When To Run

When To Run

by James Fleming

I thought I'd take a break from David and his crazy drugged out ``One Night'' adventures for a bit and embark upon a matter just as close to my heart, that is, dating. While not strictly a guide, I would like to convey a few general rules of thumb about when to date, when not to date, and when it is simply necessary to run.

I'm not entirely sure whether I'm qualified or not to write this. In high school, being a nervous, insecure, self hating egomaniac, I never had any dates at all. The root of my insecurity was my stutter, a speech impediment that I've had since childhood. It embarrassed me so much that I was too shy to approach anyone, and my self esteem was so low that I rejected out of hand any girl foolish or bold enough to make any romantic overtures.

Compounded with the speech impediment was the all too familiar ``nerd'' stereotype that almost all of us labored under in high school. High School girls wanted the captain of the football team, and the basketball team, not the math or debate team. There were some girls who liked me, but they were sort of nerdy, you know?

At MIT, however, I was awakened into a whole new world, as I imagine almost all of you were. Suddenly, everyone, really, everyone (even the athletic people) were your peers! Yes your peers! You could talk to them! Like humans! You could talk about math, and philosophy, and physics, and other ``smart'' things and both be engrossed by it! No longer being the only one in the school who could do an integral, you suddenly found that here, omigod, here, you were normal. And, furthermore, the nerdy women, suddenly didn't seem so unappealing. Instead, they became your friends, and if you were fortunate enough to be in a coed dorm, you understood what it was like to LIVE with these creatures with two X chromosomes, you learned that they were PEOPLE like yourself, full of problems, not strange beings beyond mortal comprehension. This, at any rate was my experience.

Back to dating.

Freed at last from the stigma of being smart, and unwilling to let my stutter get in the way of amore, I found that I was suddenly dating. I've had about eight or nine serious girlfriends over the years at M.I.T., and several more flings, and though that sounds high to some and low to others, I think it's actually about the right number to have seen a broad spectrum of human interactive behavior.


Never date women who don't like men. I've done it. Swear to god. You're sitting there together, just finishing a fine dinner, and suddenly she'll start telling you about how awful men are. Damnedest thing. Then when you're not properly sympathetic she gets all mad at you. I suppose you should be flattered. Confiding in you she clearly doesn't consider you really male. Don't do it.

Eating together is very important. Meal-taking is a fundamental sacrament of human comfort. It's a ritual, a bonding experience. You go out to eat with your friends. It's fun. Not coincidentally, it's one of the few ways, distressingly few ways, to politely, legally, and publicly stimulate your brain's pleasure center. Make sure, really make sure that you and your prospective loved one like the same kinds of food. Make sure you can sit down, and have a meal together. There's all that ``love conquers all'' bullshit, but don't believe it. If you and your girl cannot sit down in the same restaurant and eat, you are doomed. Trust me.

Mothers. The instant, and I say the instant, you hear her say: ``My mom and I are best friends! We tell each other everything!'' Run! Now! Run! Don't wait to hear the next sentence! Don't kid yourself! Just go! It won't work! From there it's a short trip to ``My mom called last night, she asked if we had sex. She said condoms aren't safe enough and we should use some other stuff too.'' Is mom a nurse? No! Of course not! Just nosy! Unless you want ``mom'' regulating your sex life forever and giving you that disappointed look when you go visit her house, RUN!

Don't date sisters, and I don't just mean not at the same time. Oh maybe you can do it. Maybe if one of them lives in Antarctica, or is estranged from the rest of the family. Or maybe if you and the other sister live 60,000 feet under the sea in a top secret government lab. Otherwise, you are playing with forces you don't understand. My two cousins dated the same girl once. They were brothers, still living at home, together. The girl dated one brother, then the other. If you ever want to see a house of strained smiles, furtive glances, and sudden outbursts, that would be the place. Just walk away.

Never travel with someone you don't really know. This is a bonus tip, because it doesn't just apply to girlfriends. If you don't know them before the trip, you will by the end. Oh yes, jedi, you will.

Beware of dating people within your major. You can get away with it, but its better if there's a big age difference (I don't mean date your T.A.) The potential for competition and/or envy is quite great. If you don't break up, you will merge into one sublime academic being, and be mocked by your friends.

Date people your friends have dated! You know where they've been! Date your friends' friends so much that you no longer have a simple circle of friends, but instead have a psycho-sexual network of them. Breed only inside this tribe. I can't explain why, just do it. You'll see.

By the way, my name is James, and I'm six feet tall, dark haired, and my phone number is, uh, oh, never mind.