Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Single and All That Implies

Humor of the Sexes

Picture this:

Woman, stone cold sober. “It’s really not that funny.”

Man, grabbing his sides from laughing. “It’s hilarious! Look! He just hit him on the head!”

Woman, rolling her eyes, then walking out of the room.

How many times has that scenario played out in households across the world? Probably an awful lot, if research funded by the National Institutes of Health is to be believed. Turns out, those humor differences aren’t just personality-based but are based on differences in how the sexes perceive humor.

Essentially, they found this: Women are analytical and discriminating in determining if something is funny. Men - not so much so.

The findings show that men go along with a joke, assuming it is funny before the punch line even is given, while women wait until they hear the whole joke before deciding whether it’s funny and then feel more pleasure if they decide it is.

The lead researcher said these differences could help account for men gravitating more toward one-liners and slapstick humor and women gravitating more toward humor in narrative form and stories.

It’s all starting to make sense now.

How many times have I watched in wonder at men laughing uncontrollably at slapstick humor while I’m thinking it is maybe - maybe - mildly humorous? And, I can’t even sit through something like “The Three Stooges.” I’m just like, “This is so-o boring!” It doesn’t engage me at all.

Some of the researchers say it is because women do not expect a joke to be funny that they are more affected by it when they realize it is. That conclusion, although possibly correct, seems to be unjustified. A conclusion that makes more sense to me is not that we don’t expect it will be funny, just that we would rather decide one way or the other after all the information is given.

Compare it to shopping:

I like to look around at everything before I decide what I want to buy. I can spend hours at the mall deciding just what I want my final purchases to be. Why check out the shoes just at one store when another store might have something better or cheaper? Men (and I have proof from my days of working retail) have a tendency to walk in to one place, pick out something they want, buy it, and leave.

While men may save a substantial amount of time, they lose out on the experience of seeing and touching and learning. They get the end result, just like we do, but they miss out on the experience. (That just triggered a thought on some other activity men and women stereotypically have tendencies to treat that way, but I won’t go there.)

My point is that I, as many other women, like to know the whole story, the whole situation. We want to know all of what we are dealing with, and then we make our decision based on what we are provided. With shopping, it is like leaving out a big piece of the puzzle not to know what the other stores have, and with jokes, it feels nonsensical to decide they are funny before we even have heard what is supposed to be the funny part.

Do these results mean men don’t like to think very much? Or, do they mean women like to think a little too much? I’ll leave that for you to decide. But, as for me, I’ll stick with my satires and my devilishly clever stories, relishing every moment of anticipation as I wait for what hopefully will be the delightfully pleasing conclusions. Until then … Caroline.

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Date or Soul Mate

Here are my "Must Haves" and "Can't Stands."

