Friends With Benefits

The journey to true love is, like the original Prince of Persia, full of snares, pitfalls, and the occasional clever skeleton. As such, it can weigh heavily on the soul of even the most modern romantic, ergo a pleasant distraction is sometimes apropos. Such distractions could include traveling alone in a foreign country, adding a wingsuit to your base-jumping toolkit, learning to draw your own naked body in charcoal, or finding a friend with benefits.

WARNING: Though more common than Robots with Benefits, such as the cats that benefit into Voltron, Friends with Benefits is still a relatively rare arrangement.

Friends with Benefits can commence shortly after benefits have made their way into the relationship. You might be with a new friend, a romantic interest met online, or even a persona grata from years past. The only real requirement for a “Friend with Clear Knowledge of Boundaries, Discretion, and Yoga ” or “F.C.K.B.D.Y.,” is that you have a phlegmatic approach to their long-term happiness. It helps that being “meh” about things in general is very chic these days.

WARNING: A F.C.K.B.D.Y. must be clear on the assumption that you like them but are not ready for a committed relationship. Much like your boss at the job you’re about to quit, they cannot be aware that you might just be waiting it out until something better comes along.

WARNING WARNING: The above warning, handled haphazardly, will result in a stalker.

It’s important to remember that what’s being discussed here is Friends with Benefits, not benefits with friend. “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?” is a stupid question and not relevant here or anywhere outside of farm country. Just remember that if you have a F.C.K.B.D.Y., always place the friendship first, and don’t call them a cow. Don’t call anyone who isn’t a cow a cow, actually.

WARNING: Should benefits arise with someone you have just met tonight, the most you’ll get out of that is strained pillow-talk, because there is no friendship there. Also…kinda gross.

Clearly, discretion plays a critical role in a Friends with Benefits engagement. People, particularly your nosy sister, are guaranteed to notice the increased level of familiarity between you and your F.C.K.B.D.Y. When someone asks, “Are you two dating?” the proper response is, “No,” not, “No. We’re just benefiting.”

Never leave a social foray at the same time or be seen having morning coffee together at Ground Wire, Ground Zero, Higher Grounds, The Bean Bag, The Coffee-Tea-Rhea, Bean There Done That, The Fair Ground, Java the Hut, Bump n Grind, Sacred Grounds, The Coffee Shop, Lucid Beaning, James Bean and Marilyn Monroast, The Groundhog, or whatever cleverly named coffee shop you frequent.

WARNING: Coffee shops with overtly witty names usually have bad coffee, worse pastries, and pretentious baristas.

A Friends with Benefits partnership must always come to an end; and it’s up to you to end it. You are the true romantic; and although this has been fun, you have no choice but to once again spread the wings of your open heart and sail the skyseas of love in search of your true soul mate. Explaining this to your F.C.K.B.D.Y. in an elaborate bird costume will help smooth the transition.

WARNING: Should your F.C.K.B.D.Y. end it, you will feel curiously lugubrious. This is not because you were invested, but because the better person always leaves first. Should they dress up as Toucan Sam before breaking the news to you, you’re dealing with a pro; immediately consult all of TLMRIS.

Exception: It is quite possible to turn your friend with benefits into a long-term, serious partner. This is encouraged, specifically if benefits include a lake house (with wave runners) or a steady infusion of free concert tickets.

The Gym

In days of auld, men worked tirelessly at hard jobs full of physical labor, hollowing out peat bogs or colliding at high speed in large groups for fierce melee (see, e.g., Braveheart). Meanwhile, the women were kept at home, flatfooted and pregnant. Thus was survival: muscle-bound men and rotund women. Thanks to Title IX and the victory of rational thought, women have been unchained from the hearth; and we can all exercise four to five times a week with an admixture of weight training and cardio to achieve the gorgeous definition and lean, tight musculature of a fourteenth century male serf.

Gyms and exercise facilities, once called “sweat shops” before that playful moniker was ruined by Chinese children and Nike, have popped up like sexy whack-a-moles all over America. These “pump houses” provide a wonderful opportunity to hone your natural beauty while meeting potential mates who also have their priorities in order.

Nonetheless, we recognize that even the most modern romantic can struggle to insert a conversation between butterfly curls and Romanian dead-lifts. Accordingly, TLMRIS lunges, sprints, and duck walks to the rescue with some low-calorie food for thought regarding romance at the gym.

Yoga Classes

Yoga classes provide the easiest prospects of meeting someone. To fascinate the object of your affection, the attractive instructor (obviously), position yourself well within their vision. As in all things, seeing is not as important as being seen. Let them be enchanted by the perfect asymmetry of your Revolved Half Moon, or pique their interest with your own interpretation of the One-Armed King Pigeon.

