Thursday, February 28, 2008

Putting yourself under house arrest

If the first way to get on with this dating stuff is to get out there, don’t put yourself in prison, even if it’s homey and comfortable to begin with. It is very unlikely that someone is going to come up to your door and ask you for a date (and even if they do, think about what you’d be wearing . . .). Don’t allow yourself to fall into the La Brea Tar Pits in front of your TV. Get out and be active — and that doesn’t mean finding a neighborhood bar as a substitute home away from home either. Bars aren’t the best place to find anybody other than lonely people drinking in the dark. Let’s make a deal: Avoid any place with bars — they’re all a kind of lock-up and confining. Let yourself be free.

Beating up Mom

I’ve already told you not to blame yourself and not to blame the entire opposite sex. Unfortunately, these days, I may need to remind you not to blame anybody else either: not your parents or your first grade teacher or your baby-sitter. If you think you’ve got a problem because of something that someone did or didn’t do at an earlier time in your life, ask yourself whether there is anything you could ask of that person now — other than an apology — that would help you. (Styles of parenting change every ten years or so, which means everybody gets caught. Most of our parents did the best they could with what they had, and the rules keep changing.)

If you think your mental health and dating abilities would be helped if you had a better relationship with your dad, get baseball tickets and invite him, but don’t expect him to apologize for the person he is. He may not have been the perfect dad, but you may not have been the perfect kid, either, so let it go. Or find a therapist.

If talking to your mom about the things she told you about sex would help —and if you can manage such a discussion without making her feel defensive or guilty — go for it. If you can’t manage it without making her feel bad, you’ll end up feeling awful, too. Then what have you accomplished? Blame locks you in the past and makes someone right and someone wrong, which means it’s likely that someone’s going to fight you if you’re blaming them, or if you’re doing the “it’s all my fault” routine, you’re making yourself unhappy. Who needs it? So go to a therapist or go to a ball game, but whatever you do, get on with it. Figure out what to do differently and let’s go.

Beating yourself up

Beating yourself up is a waste of time and painful, and because you’re the only person you are guaranteed to be with your whole life, why hurt yourself? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take stock when something has gone really wrong. Who needs to walk into a propeller blade more than once?
Instead of beating yourself up, why not ask yourself what you could do differently next time? Make sure your answer is very, very specific.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Throwing pity parties

You can see how viewing your life as a beauty contest is hopeless and selfdefeating and just a short step away from a pity party — you know, woe is me, no one likes me or loves me, I can’t get a date, I’m doomed to spending the rest of my life alone diapering cats, I think I’ll go eat worms.

The self-loathing can move from face and body (I’ve got a zit farm and a spare tire that any sports utility vehicle would envy) to heart and soul (I’m not a worthwhile person) with incredible speed. If you really feel you absolutely must throw a pity party, stay in bed for a day, play sad music, feel incredibly sorry for yourself, and then cut it out. It’s boring and no fun to be around and very counter-productive to dating.

Why would anyone want to spend time with you if you are so self-centered and sad? . . . And if you’ve been saying the same thing to yourself — quick! —think of three cool things about yourself. If you can’t, call a therapist now. I’m not kidding. Pity parties you can decline; depression is another thing completely. See the earlier sidebar “Dealing with depression” if you’re not sure whether you’re just momentarily down on yourself or truly depressed.

Comparing yourself to others

This is not about entering the Miss USA or Mr. World contest. This is about comparing yourself to Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie or anybody you see on a billboard or a magazine. Those photos have been retouched to a fare-theewell (trust me, I’ve met and interviewed bunches of these people). They’ve been powdered, primped, airbrushed, oiled, and lit so their own moms wouldn’t recognize ’em. Besides, if you read any of the fan magazines, you know that beautiful people don’t have all that easy a time dating either. So cut it out.

