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The Dating Game

People are always wondering why I don't have more dates. Well, maybe not "wondering" in the sense that they pester me with questions like, "How come an amazing -- if somewhat short and skinny -- Asian specimen like yourself doesn't have dates coming out of his ears?" And maybe not "wondering" in the sense that they think I should have more dates. And certainly not "wondering" in the sense that this is a matter with which they concern themselves to any significant degree...

Come to think of it, what sense "wondering" did I mean?

The point I think I was trying to make is, I don't have many dates. Casual observers might say it's because I'm frequently moody, grumpy, and have no qualms whatsoever about being a bastard. That I'm quiet, often unapproachable, and more often than not, monosyllabic. That I don't banter much, and when I do, my banter knows just one setting: "wise-ass." Be that as it may, I know the real reason: Every woman I've ever met has scared the living bejesus out of me.

And now you can add to that, I'm also totally unwilling to play the dating game.

No, no, not "The Dating Game," the seminal 1970s game show hosted by Jim Lang that was briefly revived in the '80s, and is reportedly alive and well again here in the '90s, making the rounds through the wacky world of syndication. I mean, "the dating game" -- as in the the silly little ways people will act, the silly little things people will say, and the silly little things people will do to meet -- and have -- members of the opposite (or, this being the '90s, same) sex.

Now, at this point, the shrewd, yet overeager reader might say, "Ah ha, Chinaman! I have caught you in a fib. If you don't go on many dates, how can you be at all familiar with the rituals of the modern dating game? Once again, you are speaking with a forked tongue!"

To which I would respond: Why do you sound like Sitting Bull?

Actually, I'm more familiar with the customs of the dating game that one might think. That's because I watch TV, and more specifically, because I've seen the TV dating show.

In the past, I've taken television to task for its vapid, often asinine attempts at "education," be it a very special episode of "Blossom" or "Roseanne"; NBC's "The More You Know" campaign; or even Fox's brilliantly-titled "Change Begins With You" series. But I'm also plenty willing to admit when I'm wrong, and when it comes to dating rites, I think, TV can be the best education shy of the actual field. Indeed, having extensively reviewed the two major dating shows currently on air -- MTV's "Singled Out" and the syndicated "Bzzz!" -- I believe I have even distilled a controlling principle, a rule of thumb if you will, that should provide valuable guidance to serious daters well into the 21st century. And it is this:

Act like an ass, land the date.

"Singled Out," of course, is MTV's version of the cattle call. Basically it goes like this: a single contestant blindly whittles a pool of 50 prospective mates down to 7 or 8 by specifying certain essential features that any prospective mate must share -- breasts like Kasaba melons, male genitalia the size of a Louisville slugger, a deep and abiding concern for the future of our planet Earth. You know, the important stuff.

Once whittled, the contestant -- still blind -- further chops the group to three, by having prospective candidates, and there's just no delicate way to put this, act like an ass. Usually the contestant offers up some lame preamble ("I like a woman who keeps a clean bathroom") followed by some utterly nonsequential request ("so put this toilet seat around your neck and hum for me the first seven bars of the diVinyls 'I Touch Myself'"). Out of this come three finalists -- you might say, the three biggest asses -- who then try to be the first to match 5 either-or answers with the contestant. Winner gets a date; losers join the rest of the asses back in the pack.

Presently, "Singled Out" is hosted by the ubiquitous Jenny McCarthy and one Chris Hardwick. I say presently, because ex-Playmate of the Year McCarthy -- in the words of sinister NBC programming executive Warren Littlefield, "an explosive talent" who fancies herself the second-coming of Lucille O'Ball -- is moving onto bigger, but not necessarily better, things. Based largely on her "Singled Out" antics (which in turn consist mainly of screaming loudly, making screwy faces for the camera, flashing her tongue at anything containing a natural element, and inhaling her armpits), a single appearance on "Wings" as -- here's a stretch -- a deranged woman, and a brief role in the Tom Arnold classic, "The Stupids," McCarthy has been granted a sitcom. (I'd like to point out that McCarthy was granted said sitcom by the same wise programming gods who have in the past granted sitcoms to the likes of Andrew Dice Clay, Lori Petty, Delta Burke, and Molly Ringwald.) McCarthy's replacment, in installments yet to air, is fellow Playboy mannequin, Carmen Electra.

Of the Connecticut Electras, I believe.

(If that's her real name . . . well, I'll bite the bullet and go on a date with her. The same offer is extended to Willow Bay of "NBA Inside Stuff.")

So what exactly does it take to succeed in the rough-and-tumble world of "Singled Out"; to triumph over your fellow asses and emerge as The Biggest Ass of All; to come face-to- face with the contestant and watch his crestfallen (indeed, in some cases, horrified) mug as he discovers you look not like Cindy Crawford, but more like Cindy Brady -- a young, braces-wearing, pigtail-sporting Cindy Brady? Well, as I may have implied once or twice thus far, it requires that you act like an ass.