However, never complete the Half Frog. Given your previous masterfulness, even slight difficulty will quickly gather the attention of the instructor. When they ask if you need help, reply firmly: “No.” Upon the next cycle through Sthira Bhaga, perform the Half Frog exquisitely. Said instructor will inevitably ask you to share the secret of your instantaneous self-improvement, perhaps over a juice smoothie or cavatappi pasta with Sicilian pork and sausage ragù (the latter only after, never before, any yoga class). Your response to this question: “Yes.” Once alone, feign interest in their offers of assistance. People love to feel needed, and only by granting them that feeling can you take it away when necessary.

Free-Weights

By far the most difficult area of any gym to interact socially, the free-weights approach is not for beginners. Similar to meeting someone at the grocery store, the best method is to carefully stalk your prey and “accidentally” come upon the same upright row Cybex machine as they do. Playfully break the ice by mocking the two men grunting loudly as they spot each other’s squat thrusts, or by suggesting you both use the upright row machine at the same time.

Make the friendly gesture of letting them go first while you get a drink of water and check your hair. Returning to the machine for each consecutive exercise will afford many opportunities to chat. For maximum rapport building, three sets of friendly banter with six to eight repetitions of playful flirting are recommended.

Finish with a hard interval of suggesting shared post-exercise protein shakes at the gym juice bar. No matter your level of fitness expertise, never offer unsolicited exercise advice. The time to change someone into the person you want them to be will come, but it is not the day you meet. Additionally, under no circumstances ever tell someone to “squeeze at the top.”

Outdoors

Sometimes, weather and geography permitting, it is preferable to leave the gym and run around the park. The best tempo for such a run is the “suitor interval.” Jog at an easy speed until you notice another attractive fitness enthusiast coming toward you. At this point, sprint. Your chest is held high; your legs are long. Your mouth is closed because breathing through your mouth is gross.

As you approach them again on a second lap, eye contact is appropriate. The next lap will permit a high-five (note: this and after an awesome make out session are the only times a high-five is appropriate). Proper execution of suitor intervals will ensure your target is willing to stop and talk when you interrupt their run in an interesting way (i.e., “Can you help me find my dog?” [actual dog not required]). Should you feel bold, simply turn and start running with them. Like life, your run is long, and it’s always better with a partner.

EXCEPTION: Never hit on someone using a treadmill. Your much-wanted advances will distract them to the loss of their footing. When they miss the belt and fly backwards at 6.5 mph, you will not be able stop laughing long enough to make sure they are OK.

The Grocery

Movies and TV tell us that meeting someone special at the grocery store happens all the time. These chance encounters usually take place in the privacy of a secluded organic food aisle and initiate upon an accidental collision of shopping carts or simultaneous reaches for rice pilaf. However, we at TLMRIS know there should be nothing “accidental” about any human interaction and have readied a few icebreaking stratagems for the romantic shopper.

Before delving into specific maneuvers, it is important to note that any tactical advance requires complete control of the situation and precise timing. This means that once someone strikes your fancy you must wait for the right moment. Do not stalk. Like a CIA operative or practiced Goldeneye 007 player, use flanking maneuvers and your peripheral vision to observe your target. Avoid carts with squeaky wheels, and don’t forget to actually do some shopping. You are Jason Bourne preparing to make stir-fry – for two.

1. The Loving Grandchild

This takes place in the gift card aisle. After a frustrated and visible back and forth between different cards, turn to your interest and ask, “For my sick MeeMa, should I go with ‘Get Well Soon’ or ‘Hang in there’?” This should grant you an opportunity to disparage the lack of creativity in all gift cards and then lament that you will have to, as usual, craft your own. Critically, this also avoids having to buy a card. Express gratitude for the help and note that your PeePa’s birthday is coming up. Successfully soliciting an email address for future assistance in that matter should be a piece of cake.

2. The Trader Joe (also known as “The Whole Foods” in a pinch)

Most people who shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods are pretentious and view themselves as being part of an exclusive society of enlightened shoppers. Depicting yourself as one of these chosen few will grant access to a demography dying to validate itself with likeminded peers. Accordingly, The Trader Joe requires simply commenting on how great your food is and that you got it at Trader Joe’s. The best places to do this include anywhere that isn’t a Ralph’s, King Soopers, or Kroger…and for God’s sake not a Piggly Wiggly, which might get you stabbed. Once your organic avocado and apple wood smoked turkey sandwich with Belgium sweet mustard and oregano infused chèvre on marble rye has sparked an interest in your target, closing out a phone number should be small potatoes.

3. The Excuse Me (in Italy, known as “Il Scusi”)

This little maneuver is a real gem. It can be done anywhere in any grocery store at any time prior to check out. Simply stand next to the person you wish to court and say “excuse me” as you attempt to inspect an item on the shelf that they are blocking. Once they apologize and gently scoot out of the way, repeat the maneuver. Continue repetition until you have moved them halfway down the aisle. At this point your tomfoolery will be apparent, and it’s time to playfully profess your interest. From there, making out in parking lot should be duck soup.

Additionally, always be ready to help a fellow attractive customer with troublesome peanut butter selection or a lost member discount card during checkout. Offering to inspect someone’s eggs or squeeze their fruit for freshness is risky business and should only be performed by someone intimately familiar with every entry of TLMRIS.

