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Sorry, but your shelf life has expired

November 29, 2007|Cindy Bertram | Special to The Times

Recently I went on a really good first date. All of the key components were there: He was smart, funny, attractive and interesting and, most of all, interested. We had a great time, or so I thought. We haven't been out since. It's not that he hasn't called -- he has. We've had plenty of contact, with the exception of human contact. After several weeks of phone and e-mail conversations, there has been no second date.

So what is an acceptable duration between dates 1 and 2? I went to the brain trust: my married friends. I checked with the husbands: "If the dude hasn't asked you out again in six weeks, he's not interested." Six weeks? I questioned the wives: "Give him at most two weeks and then block his number."

OK, so that seems a little extreme. My brother used to call it "shelf life." He said he could tell a woman's shelf life within the first five minutes. Does dating really have a shelf life? And if so, what's mine?

My cynical (yet logical) side tells me that although drawn to me, Mr. One-Date Wonder is most likely entangled in a fledgling relationship elsewhere and wants to string me along as a backup. While there are times I do prefer not to be the primary focus, once in a while it would sure be nice to be on the front burner.

My hopeful (Pisces dreamer) side tells me that, despite his interest in me, the poor guy is extremely swamped and doesn't want to disappoint me if he were to plan a date and have to cancel.

Then, of course, my cynical side kicks into gear again and I go back to thinking I'm the runner-up in the Miss Multiple Date Pageant, standing off to the side just waiting for the winner to lose her crown so I may step in.

Now, my schedule is as hectic as the next guy's. But when that rare bird does pique my interest, I suddenly become very creative at rearranging things to accommodate my new infatuation. I liken it to wanting to eat the apple you bought yesterday rather than the one that's been sitting in your refrigerator for a month. However, you'll usually leave the older apple there, thinking you'll eat it when the new apples are gone. I'm the apple in the back of the drawer that you forgot about until you were out of fruit.

So with that profound knowledge of the ever-so-obvious, why is Mr. No-Future-Together still calling? I know I give good phone, but c'mon, he's got to know he's wasting not only my time but also his own. If such a thing as dating shelf life actually exists, then we need to instill a "must-use-by" date. Like, "Tonight was great, but if we don't rendezvous by Nov. 4, please discard me." Or, "I got your number from your friend Joe -- if you don't return my call by two weeks from Tuesday, please recycle my number." Things would be much simpler, don't you think?

I guess it really comes down to honesty -- not only with your date but with yourself. I pride myself on being a forthright dater, most times to a fault. If I know there is impending doom, I do my best to tell someone straight away so we don't waste our time. I like to put myself in his pantry: After all, why would he want to pursue someone who shoved him to the back of the shelf behind the lentils without him even knowing? I prefer the more direct approach: "Sorry, but you've expired."

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