Friday, June 26, 2015

A Perfect Gentleman's Guide to Dating

I recently spent several months watching a socially awkward acquaintance of mine, who's in his mid-50s, make mistake after mistake in his quest for a long term relationship with a woman. Every time he made a mistake, I took note and turned into these tips. Enjoy!

One of life's necessities when dating in your 40s.
Guys, are you having problems getting a second date with a lady? Do you ask yourself, “Why am I always struggling to meet women?” or “What’s the secret to getting past the first date?” or “Is there something I can do to improve my odds?” The good news is, yes, there are many things you can do. It took me some time, but here are the things I learned about dating.

For starters, it doesn’t matter if you’re heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, or pan-sexual; you get good at dating by going on dates and learning the do's and don’ts. As a man, my expertise is in heterosexual relationships, so that’s the context in which I’ll frame my advice. (This blog post is perfect timing to coincide with today's historic SCOTUS decision on Obergefell v. Hodges; a victory for same-sex marriage.)

1. Time

Don't be late to the date. No excuses. Guys, we can have six months’ notice for a date, but we don’t start getting ready until six minutes before the date. She’ll already be a little nervous about meeting you for the first time and arriving late just adds to the stress. If you’ve never been to the place where you're meeting then get there early or reconnoiter it before the date. Don’t arrive two minutes before the date only to find that parking’s a problem. Amateurs think tactics, professionals think logistics. There’s nothing wrong with arriving 30 minutes early to read a book while you’re waiting. You’ll be prompt and look intelligent.

2. Dress

Dress clean. Wrinkled or smelly shirts don’t cut it. Dress sharp, yet appropriate. Grunge clothes, ripped jeans, and worn out shirts are fine if that’s you – but they still should be clean. Dress for where you want to go and make sure it’s appropriate. My pet peeve is seeing a beautiful woman, dressed to the nines at a nice restaurant with a guy in dirty jeans and a decades' old rock concert t-shirt.

3. Smell

You need to smell good, in body and breath. Shower as close to the date as possible, always within four hours of your date. Smell is important – very important. You have to love the way she smells and she has to love the way you smell to have a fighting chance. It doesn't matter if you’re smelling each other’s cologne, perfume, soap, detergent, hair, or simply each other; it has to be pleasant, and this is subjective. It’s part of the whole experience and less good smell is better than any bad smell. The name of the game is chemistry. Looking good opens the door, smelling good keeps you in the room.

4. Money

Guys, if you're so broke that transportation and dinner could break the bank then you may want to reconsider your dating options. Even modest, non-gold-digging ladies will find the fact that you’re a professional, white-collar adult and broke a turn off if they can sense it. Keep in mind, if you're going on a traditional date, that she'll probably expect the guy to pay. On the flip side, don't shower her with expensive gifts to show off your riches. That could make her feel like she’s being bought. Presume she wants to learn about you, not your money, three homes, boat or plane. Spending 200% of your planned budget on the date probably won't get you closer to the goalpost. Don't put a lot of pressure on your first date. Keep it low key. Lunch, coffee, or simply a walk are great options, especially if money’s an issue for you.

5. Food

Don't show up for your date starving otherwise you may get “hangry" when things aren't going perfect with parking, traffic, your dinner reservation, etc. Also, don't eat too much on the date. Nerves and disagreeable food don't go well together.

6. Drink

Watch your drinking. A couple drinks can lighten the mood and take off the edge. But don’t get sloshed or pressure her to drink more than she wants to. Also, if you think you’re only enjoyable when you're buzzed then you have to fix that before dating.

7. Talk

Talk little about yourself without being secretive or evasive. Let her dig out the fact that you're a millionaire CEO who used to be an astronaut. Actually, astronauts are the perfect role model since, when you meet them in a bar, they'll never tell you they're an astronaut (true story). They have the world’s coolest job and they’re genuinely the most humble people you’ll ever meet.

Instead of talking about yourself, talk about your date, listen to her, and be genuinely supportive of her thoughts and dreams. When a lady tells you about one of her problems on a date, don't try to solve it for her on the spot. Instead, simply listen. Listen. She's not looking for you to solve her problems. She’s looking for someone to listen and be her cheerleader. Don't try to fix her.

Keep the conversation upbeat and non-controversial. Everything you tell her will fall into one of three categories. Either be positive (“Did you see last night’s beautiful sunset?”), neutral (“Would you like to order dessert?”), or negative (“My landlord is such an idiot, he never fixes anything. The world is a trash can.”) Don’t focus on the negative issues in your life lest you be a Debbie Downer. It should go without saying that pontificating on politics, religion, or sex are a no-no for a first date.

Be honest. Tell her what you think, without being confrontational or opinionated. Tell her what you like about her, just a little. Don't pressure her with anything and don't play games: "She didn't return my call or answer my texts, yesterday, so I'm ignoring her today."

As a guy, it's not about being smarter or stronger. If you think you are, then move along. Seriously, if you're so much “smarter” than all the women you meet then do you really need someone "that dumb" to complement you? Let her see how smart you are by your actions. You don't need to tell her. If you continually find yourself dating “dumber” women then I’m betting you’re really the problem with your dates, not the ladies.

Also, don’t interrupt. People on a date get nervous. We all do since we're being judged. So chill out and let her talk all she wants. If she doesn't stop herself to ask you questions then that may be a warning sign for you.

