New Year’s Eve

Sing Auld Lang Syne with your partner, among friends and in black tie. Beginning at 9 pm, welcome 2011 with preceding time zones by leading a toast at every hour until midnight; after the local turn, you should be drunk enough to consider driving west for another ball drop. (Don’t unless you’re pretty sure you can drive.) In the morning, set your resolutions for the coming year: longer brunches, less feigned interest, more desserts after better movies, continued growth, extended holidays and consistent updates to your blog.

EXCEPTION: Readers in the Republic of Kiribati should hurry to the Independent State of Samoa after greeting their New Year to toast the memory of their future celebration 23 times. Once there, soothsay every reference to 2010 pop culture as “dullsville” in 2011 and lord your clairvoyance over all, especially the one you love.

Halloween

Halloween

Do not wear matching costumes with your significant other. This special night should celebrate the juxtaposition of unlikely pairs, such as Cleopatra and The Hamburglar or a public option for healthcare and budget surplus.

EXCEPTION: Interracial couples should dress as Michael Jackson across time. Shamon.

Flying Together

Flying Together
Those in well-functioning relationships are fortunate to find themselves mostly with their preferred company. This self-evident proposition, however, makes any problems with environment particularly frustrating (e.g., dining next to a crying child or taking a couple’s weekend trip to the Adirondacks and setting up camp on an ancient Indian burial ground). For quick relief from these circumstantial annoyances, the best advice is to go for a drive together or see a movie; when greater and extended change is necessary, you will often need to board a plane. Heavier-than-air flight offers a solution to the locational problem described above, but can present its own set of difficulties. This entry helps the modern stay romantic.

Scheduling

Too much weight is given to booking early. Romance is drawn from the last-minute and unexpected entering the familiar confines of a relationship, notwithstanding the obvious exceptions of birthday party planning and Chlamydia. Pay a little extra and use the momentum of surprise to circumnavigate the thunderstorms menacing every journey (q.v. Delays, Baggage and Mothra below).

Check In

Check in online if at all possible. This will give you time to share a drink at the Chili’s Too and steal away if the final act of digestion gathers. Remember, you do not want to reach POOPCON3 while seat backs are still forward.

Delays

Handling flight delays is an exercise in willpower, not unlike holding off self-trepanation when your little sister finishes the Corn Pops. To avoid distress, imagine the scheduled arrival time as your transcontinental junket’s due date. If the baby is delivered without major incident – early, on time or late – break out the cigars and Dora mobile. ¿Móvile colgante? Muchas gracias. At least you’ve made it together.

In the Air

Fill this time discussing the two volume biography of Abraham Lincoln you both just finished rather than stoically leafing through the SkyMall magazine (even if you could use a second Bacon Genie™). Avoid conversations with strangers by debating whether Lincoln could have entered politics without his successful prosecution in Illinois v. William “Duff” Armstrong. Wikipedia, and thus your author, is unclear on this point.

Baggage

When packing, place one change of clothes in your partner’s suitcase; in this way lost or delayed luggage will not derail your plans for the following day. No joke here, that’s just good advice.

Mothra

Summon Godzilla.

EXCEPTION: Free seat upgrades are mana from heaven. If only one comes available, bid adieu and save your partner a chocolate truffle.

Feigning Interest

Feigning Interest

At times and in circumstances too numerous to catalog, it will be useful for the modern lover to appear interested when he or she is in fact not. The superficial presentation of curiosity is often all that is required to navigate a tiresome conversation; for instance, one beginning with “At work today…” or “I had the craziest dream last night.” Other times the kabuki dance must be assembled to endure commentaries on the lifestyles of non-mutual friends or the unending debate over why Quizno’s is better than Subway: is it the sandwich conveyor belt or Broccoli Cheese cistern? Who can ever know?

When meeting such junctures, it is imperative to produce credible attentiveness and hide your swelling contempt. Insofar as possible, maintain eye contact. Let your mind peregrinate, perhaps to Words of the Day on your desk calendar like “peregrinate”, but keep outwardly focused on the speaker. To fill the time it is often useful to imagine the logic through which the Star Wars films can be squared together to form a consistent narrative; because they cannot, your interior deliberation will be manifested as exterior consideration. No matter your musings, however, stay vigilant to recognize when a response is expected.

