Date Lines

A Dater's Bill of Rights

By Paul J. Williams
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, February 8, 2008; 11:04 AM

Let's be honest -- dating stinks. Dating is like hitting a baseball -- if you have a .300 success (defined as the person you like likes you back) rate, you're doing pretty well. Too often, dates are doomed from the start because the two parties involved go into them with vastly different views of proper dating behavior. One person might go into it expecting to contribute interesting conversation, good company and a receptive attitude, while the other person is unwilling to do more than communicate through a series of grunts, clicks and whistles, or -- the opposite problem -- feels like the date is an opportunity to share his or her full, rich and detailed biography with a degree of self-promotion that makes Paris Hilton look like J.D. Salinger.

Therefore, I'm going to lay out a Dater's Bill of Rights, a set of rules and principles that really should have been addressed by our Founding Fathers -- I mean, are you more likely to go on a date in your life, or to have to quarter a soldier?

So with that in mind:

You have the right to leave at any point in the first 10 minutes

This one is pretty self-explanatory -- if he swore he looks like Brad Pitt, but he looks more like Brad Garrett, you're out of there, no questions asked. If, in the first 600 seconds, she mentions criminal charges, problems with her mother AND that her favorite Will Ferrell movie is "Kicking and Screaming," you're free to go.

You have the right to the other person's interest and the responsibility to be interesting

When out on a date, you have to both talk and listen. If you are the type to view a date as an opportunity to spew forth everything that has happened to you from the birth canal to that morning's hangnail, because, hey, the other person wasn't saying anything -- make sure that the other person is not quiet only because he has stabbed himself to death with a fork (And I'm using the male pronoun randomly here). Ask questions of your date, tease him gently when he says something goofy, listen to what the other person is saying without thinking about work or your dry cleaning or, for the love of God, checking your BlackBerry.

On the other hand, if dessert is on the way and you haven't said anything about yourself, you need to think long and hard before you go on your next date. What have you done that you can talk about? Have you written a book, backpacked across Europe, gone skydiving, spent the night in a Vegas jail, mastered a martial art -- if you don't have at least two things you can talk about that are as interesting as the things on that list, your homework is to accomplish two before your next date. Most dating advice columnists say you should do things like this for your personal enrichment, because it will make you a better person and blah blah blah. I think you should do it for the sake of the poor sucker sitting across from you at Cosi who is about to realize you have nothing to talk about besides your job.

(Why two things? Because the only thing worse than people with nothing to say are those who have only one thing to talk about -- their hockey team or Pilates or yak herding-- and just go on and on and on about it. Diversify, people.)

You have the right to an honest assessment of the date

There are people, including the one who is writing this online dating column, who have ended dates with the phrase "I'll call you," even when they have no intention of doing so. (I've been on the receiving end of this treatment, also). Sometimes no further clarification is needed -- say you end up in Tijuana with a headache and matching tattoos, or, conversely, a grand jury has been impaneled. But most dates fall somewhere in the middle. If you want to see the other person again, be direct about it. If you don't, be direct about that, too.

You have the right to breakfast


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