. Really. It's the humane thing to do. Only you can prevent forest fires (in the ravaged minds of a neurotic obsessive who may start showing up outside your window holding a jam box over his head because you made ONE silly comment about Lloyd Dobler).

Now here's the hard part: recognizing that while your spark has budded into a steady little flame, the other person hasn't even struck a match. Hard to see through the smoke-screen of hope isn't it? (Stick around, I'll torture this analogy even more!)

To be honest, I think this might be a little harder for guys. Unless a guy's just looking to get laid (and sometimes they are), if there's no spark on the first date, that's pretty much the end of the story. But women? Women, for some reason--out of indecision, boredom, financial necessity, a pool of pure fucking malice at the bottom of a black, black heart--will drag out the dating process.

I have friends who'll go on six or seven dates with a guy and the best they can muster is "Ehh, you know. He's not awful." I'll never in my life be able to understand that, especially if it becomes clear that the guy, you know, really, really likes you. And they'll say, "Well, something COULD happen. It could develop."

To which I say: "Bullshit." You KNOW. You know by the end of the first date--even with the nerves and the stress and all the other shit--whether you're set to a simmer. And you know what else? Most of the time, you know, deep down inside whether that other person's is flaming for you or if it's just a cold little spot where a fire never started.

Oh, you know. You might not want to admit it to yourself, but you know. That little voice is whispering to you. And when your cheerleader friends come around and make it sound like you have a fighting chance, that little voice is saying "Bullshit. You know it's bullshit. They're just telling you what you want to hear. Not even your own mom ever did that for you."

And that's always the hardest part, listening to that little voice, especially if your paramour just DOES it for you. It's always easier to douse a smallish flame for someone you find moderately attractive. But if the spark got out of control and you have the hots for your intended? Some woman who, when you think about her nekkid, makes it impossible to stand up in public? Some guy who makes you a little moist in the muffin? Forget it. You'll make a laundry list of excuses for that person. That little smoke-screen of hope from your kindling will be magically transformed into a billowing-black tire-fire of false hope. (HA! The analogy has just died from torture. Somebody call The Hague and bring me up on crimes against metaphorical humanity.) But you will make excuses. "Well, he didn't return my 16 emails because he's busy." Or, "She didn't call because she's pre-occupied with the abortion from her last relationship." Or, "He only calls at 2 in the morning while drunk and in my neighborhood because he has a weird calling plan and doesn't want to get hit with overage charges."

Hey, can you hear me now? Wake the fuck up, will ya?

If you're the type who lives and dies by the spark, you should respect it. If you don't feel it, walk away. If you feel your own spark, but can see that the other person isn't feeling much at all, walk away.

If you both feel the spark, well then congratu---HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, that never happens. Just fucking with you.

Of course, this, like all of the rest of my advice, is the kind of advice I usually don't take. I am getting better about the older I get, though.

The younger Ken would fan his spark into a flame and go set it out on a woman's windowsill, whether she wanted it there or not. He'd be happily miserable sitting out in the friend pasture for months, hoping she'd come around. Sometimes he'd even get drunk and push the candle from her windowsill onto the floor, setting a garbage can or a curtain on fire, in essence demanding that his passion be recognized. (God, if you could only see the smile on my face as I kick the corpse of this analogy. If one of you doesn't enter this into some bad-writing contest, I'll be heartbroken.)

But older Ken? He tries to hide his flame a little better, doesn't stick to the chase for months, and if he sees that he's being herded out into the friend pasture, will just go let himself out of the "Fuck you, I have enough friends gate," and walk away. (Okay, maybe he'll leave by the "Uh, see you later, I got things to do gate" and just be done with it).

Okay. I'd better stop. I've mangled an analogy, wrote two paragraphs in which I referred to myself in the third person and now have this really strong desire to go set things on fire.

(Next post in series)

Part Five: The Friend Zone

(Previous post) BUY THIS BOOK!

You say he's just a friend ...

Hello, and welcome back to the Friend Zone. If you have your Frequent Friend Zone card on hand, we'll be happy to stamp it for you before we proceed. By now, you undoubtedly know the drill, but we will go through standard procedures anyway.

First and foremost, we understand and sympathize with the fact that you are here against your will. How you got here-whether you were too passive, never had a shot, acted too much like a sibling, or, perhaps don't realize yet that you're gay-is not really our business and it's not at issue. These things happen, to some of us more than others, sure, but such is life.

Here, have a drink. You'll need it. Of course it tastes bitter. What did you expect? And sit down while we explain, once again, your options.

Option One is to stay here in the Friend Zone. Staying in the Friend Zone gives the impression that you're a mature human being, one willing to take the high road. And, should you find some way to get beyond your obsession, you may end up with a true and good friend. You may come to see this other person as a human and value their insights, their words, enjoy their trust and all the things a real friend has to offer.

But we both know, deep down inside, that that's not going to happen. Because part of the job of being a friend is listening. And here in the Friend Zone, you'll have to listen to her problems. And her problems will, for some reason, always stem from the abuse she's taking from the guy currently in the Boyfriend Zone. You, of course, can try to be a good friend, a good listener and help her out. Feel free to do so. If you enjoy sleepless nights spent alone while alternating between abject depression, feelings of worthlessness and monstrous fits of jealous rage, knock yourself out. Who are we to judge?

Option Two, of course, is to walk across the Friend Zone, open up the door and, simply, leave. This would be the smart thing to do, but again, we don't want to pressure you. Sure, it might seem petty to just walk away. Maybe the object of your affection will be mystified, possibly a little hurt. But let us point out that your primary purpose in life shouldn't be to provide emotional support and affection for someone who has no intentions of climbing into the sack with you. Ever. And while we would never suggest you say something like "Fuck this, I have enough friends" … actually, we would suggest that, not because we value honesty above all, but we like seeing the look on people's faces when they hear that. Also, we understand how hard it will be for you to walk through that door, which entails a complete halt to emails, phone calls, IM, text messaging and all the other things you might use to keep false hope, your biggest enemy in the dating game, alive.

