1991 Pulitzer nominee Life Lessons

Pay Attention, You Will Be Tested Later

Mirthology column, 1st run Wednesday 4 April 1990 in the Arkansas Democrat

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 1990 Ben S. Pollock

NEWS ITEM: A national survey of experts has shown sex education classes thoroughly teach biological aspects of the subject. However, educators have found children also need to learn the relationship of sexuality to society, responsibility in relationships and adding etiquette to dating.

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Good morning, boys. How was spring break? I hope you didn’t use anything you learned about since New Year’s. For the rest of the semester, we’ll cover Applied Sexuality.

What more is there than finding out how to do That, how to prevent This and how to keep from catching It?

First, you have to get to First Base, today’s topic. Remember, That, This and It are capitalized, bold-face or Italic code words. (Maybe I’m kidding.)

In my day, we only had basic sex ed.: single-cell organisms, human reproduction and venereal disease. You never hear about VD now; they’re all Sexually Transmitted Diseases. STD sounds like a new car or computer model.

Getting to First Base has nothing to do with Sperm, Ova and the Latex Barrier. That comes later.

First Base is a kiss. Before That, you kiss. It sometimes takes years before you get to That.

There are rules for First Base, which together with related activities is called dating.

In my day, we knew there were rules, but they weren’t formally taught. Sometimes you could get a hint of them on the playground, in the pinball arcade or the gutter. The most reliable source of information back then was guessing.

The rules have changed somewhat, naturally, but still are not written down, even though Responsible Relationships is part of our curriculum. No one pays any attention to dating rules, anyway.

Here is how to begin a relationship. I am leaving out morals, because those often have a spiritual base, and That involves religion, and This is school. It is quite possible to have a mutually enjoyable and rewarding romance without mucking It up with philosophy. Rationalizing comes with marriage.

1) Choose the potential object of your affections. Use any criteria, such as intelligence, attractiveness or sense of humor.

My favorite method of choosing is to select someone who is already interested in me. Often, It is easier.

1 1/2) The easiest way to find out who is interested in you is to wait for a woman to ask you for a date. (Traditionally, however — we role models had nothing to do with This — males ask females.)

2) When you get tired of waiting, approach the target. Make small talk then ask her out. The only aspect of dating every covered in books is the small talk, otherwise called opening lines. The how-tos suggest the following topics: astrology, animals, allergies and algorithms. I have found stammering until getting to the question as effective as any of these.

2.1) Which is to say: If she is interested, she’ll say yes, almost no matter what you blather. If she is not, nothing will save It so sulk for a few months then focus on someone else.

2 1/4) Have ready a schedule and one or two alternatives. A date often includes food, such as soda or a dessert, and entertainment, such as movies or miniature croquet.

Fellows often try to leave the entertainment up to the woman, thinking she’ll enjoy the date more if she makes the choices. This is the worst mistake for a budding relationship. Nothing is more frustrating than a “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” conversation. She’ll take you for a wimp. Don’t make her guess.

Have That schedule written out. (You can prevent muttering by making dates over the phone. Then you can rely on notes but sound spontaneous.)

2.6) Be ready to dump your schedule before or during the date. Changing set plans is a healthy conversation. Doing so will tell you a lot about her before you get too involved: Is she: Flexible? Stubborn? Expensive?

2 2/3) This ends the man’s role in the date.

3) All other decisions are hers, especially the progress of affection.

4) Your date will let you know if you can kiss her. If you miss her subtle hint, she will make her desire more obvious. (Warning: Do Not Jump to Conclusions. Make her spell It out.)

4 7/8) Some women make the man make all the moves. This is a trap; avoid her type.

5) Getting to First Base is not a measure of the date’s success. Getting another date is, even if it’s not with the same woman.

There’s the bell. Tomorrow, class, we will discuss holding hands.


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