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  • File Under: Love, Lust… or Later

    File Under: Love, Lust… or Later

    By Shawn Conner

    Allen P. knew he was in trouble.

    Usually, through some kind of weird alchemy, he passed from the getting-to-know-you stage to the dreaded friend zone before he knew what was happening or why.

    This time was different. The attraction between him and Reena was immediate. But when, after only one night, she was already dropping the “r” word, he realized she’d categorized him as a long-term prospect. While he, on the other hand, was still looking at her as a bit of fun — at least until he found out whether or not she had a history of madness in the family. Or was an Ayn Rand fan.

    As harried, busy humans, we inevitably file people into categories. We meet someone and almost immediately, consciously or subconsciously, we try to figure out how and where he or she might fit into our diabolical machinations… er, dating lives.

    Is Miss Hot Date a potential long-term partner? Is Mr. Fantastic good for more than a one-night stand? Do we keep Myron Poindexter on the sidelines while we rock the sheets with Sebastian Leatherpants?

    “The thing about putting someone on the back-burner,” says Jessica, a kinesiologist/part-time waitress, “is that sooner or later you’re going to find yourself on the back-burner. It’s the Golden Rule: what goes around comes around.”

    Signs you’re the back-burner person are fairly obvious — plans broken at the last minute, the phone not ringing, bed sheets already mussed when you arrive. For some it’s a safe, but not necessarily ideal, position to be in.

    “It’s like you go to meet a friend for coffee,” says Jada P., a poet-artist. “You’re there, you’ve brought a book, you’re looking casual, but you’re not engaged in the book. You’re spending the whole time looking for your friend. You’re not really in your life.”

    But do the two sexes differ when it comes to categorizing? “Guys are looking for a no-hassle situation,” says Jada. “They ask themselves, ‘Is this going to get complicated?’ Women don’t do that. They’re looking to engage, not escape. So they’ll categorize men accordingly.”

    Asked if women have a double standard when it comes to whom they’ll sleep with, Crystal, an aspiring comedian, said yes. “A nice guy, if he’s too nice to the point of disgusting, will get totally put in that slot [of being kept on the line]. Whereas if the guy’s a total jerk, the girl will be like, ‘OK, let’s [have sex] right now.’”

    It may be fair to say men, in general, have less of a hierarchical system; they either want to sleep with a woman or they don’t, and they’re not going to delay gratification according to some notion of future happiness. “I’m either interested or I’m not,” says Don S.

    Inevitably, exceptions occur. “Right now I’m just categorizing according to people I can go out with and feel good about myself and not get into bed with,” says Eugene O., who is going through a divorce after a 12-year marriage. “I’m trying to avoid that.”

    Still, our mental filing cabinet doesn’t always jibe with our emotions. “I spoke to someone last night,” Eugene continues. “I love talking to her, and she’s been great. I’ve been encouraging her to follow up on some guy things, and she did. And then I started feeling jealous that she’s going out on a date. I was going, ‘I don’t want her sexually.’ But then I felt a pang.”

    One category that seems more likely to befall those poor hapless males time and again is that of the “friend.” For whatever reason — slowness, shyness, failure to launch — guys sometimes suddenly find themselves in the friend zone when they thought they were still in the new, not-as-yet-defined acquaintance period. Once in, it’s hard if not impossible to get out. Can men jump categories, say, from friendship to love interest? “No,” says Shannon M. “They [men] only go from bad to worse. They never go from bad to good.”

    Jada takes a more equitable stance. “Alcohol helps,” she quips.

    “I don’t know what that [the friend zone] is,” says Zan Perrion, Vancouver’s own enlightened seducer , a bit disingenuously. Avoiding the friend zone, he says, is as simple as touching her within minutes of meeting to let her know you’re interested in more than friendship. “That way she always knows where she stands with me,” says Perrion, “that I’m interested in more than friendship.”

    But the friend zone is open to anyone, women included, says Adaline, a 27-year-old recording artist. “I think with the new generation of men who can’t commit that anyone can find themselves in the friend zone. Everyone wants to be friends — different kinds of friends, like maybe a friend-with-benefits. But no one’s dating.”

    Guys, meanwhile, can lay claim to categorizing in a way that seems peculiar to the male of the species. That is, the tendency to place a woman on a pedestal. Supplicating, fawning, and doofus-like behavior is quick to follow.

    “He’ll compliment me all the time, and he’ll stare at me — if I’m watching TV he’s staring at the side of my head,” says Karla V., a hair-stylist and makeup artist. Blessed by genetics with the kind of looks that often prompt aforementioned doofus-like behavior in guys, Karla says the attention can be as annoying as it is flattering.

    “To me, it’s desperate. When I’m put on a pedestal, it’s usually wishful thinking where they’re like, ‘Oh, maybe she will sleep with me.’ And I end up hurting people, unintentionally.”

    Karla isn’t immune to categorizing, either. She pigeon-holed one recent suitor in the “potential long-term” box because she was looking for stability and even got engaged. The arrangement didn’t take, however. “After awhile he repulsed me because he was expecting to have sex. At first I thought, maybe I could just lay there. Then I realized there’s absolutely no way.”

    There’s another category, she says. “Never want to see again — weirdo.”

  • 5 People You Date Before You Fall in Love

    5 People You Date Before You Fall in Love

    By Lisa Daily

    People say that dating is a numbers game, but I think it’s a lot more like waterskiing.

    When you make your first attempt to waterski, you fall over forwards. On your second try, you fall over backwards. On the third try, you fall to one side and on the fourth try, you get up on skis.

    Each time, you learn a little something and make adjustments.

    Love is the same way. You have to take a dive a few times before you get it right. And just like waterskiing, there’s a pattern to the learning process: five people you’ll date before you truly fall in love.

    Great on Paper
    He’s a tall, rich, handsome doctor who mentors underprivileged kids. Your mother loves him, your friends love him, and everybody says you make the perfect couple. He gives fabulous birthday gifts, never forgets an anniversary or what you wore to a special occasion. He takes your car in for an oil change and a car wash when you’re out of town, and even lets your cat sleep on his head.

    She’s a blond, beautiful supermodel/art student who worked her way through college as a massage therapist for the elderly. She stocks the fridge with steaks, bean dip and beer for your boys night in. Your boss thinks she’s hilarious and has promoted you twice since you started dating. Your friends are jealous as hell and while every person on the planet thinks she’s the greatest catch EVER, she only has eyes for you.

    Sounds great right? As perfect as the Great on Paper date may be, you can’t convince yourself to fall in love with them. You try and try and try. You really want to, as this person is clearly your escort to the perfect life that awaits you.

    But you don’t think that his or her jokes are that funny. On Sunday mornings, you act busier than you are so that you don’t have to spend the entire day together. You like the security and comfort of the perfect girlfriend or boyfriend, but the reality is not that spectacular. There is no spark.

    And sometimes, we try to talk ourselves into that Great on Paper relationship — if we can’t be happy with this perfect specimen of the dating pool, will we ever be happy? Only if we’re true to ourselves and trade the Great on Paper for the Great in Person.

    Bad Boys, Bad Girls, Watcha Gonna Do?
    Nearly all of us go through some period in their lives when we’re swept up by a bad boy or bad girl. For women, it’s the Navy Seal with the amazing bod and the mental prowess of a Spam sandwich. The Harley guy with mean beard stubble and vibe to match. For guys, it’s the Angelina Jolie lookalike who makes you feel like the center of the universe, and then puts the moves on your roommate the minute you leave for the men’s room. We can see the bad boys/bad girls coming a mile away, and yet we fall for it every time.


    Part of us likes to believe we can be the one to turn this wildcat into a pussycat. Part of us just enjoys that down-to-our-toes thrill, the excitement of something we KNOW is bad for us. (Like chocolate cheesecake, $300 scotch and Jimmy Choo shoes.) Some of us are just gluttons for misery.

    And most people actually grow out of the bad boy/bad girl phase once we hit our mid-20s, although some of us take a little longer to learn the lesson.

    At some point we learn these bad boys and bad girls are beyond reform, and the rush we feel when we see them as they could be (faithful, honest, dependable) wears off to the reality of what they are (screwing your best friend.)

    Which means the best thing you can hope for with bad boy or bad girl is getting them out of your life for good.

    Extreme Jealousy: Dating Edition.
    Where have you been? Who were you sleeping with? Why do you have your boss’s cell number programmed into your phone?

    This person is so madly in love with you he or she will feel compelled to break into your email account, circle the block when you’re at home alone and even (surprise!) crash your family reunions.

    When you call your jealous date on his or her behavior, he’ll say that he’s only doing it because he loves you so much or she’ll say she wouldn’t feel so insecure if you weren’t so freakin’ flirtatious.

    This is not love, even though it’s quite a heady feeling to be the center of someone’s universe.

    And this is not passion. It’s the first stop to crazy town.

    Break it off. Break it off now.

    The Zealot
    Maybe his cause of choice is a certain political candidate or she’s dedicated her life to Operation Smile. The Zealot is entirely consumed with global warming, the corporate ladder, saving the lemurs, converting everyone they meet to Scientology or tracking down and preserving every single Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis Presley. He’s passionate, she’s consumed: They’re working for a higher cause. When you date this person, you’ll find yourself sucked into their enthusiasm, copying flyers at 2 a.m. or selling wrapping paper door-to-door to raise the needed funds.

    Sometimes the causes are worthy, and you feel good about the work you’re doing together. But eventually you may end up, er, faking enthusiasm. Maybe you don’t want your entire life to be about ONE THING.

    When two true Zealots for the same cause meet, they have a powerful union, as long as they stay passionate about the issue. But if you’re lukewarm on lemurs or Democrats or fundraising, your relationship with the Zealot is doomed to fail.

    The good news is that a new recruit will take your place as soon as you vacate it.
    After all, the Zealot doesn’t have room in his life for someone who isn’t completely dedicated.

    The Best Sex of Your Life
    This will probably be the first and the last time in your life you have 17 orgasms in a four-hour timeframe, but it will stick with you for the rest of your life. Something about this person makes you want to get freaky in an alleyway. You’ll get wild with this person in your mother’s basement, at the carwash, in the parking lot at the dentist’s office and on the back of a motorcycle.

    You’ll try flavored lubricants, sex toys, bondage and porn. And one day, you’ll get out of bed, exhausted after another seven-hour action series, and realize you don’t have anything in common but sex.

    You’ll decide that you want something even better. And that, my friends, is when you’re ready to fall in love.

  • How to Avoid Dating a Jerk

    How to Avoid Dating a Jerk

    By Lisa Daily

    It’s the question I am most often asked by readers. How do you spot a jerk before you start dating him (or her?)

    He always “forgets his wallet” and sticks your friends with the dinner tab. She screeches at the shampoo boy for using the ylang ylang essence instead of lavender, and it’s obvious only to them that there’s not another competent driver within a 50-mile radius.

    You’re offended, you’re humiliated, you’re walking on eggshells: somehow you’ve ended up dating a jerk.