I recently read a book by Dr. Neil Clark Warren, the founder of e-harmony.com, titled “Date … Or Soul Mate? How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less.”
I normally don’t read these kinds of books, but two reasons compelled me to read this one. 1.) My best friend’s mom saw one of my columns a while back that was related to this topic and sent the book to me. And, 2.) I’ve been working on a project involving a lot of self-help type books, and I realized there are an amazing amount of them. According to the book publishing industry, we all are really messed up!
This book, “Date … Or Soul Mate?” pushes the point that individuals should focus on what qualities they deem most essential for a potential mate and what qualities they absolutely would not be able to handle. The “Must Haves” and the “Can’t-Stands” are how they are labeled, and individuals are supposed to pick ten of each.
Warren claims that if someone has just one of your “Can’t Stands,” or is missing just one of your “Must Haves,” that person should be dumped immediately. Just one!
The theory is that, in the long run, those negatives (in your eyes) will affect the relationship’s potential to be successful. He says that hoping someone’s other desirable characteristics balance out undesirable characteristics or what they are missing might work for a while but will not work in the long run. Warren also says that if a relationship is to be ended, it should be ended sooner rather than later to avoid any additional emotional bonding that will complicate the breakup.
I think we’ve all pretty much thought about what our ideal mate would have, but it is the specifics and having to whittle it down that is difficult. At first, it doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to narrow down the qualities, and I didn’t have too much trouble picking out the top ten things that I knew I could not tolerate in a mate. But, whittling down what I absolutely had to have to just ten qualities was very difficult (which probably explains why I rarely meet anyone I consider actual potential material and possibly why I am still single.)
When you think about it, there are a lot of things that are just plain necessary to make a good match. First, you have to pick qualities that match your personality well. Second, you have to pick qualities that make for a successful relationship. Third, you have to pick qualities that fit the kind of lifestyle you want.
For me, at first, that equaled about 15 qualities I considered crucial. I’ve experienced enough of life at this point to know these factors really matter so kicking some to the curb to get it down to ten was hard. I had to prioritize what was the MOST important. (In an ideal world, I still will manage to smuggle in a few other qualities when I find Mr. Right For Me.)
Overall, I found the book to be a very useful exercise to help people focus on who is a potential mate and who really is not, which allows them to move on quickly to other candidates if warranted. Warren has written other books, including one I am about to read, “Finding the Love of Your Life.” I’ve never met anyone who has tried e-harmony, but everyone always seems curious about it, and the idea of matching based on the “Must Haves” and “Can’t-Stands” certainly can’t be any worse than other online dating sites. Until then … Caroline.

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Etiquette for Married People

The question I am seeking to answer this week is a very personal one in one sense and also a common one, I am finding, as I talk with women my age and older who are not married. Why do married people pressure single people to get married?

(I think I am trying to justify something to myself with this one, but as long as at least one other person out there feels the same, it won’t be for naught.)

I am 28 years old. To me, that is pretty young. Yet, when I went home this past weekend for a high school friend’s baby shower, I was the only one there who was not married and also was very much in the minority for not having sauntered in to the baby-bearing department.

I myself am comfortable with my situation. What I don’t understand is why I had to keep justifying to everyone why I wasn’t married. One of the moms actually said, “We’re going to have to find this one a husband,” and she said it like I am somehow broken and in need of fixing. I replied, “See, that’s why I don’t come to College Station that often.” I made everyone laugh with that, but the sarcasm was dripping.

“Suggested Etiquette for Married People”

If people are single, they either a.) haven’t found the right person or b.) don’t want to get married. In the case of a, it is impolite to publicly chide people for making sure they get it right instead of settling for Mister Or Miss “Right Now.” It makes them feel bad and might even push some in to a not-so-great marriage. In the case of b, they simply don’t prescribe to the same lifestyle you do, and the more you push it, the more they will wonder what you are hiding.

(I have to say I noticed a similar pattern toward the married-but-no-kids segment; they had to keep justifying why they hadn’t had kids yet.)

Just to set the record straight, let me say, I WANT to get married when I find the right man, and I WANT to have children when the marriage falls in to place, but I’m just not so sure why people act like I need to follow the same time schedule they do. Boyfriends can be delicious distractions, and I imagine a husband would be even better. I’m looking forward to that, but so far I’ve only been in the mood for appetizers and dessert, not a main course.

When I tell people that I would really rather get my career in place before I get too serious about marriage, a lot of people look at me like I am a man in the 1950’s or something, but, to me, it makes sense. I expect my future husband to have accomplished something by the time we get married so certainly I should hold myself to the same standard - especially since, when I do have kids, my career will not get as much attention.

And all of this pressure is sooo not the same for men - at all. They have a good five years on women before anyone starts asking them when they are getting married. I understand that this probably is generated from the mores of the past, what with them being the hunters and the breadwinners and with them having the ability to produce offspring in their centenarian years, but hey - that 60-something-year-old woman just had twins.

Here’s another reason this makes no sense - women live an extra ten years anyway! We live so much longer that WE should get an automatic timeline extension. Plus, and here’s a big fat stereotype for you, it’s the men who are wedding-shy and need the prodding, while we women, even us independent ones, really would run to the altar if we knew we finally had the right man.