While you’re at it, don’t compare yourself to the homecoming court either, male or female, or to your next-door neighbor or your older or younger sibs or your parents’ wedding picture. You are who you are, and if you want to do a little fine-tuning there, fine. (That’s not to say, of course, that you can’t change and grow, and I’m not even against plastic surgery, but not before your first date, please. Know yourself, like yourself, and work on yourself.)

But you’ll only make yourself miserable for no reason if you continue to compare your own light to someone else’s bulb. You can choose to be either a pale imitation of how someone else looks or a vibrant, one-of-a-kind you. Guess which I suggest.

Fantasy and frustration

Fantasies offer us an insight into the discrepancy between what we are and what we have and what we want. I used to do a program where I would ask people if they had only a year or a week or a day to live, what would they do.

Since none of us know whether we have any more or less than that amount of time, thinking about these things is a good way to get a clearer take on what we want. If you won the lottery, what would you do? If you could do anything in your life, what would you do? I often loan people my magic wand for a couple of days (no more than a week or the magic goes away). Now I’m offering it to you to borrow. Instead of whining about what you don’t have, set yourself free to figure out what you want. Then you can settle down and do the work of figuring out how to get it.

When things are going well, we’re foolish if we don’t just enjoy; it’s when we hit a bump that it’s time to figure out what to do differently. In that way, frustration is really the doorway to fantasy and a better way of doing things. Start with the dream and then figure out how to make it happen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Turning your fantasy self to reality

Fantasy is a terrific indicator of the difference between what we have and what we want. In our fantasies, we can do and be anything, and understanding what we really want allows a perspective on who we are and how we should proceed. Don’t misunderstand me: Fantasies aren’t exclusively or even primarily about sex. They’re just about what you want without hearing your mom or your Sunday school teacher or your big brother saying no. Fantasies are just feelings given form, and they are safe if understood.

In this exercise, you write down the words that best describe your fantasy self and see how those words compare to who you are and what you’re feeling at this moment. Figure out what matches up and what doesn’t, and then think about what you can do to bring your fantasy self more in line with the real you. Answering the following questions in your dating notebook is the place to start. Then you have to decide whether you want to do the work, practice different behaviors, learn new skills, be more honest.

Change isn’t easy, but it can be very worthwhile to lighten up, become more informed, become more assertive, tune more into others, be more (or less) aware of yourself, and so on.

Learning from past experiences

None of us sprang from the head of Zeus fully armored. We all have a past, things that made us happy or unhappy as a child or a youngster, previous experiences with people of the opposite sex, parents, teachers, employers, next-door neighbors, crushes, loves, lovers, maybe even spouses. If you can pinpoint something making you unhappy, you can begin working on it.

If you feel you are the problem — and have felt that way for more than a couple of weeks — it’s time to think about getting some professional help. Therapy is a very good investment in you, especially if you’re really, really unhappy (then I definitely am not only suggesting it, but ordering it). For most of us, getting out a pencil and paper is the first step to better mental health. Just as you wouldn’t go out on a date with a raging virus, a runny nose, and a temperature, starting to date with an unhappy head doesn’t make much sense either.

Because the focus here is dating, start with your earliest boy-girl stuff. Don’t edit or prettify — just write ’em down as they occur to you.
  • When you were younger, even in kindergarten, what characteristics were you drawn to? Has your taste changed? (Okay, I know you’re not interested in preschoolers; let’s get focused here.) Do you like high energy or quiet types? People like you or your opposite? Athletes or scholars?
  • What personality types draw you? What constellation of characteristics attracts you? Warriors or scholars? Introverts or extroverts?
  • Are you passive with the opposite sex or more aggressive? Do you like to be in charge or told what to do?
  • Do you make decisions easily or do you prefer that someone else take the responsibility?
  • Are you drawn to high or low energy, quiet or bubbly, shy or outgoing?
  • If you had to make a list outlining a perfect date, what would head up your list? Is sense of humor important, being well-read, talking, or listening?
  • What have been the best parts of your interactions with the opposite sex?
  • What goes right the most often, and yeah, what goes sour? The point here isn’t to fix blame, but to understand what your patterns have been since your first crush. You can’t control chemistry, but you can understand it and try to compensate for it because you can control behavior, at least your own.
  • Are there situations in which you shine or fold?
  • What makes you happy, anxious, ambitious?
  • What challenges you?
Yeah, I know these are personal questions, but dating is pretty personal stuff, and the more you know about yourself, the more confident you can be, the better the presentation you can make of yourself, and the more successful the experience will be for the both of you. So dig away. If you’re reading this book because you’ve never had a date, don’t worry.

