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Dating 101

Because as much as this stuff seems like it should come naturally, it often just doesn't.

"Nobody talks about relationships in school," Chapman says. "Then you get thrown out into the world and you don't have the tools to know how to do this."

But they're just tools, she adds, and tools can always be acquired.

Tip: New to town or looking to broaden your universe of friends? Try one of these extremely welcoming social groups: Meetin DC ( http://www.meetindc.org), and Girls and the City ( http://www.girlsandthecity.com). If you want professional guidance, there are plenty of dating coaches in the area, including Amy Schoen ( http://www.heartmindconnection.com), Toni Coleman ( http://www.consum-mate.com) and Jae Ellis ( http://www.askromeo.com).

BlackBerry Blackout

Buried. Every hour, every day, every week.

This is Washington. People don't come here to loaf. They work, work, work, and then, sometimes, they wind up on the phone with a dating coach like McLean-based Toni Coleman, wondering why they can't get a date.

"They're so work-focused. So career-focused," Coleman says. "People tend to run through their week, and then the weekend comes and they don't have any plans."

Which is not to say romance can't happen in the workplace. It does, obviously, so much so that in this town, girl-next-door appeal is possessed primarily by the girl three cubicles down. But relying too heavily on that scene can be problematic: "We're talking sexual harassment cases because the only people you're meeting are in your office," warns Patti Feinstein, a Chicago dating guru who has clients in the Washington area. "Stop it. Stop it. Stop it."

Work is kind of a double-edged sword, because it simultaneously prevents people from having enough time for a healthy social life and serves as a convenient excuse not to even think about that area of life.

To succeed in dating, Coleman says, "you're really going to have to carve out time in your life and dedicate resources to it."

Tip: On the side of your BlackBerry, there's a little on/off switch. Turn it off. Look up. If there are fluorescent lights within eyeshot, exit the building. Don't come back until Monday. (This won't be at all easy, we realize, but a lifetime in which the BlackBerry is your closest companion won't be either.)


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