My standards are high; I admit that. I think most single women my age feel the same. We have been able to play the field more so than generations previous, and that’s taught us a lot about what we do and don’t want in a relationship. Isn’t that a good thing?

It may take more time to find someone who fits in our mold, but I really am holding out hope that taking more time will help us have a better marriage success rate. When all is said and done, I’d much rather be in a later but lifelong marriage than an early marriage wishing I’d had the strength to stay single just a little bit longer.

Promising I’m not bitter and jaded and accepting applications for Mr. Right, until then … Caroline.

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Undercover on a “Hurry Date”

The Day Before: I can’t believe what I just said I’d do! What on Earth would possess me to go undercover at a “Hurry Date” event in order to journal the experience for the voyeuristic pleasure of others? A series of four-minute dates with a dozen guys - it’s crazy, I tell you!

I’m nervous now that it has been scheduled - I feel like such a chicken.

A “Hurry Date,” similar to “Speed Dating,” or “8-Minute Dating” is based on the premise that having brief dates with a lot of people increases your odds of finding someone who is a match. I have agreed to be a guinea pig on a “Hurry Date,” where I will go “undercover” and act as a normal participant throughout the process. I then will share my experience so that others can know what to expect should they ever want to try it, or perhaps so that others can get a kick out of my unabashed deception, and, I am sure, a few noteworthy characters.

The “Hurry Date” system is one in which, after having a four-minute date, participants mark a yes or no on a scorecard to say whether or not they would be interested in meeting again. At the end of the night, everyone goes home and enters their scores online. If both say yes, then “voila!” You would now have a “Hurry Date” match.

The Morning of My “Hurry Date”: I’m a little less nervous now that I am focusing on my plan of how best to make a record of my experiences. This is, after all, an assignment of the utmost importance, with my revelations sure to garner as much attention as Deep Throat coming out of the woodwork.

My dilemma - Should I voice record the unwitting men who will be coming to my table one after another doing their darnedest to make a good impression, or should I discreetly take notes on a small notepad, feigning a need to “remember who is who?”

The Afternoon of My “Hurry Date”: As if there wasn’t enough pressure already, my publisher asks me, “What if you find the love of your life?”

My first thought is that I’m sure there’s not a chance in HE-double L, but then again … I totally can picture myself ending up like a leading actress in one of those movies. At just the wrong moment, she reveals she secretly has been chronicling their time together - and that somewhere along the line, it became “more than just work.”

Time to feel like a chicken again.

Two Hours Prior to My “Hurry Date”: What the heck am I going to wear? I’m thinking red - that way I can play the matador and see how many bulls I can catch.

One Hour Prior to My “Hurry Date”: Everything I have that is red looked a little too hoochie-mama for the occasion. I think more casual is the way to go. Ultimately, I decide on a feminine top and a miniskirt. (Of course, I’m so tall every skirt on me is a miniskirt!)

Thirty Minutes Prior to My “Hurry Date”: I’ve decided against the voice recorder. As devious as I may be pretending to be tonight, it seemed a little too deceptive to actually record their voices in secret. Instead, I am just going to take notes under the guise of keeping clear on who is who. A dozen guys with only four minutes each is a lot to keep track of, right?

On My Way to My “Hurry Date”: I call my best friend for a pep talk. She knows the real story - therefore, her identity must be protected. After talking to her, I’m still nervous, but at least I know that one person in the world doesn’t think I’m insane -- Eccentric is the term we prefer.

I arrive at My “Hurry Date”: Deep breath. Here we go. To be continued …Until then … Caroline.

