Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Spanish Inquisition phenomenon

The Spanish Inquisition was established by the Catholic Church to root out heretics in 1480. The inquisitors’ methods were brutal, employing, among other horrible torture devices, the rack, thumb screws, and boiling oil. You do not want your date to be reminded of this historical era as you tastefully peel away the protective layers and find out who this person is. Any question can feel like an intrusion, so make yourself and your date comfortable:
  • Share some things about yourself without dominating the conversation or showing off. The best way to elicit information is to offer some. I’ll show you me if you’ll show me you.
  • Ask thoughtful, nonaggressive questions. Doing so shows that you are genuinely interested and paying attention.
  • Avoid the enough-about-me-what-do-you-think-about-me? approach. Remember, the trick is seeming interested enough to ask gentle questions that show interest rather than reportorial zeal.

Good questions to ask

It’s important not only to be interested but to seem interested in your date by asking cool questions like the following:

_ What do you do?
_ What sports do you like?
_ What’s your favorite free-time activity?
_ What movies have you seen?
_ What restaurants do you like?
_ Do you think the president’s doing a good job?

Avoid questions like the following:
  • Do you come here often? Trite, silly, and demeaning leading nowhere.
  • How’s your food? The most common response is “Fine.” Complaining is tacky, and what are you going to do about it? If you want to focus on the food (I wouldn’t suggest it), you can offer to share. You can find out gobs about your date very quickly by his or her willingness — or unwillingness — to share.
  • Can you believe the weather? Pleeeze try harder than this. It’s a deadend question that runs the risk of making you sound desperate. Good questions are those that draw your date out without putting him or her on the spot. The goal here is to learn about one another, not scare the daylights out of your date with your investigative prowess. You’re trying to show interest, not terrorize. Talk, explain, find out what makes your date tick a bit. It’s fun, so lighten up and follow these easy guidelines:
  • Be prepared to talk about a lot of things. You can see why keeping up with current events, the latest movie, a local political scandal, or (in a pinch) your horoscope is a cool idea. If all you can talk about is work or your exes, it’s going to be hard to begin building those conversational bridges that give you the feeling that you’re getting to know someone and letting him or her get to know you.
  • Don’t worry about your next question. Listen to your date’s response. It’s even okay to be quiet for a minute or two.
  • Don’t fall into the Spanish Inquisition phenomenon.

Past sexual experiences

When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. If there was ever an area about which to draw a blank, it has to do with past sexual experiences. Over, done with, irrelevant. Don’t ask; don’t tell, even if tempted. You’ll both regret any departure from this policy.
All of us want to be loved not in spite of our warts but because of them. You want to feel that someone knows and loves the real you, but confessing sexual issues feels good for you for the moment but bad for the person who has to listen, and it will come back and haunt you both. See any pattern in the following list? You should. All these topics relate to past sexual experiences to keep a lid on:

_ Previous love affairs
_ Previous one-night stands
_ Previous indiscretions
_ Flings with the boss
_ Flings with your best friend’s significant other
_ Sexual preferences
_ Ménage à trois or more

If you have fantasies of being with someone else, remember that you’re not the only person who has occasionally thought about an old love or a movie star when you’re with your current date. The question is not “Is it okay?” but “How often does it occur, and how necessary does it feel?” If this type of fantasy happens most of the time, you’re not ready to be with this person. If it happens only occasionally and, in general, you’re pleased with your date, keep your mouth shut and enjoy the once-in-a-while forbidden pleasure of letting your mind wander.
You’re an adult, and human beings aren’t perfect. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Like everybody else, you’re a compendium of everything that’s come before: the people you’ve known (teachers, parents, sibs, the kindergarten bully, Sunday school teachers), the things you’ve done (your first kiss, dance lessons, strike-outs), and the things you’ve experienced (getting bad haircuts, developing crushes, receiving a favorite Valentine, getting a bloody nose, adoring favorite rock stars, losing report cards), and so on. Your sexual history is part of you, but the more you talk about it, the larger it’s likely to loom. And a looming sexual history does nothing but taint your current dating situation. If you need to confess about past sexual experiences, find a priest or a therapist, but with everyone else, adopt the Clinton plan: Don’t ask, don’t tell. You’ll both be happier and wiser.