And there you have it. Again, welcome to the Friend Zone. Stay as long as you like. Or leave. Those are your only choices. No matter what anyone says, you cannot leave the Friend Zone the way you came in. There is no door that leads from here to Girlfriend or Boyfriend Zone. You may notice the door, behind the bar, that leads to Drunken One-Night Hookup that Instills in You So Much Hope that You Can't Help but Want to Kill Yourself When You Realize That She's Shoved You Right Back into the Friend Zone (and She's Highly Embarrassed). We don't need to tell you to avoid that. Do we?

So stay. Or go. Your choice. And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

(Next post in series)

Part Six: The Flipside of Friend Zone

(Previous Post)

Thou hast cast someone into the Friend Zone. Yea, you have banished someone from the garden of your earthly delights, damning them to live in your absence.

But, thou, too shall live by the rules set down by the elders.

This, above all, shall thou keep in thine mind and in thine heart:

Thou shalt not give cause for false hope.

Verily, verily I say unto you my brothers and sisters... Okay, enough with the Bible talk. You get the point. In an earlier post, I offered a welcome to those of you who've found yourselves sequestered to the Friend Zone and offered some guidelines for survival in such a barren land.

But there's the other side to consider. If you've placed someone in the Friend Zone there are rules to be followed. Not guidelines, mind you. Not some namby-pamby United Nations-like "we suggest you follow these." No. These are rules. This is law. By punting someone into the Friend Zone, you've set yourself up as a super power, a god of sorts and, to quote Spidey once again, "With great power comes great responsibility." If I find that you've been breaking these laws, me and the other gods are gonna come over and beat you about the face and neck. Got it? Good.

The laws fall under one basic rubric: the aforementioned false-hope statute.

Anything you say or do that gives false hope to the Just a Friend shall and will be held against you. Now, perhaps you're playing stupid and saying, "What does that mean? How can I extend false hope to someone else?"

First, quit playing stupid. It's not attractive. Not even in blondes.

Second, shut up and listen. You agreed to these rules. Oh. Yes. You. Did. Remember when Just a Friend made that full confession that he or she does indeed want to impregnate you, carry your children or love you forever. Remember how you, instead of immediately saying "Seriously, this ain't ever gonna happen. Ever," you immediately started using words like "sweet" and "nice" and "I'm just not ready" or "It's not you, it's me" and, instead of saying, "Maybe we should just back off here," you actually said, "I don't want to ruin our friendship, can we still be friends?" And Just a Friend, with a mix of remorse and hope in her eyes, said, "Yeah, sure. I can do that."

Remember that moment of pure self delusion on both your parts?

Well, now it's time to pay for it.

So, suck it up, and play by the rules:

1. You must avoid dates or date-like situations. You cannot, should not, under any circumstance, let yourself be talked into going out to dinner, movies, walks in parks, art receptions with Just a Friend if it will only be you two. Groups of friends? Fine. Just a Friend and you? Not fine.

2. You must not invite Just a Friend over to watch a movie, to hang out or anything of that nature without at least three other people present.

3. Neither can you flirt or engage with sexual banter with this friend. Maybe you did before hand, and sure it was witty and fun and slightly dangerous. Now, it's very dangerous. You want to flirt, seek out your current crush. Do it with your other friends who aren't spending the bulk of their time pining away for you?

4. No. Touching. Ever. Ever. (Okay. If a loved one of Just a Friend dies, you can give Just a Friend a hug. KEEP IT SHORT.)

5. You are not to turn to Just a Friend for emotional support in times of need. Just a Friend will surely take this the wrong way, as a sign that maybe, just maybe, if she figures out how to solve your emotional problem you will see the light and welcome her into your arms.

6. You are to go nowhere near Just a Friend immediately after one of your own relationships have blown up in your face. Especially if you've been drinking. (Just a Friend should never, ever be confused with Friend with Benefits.)

7. You are not to call Just a Friend just to talk. About anything. Ever.

By this point, you're probably saying "Ken, if I go by all those rules, then I'm not really dealing with a friend."

Ahhhh, now you catch on, young grasshopper. Be realistic. Once Just a Friend made his confession and you slapped his ass into the Friend Zone, you ceased being friends in any meaningful sense of the word. You have to be very aware, at all times, that this "friend" of yours is no longer a friend, but rather a low-level stalker who is lying to your face about being emotionally mature enough to remain friends. And every sexual innuendo, every sly joke, every bit of flirtation, every uttered word will be blown completely out of proportion and will fan the flames of hope. Also, despite anything he might say, he goes to bed at night praying that whatever relationships you may be pursuing go to hell in a handbasket.

Yet, for some reason, you keep this person around. Perhaps because you're the type who is addicted to attention, whose ego needs a constant and vigorous stroking.

Can you reclaim this friendship at some point? Possibly. But only after Just a Friend has spent a lot of time in the Friend Zone. Consider the Friend Zone a hyperbaric chamber and your Just a Friend a diver who's come up too quickly. He might not want to be in that chamber, but he has to be. And you have to keep the lid shut tight for HIS OWN GOOD (and for yours, too). You probably shouldn't let him out until you're both in relationships. And you must always be very careful of recrushing.