    There are the classic signs, of course. Conventional wisdom suggests you look at the way someone treats people they perceive as “don’t matter” people — a waitress, the ice cream store guy, the woman who cleans his apartment. If he’s snotty to wait staff, condescending to strangers, mean to people he’s not trying to impress, it’s only a matter of time before you’re on the receiving end of all that irritation and condescension. That’s right: today his steak is overcooked and the only acceptable solution is the waitress’s public humiliation and immediate dismissal. Tomorrow, you’re the incompetent, disappointing moron.

    John Van Epp, author of a new book called How to Avoid Marrying A Jerk, says, “Jerks have no gender, the only difference is the package they come in.”

    How Do You Spot a Jerk?

    Other than a wake of tearful customer service managers and shaky restaurant staff, how can you spot a jerk? According to Van Epp, there are three tell-tale signs:

    1. A Habit of Breaking Boundaries

    Van Epp says, “These include players and [personal] space-invaders (What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine.)” This immediately struck me, since I spent a good part of last Saturday night watching a big drunk guy in an orange shirt pawing a succession of strange women on the dance floor like a grizzly in heat. Jerk? I think so.

    2. The Utter Inability to See Anything from Anyone Else’s Perspective

    The other guy was rude, the donut guy was an incompetent, the Democrats or Republicans (or Liberals or Conservatives, take your pick) are ruining the world. It’s often hard to see from someone else’s perspective, but a non-jerk will try. Van Epp says, “In time, you will realize that you are invisible to your partner.”

    3. Dangerous Lack of Emotional Controls and Balance

    According to Van Epp, “Emotionally unstable people live on the extreme right or the extreme left of center. The people on the left are flat-liners, with no emotional pulse. At first they appear easygoing, but later you realize that they are cold and detached. On the other side are the overreacting types who are the life of the party, known for their enthusiastic and entertaining personalities, addicted to captivating and fast-paced romances that mask their deeper problems under a shroud of attentiveness and passion. With time and exposure, their dark side emerges.”

    Are You A Jerk-Magnet?

    You might be. Van Epp says, “Good-hearted people have the greatest risk for staying in a relationship with a jerk because good-hearted people so quickly forgive, overlook problems, minimize shortcomings and give second chances.”

    Of course, some of these traits are necessary to keep a relationship on track. But if you find that you’re on the giving end of forgiveness more often that the receiving end, you might be setting yourself up for jerk after jerk after jerk.

    Another common mistake is love (and relationship) at first sight. “One of the most common ways you become set up to get involved with a jerk is by accelerating the pace of your relationship.” Oprah recently had several women on her show who had all married or been engaged to the same guy, frequently at the same time. With nearly all of them, Mr. Romantic had proposed within just a few short weeks or months of dating them, and would end a blowout with one by proposing to another.

    Van Epp says, “Only after some time do narcissists reveal their extreme demands — a kind of ‘buy now, pay later arrangement.’

    “Once one disappointment blemishes the relationship, the narcissist can never retrieve the fantasy feeling of true love.”

    Lisa Earle McLeod, author of Forget Perfect says, “Jerkiness is related to narcissism. A jerk usually has a long history of failed relationships, and they’ll always tell you why it was the other person’s fault. The relationship gets really serious really fast, they get infatuated, but the second the jerk finds out that you’re not perfect and you no longer see them as perfect, they become demanding and critical.”

    The Road to Jerkville

    Obviously, none of us would go for a second date if a jerk showed his (or her) true colors before the appetizers arrived. But some jerks can be quite charming in the beginning.

    And sure, we all act like jerks once in a while. We scream in traffic, we lose it when the carpet cleaners ruin our drapes by tying them in a knot with their grimy hands, we freak out when our partner says something that strikes a nerve. But, according to Van Epp, “The most fundamental, identifying feature of true jerks is their persistent resistance to ever changing their core jerk qualities.”

    Jerks aren’t usually jerky in the beginning of a relationship. But a fast-paced, head-over-heels romance can be enough to cloud anyone’s judgment.

    Van Epp says, “Resolving your emotional necessities is the first step to avoid a marriage to a jerk. It is also an indispensable step to avoid becoming the jerk.”

    According to Van Epp, people who always end up with jerks, “consistently lack a ‘head’ knowledge of what to look for in a perspective partner”

    In this day and age, we choose our partners on your own whereas in the past, your family and friends were all involved in the process. So even if you were all gaga and starry-eyed, Great Aunt Leona was still keeping a clear head and an eye on your future.

    And McLeod says, “The old saying goes, ‘Think with your heart, not your head,’ but before you go moving in together or blowing two months salary on a ring or worse, wasting seven years of your life with a loser, try ignoring your heart and taking your brain out for a spin.”

    Dr. Molly Barrow, author of Matchlines: A Revolutionary New Way of Looking at Relationships and Making the Right Choices in Love says, “Listen to your girlfriends! Better yet, listen your mom! Another source to turn to are your kids. Your children are very sensitive, and although they will not always like all the new men (or women) in your life, they will really hate someone who is a jerk.”

    According to Van Epp, there are five universal human bonding dynamics: Know, trust, rely, commit and sex. He suggests that “you should never go farther in one bonding dynamic than you have gone in the previous.”

    In other words, don’t go swinging naked from a trapeze on the third date if the rest of the categories are still stuck in “Hi, nice to meet you.” And don’t fall in love with someone you barely know. Balance in all five categories is key.

    Welcome to Jerks Anonymous. Can a Jerk be Reformed?

    According to Van Epp, usually not. He says, “No matter how many times they have been confronted by you or others, they still persist in their hurtful pattern. If it is possible to reform a jerk, it will almost always require a major life crisis or life-transforming event, but the longer the track record, the lower the likelihood for improvement.”

    So, unless he gets struck by lightning or abducted by aliens, the jerk is probably here to stay.

  • 9 Cheap, Sexy At-Home Dates

    9 Cheap, Sexy At-Home Dates

    By Kelly Jones

    Money’s tight everywhere these days, but that doesn’t mean romance and seduction have to suffer a write-down.

    Spending time together on the home-front not only eases the financial burden, it also provides an intimate backdrop for learning more about each other and building trust. Choose a theme or activity that you both enjoy or share a bit of yourself by introducing your fling to one of your fancies. It’s also easy to incorporate friends into the mix for added variety.

    Restaurant Makeover
    Not a Jamie Oliver in the kitchen but still want food to be part of your night at home? No problem. Order mains as takeout from your favorite restaurant and set up a romantic table for two at home (dimmed lights, candles, table linens). Ordering just entrees for takeout means you save on appetizers, marked-up wines and desserts that you’d normally order when dining out. Uncork a good but inexpensive bottle to accompany (see sidebar for suggestions), and try coercing a friend to play waiter for you, offering to do the same for them another night. Make sure they understand they’re to hit the road as soon as appetites are sated.

    International Affairs
    Maybe you both backpacked through Mexico after college or you both did exchange programs in Ecuador while in high school. Share your love of another culture by throwing an international night. Come up with an easy menu — Mexican, for example — and prepare your meal together. Borrow a few marimba and salsa CDs from the library to give your dining some atmosphere, and finish it off with a Mexican flick (Amores Perros is a fabulous one, if you haven’t seen it) on the couch.

    Cinema a Casa
    Try adding some sass to the classic movie night at home. Pick a theme like worst horror movie ever, best sci-fi flick or most unworthy Best Picture Oscar winner. Each person brings one video. Don’t forget to prep your space for a night at the cinema. Pop fresh popcorn, drink your beverages through straws and make sure to watch all the DVD preview trailers to get in the mood. And, please, don’t forget to turn off your cell phones.

    Backyard Getaway
    You don’t need to go far to take a vacation from your everyday… at least not if you have a bawdy sense of humor. Take a trip into the great outdoors with a backyard camping adventure! Set up a borrowed or rented tent and show off your inner grilling guru with dinner cooked over a camping stove (or use the barbecue if you feel like cheating). Borrow a chiminea or backyard fireplace and tell scary campfire stories while you roast marshmallows for fireside s’mores. Then, lay side-by-side on your back and look at the stars (or satellites, if that’s all you can see in your location). The key to making this one as authentic feeling as possible is never going back into the house except for washroom breaks.

    Game Plans
    Does a little competition get your juices flowing? Up the ante with some board games made just for two. There is a modest outlay for the purchase of the initial game, but you can use it over and over again. A quick trip to your local sex shop provides a whole world of options. If pursuing passionate play is too presumptuous at this stage, borrow or rent a video game system and show off your playful side. Better yet, haul out your old Atari and Tetris game and set up cross-legged on the floor. Ms. Pacman never had it so good.

    In Vino Veritas
    Nothing wrong with a little old school wine tasting. Buy according to your budget, and try pairing with interesting food selections. Learn a bit about tasting reds and whites, and you can even have fun pretending to be wine snobs. The information on wine critic and author Billy Munnelly’s site billysbestbottles.com is comprehensive and divided by prices, and he even has a wine game on the site. If you’re not into wine, sample premium beers instead, which would probably cost less in the long run, too. Whatever you decide, first make sure your guy or girl enjoys drinking alcohol beforehand prepping for this evening.

    Spring Break
    If you’re both bummed about being unable to afford the sunny March break vacation this year, bring the beach to you — and again, don’t forget to pack your sense of humor. Crank the heat, wear your bikini or trunks (hello!), lather sunscreen (or self tanner) on each other and recline on towels on the floor. If any of your plants have survived winter, gather them together and place them around your beach area. Download the sounds of surf on the net (or pop in some Bob Marley) and set on repeat and refresh with icy margaritas or limey Coronas. If you want to really run with the theme, consider going for a “swim” in the tub, complete with toy fish and salt (not suds) in the water.

    Rock Me Amadeus
    If music gets your mojo going, propose a spin-off with your date. Kathryn D. from Chicago says, “I brought over my iPod and we alternated playing our favorite 80s tunes from our collections. By the end of it we were dancing fools, motoring around doing the robot and trying to do the worm on his kitchen floor. It was such a fun night, and sharing those favorites really made us click.”

    How Sweet It Is
    Got a soft spot for the sweet stuff? Chef up a decadent dessert together — homemade green tea ice cream, say, or chocolate lava cake — and let the sugar highs soar. Round out the thrill with a little fresh fruit (some studies claim that bananas have aphrodisiacal properties). Paul Y. from Minnesota says, “I’ve heard about a study that claims that some women would rather indulge in chocolate than sex, but the last two dessert dates I’ve hosted have proved that women prefer chocolate AND sex.” ‘Nuff said.

  • The Blackberry Approach to Love

    The Blackberry Approach to Love

    By Lisa Daily

    Good organization skills can help you get ahead in the workplace. But can those same skills boost your dating life, leading you to find “The One?”

    Take this awkward but handy analogy. First there’s the sales guy. He has indexed and categorized every person he’s ever met in his shiny new iPhone and cross-checked for sales goals and compatibility issues in his handy Franklin planner.

    Compare him with the guy who wanders in off the street with only a vague idea what he’s looking to accomplish, the back seat of his car littered with the business cards of a random smattering of people he’s met in the last two years.

    Who is likely to be more successful?

    Most of us believe that organizing helps when it comes to accomplishing our work goals, but when it comes to romance, lots of us are far more inclined to go with the flow.

    Can organizing your personal life really help you be more efficient when it comes to finding love?