You have patterns to discover with your friends, your crushes, your fantasies. If you’re a veteran of the dating wars, the more reconnaissance the better. Knowing yourself is the best possible preparation for getting to know someone else.

Look at yourself in the mirror

Take a close-up look in the mirror. We’re not talking plastic surgery here, just a look at hairstyle, hair color (yeah, guys, you too), facial hair (yeah, gals, you too), and makeup.
  • Hair: If you hate your hair, it’s probably because you haven’t come to grips with what looks good on you with your particular style and texture. Look through a magazine and pick out a couple of styles you like and then make sure that the people wearing the hair have your coloring or kind of hair or features. In fact, rather than focus on hair-style first, look for magazine models that look like you (more or less, remembering that even those models don’t look like that in real life), and then see what style they’re wearing. Don’t assume that a cool hairstyle is going to cost a fortune. Find somebody who knows and likes your kind of hair, and make sure that everybody they do doesn’t look exactly the same. Also be willing to experiment a bit: Remember, it’s only hair, and it grows back.
  • Flattering colors: You don’t have to spend gobs of money getting your colors done. Go to a large department store with good lighting (not fluorescent), pick up the same shirt in a bunch of different colors, and see which color looks best with your skin and eyes. Then decide which color looks worst. Avoid the latter and focus on the former. All of us grow up with notions of what we hate about our bodies, and we unconsciously try to cover up even when the problem is gone or the cover-up only emphasizes the problem. So it may help to have an astute salesperson or a friend with a good eye stand you in front of a mirror and show you what looks good and why, and show you what you should avoid like the plague. As long as you’re preparing to launch yourself, you might as well look and feel your best.
  • Makeup: Makeup is a strange and wonderful thing. Men all say they hate it ’til they see us without it. What they hate (and what we hate, too) is looking like someone who has just walked off stage or out of the circus. Makeup can enhance what you’ve got and hide a bit of what you wish you didn’t have, but in the same way that men who try and hide a bald spot can end up showing it off, too much makeup can actually emphasize the very things you were trying to hide. Remember, your face is you. A good makeup person can show you how to look your best rather than someone else’s not so good. Often department stores will do your makeup for free (although they try to sell you the products afterward). Pick out someone whose makeup looks good —especially if she’s got your skin, hair, and eye coloring as well. But don’t try to look like her. You just want to look like you, only better.
  • Physical fitness: All this stuff — the hair, the colors, the makeup — is the stuff someone else can do for you. A bit harder is the stuff you have to do for yourself. You can’t change your bone structure or your eye shape, but you can lose ten pounds if you’d feel better (joining a health club or jogging also gets you out of the house, and physical exercise is its own happy pill) or put on ten pounds. If you can figure out something to do that makes you happier with yourself physically — whether it’s gaining or losing weight, changing your hairstyle, or buying high heels or cowboy boots or a Wonder Bra or Spandex swim trunks — then do it.
After you deal with the easy, outside stuff, it’s time to dig a bit deeper.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What if you don't have enough hair for dating?

I know guys worry a lot about hair and losing it, but most women would prefer a cool bald guy with nice manners who’s interested in them to a dope with a gorgeous head of hair — which gets us to the rug question. Should you or shouldn’t you?

Toupees aren’t usually all that convincing, but if you want to, go ahead. What you might want to try is just being yourself and letting your hair, or lack of it, be. Go au naturel on vacation, and see if you don’t feel more relaxed and happy. A shaved head is very hip right now and bespeaks loads of confidence, which is what true sexiness is all about.