So we've established this much. We're on the same stone tablet here. Now for some guidelines. These guidelines are completely optional and determine whether or not Just a Friend will one day become a real friend again or take the back door out of the Friend Zone, cursing your name for all eternity. It's your choice. These guidelines are specifically designed not only to NOT instill hope, but to completely crush the soul. If you want Just a Friend to remain a friend, DO NOT do the following. If you want Just a Friend to take a hike, but you don't have the balls to say so, DO the following:

1. Use the phrase Just a Friend within earshot.

2. Use words like sweet and nice in the same way you'd use them with a mentally challenged person.

3. Say things like, "Wow, you're so much like my brother/sister/dad/mom."

4. Talk repeatedly about any crushes you have going on.

5. Spout effusively about the great girl/guy you just started seeing.

6. Speak excitedly about the hot yet emotionally meaningless wild monkey sex you've been having with complete strangers over the last two weeks.

7. In social situations, introduce him/her as Just a Friend, especially to members of the opposite sex. "This is Tom, he's just a friend."

So, there you have it. Sounds a bit harsh, sure, but the laws of nature and love are red in tooth and claw. Luckily for you, if you play by the rules in this situation, it won't be your blood figuratively splattered all over the walls. (Although there is the chance of Just a Friend going completely psycho and splattering your actual bl... well, nevermind. You're obviously too good a judge of character to ever let something like that happen.)

Have a nice day.

(Next post in series)

Part Seven: The Chase

(Previous post)

I have this friend. It's always the same thing. Meets someone, gets interested. The intended victim returns the interest and the friend, suddenly, isn't so interested. The intended victim, an apparently rational person, decides to shove off, to spend time on more worthwile pursuits, like fighting crime or underwater basket weaving. But two days after the victim has wandered off to more fertile soil, my friend, lo and behold, is suddenly interested again. So the emails, phone calls, text messages, IMs, smoke signals and billboards on the BQE start up again. The victim, letting logic fail, truly becomes a victim and comes running back to my friend. My friend, of course, quickly loses interest.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

This friend is a woman--which should be obvious from my awkward avoidance of personal pronouns in the above paragraph. But I'd bet good money that guy readers had "my friend" pegged as an attention-starved fickle girl. And women readers had "my friend" pegged as a jerk of a guy in constant need of ego (and other) stroking.

It seems a gender neutral phenomenon. And it often boils down to the simple explanation of wanting what we can't have and not wanting what we can. Not too long ago, in one of those wild weeks when I had, like three or four girl options from which to choose, a girlfriend of mine asked "Well, this one sounds just right. What's wrong with her?" My reply: "Oh, her? She's interested in me." (Obviously, I made all the right choices at that juncture.)

Sure, there might be minor motivational differences. A guy might keep changing his mind, thinking he might, after all, like to tap that ass. And a girl might suffer from the Frog Prince mentality: give him one more chance and/or a kiss (or more) and he'll magically transform into something she'll REALLY TRULY be attracted to.

But most of it boils down to pure ego. "She ain't getting over me that easily." Or, "He's totally not going to get THAT infatuated with someone else THAT fast." (Want to bet?)

Of course, there is the third thing, much more common among women. What I refer to is the woman who gets addicted to the attention of a paramour. And even though such a woman can barely stand to be seen in public with him, even feels a little skeevy when he comes around, she can stand less the idea of losing that attention, and even less than that, seeing the attention that is rightfully hers being squandered on someone else.

And I think, too, that women have an extra special Spidey sense about these things. I can't begin to tell you the times that I've been afflicted with infatuation, have finally decided to be done with it, have made real and true progress in putting my crush out of mind, when, lo!, the phone fucking rings.

Women. One question for you: How do you KNOW?!?

Of course, this is all part of the chase. And the aformentioned types of people are simply those who are addicted to the chase. We all know people who are. I guess at one time or another in anyone's life, we've all been more interested in the pursuit rather than the pursued. It's like playing tag. You're just running around the playground trying to catch something, not really caring what it is. (Well, unless it's the clap, cuz no one wants to catch THAT.)

Some folks are like dogs chasing a car. Some instinct takes over and they tear ass down the street, braying at the top of their lungs, having the time of their lives, tongue lolling out to the side, slobbering all over the place. Yet they have no real idea what it is they're chasing, why they're chasing it and, ultimately, what the hell they'd do with this thing when they catch it. I think guys fall into that category more often. "Oh shit, she likes me now AND she slept with me. Now what?"

Other folks are like cats. They start the chase, acquire the target quickly, then play with it for two hours. They might eat it. They might not. Either way, they're going to have their fun and inflict a hell of a lot of damage in the process.

And there are those who have it allll figured out, the playground leaders, the people who will go on to be student body president or captain of the football team or something equally annoying. These are the types that tell you what the rules are, how you have to play the game. "Nah, man. You're doing it all wrong. Yeah, you have to chase some. But then you have to stop. You can't look too interested." Or, "You have to play hard to get. You can't just call HIM. Are you insane? He'll think you're easy, some kind of slut."

I'd call those people... well, married. Or perpetually single. Or your parents. Whatever they are, they constantly give me chasing, gaming advice that I'm completely incapable of following.

Me? I'm like that spoiled kid in the neighborhood, the little shit who always quit in a huff if the game wasn't going his way. I'll start the chase at a good clip and, depending on my mood and time of year, run an all out sprint or might even settle into a steady pace. But sooner than later, I'll just get fed up, draw up short, stamp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs: "This game is stupid and I quit."

Everyone else on the playing field will stop. A frightened look will come over the chasees face and the other players will shake their heads, thinking, "Oh, god, he's not really going to do this. Again."

"I quit," I'll scream again. "This game is dumb. I quit. And I know I'm not supposed to be so obvious, but I like you, like you. So their, I said it. You happy now? Oh, that's right. Get scared. You run home too! See if I care. I didn't like you anyway. And, for the record, I was going home first. So have a nice life and I hope your next boyfriend beats you! NYAHHH!!!"

I guess I'm just mature like that. And, yes, as a child I played the game of tags with car-chasing dogs and aloof mouse-torturing cats. I'm not mixing metaphors, I was just a lonely child. Really, really lonely.