    Liz Keim, a consultant for the American Society for Quality, teaches a seminar called Zero-Defect Dating. She says, “There’s something called the 80/20 principle that applies whether you’re analyzing company sales or your approach to finding a good relationship.

    “You’ll find that it’s usually 20 per cent of your efforts that produces 80 per cent of the total result. This means 80 per cent of what you do may not count for much. The benefit to using a systematic approach to dating is that it helps you prioritize, eliminate time-wasting, and identify that 20 per cent that you should be spending time on.

    “For example, if you never meet quality people by going to a bar, stop going to bars. If you like to run, start signing up for fun runs where you are more likely to meet someone with the same interests.”

    BJ Gallager, sociologist and author of Yes Lives in the Land of No says, “If you are serious about finding a great mate, you need to approach your search the same way you would approach any other major project. Plan, prepare, organize, measure your progress, reevaluate and adjust your strategy if you need to.”

    Gallager offers these tips for organizing your love life:

    Setting goals: Make a list of the characteristics you’re looking for in a mate. Rank-order them, from “must have” to “would be nice” to “deal-breaker.”

    Action plan: Make it a point to flirt at least once a day. Present yourself at a social gathering at least once a week (go alone, dress sexy, and send out signals that you’re available). Sign up for an online dating service. Let your friends know that you’re interested in meeting potential dates. Go out on dates with anyone who asks you (unless he’s wearing an orange jumpsuit with a number.) It’s practice. Just like you should practice with job interviews when you’re looking for a new job, you want to do the same with dating. You need practice. Then when someone really interesting comes along, your dating skills will be good and you won’t make dumb mistakes.

    Organize: Make a folder for each person you date. Make notes on what you like and don’t like about that person. Keep track of details like former marriages, number of kids, occupation, interests, etc.

    Measure your progress: How many dates have you gone out on this month? Are you keeping your options open and dating several people? If you’re dating one person, is the relationship progressing in the direction you like? If not, set a deadline by which time you want to move to the next level. Be prepared to walk away if the person you’re dating is commitment-phobic. Don’t waste your precious time on a dead-end relationship.

    Adjust your strategy: If your dating strategy isn’t working, try something new. Go to new places. Change the way your dress. Join a gym. Get a makeover. Get new photos taken. Rewrite your on-line profile. Ask others for help in adjusting your strategy.

    Take a dating vacation. Everyone needs a vacation from work every so often — taking a break from dating is no different.

    According to Dr. Pamela Dodd, organizational psychologist and co-author of The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques (http://www.best-of-time-management.com) there are a number of tools that can help you organize your search: Planners can help you “schedule your dating tasks (and dates, of course,) and then fill in the other less important things in your life. Choosing what you’re NOT going to do is equally important.” Dodd advises. “Consider dating a secondary ‘job’ until you find what you want.”

    Other helpful tools? Card scanners can help you keep track of your contact information by importing it right into your phone or mail program, and the Neat Receipts Scanaziler ($159, http://www.neatreceipts.com) even has a cool feature that allows you to scan in a photo to complete your dating dossier.

    And Franklin Covey (http://www.franklincovey.com) has a new line of planners called Her P.O.V., specifically for women — not only to help you set goals and get organized, but to keep you inspired as well. (And who hasn’t needed a little inspiration after a particularly disastrous date?)

    The benefit to organizing your personal life like your work life, according to Dodd, is that “you get the highest return on your invested time and there’s a higher probability of accomplishing what you’re after.” The drawback, of course, is that you suck all of the fun out of dating, and “don’t leave any space for serendipity.”

    Lisa Steadman, author of It’s a Breakup Not a Breakdown says, “If you want to organize your dating life and would find that useful, go for it. You could go so far as to create a spreadsheet of the potential candidates you meet in person and online, keeping track of important information about each candidate like future goals, family plans, shared values as they are revealed.”

    Gallager says, “Remember, what you get out of dating depends largely on what you’re willing to put into it — just like anything else in life. So if you’re not willing to invest time, energy, attention, and money in finding a partner, then don’t complain that you’re not getting any results.”

    Gallager adds, “If you’re not serious about finding a mate — if you’re dating just for fun and games — then you don’t need to organize at all. A casual approach to dating is just fine. ‘Catch as catch can’ is your dating mode.”

    According to Steadman, “Regardless of how you organize your dating life, it’s important to always keep your eye on the prize — relationship happiness. Don’t settle for less than you want or deserve, and don’t throw in the towel when things don’t go your way. Take a break and then get back in the game.”


  • How to Give Flowers

    How to Give Flowers

    By Nick Krewen

    When the prospect of romance blooms, one surefire message tells your date you want to see them again.

    Say it with flowers.

    True, people have been expressing their feelings for centuries by offering flowers. And while Janet Gotoweicz of Toronto’s Tidy’s Flowers allows that it’s the thought that counts, she does concede that if you want to make a good impression, certain blooms are more significant than others.

    “Roses and orchids still have a certain amount of cachet,” says Gotoweicz, a 30-year floral veteran. “I think people still see them as special and more expensive flowers than daisies or carnations.”

    And although the rose remains the flower of choice when it comes to Valentine’s Day delivery, other varieties are fast growing in popularity.

    “There’s been a real movement towards flowers like orchids, things with scent, like hyacinth, and that sort of thing,” says Gotoweicz. “Also flowers from Holland because of the time of year. So you’re looking at Gerber daisies, tulips, irises, and freesia. In the middle of winter, people get those and go, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”

    Scent, as long as it’s not overpowering, is brilliant because every time your intended gets a waft of the aroma, he/she will be reminded of you and — hopefully — get all weak-kneed.

    But beware: you might want to check on what kind of flower you’re sending to the object of your affection.

    The art of floriography – the “language” of flowers – warns that sending the wrong blossom can send a devastating message to your beneficiary.

    Highly popular during the Victorian Era (from 1837 to 1901) floriography was such an essential element of social life that people meticulously expressed themselves through floral arrangements. But the presentation of a bouquet — or lack thereof — could speak volumes about their intentions, romantic or otherwise.

    Even the colors of the flora represented different moods and meanings.

    For example, each hue of the carnation offers a kaleidoscope of interpretation.

    According to victorianbazaar.com the carnation itself is generally construed to represent “fascination” or “devoted love.” A red carnation tells your recipient that your heart is aching for them or that you admire them.

    Offer them pink, and it symbolizes that you’ll never forget them. White equals innocence.

    But send them a yellow or a striped carnation and be prepared for hell to break loose: it’s a sign of rejection.

    In fact, when you contemplate the entire color wheel, yellow seems to be the universal troublemaker: a yellow chrysanthemum symbolizes slighted love; a yellow hyacinth, jealousy.

    Other troublesome colors are germane to specific genus: A scarlet geranium represents melancholy; a purple hyacinth asks for forgiveness; and the orange lily is a definite no-no — it expresses hatred or dislike.

    So, if a bouquet of orange lilies shows up at the office, there’s a good chance it’s game over.

    Think maybe a plant is a good idea? Think again. Gotoweicz frowns on sending plants. “Somebody may be thinking, ‘I don’t like sending flowers because they die, so maybe I can send a plant and it would last longer.’ In my head, I’m saying, ‘OK buddy, the idea is not how long this thing lasts. The idea is, ‘I know these flowers are really perishable but you’re worth it.’

    “That tells me that maybe you just don’t get it,” says warns.

    Flowers are great gifts for a number of reasons: they’re pretty, they smell nice, they brighten up a room and they don’t break the bank, although Gotoweicz admits that men — who typically buy more flowers as a romantic gesture than women — aren’t usually budget-conscious when it involves flora.

    Even in trying economic times such as these, she says flowers seem to be the recession-proof way of gifting from one’s admirers.

    “When economic times are great, it’s a very spur-of-the-moment — people come in to buy a dozen roses, and they may look at this big huge vase with four dozen in it and go, ‘Oh, I’m going to take that,’” she explains.

    “In a bad economy, flowers, which people buy with their disposable income, are hit hard at first. But the longer the economic downturn lasts, it’s almost a reverse effect, because it’s something that people can afford.

    “Maybe they can’t afford a car to buy as a birthday gift, but they can afford to buy a nice bouquet of flowers. They become a relatively affordable luxury and then people start spending more on them again.”

    Make no mistake, the blooms and buds can get very costly. Four dozen long stemmed red roses with local delivery on Valentine’s Day will run you about $400. Though you can get a dozen nice looking ones for around $60. Other types of reasonably sized bouquets with fresh cut flowers etc. will cost you between $60 and $100.

    But the beauty of sending flowers (or handing them over in person) is that you can imaginatively dress up your bouquet with a pound of chocolate, a cute teddy bear, a bunch of balloons or a special card. Or you can keep it really simple. And you don’t have to give a dozen.

    “Sometimes,” offers Gotoweicz, “one rose says as much as 50.”

    Of course, if things didn’t go so well during a date, there’s a remedy for that too.

    Go to The Payback.com and you can express your displeasure with a $19.99 (U.S.) order of a half-dozen dead wilted roses.

    If you want to be really cruel, you can spend your $19.99 and order just the stems. Or if you want to be really, really cruel, you can spend your $19.99 and send your ex-date…. wait for it…. “1 Dead Smelly Fish.”

  • When to Call Your Date

    When to Call Your Date

    By Sarah Fielding

    You’ve got their phone number. Whoo-hoo! Now what? Here’s how to ace the art of calling a date.

    The First Call
    In some ways, making the very first phone call is a lot less stressful than making a follow-up call after a date. After all, you’ve been given a clear green light to proceed. You’ve probably spent some time getting to know each other online. And now you are advancing to step two.

    Who Calls?
    It’s the 21st century: either the guy or girl can make the first move regarding offering their digits or dialing said digits. Keep in mind, though, that whoever does the asking for the first date should probably also do the paying. Or at least offer to pay for the first date.

    When to Call, Part I
    Now is not the time to be shy or to play hard to get. If a prospective date has given you their number call them at the earliest, most appropriate opportunity. Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but unless you know someone’s day-to-day routine, it’s probably prudent not to call before 9 am or after 9 pm.

    What to Say?
    Start off by letting your new friend know how much you’ve enjoyed getting acquainted online. If you’re the one doing the calling, make sure you’ve got a particular date idea in mind, so after the pleasantries have been exchanged, you can say, “Hey, there’s a great new organic café that’s opened in my area, we should go for a coffee sometime.” Remember, if you’ve already got their number, they are unlikely to turn down your invitation.

    Getting the Beep
    If you happen to go through to voicemail on your first call, leave a brief message but never ask for a first date unless speaking to a real, live person. It’s just too impersonal.

    Don’t blather on; just leave your name and number and ask them to get back to you. Simple.

    The Follow-up Call
    Hopefully at the end of a successful date, you’ve been able to suss out whether there’s a possible second date on the horizon. With any luck, you’ll have been given a clear indication that a second date would be most welcome. Now, all you need to do is close the deal.

    When to Call, Part II
    This is one of the biggest issues in dating today. Calling too soon — say, as you’re on your way home from the date — makes you seem desperate and possibly creepy. Calling too long after the date (any longer than three days is remiss) makes it seem like you don’t really care. Ideally, you should call to follow-up and enquire about a second date one or two days after the first.

