Why is finding and sustaining a successful romantic relationship so difficult? I blame the American education system. It teaches us a world of information we most likely will never need unless we're either settling a bar bet, appearing on "Jeopardy" or helping our children with their obscure, fact-laden homework. By the time I graduated from college, I knew an impressive amount about ancient Greek history, subtext in Shakespeare's "Richard III" and a frog's intestines. Don't ask me when I last used any of it.
As for creating and sustaining a romantic relationship, though -- I pretty much knew, and still know, squat. Why do we spend so much time and energy teaching our children so much Trivial Pursuit-like "stuff," while disregarding vital life skills they so desperately need? All that's going to change when I become czar of education. You can bet that changing a tire, balancing a checkbook and cooking a meal will be part of my curriculum. And there'll especially be a wide variety of courses available dealing with romantic relationships, including the following, taken directly from my proposed Relationships 101 syllabus:
Geography of Romance: A course dealing with the best places to meet your romantic partner. Certain locales lend themselves to greater relationship success -- churches and temples, the homes of friends and relatives, bookstores, supermarkets, restaurants, parks and beaches. Other places tend to be riskier -- prison, tattoo parlors, methamphetamine labs, mosh pits, wife-swapping parties, Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, gatherings of arms dealers. You can't find the "wow" unless you know the "where." But enough quoting Aristotle.
Interrogatory Land Mines: These refer to specific questions your romantic partner will be asking you. The most important thing to remember is that any response you give, no matter how carefully considered, how sensitive or how loving -- will anger your partner and put your relationship at risk. Such questions include, "Do you think our waitress is pretty?" "If I died tonight, which of my girlfriends would you most want to date?" and, of course, the ever-popular, "Does this dress make me look fat?" Learn invaluable techniques for changing the subject, distracting with compliments and faking a seizure.
Handling Rejection I: Why you still have value as a human being despite being turned down as a romantic partner. Why a woman who turns you down may not necessarily be a lesbian. Why a man who turns you down may not necessarily have a fear of commitment -- he just may not want to commit to you. Why when your romantic partner says "I'm not in the mood," it does not mean you have a license to leave the house angrily and find someone who is in the mood. (Trust me.) Why your only true friend being your dog may not necessarily be a bad thing -- for the dog, that is.
Handling Rejection II -- Inappropriate Responses to Being Dumped:
Guest lecturers who have actually either made or received these inappropriate responses will discuss: Keying his car, posting embarrassing nude photos of her on the Internet, committing ritual Japanese suicide (appearing via video made shortly before his demise), weeping loudly and completely out of context for months, burning down his house, kidnapping his children, reporting her to the Department of Homeland Security and losing interest in everything in life except the reality show, "Dancing With the Stars." Bitter students with an axe to grind are more than welcome.
Things to Make Sure Your Romantic Partner Doesn't See the First Time She Visits Your House: For men only. The first part of the course will identify those things that most men are unaware tick women off, including: dirty dishes in the sink, dirty underwear on the floor, dirty dishes on the floor, dirty underwear in the sink, other women in the bed, other men in the bed. The second part of the course will deal with methods you can use to salvage the relationship once she is completely grossed out by your disgusting habitat. In addition, each student receives a complimentary subscription to Martha Stewart Living, a clothes hamper and a huge, scent-concealing empty box into which you can dump all your dirty clothing and dishes until you have the time and energy to deal with them.
Now, you gotta admit -- all that is education you can use.
Mark Miller, a comedy writer and performer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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