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  • 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.”

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Why Dating is More Fun than Marriage

    Why Dating is More Fun than Marriage

    By Lisa Daily

    I know a lot of single women (and a few single men) who are just itching to get married.

    They dream of matching towels, freshly scrubbed children and sharing the Sunday crossword puzzle in bed. They dream of a life of shared jokes from a You-and-Me-Against-the-World bubble.

    The towels usually come with the rest of the bridal gifts. The kids, if you have them, don’t stay fresh-scrubbed for more than five or six minutes. And in fact, if you have two or more, one of them will have gotten into something disgusting and staining by the time you manage to get the other one dressed.

    Marriage, along with its own particular brand of bliss, generally drags a few other things along with it:

    - If you’re married and your spouse is making you crazy, you have no place to go but the grocery store. And then you have to come back

    - Dating means the tingle of first kisses and carefully thought-out gestures meant to win your affection

    - Marriage means a standing birthday order at the local flower shop and mystery toenail clippings left under the couch. It also means never feeling that first-kiss tingle again

    - Dating usually means best behavior, sexual and otherwise. Marriage means your spouse laughs when he farts in bed, he leaves his dirty underwear on the bathroom counter (why?) and already knows whether or not “it was good for you”

    - Dating means wild, passionate, elevator/cliff/hot tub sex. Marriage means every Saturday and alternating Tuesdays

    Lisa Earle McLeod, (http://www.forgetperfect.com/) a 21-year marriage veteran who writes about everything from marital disillusionment and flat-line libidos to drive-through spirituality in her hilarious new book, Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear says, “The reality of marriage is once the hormone-induced endorphine buzz wears off, you’re left with your same old boring life. Only now, there’s another person who wants space on the couch.

    McLeod adds, “Better barware and matching towels cannot help you sustain happiness for more than a day.”

    There’s a reason that chick flicks and romance novels always end at the beginning of the relationship. And while there’s a certain appeal to having someone know you so well they’ve seen all your disgusting habits, from waxing your upper lip, to throwing up around the clock with a nasty bout of the stomach flu, the downside is you have to witness all of their disgusting habits as well… often on a daily basis.

    “Dating is about possibilities of who you could be. Marriage forces you to face the reality of who you really are.”

    McLeod says, “Whenever I talk about the truths of marriage, the married women in the audience all nod their heads and smile but the singles tend to think I’m some jaded middle-aged woman who didn’t do it right. There’s a little secret part of me wishes I could track them down in 10 years to ask them how their storybook is going.

    “Don’t get me wrong, I love being married,” McLeod says, “Well, most of time. But it’s just like a career or parenting: Parts of it are not so pretty and a lot of hard work. In hindsight, I wish I’d cultivated a bigger girlfriend network before I got married and during the early years of my marriage before I had children.”

    So why are so many of us so anxious to toss away sole control of the remote and sleeping in the middle of the bed? Is it loneliness, the desire to belong somewhere, a yearning for formal flatware?

    “Dating is more fun than marriage because dating is about going out places together — the act of going on a date. Marriage is the act of legally binding up your assets and your lives. Even the word dating is more fun.”

    Traci, a dater who is single again after her marriage went south, said the best thing about dating again is that “Dating is like a buffet. And after years and years of the same old Egg-beaters and Metamucil for breakfast, I was suddenly offered stacks of pancakes, Eggs Benedict and bacon. Lots of bacon.”

    The downside, Traci says, is that “With dating, you always wonder what the other person is thinking.”

    McLeod adds, “With marriage, you already know exactly what they’re thinking. It’s both a blessing and a curse.”
    Dating Expert Lisa Daily is the best-selling author of Stop Getting Dumped!

  • 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.”