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Undercover at a Hurry Date

I did it! I went undercover and did some sleuthing at a “Hurry Date” event so I could give a firsthand look at what the events are really like. We’ve all seen ads for “Hurry Dating” or “Speed Dating” or “Eight-Minute Dating,” but what kind of people go, and are the events worth attending? With my handy notepad in tow, I set out to discover these secrets - in secret

My event was for women and men ages 25 to 35, although events are available for all age levels, and was held at a bar - the Velvet Spade - with a very interesting décor. I would have preferred not being faced with a huge picture of a woman’s derriere lifted up and waiting for a spanking, but it did serve as a conversation starter, if nothing else, for the initial mingling and drink-ordering time.
While we waited for things to start, I noticed that, as a whole, both the women and men were relatively attractive and were dressed in semi-nice casual clothes or as though they had just come from work. After everyone was checked in, the women all found their seats - mine was a loveseat that virtually required me to rub thighs with my dates - and the men came to us, one by one, switching every four minutes when a whistle was blown.I had 12 dates, whose names I have opted to change because 1.) They were all relatively good guys, and 2.) An ambush by an undercover journalist was probably not the kind of date they envisioned when signing up for the event.

A lot of my observations are superficial because only so much of a “real” person can be determined in four minutes. I had to base it on what I heard, what I could see and if I felt any chemistry. These impressions certainly could be proven wrong after more time together, but my intention is to show an example of a typical event and what someone who opted to attend one could expect.
The dates:
By far, the most unusual conversation I had was with Fred, who described his career as similar to “MacGyver.” I wondered, “Does that translate in to ‘unemployed thrill seeker with a penchant for fantasy life,’ or does he really use his cunning to right wrongs and save the corporate world from sure destruction? Hmm … ”
A handsome guy with long hair, his energy was quite engaging - I can see him having a fan club, perhaps with the women he strings along working his way from adventure to adventure. And, although he was quick to change the subject away from work, Fred did reveal he was the type who could make an atomic bomb out of chewing gum and a paper clip.
It is always good to have a talent, I suppose.
Karl was my favorite. He was very good looking, but immediately I was so taken with his personality that I didn’t even notice how handsome he really was. A recent transplant to Austin, he said he is in mergers and acquisitions, which sounded so incredibly exciting that I think I actually gushed. Gushing aside, I made a thoughtful comment about his work, and he said something to the effect that it was a really thoughtful comment. I think we had a moment.
He also joked with me almost the entire four minutes, and we somehow managed to fit in a conversation about skinny-dipping.
Hal was the official Big Computer Company Flirting Representative - probably every woman there put a check mark next to his name. Super nice, funny, good looking but not over the top handsome, he was the “friend to all, lover to none” type. I have a feeling he is in perpetually single guy mode at the moment.
Brad said he was in Marketing, was very clean cut, cute, and probably a genuinely good guy. He would be a great friend.
Sam, in Sales, was the guy who needed to get the heck out of there and work as soon as the dating was finished. He seemed a little distant, and I couldn’t quite get a read on him, except he looked at my chest a little less than discreetly. He was cute, though.
Tom said he was in Marketing and liked bike riding. We had a discussion about “Star Wars” and how hard it was for him, as a single man, to find the energy to clean. “You realize how dirty you are when you have professionals clean for you,” he said, with a hasty follow-up comment that he really wasn’t THAT dirty. He was a nice guy.
Shawn, a project manager who had previously been in the Army, said he was working on his degree. He seemed very goal oriented and was good looking but rather tightly wound.
Jay said he was an engineer who loves to practice photography in his spare time and stands by 35mm for its quality.
Dean is a scientist who has taken swing dance lessons, which showed me he probably is open to new things. He was the handsome nerd-y type, and that boils down to a lot of untapped potential - a good catch for someone willing to work with him.
Matt was a nice software engineer who wasn’t afraid to approach women before the event even started. His openness and friendliness surely will pay off in the dating arena.
Mason was a nice guy with a big heart who does programming for a defense contractor, making the kinds of programs that allowed the military to extricate safely hostage Jessica Lynch. He said it made him feel good to know the work he was part of was able to save people’s lives. There was a gleam in his eyes that showed me he meant it, and I’ve learned a professionally fulfilled man is both happy and very hard to find.
Greg creates animated series based on video games for the Internet. He described the process as similar to puppeteer-ing with preset backgrounds and characters. It sounded fun, especially since he does it with his friends. I went on their website, and in the middle of a work day, there were almost 500 users downloading cartoons. Greg was a sweet, overgrown kid.
By the time my 12 dates were over, my head was swimming trying to remember who was who. Four minutes is very fast, especially since the time includes the guys moving from one woman to another. We all were trying frantically to scribble something down in between each date, hoping to keep it all clear. Luckily, enough of us stuck around for a few minutes afterward to help make sense of some of the jumble.
What also helped was talking for a few minutes with two of the other women. We figured that between the three of us, we had 12 minutes of information. As one put it, we almost had a cup of coffee!
Now, the way “Hurry Dating” works is after finishing, we went home and entered online the people we would be interested in seeing again. The computer matches us up, and it is up to us to take it from there. I purposely am waiting until after this article to follow up so I can keep it private, but I am happy to report that my favorite and I are a “Mutual Match” …
Overall, my “Hurry Date” experience was a lot of fun, and I probably would do it again. After all, it’s pretty much like meeting people at a party, except a little more organized. And despite my fear of the quality of people who would attend, every one of the women and men had the potential to be a “just right” fit for someone out there. And in my opinion, whatever works - works!

