Blind Dates

One step up from a personal ad, a blind date can be either a godsend or the last time you ever speak to the "friend" who set you up. Married people are notorious for trying to fix up their single friends, with all the best of intentions. If nothing else, a blind date is a crash course on what your friends think you'd be interested in. Keep these rules in mind:

1 Rule 1: Know the intent of the person who's fixing you up. If your mom wants you to meet her friend's son who "doesn't get out much," ask Mom whether she's met the dude and whether going out with him is likely to help or hurt her friendship if the two of you don't hit it off. If your best friend wants you to meet this great woman who just moved into his building, ask yourself what your friend's taste in women is like. Are you willing to give it a try? Before you do, be sure to follow Rule 2.

1 Rule 2: Get to know your blind date (at least a little) on the phone first. You can save both of you some time and money by getting to know each other a little first (see Rule 3 for the type of info you want to get).

Or you can drag the fixer-upper along on the first date. Having the fixer-upper come along works really well because it takes both the anxiety and the danger out of the situation. Worst-case scenario: You had fun with at least one person.

If you're the fixer, one of the coolest and least painful fix-up scenarios occurs when you ask both of your candidates to go out with you. Not a double date, just the three of you. If they seem to be getting along, you can scram and get the good skinny later. If it seems like a disaster, hang in there until one of them decides to leave.

1 Rule 3: Conduct a pre-date "interview." At minimum, this interview covers the basics: Who? What? Where? and Are you married? It's also one way to feel more secure about somebody who someone else knows but you don't. In a friendly, breezy, conversational way, ask the basics:

• What are you studying? What do you do for a living?

• Where do you live? (Don't necessarily press for an address, but a neighborhood or area can be helpful.)

• Are you married? (Unless you already know . . . for sure.)

• Are you recently out of a relationship?

• What are your interests?

• How do you know the person who fixed us up?

• Don't you hate the term "fixed up," as if we're broken?

It's a lot easier to get this stuff out of the way on the phone before you're face to face.

1 Rule 4: Once you've agreed you like each other enough to actually meet, meet in a public place for a specified amount of time. For more guidelines on protecting yourself when you're dating someone you don't know, see the earlier sections, "Online Connections" and "Personal Ads."

\DEA

Eight ways to tell if your date's married

He gives you only an office or beeper

1 She picks only darkly lit, out-of-the-way

number.

places.

She's never home when you call.

1 He's never available on weekends or

Your dates tend to occur outside city limits.

holidays.

He often excuses himself to call the "office"

1 She has a mysterious rash (or white mark)

well after office hours.

on the ring finger of her left hand.

Spur-of-the-moment dates are out of the

question.

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