Just prior to a first date starting, we can characterize the mood of both parties as equal parts seeking to persuade and willingness to be persuaded. No, it’s not always that balanced, but let’s play the hypothetical.

And then we meet.

Likening this moment to our universe’s big bang isn’t too far off the mark; a LOT happens in a very short period of time. Matter and dark matter are created, elements formed, light switched on and judgements made.

From that point the universe has two choices: it either does as our own, and continues to expand. In this case stars give us heat and light, the dust coalesces, gravity does what gravity does and elements become more complex. We get what you see around you.

The other choice is that it collapses. Or falls afoul of other mistakes and failings.

Dating isn’t quite so apocalyptic (although I can find people who disagree strongly with this.) Even if the stars don’t shine on a first date, they might on a second or third or tenth. And persuasion isn’t really a factor. We might think we can talk ourselves into creating something with the one we fancy, but probably not.

Only what we do counts. People are their patterns, not their promises.

Mutual Likability

On the warm and fuzzy side of getting to know someone is mutual likability. It’s the slowly advancing feeling that you’re gradually liking someone more and more, and that they feel the same.

Like walking up a gently sloping hill, discovering mutual likability might not strike you until you turn around to look at the view. The road isn’t effortless, but neither is it taxing enough to make you out of breath. Your emotion is, well, one of having nice big lungfuls of air and all those happy corpuscles moving sweetly around your bod. It’s a sense of being alive.

There is no telling where mutual likability will take you. On one hand it might lead you to something more relationshippy, or it might remain as a friendshippy kind of coupling. Part of the happiness surrounding this kind of mutuality is the thrill of possibility.

We need not go into the discord arising from one party deciding upon one path, and the other, the other. For now, let’s bask in the idea that knowing you like someone, and finding your thinking reciprocated, explains why we became social animals in the first place. It feels good.


Comedians reduce the everyday to absurdity. You know the deal. A visit to the doctor becomes an exercise in competitive illnesses. We spend ten minutes at the convenience store arguing whether it’s a refill or a new cup. Xerox salesmen move up from selling fax machines. Cellphones shrank for years and now are enormous again. Etc.

Coupling and dating are a rich loam for this kind of treatment. Stereotypes and faux stereotypes make us laugh because we recognize ourselves being mocked. It’s a combination of embarrassment, humiliation, desperation, quirkiness and misunderstanding. Hmmmm. That’s not a bad description of relationships.

How about this: a comedic stereotype is that women are the demand, and men are the supply. Brutalizing the intricate dance of men and women like that hurts a bit…but more or less gets to the point. Reduction to the absurd, you note.

We could further distill this down, by saying something like, oh, the smart men find a way to turn themselves into the demand and the women who chase them into the supply. These men are the bad boys. Whatever else they are, bad boys are in fact in demand, the trick being how they reverse the stereotype.

In life apart from comedy routines, matters are more murky. Women want men, and men want women, so we’re both supply AND demand. My opinion is that we want each other for the same reasons, but prefer to approach the, shall we say congress, in different ways. Think of it as your on-board navigation system. I might choose a fast route utilizing HOV lanes, toll roads, ferries, tunnels and bridges. She probably wants a scenic country road with stops at antique stores and cute cupcake stands…and cares not what time we arrive at the hotel.

Until she, too, changes her route options. Then supply and demand are both satisfied.

Lexus. Or Framed Starfish.

Framed StarfishAn entire retail sector caters to the browsing inclinations of women. Stores like Pier One, World Market, Crate and Barrel and Bed Bath and Beyond are the best examples, not to mention the online universes of Etsy, Ebay and that South American jungle place.

This is all information for men. It’s information that we largely ignore, but I’m here to shift that perception slightly.

Science does not understand it, but women’s brains release a hormone when they look, shop for, or notice anything vaguely decorative. Decorative, of course, covers a gargantuan range of goods, including even some foods or books or stemware or actual art. If you’re a guy reading this, walk into a Pier One next weekend with this in mind: everything in there is calculated to release that hormone.

A leap of logic tells us that we can engender the same reaction by purchasing one of these items, wrapping it, and giving it to the woman of our choice. In essence, it matters little just precisely what the gift is; the fact that it is new and in a nice bag is a source of joy. A source of delight is that we spent the time and effort and – critically – the headspace to think of her while we made the purchase. This is a token of time spent with her in mind. Underestimate this to your detriment.

And here’s the awesome part for guys. None of this stuff need cost big money. In fact, set yourself a goal of spending less than ten bucks a time, including wrapping…and you’ll be on the (ahem) money every time.

Buying her a Lexus is something. Buying her a framed starfish is something way more.