What you shouldn’t do is take that one wisp of hair and wrap it 12 times around your head. If a wind comes up, you’re sunk, and even if it’s dead calm, you’re going to be fiddling with it and patting it, and you’ll look distracted and unhappy.
And remember, women don’t care nearly as much about hair as you think

How to choose clothing?

Presumably you’re smart enough to not wear the same thing to the office that you’d wear to the beach, but if you look through your closet, you’ll see a lot of consistency: your comfort clothes (you may need to jump-start this part of your wardrobe a bit) and stuff that is more costume that you wear to make a statement. It doesn’t matter what the statement is as long as you’re aware of the statement and it squares with how and what and why you want to present yourself.

You can start with your closet if you like, and get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t make you look and feel terrific. All of us have more clothing than we need, so if something doesn’t look and feel wonderful, give it to a friend or Goodwill, but get it out of your closet. If your shoes hurt your feet, get rid of ’em. Nothing makes a person look worse than when their feet hurt. That’s the easy part.

How to Make a good first impression?

First impressions count. What do you see when you take a good look? I don’t mean Mom’s eyes and Dad’s hairline. I mean, if you just walked into a room, what would you see if you were looking at yourself? What do you say about yourself?
  • Look at your clothes. Do you dress age-appropriately, like your grandparents, or like a 12-year-old? Does your wardrobe scream rich or sexy or uptight or casual or poor or insecure, or I hope nobody will notice me?
  • Look at your shoes. Are they shiny or worn, fashionable or comfortable? Do they match? Are the laces tied or broken or mismatched?
  • Look at your hair. Is it neat and becoming, stylish or simple? Are your roots showing? Does your part start below your ear, or are you wearing an obvious rug?
  • Look at your face. Is your makeup subtle or heavy? What’s your best feature? What about facial hair: Are you shaved?
  • Look at your hands. Are your nails clean, polish unchipped?
  • What’s your look? Is it preppy or sexy? Conservative or out there? Business-like or fun?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writing a personal ads for practice or real

When writing a personal ad, you need to consider where you’re going to place your ad. If writing it for a newspaper, keep in mind that you have to pay per word, so being succinct is an advantage. If you are placing your ad online, you don’t have to worry about a per-word charge.

But no matter where you’re advertising, writing a personal ad requires the same kind of discipline that you would use so as not to break the bank — pithy and succinct beats wordy and rambling every time. Stop sweating. This is an exercise to limber you up, not a performance piece. You don’t have to send the ad anywhere, but writing a personal ad does a bunch of cool things for you:
  • Makes you admit that you’re really ready to start looking to date
  • Allows you to be specific about the kind of person you’re looking for
  • Forces you to look at who you are (and that’s really, really, important)
When you write your personal ad in your dating notebook, think about the following:
  • Who you are
  • Your assets and your liabilities
  • What your mom loves about you
  • What your friends criticize
  • Your favorite thing to do (no, don’t put that in the ad just yet, thank you very much; I mean your favorite thing to do vertically, with your clothes on . . . in public)
When you describe your perfect companion, try to get beyond the physical description and age to the person’s soul and consider these qualities:
  • What is the person like?
  • What do the two of you enjoy together?
  • What do you talk about when you’re alone?
Other things that you might think about are
  • Sex (come on now, no giggling) — your sex and the preferred option for your date to be (in other words, are you straight or gay?)
  • Age range
  • Race, if it’s an issue
  • Educational background
  • Work
  • Geographic proximity (don’t start with long distance unless it’s preferred, and then you need to think about why you opted for distance rather than closeness)
  • Height and weight
  • Religion
  • Smoking preference
You should also think about whether you’re looking for:
  • Friendship and whatever else
  • A mate
  • A date
  • A discreet nooner
  • Commitment
  • Kids
  • Marriage
  • A prom escort
  • Permanence
These lists are only the beginning of sorting through who you are and what you want, and writing a personal ad is a cool short cut. In writing your practice ad, allow yourself to be honest and creative (not with the facts, with your thoughts) and specific, as well as flexible. This exercise should be fun and really helpful. You don’t need a book to tell you how to write the ad, just the ability to write out who you are and what you want.