    What to Say?
    Gushing endlessly about what a great time you had then hatching plans for next Christmas together are massive turn-offs at this early stage. When making the follow-up call, stick to positive, relevant comments about your first meeting. Then let your date know you would like to do it again sometime.

    Call and Call Alike
    When engaging in early phone exchanges with a date, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you don’t call them more than they call you. No, this isn’t one of those ridiculous ‘rules’ of dating. It’s just common sense. You don’t want to come across as needy or stalker-ish, so keep the ‘call and call alike’ rule in mind as you’re reaching for the phone.

    Leaving Another Message?
    Hmmm. Things seemed to go so well on the date. But now you’ve left two messages and still no reply? Don’t write it off completely but don’t call them again either — and certainly don’t ring demanding to know why they haven’t returned your calls. Rather, just play it cool. If they do get back to you, and you’re still interested in seeing them again, it’s your call.

  • Telling Your Friend She’s Dating a Dick

    Telling Your Friend She’s Dating a Dick

    By Sarah Rowland

    She had all the telltale signs of a woman in love.

    There was the the perma-smile, the upbeat attitude, the sudden loss of appetite and the ever-present glow that can’t be faked with cosmetics.

    I wanted to be happy for her. After all, she had been slugging it out in the singleton trenches for as long as I had. But the problem was I didn’t trust her new beau as far as I could throw him… and with good reason.

    I knew her boyfriend from back in the day. We even dated briefly in college and he wasn’t exactly what I would call a follow-through guy. You know the kind — comes on strong, keeps up the charm till you’re good and smitten and then without warning, does a 180 and retreats so far back emotionally you wonder what the cold-hearted bastard is made of.

    A part of me wanted to speak up and warn her. But in the end, I decided to give her new man/my old flame the benefit of the doubt. I mean people act differently in relationships with different partners, right? Maybe I just wasn’t the one for him.

    I also factored in the time that had elapsed — it had more than 10 years since I hung out with him. So I thought, “Who knows? Perhaps he’s grown as a person since our college days together.” I was wrong. About two months into the relationship, he cut her loose in the cruelest of fashions: left her hanging at Christmas — no calls, no explanation, no nothing.

    She was devastated. I was riddled with guilt. Could I, should I have done things differently?

    I mean it’s been my experience that people only hear what they want to hear. Furthermore, every time I’ve spoken my mind about a friend’s date that she’s not ready to get rid of, it’s only caused awkward tension between me and that friend. So the question is: Is there a right way to tell your friend she’s dating a dick?

    Relationship expert Dr. Susan Campbell says yes. The best way to start off is with a pre-conversation. That way you can sniff out exactly how much honesty your friend expects and/or wants from you.

    “You don’t want to just bust in and say, ‘I think he’s a jerk,’” says Campbell, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology. “I think the first conversation might need to go something like, ‘We’re really good friends and I want to have the kind of relationship with you where I can say whatever I think and feel even if it’s none of my business. Do you want that kind of relationship with me?’”

    If, and when, you get the green light for honesty, make sure your opinion is based on facts. Hunches and hearsay won’t do when you’re dealing with other people’s personal business.

    “I don’t believe in passing on second-hand information,” says Campbell, who has written several books on the subject of honest communication including, Getting Real, Truth in Dating and her latest, Saying What’s Real. “Give specific examples — either something you actually saw [like him in the arms of another woman] or things you remember hearing from her own mouth. So you could say something like, ‘You’ve told me three times that you wanted to break up with this person and then every time you see him, you change your mind.’”

    Those are familiar words for Allen, who is living proof that there are just as many male victims of love as there are female. He dated the same evil woman off and on for more than a year. Several friends tried to warn him about her, but he wouldn’t listen.

    “She was a manipulative liar, which other people saw, but of course I refused to see it — I was in denial,” admits the freelance writer from Madison, WI. “I remember Mary [a friend] telling me that she didn’t trust [evil woman] because she had met her at a party where [evil woman] was all over all kinds of guys.”

    Dave, another buddy, wasn’t as kind in his assessment of Allen’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. He repeatedly told Allen, in no uncertain terms, that she was no good and that it was time to move on — something that Allen wasn’t prepared to do at the time.

    “After that I was kind of leery about running into to Dave when I with her,” says Allen. “I felt like he was judging me because we had had multiple discussions on the subject.”

    This is an example of why Campbell warns against making blatant judgment calls. You risk alienating your friend.

    “I wouldn’t tell the person ‘I think you should dump him or her,’” warns Campbell.”[After you've stated your opinion], just give your feelings with phrases like, ‘I’m afraid that you’re going to get hurt …’, ‘I’m concerned that you….’ or ‘I’m worried that you….’ And leave it at that because really, at that point you’ve done your job. So just honor yourself for taking a big risk on behalf of the friendship.”

    And in the case of my friend and the non-committal goof who broke her heart?

    “I think a lot of times people do have to play it out and do their own thing anyway, so she might have acted exactly the same way [even if you had warned her],” says Campbell, before adding, “But then again, you might have saved yourself some guilt.”

  • 8 Tips for a Better Breakup

    8 Tips for a Better Breakup

    By Kelly Jones

    Whether you’ve been going out for three weeks or have been together for decades, moving past your relationship’s “best before” date is never easy.

    The last thing you want to do is hurt their feelings. But in the end you have to think of yourself – and you want out. From picking the right moment to the language you use, from choosing your breakup location to coping with the dumpee’s emotions in the days that follow, these tips will help you hold ‘em then fold ‘em.

    Preparation Rage
    Cutting someone out of your life isn’t a decision you’ve made lightly, so take the time to plan the way you deliver the news. The more you put into the preparation, the less likely they are to become irrational. That said, some dumpees — even though they know a breakup is the right thing to do — will come to tears anyway. Think through what questions your soon-to-be ex-flame might have and plan appropriate answers.

    Know Who’s On First
    Your best pal may have been the first to know you felt something special for your most recent heartthrob, but that doesn’t mean they get first dibs on the news of the decision to break up. Be respectful of the person you’re about to say goodbye to and tell them before anyone else.

    Face-to-face Face Value
    Yeah, I know, it’s easier to deliver sad news over the phone, email or through text message. But you know deep down the right thing to do is endure those awkward, uncomfortable breakup moments in person. If you don’t extend this courtesy to your future-ex, there’s no chance in hell you’ll ever be friends with them or any of their hot pals. And if that’s not motivation enough, consider it a deposit into your Bank of Karma, saving yourself from being surprisingly dumped on Facebook — and in front of all your friends to boot.

    Timing Is Everything
    From orgasms to surprise birthday parties to stand-up comedians to a well-cooked meal, timing is everything. Apply this life theme to your breakup plan too. Don’t drop the bomb right after having sex or before a momentous event. Avoid special occasions — holidays, anniversaries, birthdays — at all costs. You may be ruining their day, but you don’t have to ruin that same day of the year, every year, for all eternity. If your dumpee is a social butterfly, consider a Friday dump so they can distract themselves with friends over the weekend. Or if your soon-to-be ex is a bit of a workhorse, make a plan for Monday so they can keep themselves busy at the office while adjusting to their new single status.

    Location Location Location
    Equally important is the spot you choose to deliver the news. A neutral venue with no sentimental value to either of you makes an ideal location. While there is some benefit to breaking up with someone in a very public place (like an intimate restaurant) in the hopes that fear of embarrassment would deter them from overreacting, it’s a bit of a cop-out. The place you choose should allow some opportunity for walking or finding more quiet spaces if needed, such as a park or shopping mall during non-peak hours.

    Planned and Delivered
    To avoid mixed messages, get your thoughts and decision across clearly, honestly and simply. It’s likely they too have felt the relationship disintegrating. By letting them know about the sadness you feel, you become an ally in sorrow rather than a tyrant of bad news. Without being accusatory (it’s you, not me), let them know what you’re feeling (it’s me, not you) and that you’ve decided it’s best to part ways. There is nothing wrong with having different expectations of a relationship or partner, just as there is nothing unnatural about falling out of love. Avoid lying to save hurt feelings. Instead choose your honest words carefully. Being considerate of their feelings can only be beneficial to you down the road — especially if this person is someone you’ll see again through friends or in work environments.

    Let the Defense Take the Floor
    Your dumpee may react in a myriad of ways — from laughter to tears to straight-faced seriousness to disbelief. Give them time to let the news sink in, and then let them talk about how they feel (if they want). Even if they guessed it was coming and know that it’s the right thing to do, some may try to persuade you to change your mind simply because they’d prefer to withstand an OK relationship than be without one altogether. Reply that you have heard their words but that you have made up your mind. If you let on that you’re wishy-washy on the issue, you’ll never move on. If possible, let them decide when to end the conversation.

    The Aftershock
    Your ex may try to convince you to get back together in the days that follow. And if there’s stuff to collect from each other’s houses or occasions where you’re seeing each other after the breakup, it’s sometimes easy to fall back into old patterns and start fooling around again. Although we’ve all heard that breakup sex can be mind-blowing, the repercussions far outweigh the short-term benefits of a quickie. Hard as it is, avoid getting intimate with your ex. Who wants to go through the motions of breaking up with someone a second time?

  • 10 Things They Shouldn’t Know

    10 Things They Shouldn’t Know

    By Brent Turnbull

    Honesty in a relationship is the best policy… most of the time.

    There are, however, certain things that it is best to put in a vault, encase in concrete and rocket into space on a collision course with the sun. OK, that may be overstating, but you definitely need to exercise a little discretion with your information sharing. It’s not a lie, just a wise withholding of details.

    10. I’m Really Insecure About…
    We all have our insecurities. You might think your legs are too skinny or that everyone is more successful than you. You may envy your girlfriend’s best friend Matt from high school or your boyfriend’s co-worker Sharon. Keep it to yourself. Like it or not, women like confidence in a man and admitting to this kind of worry will either seem insecure or untrusting. For men, it is just downright annoying to hear these kinds of worries and, truthfully, they may take it as a sign of “high maintenance” tendencies.

    9. Mementos from Your Ex
    So there’s this box that you have buried in the back of your closet, behind the shoes you never wear and the trophies from childhood sporting triumphs. This box contains all that remains from that special relationship immediately preceding the current one. It could be as harmless as the first rose he gave you or as salacious as some naked photos you decided to snap one drunken night. Doesn’t matter. Having held onto them is damning enough to raise suspicions that you still harbor feelings for your ex and are just waiting for them to call you to break up with your current love.

    8. Masturbation Frequency
    We all do it — some more frequently than others — but it’s best to play this close to the chest. Admitting that you touch yourself is no biggie, but telling them that it’s close to every other hour might raise uncomfortable questions in their mind: Am I dating a sex maniac? What, I don’t satisfy you on my own? So when you’re asked — and you will be — be demure. After all, “Wouldn’t you like to know?” sounds so much better than “24 times a day.”

    7. My Family Hates You
    Pretty obvious. Still, I’m constantly surprised by friends who share familial doubts with their partners. Revealing this information only serves make them angry or insecure around your family and in the long-term poison any potential relations between them. So when Mom says, “She’s just not good enough,” work on changing her opinion and keep your partner out of this negative loop.