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Hurry Dating

Many of you read my column last week on my planned foray in to “Hurry Dating” and are wondering how the evening went. For those of you who skipped last week (shame, shame), I, with great trepidation, introduced a plan to attend a “Hurry Dating” event as an undercover observer and then report back on what it was like.

I now have completed my mission and have details to tell … a commentary in this column and then an article - complete with descriptions of my dates - in this week’s paper.

“Hurry Dating” involves a series of four-minute dates all in one evening. The idea is that having brief dates with a lot of people increases your odds of finding someone who is a match. After the evening is over, participants enter online whether or not they would be interested in seeing their dates again. If you have a match, it’s up to you to take it from there.

I ended up having 12 dates that night, and while I would have preferred a few more, it already was super hard to keep track of everyone. Four minutes is much shorter than it sounds, especially since switching partners takes up about 30 seconds. By the time you share names and careers, the whistle blows!

Plus, both of you are frantically writing down anything you can (shirt color, hair color) to try to remember who the person was. All this, and, in theory, circling a yes or a no next to the person’s name on whether or not you are interested in seeing her or him again.

It was actually quite exhilarating!

I was probably a little more distracted than most because I needed to remember specifics and quotes for my article (as you remember, I opted against a voice recorder) so I’m lucky I was able to make any sense out of it by the time I was done. Plus, the bar where it was held was possibly the darkest bar in Austin so taking notes was challenging at best. I think they were going for mood lighting in the hopes that we would find each other more attractive!

That was one of my secret, superficial concerns going in to the night - was everyone there going to be unattractive or a major loser? I am quite happy to report the answer is not at all. All the men (and all the women that I talked to) were nice, professional, and, for the most part, average to above average looking. Of course, everyone’s tastes are different, but it really was a pretty normal crowd.

I’ve always said that I can tell right away whether a guy is a “potential,” but it turns out putting it in to practice is tough. It’s hard to tell a lot about a person in only four minutes; I mostly had to go on impressions and feelings. I think that is where the idea really has merit, though. Is the chemistry there? If it is, you can move on to the next step, which is contacting each other by e-mail.

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and I totally would do it again, although I’d prefer about 16 dates at once. Basically, it is like hitting two parties all in the span of an hour and having an opportunity to talk to every man who might be of interest.

Did I find the love of my life? I really can’t say at this point, but I did meet 12 nice guys. And I did find some particular matches I may explore further, but those likely will be explored in the privacy of my non-writing life. Sorry, y’all! Until then … Caroline.