So long as you can get past the initial screening stage -- and there, it's pretty much a crapshoot -- the rest of the game is cake. Just adhere to a few, easy-to-follow principles, and before you know it, you'll be dancing a jig in victory lane: (1) avoid at all costs any answers hinting at cleanliness, responsibility, or commitment -- especially commitment; (2) never, ever suggest that you've read a major literary work or, for that matter, even a minor one -- unless it's Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," in which case, always go with that since many contestants are easily confused by the "Dick" part; (3) lather each and every answer in sexual innuendo -- cf. (2) supra; (4) deny, deny, deny any familiarity whatsoever with current events or world leaders; and (5) did I mention sexual innuendo?

"Bzzz!" (or as I prefer to call it, "Onomatopoeia!") is both more difficult and much easier to figure out than "Singled Out." Which depends primarily on if you have certain female anatomical assets located generally in the area below the shoulders and above the belly button.

And, no, I'm not referring to the clavicle.

Hosted by Annie Wood (who, to my knowledge, has never posed naked), "Bzzz!" operates from the premise that dates are hell. Ordinarily, if you're on a bad date, you're stuck to the end unless you go for the old "I'm dying! Call 911!" routine. "Bzzz!," however, offers a way out. Each contestant is allowed to briefly question a prospective mate; if the contestant likes what he hears (actually, the more precise word is probably "sees"), he rings a bell and the round ends. If he doesn't, he hits a buzzer. As the dazed and confused reject wonders what the hell happened, Woods swoops in like the 82nd Airborne, ushers the bitter soul off stage, and just as quickly, ushers in another candidate.

The reason "Bzzz!" is potentially very easy to figure out stems from the introductory phase of the show. See, each of the four prospective mates introduces him- or herself to the contestant from behind a panel. A white panel. A white panel onto which their silhouette is projected. By hi- intensity beams of light. Get the picture yet? Let's see, how can I put this delicately? In all the shows I've seen thus far -- purely for research purposes, mind you -- I've never seen a female "dancer" who failed to get the bell. Unless of course there was more than one dancer, in which case the "better" dancer got the bell.

Alright, screw delicacy: Biggest snoobs win.

"But Pete," you're probably saying, as you contemplate exactly how "snoobs" became an accepted synonym for "breasts" in the American lexicon, "there may not always be one woman with such a clear advantage. And what if the prospective mates are the men, and the contestant is a woman? Then the silhouette is no help at all, unless the guy has an abnor-- Hey now!"

True enough. In that case, many of the principles at work in "Singled Out" apply here as well, namely: (1) use lots of sexual innuendo; (2) use more sexual innuendo; and (3) use still more sexual innuendo.

EXAMPLE Q: "If you were a candy bar, what kind of candy bar would you be?" A: "A Snickers, 'cause a Snickers satisfies you."

(Basically, I'm waiting for the show when they get that one especially forthright individual who dispenses with all pretense and just says, "Choose me, and you'll get laid.")

The main difference between "Bzzz!" and "Singled Out" is that, occasionally, the former appears to land contestants who are genuinely interested in more than a paid-for evening, the fabulous supplemental gifts, and a chance to get lucky. That's when the "sexual innuendo" strategy may backfire; the contestant wants your thoughts on "communication," and you're busy describing how your large pretzel resembled the missionary position.

So what to do about this small, albeit troubling, minority of contestants? Frankly, I say screw 'em. Not "screw 'em," as in what 95 percent of the contestants are seeking when they sign up for the show. "Screw 'em" as in forget about them. I mean, who do these people think they are? Actually trying to get to know the person; actually seeking more than idle, time-killing chit chat; actually seeking more common ground than just the misunderstood connotations of a large whale. Haven't they been paying attention? That's not how dating is done. We are a nation of laws, and as I believe I've demonstrated, even dating has certain well-established protocols: Ask stupid questions; give stupid answers; smile frequently even if for no reason at all; talk endlessly and mindlessly about oneself; be a "good sport" and put that toilet seat over your head; and most importantly of all, insinuate at every turn that if given the chance, you would gladly put out.

If these insurgent rabble-rousers wish not to adhere to the rules of the game, they should do as I've done and remove themselves from the playing field. They have no business fouling up the works for others. In that respect, they're like Freemen -- off in their own little world, playing by their own unspecified rules. And as with the Freemen, if they're not careful, if they continue to flaunt the laws that others follow, someone could get hurt. Consider the perils of innuendo: Say the rebel is genuinely interested in baseball and really does have a question about "third base"; for the modern dater, such a statement might carry wholly different connotations. And then what? Total chaos, lawsuits, perchance even violence. God knows what. If nothing else, safety and a concern for the welfare of others demands that these rebels take themselves out of the game.

And that, in 2000 words or less, is why I don't have more dates.


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