Either way, if you're out on the playground, enjoy the chase. And don't catch the clap.

(Next post in series)

Part Eight: Friends with Benefits

(Previous post)

"You shouldn't fuck your friends, literally or figuratively."

That's taken from an email sent to me by a friend of mine a while back. Poor sumbitch had gotten tangled up in one of my dramatic episodes and, rightly so, had had it up to here (imagine hand being held at eye-height). Oddly enough, I hadn't ever, EVER, fucked this particular friend, but that's irrelevant.

What is relevant is that I have to disagree with my friend-with the literal part of that statement at any rate.

Now, I'm in now way advocating that everyone run out and start having wild monkey sex with your friends. In a perfect world, we could do this without wholesale emotional damage, inadvertent pregnancies and the clap. Then again, in a perfect world, drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels in a night would leave one full of vim and vigor the next morning-and enhance liver and brain functions. In a perfect world, pork would be a health food and watermelon would have more vitamins than spinach. In a perfect world, Michael Moore would be flipping burgers at the Flint McDonald's and getting his ass kicked on the walk back to his dirty little efficiency apartment on the wrong side of the tracks.

But it's not a perfect world. This, we know.

And engaging in monkey business with friends is not something to rush into. You have to be able to do two things to engage in this behavior.

Rule 1 You have to be able to lay everything down on the line before hand. "Hi. You are my friend. I think you are attractive but I do not want to date you. I do, however, think that since we are both horny at the moment, have no better options and are drunk, we should roll around in the sack. It goes without saying, of course, that a) we shall not freak out due to guilt and shame in the morning and b) this does not imply a dating situation should ensue."

Rule 2 You BOTH have to have an almost-superhuman ability to completely ignore the quite obvious warning signs that one or both of you have violated aforementioned sections a and b of Rule 1.
I'm pretty good at the first requirement. And over the years, I've become REALLY good at the second one. Then again, I'm a man, so keeping up a wall of noncommunication in the face of awkwardness, hoping a problem will take care of itself eventually ... that just comes second nature to me.

Some people claim that in order to meet the above requirements, you need two people of amazing emotional maturity, two people who realize that sex is just sex and a good time can be had by all as long as certain emotions are checked at the door. Others would claim that you need people of amazing moral depravity. Still others would say two such people would have to be equally numb to normal human emotion after years of abuse at the hands of other people.

Of those options, what do I believe?

Depends on my mood. And it goes without saying that alcohol would be involved.

Whatever the reasons, I seem to have become somewhat adept at pulling off this sort of behavior, seeing as how a handful of women friends of mine have, over time, given me the honor and, more important, didn't or don't want to kill me. This seems to baffle both genders. Women wonder how this was pulled off without drama of operatic magnitude. Guys want to know why the hell I'd want to stay friends with a woman after getting what I wanted from her. (I kid. I kid. Mostly.)

But, if, for whatever reasons, you find yourself with a friend (or friends) capable of this behavior, I highly recommend it. It's a hell of a lot better, in my book, than doing your business in a dark, silent room lit only by a computer monitor or with the accompanying buzz of a battery-powered Humongo 5000. Is the slight guilt of sleeping with a friend any worse than the dirty feeling you get from surfing the wonderful world of Hustler (and knowing that you're keeping Larry Flynt in Depends?)

I wish I could offer foolproof advice for how to get yourself ensnared in a friends-with-benefits situation, but the truth of the matter is it's harder than it looks and not as satisfactory as it would seem. The difficulty comes about because ego and paranoia will get the better of one or both of you. Someone's going to become convinced that the other one is falling in love. And this ties into the reason such situations aren't that satisfactory: The ultimate truth of the matter is that you're both just making do. Sex is fun and it's good and it's nice. But, let's be honest, even between weekends of getting your friendly freak on-and, yes, enjoying yourself-chances are you're both keeping an eye out for "the one." Sure, the sex could be the best ever. And you both obviously enjoy one another's company and have things in common. But if things are all that AND a bag of chips, you wouldn't be friends with benefits. No. You'd be married.

Friends with benefits certainly isn't my first choice of relationship options. But again, there's only so much can give me in terms of meaningful sexual contact.

But as long as you're both honest about the options and potentially mind-shattering emotional problems, as long as you admit that this is little more than a horizontal holding pattern, hell, enjoy yourselves.

I'd also like to point out that this in no way contradicts my earlier posts about the Friend Zone. The Friend Zone is an entirely different phenomenon, an area in which you are placed in against your will. Should you be in the Friend Zone and the friend in question decides to give you a weekend pass across the Booty Border, you are already in violation of Rule 1 sections a and b. You have no one to blame but yourself when you are faced with irreparable emotional damage when the friend places you right back in the Friend Zone again. I've been offered this poisonous apple before and taken it. Hilarity, it goes without saying, did not ensue. No. What ensued was a bunch of badly written "poetry," all copies of which have hopefully been burned and erased from hard drives.

That's not to say I look kindly upon people who take advantage of others they've placed in the Friend Zone. As Spider-Man says, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Having sex with friends is all well and good (Spidey-suit is optional), but if you're having sex with a friend who is crushing, smitten, infatuated, in love or otherwise obsessed with you, and you have no intention of returning any of that-even if the other person lies and says "Yeah, I'm cool. It's just sex"-you are an evil, evil person and shall burn in hell for all eternity. We all engage in a certain amount of self-delusion when we find an unwanted crush attached to us like a leech. But there are lines that shouldn't be crossed.

In conclusion: sex with friends can be good, as long as you're both mature, honest, drunk ... and incapable of normal human emotion.

(Next post in series)

Special Valermtines Day Edition

(Previous post)

Hold on tight folks, here comes Valentine's Day, the holiday romantics just love to hate ... and regular folks just shrug off as another thing to get through.

(Oh, and there's some practical advice buried in here somewhere.)