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Past is Present in Toyland

Picture this: I’ve invited a date over for dinner and a movie. We’ve only been out a few times so I’m a little nervous, he’s a little nervous. I nonchalantly hand him a glass of wine, gently sit down close to him, and smoothly hit play on my DVD player, ready to share this moment. All of the sudden, out pops on the TV screen cartoon characters singing the music “Strawberry Shortcake, wouldn’t you know?” on my strawberry-scented “Strawberry Shortcake’s Get Well Adventure” movie.

Jiminy Crickets! Crucial moment here – how much to reveal? Here I am, pretending I’m an adult, and the truth is revealed by the touch of a wrong button. What’s this guy going to think about a twenty-seven-year old woman who still watches Strawberry Shortcake movies?

As usual, I decide to go for broke and reveal that, yes, it is mine, as is the matching beach towel and notebook. And that, yes, I have virtually every Scooby Doo video ever created as well as quite an assortment of Scooby Doo paraphernalia. And yes, every time I go to the store I have to look at all the new Care Bears and My Little Pony toys.

What is it about these things that make me go crazy for them? For me, these things were all an important part of my childhood. I still remember playing with my My Little Pony castle, my Blow Kiss Strawberry Shortcake baby doll (if you squeeze her tummy, she blows out a strawberry “kiss”), and my Care Bears figurines. I have book after book of drawings I made of them as a child and even just the other day, I copied pages out of a Strawberry Shortcake book and a Care Bears book and colored them. And Scooby Doo has always, and I mean always, been my favorite show.

What is different about these childhood toys, when compared to the thousands of others, though, is that they have made a resurgence in popular culture, rather than being relegated to the forgotten closets of our dusty minds.

These products were shelved (with the exception of Scooby Doo, which has amazingly never disappeared) for about 20 years and now are resurfacing, presumably at a time when many of us would start to have our own children. I have to admit - I’m not anywhere near ready to start having children, but every time I see this stuff, I can’t help but think, “I hope this is still around when I have kids so they can play with them.”

What is neat about a lot of the toys that actually make a successful comeback is that they are wholesome and healthy and just plain good. I can’t ever recall Strawberry Shortcake cussing out Blueberry Muffin for messing around with Huckleberry Pie who had started hanging out in the ghettos of Strawberryland. Instead, all of these toys have positive messages and offer morals in their story lines. Remember, Care Bears “care.”

I think this demonstrates how kids (and adults) really prefer the simplistic approach that life can be good and that everyone can be happy. And I think this is why, even as adults, we are attracted to things from our past, and that’s a good thing. Us adults could stand to be reminded that we should say we’re sorry when we do something wrong, that we should always help our friends, and that problems can be solved by everyone working together.

So yes, I will still buy that Strawberry Shortcake t-shirt, and I’ll pay for it with my Care Bears check, and I’ll sign that check with my Scooby Doo pen, and hopefully, that connection with my past will remind me of long-ago learned lessons that I hope my children will have the fortune of learning in such a wonderful way some day.

Oh, and those of you wondering how my date responded to my childhood-at-present? He revealed (secretly) that he plays with a certain Tonka Toys remote control V-10 bulldozer every time he goes to the store. Until then … Caroline.

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Online Dating

Online dating is going mainstream. Misconceptions and preconceptions aside, online dating is becoming a more and more popular way for couples to meet.

About 90 percent of the time I tell people older than me that I use an online dating site, their reaction is something like, “There are a lot of weirdoes on those sites, aren’t there?” or, “Is that safe?” or, “You shouldn’t tell anyone that!”

Whenever I tell anyone my age, the answer is usually more along the lines of, “Yeah, my friend’s sister’s cousin’s boss got married to someone she met online.”

Even though people my age tend to be pretty open to the idea, I was a little hesitant to try it, especially since I had to post my picture for all the world to see. Since California is supposedly a couple of years ahead of us in trends – think skate parks, sushi and martini bars – I asked my best friend, who lives in San Diego, what she thought. She said, “Oh, everybody does it. It’s the thing to do now.”

