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SHE SAID, HE SAID / ANN CONWAY and PATRICK MOTT

Rendezvous for Two Singles Out Winners and Losers in Dating Game

June 25, 1993|ANN CONWAY and PATRICK MOTT

A ll gussied up with no place to go? What good are the groovy rags, the savvy coif, the cool shades with no one to share them with?

A decent date would be nice, you tell yourself. A fun-filled night with Mr. or Ms. Right. Yeah, right. We've been hearing nothing but horror stories lately about the dating game.

Like: He meets her--flips--says he'll call for a date. He doesn't. She spots him--goes gaga--says he's the best thing since nonfat yogurt . He never sees her again.

Is there something in the water?

SHE: So, tell me already. What makes a guy boogie nonstop with a gal at a dance club, ask for her phone number and never call? Seems like every single woman I know has been down that road. All the time, I hear: "He was so sweet! Wonderful! We had the best time! He begged me for my phone number and he never called." WHY?

HE: Let's turn to my hero, Warren Farrell. He wrote the book "Why Men Are the Way They Are," which should be required reading for every breathing human. Farrell writes that "A man who says he'll call and fails to is at fault. As much at fault as a woman who tells a man she'll call and does not--but no more so."

There is what Farrell calls "underlying sexism" here. It lies in the assumption that it is the man's responsibility to do the calling, and only his. What's wrong with the woman getting the man's phone number and doing the calling herself?

Also, there may have been subtle signals going on at that club. He may have wanted nothing more than a date, but she may have given him the impression that, for her, that would not be nearly enough. Examining things later in the cold light of day, he may have decided to avoid potential grief--real or imagined--and give it a miss.

SHE: He should have called in any case. In his book "Getting the Love You Want," Harville Hendrix says that during the attraction phase of a relationship "the brain releases dopamine and norepinephrine . . . they help contribute to a rosy outlook on life, a rapid pulse, increased energy." Maybe that's what's going on in those clubs. Too many neurotransmitters floating around and not enough sincerity.

HE: Nobody seems to know how to be nice to each other anymore. The quality of kindness has seeped out of the dating game and has been replaced by the power grab. Everybody seems to want leverage. So many people have learned to become so damn assertive that they've forgotten how to relax and enjoy themselves. Dating is supposed to be a process of discovery, not a chess game.

SHE: Suddenly I hear the sound of rustling paper as thousands of women thumb through the phone book for your number.

Your buddy Farrell points out that when a man commits to a woman, he is giving up his chief fantasy--that of having a bevy of beautiful women at his beck and call.

And, he says, when a woman commits to a man, she is achieving her chief fantasy--that of having one man to love.

What breeds this fantasy in men? Too often I hear men holding out for their "dream goddess" or "the perfect woman." Wake up, boys. She doesn't exist. You only use her as an excuse. It's your fear of commitment talking; you're angry that you haven't found a woman just like mom.

HE: That "mom" stuff is nonsense. One mother is plenty for any man. If a man seriously thought he'd married a clone of his mom, he'd never touch his wife.

No, I believe most men disabuse themselves of that perfect woman fantasy once they realize the whole love-and-marriage system is about trade-offs. You trade your adolescent harem fantasy for the more satisfying reality of a good woman who will laugh at your jokes and stick with you even if the rest of the world is kicking you in the teeth.

I read a piece of fiction-writing advice recently that applies here: Don't try to infuse your characters with specific "male" or "female" behaviors. Fundamentally, men and women want the same things out of life. Write them that way and they'll take care of themselves.

SHE: I have a single friend, age 36, who is constantly meeting guys and having a few dates with them. What she loves: "A guy who calls the day after a date and says what a great time he had. A guy who is on time. A guy who calls at least three days ahead to book a date and then calls the day of the date to confirm."

She hates: "The guy who brings one of those 'entertainment cards' to pay for the first date. The guy who calls for a date at the last minute. A guy who spends an entire date talking about himself. The guy who comes on really strong and then backs off completely ."

What's your idea of a dream date? And what would keep you asking for more?

HE: My dream date is not a first date. They're almost inevitably excruciating. Everyone's trying too hard to be perfect. To me, a good date, like a good woman, is relaxed and undemanding. We all make enough demands on ourselves without having to deal with another person in the mix with an eye cocked for any misstep we might make. We need to give each other a break. This means that beauty shouldn't be as important as brains and a big bank account shouldn't be mistaken for a big heart.

But, what the heck, if she can recite Monty Python gags she's got me.

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