For those of us who are single, it's a thousand stabs to the heart and ego to see all the happy couples enjoying a romantic evening (or three or four when, like this year, Valentine's Day falls on a Monday, giving them the excuse to drag it out all weekend). For those in a stable relationship, it's a thousand stabs to the eyes and ego to see all the happy couples enjoying a romantic evening. Where do the hell do they come from, anyway? They're not fooling anyone. Oh, no. You know that once Valentine's Day is over, they'll go right back to the bitter nag-fest that is reality. Let them flaunt this "fake" relationship. You know the score.

As a repeatedly failing romantic, I should have my stack of issues with the day, but truth is, it seemed worse when I was in a relationship. I remember way, way back in the day, when I found myself for the first time in my life in a relationship on the holy day. Finally, here was my chance. I could be shamelessly romantic. We'd exchanged the L word and, besides, she was into shameless romance, so there was nothing to stop me. But alas, fate has its own things in store for schmucks like me. Every year, one thing or another would go wrong. Eventually Valentine's Day became just another New Year's Eve--a holiday unable to live up to the hype.

So between being the single guy and not even getting it right while in a relationship, I should hate the holiday. Really, I should. But it's very hard to unlearn years of "romantic" ideals successfully implanted in my weak mind by sitcoms, Hollywood and Hallmark.

But the sorry truth of the matter is I still want to believe, if not for me, then for the rest of you. Hell, even when I get all melodramatic about being alone on Valentine's Day, it's still tinged with some sort of weird hope. I'm like the Fox Mulder of pathetic holidays.

I remember a time in grad school, shortly after the dissolution of the big relationship. I was crushing on a colleague in the English Department, a fellow cubicle dweller. And here came Valentine's Day. I saw it as the perfect excuse to declare my stupidity infatuation. There I was, making $450 a month thanks to my huge teaching stipend and supporting a huge drinking habit and what do I do? I drop 80 bucks--the weekend of Mardi Gras, no less--of my hard-earned credit card to have roses sent to her.

Huzzah! Behold the Grand Gesture!

I don't think I have to tell you what a miserable failure that turned out to be.

Wait. Hold that comment for one second. Some of you may be saying, "Wow. I would have been floored by such a grand gesture. I wish a guy would do that for me."

And others (like Karol, probably) are thinking, "Wow. That was insane. Too much, too soon. Probably scared off someone who might have had potential."

Well, you're both wrong. And you're both right.

Of course you'd be floored, impressed, touched if someone revealed a crush on you in a dramatic fashion ... but only if you liked that person in return.

But if you didn't? Well, then you pull out the letdown language. "Sweet." "Nice." "Like a brother." "Such a good friend." "Ummm, look at the time."

Perhaps you start quoting the Jenny prayer from Forrest Gump. "Dear Lord, please make me a bird so I can fly far, far away."

And that's perfectly understandable. No one wants to be on the receiving end of a grand gesture if they can't respond in kind. (Well, no one except egotistical, self-absorbed jerks hooked on attention no matter where it comes from who just like to take, take, take.)

What's my point in all of this? Only cupid knows. The fact of the matter is Valentine's Day should be easy for most folks.

If you're single, you just bitch about it, pine away, or go to an anti-Valentine's day party and find another lonely hookup for the night. (In a city like New York, it's actually a great night for singles. Guys, try this one: "Baby, ain't no reason a girl like you should be single tonight. My place is around the corner." Girls: "I'm lonely. Take me home.")

If you're in a relationship, play along. Would it kill you? Or, if it's a mutual agreement and not some sort of weird emotional trap, just ignore the holiday entirely and let others enjoy it.

The people who find themselves most in trouble around this time of year, though, are the ones who've only recently started a relationship (or worse, people who THINK they've started a relationship, whereas the other half thinks he or she is just having a fling). I'd guess there are millions of people across this fair land freaking out at this very moment. I know there's at least ONE person out there thinking along the lines of "I've only been dating this guy for five weeks. How do I treat this damned holiday. Oh my god, what do I do?"

Well, I'll give you two options. Option one, you should completely ignore, because it's something I would do.

Option one is: Do what you damn well please. Ignore the sage counsel of your friends who've watched you repeatedly make an ass of yourself with grand gestures and follow your gut instinct. Want to send flowers, candy and a love poem that you wrote yourself? Go nuts. Want to sneak into his apartment, take off all your clothes and wrap yourself up in a big pink bow? By all means, do so. Of course, you can just send a card, sure, but if you're inner moron romantic is screaming out, just do it.

Aside from a restraining order, what's the worst that could happen?

Well, yes, you could be dumped. In exchange for all your troubles, you could get in return, not a card or a kiss, but the big old "We need to talk."

To which I say, "So what?"

You've just saved both of you a whole lot of time and trouble. Obviously, you weren't on the same emotional playing field. And there's a 2% chance that you're intended REALLY isn't ready yet for THAT sort of relationship. But history teaches us that if he or she isn't ready now, he or she probably won't ever catch up to you--especially if you're the hopeless romantic type (which you obviously are). You've already, at this stage in the game, got a mismatch that's only going to end in the "It's not you, it's me" talk, whether it be two days after a Valentine's Day freakout or three months down the road when you're really, really in it up to your eyeballs.

So by all means, make the grand gesture. That's what the holiday is for (I mean aside from fattening the coffers of Hallmark, American Greetings, Hershey, and MasterFoods). Take charge. Who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe it's the EXACT thing your intended is secretly hoping for. That's what you've been telling yourself to justify this anyway.

And if he or she dumps your ass in a heartbeat, that just frees you to move on and find your TRUE soulmate, someone as foolishly romantic as yourself (although those sorts of people sort of freak you out, when you're really honest about it).

Consider me your enabler in very unwise relationship decisions.