EXCEPTION: Wal-Mart is not a grocery store; there is romance in neither Rollback Savings nor the detritus of broken dreams. Also, you could end up with mono.

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.

Dating Long Distance

The modern romantic is a careful and rational being, and it is this trenchant outlook that normally precludes any masochistic misadventure into a long-distance relationship. However, a true champion of courtship is also always up for a challenge. For those brave few, we offer the following guidelines.

Introduction

Long distance relationships run on the fuel of shared experiences past, and that fuel, like interesting conversation with someone who enjoys the Twilight series, is bound to run out. In a romance revolving around Skype sessions, growth is impossible, making maintenance the name of the game.

Maintenance

Make clear the expectation for heavy volumes of text messages, phone calls, emails, smoke signals, and the occasional carrier pigeon; and fill said correspondence with your greatness as a lone, relentlessly independent entity. As soon as your love interest becomes dependent upon the sweetness of the asides from your life’s grand adventure to get them through their lonely and bland existence without you, cut off all communication. They will be bedlamized by your sudden elusiveness, and promptly send a box of goodies in hopes of returning to your good favor. At this point, communication must ramp up anew. This practice is known as “Taking the Sugar.” Sugar cycles should be conducted at six to nine week intervals for maximum efficacy and care-package accrual.

Hosting

Bringing your loved one across the Google-map image that normally separates you is a joyous occasion, but not without objective. You must settle them so completely into your world as to create a painful tearing of their soul when it comes time to go. Cater to their every need; ensure memorable repasts; become everything they’ve pined for in your absence. You must also thoughtfully select which new elements of your life they should be privy to, and these should exemplify your intelligence, uniqueness, and lack of needing them. Also, clean out your computer history. Cookies are meant to be delicious, not incendiary.

Visiting

Upon securing the ideal travel itinerary priced equally across Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, Orbitz, and Cheaptickets, it is time to visit your beloved. Your efforts in this event should be directed toward dominating their new friendships, ensuring that when you leave you are still “there.” You must be the Angelina Jolie in every movie (not her life): capable and sexy (not pretentious and exoskeletal). This can be accomplished by feigning interest in social events, winning over every introduction with quick wit or very subtle flirtation, and maintaining good humor while openly mocking any hostiles. After rounding the social circle and drawing their peers into your majesty, your mate will insist on keeping you to themselves. The remainder of your visit will consist of reflections on your earlier dominance, tickle fights, and easy access to “small spoon” sleep status. Once home, take the sugar.

Adherence to these guidelines is sure to keep your partner fully engaged until you either reunite, or end it.

EXCEPTION: Pursuing separate love interests in different cities is discouraged; for more on this, observe Ludacris’ masterwork, “Area Codes.” However, doing so in non-intersecting orbital planes is nothing less than visionary.

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.

Sharing Dessert

The modern lover approaches dessert the same way they do life (the cereal, not the board game, which sucks). It should be poured out deliberately into the bowl of existence and then savored, not soldiered through in an act of self-effacing familial obligation. As such, dessert is best when shared on a date; to enjoy it alone is just a prelude to an intervention. Additionally, Candy Land is a way better board game.

Let it be noted, nay, heralded at the outset that chocolate is king; keep fruit for a festive headdress at Carnival or a meaningless gift in basket form. A chocolate dessert is the ultimate climax of any meal, and not without cause; it is, of course, an aphrodisiac. Regardless of where the evening may end, adding a chemical imbalance to any date is sure to be a boon to both parties (anyone slinging glow sticks under a strobe light will verify this). Tread carefully, though, because while aphrodisiacs are good, they must be properly packaged inside a Mile High Mud Pie, a truffle, soufflé or creamy mousse. Common slips in logic that ignore this fact can have briny, overstuffed consequences. Consider the following Aristotelian transitive property mistreatment:

Chocolate dessert is an aphrodisiac.
Oysters are an aphrodisiac.
Oysters are a chocolate dessert.

Negative, Spaceghost.

For those who do not chase the cocoa dragon, there is a plethora of other options that still fit the bill. Desserts are so vast they usually have their own menu and are oft times previewed before the meal in embalmed form. Take your time, and choose one both parties will enjoy.

When dessert is finally served, do not be the first to start eating. Always wait out your partner. Begin telling a story or read a text message; drop your spoon as many times as necessary. Winning this battle of the wills is key, allowing the victor the best opportunity to playfully intercept the opposing fork just before it penetrates the outer edge of your shared confectionery, earning uber flirt points.

To compliment the outing’s itinerary with a bit of sweet mischief, consider heading to a different restaurant for dessert, or carry your treat to somewhere outdoors for an impromptu picnic. If you can overcome the creepiness of using yum-yums to lure the object of your affection into the woods alone at night, a romantic evening of epic proportions will surely ensue.

EXCEPTION: Do not enjoy a dessert in Pankot Palace (chilled monkey brains, anyone?).