Chaloner WoodsBy Tom Chiarella
Step 1: The First Look
Don't stare. Think of it like a video game, where every second you stare at the woman you want - the junior geology major, the senior lawyer, the one with the hair - ticks off tiny slices of your power meter. Your eyes are your reserve.
Staring is always obvious. To someone. She knows, or she will be told. Then she'll be left considering you, before you've even said a word. This is good. Most men should be written off. But you? This is bad. So, take a look. But limit yourself.
If you haven't talked to her after ten stares, reconsider whether you have the stones for this. If you don't, then stare all you want, from the choir-box of the quaking and unresolute. There's always a seat for gapers and mouthbreathers.
If she catches you staring, hold the stare for a three count, and go back to your work. If she stares at you, consider writing her off. If she stares at your car as you drive by, consider writing her off. But you could also offer her a ride, so keep the car neat.
Step 2: The First Date
Your eyes still matter. Maintain contact, except when cutting your rib eye, or reading the wine list. But use them, too. Notice everything. Does she wear bracelets? Where does her hair fall? Where do her eyes fall when she enters a room? Which side of the menu does she look at first?
What does she like against her skin? Everyone will say silk. This is a cheap formulation of all women. Don't be dumb. Some women like cotton, others microfiber. Figure it out. Some want the tops of their arms covered. Others like the visible: tattoos. Don't try to add it all up. Just stick it all in the memory palace. This first-date stuff will pay off the next day and, with any luck, ten years from now.
Step 3: The Way She Looks
At you, man. You know she looks good. So just be seen. Don't act. Show up at things that matter to only her - at her office party, that late-night cab ride to the airport, the Saturday afternoon when you thought you might be busy. Give gifts that rise out of what you have noted, what you have seen.
Let her see that you are capable. This matters to women. If you are good with an axe, then be damned sure she sees you chopping wood. Same with a squash raquet. Or a thumb-worn copy of a book you like. (Don't try to impress: Thomas Mann is a thrill for prigs. Hemingway gives Woody Allen a hard-on. Think about that. Show her what you like. Only truth impresses.)
And seriously: Dress yourself. Figure out what she likes to look at, and work it. Odds are she's been doing that. Still: Never, not ever, let her dress you much beyond the occasional choice of cufflinks.
Step 4: The Look Back
Her eyes still matter, though. Be sure you they comfort you, or allure you, or puzzle you. As you start dating, be sure you enjoy looking into them, be sure you can hold them without theatricality.
And at some point, you should practice telling the truth as you look in her eyes. Start with small ones. Like: "I really don't care about the rain, since I don't want to play softball with your brothers." And: "I'm sorry. I hate tomatoes." This gives you the habit you need, of looking into her eyes to read them, to allay fears, when you are telling the bigger - the biggest - truths there are.
Step 5: The Long Look
Eyes don't matter, eventually. When courtship is near its end, measure your happiness on what you wake up wanting to do and who you want to be with, on the blank spaces in the day ahead of you and who you want to fill them with. Her.
The real trick of love is the recognition that - no matter how many costume balls, sushi bars, concerts, cocktail parties, white-water rafting trips, or dance clubs one checks into on Foursquare - everything we do in this world without our love is merely a little measure of loneliness. Okay, there is happiness too. You can see it. And people take pictures of it, because it is fleeting. Laughter is a reflex, a kind of trick.
If you have made it to the end of your courtship, you know: Real delight is not seen. You might as well be blind. The beauty is, your eyes are now more open than ever.
Photo credit: Chaloner Woods
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