Option Two It you want to be "normal," if you want advice from a sane person intended for use by a sane person? Offer to cook your intended dinner and buy him or her a slightly naught Valentine's Day card. (And by naughty, I mean suggestive and slightly flirtatious. Not something with 12 inches of man meat on the inside flap.) Cooking dinner is tried, true and safe (I'm assuming you're not a complete kitchen idiot and won't set yourself on fire). The dinner lets you feel like you're making an almost grand gesture. It sends the message "I like you quite a bit" while staying well away from the realm of saying "My god, this is freaking me out. I like you so much. You're the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of before going to sleep at night. You haunt my dreams, both day and night. It's only been four weeks, but I think I'd actually move in with you right now."

The only risk in that plan is if you have too much wine at dinner and accidentally say that last part out loud.

Then you're really screwed.

But good luck, either way.

(Next post in series)

Part Nine: Making the Move

When 'Ladies First' Is Optional

(Previous post)

There comes a time in a man's life when he wants nothing more in the world than to lean over to the person across from him, look into her (or his) eyes and stick his tongue into her mouth.

But life, as we all know, is not that simple.

It takes courage--real, liquid or some other type--to make that kind of move. And with good reason. Sticking your tongue into another person's mouth is not only a very weird thing to do--go on, think about it. I mean really think about the concept of putting your tongue into someone else's mouth. Does that make any kind of sense to you?--no, it's not only a weird thing to do, it's an extremely personal and intimate thing (unless you're both drunk at your third cousin's funeral). You are invading another person's space. You are intruding upon her body.

What if she doesn't like you like that? What if she doesn't want your tongue in her mouth? What if she pushes you away? What if she slaps you?

Or, worse, what if she stands there, very still, until you get the message and stop? Then she gives you a blank stare of appraisal. Any number of things could be going through her mind. What if your breath stinks? What if she actually hated you before but now would like you to spend the rest of eternity in hell, tossing Michael Jackson's salad? What if she sort of liked you before, but your kissing skills proved so inadequate that she...? Haha. I kid. Like that idea would even occur to a guy. But seriously, what if she sort of liked you but now questions your moral character after such a brazen attempt at licking the back of her teeth?

Of course, if you're a woman and feeling the urge to make a first move, you can multiply all of the above insecurities by one hundred because your mind has been thoroughly warped by mixed messages about a woman's proper behavior, women's rights, what men really think about women's rights and the guilt of whatever religion you belong to. For this particular puddle of neuroses, you can thank your mom, the media and Paris Hilton--in that order.

Ultimately, though, the answer to all of these What If questions is as simple as a shoe commercial. Just do it. Or, in this case, just try to do it. Why? Well, why not? Look at it this way. Making the first makeout move--whether it be a first or second date or just a drunken moment at a bar or party--serves as one of those clarifying moments. She likes you or she doesn't? If she does, great. If she doesn't, move on.

As I cobble this sloppy system of advice together, you may notice that the bedrock it's built on is this: Nine out of ten times, the person across from you has already made up her mind about you, has already determined that you've been written off, you will be soon, or you get her so tingly and moist she's going to put up with quite amount of foolishness on your part (in the beginning). So, unless you've just polished off a can of dog food or manage to rip out a filling or poke out an eye with your tongue, you've got little to worry about.

Except your dignity. And rejection. Yes. There's the rub. Easier said than done and all that. If we were all able to follow my kind of advice therapists would be out of work.

Basically, what I just said to you is: "Hey, get over your insecurities and fear of rejection."

And we all nodded as if that was just the easiest thing in the world to do. But we know it's not. That's why we have therapists and best friends and a gajillion dollar magazine industry giving both girls and boys all sorts of stupid and useless advice.

Want some practical advice? Go get yourself good and drunk.

Okay. Drunk yet? Great. Now let's try that again. Go get her, tiger.

Just do it.

See, now that wasn't so hard was it? Well, okay it was hard and man, I think that hand print is going to stick around for awhile.

Again, I kid.

Either she kissed you back or pushed you away and gave you a nasty look. Or worse pushed you away, called you sweet and said something about being friends.

Either he returned your smooches and said, "Wow, that was nice." Or, well, returned your smooches, maybe slipped his hands down your pants then gently pushed you away and said "My mamma warned me about wanton she sluts like you." Or he turned just at the last minute, caught you on the cheek and said, "You're just like a sister to me." Or worse, backed up, chucked you on the chin and said, "Man, you're just like one of the guys. Let's do a shot."

At least now you know. You've either got a smile on the inside and out or the hot flush or rejection reddening your face and neck.

But you know what? The little twinge of rejection will hurt a great deal less than if you don't do anything at all and delude yourself into thinking you're just waiting for the right moment, that you still have a shot with someone who's obviously opened up that little door behind you and placed you in--all together now--THE FRIEND ZONE!!!!!

So, drunk or sober, make the move.

As with most of my advice, I have a very hard time following it. Hell, since I've given up booze for lent, I've also resigned myself to the fact that I'm giving up on smooching and sex. Personally, I typically have to be good and drunk to make the first move. And, paradoxically, the MORE I like the person the drunker I have to be. If I think you're hot and fun and just want to shag and I've had a few? You might want to get out your stick, because you're gonna have to beat me off. (Wow, that sounds bad on all sorts of levels, don't it?) But if I like you-like you? Some twisted, overly idealistic part of my head is so busy building you up into an honorable woman or purity and virtue that I'll either have to be half a shot away from a good stomach pumping before I try anything. I only say these things to explain to you that I, too, am human and am not, in fact, some kind of Messiah of Macking (as if anyone had made the mistake of thinking that).