    6. I Just Love to Flirt
    Everyone flirts to some degree — you likely flirted with your partner before you got together. But now that you’re together they don’t want to hear about your flirting ways. Put yourself in their shoes: How would you like to hear about all of the people they’ve flirted with during the day? Doesn’t feel good does it? If it really is harmless flirting, then don’t make them worry about it. Keep it to yourself.

    5. Notches on the Belt
    It may feel good to have so many conquests but it definitely won’t to your sig-other. In fact, it’ll make them feel downright un-special. That being said, if you have had a randy past, do yourself a favor and get yourself tested. Starting the relationship with a clean slate is a good idea for everyone involved.

    4. You Sounded Just Like My Ex
    You compare them to your ex. You compare their kissing, the quality of their jokes and their crazy (or not so) moves in bed. They don’t need to know. Nobody likes being compared. It’ll drive them crazy if they feel like their every move is being weighed against an invisible standard.

    3. I Don’t Like Your Friends
    Talking badly about your partner’s friends is one of the worst things you can do. Insulting their friends is like insulting them — “You have such bad taste.” Also, strategically, you need her friends as allies to stick up for you from time to time when things get rough. If you need to trash talk their friends, save it for a night out with yours.

    2. Your Cheating Heart
    You might think that you’re close enough to reveal these details, but in reality they will never be ready to hear that you’ve cheated on an ex. It doesn’t matter why it happened and that it will never happen again. You’ll come off looking like an amoral ass, with a plummeting trust factor to boot. And, every time you’re in a questionable situation they’ll automatically assume the worst.

    1. I’d Bang Your Friend
    Your partner wants you to like their friends, just not too much. Confessing that you think one of their buds is hot is definitely a bad move. For one thing he/she probably has a sense of competitiveness about the attentions of the opposite sex so you’ll be stepping into a minefield of envy and past hurts. Secondly, they’ll never trust you around their friends again. And that’s no way to start building a life together.


  • Dirty Talk: The Other Oral Sex

    Dirty Talk: The Other Oral Sex

    By Ambrose Diaz

    Even for people who are sexually open, the act of talking dirty — or ‘erotic talk’ as most of the experts call it — can be a bit of a stumbling block.

    It achieved infamy on a late, great Seinfeld episode when Jerry tried unsuccessfully to talk dirty with his girlfriend, asking her if she was wearing the “panties that your mother laid out for you.”

    In an effort to overcome that kind of awkwardness, here are some tips on how to talk the talk. Apprehensive? Well don’t worry — erotic talk is really nothing to fear. It’s a very healthy way of sharing an erotic experience. As Dr. Carol Queen, author of Exhibitionism for the Shy says, it’s just another form of sexual communication.

    “Today I can ask for exactly what I want sexually, and learn my partner’s preferences, via direct questioning and fantasy talk. Communicating this way will maintain — even heighten — our level of arousal.”

    Overcoming Oral Bashfulness
    If the very thought of erotic talk makes you want to take a lifelong vow of silence, there are a few baby steps you can take. Dr. Queen suggests working on your shyness by talking out loud to yourself while you’re masturbating. Don’t worry if you can’t muster up a coherent sentence — just making sounds is a good start. As Dr. Queen says, “If you think erotic words or phrases while you coo and gasp, you will find that as you get more turned on, the words will superimpose themselves onto the sounds.”

    Just Express Yourself
    It’s important not to blow erotic talk out of proportion. You don’t have to prepare notes or talking points on cue cards. At its core, you just have to express yourself. Giving and receiving feedback during sex is the best starting point to engaging in erotic talk. Saying that you really like something that your lover is doing counts as erotic talk, so repeat after me: “I love it when you do that.”

    Move from general phrases like the one above to more specific phrases like, “I get so hot when you lick my nipples…” or whatever it is you like having licked.

    Let’s Play ‘Optometrist’
    Asking your partner questions while you’re having sex is another effective erotic talk technique. Just like when you’re having your eyes examined by the optometrist, ask your partner if (s)he likes it better “like this” or “like this.” When they tell you which method they prefer, ask them why. Bingo! You’re engaged in an erotic conversation.

    As you continue, keep communicating. Find out what you can do to make your partner happier by asking, “What can I do to make you come?” My optometrist has never actually asked me that question, but I always wish she would…

    Vocalizing how you’re feeling, how you want to feel, and what you want to do is the very essence of erotic talk. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can branch out into more fantasy-filled conversations where you don’t necessarily have to be talking about what’s actually taking place in the bedroom. When you use words to express whatever your fantasies are, you can place yourself in absolutely any erotic situation you want.

    Phone It In
    When you can’t, for whatever reason, be in the same room as your partner, put your erotic talk to good use, let your fingers do the walking, and engage in the some phone sex. It’s the safest sex you’ll ever have and as Bonnie Gabriel writes in her book, The Fine Art of Erotic Talk, “A telephone tryst can serve as a vehicle to keep your romantic feelings alive, to enhance intimacy, to build erotic anticipation, and to fuel your sexual fantasies.”

    Gabriel suggests a number of ways to phone it in, like having an erotic conversation every night before bed, setting up the phone call with an anticipatory playful email during the day, and including erotic details that are “specific to your partner and not just elements of sex in general.” (Best to use your Hotmail account rather than the office email system for this one — Ed)

    When it comes time for your orgasm (eargasm?), Gabriel says “If you find yourself becoming too aroused to continue talking, express your growing excitement through your breathing, sighing, and other passionate sounds. Remember, your voice is the only line of connection with your lover here, and you want to keep that line flowing with sexual energy.”

    And when you’re done, say a little prayer for Alexander Graham Bell. If he only knew what he started…

  • Piercing for Pleasure

    Piercing for Pleasure

    By Lola Augustine Brown

    Tattoos aren’t the only ubiquitous bodywork out there these days.

    As piercing in general has become more mainstream, so has the piercing of people’s naughty bits.

    Today there are a myriad of ways you can pierce either your nipples or genitals in order to create a sexier aesthetic and increase the amount of sensation you receive in your most erogenous zones (and the sensations you give to others).

    It used to be that erotic piercings were only popular with punks and the S&M community but Daryl Nicholson, a piercer at New Tribe Tattoo and Piercing in Toronto says that nowadays, the seemingly most unlikely people come to get their genitals and nipples pierced.

    “Its all ages, all types, there is a really diverse group of people that want these piercings,” he says.

    Out of the Ordinary
    When Alicia Green* first heard another woman discussing her clitoral hood piercing she was initially horrified at the idea. “She kept telling me how fabulous it was and I just couldn’t believe it,” says Green. “But my mind started wandering and I asked her a million questions; four months later my curiosity overpowered my fear of needles and I went to get it done.”

    Getting her clitoral hood pierced “Hurt like a son of a bitch for a few minutes” but healed in three weeks and has given Green tons of pleasure both physically and mentally. The majority of genital piercings do heal very quickly. A clitoral hood piercing can be completely healed in six weeks. This is thanks to the increased blood flow in one’s nether regions. Most piercings anywhere on the body will heal within 2-3 months, though sometimes the process can take up to a year if there are factors such as ill health or other problems.

    New Sensations
    Knowing that she has a secret hidden in her undies is pretty thrilling for Green. “I am one of those people one would look at and never consider that I have hardware between my legs,” she says.

    Piercer Nicholson says that although plenty of 18-year-olds do come to get erotic piercings, it’s often the types you’d never expect, such as the 40-year-old-men in business suits who come to get both nipples pierced or older women looking to add a little zing to their marriages.

    Having her naughty piercing means that Green finds unexpected pleasure in the most mundane things, such as riding a bike or climbing stairs (especially if the bead on her clit ring is in the right place). “Not warning a partner prior to that first naked exploration can be pretty amusing,” she says. “I love that look of shock when they find the X that marks the spot.”

    Temporary Pleasures
    It isn’t just the permanent piercings that are growing in popularity. So-called ‘play piercings’ are temporary piercings often placed in patterns or designs. A common example is a “corset piercing,” for which multiple pairs of rings are inserted on either side of the spine, then laced up with ribbon to form a corset. These are something that Nicholson is being asked to do more of in the past year.

    There are degrees of play piercing and some people go deeper than others. While some people engage for aesthetic reasons, others just enjoy the sensation of being pierced. Google it and you’ll find images involving hypodermic needles. The ones we’re talking about are done using fine needles to avoid tissue damage and create minimal scarring. The piercings are usually taken out (by the piercer) the next day. Nicholson says that these are most commonly requested around fetish nights and for models doing erotic photo shoots.

    Fun for DIY Enthusiasts
    Many people also enjoy doing play piercings as part of kinky sex, and some even go as far as to do their own permanent piercings in the bedroom, although experts wouldn’t advise that anyone pierce something at home without expert supervision. Despite the fact it is not advised, the materials needed to do piercings and detailed instruction on how to perform them are readily available online.

    Sasha Vier had her nipples pierced by her boyfriend and says it was an incredibly hot experience. “He talked with a professional piercer about how to do it and bought everything that they’d use to do it in a piercing shop. All the equipment was sterile and my man did a fantastic job,” she says, “then we had hot sex while the endorphins were still charging around my body. Mmm.”

    However or whatever you get pierced, you need to take really good care of the wound as it can easily become infected while healing, which can cause scarring or disfigurement. Making use of that piercing too soon will delay healing and increase the length of time needed before you can truly get enjoyment form it.

    And, because your piercing is an open wound, you are more at risk of transmitting or receiving sexually transmitted infections. Remember kids, safety first!

    * Names changed for privacy

  • Is Sex with Strangers Liberating?

    Is Sex with Strangers Liberating?

    By Jenna Stone

    It’s a popular perception and a theme common in pop culture and it goes like this:

    Hooking up with a stranger leads to hot, no-holds-barred, button-popping, get-out-the-rug-burn-ointment sex…

    …Clothes-tearing, furniture-busting, sweaty, walking-funny-the-next-day sex. Sex with a stranger is supposedly waaaay hotter than sex with a long-term partner. You know, sex with a long-term partner: boring, repetitive, now he’s going to do that thing with his tongue again because I said I liked it that one time sex.

    This is why the theme is so often paired with the cheating theme. Perhaps the most famous movie example is the ecstatic shagging between Dan (Michael Douglas) and crazy Alex (Glenn Close) in Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction. (Lyne, who also directed Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful, is clearly a student-slash-fan of cheating). That Alex woman could boil a mean rabbit and she was a great lay. What’s not to love?

    Cheating isn’t an absolutely necessary part of the equation, though. Stranger-banging is still regarded as wilder than committed-relationship-banging regardless of whether you’re actually in a relationship or not. It’s why we often have the best sex of our lives during the first three months of any relationship, when everything is new and exciting. One way to keep the novelty alive is to do it with new people.

    A recent study released by the UK’s Dating Direct found that more than one in three single women confessed to meeting someone for no-strings-attached sex — which is sort of a broader definition of what we mean here.

    After all, once you have sex with someone more than once, they’re not technically a “stranger” anymore but can still be wild and new. The line lies somewhere between “That was great. What’s your name anyway?” and “Get your cold feet off my side of the bed. Thanks. G’night.”