That was enough for me to take the plunge, and putting my profile online was actually quite liberating. I was able to say, “This is who I am, and this is what I want. If you’re interested, let me know. If not, that’s fine - I’ll never know anyway.”

And the response has been – well, pretty good - certainly better than the “bar scene.” The men I have talked with and met have pleasantly surprised me. I haven’t met my soul mate, but I have had some good times. And I have met no weirdoes, which is significantly better than the number I encounter otherwise.

I think being able to read the sometimes very lengthy profiles helps narrow the potential partners better than an ordinary dating environment because you know up front if you’re compatible on some very important issues. Sites will ask questions like, “What do you do for a living? What religion are you? How much education have you had? What are you looking for in a relationship? What kinds of things do you like to do?” Before any personal communication, you are able to get a pretty good handle on the basics of people.

There is also not so much of a rejection factor as in the normal dating scene. From my experience, women feel bad about turning men down for a date, a dance, etc. because we are raised to be polite and nice (and I’m sure the men don’t like it either.) And we certainly feel bad when the hottie down the hall takes no notice of us, despite our numerous, subtle attempts. Online dating feels anonymous in a way – so if they or we don’t respond to an e-mail, it is okay. No harm done ... Next!

If you do respond to each other, then you can e-mail back and forth a few times to feel each other out, and IF you still are interested, then you can exchange phone numbers. If that goes okay, then you can meet for a public lunch.

And I say lunch specifically because that seems to be the way it works. Never, in all the dates I have been invited on, has my first date with someone been for dinner. I think it’s some sort of defense strategy for a quick exit in case the date goes really, really bad! But, if lunch goes well, you can progress from there. If not, you had to eat anyway, right?

It’s fun. It’s safe if you do it right. It’s easy. It’s flattering. I think online dating is a great way for a single person to meet available dating partners, and that is why I wanted to write this column – to remove some of the stigma of online dating.

Still, part of me deep down is embarrassed about writing on this, which is why I am specifically not mentioning the sites of which I am a member. But, the overwhelming remainder thinks that this is actually a great way to meet people and another avenue for normal people like me to find “Mr.” Or “Miss Right.” Big sigh. Until then … Caroline.

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Ten-Year High School Reunion

This past weekend I returned home to College Station for my ten-year high school reunion. I was reluctant to go at first because it seems like high school is a time very far away from my life now. I stay in contact with my best friend, but other than that I haven’t had any regular contact with the people back home for years. I hear “so and so had a baby” or “so and so got married” every now and then and get the occasional invitation or Christmas card, but that’s about it.

But, like with other major considerations, when all other motivations fail, my conscience resorts to guilt, and I knew I would feel guilty if I didn’t go - so I did. And I’m really glad.

I am wondering now, however, if all ten-year high school reunions are pretty much the same because, before leaving for the reunion, I talked to my aunt, who had been to her ten-year high school reunion, and she was exactly right in what she told me to expect.

One of the things she said was, “All the women are going to look fantastic - they are going to look the best they have ever looked. But, all the men are going to have little paunches starting to grow on their bellies and are going to have started balding. There will be a few men who were kind of geeky in high school who have matured a bit and look better, but most of them won’t. Whoever said men age well didn’t know what he was talking about.”

When my best friend and I walked in the door at the reunion, it was exactly like she said. I mentioned it to another woman there, and she said, “Well, of course. We women wouldn’t come unless we knew we looked fantastic!” I thought that was pretty funny, and well, pretty true.

At my reunion, most people were married, and most of those had at least one child so far. I have to hand it to one woman, though, our student body president in high school and still one of the nicest people I have ever known. She has, in only ten years, gotten married, earned her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree, had four children, and is now six months pregnant - all while living halfway across the country from any family whatsoever! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but apparently it is!

