Robert’s Rules of Ardor

istock + emily winter's unsteady sausage fingers

istock + emily winter’s unsteady sausage fingers

My name is Robert, and I have a problem. I’m 36 and single with no viable romantic prospects. That’s not my problem, though. That’s more the result of my problem. My problem is that I profess my affection and/or devotion much too early in a relationship. Actually, “relationship” isn’t quite the right word. “Meeting” might be more accurate. First meeting. Blind date. I can’t help it.

Some real exemplary instances from my life:

Age 5—Valentine’s Day, kindergarten. Our substitute teacher, Ms. Eisinger, has each student in my class craft out of construction paper, lace, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, etc. a card for a member of the opposite sex. Mine reads: Dear Jana, Roses are red, violets are blue, let’s walk down the aisle and say, “I do!”

The following day, my parents are called in for a meeting with the principal and Ms. (Jana) Eisinger. When I refuse to retract my proposal, I am required to meet with the school psychologist once monthly. After I give the school psychologist a homemade card on St. Patrick’s Day (rhyming “Erin Go Bragh!” with “under the chuppah”), our sessions abruptly end.

Age 27—At a bar, by myself, I am finishing a beer. The bartender is young and toothsome. I am sure that every man who drinks here, and probably many women, hit on her. But her good looks are her stock-in-trade. She works for tips, and she gets more of them by being adorable and friendly. I am thinking about this when I realize that I don’t have enough money to leave a good tip—which I want to do because the bartender is really, really cute. I ask for my tab.

Appealing Bartender: “It’s fourteen.”

Me: “If you move in with me, I’ll give you twenty dollars every night.”

Last week—I am seated at a table in a restaurant, when Ann B. arrives. She and I were set up—sight unseen—by our mothers, who know each other from volunteering at the public library. Ann is the homeliest girl I have ever lain eyes on. I want this date to be over as quickly as possible. I am mentally revising my order to just an appetizer, maybe only the bread and water already on the table. I stand as she returns from the bathroom, certain that other patrons are whispering about her, having noticed how misshapen her face and body are. I force myself to focus on Ann, to be polite, though I am already in some gastric distress.

Ann: “Robert?”

Me: “Hi. I love your dress. Also you.”

This couldn’t go on. The only way it could have been worse is if any of these (or many other) girls and women had taken me up on my offer of marriage, or of a second date, or of eternal servitude. (I learned from my mother later that Ann had told her mother that I just wasn’t Ann’s type.) So I’ve come up with three laws to govern my dating behavior—although I suppose they aren’t laws, strictly speaking, since I can’t be jailed or fined for breaking them. Let’s call them rules:

  1. I, Robert, must not declare or even suggest my love or, through inaction, allow my love to be inferred, until I have known a woman for at least a year;
  2. I will continue to seek out true love with genuine enthusiasm, so long as doing so does not require disregarding the First Rule; and
  3. No playing footsie—or even mentioning the FTSE 100, the UK share index—unless and until we are seated.

(I considered adopting a fourth rule, concerning limits on practicing self-love, but ultimately I left off at the aforementioned three, which I think cover the necessary bases.)

As luck (and would have it, I won’t have to wait long at all to put my Rules into effect. I have a date tonight, with a woman named Lisa, and here’s what I’m going to do:

  • I will apologize—but distractedly, so as not to seem “whipped”—for being fifteen to twenty minutes late, although my apology will not include any word occurring in the phrase “I love you.”
  • I will acknowledge—without apology, so that I don’t seem vain—that I have put on some twenty-five to thirty pounds since creating my online dating profile, but I will not suggest that I would be likely to slim down if only Lisa would cook for me for the rest of my life, or hers, whichever ends first.
  • I will choose what Lisa will have for dinner, but when I order for her, I will refer to her as “she.” As in, “…and she will have…” rather than “my soulmate.”
  • I will pay.