When one is, give it. Although this seems straightforward, it is here that most deceptions fall apart. In times past a person would have been required only to repeat the last few words of the interlocutor to prove interest; this trick was fine until research into short-term memory revealed it could be done without actually listening (see, e.g., Atkinson & Shiffrin’s “Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes” or Sandler’s 50 First Dates). Something more, or at least something different, is necessary today.

Once your partner pauses for an answer, shift your weight back as if in contemplative repose and look up. This is normally sufficient to drive either a restatement of the original prompt or the continuation of their rambling. If the emptiness expands uncomfortably, move your weight back toward them and shake your head from side to side while nodding slightly. Again, their individual momentum should be restored and you can return to wondering why the Jedi would choose to hide Luke Skywalker, the only son of Darth Vader (nee Anakin Skywalker), on the villian’s childhood planet of Tatooine and with his last surviving relatives.

Should both of these measures fail, state the following: “I’m sorry, I lost what you were saying. I’ve been tired all day. But I did have the craziest dream last night…” Advantage, you.

EXCEPTION: Do not feign interest if the conversation is about you; take careful notes on this most interesting of subjects.

Getting Back Together

Getting Back Together

Do not get back together; you broke up for a reason. Trust that once you move on, you will find a new and better match.

EXCEPTION: America.

Attending Weddings

Attending Weddings

Marriage, of course, is the terminus of any successful courtship. The committed and monogamous end state between two happy adults has proven more than an accident of social history or some unfortunate heteronormative primeval relic (cf. left-handed buttons, “he” as the gender neutral pronoun and child birth). It is the natural romantic outpost, even for modern lovers. The wedding sacrament that announces the start of a more recognizable union, then, remains particularly important. There are two approaches to capitalizing on the opportunity afforded by an invitation to celebrate another’s nuptials, each dependent on your present dating status.

Plus One

Here, the challenge is to ensure the celebration and mirth from the predicate romance does not overwhelm your own. Criticize the choices for bridesmaid dresses and table settings acutely (e.g., “I am so over halter tops and so, apparently, is Aunt Jenny’s chest.” or “Coral? More like ‘bore’-al.”). Regardless of the seriousness of your relationship, contemplate how your wedding would mirror (evening ceremony, ducks in bow-ties loosed around the surrounding yard during cocktail hour and a live band covering Sam Cooke) and depart from (no children, a truly open bar and no Chicken Dance) the present gathering.

In this and similar situations it is often difficult to rein in the expectations of your partner; he or she will likely be convinced that sharing these thoughts implies some future intent to actually plan and share a wedding. Because of this risk, the best practice is to let their mind wander and imagine things that may never be. In so doing you will be able to explore your own thoughts with a captive and representative audience so that they are well-formed when the date must actually be saved. Moreover, your partner will be pleased with this possible outcome and thus receptive to more adventurous romantic overtures: shared judgment is a powerful aphrodisiac.

Plus None

In the latter case, a balance must be struck between apparent frustration and unvarnished optimism. The most successful single in attendance will be the one willing to admit some anxiousness to their table but proclaim with conviction an unerring certainty that love is both all you need and the only thing worth having.

Be careful to speak to any hopeful consorts early in the proceedings; this will grant you the time necessary to remove yourself and have them note your absence. When you cross paths again, make certain to steer the conversation back toward today’s happy couple in particular and true love in general. End the dialogue abruptly but offer a hope that you’ll have more time to speak later; make no promises, however, as life is a mystery and – just like a prayer – no choice their voice can take you there. Close on your third pass. This colloquy begins with “It’s funny that I always feel closest to people I’ve just met…”, moves on to “The love described in St. Paul’s first letter is really that between strangers…”, bridges the gap with “I’ve tried to be open about this before but no one ever seems to understand…” and delivers the new couple to their night’s frolic through “Let’s freshen our drinks and head to another place where we can meet someone new together.” Throughout this impromptu courtship, keep the discussion on love rather than marriage: it is a first date.

EXCEPTION: If there are no “hopeful consorts” resign yourself to dressing up and drinking with friends to blackout; the wedding photographer can fill in any gaps.

