Every now and then Yahoo serves up some life changing hooey. I’m exposed to this hooey, the life changing variety and the not so life changing variety, because I use My Yahoo as my window to the Internet. Unfortunately, that window is smeared with marketing chum feebly disguised as information as it rotates on the cyber-spit display of the login page. There are times you want to lick that chicken roasting on the spit, but you are afraid to burn your tongue. Instead you decide to continue eating the caramel apple dip with a relish fork, but that relish fork disappoints because you expect to consume in spoonful doses, not diminutive tine drips. Sometimes I accidentally write too figuratively, and I forget what the hell it is I am talking about. But this is not one of those times. That relish fork makes a good point. I may have to hire a relish fork to be my lawyer.
I licked a chicken named 5 Things Never to Say on a First Date and it did not burn. It did boggle, however. When I saw the headline to this article I thought, first dates don’t even last long enough to say five things, why do we need to read about that? This must be non-life changing hooey. Then I saw who wrote the article – David Zinczenko, Editor-In-Chief of Men’s Health, the largest men’s lifestyle magazine brand in the world. Notice I said magazine brand, not merely a magazine, like MAD or Skank Moms. The term “magazine brand” implies that the content means nothing without the image. Since image is everything in today’s world and first dates are nothing more than exercises in personal branding to a limited, yet significant, marketplace, Zinczenko must know what he is talking about. Plus, he was one of People magazine’s 50 most eligible bachelors in 2003, has written both an abs book AND a sex book guide for women to figure out guys (so now you know all there is to know about us, ladies), and he has dated Rose McGowan, whoever that is. Obviously, this dude is a much better babe snagger than I am, and probably an all around better person, as well. I read the article, anyway, hoping to experience life changing hooey. I was not disappointed (which has to do more with my general apathy and lack of expectations more than it does with the quality of the article).
Still, I doubted that these five things could make a difference. Much of Yahoo’s infochum consists of lists: Top 10 Wettest Cities (Mobile, Alabama – GET OUTTA HERE, NO WAY!), Top 5 Toe Fungi, 83 and a half Ways to Fold a Fitted Sheet, stuff like that. These articles are all quick hitting nonsense that appeals to the over-active, stressed for time, busy-bodies so prevalent in our society today. They are so busy dealing with pointless issues, like coordinating their diets with their combed to look uncombed hair styles, insipid information seems important to them. I’m not one of those people. I have plenty of time, since I don’t participate in life very much, to read this article and even test its validity. So I did.
Zinczenko begins his article by swabbing our social wounds with a rhetorical balm, claiming that everybody lies on first dates and implying that it is alright to do so as long as you do it properly. Obviously, we all hate ourselves and don’t want our dates to hate us until at least the second date. I’ll buy that. Then he jumps right in to his five point strategy, using the format of SAY THIS, NOT THAT. Not only does he offer what we should not say, he tells us what we should say. What a guy. This made my job as article validity ratifier much easier. I could test each strategy and determine which works the best to determine if Zinczenko is a genius or not. The only way he could be entirely wrong is if neither communication course was effective, which is utterly non-probable.
The first step in my testing process was to find two different women, who are not relatives of mine or prostitutes, to actually go on a date with me. After scouring each page of my little black book to discover that they were all blank, I headed to the bus depot, a veritable hot spot of women dripping with desperation (note: this only applies to my local bus depot. Your results may vary). I met Joyce when she accidentally bashed me in the head with her sewing machine and tripped over me as I was doing a push-up to impress some other woman. She felt bad about the concussion she gave me and agreed to go out on a date with me. Reba wasn’t so easy to win over. I convinced her with a couple of snapshots of Andrew Jackson.
I decided to take each fine lady to the same places during our dates, in order to help control the independent variables used in the experiment. Otherwise, the APA would never accept my paper. Our activities consisted of rock climbing (at Dick’s Sporting Goods on their indoor rock climbing wall), visiting the Lithuanian Museum of Art in historic Lemont, Illinois and unwinding with a fine meal at White Castles. I chose these places to provide us mix of physical, intellectual and frivolous/gaseous experiences, hoping to stimulate a full range of visceral consciousness leading to truer results. Throughout each date, I employed Zinczenko’s suggestions/caveats. Since I liked Joyce better, I chose to use the “Say This” options, while saving the “Not That” lines for Reba, who asked for another $20 at the beginning of our date. I know this choice was made subjectively and could hinder accurate findings, but I thought I actually might have a chance to touch something with Joyce. Below are transcripts from our date conversations relating to each strategy.
SAY THIS: What do you do for fun?
NOT THAT: What’s your job like?
Joyce and I were each halfway up the climbing wall when I asked her this question.
MR: What do you do for fun?
Joyce: (struggling) I…uh…(grunt)…well…my hands are kind of slippery…ugh…um…well I like to…
At that point she slipped and fell twenty feet to the ground. The clasp on her safety rope was broken. She sprained her elbow and had a giant bruise covering about a third of her face but seemed to be in good spirits eventually.