    Those who don’t quite have the guts to do it can read about it. It’s a subject we have found enticing since Lady Chatterley got down with the gardener. Heck, adultery gets name-checked in the Old Testament. French journalist Catherine Millet caused a scandal with her 2001 memoir, La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine M., an account of her doing it with pretty much everything that moved over the course of 30 years.

    More recently, UK memoirist Suzanne Portnoy made a name for herself chronicling her sexual awakening after ending a 10-year marriage in her book The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker. Her newest book, The Not So Invisible Woman, reveals more of Portnoy’s exploits and encounters with “a different man each time, sometimes multiple men.”The entertainment publicist and single mother of two has said that time is one issue. With a career and kids, how is one supposed to cultivate a new relationship? She also says, “I love that first kiss, first touch and first sexual experience with a new partner. I dress up, my body feels heightened and it turns me on. You just don’t get that in a long term relationship.”And that’s the thing, isn’t it? We feel that for something to be “exciting” it has to be “the first” which isn’t necessarily true. Skydivers probably get excited every time they jump. Also, there’s this idea that there are no “firsts” with a long-term partner.Recently I was reading an article in which the author discussed the one-night stand in such a manner, extolling it as a situation in which you can really let go and get wild, because you don’t have to worry about seeing this person again. And I thought, “Yes, that is a pervasive view… but why?”

    “When people are in relationships,” says Cory Silverberg, a certified sex educator and founding member of the Toronto-based, co-operatively owned sex shop Come As You Are, “and they say they want the sex to be better or hotter, usually what they mean is they want it to be the way it used to be. One of the hottest things about sex is the unknown, the mystery. It’s either the mystery of what someone is going to be like in bed or, once you’ve had sex with someone, the mystery of what’s going to happen next.”

    Silverberg muses that part of the problem is how easy it is to habituate our sexual practices and fall into patterns. “So, people think ‘I would never have anal sex with my partner but maybe if I had sex with a sex trade worker and I was paying I’d want to try that.’ We habituate our behaviors and set boundaries and then treat them as though they aren’t negotiable. And we do it in a way that is unspoken. People don’t talk about this stuff a lot. It’s just established in the beginning of the relationship.”

    But people change over time and if you’re going to spend years with the same person you’re going to want different things. You don’t watch the same television shows over and over again for 40 years. You might not have the same taste in books now that you had 10 years ago. You don’t still wear the same ridiculous platform shoes you wore in 1998.So why should we be expected to do the same things in bed over and over again, right? But the problem then is you have to ask for what you want and most of us are simply not comfortable doing that. (Might I recommend drinking? Or maybe finger puppets…)Silverberg says, “With our partners we are often much more worried about judgment. If I’m going to have a one-night stand, what do I care what that person thinks of my fantasy about wearing a dog collar or having sex with my ninth grade math teacher? Whereas exposing those fantasies to my partner who I’m thinking about building a life with and whose family I’ve met might feel like a greater risk.”Interesting. After all, one might think that if you’re going to talk to anyone about your sex life it should be your partner, the person you supposedly share the most with in this area and the one person who would, hopefully, not judge you. It’s the person who has seen you in all sorts of states of vulnerability.

    Well one might think that but one would probably be wrong. Silverberg says, “We can assume that most of us feel some shame about our sexual desires. Exposing something that I feel shame about to someone I’ve opened my heart to is a big deal.

    “If I expose my fantasies about being dominated and wearing a dress to a total stranger, the worst that can happen is they can say no. But for a partner to say no can feel like a bigger rejection.

    “They might just be rejecting the idea of having sex with me while I’m wearing a dress but I can feel that as a rejection of me as a whole person. So, there’s a greater emotional risk and a greater practical risk. So, we don’t do it. Instead when we look for newness, we go out and we cheat.”

    We cheat because we’re chickenshits, which makes perfect sense.

    “We have this incredibly untapped well of eroticism inside of ourselves,” Silverberg continues. “We have all sorts of fantasies and desires we don’t expose to anyone. And that’s really what we should be doing. But we go the safe route because we’re scared.”

    And so we cheat. It’s AMAZING how many people cheat.

    One way to avoid this is to have some sort of discourse. If you’re going to be in a monogamous relationship for a long time you’re going to have to check in once in a while.

    “Hey, is that thing I do with my tongue still working for you?”

    “Actually, I’m glad you asked. Not really. And I was wondering if you’d mind putting on these boxing trunks and this mouth guard…”

    See how easy that was?

    If you’re NOT in a relationship, there’s no real reason you can’t keep having (SAFER!) sex with random people. But you might eventually find yourself wanting more. After all, sex isn’t the only relationship first. There’s the first time you kick his sorry ass at Trivial Pursuit, the first time you laugh until you pee (just me?), your first vacation, first place together, first kid… life is full of firsts.

    You might find that, after a while, random sex gets old, even if it’s always with someone new.

  • Rules for the One-Night Stand

    Rules for the One-Night Stand

    By Sarah Fielding

    Originally, ‘one-night stand’ was a term used to describe a travelling theatre show appearing in a town for one night only.

    Today, the term is synonymous with a sexual encounter that neither party expects to become anything more.

    According to a 2005 Durex Sex Survey, 44 per cent of adults worldwide have had a one-night stand. Australians especially seem to love their no-strings affairs, with a massive 60 per cent of Aussies surveyed admitting to a carefree shag… or two.

    With numbers like this, odds are you too will experience a one-night stand some time in your sexual life. Chances are you’ve already had one. Or more.

    But for the uninitiated or those sensitive types who find the love ‘em and leave ‘em approach difficult to grasp, these tips will help you master the art of the non-committal, guilt-free romp.

    Widen your Hunting Ground

    Managing a one-nighter is a hell of a lot easier when you’re out of town on business, on holidays or when there is virtually no chance you are ever going to see the other person again. Things become more complicated when you’ve hooked up with a neighbor, roommate, co-worker, friend of a friend etc. Remember: The fewer degrees of separation, the more likely it is that things could get messy. Think before you act, particularly if you’re getting frisky with a boss, friend or (gulp) someone else’s significant other.

    Take Aim on your Target

    Traditionally, one-night stands involve individuals who have not known each other long and who engage in the bare minimum of getting-to-know-you activities before deciding that a sexual encounter will ensue. But whether you meet your new bed buddy online or in a bar, the first thing to make absolutely clear is that you are both after the same thing — mutual, non-committal sexual gratification.

    Playing at Home
    There are arguments for and against doing the deed at your place. If you stick to your home turf, you will know the sheets are clean and you won’t have to stumble home in the dark… or worse, early morning light. On the downside, if you’ve got roommates or thin walls you might prefer somewhere more discrete and private, like their place.

    “I live in a new block of apartments and the walls are not very soundproofed. I know this because the night after I brought a girl back here — she was a real screamer — I got a note under my door from my neighbors,” says Phil. “Very embarrassing.”

    Playing Away
    Playing away from your place means there’s no chance of seeing your roommates (only his/hers, but hey, you’ll probably never see them again either). You get to be mysterious and keep your address to yourself. And best of all, you can get up and leave without laying there wondering how the hell you’re going to kick your conquest out of bed and out of the house.

    “The sex was great but his sheets were horrible,” says Belinda. “They looked like they hadn’t been washed in weeks — and that he’d been doing quite a bit of… entertaining. While he was in the toilet, I quickly pulled up the comforter, and we did it on top of it instead of the crusty sheets.”

    Kick out the Jams
    So, you’ve managed to hitch a ride out on Route 69 and are no longer travelling solo. Good for you. Now’s your chance to indulge, explore and let your imagination run wild. No-strings sex means you can let your inhibitions down. You’re not anxious to impress or concerned about what the other person really thinks of you, so you can let go and run wild.

    “My advice is to treat your one-night stand as the chance to do something wild and dirty, something you would probably never do with someone you were in a relationship with,” says Amy. “You’re probably never going to see them again, so what do you care if they think you’re a freak?”

    A Little Less Conversation…
    One-nighters are not the place for deep and meaningful conversations or bonding over shared hobbies and interests. If things are going to plan, the only bonding you’ll be doing will be from the waist down. But it would be virtually impossible to conduct a no-strings fling without communicating on some level. In these instances, less is more.

    Three things you should always say:

    “Pass the condoms.”
    “Pass the lube.”
    “Thank you!”

    Three things you do not want to hear:

    “I think I love you.”
    “Where is this relationship going?”
    “Who are you and what are you doing with my wife?”

  • Booty Call Etiquette

    Booty Call Etiquette

    By Ambrose Diaz

    It’s time to check your ideas of morality and emotional involvement at the door because today we’re talking about a little thing called the Booty Call.

    The Booty Call lives in a lovely grey area somewhere between the one-night-stand and the relationship and serves to supply consenting adults with a high-energy sexual release without the baggage and time involved in dating.

    You probably won’t find the term Booty Call in the dictionary… yet. But it seems like the phrase has slowly crept into our common vernacular, so much so that there are already rules (both written and unwritten) governing how to behave.

    After conducting some strenuous research on the subject, I have gone through my field-notes in an attempt to supply you with nine simple rules about the Booty Call.

    1. Brunch is the Enemy of the Booty Call
    This may seem a little harsh but the one and only purpose of the Booty Call is to get off. Once you’re done, get up, get dressed and go home. If you’re having a Booty Call because you don’t want to sleep alone, you’re in dangerous territory and emotional involvement is lurking somewhere around the corner. If you end up sleeping over, there’s only one place for things to go and that’s brunch. Brunch is the enemy of the Booty Call. You didn’t make the call because you wanted to chat over a cup of coffee. Your friends can supply you with that.

    2. No Timetables
    So… you’ve called your Booty Call Cohort (BCC) every Saturday night for the past two months? Bad move! The key to successful Booty Calling is to keep things uncomplicated, relaxed and elastic. If you make the call on a schedule, things are going to get very stale very fast. And if you wanted stale sex, you would just go ahead and get married (he kids, he kids! — Ed.)

    3. No Meeting in Public
    Again, this may seem a little harsh, but this rule is definitely a good one to follow. Remember this: meeting your BCC in public is called “a date.” You and your BCC should only live in an erotic fantasy world that doesn’t exist outside of the bedroom.

    4. Look Good
    Yes, the sex is almost guaranteed. No, it’s not a date. But you’re still going to have to make an effort to look and smell good. Make sure your Booty Calls get accepted by staying on top of your outward appearance. After all, letting things slide with the way you present yourself is for those people in long-term relationships (what a comedian…– Ed).

    5. Expect Nothing
    The Booty Call should only be made (and accepted) by those who want to have sex at that moment. If your BCC stops calling you or stops accepting your calls, don’t take it personally. Remember, it was never a personal relationship to begin with. It was purely sexual and had no strings attached.

    6. Be Open & Honest
    I know this sounds dangerously like “relationship talk” but trust me, as long as you and your BCC know where things stand right off the top, and then you won’t have to deal with any real relationship talks later on. Just be tactful and make sure that you’re both on the same page. Once you see you’re both on the same page, feel free to have sex on it.

    7. Be Safe
    It’s the 21st century: should I really have to go into this? Just remember to protect yourself so you can enjoy Booty Calls well into your golden years.