Using personal ads for advertising

In the age of disco, the Cold War, and Johnny Carson, (a mere 30 years ago), personal ads were considered sleazy, sexual, and sometimes perverted — a backstairs way for people to manage what they were ashamed to admit to. These days, personals — both online and offline — are one of the most common and accepted ways for people to meet one another. By spending a couple of hours reading through the dating ads in whatever newspaper or magazine you normally read anyway or at popular dating Web sites such as,, or any of the specialized dating sites, you can get a really good idea of who’s looking for what.

Are personal ads completely accurate? Can they be useful? Good questions. If you believed everything that was written, you’d believe that all women are raven-haired, svelte, emerald-eyed owners of their own antiques importing businesses, and all men are handsome, chisel-chinned CEOs looking to settle down with a wife and kids after taking long romantic walks on the beach on their private islands.

If you’re already feeling outclassed, if you’re not skinny, or if you don’t own your own business, not to worry. Having done some research on the personals, I can assure you that people are not necessarily very accurate in their self-descriptions. (If you don’t believe me, just spend a little time in the cookie aisle of your favorite grocery store, or — even better — think about how you described yourself in your yearbook.) But that’s not the point of this exercise.

What this exercise does is help you figure out how many people are looking to connect, how they describe themselves, and what they’re looking for. If nothing else, this exercise helps you realize that you’re not alone, that lots of seemingly normal, happy, fun people are out there looking. Once you’re ready, you can hop right on out there and answer — or even write — an ad if you wish.

The practice in how to become a charming person

Charm is simply the practice of making someone know that you feel good about them without embarrassing them or asking anything of them in return, and it’s really, really seductive. It’s being a fancy maitre d’ at a French restaurant without the tip — making someone feel that they are the most important person in the world to you at that moment.
  • Charm has to be sincere. Charm is its most potent when you believe what you’re saying.
  • Charm must include eye contact. If you’re good at eye contact and vocal warmth, it’s almost impossible to lay it on too thick.
  • Charm may include compliments. What to say is relatively easy: Figure out what would feel the best to you if someone were making you feel good. This technique doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, but it works more often than not, and because you’re tuned in to the other person (a large part of the charm experience), you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.
  • Charm is done lightly and pleasantly.
  • Charm isn’t sexual; it’s just warmth.
  • The trick to charm is to be selfless: You’re not asking for anything here, not even feedback. Charm is independent of response (well, almost independent; all of us like to feel appreciated, but with charm, being appreciated isn’t the point). The difference between charm and flattery is that flattery has an agenda — I’ll give you compliments so that you’ll give me what I want. Charm is a way of being, rather than a tool to achieve something.
  • Charm at its simplest just says, “You’re terrific; thank you for letting me bask in your glow.” Who among us isn’t going to respond to that pitch?
Like most things, charm benefits from practice. So where do you start? Any place. Practice on your mom, your cat, your neighbor, your dad, your boss, your teacher, the cop on the corner, the 2-year-old next door. You will also be amazed at how charming people will be in return, the smiles you will glean, the fun you will have.

In short, charm is a butterfly’s touch on a flower petal, the breeze of a hummingbird’s wing: The key is easy does it. Charm is fun and potentially a very profitable tool in interpersonal relationships, and it’s crucial to dating. So practice and enjoy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ask yourself these question before making friends

Adult friendship is based on caring about someone because of, rather than in spite of, their warts, and the best way to have a friend is to be a friend. You don’t have to be perfect to have a friend or be a friend. Just be flexible and loving and honest. If you’re getting the idea that friendship is a great potential basis for romance — bravo! — you’re right. The only tricky part is chemistry.

