February 13, 2003
How Not to Date
Look, I'm not going to tell you how to find "the one," how to radiate that "I'm available" light, how to register for wine tasting seminars and join networking groups.
I have no dating advice. None. I won't suggest clever phrasing for your personal ad or how to choose a photo to post on JDate. I'm not an expert on any of these things, but without bragging, I will admit I'm truly excellent at one thing: how not to date. I'm aware this skill won't get me a book deal or a segment on "Good Morning America." But it would be selfish of me not to share the wisdom I've garnered in the past year of cutting myself off from all romantic possibilities. With a subtle yet unswerving dedication, I've raised being single to an art. Just in case you're interested -- say you've been hurt, maybe you haven't dealt with anger at one or both of your parents, perhaps you just fear intimacy -- I'm here for you.
If you're horrified by the image of yourself huddled in the corner of some singles event, clutching a plastic cup full of cheap Merlot, staring at the "Hello, my name is Dave" sticker on the pressed lapel of a dentist from Canoga Park, listen up girls.
Let's start with the small stuff. First, you really want to make sure your daily life doesn't bring you in contact with any new single men. Avoid gender-neutral coffee shops in favor of places that serve CarboLite and sell bags of Pirate's Booty. Frozen yogurt is your friend. It has magical men-repellent powers that I could never explain.
If you must go to the gym, steer clear of the weight room and instead opt for classes heavy in choreography. Look for names like Latin Grooves, Booty Ballet, Abs Abs Abs and Cardio Funk Attack. At this point in American culture, yoga is no longer safe. I repeat, yoga is strictly off-limits -- straight men have found it and they know you're in there with your low-slung sweats and no bra. If you must go to yoga, let's say you just can't make it to Burn & Grind, get there late, leave early and don't look around. Keep your hair dirty and your eyes on your mat.
The evenings become a little more complicated. If you crave male attention, maintain a coterie of ex-boyfriends with whom you can go to the movies from time to time. You will look and feel "taken."
Eschew invitations to parties in favor of dinner with married girlfriends. Better yet, make sure you have several married friends with newborn babies you can visit on Saturday nights.
At this point, the only attractive single men you will meet are deliverymen: the mail man, the pizza guy, whatnot. Without being rude, you want to adhere to a strict sign-and-slam policy.
When friends and family offer to fix you up with their "incredibly attractive neighbor they can't believe is still single" -- believe it. With the understanding that these offers come from a place of true generosity, you must reject them in such a way that no more fix-ups come along. Sometimes a nonverbal response is best. What I do, but please feel free to improvise here, is wince, let my chest cave in until the flow of air is constricted and look around at the ceiling. I allow this to go on for an uncomfortable amount of time before mumbling a non sequitur such as: "Does anyone really know why Reagonomics failed?"
All of the above may be obvious, and I owe you more than that.
The need for emotional connection is a cunning foe. Keep it in check by having some sort of e-mail/phone relationship with someone totally inappropriate for you who lives far away. What's working for me right now is a 25-year-old man-child who lives in New York City. You can freestyle here, as long as you make sure that some part of your soul is tethered to a person who will never, ever be a real boyfriend.
You may wonder how I put these principles together, airtight, succinct, elegant. Like most great discoveries, it was accidental. One day there was moldy cheese, next thing I knew: alone-a-cillin. The turning point came when, after resisting it for years, I actually peeked at an Internet dating site. I saw pixilated despair, a need so plain and terrible that I wanted to slam the door on it like a particularly fetching FedEx guy. It was a scary discovery. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but fear is its abusive foster parent.
True wanting, openness, availability, those are scary things. Those take courage. I however, take a chocolate-vanilla swirl with sprinkles.
Look, you can put yourself out there, I'm not saying it's a bad idea. However, this is just a slice of what I've learned about how not to do so. Because when chance comes, he ain't serving frozen yogurt.
Teresa Strasser can be seen Saturdays at noon and 10 p.m. on The Learning Channel's "While You Were Out" and is on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.