Reba chose not to climb the wall and talked to the college student, Jake, who was operating the wall activity. He seemed very friendly. When I made it to the top of the wall, I shouted the question to her.
MR: What’s your job like, Reba?
Reba: Jake wants to show me the gymnastic padding in the stock room. I’ll be back in a minute.
SAY THIS: You look fantastic
NOT THAT: Good to see you
After Joyce was treated by the paramedics I thought it would be a good time to use this line to cheer her up.
MR: You look fantastic!
Joyce: Let’s go.
When Reba returned from the stockroom with Jake about twenty minutes later, I initiated conversation with this line.
MR: Good to see you.
Reba: (wiped her mouth off and adjusted her skirt)
Jake: Give me a call some time, Reba.
SAY THIS: Got any cool summer trips lined up?
NOT THAT: What do you want to do with your life?
Joyce and I were enjoying the wonderful displays of Lithuanian art, especially the Easter eggs decorated by Juozas Jasiunas. They reminded me of warm weather, so I thought it would be a good time for the next question.
MR: Got any cool summer trips lined up?
Joyce: I can’t get away. My mom is living with me because she has two broken hips and I need to take care of her. I’m working two jobs to support me, her and my three kids. My son, Hank, bites people and the twins still aren’t sleeping through the night unless I breastfeed them at three in the morning, even though they are five years old. My ex-husband has a restraining order against me to stay at least five hundred yards away from him, and then he follows me around and makes me leave wherever I go. So, no, I don’t have any cool summer trips lined up. What do you think, I live on a tv show or something?
MR: Gee, that’s too bad.
Reba was a little less detailed with her response to the next question. She decided to stay in the car when we got to the Lithuanian Art Museum, so I asked her before I went in.
MR: What do you want to do with your life?
Reba: I don’t know, Phil. I’d be happy enough just to get rid of these pain in the ass venereal diseases, know what I mean?
MR: Yeah, I guess so. Good luck with that.
Reba: Hey, get me some toilet paper from the john in there, wouldjya?
SAY THIS: How’s next Thursday?
NOT THAT: Up to anything interesting this weekend? Want to meet up again soon?
On our way from the art museum to White Castles, the conversation between Joyce and me grew a little stale. She had been telling me her problems ever since I asked her the last question. I thought I’d change the subject.
MR: How’s next Thursday?
Joyce: For what?
MR: I don’t know, Zinczenko didn’t give me a follow up question for this one.
MR: Well, he’s this guy…
Joyce: Oh, nevermind. To answer your question, it’s probably going to suck just like the rest of the Thursdays in my life. In fact, last Thursday I was waiting in line at Aldi and this guy, who smelled like he forgot how to turn the shower on, anyway, this asshole asks me to hold his eggs and then he squirts mustard all over them. I’m like, what the hell are you doing? And then the check out girl says, “Ma’am, you will have to pay for that mustard” and I’m like, it’s not my mustard or my eggs, and then she threatens to call the manager…
Reba and I didn’t say a word to each other on the way to White Castles until I broke the silence when we were almost there.
MR: Up to anything interesting this weekend? Want to meet up again soon?
Reba: (picking her teeth with nose hair scissors) Huh? What? Um, I don’t know, Mike, I think I gotta do something, ya know?
MR: Sounds good.
SAY THIS: Where you headed for vacation? What’s on your iPod? Read any good blogs lately?
NOT THIS: Can you believe Sanjaya made it that far?
Joyce can certainly put away the White Castles. I think she had about seventeen of them. While she was munching away, I hit her with the final line of questioning.
MR: Where you headed for vacation? What’s on your iPod? Read any good blogs lately?
Joyce: Are you kidding me? Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve said all night? Yeah, vacation. Right. Oh, I forgot. I’m going to the south of France next week and then to Borneo for some time alone in August. Asshole. Are you going to finish those chicken rings? What’s a blog?
Reba was excited to go to White Castles. She had not eaten them sober in over ten years and thought it would give her a chance to remember what they taste like.
MR: Can you believe Sanjaya made it that far?
Reba: You know, at first I thought the art museum was just a coincidence, but now I know you’re gay.
Before I took this information home to analyze it I thought I would ask one more question to my dates. It would act as a control question, so the same question would be used for both women when I dropped them off.
MR: So, do you want to have sex?
Joyce: I’m really tired and I have to breastfeed in a few hours.
Reba: So, do you want to have sex?
MR: No, thank you.
Dave Zinczenko was only half wrong. One of his strategies didn’t work the way he proposed. Both dates seemed to go better than I expected. I guess it doesn’t matter what you say as long as you are with the right person. The key is to outline your questions and statements and be well prepared before a first date. The most important thing is that I’ve learned that I can feel secure in at least half of the hooey infochum Yahoo serves up, especially if it is in list form. It may just change half of my life.