And as with most of my advice, this is completely gender neutral. Ladies, despite anything your mamma may have told you, a guy is not going to see you as a slut if you make the first move. (Hell, she's just projecting anyway. And you should tell your mamma there's a difference between making the first move and doing half the town she grew up in. That's not your fault and she shouldn't try to make you pay for her mistakes.) But seriously, we do get tired of being the one to have to go in for the kill, the one to worry about the rejection, of feeling like a predatory horndog if you do shoot us down in flames. It's bad enough that for all your bitching about equal rights, you still expect us to ask for the number first, call first, pay for the first date, and take a bullet for you if a mugger attacks us at the end of the night. That's fine. That's the way the world should be.

But really, help us out a little bit on this first kiss thing. Look, you don't even have to REALLY make the first move. If you want to be kissed--and come on baby, you know you want it--make your body language so obvious that Stevie Wonder could see it. Because, let's be honest, our heads have been all screwed up, too, by all you women selling us loads of bullshit about wanting a sensitive man who respects your boundaries and blahdeblahblahblah--when, in fact, you know damn well if you really dig the guy, you wouldn't mind if he ripped your bodice and got his hands all tangled up in your hair.

And if you don't want to be kissed? Just don't get too close. Don't hug. Don't even go for a cheek kiss. If you don't want a tongue up your nose, don't put your face anywhere near his.

That's simple, isn't it? I'm glad we understand one another. Coming soon; :Going All the Way," aka: "When 'Ladies First' is NOT Optional," aka: "Don't Worry About Giving the Milk Away for Free, He's Already Made up His Mind Regarding the Purchase of This Particular Cow."

(Next post in series)

Part Ten: Going All the Way

or, When 'Ladies First' is NOT Optional
or Don't Worry About Giving the Milk Away for Free, He's Already Made up His Mind Regarding the Purchase of This Particular Cow

(Previous post)

Now that you and your special friend have exchanged saliva, it's time to move on. You've put your tongue in her mouth, it's now time to put it elsewhere.

Let's overlook the fact that I've managed to completely ignore certain things like "Meeting someone" and "Securing a date" and "How not to totally screw up the first date." Let's just get straight to the good stuff.

Also, let's grossly oversimplify things by saying that there are two types of first-time sex.

The first is the "We had quite a bit to drink on the first or second date and went all the way." In the case of the woman, she convinced herself that no way was that going to happen. She will start to overanalyze the situation and worry that the man now thinks she's a slut or she's easy. She will feel guilty. For most women, no matter how "liberated" she may be, the voice of her mother or grandmother will start haranguing her through the haze of that hangover. In the case of the man, he'll wake up thinking, "Sweet" and then, "Man, I need some coffee."

The second is the "I really like this person and I don't want to rush into it just yet because I want it to be special." Of course, by special, we mean we're going to go on three, four or five dates, letting the pressure build up, making it obvious to both of you exactly what's going on here, that the sex will now be imbued with all sorts of meaning and expectations. When the time finally comes around and, ladies, you're wearing your special skivvies and are freshly shaved, waxed and plucked, you'll both end up getting nervous and the sex will never live up to whatever it was you built up in your mind in the first place. Then the woman will think, "Was it too soon" and "God, that was over kind of quick" and "Maybe he doesn't really like me." The man will think, "Sweet" and then, "I'm getting suddenly sleepy, I wonder if she enjoy ... zzzzzzzzzzz."

Either of those options is perfectly valid. I think the first gets too much of a bad rap. I think the second is silly for obvious reasons, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't fall into that same trap sometimes. And even some of the most manly, ornery men in the world have also decided to take it slow when it was a woman they really liked. Okay, that's a lie. Those ornery men only convinced themselves that it was partly their idea that they're waiting for an arbitrary date to compare naughty bits.

And ladies? I've lectured some of you about this before. You really need to get over this "He's going to think I'm easy and run off if I have sex with him too soon" thing. If you want to have sex with the guy, if you think it would be fun, you might as well do it sooner than later? Why? If he's the type of guy who'd ditch you after having sex on the first or second date, he's the type of guy who'd ditch you after having sex on the fifth or sixth date. He could be a player. He could be a nice guy who's got subconscious issues, a guy who doesn't even realize he's the type who's much more into the challenge represented by the woman than the woman herself. And that's usually what it is, a matter of conquest, of winning a game. I can almost guarantee you that most guys never have sex with a girl early on and think, "Gee golly. She's way too easy for my liking. Mamma warned me about girls like that." You keep stringing him along, trying to get your emotional hooks in him, if he's the type, he's STILL going skeedaddle shortly after you give it up.

If he's really and truly smitten with you, he's not going to think less of you if you give it up. In fact, especially as men get a little older and feel like they're getting short on time, they're much more likely to get bored with this sort of game. If you want to wait for any particular reason--religion, you've been burned before, it's just your style--be sure to be upfront about the waiting period, your reasons for establishing it and how long it's going to be, whether it be "When I'm damn well ready" or "When you take the white dress off of me in some hotel room in Tahiti."

Either way, I ask you, considering you are sexually active and you DO want to get your freak on with this guy, what's the point of waiting. If he is the type who's going to jet about five minutes after he gets his, would you rather that happen early on, when it's a minor infatuation and you can shrug it off as "Well, I had a good time, even if he was a prick," or later on when you've convinced yourself that this relationship is going places and now you're heart is crushed AND you feel like a fool for giving it up to someone you THOUGHT had deep feelings for you? I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a guy, but I'd much rather feel slightly sluttish than like a Grade A chump.

If the guy is really into you, though, you shouldn't worry so much about this. Like I said, if he's a good guy and he likes you... then he's a good guy and he likes you. If you want to add a little extra insurance, fine. It's simple. Kick his ass in the sack. Give him everything he thinks he wants, then give him some more. And don't let him stop after the first go around (it's a bad precedent to set anyway). Make him sweat, make him faint, make him work so hard that he'll be so sore the next couple of days he'll HAVE to think about you every time he tries to move.