Take out your dating notebook and answer yes or no to the following questions to find out whether you’re ready to be and have a friendship with another adult. Keeping a notebook lets you see what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Haven’t started one yet? Not to worry. You can buy a spiral notebook or a three-ring binder and start one now. Make this exercise one of your entries.
  • Expectations:
    • Am I able to separate who I am and what I want from who my friend is?
    • Do I accept that my friend is not just like me?
  • Tolerance:
    • Am I as tolerant of my friend as I would like him/her to be tolerant of me?
    • Do I apply the same standards to myself that I expect of my friend (in other words, do I have the same set of rules for myself and my friend)?
  • Availability:
    • Am I willing to put myself out for my friend (that is, the relationship isn’t all about convenience)?
    • Do I have the time and energy to invest in being and having a friend?
  • Honesty:
    • Am I willing to be my true self?
    • Am I willing to say what I feel?
  • Openness:
    • Am I willing to be vulnerable and intimate and share my feelings?
  • Dependency:
    • Am I able to stand on my own?
  • Empathy:
    • Am I able to look at a conflict from someone else’s point of view?
  • Perspective:
    • Do I like something about my friend other than the fact that he/she likes me?
    • Can I be a bit unselfish and less self-centered?
You can see from this list why friendship is such a good basis for dating and just about any other kind of relationship. If you answered yes to most or all of the questions, you’re great friend material. If you aren’t capable of friendship, you might think about working on that before you take up dating. Friendship isn’t easy. It is important, and it doesn’t even have sex to heat things up. Friendship is truly a uniquely human and undeniably valuable exercise in being our most basic and terrific and honest and self-reliant selves. Time spent making friends is always time well spent. When you do launch your dating self, you’ll have your friend to commiserate or share the joy.

Are you good enough to become a friend?

A friend can be an important part of your life, but not the totality of your life as it was when you were a kid, so don’t try to take over your friend’s life or let your friend take over yours. (Just because your best pal hates your hair-do, thinks your career is in the dumps, or isn’t as fiscally adventurous doesn’t mean you need to change hairdressers, go looking for another line of work, or choose a different investment counselor.)

If you’re old enough to date, you’re old enough to be self-reliant, and the same characteristics that make a good friend make a good potential date. Not to mention, our friends sustain us while dates often come and go. Don’t be discouraged; just understand that making friends is important whether or not your dating works immediately. Who couldn’t use the practice in building and maintaining relationships? Friends grab our heads as well as our hearts, and most of us have heads that are a lot harder to fool than our hearts.

Friendships employ less chemistry and much more sense. Good friendships are also based on give and take, without preordained roles of what one should do. You might expect your date to pay for your meal, but you certainly wouldn’t expect a friend to; similarly, you would never expect a friend to read your mind, even though you may expect your date to (“If you loved me, you’d know”). A good friendship is based on reality, not fantasy; equality, not dominance; and rationality, not romance. The healthier both participants are, the better — and healthier —the friendship will be.

How people can become friends?

The place to start is with an acquaintance that you really like, who seems to have some time available, and with whom you have something in common. Adult friendships are based on characteristics that you share or with which you’re compatible, not overall similarities, so your friend to be may be older or younger than you, taller or shorter, smarter or slower, richer or poorer, or more or less energetic.

Beware of using the same criteria for adult friends that you used when you were 12. Twelve-year-old girls’ minds meld: They essentially become one person because they have everything in common: boys, parents, braces, new breasts, bratty sibs, geometry, and zits. Also, 12-year-olds don’t have a fully developed personality structure intact yet either; they are still a less solidified version of the person they will become: less rigid, less defined, less sure. You will never again feel as close to another living soul (unless you happen to be an identical twin). If you look for that same degree of intimacy, you’re going to spend your whole life being disappointed for no good reason.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Making friends

Making friends is one of the most difficult and worthwhile experiences of human life because it requires time and effort and patience and understanding and acceptance and honesty. Many people confuse friendship with acquaintances, and they’re not the same at all. Acquaintances are people you hang out with; they’re convenient but interchangeable. Friends are people you actively seek out, people with whom you have something in common, and the link is deeper and stronger. It is very possible for one to become the other, and everyone who becomes a friend had to be an acquaintance first. (Friendships can be downgraded, for example, when two people move apart geographically or emotionally or situationally — changing jobs, marital status, and so on. Of course, this section focuses on getting friends, not losing them.)