    8. Please Please Me, Please Please You
    Be a generous lover. It doesn’t cost you a thing. As much as you may just want to get off, remember there is someone else involved here. If all you’re thinking about is yourself, then yes you may have just screwed your BCC, but you’ve also probably just screwed your chances at another Booty Call down the line.

    9. Timing
    No calls before 9:30 pm. No calls after 1:30 am. The Booty Call is definitely not for everyone. You have to be able to draw a distinction between the emotional and the sexual. But if you do it right, the good times are guaranteed. Just remember: don’t call collect.

Tips & Tricks

  • 6 Things to Have on Your Dating Resume

    6 Things to Have on Your Dating Resume

    By Shawn Conner

    In a lot of ways, a first date is like a job interview.

    Both are stressful, intense minefields of potential gaffes. You’re trying out for a position for which you feel grossly under-qualified and someone with way better credentials than yours is always waiting in the wings. You’re often unprepared and you are, quite likely, hungover.

    Both come with some basic guidelines. You don’t want to look like you got dressed in the dark. You want to ask questions and nod at the appropriate times. You want to appear interested but not too interested. And it’s important to have a good resume.

    Not on paper, necessarily, but in your head. When on dates, people look for certain qualifications. Here are six things that you should have on your dating resume:

    Charity work. This demonstrates selflessness, and an ability to not think about yourself 24/7. Perhaps you’ve been a Big Brother or Sister, or run for breast cancer, or served food at a soup kitchen at Christmas. If so, it’s always good to casually — and subtly — drop this into conversation. If you can’t think of anything remotely charitable in your past, then you can say you’ve been seriously considering one of the above options (don’t tell them that just thinking about it made you feel so good you decided not to bother). And, who knows? You might even inspire yourself to actually do something charitable. The Big Brother/Sister is a good one — the time requirement is minimal (a few hours a week) and you might make a new friend. (And where there’s a kid in need of a Big Brother or Sister, there’s often a single parent.)

    Friends with your exes. Exes make the best references, especially if they haven’t taken legal action against you. (And if they have, well, it was a case of mistaken identity and anyway, your date doesn’t need to know about any of that). Try to drop in the name of an ex or two and mention that you’re still buddies. This can be tricky, though, because if you go on at length about your ex, your date might wonder if you still aren’t carrying a torch. So don’t tell him or her about the long weekend away that the two of you have also planned. But, it mightn’t hurt to gently imply that you think the ex might still have a teeny thing for you, particularly if you’re a man, as women are scientifically proven to be attracted to the things others want. Bonus points if you’re friends with an ex-fiancé: this shows that at some point, someone liked you enough to consider spending the rest of his or her life with you.

    Social skills. Having a group of friends demonstrates that you are capable of human interaction and not some kind of cave-dwelling troglodyte stuck in a World of Warcraft. And the more friends you have — real friends, meaning people who actually know you, not names you’ve collected on Facebook — the more likeable you appear to be. A mixture of both same and opposite sex pals suggests that you are well rounded while having only opposite sex friends suggests you’re an eternal flirt and perhaps competitive with your own, and having only same sex friends suggests an inability to relate to the “other.” Talk warmly about the people you know and say nice things about them. Liking others makes you likeable.

    Education. Most of us in the singles market can proudly say we’ve graduated high school, if not community college. Some of us may even have gone on to university or, in the case of those in the Intimate section, graduate school. On a date, this usually doesn’t matter as much as being able to say you’ve gone out of your way to grow as a person by taking a class in, say, pottery or fire-dancing. If you’ve taken any kind of course in the last few years, it would be good to drop this into a conversation — exceptions being work-safety and/or court ordered sexual harassment/sensitivity training seminars. Bonus points if it’s got anything to do with cooking or French.

    Family relations. Guys, it helps to let her know you like and respect your mom; how you treat your maternal parental unit says a lot about how you’re likely to treat her. DON’T make fun of your mom’s cooking, no matter how bad it is (I had one ex tell me, after one too many jokes about my mom’s mashed potatoes, “I’m sure she did the best she could,” which made me feel like a heel). Ladies, do try to be on speaking terms with all the members of your family. Feuds and longstanding grudges look bad; if you haven’t talked to your sister for 10 years because she made fun of your potato salad, this bodes ill for the future should things go wrong between you and your next boyfriend. It certainly doesn’t make family visits seem very appealing.

    Survival skills. At another time, “art appreciation” or “other languages” might have filled this space. But today, when recession, pandemics, and Nancy Grace threaten our very way of life, it’s a facility with a Swiss army knife that counts. Now is the time to drop references about your Boy or Girl Scout experience into the conversation; to mention that fallout shelter you’re building, and that earthquake preparedness seminar you’ve signed up for. Do you know CPR? Do you have a basement full of canned goods? Can you build a fire? Yes? Congratulations. How soon can you start?

  • 7 Things to Do Before Your Date

    7 Things to Do Before Your Date

    By Kelly Jones

    You’ve only got one chance to make sure your first impression isn’t a last impression.

    So show up prepared — mentally and physically. Think of this groundwork as some pre-exercise stretching. It keeps you at the top of your game and stops you from pulling anything if the action gets heated.

    Go In The Know
    First dates, especially blind dates, require a host of practical preparations. Get to know a bit about your date through Internet research. Vivien W. from Oakland admits, “I verify my date’s info through excessive Googling, particularly if it is a blind date. I can find anyone online, either through their work, Facebook account, sporting events, charitable stuff, etc. I want to make sure that the guy is respectable and associated with a real place of work.”

    Not only will this enable you to feel at ease about your date’s outlook on life, but you’ll also have some conversation-starters having peeked through their public past and peccadilloes.

    Pump It Up
    Doing something active before hooking up with someone new has many benefits, which may explain its popularity with singles. Dancing around the bedroom to the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert soundtrack has worked for me for years, and another — perhaps more agile — friend does cartwheels down her hall to connect with her quirky inner child.

    Carl M. from Toronto confesses, “I like to get some exercise before a date because it wakes me up, gets me energized and feeling happy through endorphin release.” The message here is to do whatever you need to do to feel fun and full of life, as this attitude will give you a glow and solidify your sense of confidence.

    Come to Rest
    If you suffer from a case of the jitters, best to enjoy a few minutes alone before you go out and share yourself with someone else. You only get to make a first impression once, so it’s important to deal with or work through any pent-up nervous energy. Meditating, drinking tea, reading fiction and massaging your hands or feet are all good ways to deal with that case of nerves.

    And speaking of massaging, masturbating before meeting other singles provides the benefits of that calmer sutra of a great O. The research backs up this practice. It is well documented that masturbation releases endorphins into the bloodstream (causing a sense of well-being and acting as a natural pain reliever) and causes the body to produce oxytocin (akin to valium), which stimulates relaxation and calms nerves.

    Safety First
    Going on a date with someone new can be thrilling and invigorating. But it’s important to keep that rush in perspective and to always be alert and prepared. Don’t assume that Mr. New Guy will be Mr. Nice Guy just because your coworker knows him from the gym. So put your safety first, and tell a friend where you’re going and with whom. Promise to call your pal the minute you get home.

    Supply Your Demand
    Rubber, prophylactic, sheath, blob, scumbag, Frenchie, flunky, glove, Johnny, raincoat, safe, condom. Whatever you call it, pack one in your pants or purse before embarking on your rendezvous. You just never know what you’ll feel like doing.

    It’s a Plan
    Nothing worse than that first in-person encounter that gets off to an awkward start with, “So, what do you want to do?” Followed by, of course, “I don’t know. What do YOU want to do?” The solution, says Colleen K. from Seattle, is a few minutes of prep: “I always check concert, event and movie listings in case there’s nothing to say and you need something to do.” It doesn’t have to be set in stone (spontaneity is much more fun and doesn’t run the risk of you looking too eager or of feeling disappointed because things didn’t go as you’d expected), but it’s good to have an idea or two in waiting.

    Prime Time
    Looking your best ensures you feel your best. Make sure to set aside enough time before your date to work through your body prep routine — trim, shave, pluck, wax, exfoliate, moisturize… whatever it takes so that you feel sexy. My friend Lina G. from Toronto once gave me the following great advice: “Take one close-up look and one from-afar look in the mirror before stepping outside.” In the hours leading up to your outing, remember to eat foods that you know agree with your tummy and don’t cause uncomfortable bloating and gas.

    No one likes a tooter.

  • How to Talk to Anyone

    How to Talk to Anyone

    By Lola Augustine Brown

    Sometimes breaking the ice on a first date can be tough, especially if you are naturally shy.

    “I find first dates horrible,” says Bob, a fortysomething Seattle native. “I was married for 15 years and now I’m single I find talking to the opposite sex nerve-wracking. I get sweaty palms, the whole deal.”

    Luckily for the likes of Bob, you can learn to improve your oral and aural appeal. Confidence expert Leil Lowndes, author of many books including How to Talk to Anyone, Goodbye to Shy and How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You, shares her tips for saying the right things and coming across great on a first date.

    Drop the Lines
    Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire winning opening line that will guarantee that you charm the pants off your date the second you open your mouth. Making a good impression is a tad more complicated than that and is dependent on the situation as well as the person you are talking to, says Lowndes. That said, there are certain types of ice-breaking questions that work very well.

    Lowndes’ favorite question to ask a new person is, “What is your average day like?” This is an interesting, thought-provoking question that shows you are interested and is fun to answer, because most people like talking about themselves. Another good one, if the person you are meeting is from somewhere else originally is, “What brought you to the city?” Answers to both of these questions should deliver enough information to fuel further conversation.

    Getting gender-specific, Lowndes suggests that men ask their dates questions about themselves and how they feel about things. “Ask why questions, not what questions. Women however should never ask their dates anything about feelings, as this doesn’t work well on guys,” she says.

    Take Your Shy and Shove It
    “The first thing you need to realize when you are nervous about talking to your date is that they are probably just as shy as you are,” says Lowndes, “The trick is to think confidently, because if your thinking is that you are shy then your body just folds up.” You need to keep good posture, display open body language (no arms folded etc.) lean in towards your date, and make sure you look your date in the eyes (as shy people often have difficulty making eye contact.) These things may sound obvious, but they are things that too many of us forget when dating and may often require practice until they happen naturally.

    Lowndes advises that guys nod while their date is talking to them, as it shows that they are listening and absorbing what is being said (this takes effort as men usually only nod when they agree with something, while women nod more naturally in conversation to show that they are paying attention.) For women, Lowndes advises touching their date, though very gently. “A wonderful trick is to touch the man’s shoulder or pick an imaginary piece of lint off their shirt,” says Lowndes. “This creates more of a connection.”

    If you are worried that you come across as not very interesting, take some time to figure out why. “Energy level has a lot to do with whether or not people find us interesting to talk to,” says Lowndes. “If you inject energy into your voice, anything you talk about will come across as interesting, but using one flat tone will make you sound dull. Try taping yourself in conversation then playing it back to find out how other people hear you.” Practice speaking more energetically and you’ll automatically become more interesting.