But. BUT. You should only do this AFTER he's tried to do the same for you. This sort of thing should be a reward for good behavior.

Couple of things to the ladies. Yes, I'm aware that some of you don't like to be on the receiving end of oral for any number of reasons: you're whacked in the head; you've got control issues; you're paranoid that that unfresh feeling isn't only in your mind; or, finally, you just like to get right down to business and the last thing you want is some poor sap fumbling around down there without a clue. I guess all of those, except the uncleanly thing, are legitimate reasons. Whacked in the head? I can identify. Control issues? I'm personally inclined not to let someone go down on me unless I've done it first. Getting down to business? Well, sometimes you just want to ... well ... fuck or be fucked. Literally, screw the niceties. And bad oral sex? Well, as a guy ... I wouldn't know. I've had subpar blowjobs, but they were still pretty good. But thanks to anatomy or a sadistic creator, you're equipment is a little more demanding. ... And the unfresh thing? Unless you've just run a marathon, rolled around in a barrel of onions and just went to the bathroom, I wouldn't worry about that. In all my years, I've only come across one experience that was malodorous and, well, the less said about that the better. But I finished the job anyway.

But for whatever reason, even if you don't feel like him fooling around down there, he should make the offer and you should accept it. Especially on the first time. This is a much more important test than him opening a door for you or pulling your chair out at dinner or holding your coat. Even if he's awful at it, you should let him stay down there just to see how long he persists, to see if he's going to commit to finishing what he started. If he's not offering to go down the first time, when he should be trying to impress you, chances are it isn't going to get any better than that.

Now the guys might be up in arms right now, saying, "Ken, what the hell are you doing to us?!?" To which I say, "Shut up." What, like it takes a monumental effort to get a guy off? Like you couldn't be done and passed out sleeping (or on the way out the door) with a minimal effort? Men have to concentrate NOT to finish within the first five seconds minutes. Some women have to concentrate to finish at all. I've had female friends of mine in their 30s tell me they've never had an orgasm at all. And that just makes me want to cry.

So guys, you need to head to south. And you need to head south like you mean it. You should mean it. I guess just as the enthusiam levels in women for receiving it vary widely, so goes it for men, ranging from "You want me to put my mouth where?" to "But I don't want to eat my vegetables" to "Can I have a bib, I'm going to be a while" to "Let me just get this string out of the way... Look, ma! No hands." But show her you mean it. She might resist a little bit, but you should insist. And by insist, I'm not talking rape. I'm assuming you're both mostly nekkid at this point and groping and fondling. By insist, I mean saying you really, really, really (really) want to or gently pushing her hands away when she tries to stop you. As always, if she says "No" in the same tone one uses to reprimand a dog, then, well, she means no. But otherwise, show some enthusiasm.

And by enthusiasm, I don't mean acting like those guys in pornos that jam their heads down there and then have something that looks like a cross between an epileptic fit and those puppet things from the old Tool videos. I'm assuming you know what part you should be focusing on and ultimately it's up to the woman you're with to provide hints and clues to exactly how that part should be dealt with. If you're clueless and too afraid to ask, I'm sure there are books to be found. Hold on a second. Yup. Here's one. God bless the Interwebs. I mean he's got a Ph.D AND they published a book so he has to know SOMETHING, right? RIGHT?

So go down south and prepare to stay awhile. And stay down there until she's done (usually, you'll know this because you'll almost end up suffocating when her legs clamp down around your head and she won't let you go) or she gets bored or wants to switch up to regular freaky-deaky (she'll probably just pull you up by the ears). But stay down there until you've been given a clear sign that you can stop. So what if you're tongue hurts so much you speak with a lisp the next day. It's just a sign of a hard night's work.

Besides, if you at least try hard, you increase the chances that she's going to try hard. And she just might swallow! Ladies, I'm assuming that since you're typically smarter than guys I don't have to lecture you on this particular issue, do I? After all, you didn't make the damn fool assumption that just because I'm telling guys to please you, I'm going to tell them to give up all hopes and expectations and let you walk away scott free?

So, yes, ladies first. And if, by some miracle, you are able to knock her damn near out just with oral sex and she, like some, I don't know, man ... almost falls asleep afterward and you're left hanging... Okay, c'mon. What are the chances of that? But if it SHOULD happen? So what? You've just earned some major points and, trust me, unless she's the most selfish woman in the world, she'll more than reward you for it.

At any rate, after the man has paid his dues, then, well, you two can figure it out for yourselves. I'm assuming if it's one of these wait-six-dates-and-make-a-big-deal, you'll be making "sweet, sweet love."

If you've been drinking and being randy in a bar somewhere, it'll probably be more along the lines "wild monkey sex," which, for those of you totally lacking in imagination, is defined as various positions; lots of sweating and really heavy panting; scratch marks and possibly bite marks; maybe some weird noises from random body parts; grunting and/or hooting and/or hollering; getting tangled up in the fitted sheets (if the bed is even used at all); and, afterward, looking at one another with a wild-eyed stare as if to say, "What the hell just happened here?"

Bananas are optional.

And one more thing ... bananas may be optional, but a little post-game performance isn't. This is mostly for the guys because, and I know from experience, that after you're done it's like the life has been sucked right out of you (pun only partly intended) and it's all you can do to keep your eyes open. If you're into the girl, keep your eyes open, stick around for awhile and let the girl know you're there because you like her, not just because she was the only thing going that night. This is important whether it be a date, a girlfriend or even a friend with benefit thing (but in the latter case, don't get gushy or sentimental, just make it known that you're appreciative). And ladies, on the other hand, after sex is NOT the time to start having in-depth conversations of any sort. If you're guy is capable of staying awake and muttering monosyllabic sweet nothings, be happy. If he's wide awake, staring at the ceiling and wants to talk... well, something ain't quite right anyway.

(Next post in series)