Dealing with depression

If you feel incapable of moving off the couch; if you’re not sleeping well or your eating habits have changed; if you feel sad most of the time, it’s hard to concentrate, and you’re noticing your body doesn’t feel well, you may be depressed. First get a physical to rule out any treatable underlying condition.
If you get a clean bill of health and still feel really lethargic, it’s time to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. Depression is the most common and untreated illness in our world, and that’s literally a crying shame because it is a very treatable condition. Medication and talk therapy can change your life and give you back the person you used to be.

Taking yourself off house arrest

A wounded animal seeks shelter, but animals don’t have to date, just mate. As far as we know, animals don’t have to worry about job descriptions, well meaning parents who nag, and a few extra pounds that don’t look terrific in a bathing suit. Animals don’t get hurt by misunderstandings or insecurities, animals don’t feel self pity, and they don’t have TV as an anesthetic. In other words, animals don’t become couch potatoes because their true loves didn’t come along. Although seeking shelter is fine if you’re a four-legged forest creature, if you’re a human, you need to get out and about. After all, we humans are usually not very well-served by hibernating. We sulk and obsess and analyze and feel more and more cut off.

Therefore, bunkie, if you’re spending most of your time in front of the tube, hoping the good fairy of dating will come and hit you upside the head with an inspiration stick, you’re wasting time. Get off your butt, turn off the tube, and get out of the house.

Sulking is not sexy, and it’s not productive. Your vocal cords will seize up if you don’t use ’em, and your social skills will shrivel. When you’re feeling sorriest for yourself is when you most need to use your gumption rather than wishing you’d inherited straight teeth, a crooked smile, and a charm gene — and when you most need to get out of the house. Take a walk, take a course, take a hike (literally). The more sedentary you are, the less you feel like moving, and the less you move, the less you feel like moving. Emotionally, you can experience extreme sludgyness.

If you’re not working, get a job or do some volunteer activity. If you’re still in school, join a club. The point is to get out of your cave and visit the rest of the tribe. Doing so will change your perspective, clear up your skin, and keep you from brooding and thinking only about yourself. This isn’t a way to get a date; it’s a way to get a life. Even if you’ve broken your leg, unless you want to be in a wheelchair the rest of your life, you’ve got to move that leg and re-energize the muscles. True, it won’t be much fun to begin with, but it’s the only way. Don’t put yourself in the prison of your loneliness. Nobody but you has the key. Following are a few ideas you can use to get yourself out of the house and meet new people:
  • Make a plan to be out at least three days or nights a week — that’s less than half the time — and to talk to at least three new people on each outing. I’m not talking about picking somebody up; a simple “hi,” or a conversation about garbanzo beans or the weather will do.
  • Try going to new places, take a different route, or check out a new store. Shake up your world a bit. What do you have to lose? Only your sadness.
  • One of the best ways to make the transition from lonely to lovely is volunteer activities. Because you’re not getting paid, you feel more in control, and because what you’re offering (basically yourself) is valuable to someone, volunteer work is a great way to build self-confidence.
A note here about online “relationships.” These relationships still count as house arrest. Face-to-face is the way human beings relate best, and if you’re using your PC for your social life, you’re literally keeping others at arm’s (or at least keyboard’s) length. It’s not healthy or productive. If you’ve got flesh-and-blood contacts and want to fill in some of the spaces between seeing each other with online friendships, fine, but don’t substitute e-mail for emotion or mistake online for alive.

When you get out of the house, you discover that you’re in charge and valuable. You’re wanted and needed, and you’ll feel a lot more loving toward yourself, which is the beginning of allowing other people to love you. Before love comes like, and liking is what friends do for one another.