    The same goes with gestures, as these really add to conversation. While you don’t want to be practicing semaphore or throwing gang signs as you try to win your date over, making bigger gestures will add sparkle to your conversation. Lowndes advises watching people at parties who do this well, then trying to incorporate their gesture styling in to your own interactions.

    Enlist your friends to help you enrich your conversational style. Hold a group critique of where you think you could all improve, then remind each other when you slip up and do things you shouldn’t, such as slouch or use sloppy slang. You’ll want to point these things out discretely though or else you risk bruising egos.

    Become More Interesting
    Lowndes says that it doesn’t take much to become more interesting to the opposite sex. This may involve learning about things you are not necessarily yourself — or don’t yet know that you are interested in. She advises that guys pick up Psychology Today magazine to read up on touchy-feely subjects that will make good conversation starters (reading fluffy women’s magazines won’t do this!) and women should try to learn about sports or other typically male things. “Any woman that can talk about sports is in like Flynn,” Lowndes says.

    (Before you start sending letters we KNOW these are generalizations, OK? They’re also quite often truths. Now we’re gonna go talk about our feelings and maybe eat a cheese sandwich — EDs)

    Don’t Even Go There
    There are definite conversation no-go zones if you are trying to connect with someone for the first time. “Just don’t talk to guys about their feelings,” says Lowndes, “and guys should avoid talking about other dates or making any kind of sexual innuendoes or jokes. Men often say things about their sexual preferences on a first date and most women find that really off-putting.”

  • Can This Simple Trick Improve Your Life?

    Can This Simple Trick Improve Your Life?

    By Shawn Conner

    Who’s on your vision board? The brooding, bat-eared Christian Bale?

    The generously upholstered Kim Kardashian? Cute ‘n’ saucy Katy Perry?

    Sandra, single and 36, placed a picture of Chris Martin on hers. Not because she wanted a copy of the new Coldplay album, but because, she says, she has “a little crush” the Britpop singer.

    Now is the perfect time to take a New Age step and envision your ideal year ahead, and the perfect person to share it with. And the best way to do that, according to the power-of-attraction gurus behind The Secret and various bloggers with a lot of time on their hands, is by constructing a vision board.

    A vision board is, basically, a physical manifestation of your dreams or a visual and verbal articulation of goals. The principle is simple: by figuring out what you want most in life, and then focusing daily on your goals, you can reprogram your brain. Instead of thinking of, say, a cranberry-pecan muffin first thing in the morning, you’ll look up at your vision board, gaze upon a picture of some magazine model’s rippling abs, and reach for that apple instead.

    Martha Beck, appearing on the Oprah show, said she sees two reasons the vision board works. One is something called “selective attention.”

    “If you repeat the word, ‘blue, blue, blue,’ and you start looking around the room, all the blue things will start popping out.” The other reason is, uhm, quantum physics.

    “We know now, scientifically, that consciousness brings matter into being where there was energy,” said Beck. “So it’s not even necessarily that it draws it toward you. The conclusion is you’re literally creating some of this stuff.”

    An O Magazine columnist’s expertise on quantum physics notwithstanding, maybe there is something to this vision-board thing. At least, it doesn’t cost anything to make — although that hasn’t stopped a few people, like The Secret‘s John Assaraf, from trying to make money off the idea (with his Complete Vision Board Kit).

    For your dating vision board, start by collecting a stack of magazines, catalogues or any other visual aids that stir your imagination. Don’t limit yourself to what you have lying around the living room, though, or your board, like ours, might be full of nothing but pictures of the female cast members from Battlestar Galactica. You want to stay focused, but not that focused.

    Once you have your stack, cut out the pictures that most appeal to you, while keeping in mind the type of person you want to attract. Knowing the gender of your ideal partner is a good start, as is a ballpark age. And if you’re fundamentalist Mormon, before starting the project you might also want to figure out the number of life partners you want.

    Then start asking yourself more specific questions. Is she a blonde, brunette or redhead? Is he tall, short, with a full head of hair and a soul patch, or does he have a tattoo of praying hands on his bald skull? Does she have her own business, or does her job involve a pole? Does he front one of the world’s most successful rock bands, or is he currently in a maximum security institution?

    Getting more detailed, blogger Sherrie Hay suggests listing the four qualities your perfect mate must have, along with four qualities that would be the icing on the wedding cake. To that end, find pictures of people who embody those attributes highest on your list.

    For example, this could mean a picture of a fireman for bravery, Mickey Rourke for muscles and hair extensions, and Larry King for style. Or Sarah Silverman for laughs, Michelle Obama for strength, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck for loony rightwing opinions.

    Imagine your life together. Are you living in a deluxe apartment in the city, or a house in the country? Are you partying in a Hells Angels clubhouse or on your way to Burning Man in a motor home? Are you enjoying sun-drenched resorts or snow-packed mountains? Are there children, a surrogate mother? How many cats? Can your mother-in-law find you?

    Once you’ve decided on the pictures that best represent your soul mate and your happily-ever-after, arrange the images on a piece of poster-board. When you have them sorted in an aesthetically pleasing manner, start gluing.

    Blogger/musician/women’s retreat coordinator Christine Kane suggests putting a picture of your smiling, happy self smack dab in the middle, though this might mean moving Tricia Helfer to the sidelines.

    After completion, sit back and admire your handiwork. Congratulations! You’ve just spent an afternoon avoiding housework.

    But more than that, you might be on your way to meeting the man or woman of your dreams.

    Place your dating vision board somewhere you’ll be reminded of your goals daily, like a workspace. (Though probably not the office, unless you want your co-workers to know about your desire to appear on Dancing with the Stars). Hopefully you’ve chosen pictures that bring you a relaxed, happy feeling rather than those that would stress you out, or make you feel like an underachieving loser.

    You should feel, looking at the board, that you’re ready to go to your high school reunion, not like you’ve thrown away your early promise. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to thank the universe, er, Universe, in advance, as though you already have what you desire.

    Apparently this will smooth the transition so you’re ready when the publisher of The Secret pulls up in a truck and starts dumping cash onto your lawn.

    Yeah, the whole thing sounds a little flakey, even to us (and we believe Anderson Cooper is an emissary from the future). It also sounds almost criminally self-absorbed. After all, it’s easy for us, living in a part of the world where we don’t have to worry about falling bombs or blood-thirsty dictators, to cut and paste pictures of homes in Malibu and a reserved table at the French Laundry.

    But, like chicken soup, it probably can’t hurt. And might it not also be used to make us contribute more to society? That is, once we’ve snagged our versions of Chris Martin and Katee Sackhoff.

  • 5 Ways to Boost Your Dating Confidence

    5 Ways to Boost Your Dating Confidence

    By Nick Krewen

    When he said, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure,” Swedish soccer coach Sven-Göran Eriksson may have had more sporting fare on his mind.

    But he could have just as easily applied his quote to the world of dating. It’s a jungle out there, where the terror of rejection can be a traumatic intimidation factor when meeting someone new, while telegraphing that insecurity to your date could easily jeopardize your chances for a second meeting.

    While confidence isn’t an exclusive component to staging a successful date, it can be an important one, argues Chicago-based Patti Feinstein, self-described as America’s Dating Coach who has counseled hundreds of clients and appeared on ABC, CBS and MSNBC.

    “Confidence equals happiness, and happiness equals success,” she says. “Not everybody has a lot of confidence in dating,” she states. “Dating is a world of rejection, so it’s very hard to get the confidence. It’s more important to get the connection.

    “But confidence is important, and you’re not going to get it unless you try.”

    In her experience, Feinstein has found the fairer sex to be the most confident. “I would say women tend to be more confident than men,” she confirms. “I have a ton of male clients, and they always have confidence issues.

    “But I can take a guy who has no confidence, throw him into an activity, put him online, and he’ll find love.”

    Which brings us to five surefire ways Feinstein recommends for boosting your ego:

    Immerse Yourself in Something Passionate

    “Throw yourself into something that you can get absolutely lost in,” says Feinstein. “I’m not talking about books. I’m talking about activity, because then you’re not thinking about it.”

    Being consumed with something that you love tends to shift your focus away from almighty you. That leaves less time to think about your own insecurities.

    “When you’re shining and doing something that makes you happy, that makes you approachable,” she counsels.

    Feinstein recalls one client who had always wanted to purchase a motorcycle but had denied himself the pleasure.

    “I encouraged him to do it, and once he did, all of a sudden he started dating,” she says. “I do think that happiness contributes to confidence.”

    Keep the Conversation Focused On Your Date

    “Everybody’s favorite subject is themselves, so you want to talk about the other person,” says Feinstein. “It shows that you’re genuinely interested. It also shows that you have a certain amount of confidence because you don’t need to share all of your stuff on the first date. You know you have something to offer.”

    She says says that when it comes to the art of conversation, there are notable differences between men and women.

    “Men don’t talk — they’re visual. So for men, I would advise talk, ask open-ended questions and get it out there. Guys are so compartmentalized that it’s very difficult to make conversation with them.

    “Women have a tendency to talk too much, and that would show a lack of confidence. They over-analyze everything under the sun.”

    Tying in suggestion No. 1 — a passionate interest — also makes you a more engaging conversationalist for your potential date. Just don’t be overconfident. “You don’t want to do that, because it’s a turn-off,” notes Feinstein.

    Play Host

    Whether you’re at a club, at a social gathering or even one-on-one, Feinstein recommends that you try putting everyone around you at ease.

    “When you’re out there and you’re dating, forget about the rejection,” says Feinstein. “Pretend that you’re hosting a party wherever you are, and that it’s your job to make everybody comfortable, and to learn everybody’s name.

    “This way, you get to meet everybody that’s there and you don’t have that pressure on you. Take the dating part out of the equation and make it easy for yourself.”

    Visualize Your Date as A Pet

    Come again?

    “For guys that are really intimidated by women — and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but just to help with the confidence thing — pretend the woman is a dog and you need to come back to me and tell me what kind of dog she is,” says Feinstein. “That’s your exercise, so you’re not intimidated by her.”

    If you’re a guy, Feinstein says this controversial exercise will help you relax and put the date in perspective.

    “Women will kill me for saying that, but it does take away some of the nerves. Men will go out and they’ll tell me, ‘She was like a poodle’ (high-maintenance) or ‘She was like a Labrador’ — she wants to do this and that and this.

    “They’re judging the date better, instead of thinking, ‘I hope she’s going to like me.’”

    Women can also employ this device, and if the Fido visualization doesn’t do the trick, Feinstein suggests entertaining another substitution that is equally soothing.

    “I turn it into something not as threatening, as a person who isn’t going to reject them,” she explains. “You have to change your thinking.”

    Always Go For the Kiss

    Providing, of course, the evening wasn’t a disaster and that your date isn’t sending signals indicating that such action would be unwelcome. If the date went well, the vibe seems right and you seem to be getting the non-verbal green light, bear this in mind:


    “Flirting is like auditioning,” says Feinstein. “You know you’re going to lose, so you may as well go all out anyway and have fun with it.

    “It’s also expectation and guts — women like guts. So you always go in for the kiss, because that shows confidence: ‘I don’t care if you like me or not, I’m still kissing you!’

    “You look wimpy if you don’t.”


    “Women have to understand that men have to be the hunters,” says Feinstein. “So let them make their moves. They need it for their egos.”