In ten minutes, Frederick Marx explains, you can answer the only question that really matters: do I want to see her again or not?
At three key times in my life dating became a kind of coming out party. I was coming out after long recovery processes from previous relationships. So I took a scary step and posted ads in Personals sections. I did it as a way to serve notice to myself that I was back in the game, willing and ready to put myself on the line to find a good woman.
Oddly, to some extent I didn’t much care if I found one or not. I was happy to announce to myself and the world that I was done grieving. It was an important symbolic threshold to cross. I was open for business, ready to love and be loved again. As it turned out, I never did find a long-term mate from these three searches. But I never regretted the experience. Dealing with the weirdness, the uncertainty, the fear of rejection, all helped grow me as a man.
Along the way I met some wild and wacky women. I was about half way through one date when my date literally ran away from me. All I could make out as she was running down the street was “Oh, there’s my bus! Gotta go, now. Bye!” I knew things weren’t going well. I think I was done in her eyes after I tried to get her to split the dinner bill. After I got over the shock of her running for the bus I laughed myself silly. Maybe she was afraid I would run after her.
I used to schedule dates for a whole evening with women I hadn’t even met. Experiences with the rapid transit lover quickly showed me how stupid that was. So I scaled back. Then I would meet women just for coffee or an informal meal.
Until one day. That day I sat through the lunch from hell with one woman from Neptune. In the first ten seconds of meeting her I knew not only was I not interested I hoped I’d never see her again as long as I lived. I couldn’t bear the thought of eating food so I didn’t order. And yet there I sat through 44 agonizing minutes watching her eat lunch. If the frozen smile on my face fell off it would’ve cracked the table in two.
That’s when I finally got sensible. I made hard and fast rules: No, I won’t exchange emails with you other than to exchange phone numbers and work out logistics for getting together. No, I won’t talk with you more on the telephone beyond our one first call and some brief getting to know you preliminaries. And when we get together? Ten minutes max. That’s it. No kidding. I wouldn’t even order a cup of tea in case it took too long to cool and drink. I’d grab a glass of water.
Did I lose the opportunity to meet plenty of women this way? Maybe. But I don’t care. Life is too short to repeat this particular ring of hell.
Why no phoning, no emailing, just a brief, initial face to face? Because I learned. Lots of women are going to sound fantastic on the telephone. Lots of women are going to be clever and funny as hell on email. But the bulk of your relationship will not consist of phone calls and emails. (If it does, well, you need more advice than I can give you.) Nothing is as important as someone’s presence. What they look like, feel like, act like…live. How they move. How they look at you. How they react when a dog suddenly barks. How they blow their nose. How they smell. That’s what matters. And in ten minutes max you can answer the only question that really matters: do I want to see her again or not? Nine out of ten times the answer will be no.
Think of all the time you’ve saved, the agony avoided. And that one in ten? If you call her the next day, and the next and the next, and she never returns your calls because she doesn’t want to see you again, ever, well, again, think of all the time you’ve saved.
The ten minute rule never stopped me from meeting my wife. Months after I had given up on dating, months after I had forgotten I still had a personal ad on a website, she contacted me. That first ten minute meeting turned out to be five because we couldn’t find each other at the café. I also made damn sure I had an unbreakable appointment right afterward. Did she think I was a bit crazy? Maybe. But on our single preliminary phone call I explained to her why I had that rule. And she got it. And to this day she laughs herself silly telling people of my first time meeting rules and how we only met for five minutes.