And there definitely were the “never noticed him before” men who had now become the “Who is that?” men. It’s funny how so many smart guys blend in so well in high school and then stand out so much after high school. I would have to say that applies to the women, too. This is definitely a good reason to attend your high school reunion if you are still single. Eye candy and stimulating conversation all in one package is a good thing anywhere you can get it!

It’s funny how much change occurs in ten years. I mean, things were still very much the same, but yet they weren’t. Regardless, it was really neat to see everyone, even people I casually knew. We all seemed so much more interesting than we did in high school. I guess high school creates an atmosphere of static, one-dimensional people, and in the “real world” we realize that is not the case with anyone.

Not everyone came, of course, but the people who came proved to me that we are so much more than who we are in high school, and that is such a good thing. Who wants to be known as or feel like one stereotype for an entire lifetime?

Those of you worried about a reunion or still in school - never fear! Life IS after high school! Until then … Caroline.

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Men and Directions

This past weekend a male friend volunteered to mow and weed eat my lawn, and I was provided a comical example of the lengths some men will go to avoid reading directions and asking for help. He gave me permission to use his story on the condition that I portray him as “unfortunate but not dumb.” That should give you some idea …

It was a beautiful afternoon, and he mowed the front yard without incident. After the mower stopped, it was quiet for a long time so I peeked out the window to see what he was working on. I saw him pulling and pulling on the cord of the weed eater trying to get it to start. And I mean, over and over and over again - he was red in the face and huffing and puffing.

My first reaction was to go take care of it, but knowing how defensive and protective most men are about tools and their tool-handling abilities, I thought better of starting it for him. He would see the directions printed on the side of the weed eater, right? Or, he would come ask me for help, right?

About 30 minutes later, I noticed that I still wasn’t hearing any noise. I looked out the front window again, and lo and behold, he is down on the ground, surrounded by all sorts of various tools, and my weed eater is in pieces – pieces - on the lawn!

Oh, good grief! I found an excuse to go outside and nonchalantly strolled by with the recycling bin, acting like it was no big deal that my once whole weed eater was now a mess of unrecognizable parts. “Having some trouble?” I casually asked, as I surveyed the spattering of parts thrown across my lawn.

“Well, your darn weed eater won’t start.”

“Mmm, hmmm, I see. What, um, are you doing here?”

“I’m checking the air filter to see if there’s a problem because I was checking the three necessities (a clearing of the throat and a big pause here to emphasize the importance of his actions) - air, fuel, and fire. I checked the air cleaner, made sure it was getting fuel. I took the spark plugs out to make sure it was getting fire.”

I looked at him knowingly. “Still not starting, huh? Did you look at anything else?”

“I checked to see that the spark plug wasn’t fouled. I adjusted the carburetor jet.”

“Uh, huh, and it still won’t start … ” (Gee, do I dare go here?) “Did you read the directions?”

“Dang it, Caroline, I’ve been starting weed eaters my whole life!”

I figured that was a pretty strong NO and that I should back off. I put out the recycling, and then very s-l-o-w-l-y walked by again. “Are you sure you don’t want me to try?”

Despondent that his best technical efforts hadn’t worked, he sighed and said, “Well, I guess you can try.”

I watched him carefully put all the parts back together, and I leaned down to the weed eater. Staring right up at me was the very first part – the very first part - that had to be removed in order to take apart the weed eater – the directions plate.

Of course, CLEARLY the directions plate is something we DON’T need. Logically, it would be the first thing discarded in the pursuit of starting the weed eater - of course.

Choosing to defy what might have seemed logical to the male population and certainly to my male friend, I read the directions, followed them exactly, and wouldn’t you know it? It immediately roared to life. Amazing how that worked! Simply amazing! WHO ever would have thought that by following the directions something would work? And without even taking it apart!

Needless to say we could not speak of the incident at that moment or for several days, and even then it was probably against my better judgment to bring it up. But, I think I’ve upheld the “unfortunate but not dumb” agreement, don’t you? Until then … Caroline.

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