Using the Restroom

The human body is a miserable thing when examined closely. In its base utility it emanates, extrudes and emits sheens, sounds and scents destructive of any aesthetic ideal. Who could love a fart or forgive a booger? Personne. Inasmuch, the modern lover is charged with keeping their partner securely chained and facing forward in Plato’s Cave; accepting the carefully drawn shadows of their cleanliness as reality; concluding that their loved one does not poop.
It should first be noted that obfuscating urination is not difficult. Tell your date that you need to wash your hands or correct an errant contact lens. When in the restroom, run the water and empty your bladder safe in the knowledge that the relationship can progress unhindered by images of the body voiding waste. While defecation presents a greater challenge, it is readily overcome by use of the prescribed measure: poop readiness condition, or POOPCON.
POOPCON is a measure of the activation and readiness level throughout the stomach, small and large intestines. These levels are matched to situations of corresponding digestive severity, particularly closeness in time to excretion. In increasing order,
POOPCON5: This condition designates normal readiness. Note that it normally takes between 2.5 and 3 hours for 50% of stomach contents to empty into the intestines, and roughly 35 hours for transit through the colon. Divide these numbers by 8 for Chipotle.
POOPCON4: This condition refers to a heightening of security measures. It should be declared when expected travel plans might preclude an unobtrusive exit, during a car trip or a lengthy flight.
POOPCON3: Here readiness is increased above normal and discussions pertaining to the next availability of rest facilities must become classified. The near occasion of number two demands both that you set a reachable goal for yourself and avoid too much conversation, lest you risk admitting the looming corporeal debasement. Keep your cards close to your chest.
POOPCON2: Poop is imminent. At this stage, there is little to be gained from misleading your partner. Find a restroom, relieve yourself and use the mirror to correct anything that is out of order. You may have left in shame but you can return looking and feeling your best. Never acknowledge what happened; your story remains a now-settled need to wash your hands or correct an errant contact lens.
POOPCON1: It is unknown whether this condition has ever been declared. If it has, it is doubtful the relationship survived.
The general advice should be clear from the levels discussed above. Go into each engagement with your partner at the lowest POOPCON possible, and do not begin any interaction at POOPCON2 or POOPCON1.
EXCEPTION: None. Everybody poops but nobody should talk about it.

Using the Restroom

The human body is a miserable thing when examined closely. In its base utility it emanates, extrudes and emits sheens, sounds and scents destructive of any aesthetic ideal. Who could love a fart or forgive a booger? Personne. Inasmuch, the modern lover is charged with keeping their partner securely chained and facing forward in Plato’s Cave; accepting the carefully drawn shadows of their cleanliness as reality; concluding that their loved one does not poop.

It should first be noted that obfuscating number 1 is not difficult. Feign that you need to wash your hands or correct an errant contact lens. When in the restroom, run the water and do your business safe in the knowledge that the relationship can progress unhindered by images of the body voiding waste. While number 2 presents a greater challenge, it is readily overcome by use of the prescribed measure: poop readiness condition, or POOPCON.

POOPCON is a measure of the turbulance and readiness level throughout the stomach, small and large intestines. These levels are matched to situations of corresponding digestive severity, particularly closeness in time to “go”. In increasing order,

POOPCON5: This condition designates normal readiness. Note that it usually takes between 2.5 and 3 hours for 50% of stomach contents to empty into the intestines, and roughly 35 hours for complete nutritional processing. Divide these numbers by 8 for Chipotle.

POOPCON4: The second level refers to a heightening of security measures. It should be declared when expected travel plans might preclude an unobtrusive exit, during a car trip, lengthy flight or dance marathon.

POOPCON3: Here readiness is increased above normal and discussions pertaining to the next availability of rest facilities must become obscure. The near occasion of number 2 demands both that you set a reachable goal for yourself and avoid too much conversation, lest you risk admitting the looming corporeal debasement. Reflect on topics of the day unrelated to agribusiness or Jay Leno’s new show.

POOPCON2: Poop is imminent. At this stage, there is little to be gained from misleading your partner. Find a restroom, relieve yourself and use the mirror to correct anything that is out of order. You may have left in shame but you can return looking and feeling your best. Never acknowledge what happened; your story remains a now-settled need to wash your hands, correct an errant contact lens or return a text message.

POOPCON1: It is unknown whether this condition has ever been declared outside of India. If it has, it is doubtful the relationship or the declaring party survived.

Understanding these levels, the general advice should be clear. Go into each engagement with your partner at the lowest POOPCON possible, and do not begin any interaction at POOPCON3 or POOPCON2. Visiting a significant other’s apartment or house at any level higher than POOPCON5 is ill advised; the shortest distance between romantic bliss and failure is a bathroom misadventure.

EXCEPTION: None. Everybody poops but nobody should talk about it.