Dear Noted Relationship Expert:

I am recently single after an intense relationship, and am dipping my toes back into the dating pool. It's been slow going so far, I have to admit. One thing does bug me: how much do you put out on the first date?

Signed, First-Time Caller

Dear First-Time Caller,

That's a good question. I think that it would be inappropriate for me to draw conclusions from my own field research, seeing as it is both incomplete and possibly skewed (I don't think that having your dates run screaming into the night is the expected outcome).

So I instead turned to the place where first dates are put under a microscope for everyone's amusement and voyeuristic pleasure: Blind Date.

That's right: the self-same show that everyone watches but no-one admits to it, the guilty pleasure that everyone has a story about even though no-one watches, complete with the world's smarmiest man, Roger Lodge.

After having programmed my VCR (if anyone want to donate a TiVo to a worthy cause, let me know) to the to tape every episode of Blind Date over a three-week period, I (fortified with three cases of Mountain Dew, more microwave popcorn than Orville Redenbacher can shake his stick at, a yellow miner's helmet (I don't know, it just seemed like a good idea at the time) and a telephone (to call for help if I needed to)) sat down to watch approximately 15 hours of cheap and voyeuristic "reality" television. Ah, were wilderness paradise enow.

(I put the word "reality" in quotes because, let's face it, how long are these dates? First they go mini golfing. Then they go to karate dojo. Then they get into a hot tub. Then they have cocktails. Then they have dinner. Then they go dancing. Then they get in a different hot tub. I dunno, that must be something like six, seven hours? I mean, me, personally, the current over/under line is 21 minutes (no, wait, AC just called and it's now up to 21 1/2), but that's another story.

So there I sat for 15 hours, watching endless interchangeable couples go out, go hottubbing, go salsa dancing, yadda yadda yadda. Everyone on that show is young, attractive, and as thick as a brick (oh, Aqualung, I'm sitting on a park bench). Do they give prospective Blind Daters the Stanford-Binet, and then eliminate everyone who scores in triple-digits? Let me tell you, I'd rather be strapped to a chair and forced to listen to the entire Ring Cycle conducted by a narcoleptic Parkinson's patient while machines drop eye-drops into my eyes than do that again. At the end of the ordeal (for that is what it was), I felt like I'd been force-fed Network 23's Rebus tape over and over and over again.

At the end of it all, seventy cans of Mountain Dew lay piled on the floor, mixed with the greasy, salty, tattered remains of innumerable microwave popcorn bags (I'm never, ever, ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, even looking at Orville Redenbacher's Microwave Popping Corn Movie Theater Butter ever again, even if I end up stranded on a desert island, equipped only with a microwave oven and a container-full of the stuff), and a telephone with the Bellevue mental health hotline on permanent redial. It's gonna take me weeks to get the stains out of the carpet. There's a joke about kidneys in here somewhere, but I think that I'm going to let it slide for now.

Well, anyway, now that Roger Lodge no longer haunts my nightmares (thanks, Dr. Sacks!), I can give you a full report.

Roughly 40% of the dates were disasters. Now, I'll admit that I didn't anyone sprinting away into the gloaming, but when "Bob," trying to be all sensitive and shit, tells his date that he really likes the work of Emily Dickinson (putting heavy emphasis on the first syllable of the poet's last name) and "Carol" says "Oh, I never really liked hip-hop anyway", it's not a good sign. Or when "Liz" tells "Dickie" that he never could satisfy her and he responds by calling her a fat, aging, over-sexed cow... oh, wait, that's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Usually, the disaster dates are the most fun to watch, as one party (usually the guy, for some reason) makes blunder upon blunder, utterly oblivious to the increasing discomfort (or drunkness) of the other party. There are insensitive jokes ("Did you hear the one about the guy with Parkinson's?" "My dad has Parkinson's."), bad dining choices ("So I thought we'd try this steakhouse." "I don't eat meat."), and poorly-though-out attempts to get grabby ("C'mon. Just one kiss." "If your tongue gets anywhere close to mine, I'm biting it off."). These are train-wreck dates, disasters on biblical scales, so horrifically bad that you have no choice but to watch. Disaster dates often (but not always) end up with one party thinking that they got somewhere and the other calling the phone company to change their number.

About 20% of the dates are strained, but not entirely horrible. There's polite chit-chat ("So, you're a lawyer? What kind? I work with them a lot, 'cause I'm a cop." "Um, I do criminal defense."), vaguely shared interests ("I was training for the US swimming nationals but then I got injured." "Oh, really? I dug swimming pools one summer during high school."), and a complete and utter lack of any chemistry at all whatsoever. These aren't so much fun to watch, 'cause usually the unfortunate participants actually seem like semi-decent people who are trying really really hard (after all, this is their big "Hi Mom" TV moment) but who just can't put it together. The uncomfortable silences grow longer and longer and longer, punctuated with brief, banal exchanges about the weather and the Lakers. These usually end with the daters wandering down the street saying things like "Well, s/he's really nice, but I didn't really feel anything there."

Another 30% of the dates are also kinda of strained, but less so than above. There's actually some kind of commonality ("Like, my favorite poet, is, like Emily Dickinson." "She's the one who wrote about death all the time, right? I wrote a paper about her once!"), fewer conversational gaffes ("So, I was going to tell this joke about Parkinson's, but then I thought, like, it might be tasteless." "That's OK, I like tasteless jokes."), and even occasionally a spark or two ("What's your hand doing?" "Sitting on your knee." "Save it for later, flyboy."). These usually end by having the couple saying that "Gee, s/he's fun, and I think that I'd like to see them again."

And that leaves us with the final 10%, one in ten (more or less). These are the dates that start off a bit unsteadily, get hotter, and by the end of the program, they're waking up the neighbors. The turning point is usually the hot tub segment, for some reason; that's the lightbulb moment, when they look at each other and realize that what they've got on their hands is sex on wheels (it sometimes happens during the dancing segment, but rarely, as most men don't know how to dance). This is when "Carol" says to "Bob", "I like my drinks Big and Strong" with her hand on his crotch. "I was going to ask you about Emiliy Dickinson... but that's not important right now." This is when "Jenna" says to "Janine" that she like her kitt... er, no, that's Where The Boys Aren't, Part XLVII. This is where the hot tub turns clothing-optional, where the dancing turns into dry-humping, where the drive home involves as many red lights run as possible. The exit interviews are held in someone's bathroom, with the daters saying "Gee, yeah, I had a really great time, and, um, it was really fun, and, like, can you guys go now?"

So, to answer your question, it looks like you should put out about one time in every ten dates. But maybe less so if your suitors keep mentioning Emily Dickinson or jokes about Parkinson's.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of empty Mountain Dew cans to throw out.


That was just plain scary.

What, no quotes from "How to Succeed with Women?" :p

I'm sorry, is this the paul frankenstein novel in progress site?

Becasue that's some pretty good scence fiction character study stuff right there.

I beg to differ. Alex Trebek surpasses everyone in the realm of smarminess.

Mike: There's a difference?

D'Lish: Trebek has better writers, and that counts for a lot.

True. But I'm also talking about his off-the-cuff smarminess; like when he corrects someone's pronunciation with a Frenchy Toad accent.

On my birthday I ran into a couple along with a third person organizing reservations and a fourth with a small camera. Turns out they were filming Blind Date. (Actually, I think it was Blind Date, but it may have been one of the million other date shows). I don't know why people are willing to make themselves look so silly in front of millions.

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