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Thumber romance

I was on a first date with this guy, and he kept texting right at the table. Amazingly, he asked me out again. Is this on-date texting becoming the norm? — Ignored

There are times when your date can't help but break away to text or take a call, like if he's got the other half of the missile launch codes and Luxembourg just attacked Staten Island. If it could be the secretary of state or the babysitter about his kids setting the house on fire with My Little Meth Lab, he should apologize in advance that he might have to take a call. Otherwise, answering is the digital version of leaving your date alone at the table and bopping over to join friends across the restaurant. Texting? You might as well whip out a pen and legal pad: "You busy yourself with that pork chop, Sweetcheeks. Got a couple letters I gotta mail out first thing."

Many people think the fact that their pants are vibrating gives them a pass to put the person they're with on face-to-face "ignore." People with manners consider how their companion might feel sitting before a full restaurant audience pretending to examine a napkin for hidden messages.

Cool as it is that you can message somebody in Moscow right from the table, groovy new technology needs to be paired with groovy old-fashioned social graces. If you're going to invite somebody to dinner and ignore them, at least have the decency to get married first and build up years of bitterness and resentment.

Mystery meet

This guy I met at a club seemed great, but when we went on a date, he made no eye contact. Zero. Apparently, he needs lots of alcohol to be normal. My friend just went out with a guy who took her to the equivalent of Subway for Hawaiian food. They sat in plastic chairs, ordered from a counter, and looked out at a parking lot and a porn store. How do we stay in the dating game without becoming bitterly annoyed? — Underwhelmed

A date, as a way to get to know somebody, is really fun — for anybody who enjoys a police interrogation with two-for-one well drinks. Group dating is a much better idea. There's a site called ignighter.com where you and some friends post a group profile and go out with other groups of friends. Or, you can arrange this sort of thing yourself. With your friends there, you won't be so nervous, you won't have to hold up half the conversation, and you'll get a clearer picture of a guy by seeing him with his friends. Should a group date be a bust, it's like you and your friends all went to some lame party, not like you alone once again failed to find everlasting love. If you must go on a first date solo, meet for drinks — for an hour and a half, tops. Basically, keep it cheap, short and local — which'll ease the pain should it take a Hobbesian turn toward "nasty, brutish and short." (Do your best to laugh if that also describes your date.)

Every clod has a silver lining

I'm a mature 21-year-old woman considering a relationship with a 30-year-old man, but I worry about our age difference. I've yet to graduate, and live the life of a student, but I don't want to miss out on the guy of my dreams. — Unsure

Yippee, you can now be tried as an adult, but don't be on your high horse about how all growed-up you are. At 21, everyone thinks they're "mature." By 23, some catch a whiff of what blithering idiots they've been. At 30, many have nine years of proof. Making matters worse, you're from one of the most overmommied generations ever. While the original umbilical cord is still cut at birth, there are now aftermarket versions from Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. One 20-something girl complained on a blog that her mother calls her every 30 minutes when she's out. Once, when she didn't reply right away, she logged 96 missed calls from Psychomommy.

Even if your parents aren't all helicoptery, the last thing you need now is a guy you'll look up to as some elder statesman with all the answers, eliminating the need for you to flail around and find them for yourself. In fact, there's never been a better time for you to miss out on the guy of your dreams. Your dreams are likely to be rather different at 25, let alone 30, making your 20s, especially your early 20s, the ideal time to date all the wrong guys. Avoid locking onto Mr. Dreamy today and you might avoid waking up at 30 with the urge to date a garage band drummer with a part-time job shoplifting.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Alkon is the author of I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society.


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