8. Chivalry

She should have to discover your blessings by your actions, not talk. Don’t tell her how wonderful you are, she should see it. Open the car door for her except when the valet's doing it. Help her put on her coat or jacket except in situations where that would be obscenely awkward. When walking down the sidewalk, put yourself between her and the street without her noticing. Like a classical novel, filled with symbolism, let her discover that you stand for chivalry. You want to be thoughtful, not show-off-full. How thoughtful and selfless can you be without being a martyr?

9. Deception

No deception! Don't exaggerate your height or underreport your age. Starting off a relationship with deception is always bad. There are times when it's OK to lie, dating is not one of those times.

10. Endgame

If your date is going swimmingly then you might be the man she’s looking for, so continue thinking of her needs and desires. Be thoughtful. You’ll need to figure out her speed and match it. Too fast, with too much pressure for the next date, and you’ll scare her off. Too slow and she’ll drift away. The people you date will always be a mystery, at first. So, think like a Boy Scout: Be Prepared.

And always be a gentleman. If she was your daughter, would you want her dating a guy like you? If you want to kiss her at the end of the date then ask. Those are her lips, not yours. So, ask permission. You’d be surprised how much women appreciate the advanced notice to avoid an awkward encounter.

Remember that women want to be treated like the subject of love, not the object. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people won't always remember what you say and they won't always remember what you do, but they will remember how you made them feel; so leave the ladies feeling lovely.

Finally, keep in mind that even if you do everything right it doesn’t mean it will always work out. Some things are not meant to be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Constitutional Amendment Addressing Technology?

The Second Amendment is the only article in the Bill of Rights that specifically addresses a rapidly changing technology. What if our forefathers wrote the Constitution today? Would the Second Amendment be the right to a car, computer, or Internet access instead of the right to bear arms?

Unlike the 18th century, technologies and issues now become outdated or irrelevant faster than ever. One needn't look past the Third Amendment to see an outdated issue in the Bill of Rights. The Third Amendment has never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision. And it may never be given that the United States has transitioned from a militia, to a standing army, to what now seems like a permanent war. A permanent war not against a state or government, but rather an idea: drugs, terrorism, etc. How do wars like this end? Who surrenders and signs the peace treaty leading to the release of the prisoners held in Gitmo? It seems to me that ending all terrorism in the world would be the equivalent of ending worldwide crime. A noble, yet impractical goal we should still strive for with the understanding that it cannot be fully achieved.

The key purpose of the Second Amendment was to give American citizens a daily tool while keeping the government in check. The balance of arms between the people and local communities, compared to the federal government, used to be even. Today, a rebellion by Americans against the federal government would be a disproportionate fight. Private citizens do not own or control weapons of mass destruction (nor should they). Two hundred and fifty years ago, people could not arm and stash a flintlock pistol in their pocket. Also the firearms of that time, from pistols to cannons, were single shot. Percussion cap weapons, the predecessor to bullets, weren't introduced until the 1820s.

I'm not suggesting that we add a Constitutional amendment banning firearms. Nor do I have a solution to ending gun violence. Part of my argument is that having the Constitution address a specific technology may have been a bad idea. More importantly, the Constitution is about giving rights to citizens, not restricting them. There's no place in it for banning alcohol, barring gay marriage, or restricting suffrage.

Simply because the Framers wrote the Constitution doesn't mean it's an absolute human right. Unless you think minorities shouldn't vote and alcohol should be banned. Bearing arms is a right, driving is a privilege – which is more practical in today's America? So, I leave you with no answers, only questions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What is Art? What is Art's Purpose? Why?

Why would someone record a scene of simply eating? Why would anyone want to watch it?

What is art? What is its purpose?

Those are questions I've attempted to answer for years.

Is a Lamborghini or Apple Watch art?

It's easier to answer the second question, first: Art’s purpose is to express consciousness. That's it.

Which leads us back to the first question, "What is art?" It's been said, "Art is what you can get away with" but that's a bit nebulous.

Simply put, art is anything we create for others that can standalone. Art does not need to serve any purpose, other than existing, like a sunset.

Is a diary or personal journal art? I'd say no, since it's private. Rather, art is that poem we wrote which we shared with others, but never intended to sell. It's a photo, prose, performance, or painting that captures the moment.

What about the iPhone? Is that art?
Again, I'd say, no, it's not pure art. Art, with function, isn't so much art as it is design.
Design is art with function. It's how things work from the outside in.
Engineering is technology with function. It's how things work from the inside out.

There's nothing wrong with asking why. But, anyone who asks, "Why?" without the true intent of understanding more, doesn't get it. And that's okay. Not everybody understands everything, but at least have an open mind.

Art is so unique that it would not be missed if it were never created; yet its existence expands our experience with creative beauty. Words, paint, or notes of music, all created from nothing, for nothing, other than to exist, makes art. But that, alone, does not make great art which depends on both content and context, as the above video clip demonstrates. I reproduced the context of eating, but I can't reproduce the content of being Andy Warhol.

And who could forget when violinist Joshua Bell played at the Union Station train station in DC? Without the context of a symphony hall, no one appreciated his music.

Epilogue: Jørgen Leth speaks about his experience filming and directing Andy Warhol.

Credit: Big thank you to M. Thorsen for recording and editing this video.